Already time to do this again? This series doesn’t get that much time off…or at least it’s intended to not have that much time off!
For those unaware of what this feature, now four years old, is all about, think of it as a spotlight on some of the better musical pieces I personally found in films that I viewed during the year that were released in 2017. Don’t consider this a ranking (I’ll sometimes list my favorites scores at the end of the yearly series), but again, just a series to give some attention to some musical work I found to be compelling, catchy, mesmerizing, all of the above, etc., in said films.
Don’t consider this a comprehensive list, either. I try to see everything I can, but of course, a big film (or two or three) with a killer score may not always be found here, not because I don’t like its music, but because I simply didn’t watch the film. In my opinion, I cannot honestly blurb about what I liked/felt about the song chosen without watching the actual film—kind of like watching a film! Context is important! Feel free to let me know in the comments sections as to what I need to listen to and what, if anything, I got right.
A few short-ish notes:
- This series isn’t my thoughts on movies, though an extremely brief feeling on said movie may be found. As such, the occasional spoiler may be found in my thoughts on the scores/tracks on it, though I’ll do my best not to refrain from doing so. Also, some track names bluntly make reference to specific parts in the movie, keep that in mind.
- All of the songs I’ve selected appear in their respected movie. Some movies will have the official motion picture soundtrack as well as the score. The score will (almost) always appear in the movie, whereas the soundtrack may appear here and there. Which leads me to the next point…
- Generally, the songs I have selected are from their respective scores. But, there are a few selections I’ve chosen from the soundtrack, if applicable, because said song adds to the movie immensely.
- I will try to link to every musical piece via Spotify. Best quality, and the music is legitimately able to be there with no copyright issue. But for some reason, if I can only access via YouTube/Soundcloud, I’ll link to there. I obviously have no control over what does and doesn’t get removed.
- I’m no musical whiz, nor know every exact instrument (though I do still play the trumpet from time to time :)), I just try to highlight what I really enjoy about the featured selection/selections, sometimes grouped and looked at more collectively than individually. Just depends.
- I’ve tried to start at the beginning of the year and work through it, though there may be the occasional film that I finally got around to listening to (after watching the movie) that makes its appearance later in the series.
Make sense? Let’s get those ears warm!
Split (composed by West Dylan Thordson)
A Way Out
Meeting the Others
The Beast is on the Move
I wouldn’t expect a cohesive score for a move based on the premise of an individual having 24 distinct personalities (though we only see about 3-5 in the movie). But the fragments we do get, put together by West Dylan Thorsdon, seem to take inspiration from fellow psychological thrillers such as Psycho. The sense of dread and curiosity is thick in tracks like Arrival and Meeting the Others.
But the motif I won’t forget anytime soon is the one found in Opening and The Beast is on the Move. Its distorted-yet-full-sounding strings evoke the sound of a ravenous beast, hungry and ready to feed after a long hibernation. Truly terrifying, whether hearing in headphones or in the seat of a dark theater.
The Comedian (composed by Terence Blanchard)
Jackie In The Rain
The music in The Comedian is good, easy listening for jazz aficionados (like myself). Nothing extraordinary that raises the movie to extra heights, but it’s more than passable as a standalone listen, especially because the movie is average at best, coming from a guy who was a little easier on it than others.
John Wick: Chapter 2 (composed by Tyler Bates)
The score of John Wick’s 2nd chapter sees Tyler Bates return to compose. This time around, Wick doing business in Rome allows Bates to infuse more strings and classical elements to this sound. In tracks like Razor Bath and Santino, they carry an air of significant darkness, even horror (the 2nd chapter of Wick feels very gothic at times).
Suit Maps and Guns
John Wick Reckoning
Bates re-uses the Story of Wick theme that he established in the first John Wick for the title character in Chapter 2. The theme, now synonymous with Wick, still comes to define the character as methodical, driven, and a guy you simply do not want to cross paths with. John Wick Reckoning plays at the end of Wick’s journey, with a swelling and faint siren that seems to foreshadow what’s to come in Chapter 3. The world may be after him, but he’ll kill them all if he has to.
