The Murder Pact (Matthew Llewellyn)


The Murder Pact Soundtrack by Matthew Llewellyn (2015)

Get it: If you like electronic styled soundtracks with an orchestral approach

Don’t get it: If you want a light, classic feel for this score

From MovieScore Media comes the soundtrack to The Murder Pact.  Matthew Llewellyn has continued to show his multiple musical facets with this score.  Winner of two awards at the 2014 Film Soundtrack Center Awards, including “Up-and-Coming Composer”, he demonstrates different styles with his two recent projects.  This variation continues to this score. 

Previously, we’ve seen Llewellyn’s work on Deep in the Darkness and Wishin’ and Hopin’.  While completely different styles, both of these scores shared an orchestral sound.  With The Murder Pact, he and director Colin Theys agreed to come up with something that they haven’t done before.  In fact, it hasn’t really been done by anyone before.  There’s a contemporary edge present that still has elements of traditional scores in it.  Llewellyn was to do an all-electronic OST.  However, he still had an orchestral approach.  This adds a unique and rather nice element to it that sets it apart from others in the genre.  Sometimes, you can find an electronic, or synth, score that can settle into a somewhat monotonous theme or tone.  That isn’t the case here.  Instead, we have the progressions, variations, and influences of an orchestra, but with a new sound.  There are numerous changes in tone and feel throughout that keep the listener actively involved in the music. 

If you are a soundtrack fan who doesn’t usually like an electronic sound, you may still be interested in giving this a listen anyway.  If you are an electronic score fan, you will also want to listen to this score.  Why?  It incorporates aspects of both sides, so there’s something for everyone to like.  Some tracks have the beats and rhythm that is commonly associated with a synth score, while others have more of the focus on the individual sections combining for the overall sound (as associated with an orchestra). 

With an average of about 2:30 time, the tracks run a perfect length – not too long, and definitely not too short.  Due to Matthew Llewellyn’s previous work, expectations were high for this score – and it did not disappoint. 

Here is a preview track from the score, titled, “Belle Gets Rung”:

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Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back (John Williams)

Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back Soundtrack Cover

Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back Soundtrack by John Williams (1980)

Get it:  If you like the classic themes of the Star Wars Universe with the focus on the galactic battle and romantic themes

Don’t get it:  If you like the more subtle cues from the previous film

We are getting closer to the end of our run of Star Wars soundtrack reviews, which can only mean we are even closer to the release of the soundtrack to The Force Awakens.  For now, however, we have this one to look at.  First, a little bit of context.  This was the first time anyone returned to the Star Wars Universe.  The last, and only, time anyone had been there was for the first film, A New Hope. Some things were similar, such as the main theme – but other elements were completely new.  If you picture a Star Destroyer flying in space, what do you hear?  Most likely, it’s “The Imperial March/Darth Vader’s Theme.”  This film is the first time that sound had been heard.

“Yoda’s Theme,” also so iconic, was introduced in this film along with the character himself.  Already, we have two brand-new themes introduced in this film, this soundtrack, that have become among of the most iconic cues in film history.  But what makes this soundtrack, other than the specific character themes, different from the movie before it?  To put it simply, the overall tone has a completely different approach.  In A New Hope, a large part of the score was based in isolation with glimpses of coming events here and there.  Then, as the story progresses and the character’s destinies become more evident, the music increases to a more rapid and adventurous pace to match that of the film.  For The Empire Strikes Back, there isn’t that sense of loneliness or isolation anymore.  It is less about growth, although there is some of that as well, and more about the galactic battle and a bit of romance.  Although that describes the movie, it also describes the score.

Going back to the two new themes for this score, they perfectly embody their intended characters.  For “Yoda’s Theme,” it is half quirky and playful, but the other half is subtly heroic and full of respect.  This matches the character Yoda, as represented in this film.  “The Imperial March,” or as it’s also known, “Darth Vader’s Theme,” is rooted in power.  It feels unstoppable and untamed – just like the character.

