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Best Scores of 2018, Part III

January 29, 2019 Leave a comment Go to comments

This is the third and final installment in my annual series of articles looking at the best “under the radar” scores from around the world. Again, rather than doing the scores on a geographical basis, this year I decided to simply preset the scores in a random order. This conclusive batch includes six scores: a superb children’s adventure score from an independent American film rebooting a beloved 1970s franchise, two beautiful scores from Japanese animations, a fun and spooky German children’s fantasy-comedy, a Spanish sports comedy caper, and a wonderfully nostalgic throwback to 80s synth scores for a Swedish comedy-thriller.

BENJI – Kostas Christides

Benji, a loveable scruffy little mixed breed mutt, became an unexpected movie star in the United States after he starred in his own self-titled movie in 1974, and it became a massive box office hit. Over the next thirty years Benji appeared in four further films, all written and directed by Joe Camp, and all of which feature the titular canine getting into various family-friendly adventures with his various human owners. In this new film, which reboots the Benji origin story, the creative reins are handed over to Joe Camp’s son Brandon; the plot involves two school kids making friends with an orphaned puppy, who then comes to their rescue when the children are kidnapped by a pair of inept robbers.

The original 1974 Benji film was scored by Texas musician Euel Box, whose original song for the film “I Feel Love” was nominated for an Oscar. The new version casts its net much wider by having a score by the enormously talented Los Angeles-based Greek composer Kostas Christides. Having spent several years as a composing assistant and orchestrator for Christopher Young, Christides began branching out on his own in the mid 2000s, and wrote an especially outstanding score for the Greek film Worlds Apart in 2015; Benji is his first major score since then, and like its predecessor it confirms that Christides has the potential to be one of the great new young voices in film music.

Benji’s score is really quite superb. It’s a fully orchestral adventure-drama score, warm, wholesome, thematic, and emotional, with a number of knockout action cues that raise it way above the norm. The main theme, introduced in the “Opening/Main Title,” emerges out from some wonderfully spooky orchestral textures, and is initially heard on a folksy acoustic guitar before eventually becoming a charming, sweeping statement that absolutely bowled me over the first time I heard it. This theme is present throughout much of the score – it is reprised in several subsequent cues, and features prominently in the stirring finale cue, “Benji”. The loneliness of Benji’s life as an orphaned puppy is conveyed through some gorgeous writing for strings and piano in “Looking for a New Family,” a forlorn duet for harp and synths in “Lonely Times,” and more solemn pianos in “Without Hope, Without Family”. These cues really have no business being this beautiful.

However, my favorite parts of the score are the action sequences, which are bigger and bolder and much more complex than the music for a film like this has any right to be. Christides explores the scope of his entire orchestra, bringing every instrument out into the forefront of things at some point, allowing them all to shin. He writes complicated percussive patterns, uses driving brass rhythms, weaves in his themes (listen especially the action arrangements of the main theme in “Rot vs Benji” and “The Final Battle”), and even for allows a few moments of grand dissonance, to underscore the heightened emotions of the little puppy and his teenage human buddies.

The sensational “Kids Kidnapped,” “Benji on a Mission,” “Searching Out the Hideout,” the aforementioned “Rot vs. Benji,” the caper-like “Rescuing Pawn Shop Man,” “Benji Leads the Way,” “There Is No Tomorrow,” and “The Final Battle” are the pick of these, but truthfully it’s all good – there isn’t a single moment where drones take over. This is flamboyant, richly textured orchestral brilliance all the way. There are hints of Alan Silvestri at his prime in some of the chord progressions and instrumental combinations (think Back to the Future and The Abyss, especially in “Dogs Discover Underworld”), the woodwind writing recalls John Williams, some of the percussion writing has a touch of John Powell, the action during the finale sometimes recalls the best of James Horner, and of course it would be strange is there were no clear echoes of Christopher Young.

