Soundtrack Central The best of VGM and other great soundtracks

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Adam Corn May 6, 2014 (edited May 6, 2014)

Any favorites or anticipated releases for the film soundtracks in 2014 thus far?

Having just seen The Amazing Spider-Man 2 I will say that Hans Zimmer's theme stood out, which was certainly not the case with his Man of Steel score, though for the most part it was drowned out (from a volume perspective, almost literally) by the hard EDM from the Incredible Six or whoever they were.  Would have to give a good listen to the album to say more about the score.

Among upcoming releases, James Newton Howard's Maleficent is slated for May 27 and John Ottman's X-men: Days of Future Past for June 3.  I have cautiously high hopes for both.  Despite a recent drought of memorable material, JNH is still my favorite film composer, and his fantasy score for Snow White and the Huntsman was something of a return to form.  And Ottman's X-men 2 and Superman Returns are two of my favorite comic book movie scores.

Catching up on the film soundtrack news, there's some news to be had!  Along with the aforementioned two upcoming releases is Alexandre Desplat's score for Godzilla, which should have potential.

Perhaps the biggest release for the summer might be a re-release though.  Finally we're getting an expanded edition of The Lion King, featuring 30 extra minutes of Hans Zimmer's score.  It will be the first of twelve "Legacy Collection" soundtrack releases for various Disney classics, going back as far as Pinocchio and Fantasia.

Angela May 9, 2014 (edited May 10, 2014)

Nothing's really stood out yet for me this year.  As much as I enjoyed Henry Jackman's scores for the Kick-Ass movies, I found his work in 2011's X-Men: First Class and the recent Winter Soldier to be lackluster affairs.

Mark Mothersbaugh's electronica-heavy The Lego Movie sounds decidedly better in the context of the film, but proved to be a bit too manic and abrasive for regular listening.  Same goes for Joseph Trapanese's functional score for The Raid 2.  Elfman's orchestrations and choir work for Mr. Peabody & Sherman are technically proficient, and there are a handful of moments that really shine with its warm and heartfelt father/son theme -- if you can past the rest of the music's comedic Mickey-Mouse stylings, that is.

As far as anticipated upcomings, none comes more anticipated than John Powell's How To Train Your Dragon 2.  At the time, I lauded the first film as one of the brightest highlights in Powell's career.  Four years later, and I still maintain that it's one of the greatest examples of music storytelling done right.  In truth, I'd be utterly stupefied (and delighted!) if he can capture that same type of magic for the sequel.

Giacchino fans, there's Dawn of the Planet of the Apes and Jupiter Ascending to look forward to in July.  The latter I'm particularly excited for, as this marks the second collaboration between Giacchino and the Wachowskis since Speed Racer.

Angela May 26, 2014 (edited May 28, 2014)

Angela wrote:

As far as anticipated upcomings, none comes more anticipated than John Powell's How To Train Your Dragon 2.  At the time, I lauded the first film as one of the brightest highlights in Powell's career.  Four years later, and I still maintain that it's one of the greatest examples of music storytelling done right.  In truth, I'd be utterly stupefied (and delighted!) if he can capture that same type of magic for the sequel.

A leak of the full soundtrack to How To Train Your Dragon 2 has been making the rounds, well ahead of Relativity Music Group's June 10th release date -- and weak-willed Powellite that I am simply couldn't wait till the film dropped in order to hear it in context.

I don't spoil anything in my write-up below, but if you are trying to keep spoiler free, you may want to hold off clicking on the linked playlist; the track titles in themselves could be considered spoilery. If not, have at it:

The leaked 'How To Train Your Dragon 2' soundtrack, via Youtube

The album is breathtaking. It only took the first track -- a clear throwback to the first movie's all encompassing opening suite -- to handily convince me.  I had a big, goofy grin on my face, and as the album pressed on past this celebratory reunion of themes, I'm certain that grin got bigger and goofier.  Everything that I could have hoped for as a followup to one of my favorite movie scores has been made real.  Powell's created a wholly natural progression that builds upon the musical foundation set by its predecessor.

-The score is a thematic powerhouse, reining in every major theme from the first movie, whist introducing two brand new themes.  The returning ones are smartly arranged, some full on passages, others teasingly fragmented.  I admit that I wished some of those fragmented bits ran longer, but I'll reserve judgment until I hear them in their contextual settings. Needless to say, Powell is culling from an embarrassment of musical riches with a deft hand.

