Rabbit & Rogue Original Ballet Score (Danny Elfman)

Sony Classical

Rabbit & Rogue Original Ballet Score by Danny Elfman (2016) with the Limited Deluxe Edition (2017)

Get it:  If you want to go on a fantastical musical journey lead by Danny Elfman

Don’t get it:  If you want a typical film-styled soundtrack with the usual formula

This is a little bit of an unusual review for us as we usually stick to film and television scores.  However, with this ballet score being composed by legendary film composer Danny Elfman, we had to give it a listen.  Sure enough, it was not the wrong decision.  The best thing to say about this score is that it is unapologetically Danny Eflman.  In fact, it is a perfect blend of his style with that of the legendary classical composers that would score ballet.  That’s really what it is.  He uses such a fascinating combination of instruments to achieve a unique sound that belongs to only this score.  Yet, at the same time, anyone listening could tell that this is the essence of Mr. Elfman.  No one listening would guess that this was his first attempt at a ballet score.

With only six tracks, even though they are as long as ten minutes, you still want more.  This appeals to those of us who are Elfman fans, as well as anyone who can thoroughly enjoy a ballet score.  Beyond that, there isn’t much to say — not from a lack of comments, just that the only way to truly understand it is to give it a listen yourself (posted below).   Instead of trying to come up with some words to describe it, this is something that you yourself can get a preview of, and that would be better than anything I could say in this case where words just aren’t quite enough.

Rabbit & Rogue (Limited Deluxe Edition) is available now and includes a DVD that has, among other awesome things, and exclusive interview with Mr. Elfman.  You can purchase it here, or buy the mp3 of the score itself here.

 

 

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Castlevania (Trevor Morris)

Lakeshore Records

Castlevania Soundtrack by Trevor Morris (2017)

Get it:  If you’re a fan of the series and enjoyed the music in-show, or if you like haunting electronic scores

Don’t get it:  If you prefer orchestral scores that are more melodic and less action/electronic

Castlevania has a history of great music.  In fact, Castlevania: Lord of Shadows 2 (Oscar Araujo) won the award for Best Video Game Music at the 2014 Film Soundtrack Center Awards.  Now, Netflix is releasing an original animated series based off the game franchise.  This score leans more on the electronic side of the musical spectrum than strictly the orchestral.  It’s also worthy of note that most of the tracks are shorter in length (1-2 minutes usually).  Of course, this isn’t a problem at all, just something to note as it is made for a Netflix series that currently has only four episodes streaming. 

The interesting thing about this score is how the electronic elements give it a modern feel, though the notes they convey sometimes indicate something from the past.  It’s slow and haunting, largely.  It feels tailored to pair especially well with the visuals of the series to complete the experience.  At times, Morris does something that’s pretty hard for composers to do in this genre of soundtrack — he connects with the listeners.  Many synth-type scores are based on things like action and cool-factor, but not necessarily truly connecting with the listeners or the characters.  Morris has done a great job of taking this medium and applying it to a score. 

The main title is a pretty great way to start off the viewer’s experience.  “Tavern Brawl” is a highlight due to it’s pleasant break from the deepness of the rest of the soundtrack.  However, it is in that deepness that the score puts the listener in the right frame-of-mind.  “Alley Fight” is another track that seems to take a moment to lift the listener.  Overall, this score seems to do a good job of setting up the mood for the show, and hopefully we can get more music for Morris to develop even further in the forthcoming episodes of the series.

The Castlevania soundtrack is available digitally now, or on CD August 4 and you can order here.

War for the Planet of the Apes (Michael Giacchino)

Sony Classical

War for the Planet of the Apes Soundtrack by Michael Giacchino (2017)

Get it:  If you enjoy a generally melancholic Giacchino score that sometimes emphasizes quietness with moments of sweeping drama that builds on his previous score in the series

Don’t get it:  If you want something epic, heroic, or something that “feels good” in its lightness

 

Michael Giacchino delivered a quite satisfactory score with Dawn of the Planet of the Apes.  It was great for setting the tone of the film and, as far as that goes, it would be hard to complain.  But for this, the next installment of the series, the composer took it far beyond what he already established into a fantastic new realm.  The Great Ape Processional”  was arguably one of the biggest highlights of his Dawn score.  If that is one of the appealing aspects from that soundtrack to you, no doubt you’ll be quite pleased with what’s offered here (check out “Paradise Found” especially).  Those beautiful piano moments are included in War (possibly even improved), as well as the nearly anxiety-inducing (in a good way) parts from the other cues.  Then, before you know what really hit you, you’re back into the more tender moments filled with strings.  

There are many ways to describe this soundtrack:  beautiful, threatening, tender, dramatic, melancholic, and so many more.  At times its a bit magical.  But perhaps the best word to encompass it is captivating.  It’s not captivating in its inherent magnificence, but rather in its reverent stillness.  That, with so many flowing dramatic pieces mixed in, makes for quite the captivating experience. 

This has the whole package.  Giacchino has established himself already as one of the best composers at capturing and conveying emotions, and this score is no exception.  There are plenty of soundtracks today that forget to take their listeners on a journey through music, but make no mistake that War for the Planet of the Apes is one heck of a journey.

