Music in the movies: May score round-up

In this week’s Music in the movies, Glen looks over the scores for such films as Source Code, Submarine and Thor…

We’re not even half way through 2011 yet, and we’ve already heard some spectacular movie scores from seasoned composers and newcomers alike. Here are some of the movie soundtracks released recently that are worthy of your attention.

Source Code – Chris Bacon

Duncan Jones’ follow up to the fantastic Moon saw him work with a larger budget, but also with a property that other people were attached to prior to his involvement. Despite this, many of the themes evident in his debut feature can be seen in Source Code. I really enjoyed the film, and I know a lot is being said about the ending, but I didn’t feel that it derailed the film by any means. It leaves a certain amount to be left to the viewer’s imagination, which is always a good thing. 

Of course, Moon featured one of the best scores of recent years by Clint Mansell, and Mansell was, for a time, also attached to Source Code, but was unable to fit it in given the amount of projects he has been working on of late.

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With that being the case, there’s always going to be a sense of what could have been, but Chris Bacon’s score here really delivers, and the composer doesn’t put a foot wrong throughout.

Bacon doesn’t have the most extensive of back catalogues in terms of solo work, but has worked on a number of big-budget pictures under the tutelage of James Newton Howard. Elements of Howard’s influence can be heard, although this is very much a score in the vein of Bernard Herrmann, which is appropriate given the Hitchcockian nature of the film itself. 

I was on board with this score from the opening moments through to its finale. It’s great that, so far this year, we’ve seen some emerging talent in the world of composing who will, no doubt, achieve great things in the future – and Chris Bacon is very much one of them.

Chris Bacon’s score for Source Code is available now through Lakeshore Records.

Submarine – Alex Turner

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Last year, the likes of Daft Punk and Trent Reznor achieved considerable success when they provided scores for Tron: Legacy and The Social Network, and this year, it seems as though it’s the turn of the Brits.

With both the Chemical Brothers and Basement Jaxx having written scores for Hanna and Attack The Block respectively, Arctic Monkeys and The Last Shadow Puppets frontman Alex Turner is out of the gates first with a collection of songs for Richard Ayoade’s acclaimed debut, Submarine.

I have a tremendous amount of respect for Turner as a songwriter, as he’s someone who seems to have striven to challenge himself and push forward, rather than rehash the formula that made him and his band so popular. Having taken influence from great songwriters such as Scott Walker and Tom Waits in the past, he builds on his previous work here, and retains the characteristic charm and skill at crafting brilliant lyrics that typifies his output.

While this is a short release with a mere six tracks – five of which are full songs – the quality is incredibly high, and well worth the £4.99 asking price.

Alex Turner’s Soundtrack for Submarine is available now through Domino.

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Thor – Patrick Doyle

I’ve covered the works of Patrick Doyle recently on this site, including his numerous collaborations with Kenneth Branagh, in advance of the release of Marvel’s latest blockbuster, Thor. The film itself is an absolute triumph, and for me, on a par with the first Iron Man, setting the bar incredibly high for not only the comic book movies set to be released in coming months, but for all other blockbusters due out this summer. 

His work here marks some of the best of his career, enabling him to indulge in the wide range of emotions and approaches he took in scoring Branagh’s Shakespeare adaptations. This is ideal, given the Shakespearian tones of the film itself. 

Doyle provides another epic score that elevates the material, and it really comes into its own during the action sequences, with thunderous percussion helping to immerse you in the film. At the same time, there are tender moments that put across the conflict of the characters.

Played by the London Symphony Orchestra, It’s up there with the composer’s finest work, and easily one of the best scores to accompany a Marvel picture, and it’s clear that a lot of attention has been given to this element of the film. In many ways, the score acts as another character in the film, which is often something that can be said of works by great composers. 

Patrick Doyle’s score for Thor is available now through Disney Records.

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Fast & Furious 5 – Brian Tyler

Like Patrick Doyle, Brian Tyler is a composer already featured in this column, both in a dedicated piece, as well as in another score round-up. One of my favourite composers working today, Tyler is the master of action scores, and with this marking his third collaboration with Justin Lin on the Fast franchise, he’ll no doubt be the firm favourite to compose the next instalment, as well as Justin Lin’s take on the Terminator franchise, should it go ahead.

Tyler’s score here is another high quality action score that complements the high-octane action perfectly. There are a number of spectacular set pieces that benefit from this muscular score, but there are also moments of tension during the cat and mouse sequence in the middle third. 

It perhaps doesn’t reach the heights heard in his score for Fast & Furious, which marked some of the best work of his career, but still, it’s a very solid effort that serves the material well. Brian Tyler’s score for Fast & Furious 5 is available now through Universal.

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Chico & Rita – Bebo Valdés

It was an interesting experience approaching this release for review, as I hadn’t seen the film prior to experiencing the soundtrack, and my knowledge of Cuban jazz (or jazz in general for that matter) is rather limited. However, I am pleased to say that I thoroughly enjoyed listening to this epic collection, and will endeavour to catch the film in the not too distant future.

From what I can gather, music plays a large part in the film and its narrative, so obviously I can’t comment on that aspect, so what follows will be my take on the material as a standalone listen. The soundtrack is produced by Bebo Valdés, a legendary Cuban pianist, whose experiences are apparently part of the inspiration for the film. 

The greatest soundtracks that feature collections of songs, both new and adapted pieces, should encourage the listener to go out and seek more music from those involved, and that’s certainly the case here.

Despite my having limited knowledge of the musical styles covered, what’s included is a stunning collection of music that doesn’t feature a weak track – and considering there are 30 of them, with the soundtrack clocking in at a little over an hour, it represents fantastic value for money both in terms of quality and quantity,

The soundtrack for Chico & Rita by Bebo Valdés is available now through Sony Music. 

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