Unfortunately – and I can’t believe I’m saying this again! – Christides’s score has not been released on a commercial album in any format, other than this promo which was produced by Christides himself for award consideration purposes. It isn’t even on the composer’s own Soundcloud page at https://soundcloud.com/kostaschristides. So, yet again, I find myself looking at the film music record label owners of the world, begging them to somehow find a way to bring this score to the soundtrack buying public. Why is it that so many terrible scores for mainstream projects receive lavish releases accompanied by gushing PR prose, while genuinely outstanding work like this is overlooked? I don’t have logical answer to that question, but I do know that Benji is one of the best, and most unexpected, scores of its type this year.

Track Listing: 1. Opening/Main Title (4:39), 2. Kids Kidnapped (4:26), 3. Looking for a New Family (2:56), 4. Benji on a Mission (1:33), 5. Lonely Times (3:24), 6. Searching Out the Hideout (2:52), 7. Sneaking Around is What I Do (1:35), 8. Rot vs Benji (5:14), 9. Rescuing Pawn Shop Man (1:57), 10. Dogs Discover Underworld (3:43), 11. Without Hope, Without Family (2:51), 12. Benji Leads the Way (3:00), 13. There Is No Tomorrow (2:33), 14. The Final Battle (3:54), 15. Unconscious Memories (2:09), 16. Benji (2:18). Promo, 49 mintes 14 seconds.

 

HILFE, ICH HAB MEINE ELTERN GESCHRUMPFT – Anne-Kathrin Dern

Hilfe Ich Hab Meine Eltern Geschrumpft [Help, I Shrunk My Parents] is a German fantasy-comedy for children, a sequel to the 2015 film Hilfe, Ich Hab Meine Lehrerin Geschrumpft, which builds upon a premise similar to the classic 1980s movie Honey I Shrunk the Kids. It’s directed by Tim Trageser and stars Oskar Keymer as Felix, an ordinary student who finds himself caught up in the peculiar history of his school where the benevolent 100-year-old ghost of Otto Leonhard, its founder, still haunts its hallways. In this story, both of Felix’s parents, and the school’s current head teacher, are shrunk to miniature size during a battle between the Leonhard’s ghost and the ghost of a different teacher who wants to take over the school; so begins their adventurous journey to find their way home and find a way to reverse the curse.

The score for Hilfe, Ich Hab Meine Eltern Geschrumpft is by the Los Angeles-based German composer Anne-Kathrin Dern, who impressed me enormously with her two 2017 scores The Jade Pendant and Lilli’s Bewitched Christmas, and continues to impress here. Like those two previous works, Hilfe (as I will be calling it for short) has a lot of its basis in modern classics by several Hollywood greats – in this instance Danny Elfman and John Williams – as well as a healthy dose of lush classicism that owes a significant debt to the great Czech composer Bedrich Smetana and The Moldau.

The “Main Theme” that runs through much of the score is the one that is most inspired by Smetana’s famous piece; it has an appropriate sense of playful magic through it’s light chimes, prancing rhythms, and slight air of spookiness, and it features strongly in subsequent cues like “Otto,” in the latter half of “Journey to the School,” the lightly comedic “Out of the Frame,” the mischievous “Happymeal for Breakfast,”. Every now and again Dern enhances the theme with some ghostly choral textures,

Other standout moments in the score include the bittersweet string and woodwind writing in “Family Crisis” and “Calling Parents,” the darker and more imposing brass-led textures for the undead former teacher “Hulda Stechbart,” and a pretty love theme in “Ella and Mario”. Best of all is the fun knockabout action material that comes alive in cues such as “Escaping the Cage,” “Hulda in Schmitti’s House,” “Marble in the Tower,” the lively and percussive “Briefing,” “Drone Action,” and the conclusive pair “Entering the Tower” and Showdown”. Several of these cues feature action settings of the main theme underpinned by creative and energetic rhythmic writing from the entire orchestra, while “Showdown” also spotlights a lovely, emotional rendering for a soft chorus.

