Nightcrawler (James Newton Howard)

Nightcrawler Soundtrack Cover

Nightcrawler Soundtrack Cover

Nightcrawler Soundtrack by James Newton Howard (2014)

Get it:  If you want music that is not very high-energy but is high-profile

Don’t get it:  If you like something melody focused

From Lakeshore Records comes James Newton Howard’s latest soundtrack to the film Nightcrawler, available digitally on October 14th and on CD October 28th.  The opening track is a quite intriguing combination of being carefree and having your pulse pounding.    It’s an interesting twist on the typical style of James Newton Howard.  It is unique but you can still find traces of JNH in there for certain.  Also adding to the uniqueness, there is an element thrown in on occasion that is somewhat reminiscent of a jungle or safari scene. 

This is not a soundtrack that allows you to hum-along with it.  But, when paired along with the upcoming (October 31) film, this seems to set the tone very well.  It leans more toward strings and percussion than brass.  Pounding bass, rapid percussion, both fluttering and drawn-out strings, and an array of other instruments mixed in come together to form the sound of this OST.  Although this is not very high-energy (beyond the percussion), it is fairly high-profiled, just in a dense manner.  There aren’t many “wow” moments, but there are probably not supposed to be.  It seems that the music for this film is not intended to be a point of interest, but rather do it’s job of setting the mood, tone, theme, and so on.  It’s more background music than foreground.  Assuming that is the case, JNH did a great job.

Most of the tracks seem to gravitate toward being about one minute long.  Some toward the end seem to get a little longer.  It is consistent in style, there isn’t much variety.  The tracks “Lou’s Free” and “Nightcrawler” were some highlights.  In the end, some may find parts of this strange, while others will love it.  To be fair, it is pretty hard to follow a soundtrack like Maleficent.  It truly comes down to your individual taste.  Take a listen below to determine if this is for you:

Click here to pre-order the CD

Click here or here to shop for the soundtrack digitally (available October 14th)

Maleficent (James Newton Howard)

Maleficent Soundtrack Cover (James Newton Howard)

Maleficent Soundtrack by James Newton Howard (2014)

Get it: If you enjoy the classical themes of Tchaikovsky and are looking for a mysterious yet beautiful soundtrack

Don’t get it: If you are looking for a soundtrack that incorporates a rhythmic, clear-cut action theme as the main focus

Where to begin?  James Newton Howard (Signs, The Hunger Games Series, The Dark Knight) had an enormous task before him when he was tapped to compose the soundtrack for Disney’s Maleficent.  The 1959 cartoon film Sleeping Beauty had a score that was mainly adaptations of Tchaikovsky’s 1890 ballet.  James Newton Howard essentially had to fill the shoes of one of the greatest music composers to ever live.  One could change the style of music for the film, as Hans Zimmer completely altered the music for Man of Steel from the John Williams classic theme.  Instead of this, however, JNH went all-out on this score and delivered in ways some didn’t think could happen in today’s modern times.

Immediately the listener can easily detect a hint of Tchaikovsky’s influence.  JNH makes wonderful use of instruments such as the harp and choir to make a traditional yet unpredictable mysterious and enchanting music.  As the score continues it builds.  A very smooth soundtrack, it has a classical feel that can only be described as astounding.  Along with that feel, however, are very gripping undertones of modern intensity and suspense.  This is for a modern movie without a doubt, but even in the more “modern sequences” there is still a retro tone.  It is a brilliant combination of the old with the new that enforces splendid depth.  The strong but not loud brass in the foreground with the intense strings supporting them combine for a complex sound which does not cease to astonish.  At times, it almost feels as if the listener is in a fairy-tale daze.  While the soundtrack is largely focused on a heavy tone, there are multiple instances of uplifting momentsJames Newton Howard makes wonderful use of a choir at specific parts to add gravity to a situation or charm to another. 

This soundtrack is overflowing with a type of beautiful mystery that is not accomplished quite the same by most composers.  The Maleficent soundtrack is, without a doubt, among the greatest soundtracks done is recent years.  Some might argue that it isn’t all that great since it is unoriginal in the reuse of Tchaikovsky’s sound.  But that is what gives the OST it’s excellence.  It is the re-creation of Tchaikovsky’s sound with the infusion of  a more modern sound that makes this soundtrack as fantastic as it is.  Some might even say it is like what Tchaikovsky himself might do if he were still alive today and wrote the score for the film.

On a final note, something needs to be said of Lana Del Rey’s cover of “Once Upon a Dream.”  Her voice is usually associated with a somewhat “dreary” sound, which goes well with the music accompanying it.  This dark twist on the traditionally light song fits the premise of the movie and is a perfect match.  Lastly, if you can hear past Lana Del Rey’s voice and just listen to the music, it is, along with the rest of the soundtrack, expertly done.  What an amazing job James Newton Howard has done on this soundtrack.  It is beautiful in-and-of itself, which is something he strives for.  He once said, “The only advice I have ever been able to give anybody is to focus on writing music, and if you’re writing a movie score particularly, don’t worry about the picture. Just write great music and the rest will take care of itself.”  In this case, it certainly did.

Click here to listen to a clip of the soundtrack

Click here to listen to Lana Del Rey’s “Once Upon a Dream”

Click here to shop for the soundtrack