Ultimately, this soundtrack took a step forward in the evolution of the Star Wars music following the first film.  Next in the timeline will be a review of Return of the Jedi, which will then be followed by The Force Awakens this December.  Until then, check out the clip below of “Yoda’s Theme” from The Empire Strikes Back.

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Pixels (Henry Jackman)


Pixels Soundtrack Cover

Pixels Soundtrack by Henry Jackman (2015)

Get it:  If you like a very orchestral adventure/action score that uses heavy strings and brass

Don’t get it:  If you are hoping for something with a little more electronic punch

The soundtrack to Pixels, composed by Henry Jackman and released by Varèse Sarabande, is something Jackman fans should be very pleased with.  This fits in line with some of his previous films, such as Big Hero 6 and Wreck-It Ralph.  Although this isn’t strictly an animated film, as those two, it does still make sense that the sound would be fairly similar.  It can be sharp (in a good way) and full of action — but orchestral action, not just electronic bass and beats.  The orchestral timbre is quite noticeable.  That’s not to say Jackman doesn’t use a lot of percussive sounds, but rather that the body of the score isn’t based on those types of sounds. 

Jackman uses the strings very well to convey both a mysterious feel as well as a little sense of fun adventure (in the beginning).  The way he holds back from using the brass early on makes it more impactful for the action sequences later in the score when he does.  On that note, it should be said that when he does start to use the brass, he does so with great power in a supportive manner.  However, it does not overtake the strings, which are the main consistent element through this score.  Woodwinds are used sparingly throughout. 

The cues (there are 21) are not very long at all.  In fact, 2 minutes is on the longer side for this.  The exception is the track “Roll Out,” which is over 5 minutes long.  Otherwise, expect 1-2 minute tracks.  Overall, this is a good score that will do its job in the film very well.  Whether you want to buy it or not depends on two things – 1) if you are a fan of this style, which is pulled off extremely well, or 2) if you liked its use in the film and consequently wish to own it. 

Below is a visual preview of the soundtrack:

Click here or here to pre-order the soundtrack on CD

Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope (John Williams)

Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope Soundtrack Cover

Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope Soundtrack Cover

Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope Soundtrack by John Williams (1977)

Get it:  If you like the early classic Star Wars themes combined with a sense of loneliness in space

Don’t get it:  If you prefer a space opera score that relies heavily on action.

We’ve come a long way since that first release of Star Wars, as it was called for the initial release (without the added subtitles), and the soundtracks have evolved as the movies themselves have.  This, however, is the point of origin.  The first time that anyone had ever heard that magnificent theme was with this soundtrack.  It isn’t all about the glory, however.

Part of what makes this score so special and different from the other five is the sense of loneliness in space that it captures in addition to the bigger moments.  The score matches what is happening on the screen.  In the beginning, when you have those huge words ‘Star Wars’ appear, the score is equally as big.  After, once the text starts to crawl up, the score climbs with it.  Then it goes straight to the action as the Imperial Star Destroyer chases down and fires upon the Tantive IV, aka Leia’s ship.  But once they hit Tatooine, it all changes.  There is one family occupying the vast emptiness, and the score matches that feel accordingly.  It feels lonely, but strong — just like the newly introduced main character.  This is partially encompassed by the legendary cue “Binary Sunset”. 

As the story progresses to introduce new elements to both the characters and the audience, the OST parallels.  It produces a feel of surprise with a little bit of wonder.  The action element continues to build as the characters grow more and more into the hero’s roles.  When it comes time for the attack on the Death Star, the score changes to a combination of anxiety in action and serenity, once again matching what the character is experiencing.  Finally, when the film is closing, we get that triumphant theme known as “The Throne Room/End Title.”  It is so powerfully grand with the solid brass and so celebratory at the same time. 

The cantina music deserves it’s own side note, but not just because of it’s iconic status.  It feels like a special insight to John Williams, since his background is jazz based.  Even though this isn’t your typical jazz track, when comparing it to the rest of the score, it’s pretty close.  It is a little musical gem where Williams was able to get down to his roots with the required space twist.

