Home > Reviews > Under-the-Radar Round Up 2022 – English Language Indies III

Under-the-Radar Round Up 2022 – English Language Indies III

January 27, 2023 Leave a comment Go to comments

My recurring under-the-radar series usually concentrates on the best scores for non-English language films in a given year, but doing so means that I sometimes overlook music written for British, Australian, and American films that are similarly low-profile, but also have outstanding scores. To rectify that, here is the final entry for this year in my ongoing series of review articles, this time looking at seven such scores from the second half of 2022, written for independent English-language features that you might have otherwise overlooked.

The scores are: a heartwarming family drama about the homelessness crisis, an Australian film about a the unlikely friendship between a girl and a fish, a British comedy set in the world of French high fashion, another British comedy set in the world of professional golf, scores for two experimental films by a talented newcomer, a seasonal fantasy-drama about a magical reindeer, and a hilarious mock-biopic of Weird Al Yankovic!


5000 BLANKETS – Panu Aaltio

5000 Blankets is a heartwarming family drama film, written by Matt Antonelli and Larry Postel, and directed by Amin Matalqa. The story follows a woman named Cyndi, played by Anna Camp, and her young son Philip, played by Carson Minniear. When Cyndi’s husband has a mental breakdown and goes missing, she and Philip set out to find him on the streets of their city. Over time, as they become familiar with the plight of the local homeless population, and eventually begin an inspiring movement to help those unhoused people with kindness and hope.

The score for 5000 Blankets is by the great Finnish composer Panu Aaltio, who is working with director Matalqa for the first time; all of Matalqa’s previous major films (Captain Abu Raed, Strangely In Love, The Rendezvous) were scored by Austin Wintory. Matalqa is well known as huge fan of film music, and he has great taste, so of course Aaltio’s score is superb – it’s a warm, charming, theme-filled orchestral delight, but it also doesn’t shy away from addressing the darker sides of the story too.

There’s a lot of very pretty writing for piano and soft strings, dainty passages for light and flighty woodwinds, and energetic and wholesome guitars, as well as some subtle electronic accents which succeed in somehow giving the score a sort of dream-like tone that is very appealing. Standout lyrical cues include the gorgeous waltz-like theme that emerges in the opening “A Perfect Family,” the heart-warming guitars in “First Blanket” and “We Can’t Stop Now,” and the beautiful string writing in the title cue “5000 Blankets”. There’s also a funky piece of fun in “Spaghetti Dinner” in which Aaltio gets to let out his inner jazz.

Meanwhile, “Schizophrenia” offers a darkly unnerving musical representation of the terrible mental illness with some challenging passages of dissonance and chaos, and these ideas continue on later through cues like “Rooftop,” “Church Anxiety,” “Morgue,” “Bobby Awakens,” and others, when the focus shifts onto Cyndi and her fears about her husband’s fate. The choral accents in “Into the Void” are especially effective in this regard.

“Fire” has a serious sense of dramatic high stakes, “Blanket Drive” takes the guitar-led blanket theme to new heights with the incorporation of a light rock beat and lush string, “Finding Bobby” has a rapturous sense of joy and relief, and then the finale cue, “Philip’s Wish,” is a superb exploration of all the score’s main ideas that ends the score on a real high.

I’m so pleased that Panu Aaltio is finally starting to make some in-roads into American film music scene; his music is so good, but almost all of it has been written for Finnish films with virtually no audience outside of Finland, so hopefully 5000 Blankets will kick-start things to an extent where non-Finnish audiences are exposed to his music, and he can build from there. Kudos should also go to director Amin Matalqa for securing his services in the first place. The score is available as a digital download from Madison Gate Records and to stream via most of the usual suspects.

Track Listing: 1. A Perfect Family (3:48), 2. Schizophrenia (1:51), 3. First Calling (1:15), 4. He Said He Would Be Here (2:29), 5. Rooftop (2:57), 6. Cyndi and Phillip (1:28), 7. Church Anxiety (1:30), 8. Starting Over (0:49), 9. Sometimes You Just Want to Punch the World (1:29), 10. Morgue (1:27), 11. Into the Void (1:08), 12. First Blanket (2:11), 13. The Calling (1:20), 14. 5000 Blankets (1:30), 15. Spaghetti Dinner (2:10), 16. An Unexpected Turn (1:50), 17. Bobby Awakens (1:32), 18. The Coming Cold (2:27), 19. Fire (0:51), 20. Down the Spiral (1:04), 21. We Can’t Stop Now (3:29), 22. Blanket Drive (2:33), 23. Finding Bobby (2:35), 24. Phillip’s Wish (4:09). Madison Gate Records, 47 minutes 52 seconds.


