Whenever I see a movie that I love, I search for ways to keep that feeling alive as long as possible. Sometimes I go back and read the source material. Other times I find myself searching www.polishposter.com for an irreverent piece of art to hang on my wall. More often than not, I get my hands on a vinyl release of the score as soon as possible. With stalwart labels like Mondo, Death Waltz and Milan Records issuing slick releases of new and classic film scores on the regular, it's easier than ever to get great movie music in a 12" sleeve. Still, there are some glaring absences to record store shelves that beg to be filled. Here's ten original scores that need a vinyl release right now.
The Assasination of Jesse James by The Coward Robert Ford – Music by Nick Cave and Warren Ellis
Western Cinema is not what it used to be. Neither is the music it spawns. When Nick Cave and Warren Ellis signed on to score The Assassination of Jesse James by The Coward Robert Ford, it seems iconic was the farthest thing from their minds. After all, they were writing music for an introspective character study more concerned with dissecting the myth of Western icons than building them up. Their chimey, piano and fiddle heavy score is tender and sallow and saturated with the infinite texture of a forgotten dream. Capturing the dense sadness of Director Andrew Dominik’s fading frontier, Cave and Ellis undercut more traditional Western music by manipulating its every intent. In the process they create a Western soundtrack unlike any other. This is the great unheralded score of Western Cinema and truly deserves to be heard by a larger audience.
Ghost Dog: The Way of The Samauri – Music by RZA (instrumental only version)
Jim Jarmusch has spent his career telling irreverent tales of societal outsiders. He’s spent just as much time examining the music they listen to. That was never more evident than with Ghost Dog. While Jarmusch fans were elated when he decided to adapt Jean Pierre Melville’s Le Samauri (1967), shit got real when Wu Tang Clan’s RZA came on board to score the project. RZA did not disappoint. Blending traditional Japanese compositions into a chilled-out collection of head-nodding beats, the hip-hop stalwart delivered a meticulously crafted score that provided a gritty urban edge to the film. More importantly, those beats contributed a dense layer of tragic irony to Jarmusch’s film. Sadly, when the soundtrack was released those beats came with vocal tracks that overshadowed the music. It’s high time these tunes were available in their original state - and on vinyl. Let’s just hope they come with full liner notes detailing RZA’s approach to the film and Jarmusch's approach to the music. And of course, outtakes from the Hagakure.
Primer/Upstream Color – Music by Shane Carruth
Indie auteur Shane Carruth has only made two films. With his heady mix of real-world sci-fi and existential drama, Carruth remains one of the more divisive filmmakers working today. Whether you love or hate his films, you have to respect his DIY approach to the craft. Not satisfied merely producing, writing, directing and starring in his films, Carruth takes things one step further and scores them as well. Through both Primer (2004) and Upstream Color (2013), Carruth’s compositions unspool with a mix of synthey tones, twinkling loops and percussive overtures. The music proves a powerful backdrop to the grand psychological conundrums that drive the filmmaker’s narratives. But his music never overpowers the human drama inherent to the stories. Released nearly a decade apart, his films still feel like companion pieces. The same goes for their music, which would be amazing released as a double 12”, by the way.
Chelsea Walls – Music by Jeff Tweedy and Glenn Kotche
When Ethan Hawke decided to step behind the camera and direct Chelsea Walls (2001), he executed a major coup by enlisting Wilco frontman Jeff Tweedy and drummer Glenn Kotche to score the film. Not many people saw Hawke’s film. Even fewer heard Tweedy’s and Kotche’s breathtaking original music. That’s unacceptable. Mainly because the energy generated in Tweedy’s jangly guitars and Kotche’s percussive ruminations so completely inform Hawke’s film. Alternating between organic, free-form warmth and boundless echoey desperation, Tweedy's and Kotche's music is the only thing that prevents Hawke's film from wallowing in its myriad tales of tortured artists. It’s an absolute tragedy that so few have experienced this music. And that so few have heard legendary jazz crooner “Little" Jimmy Scott’s devastating cover of Jealous Guy. That's a musical moment that demands to be played on your turntable. If only someone would put this record out. Seriously, I can't even find a proper sample of the music online to post here.
Requiem For A Dream – Music by Clint Mansell
I’d been on a hard target search for a horror movie score to include in this list. But then it occurred to me that I already had one. After all, Darren Aronofsky’s polarizing tale of drug addiction in its many forms is one of the most horrifying films ever made. Clint Mansell’s raucous, devastating score is largely responsible for that. Teaming with experimental four-piece Kronos Quartet, Mansell crafts music as bleak as it is ponderous and soulful as it is maniacal. True to the film’s title, Mansell’s arrangements relentlessly chart the highs and lows of addiction without a shred of hope. This may be the most effective film score ever recorded. About once a week I scratch my head and ask, “how the fuck is this not out on vinyl yet?” Mondo, Death Waltz, Milan … can somebody answer that question for me? Better yet, answer the request and put this music out already. That way I can start having nightmares about my refrigerator again.