Unfortunately the score for Hilfe, Ich Hab Meine Eltern Geschrumpft is not available to purchase on a commercial CD – Dern produced this promo for awards consideration purposes – and as of the time of writing there aren’t even any samples on her personal website, http://www.annedern-filmcomposer.com, or her Soundcloud page; however, I wrote the same thing last year when I reviewed both The Jade Pendant and Lilli’s Bewitched Christmas, and since then both of those scores have been released by Mikael Carlsson and Moviescore Media, so hope springs eternal! This is yet another superb score by this exceptionally talented composer, whose stock continues to rise with every score of hers I hear.

Track Listing: 1. Main Theme (1:29), 2. Otto/Museum and Distraction (1:46), 3. Awakening of the Skeleton (2:05), 4. Family Crisis (0:58), 5. The Skeleton’s Plan (1:50), 6. First Cracks (1:56), 7. Hulda Stechbart (1:46), 8. Journey to the School (1:43), 9. Out of the Flame (1:59), 10. The Shrinking Curse (0:44), 11. Calling Parents (1:21), 12. Escaping the Cage (2:12), 13. Escaping the Xylophone (1:44), 14. Hulda in Schmitti’s House (3:58), 15. Happymeal for Breakfast (1:26), 16. Ella and Mario (0:56), 17. Marble in the Tower (1:47), 18. I Need You Back as Parents (0:58), 19. Punishment (1:23), 20. I Am Sorry and The Tube (1:28), 21. Briefing (1:04), 22. Mission Objective (1:20), 23. Drone Action (1:25), 24. Ella’s Fall (2:34), 25. Climbing Together (0:55), 26. Climbing the Top (1:12), 27. Entering the Tower (1:00), 28. Showdown (2:29), 29. The New Job (1:22). Promo, 46 minutes 54 seconds.

 

LOS FUTBOLÍSIMOS – Fernando Velázquez

Los Futbolísimos is a Spanish comedy film directed by Miguel Ángel Lamata, based on the popular books by Roberto Santiago. It follows the fortunes of a misfit high school soccer team which is initially trying to maintain its survival and save itself from relegation (and oblivion), but eventually becomes involved in an unusual mystery when a number of referees begin randomly falling asleep during games! The film was a big hit in Spain when it opened in cinemas in August 2018, and hopefully the same will be the case with the score, by the extraordinarily brilliant and prolific Spanish composer Fernando Velázquez.

Astonishingly, this Velázquez’s ELEVENTH score of 2018: he has written music for thrillers and action movies and even a 13-part TV series, but his primary concern this year has been comedy. Los Futbolísimos came hot on the heels of Thi Mai: Rumbo a Vietnam, Que Baje Dios y Lo Vea, and Las Leyes de la Termodinámica, and was followed by Superlópez; all of them were excellent, but Los Futbolísimos is the one that is probably the most out-and-out fun. Velázquez’s score is largely symphonic (performed by the Galicia Symphony Orchestra) and provides a broad range of emotional moments – comedy, romance, whimsy, action – all of which is anchored by a truly outstanding central theme that emerges towards the end of the first track, “Este So You”. One curiosity is the fact that the opening notes of the theme are *very* reminiscent of the Polonaise from Wojciech Kilar’s score for Pan Tadeusz – a complete coincidence, but it stuck out the moment I heard it.

Further statements of the theme abound, especially as the score develops. It becomes much more prominent after the noble and rousing “Pacto en la Casa del Diablo,” and to Velázquez’s credit he puts it through it’s paces with a number of interesting variations, including numerous occasions where he drops it right into the middle of an action cue. The action music is really entertaining, and if often centered around a recurring rhythmic idea that brings to mind something from a Johnny English movie, in the style of a James Bond-esque spy caper spoofs. Cues like “Villanos Suite,” “Infierno en Islantilla,” “Acción Sin Limites,” “Máxima Destrucción,” and “Operación Gordillo,” and “Futbolísimos” are especially notable for their rapid pace and sequences of boldly good-natured orchestral mayhem.