John Wick Mode (composed by Le Castle Vania)
But, it wouldn’t be a John Wick movie without an explosive, kinetic club track by Le Castle Vania, once again punctuating the many headshots and acrobatics Baba Yaga pulls off in succession, the gunplay often matching the pulses and drops of the beat. A symphony of violence needs music to go along with it, right?
The Lego Batman Movie (score composed by Lorne Balfe, original songs by various artists)
Who’s The (Bat)Man? (performed by Patrick Stump)
If I had to explain to someone who had never heard of the character of the Batman before, I wouldn’t. I’d just play this song for them. The power guitar signifies the gruffness of the popular hero, and the lyrics summarize The Caped Crusader perfectly, while also poking fun at some of the longstanding origins and traits of the character.
Your Greatest Enemy
A Long Farewell
Lorne Balfe takes musical inspiration from arguably the two most memorable iterations of Batman (Christopher Nolan/Hans Zimmer, and 1960/Billy May). Combining the two styles of Zimmer’s richer sound and May’s lighter, oddball sound seems to be the theme throughout, with an angsty electric guitar used liberally (Mad Max: Fury Road seems to be an inspiration as well). It all equates to a fun listen that pays tribute to while also lampooning its titular character.
Get Out (composed by Michael Abels, Timothy Williams contributing)
Sikiliza Kwa Wahenga
One doesn’t have to be able to understand Swahili to know that the lyrics in Sikiliza Wwa Wahenga, set to the opening credits of Get Out, forecast imminent doom on the horizon. The African vocals, introduced here and heard in other tracks throughout the score, add urgency and unease. What do the vocals mean, specifically? They more or less can be summed up by the film’s title, telling the lead character to run, listen to the truth, and save yourself.
Rod’s Bing Search
I can’t recall the last time the harp served as a relative lynchpin for a musical score, but Michael Abels puts the instrument at the forefront of many of his musical ideas in Get Out. The harp has a very soothing and…hypnotic sound that plays on the mind and gets under the skin. It lingers. Seemingly composed from the lead character’s perspective, it makes you think about things you don’t want to think about, or are forced to think about, which of course is something lead character Chris finds himself present to throughout.
Logan (composed by Marco Beltrami)
It was as I heard the Main Titles piano piece that I knew Logan was going to be a somber ordeal. Marco Beltrami’s approach to the material lets the visuals and the characters speak for themselves; painting a bleak picture set in the dusty West. Even the musical pieces that punctuate the action scenes, like Farm Aid, feel restrained compared to other action movies. It’s not a score that stands out, because it seems designed to not be as such.
Kong: Skull Island (composed by Henry Jackman)
I’m just going to leave this video here:
This is a user-created video, showcasing the opening credits music for Kong: Skull Island set to 2014’s Godzilla. The opening credit music from Godzilla is below.
They’re not completely similar pieces, but both do a great job of introducing their main characters with tons of boldness and reverence, and each plays to a backdrop that sort of serves as pseudo-history lesson to the monsters’ origins. I’d love to see Godzilla’s Theme set to Skull Island’s opening credits just to see how it comes off.
Kong the Destroyer
It doesn’t take too long into the runtime to see Mr. Kong in full, his presence announced with Kong: The Destroyer. This is the type of track wanted as the giant ape causes massive collateral damage in an effort to protect his home. Every bit of the orchestra is used, from deep strings, to a tight snare, and bellowing brass.
Man vs Beast
Clear as day that once Skull Island, a movie taking place in the 70’s, sends its expedition team to the jungle that there would be a little bit of the 70’s sound thrown in for setting. The obvious 70’s songs are present, but so are the sounds that fight into movies that Kong: Skull Island fancies itself as (not 100% successfully, but Apocalypse Now being one clear inspiration). The wallowing electric guitar, the ideas and cues the represent the unforeseen—and in your face—dangers of the jungle (Monsters Exist, Spider Attack). Little of it works standalone, but in the course of the movie, it does.
Photo credits go to denofgeek.com, decaymag.com, bluenote.com, tylerbates.com, billboard.com, and blastmagazine.com.
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