-One of the two new themes looks to serve as the main theme for the sequel.  Its presence is significant, appearing in 15 of the 19 featured tracks by my count, and nestles in nicely with the rest of the music's already established aesthetic.  The other is a theme for the purported new antagonist.  This one's not nearly as prominent, but it leaves its marks of malice where it counts.

-The big action piece of the movie appears to be track 12, akin to "Battling the Green Death" from the first movie.  Here I'm counting THIRTEEN thematic change-ups in a span of six and a half minutes.  It's damned near crazy in its Wagnarian approach.

-Beyond the quality of the compositions, the organic spread of the score sounds even more impressive than the first.  Instrumentation is crisper and more pronounced, as is the seemingly endless new variety of the choir work. (My god, the choir work. It elevates the soundscape to new aural heights.)

-I've warmed up to the new J√≥nsi vocal track "Where No One Goes" far quicker than the first movie's "Sticks & Stones."  Utilizing the memorable "Test Drive" Flight/Toothless theme as its main backing allows it to not feel as far removed as the latter did to the first.

There's so much more I want to say (and undoubtedly even moreso after I'd seen the film proper), but here's a declaration I'm not even pretending to be hesitant in stating: How To Train Your Dragon 2 is the best listen I've had in years.  It's a golden age caliber fantasy-adventure score existing in modern times, and while the compositions aren't exactly subtle (a trait carried over from the first score; even the most contemplative, tender moments tend to swell and explode into a cornucopia of grandiose, sweeping flourishes), I think their epic nature is part and parcel of what makes this series so very appealing.

Adam Corn May 28, 2014

The video unsurprisingly has been taken down. smile

From the few listens I gave the first How to Train Your Dragon it had its moments but didn't blow me away.  I can certainly see the potential for this new one though.

Angela May 29, 2014

Adam Corn wrote:

The video unsurprisingly has been taken down. :)

Just the first track, oddly enough. The remaining 18 tracks still appear to be live.  At any rate, I'm now waiting up for the CD release. Lord knows the temptation has been tough to give it just one more listen, though. :) 

Picked up Maleficent and Joel McNeely's A Million Ways to Die in the West.  The latter seems like a lot of fun, and the self-titled Alan Jackson theme song is a hoot. :D

Adam Corn Jun 3, 2014

It's still early so I'm not gonna talk it up too much (yet) but James Newton Howard's Maleficent seems to be the return to form I was hoping for.  It reminds me of the beautiful, poignant highlights of Snow White and the Huntsman and the melodic, emotional quality of his early works.  This first listen is making me giddy and even a bit sentimental.

Adam Corn Nov 17, 2014

So is there anything that gives How to Train Your Dragon 2 a run for top film score of the year?  I've still only given it a few listens but I come away impressed every time I do.  I can't think of a recent score that is so rich in themes and epic in sound while also showing such a strong - but accessible - classical influence.  The best moments of Maleficent I think are just as powerful, but HTTYD2 is a stronger overall score.

Oh and Angela, you asked for my thoughts on the X-Men: Days of Future Past score in the movie's thread.  Can't say I was overly impressed with that one; certainly it's nowhere near the level of Ottman's X2 score.  "Time's Up" has some serious tension and "Hope: Xavier's Theme" has emotional pull, but the rest - aside from some throwbacks to X2 that were better in that score - is fine in the movie but not much to listen to on its own.

Looks like The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 and The Hobbit: The Battle of Five Armies are our last big "event" film scores for the year.

student41269 Nov 18, 2014

The only film soundtrack I've found at all memorable this year is Interstellar. It's also the first time I've enjoyed a Hans Zimmer score since... I can't even remember when, but I think this really worked. Minimal yet overwhelmingly dense walls of sound to match the unimaginable scale of celestial bodies, and eerie pipe organs used to great effect. It's like a soundtrack from an older time brought up to date.

Jay Nov 18, 2014 (edited Nov 18, 2014)

I was just coming in here to mention Interstellar. For me, it's the soundtrack of the year. As you say, it feels both minimal and huge all in one and I found it incredibly powerful in the movie itself. It was very loud in the mix and it's funny seeing the reaction to that online but I loved it. Whole sections were led by the music. I got the soundtrack today and I've been listening to it all morning. Mountains played loud is just incredible.

Adam Corn Nov 20, 2014

Funny, I was going to write Interstellar off, partially out of skepticism towards Hans Zimmer's recent work and partially because I just expected it to pale in comparison to last year's Gravity score.  In context of the film I certainly didn't notice the score as much as Gravity (except for one scene where the sheer volume of the mix really did get distracting).

Still, there's room in my collection for two outer-space sci-fi scores from consecutive years, so if you guys are recommending it I'll have to check it out.

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