In addition to the central theme and the action-caper sequences there are also some more contemporary moments featuring guitars, rock percussion, and a Hammond organ alongside the orchestra (“Afirmativo Positivo Redundante,” the imposing “Castigados”), frothy and effervescent scherzos (the first half of “Once Años No Nueve”), moments of sweeping romance (the second half of “Once Años No Nueve”), a couple of fun interpolations of the famous football crowd chant/clap (“Somos El Soto Alto y lo Vamos a Demostrar,” “Futbolísimos”), and even a couple of funny spoofs – one of Karl Jenkins’s famous ‘Adiemus’ in “Que Hermoso,” and one of Serge Gainsbourg’s ‘Je t’aime moi non plus’ in “Viens Chez Moi, Le Está Dando Su Pito” . The whole thing is rounded out by an original song, “Superheroes” performed by Bombai.

The score is available for purchase from Quartet Records, and comes highly recommended from me. One criticism I will make is that I can absolutely see how some people may find themselves being slowly annoyed by the score’s overly-optimistic outlook, bouncy rhythmic ideas, abupt Mickey Mouse changes, and caper-like tone, but this is not something that affected me in the slightest. In a year when Fernando Velázquez made a concerted effort to conquer the comedy score market, Los Futbolísimos takes the gold.

Track Listing: 1. Este Soy Yo (1:39), 2. Afirmativo Positivo Redundante (1:40), 3. Once Años No Nueve (4:10), 4. Castigados (1:59), 5. Villanos Suite (3:57), 6. Andando Por Las Ramas (1:33), 7. Caprichos Necesarios (1:43), 8. Estas Soñando Mamá (1:23), 9. Pacto en la Casa del Diablo (2:00), 10. Infierno en Islantilla (2:34), 11. Oda al Infortunio (1:52), 12. El Misterio Radu (1:29), 13. Misión Imposible (En el Hospital) (1:10), 14. Si Era Chacón (2:16), 15. Acción Sin Limites (1:09), 16. Máxima Destrucción (6:05), 17. Qué Hermoso! (2:37), 18. Pistas Pistas y Más Pistas (2:02), 19. Pesadilla en La Casa del Diablo (1:23), 20. Dios Se Han Besado (1:35), 21. Operación Gordillo (3:25), 22. Os Presento a mi Drooooooné (1:38), 23. Pakete vs. Chacón (2:22), 24. Viens Chez Moi, Le Está Dando Su Pito (1:37), 25. Somos El Soto Alto y lo Vamos a Demostrar (3:25), 26. Hay Que Ganar (2:15), 27. Llave Rumana… Cometelos (3:16), 28. Futbolísimos (3:12), 29. La Ley No Espera Ni Un Segundo (2:41), 30. Vamos (2:44), 31. Me Gusta Helena Con y Me Gusta Mucho (1:37), 32. Puedo Repetir (0:36), 33. Superheroes (performed by Bombai) (3:04). Quartet Records, 76 minutes 22 seconds.

 

MAQUIA: WHEN THE PROMISED FLOWER BLOOMS – Kenji Kawai

Maquia: When the Promised Flower Blooms – Sayonara No Asa Ni Yakusoku No Hana Wo Kazarou in the original Japanese – is an animated fantasy film written and directed by Mari Okada. The story follows a girl named Maquia, who belongs to a race of beings who stop ageing when they reach their teenage years, and live life in an idyllic peace. This peace is shattered when Maquia’s homeland is invaded by a neighboring clan who seek the secret to immortality; several of her closest friends are abducted, and her village is destroyed. Wandering alone, Maquia eventually comes across an orphaned baby whom she names Ariel, and together they begin to seek for any sign of what remains of her clan. As the years pass, Maquia and Ariel develop a strong relationship – something which eventually tested when it become apparent that Ariel has not stopped ageing. It’s a beautiful, but somewhat sad film that was very popular domestically when it opened in Japanese cinemas in February 2018.