Imagine, if you are willing, a Star Wars Universe without the music of John Williams.  It’s been done on YouTube, look it up.  It would be so incredibly different.  Why did Williams work with George Lucas on this?  Because Williams’ collaborator, Steven Spielberg, recommended him to work on the film, and he was excited to work with the London Symphony Orchestra.  Of all Lucas’ friends he shared the early film with, Spielberg was the only one to encourage him to keep going.  Even Steven King wasn’t impressed.  It’s a great thing that Spielberg was happy, because if he wasn’t impressed either, who knows what the soundtrack would be like.

The next reviews are for The Empire Strikes Back, which will feature such familiar themes as “The Imperial March” and “Yoda’s Theme,” before getting to Return of the Jedi, and then finally, The Force Awakens in this coming December.

Click here to buy the CD/MP3 or here to purchase it via iTunes

Jurassic World (Michael Giacchino)

Jurassic World Soundtrack Cover

Jurassic World Soundtrack Cover

Jurassic World Soundtrack by Michael Giacchino (2015)

Get it:  If you like the previous Jurassic Park soundtracks, especially the one to the first film, as well as Giacchino’s style

Don’t get it:  If you’re hoping for a typical action score that uses constant beats to keep you on the edge of your seat

22 years ago, the world’s imagination was completely captured by Steven Spielberg’s latest marvel, Jurassic World.  Per expectations, John Williams brought the story to life in ways thought impossible as he had with previous films Star Wars, Indiana Jones, Jaws, and so much more.  Part of the magnificence of that score was the combination of intensity on one track with awe inspiring beauty on the other.  Over two decades later, another man is tasked with a challenge.  Michael Giacchino had to not only create a new sound and feel for the new ‘Jurassic World’ park, but he also had to pay respect to the already established themes that we love.  How did he do?  Splendidly.

The soundtrack to Jurassic World by Michael Giacchino, released by Backlot Music, excels at not only creating something freshly awe inspiring, but paying homage to the original as well.  Those instantly recognizable themes do not overtake the new, however, since they are used very sparingly.  This is a great tool since not only does it make the audience/listener crave the themes even more, but it also creates space for the new music.  Hopes were high for the use of Williams themes given the relationship between Williams and Giacchino.  He does something that Don Davis fell a little short of; grasping the full majesty of the music.  Giacchino understands that you cannot simply throw brass at the notes and it will work.  Instead, he carefully dictates the background instruments to provide a strong base for the brass to enter full power.  Early on, one track is reserved solely for the original Jurassic Park theme, reverently titled, “Welcome to Jurassic World.”  It captures the grandeur of the original track while remaining ever-so-slightly different.  Unsurprisingly, Giacchino also uses the piano for the theme in a moment which is a perfect fit for the film and the context of the franchise.

The new music is nothing to skim over.  A major difference between the films is in Jurassic Park, the awe of the dinosaurs themselves is enough.  In Jurassic World, however, that isn’t quite the case anymore.  Instead, the park has been up-and-running for about ten years.  This time, it’s more about a fun vacation.  The music, namely in “As the Jurassic World Turns,” expresses the comfort and excitement that accompany a vacation.  The intensity is there as well, but in more of a classic manner.  The score doesn’t rely on beats to stop your heart via vibration.  Instead, it’s the lack of that which makes it intense.  The lower-profile music pulls you in as you try to hear it.  Not that it is too quiet, though.  Having said that, there are some moments that reflect the style of the opening of the first film.  Finally, there is sweepingly beautiful music also.  It’s not just about brass or just about strings at any moment.  There’s a choir, a tambourine, a piano, and more.  This soundtrack is not only a triumph for Michael Giacchino and the Jurassic Park franchise, but moviegoers and music lovers everywhere.  Being the number one opening weekend ever, this score has a wide audience – and it did not back down.

Here is a piece of the soundtrack called “As the Jurassic World Turns”:

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