Soundtrack Spotlight is a quarterly round-up of the best film, TV and game soundtracks that have been released over the last few months. We’ll take an in-depth look at one from each month, and we’ll also recommend others that we think are worth a listen.
January 2020 started off strong with the release of monster movie Underwater and its rather bloody good soundtrack from industry legend Marco Beltrami (Snowpiercer, The Hurt Locker, Logan) and Brandon Roberts (A Good Day to Die Hard). A beautiful blend of haunting melody and harsh, crashing chords it’s the perfect mix to go along with the rollicking monster-ride that is the movie itself while also standing on its own as a fine piece of music to listen to. Standout tracks here include ‘Voyage to the Bottom of the C’, ‘Bobbing Along’ and ‘Norah’s Choice’. Veering from bombastic orchestration to quiet and wistful there’s something for everyone to enjoy here.
Also released in January was Colin Stetson’s (Hereditary, Outlaws and Angels) nerve-jangling, occasionally discordant delight of a soundtrack for the new Nick Cage movie Color Out of Space. Any fans of his work with Hereditary should give this a look. Track 1 ‘West of Arkham”, for instance, wouldn’t sound at all out of place in Hereditary. This is another strong release from Colin, who I only really became aware of after his work with Hereditary. Standout tracks here include the aforementioned ‘West of Arkham’, ‘Contact’ and ‘Alpacalypse’.
January also brought us some more obscure little releases for some of the more niche companies. For fans of the miniseries of Stephen King’s The Stand, Varese Saraband released a new limited edition expanded run of Snuffy Walden’s (Under the Dome, Friday Night Lights) soundtrack which takes it from a respectable 16 tracks in length to 33!
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Waxwork Records, home to many brilliant little pieces of work, have re-released the soundtrack for 1990’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie, available on vinyl for the first time since it originally came out back in the day, with their usual high standards of quality. Lovely heavyweight vinyl and new sleeve art. Cowabunga dudes! (Ahem. I’ll show myself out.)
Also in January, from Milan Records (digital only, sadly) is the simply amazing soundtrack to Netflix’s interpretation of The Witcher, composed by Sonya Belousova (Reprisal, Inside Man: Most Wanted) and Giona Ostinelli (Elementary, Homeland). A brilliant series, and an equally brilliant soundtrack to accompany it, with all those really annoying earwormy songs that drove the internet insane for a while. Sadly, none of the tracks include Geralt saying “Fuck” so we can’t possibly recommend it. What an oversight!
Moving on to February, La-La Land Records have an expanded version of Danny Elfman’s (like, every Tim Burton movie EVER, Monster House) Darkman soundtrack available on vinyl for the movie’s 30th birthday, boosting the original 13 track release to a massive FORTY FIVE tracks! That’s a whole lot of music.
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Intrada also bring us an interesting little CD in the form of the first ever official release of Mike Moran’s (Sherlock, Taggart) quirky soundtrack to Terry Gilliam’s epic Time Bandits since its release 39 years ago! Y’know, that weird dark fantasy movie with time-travelling little folk who used to work for God? No? then go and bloody watch it! It’s great stuff. Then buy the soundtrack.
Mainstream releases in February include the soundtrack to Blumhouse’s new take on Fantasy Island from Madison Gate Records, as well as the new Vin Diesel comic-book movie Bloodshot. I haven’t seen this one yet, but I can tell you that the soundtrack ain’t half bad. This is another from composer Steve Jablonsky (Gears of War series, Bayformers movie series) who has a nice little line of big, booming soundtracks to his name. The soundtrack itself sounds a little generically “action movie” in places, but still has some good tracks. ‘Mombasa Mission, ‘Training Montage and ‘Barris Mission’ are some good tracks to listen to in particular but all in all it’s a decent little album! I hear the movie is alright as well, which is often about as much as you can hope for from a comic book film.
I can’t let February go without mentioning one other big release – the soundtrack for the surprisingly freakin’ terrifying little movie The Invisible Man. Benjamin Wallfisch (IT, Blade Runner 2049) does a superb job here, the soundtrack a curious mix of the orchestral and electronic, scenes you might think would be quiet instead filled with crashing, siren-like synths and screaming strings. It’s jarring, but it works! Standout tracks here include Escape, ‘This is What he Does’ and ‘Attack.
Trotting briskly on into March, there were again some interesting re-releases from La-La Land such as a 30th Anniversary re-issue of the soundtrack to Tom Cruise movie Days of Thunder along with an expanded release of Jerry Goldsmith’s score to 70’s killer bee movie The Swarm, which sees the original 12 track release expanded by an additional 30 tracks! (I’ve never seen that one myself, but if you fancy a “nature strikes back” type film, I can recommend the strange little ant-based film Phase IV and its simply brilliant ambient synth-heavy soundtrack by Brian Gascoigne, available on vinyl from Waxwork Records.)
March also sees the release of the new film Calm With Horses and Invada have released the soundtrack for it, created by the one man electronic extravaganza that is Blanck Mass. It’s a bit more low key than some of his own releases, but that’s perhaps to be expected from a film soundtrack. That said, the track ‘Different Breed’ is quite an in-your-face affair. Fans of Blanck Mass might find this a little subdued for their liking, but it’s still an intriguing listen, especially when synth/electronic heavy soundtracks like this are the exception in most films.
Wrapping things up, video game fans have a bumper crop of releases in March, with releases including Yooka-Laylee and Hard West (the latter from Marcin Przybylowicz who also did the soundtracks to The Witcher series) as well as the Half-Life series, Metro series and Rainbow Six Siege that all released multiple soundtracks throughout the month.
And that’s that! There’s lots of great music out there and hopefully the albums and labels we’ve spotlighted here will help you find something new to listen to.
We’ll be back at the start of July with another round-up of all the soundtrack offerings. See you then!