The score for Maquia: When the Promised Flower Blooms is by the great Japanese composer Kenji Kawai, who still remains frustratingly underappreciated in the west. Although I myself am frustratingly unfamiliar with the majority of his work, those that I have experienced show him to be a composer with a strong personal style which seamlessly blends orchestra, choir, and electronics together, and is anchored by some memorable thematic content.

The score opens with the gorgeous “Iorufu: Wakare No Ichizoku,” a dream-like and wistful piece for strings, choir, and harp, clearly alluding the idyllic nature of Maquia’s peaceful life. Maquia’s theme appears frequently throughout the score, receiving especially beautiful restatements in “Wakare To No Deai,” “Aijo No Kosaku,” and “Haha To Ko”. The writing for solo violin and solo piano in that last cue is just breathtaking. The other significant theme is the one which appears in “Horobi No Haoto” and the subsequent “Horobo E No Josho,” and which appears to represent the neighboring clan that shatter Maquia’s life. Strident strings, strong percussion, and an ominous choir heralds the destruction of her home.

Other cues of note include the lovely, delicate “Haha Ni Naru Hibi” and its peaceful solos for flute and solo violin; the gently heartbreaking “Wakare No Jikkan”; the flamboyantly militaristic and fanfare-filled “Shukuga Parade Ni Hisomu”; the unusual but toe-tapping folk music in “Rodosha No Utage” which appears to use a Japanese variant on a bagpipe; the soaring and optimistic light action music in “Inochi To Inochi”.

The music is rounded out by truly sumptuous song, “Viator,” performed by the young singer-songwriter Rio Okano, aka Rionos. For some reason I have always had a soft spot for these bittersweet songs performed with a high, piercing soprano by Japanese female vocalists; there’s just something so exotic, but also so tender and emotional, about the sound it creates, and “Viator” is just the same. I have absolutely no idea what this young lady is singing about, but the whole thing is simply sublime, and just a little sad.

The soundtrack album for Maquia: When the Promised Flower Blooms is available as an import CD from Japan via all the usual online retailers specializing in music from that part of the world – CD Japan and Yes Asia are recommended sites. It comes with a strong recommendation from me, especially for anyone who is willing to broaden their film music horizons way beyond the Hollywood mainstream.

Track Listing: 1. Iorufu: Wakare No Ichizoku (2:03), 2. Horobi No Haoto (4:53), 3. Wakare To No Deai (1:34), 4. Haha Ni Naru Hibi (4:34), 5. Wakare No Jikkan (5:04), 6. Yokisenu Saikai (1:34), 7. Shukuga Parade Ni Hisomu (1:46), 8. Hibi No Genjitsu (2:16), 9. Rodosha No Utage (1:35), 10. Horobi E To Mukau Kodoku (2:57), 11. Aijo No Kosaku (2:32), 12. Betsuri (2:28), 13. Fukushu To Kyoki (1:25), 14. Horobi E No Josho (1:46), 15. Wakare No Ichizoku To Sono Kyoki (1:29), 16. Inochi To Inochi (3:39), 17. Haha To Ko (5:26), 18. Ozora Ni Tobi Tatsu (3:29), 19. Kansha To Kakugo (2:19), 20. Yakusoku No Hana (3:13), 21. Viator (performed by Rionos) (4:46). Lantis Records LACA-15696, 60 minutes 57 seconds.

 

A PLACE FURTHER THAN THE UNIVERSE – Yoshiaki Fujisawa

A Place Further Than the Universe is a 13-part Japanese animated TV series, written by Jukki Hanada and directed by Atsuko Ishizuka. It’s a children’s adventure story which follows a young schoolgirl named Mari, who feels like her life has been boring and dull, and longs for adventure. One day she meets a new friend, Shirase, and is amazed to discover that she is planning to go on a dangerous voyage to Antarctica; Shirase’s mother disappeared several years previously, and she believes that going to the icy continent will shed new light on the mystery of what happened to her. Impulsively, Mari makes the rash decision to accompany her new friend on the trip, and before long she is on board a ship from Australia, heading south.

