Soundtrack Serenade

~ posted by Frank

The beauty of a movie soundtrack is that it introduces me to music that I wouldn’t seek out on my own. For me, the music from these five films that I loved has stayed with me and become part of my regular rotation these past few months.

Drums are the dominant feature for soundtracks to two of this year’s Best Picture nominees. Birdman (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack) is composed by jazz drummer Antonio Sánchez, who played with Pat Metheny before going solo. The soundtrack is experimental, free form and fluid — much like the film itself, which is seemingly filmed with one continuous shot by a restless camera. The soundtrack scored a Golden Globe nomination but was deemed ineligible for an Oscar by the Academy because it includes previously released classical music.

For a more comprehensive jazz album, check out Whiplash (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)The film, about a first year music student at an elite conservatory and his abusive teacher  (Oscar nominee — and shoo-in — J.K. Simmons) is a thrilling affair. The soundtrack captures the film’s most intense drumming sequences, along with classic jazz numbers like Duke Ellington’s Caravan and some quieter numbers. Dialogue from the film is interspersed on the soundtrack, which may break the mood for some, but it’s still worth seeking out. Also available to stream in hoopla.

The only soundtrack that doesn’t feature new songs, Get On Up: The James Brown Story (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack) is an excellent compilation of titles from the Godfather of Soul. For the newbie, it has hits like “I Got You (I Feel Good)” recorded in the studio; for the die-hard fan, it includes a number of previously unreleased live tracks that capture the raw energy that he brought on stage. But perhaps best of all, it does not include “Living in America” from 1984’s Rocky IV. Also available to stream in hoopla.

My personal favorite is Only Lovers Left Alive (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)With tracks by Dutch composer Jozef van Wissem and SQÜRL, a music group featuring the film’s director Jim Jarmusch as a member, this is an album that takes its time. It’s dark, gothic, rich and hypnotic, much like the movie (about vampires in love who live on opposite sides of the earth) itself. In addition to the CD, you can download five songs a week from Freegal – be sure to include the gorgeous and plaintive “Hal” by Yasmine Hamdan.

Finally, be sure to give Under the Skin (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack) a listen. Like the film — a visually striking and disturbing portrait of an alien (Scarlett Johansson) who hunts, devours and absorbs men in Glasgow, Scotland — the soundtrack is an alien piece of work itself. Composed by Mica Levi (stage name Micachu), the album features some of the eeriest, creepiest and most anxious sounds ever recorded. If you’re a fan of experimental classical music that make you feel on edge, then this is the album for you. Also available to stream in hoopla.

One thought on “Soundtrack Serenade”

  1. Great read. I actually think about the origin of why I became a film buff and what drew me to love it. When I was young, it was a soundtrack that drew me to a movie. I grew up in a house of musicians so that might be an explanation for why that was my obsession. But I always felt, even as a toddler that music enhanced film in the greatest way.
    A perfect example of this is actually the Star Wars prequels. Now sure, as a kid I loved those movies. Now I look back and I see their flaws, and they’re nowhere near as good as the originals. However I still watch them from time to time because of the soundtrack. John Williams has the ability to take a crap movie and make it at least watchable.

    Aside from score though, a soundtrack can make or break a movie as well. One of my favorites of recent memory was the movie ‘Drive’. It’s a slow pace, but it’s pretty good. And the music makes it even better. It drew me to a style I had never bothered to listen to, just as you said in your intro. Now I have that soundtrack on my phone and I listen to different remixes.

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