Crooked Arrows (Brian Ralston)

Crooked Arrows Soundtrack Cover

Crooked Arrows by Brian Ralston (2013)

Get it:  If you are looking for a soundtrack that uses a good, classic sports style along with an ethnic Native American one

Don’t get it:  If you want a score that is more soft and elegant in nature

Released by Perseverance Records and performed by the Hollywood Studio Symphony Orchestra, Brian Ralston’s soundtrack for the film Crooked Arrows is quite intriguing from the earliest notes.  Part of it feels like it belongs in a classic sports movie, while other parts feel like genuinely classic Native American themes, mainly performed by flutist Chris Bleth.  The score shows consistently good melody and note flow.  There is a modern feel to the way the music was approached, but there’s also something about it that emanates an almost ‘ancient’ quality.  It is not too far fetched to believe that certain parts of this soundtrack could also be used for a film about Egypt, Greece, etc., all that would need to be done is replace the Native American techniques with those of the other ethnicity.

Only one aspect of this score is orchestral, though.  There is also a significant presence of modern music with electric guitars, drums, and so forth.  The theme is used consistently throughout and done well.  There are more shorter tracks here and less longer ones.  There is something about the way it is done that is great for a sports film.  It’s not all about sports though.  There also seems to be reflection, motivation, character focus, and some inspiration in addition to the action.  One part of it is almost like The Mentalist by Blake Neely meets James Horner’s Field of Dreams.  Interesting, right?  Well, it is interesting, because then another part will sound nothing like that, which is part of what makes Ralston’s style so good.

A well done soundtrack that is worth checking out.  Also, there are quick references to ESPN thrown in, but you’ll have to listen to it to fully appreciate it.

Click to check out our interview with the composer, Brian Ralston

Click here to listen to an audio trailer

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Into the West (Geoff Zanelli)

Into the West Soundtrack Cover

Into the West Soundtrack by Geoff Zanelli (2013)

Get it:  If you are looking for a soundtrack that incorporates numerous emotions with settler/Native American music

Don’t get it:  If you are hoping for a strong brass style soundtrack

Zanelli’s score to this 6-part mini-series has finally been released to the joy of anyone who saw it.  Thanks to La-La Land Records and Paramount Music, anyone can enjoy this amazing Emmy-winning music whenever they want.  Just by listening to the very first track, the listener is immersed in another time, land, and culture.  The Native American influences on this soundtrack are used remarkably well and help to make it stand out.  There are clear instances of the settlers’  music as well.  The momentum and theme swings throughout to achieve a good amount of variety while still remaining consistent.

The beauty of the land, the mystery of the unknown, the intensity of danger, and the cry of fear are all present within Zanelli’s notes.  The score is deeply emotional and proves that Zanelli knows and understands the intricacies of truly beautiful music.  There are moment when you can feel stillness, pain, inspiration, suspense, glory, and thoughtful reflection.  All of this creates fascinating music.  It is extraordinarily easy to get pulled into the music and forget where you are.  This represents a perfect example of a beautiful mix of rhythm and melody working together to accomplish something great.

The combination of the old with the new as expressed in this soundtrack is unique and gripping.  Even though struggles and changes are clearly a part of the music, it never goes off course.  This is a true masterpiece that never ceases to amaze the listener with its sometimes stirring, other times intense, and always beautiful score.  The mood, feel, and emotions trapped in the sound waves do wonders for the viewer and listener in helping them not only understand, but truly feel a part of what the characters are going through.  Overall, an amazing soundtrack that deserves every accolade it can get.

For more on this score and others, visit

Special Note:  For anyone interested, Geoff will be appearing at the Fans of Film Music panel on August 30th.  More information can be found by clicking here.

Star Trek: Into Darkness (Michael Giacchino)

Star Trek: Into Darkness Soundtrack Cover (2013)

Star Trek: Into Darkness Soundtrack by Michael Giacchino (2013)

Get it: If you are looking for a dramatic soundtrack that relies on themes and not generic sounds

Don’t get it:  If you want a soundtrack that leans toward light adventurous music

If you saw that this score was composed by Michael Giacchino and expected something along the lines of The Incredibles, think again.  He has gone deeper in this soundtrack than many of his other previous scores.  The very first track puts forward a strong beginning that immerses the listener in action.

Throughout, there is a fairly consistent and good use of the entirety of the orchestra instead of relying on one section alone to carry the score as many modern composers do.  The alternation between these sections creates a very heavily dramatic soundtrack.  The use of Giacchino’s main theme, with the build-up to it, is quite majestic.  In this soundtrack, parts reflect a whirlwind – almost frenzy – of confusion.  At other times, there are distinct parts where panic is mixed with focus, a match for the characters of the film.  The piano element and the manner in which it is used adds something missing from other films in the sci-fi/action film genre.  If the listener picks an emotion, odds are that somewhere, at some point, you will find it expressed in the music.

This is not generic action music by any means, but rather it is a very unique, though still intense, action music that has various themes throughout that tag it as a part of the Star Trek  universe.  The occasional hat-tip to Alexander Courage and Gene Roddenberry’s original theme is expertly done.  It may even get the listener very excited for Giacchino’s upcoming work on Jurassic World.  The way that he blends the original theme with the overall soundtrack is excellent.  One might even call the OST deceptively complex.