The score for A Place Further Than the Universe is by Japanese composer Yoshiaki Fujisawa, who is a new name to me, but who on the strength of this score is yet another one to add to the list of outstanding musicians working in the Japanese film and television industry. His score is quite unexpectedly beautiful, a lush and thematic orchestral-electronic hybrid that overflows with elegant, emotional melodies and tender arrangements. The opening cue, “Antarctic Sun,” is a primer for the rest of the score – a sweet, lyrical theme for strings, piano, and keyboards which is a perfect representation of the innocence and optimism of the lead character. The theme for Shirase returns in several subsequent cues, receiving an especially lovely statement in “Antarctic Girl,” a variation with a lively percussion beat and John Williams woodwind trills in “I Will Not Stop Until the End,” and a suitably epic sweep in the conclusive title track.

The score abounds with excellent cues. The second cue, “Bon Voyage,” is sweeping and broad of scope, with tolling bells adding a depth and grandeur to the gorgeous central melody, and a modern percussion section adding a contemporary kick; the subsequent “We Will Definitely Go To Antarctica” revisits the first half of the cue and expands upon it, adding a brass element to really ramp up the sense of adventure. “Starting the Mission” brings out a lively woodwind melody, again underpinned by modern rock drums, with a forward-thinking and determined spirit. Pieces like “Friends,” “Due,” “Overflowing Thoughts,” and the stunning “Taiko” are just superb, filled with tender writing for oboes, strings, piano, and a notable solo cello,

Occasionally Fujisawa seems to be channeling Alan Silvestri at his most delicate – listen to the pianos in “Because There Is Something I Want To Check” and tell me you don’t hear Forrest Gump! – and there are even some moments of light tragedy and sorrow, as heard in the beautiful but sad string writing in “Chains Tied to the Heart.” Interspersed between these cues are some moments of light comedy and playful whimsy, often resulting from Fujisawa’s pretty textures for pizzicato strings and piano, and harp, and even a few moments of mischievous caper music and ominous action, as evidenced by the robust and energetic “Status Explanation,” the occasionally quite aggressive “Is There Something to Hide” and the unexpectedly forceful rock stylings of “Emergency”.

The score for A Place Further Than the Universe is available as an import CD from reputable retailers such as CD Japan and YesAsia, and as a digital download from most of the major sources, and comes with a major recommendation. Although the score lacks the bombast and action-packed bravado a lot of Japanese scores contain, this one offers a quietly emotional, beautifully textured exploration of friendship, family, and optimism, and earmarks Fujisawa as yet another composer from the Far East worth following.

Track Listing: 1. Antarctic Sun (2:17), 2. Bon Voyage (3:00), 3. Starting the Mission (2:17), 4. You Can Die Lightly (2:02), 5. Well What? (1:57), 6. Did You Forget Something? (2:15), 7. Antarctic Girl (2:44), 8. Because There Is Something I Want To Check (2:41), 9. Friends (2:50), 10. Due (2:38), 11. Status Explanation (2:09), 12. We Will Definitely Go to Antarctica (2:34), 13. Premonition (2:15), 14. Surface of Best Friend Lost (2:30), 15. Chains Tied to the Heart (2:20), 16. Is There Something to Hide? (2:09), 17. Emergency (1:59), 18. Overflowing Thoughts (2:36), 19. Taiko (3:12), 20. Promises With Best Friends (2:09), 21. I Will Not Stop Until the End (2:29), 22. Lost Life (3:01), 23. The Answer I Found (3:00), 24. A Place Further Than the Universe (2:36). Columbia Records Japan, 59 minutes 38 seconds.