Bottom line:  if you listen to this on an autumn, rainy day, you’re guaranteed to have an amazing experience.  Frankly, even if you listen to it on a hot summer day, you still have the same guarantee.  This score captured the best elements of Dawn and took it three steps farther.  Because of this, it’s a welcoming experience to those who are already familiar with the previous scores and those who are not.  Therefore, in any case, there’s no excuse to not give it a listen.

The soundtrack for War for the Planet of the Apes can be ordered here.

 

Now You See Me 2 (Brian Tyler)

NowYouSeeMe2

Now You See Me 2 Soundtrack by Brian Tyler (2016)

Get it:  If you were a fan of the first soundtrack and like to see it’s development

Don’t get it:  If you wouldn’t enjoy a development from the original film’s score

When Brian Tyler released the score to the first Now You See Me film, many were astonished with it and took it to heart.  With that as a precedent, Tyler returns to score the sequel to the film.  How does the score live up to the expectations?

The first three tracks set up the tone for the remainder of the score, and here’s why.  The first track, “Now You See Me 2 Fanfare”, is an epic piece that almost sounds like what would happen if John Williams got his hands on the score.  This sets up the rest of the score for its complexities.  There is so much going on in the background that an average listener may not even consciously notice, but will nonetheless feel.  The second track is “Now You See Me 2 Main Titles”.  This contributes to setting the tone because it is the theme we already know and love, but still new.  It’s a condensed version, lasting 3 minutes, and sounds like the first theme grew up and matured.  This sets the tone in that it provides something familiar, but it’s still new to the listener.  The third track is called, “300 Seconds.”  Finally, this contributes to the tone because it starts to really settle into the style of the film’s score while still interjecting — quite subtly — the familiar motif.  However, while watching the film, you probably wouldn’t even notice the familiar part.

The score reflects a big band element, but one that is definitely set in the NYSM film world from the first film.  In addition, this in no way means that any orchestral elements are lost.  The balance between the new, stylistic approach, and the original orchestral qualities is definitely satisfying, again providing something new while still being positively recognizable.  There are also elements that were inspired by part of the story’s locations, including China.  The overall sound feels very cool, fresh, and clean.  It feels a little more crisp than the original, but it is still exceptionally smooth and majestically mysterious.  Plus, when the theme peeks out, it does so triumphantly. 

It’s also interesting to note that this features a character theme (for the character Walter, played by Daniel Radcliffe).  There is definitely a threatening quality to the cue, though hidden behind “pleasantries” in the sound which was seemingly done to match the character.  The score seems to be perfectly in line with the action oriented magic show style this film has.

Final verdict?  Hats off to Brian Tyler for delivering such a strong sequel to one of his most beloved scores thus far.  If you’re a fan of the original, this is no-question something you must check out.  If you aren’t as familiar with the predecessor, this is still one that any soundtrack fan would definitely want to check out.

From Varese Sarabande, this soundtrack is available digitally June 10th, or you can preorder the CD here from Amazon

Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi (John Williams)

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Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi Soundtrack by John Williams (1983)

Get it:  If you like the previous two works in the series and look forward to a further development of the music

Don’t get it:  If you’re looking for a soundtrack that has a consistent action-oriented quality to it and doesn’t focus on themes

We’ve made it this far.  The first post of this series, Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace, was published last year in December.  Now, we’ve come to the end of the series as it currently stands.  However, this December, we will put up the review for Star Wars: The Force Awakens (Episode VII).  For now, though, here’s the review for the final film in the current series.

The soundtrack to Return of the Jedi is, as it should be, a development of the style and themes created in the previous two films in the franchise.  The style matches the progression of the film as well.  Early on, when the story is placed in the middle of a gangster’s desolate location, the music is correspondingly lonely yet intimidating.  When, also early on, the main villains of the series (the Imperials) enter, the music is a progression from the Imperial themes from the movie before it.  The pomp and grandeur are minimized, while the threatening elements receive more of a focus.  As the action increases with the characters, the music matches the pace.  However, the listener doesn’t really notice a sense of real familiarity with the music until the characters make it off the dangerous planet and are flying in space.  This was no accident, since that is also visually what was familiar – the characters were back together and flying through space in their most recognizable spacecraft. 

The reuse of themes, with changes appropriate to the film, is done especially well.  When “Yoda’s Theme” is used, it is done so in a much more subtle, gentle way, as the character is.  The overall feel of the score is a little stronger, again matching the characters.  One of the bigger parts of this score is the introduction to the “Emperor’s Theme.”  It is much more dark and intimidating than the “Imperial March,” and shows more control.  As mentioned in that review as well, it is very interesting how this theme is used, though in a sped-up and lighter manner, in The Phantom Menace.

It wouldn’t be a thorough review if the different versions were not addressed.  The original soundtrack from 1983 had a few elements that the current ones do not.  Perhaps the most disputed difference is in the added track, “Jedi Rocks,” and the finale.  Regardless of opinion, however, this soundtrack does a fantastic job of pushing the perception of the characters and stories in the proper direction.  Imagine this film with the soundtrack to A New Hope.  It doesn’t work, does it? It’s not supposed to.  Williams made an incredible body of work with this franchise, and when each individual piece is examined, more brilliance can be found through the specific elements unique to each part of the series. 

Now, we’ve come to the time where we wait and see what the next sound for the Star Wars universe will be.  Until then, listen to a part of the score below and check out where you can grab the soundtrack.

Click here or here to purchase the soundtrack