The themes from the first film, Star Trek (2009), are even stronger here and have even more of an impact.  It is fascinating how Giacchino makes some of the instruments cry while others scream and still others seem to support the rest with their strength.  Toward the end, specifically in “Kirk Enterprises”, there is a wonderful sense of renewal, almost as if the storm has passed.

Overall, an excellent soundtrack that does not disappoint anyone who enjoyed the soundtrack from the first 2009 one.  One word of warning, however.  This soundtrack does not contain the end credits to the film.  If that is not a deal-breaker for you, (which it alone shouldn’t be) then you’re good to go.

Click here to listen to a clip

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Man of Steel (Hans Zimmer)

Man of Steel Soundtrack Cover (2013)

Man of Steel Soundtrack by Hans Zimmer (2013)

Get it: If you enjoy the consistent elements of any one of the tracks (or Zimmer’s style)

Don’t get it: If you are looking for a soundtrack that has more elements of melody than rhythm

Given the success of The Dark Knight trilogy, it was only a matter of time before Christopher Nolan became involved with the production of a Superman film.  As usual, he was able to tag his go-to composer Hans Zimmer (who was very reluctant to take on the task).  Before anything else is said, one thing absolutely needs to get out of the way.  This simply cannot be connected in anyone’s mind to the John Williams traditional score for the hero.  Even when John Ottman scored Superman Returns back in 2006 there were grounds for some comparison.  However, this entire new face of the franchise (the film, music, story, etc.) cannot justly be compared to any previous film in the series.

Having said that, it is time to look at this soundtrack from a new, original perspective.  With the first couple tracks there is a good, empowering tone.  Once that is through, the percussion section takes control.  While this is good action music, it is somewhat generic in nature.  Someone could take this music and put it in Inception and it would work.  You could put in it King Kong and it would work.  You could put it in pretty much any action movie and it would work at least fairly well.  However, there isn’t much here that, when you hear it in an amusement park, you go, “Oh it’s Superman!” (unless you are very familiar with it).  The 3 main notes that Zimmer uses are good, but they are basically the only 3 notes to carry the weight of the score, so you would likely have to like it in order to like the rest of the soundtrack.  Again, you must like any one track to like the soundtrack as a whole because it can be fairly redundant in theme.  If you skip around the entire soundtrack, anyone who isn’t very familiar with the movie might be hard-pressed to know if the music is from the first or second half.  None of this is supposed to be saying if it was good or bad, but rather just point out some elements.  If you like the soundtrack, chances are you’ll really like it.

It seems that audiences either loved or hated this soundtrack.  Here are just some of the thoughts:

Loved it:  It was empowering, glorious, and majestic.  It made me want to go stand on a tall rock with my fists on my hips and cape in the wind.  I was really able to feel this soundtrack.

Hated it: Predictable, boring, and overrun with generic percussion.  The tracks generally blended into one blurry mesh.  If it was possible, I would say that this soundtrack plagiarized itself from track to track.  The main theme (if you can call it that) was the only worth-it part.

You will just have to listen to the soundtrack yourself to determine which side you fall on.  Perhaps you’ll be one of the few who fall somewhere in the middle.

Click here to listen to the main theme

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Pacific Rim (Ramin Djawadi)

Pacific Rim Soundtrack Cover (2013)

Pacific Rim Soundtrack by Ramin Djawadi (2013)

Get it: If you enjoy the feel of Djawadi’s other works or a very modern sounding and intriguing soundtrack

Don’t get it: If you are looking for a soundtrack with a traditional classical element

Pacific Rim, a movie about giant robots controlled by humans to fight against monsters, actually drew more acclaim than its description would lead one to believe.  Directed by Guillermo del Toro, this film did not have an all-star cast (not that it needed one).  Although it was disappointingly subtle (not Djawadi’s fault), the soundtrack was not only a good one but suited the movie well.  In fact, it did a fantastic job of helping to set the feelings, emotions, and tone of the film.  That is always a major plus for a composer whenever that is done properly.

The soundtrack is a very good combination of two of Djawadi’s other major scores: Iron Man and the hit TV show Person of Interest.  The rock and heavy action music is reminiscent of Iron Man while the more orchestral parts are closer to the show.

The method used to combine the brass, strings, and percussion is quite well done.  What makes it so intriguing is that the combination is not one which blends the music into one sound.  Instead, it focuses on combining the elements together while still keeping them at their own glory. The occasional use of vocals was not particularly special or unique, but they did well for the music.

Although the soundtrack in its entirety is somewhat stagnant, if it is a sound you like then you’re set.  It is not boring (unless, of course, you particularly dislike that style of music).  When Pacific Rim 2 comes out, Djawadi is wanted back with only a few tweaks.  His music has to be louder, more prominent, a little more varied, and more dynamic.  Some might think one of the charms of this soundtrack is that, even in its “rocky” stage, it is still a little “blurry”.  If Djawadi is able to make the next track sound clearer, stronger, and more powerful, that could go a long way toward a better score.  As previously stated, a little more variety may also help.  Overall, however, this is a good soundtrack that was very well done and Guillermo del Toro should be more than happy with it.

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Click here to listen to the Main Theme

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