 

VIDEOMAN – Robert Parker and Waveshaper

Videoman is a Swedish comedy-action-thriller movie written and directed by Kristian A. Söderström; a love letter to the 1980s, it stars Stefan Sauk and Lena Nilsson as Ennio and Simone, two social misfits obsessed with the films and music of that most stylish of decades, who find themselves coming together to solve a mystery when a massively valuable VHS tape is stolen from Ennio’s collection. The film was en enormous hit in its native country, even winning the Swedish Oscar for Best Actress for Nilsson; it also has an iconic and thoughoughly enjoyable score by composer Robert Parker and electronic synthwave musician Tom Andersson, better known as Waveshaper.

As much as the film is an homage to the 1980s itself, Videoman’s score is a perfectly judged recreation of the iconic 1980s synth scores written by composers like Harold Faltermeyer, Tangerine Dream, Giorgio Moroder, Vangelis. Brad Fiedel, and others. 1980s throwback synth scores are all the range at the moment, but Videoman succeeds where others fail because it’s not pastiche, but actually feels like a score that could have been written in that moment in time. Critically lauded facsimiles like the score for the TV series Stranger Things get the instrumental palette right, but lack the compositional depth, thematic content, and emotional heart that a lot of those synth classics had. Videoman nails it all perfectly, thanks in no small part to Waveshaper’s expertise at programming and sound design, and Parker’s clear talent for memorable melodies.

The score is entirely electronic, performed on a wide array of synthezisers and keyboards, and contains a number of standout tracks. The opening “Prologue” is dramatic; the title track “Videoman” is a great combination of cheesy fun and mock-seriousness, with a memorable recurring melody and a rhythmic section like ‘Take Your Breath Away’ from Top Gun; “Simone’s Theme” has that dreamy sound often heard in the soundtrack for John Hughes films; “VHS Passion” becomes quite anthemic; the final third of “Franco’s Den” explodes into energetic disco chase music, complete with whizzing sound effects; “A Sense of Loss” has a sense of pathos that is quite effective; while the conclusive “Hunted” has more than a hint of Basil Poledouris to it, when the late great composer was in full-on electronic mode.

In addition to the score, the soundtrack for Videoman also features a number of original songs, all of which were written to intentionally recapture the synth-pop and new wave songs prevalent in that time period. If I didn’t know differently, I would swear to you that these songs were all written in 1984, such is their authenticity. They are all brilliant, but I’m especially fond of two songs – “Love Frontier” performed by Main, and “Push and Pull” by Sveinung Nygaard featuring vocalist Niki Yrla – both of which are the sort of songs I gravitated towards during the period, and which could easily have been hits for bands like Human League, Depeche Mode, or A-Ha back in the day.

Videoman is by far the best 1980s synth nostalgia score I have heard since the sound started making its way back into the film music mainstream, and will absolutely appeal to anyone who still has a lingering affection for those classic electronic scores that dominated the film music scene more than 30 years ago. It’s available as a digital download from Lakeshore Records.

Track Listing: 1. Prologue (1:45), 2. Videoman (3:15), 3. Office (1:13), 4. Simone’s Theme (3:21), 5. VHS Passion (1:48), 6. Faceless (1:29), 7. Ennio’s Theme (2:14), 8. Stolen Tape (1:24), 9. Love on Ice (performed by Johan Agebjörn feat. Ryan Paris & Sally Shapiro) (4:36), 10. Drift Apart (3:09), 11. Love Frontier (performed by Main) (3:56), 12. Blue Motorbike (performed by Moto Boy) (4:40), 13. Push & Pull (performed by Sveinung Nygaard feat. Niki Yrla) (4:55), 14. Burglary (0:52), 15. Franco’s Den (1:22), 16. Confrontation (1:17), 17. Have You Ever Been in Love? (performed by Johan Agebjörn feat. Tom Hooker) (4:00), 18. Anyone There? (1:01), 19. A Sense of Loss (1:54), 20. A Love Gone (1:29), 21. Hunted (1:39), 22. Demise (Instrumental) (4:11), 23. Demise (performed by Femmepop) (4:10). Lakeshore Records, 59 minutes 52 seconds.