Cloud Atlas – Music by Tom Twyker, Johnny Klimek, Reinhold Heif
Grand in scope and convoluted in structure, Cloud Atlas is one of the most respected sci-fi novels of all time. Upon its release, many of its staunchest fans deemed the metaphysical masterpiece un-filmable. In 2012, Directors Tom Twyker and The Wachowski Siblings teamed up for an adaptation that proved them right. The film was an utter failure. But Twyker’s original score was not. Which is a relief since music has such a prominent role in the narrative. Faced with the daunting task of scoring the genre and millennia jumping story, Twyker & Co. also had to compose the singular piece of music that ties the storylines together. After all, Author David Mitchell never wrote a single note of the 'Cloud Atlas Sextet', only the words that described it. From start to finish, the entire score to Cloud Atlas soars and swirls through hushed orchestration, solemn piano and swooning synth. But it’s the lavishly arranged 'Sextet' that provides the film’s and the score's emotional through-line. Start to finish, this is perfect music for sitting alone in the dark and drinking warm whiskey while pondering the meaning of existence.
Punch-Drunk Love – Music by Jon Brion
Nietzsche once said, “there is always some madness in love, but there is always some reason in madness.” Paul Thomas Anderson's 2003 masterpiece, Punch-Drunk Love, takes that notion to heart and walks a fine-line between paranoid tale of urban isolation and wistful tale of love at long last found. With such stark tonal shifts, music became vital to keeping the film balanced. Enter indie-pop maestro Jon Brion whose whimsical compositions lovingly harken back the MGM musicals of the '40s and '50s. But Brion tempers the whimsy by building layers of punchy drum beats and twitchy dots and loops into the harmonium-heavy mix. The result is a score as wildly unpredictable as it is hopelessly romantic. And all of that before Brion reimagines Harry Nilsson’s classic Popeye (1980) composition, 'He Needs Me' – complete with Shelley Duvall’s original vocal track! Is it the sound of falling in love? Or the sound of losing your mind? Either way, it’s a singularly inspired score that deserves to be experienced on vinyl. Preferably translucent and imprinted with Jeremy Blake's lovely scopitones.
Perfect Sense – Music by Max Richter
Don’t worry if you’ve never heard of this 2011 film. Not many people have. The same should not be said for Composer/Pianist Max Richter. If you don’t know his name, learn it right now. If you haven’t heard his music before, then Perfect Sense is an optimal jumping in point. Sparse piano and tender violin are staples of the Richter’s style. His talent for merging the instruments into stirring emotional landscapes is well on display in this dystopian tale of love. What better way than music to convey a world quietly ending as society literally loses its senses? It’s overwhelming stuff, but Richter never fails to imbue a sense of hope throughout. Even in the film’s darkest moments when all is lost you cannot help but wonder at Richter’s ability to calm your nerves, ease your pain and show you what real love is. Who wouldn’t want that feeling spinning on their turntable?
Teenage – Music by Bradford Cox
Bradford Cox has been making washy, esoteric pop music through his bands Deerhunter and Atlas Sound for close to a decade now. His loopy, ambient sensibilities carried a cinematic edge right from the beginning. But Cox’s distinctly modern style made him an odd choice to score Matt Wolf’s 2013 pseudo-documentary Teenage. After all, Wolf’s film spans the period from 1875 to 1945 when ‘teenagers’ were literally being defined. The broad time-jump alone provided Wolf with challenging narrative problems. Those problems were alleviated in the form of Cox’s score. Swooning and sultry and sweaty and sexy, Cox’s music ties Wolf’s film together with such fluidity that you barely notice it's there. This is undoubtedly the chillest music on this list and therefore the perfect soundtrack for smoking cigarettes out of a balcony window or a late night make-out session.
Enemy – Music by Danny Bensi & Saunder Jurriaans
Denis Villeneuve’s Enemy was one of the best movies of 2014. It was also one of the most bewildering. Whatever you thought of Villeneuve’s disquieting examination of identity, you were undoubtedly affected by the foreboding energy simmering beneath every single frame. You can thank Danny Bensi and Saunder Jurriaans for that. Employing a wild mix of strings plucked and bowed, echoing percussion and dark, synthetic drones, Bensi and Jurriaans set a bleak tone right from Enemy's confounding opening moments. They take their somber compositions a step further and blend the eerie woodwind sounds of a bassoon into the fold. The result is something more than music - it's the sound of a waking nightmare. You may fight it. You may want run and hide away in a dark corner of your house. In the end, you will submit to its gothic beauty and wonder at its emotional resonance. Like Villeneuve's slow burn of a film, this music is creepy and claustrophobic and crawls deep under your skin and turns inside you like a spider spinning a web.
So there you have it. Honestly, I could write a hundred of these. In my opinion, every film score ever recorded would benefit from a vinyl release, but I'd be happy to see half of these titles released on wax. Here's hoping someone makes it happen.
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