  1. Adriii
    January 31, 2019 at 2:22 am

    Hi Jonathan, thank you so much for these three selection of scores. I, of course, find your music analysis interesting and educating, but what I appreciate the most is how you shine a light to scores no one else is talking about (or even know about).

    I would like to make a topic suggestion. I’ve been trying to listen to more scores composed by women, but it’s really hard. Japan’s anime is a little oasis but overall it’s so hard to find some because there are so few and they have very little visibility (On the top 250 grossing films of 2018, women comprised 6% of composers https://womenandhollywood.com/resources/statistics/2018-statistics/). I wonder if behind these 3 articles that highlight some under the radar scores there are more scores by women worth taking a listen to.

    Thank you for your time and for sharing your love for the film score 🙂

    • JBWS
      February 1, 2019 at 8:56 am

      I second that wish! I feel the same way and I am shocked, that there still is such a little amount of women and especially women of color scoring bigger projects. Let’s hope there’ll be more change in the near future.

      To name a few scores I’d recommend of 2018:
      – Boarding School by Lesley Barber
      – Jinn by Jesi Nelson
      – Hurricane by Laura Rossi
      – The Jade Pendant by Anne-Kathrin Dern
      – The Wife by Jocelyn Pook
      – The Staircase by Jocelyn Pook
      – The Killer Inside Me by Melissa Parmenter
      – The Escape by Alexandra Harwood
      – Where Hands Touch by Anne Chmelewsky
      – Edie by Debbie Wiseman
      – Celeste by Lena Raine

      • Adriii
        February 4, 2019 at 2:57 am

        Hi again, Jonathan
        Thank you so so much for that list! 🙂
        Greetings from Spain!

    • JBWS
      February 5, 2019 at 3:47 am

      Hi Adriii,

      sorry. I’m not Jonathan. Just another user wondering about the same thing and watching out for more equality in the film music world…

      • Adriii
        February 5, 2019 at 3:58 am

        Sorry, JBWS! You’re right, I’m sorry, I didn’t look at the avatar and assumed. Thanks again!

    • JBWS
      February 5, 2019 at 7:18 am

      No problem. Hope there are some scores on the list to your liking.
      I would also recommend to look into the work of Jessica Curry or Jane Antonia Cornish, if you don’t already know them. “Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture” by Curry and “Island of Lost Souls by Cornish” might be among my favourite scores.

      Are there by chance any scores or female composers in general, you would recommend?

      • Adriii
        February 5, 2019 at 8:23 am

        I love “Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture” 🙂

        You have to ckeck out fingerspit work. “The Red String’s Club” soundtrack is one of my favorite videogames score. Or scores in general.
        Also from videogames, I think Manaka Kataoka’s work for Zelda: Breath of the wild is awesome.

        Others I like that I can think of right now:
        – Jackie by Mica Levi in case you don’t already know her work.
        – Z for Zachariah by Heather Mcintosh
        – Eigth Grade by Anna Meredith
        – American Fable by Gingger Shankar
        – Mary Shelley by Amelia Warner
        – The Lovers by Mandy Hoffmann
        – The Tale by Ariel Marx
        – Everything before us by Chanda Dancy

        You can also check out works by Hildur Gudnadottir and aivi & surasshu (Steven Universe’s score is very special)

    • JBWS
      February 5, 2019 at 5:51 pm

      I already know Gudnadottir, Mcinthosh, Warner and Levi, but I’m really glad you introduced me to the rest. 🙂
      Thanks so much Adriii.

      I might know more, but the comment section of this article might not be the best place to talk about that continuously. 😀

  1. February 1, 2019 at 9:07 am

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