BLUEBACK – Nigel Westlake

Blueback is an Australian children’s adventure film written and directed by Robert Connolly, based on the novel by Tim Winton. It stars Mia Wasikowska, Eric Bana, and Radha Mitchell, and follows Abby, a child who befriends a magnificent wild blue groper fish while diving. When Abby realizes that the fish – which she has named ‘Blueback’ – is under threat, she takes inspiration from her activist Mum, Dora, and takes on poachers to save her friend. The film was released in Australian cinemas right at the end of 2022, a few days before New Year, and as such may have slipped under the radar or some people – I’m here to encourage you to not let that happen!

The score for Blueback is by the outstanding Australian composer Nigel Westlake who, despite scoring a Best Picture nominee in 1996 in Babe, rarely scores films outside his native country. It’s a shame, because his music is invariably excellent – fully orchestral, thematic, emotional – and Blueback is very much the same. The score is performed by the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra and is a grand, expressive, emotional exploration of an undersea world, with music that attempts to match the gracefulness of the fish, the beauty of the coral reefs, and the emotions of the characters, with themes that are equally graceful and beautiful.

Westlake uses gorgeous, shimmering textures that ripple and flow like light on the ocean surface – harp glissandi, violin scales, piano textures, woodwind flutters, all moving and darting and shifting around each other with effortless dexterity. Some of the music has an affinity with the water in the way that some of Basil Poledouris’s more personal music did; scores like Wind, A Whale for the Killing, or perhaps even Free Willy. The score also has some echoes of James Horner when he was at his mostly dreamily romantic; for some reason the score for Iris keeps popping into my head when I listen to Blueback.

Where Westlake’s music is different, though, is in its lack of a truly majestic main theme – there is a main theme, often carried by a solo cello, but Blueback is more concerned about the colors, the instrumental combinations, and light and shade, than it is about huge memorable melodies. But, even without this, the music presents itself lovely, evocative ways; cues like “When the Sea Has Healed,” “Abby Meets Blueback,” “The Blue Bandit,” the beautifully melancholy “Taken by the Sea,” and “We Come From Water” leave a very positive impression.

One or two cues to adopt a more intense action sound, illustrating the danger to Blueback’s life, and the efforts that Abby takes to save him. Cues like “Swimming Like a Fish” the aforementioned “Abby Meets Blueback,” and the surging, pulsating “Trouble at Robbers Head” contain some vibrant, energetic string passages that are really outstanding. There’s also a sort of whining, groaning tone that runs through a lot of the score, and seems to be a sort of musical approximation of whale song that is really interesting.

Blueback is a lovely score, and will especially appeal to those who appreciate textural, sometimes ethereal, orchestral scores that evoke the warm sounds not nature. It’s also a reminder of what a good, underrated composer Nigel Westlake is – he’s pretty well known at home in Oz, but seems to have dropped off the international radar in recent years. The interested should also check out his excellent scores for A Little Bit of Soul and Paper Planes. The score is available on CD from ABC Classic Music, and to stream and download from most good online sources.

Track Listing: 1. Beneath the Waves (3:08), 2. Swimming like a Fish (3:09), 3. When the Sea Has Healed (2:07), 4. Abby Meets Blueback (5:26), 5. Watercolours (4:10), 6. Daydream (0:48), 7. The Blue Bandit (2:07), 8. Taken by the Sea (6:14), 9. On the Headland (1:41), 10. An Eye Like a Turning Moon (1:46), 11. Saving Longboat Bay (1:50), 12. Trouble at Robbers Head (4:34), 13. The Whales Return (1:29), 14. We Come from Water (1:33), 15. A Wise Old Fish (2:05). ABC Classic Music, 42 minutes 07 seconds.



Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris is a warm and charming comedy-drama directed by Anthony Fabian, and is the third film adaptation of the 1958 novel Mrs. ‘Arris Goes to Paris by Paul Gallico. The film stars Lesley Manville, Isabelle Huppert, Lambert Wilson, and Jason Isaacs, and follows the comic misadventures of the titular Mrs Harris. She is a widowed cleaning lady in post-war London, who becomes obsessed with an haute couture Christian Dior dress, and vows to one day travel to Paris to buy one, despite her meager circumstances and working class life. When she unexpectedly comes into some money, Mrs Harris does indeed travel top Paris to visit the Dior factory; despite initially running afoul of the house’s snooty director Claudine, she begins to make friends with the models and seamstresses, and changes their lives for the better with her sunny disposition and irrepressible optimism.

Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris is a lovely film, and it is helped immeasurably by the score, by English composer Rael Jones. The first thing that any film music fan will notice is the fact that Jones’s main theme is a dead ringer for the ‘Married Life’ theme from Up by Michael Giacchino; this one thing might out some people off, but if you can get past this one issue, then the score is a delight. The main theme – a dainty waltz for piano and sprightly springs – runs through much of the score, with especially prominent statements in “Mrs. Harris,” the energetic “Peas in a Pod,” and the conclusive pair “Ada on the Stairs” and “The Legion Dance,” as well as the unexpectedly sexy jazz arrangement in “Toad in the Hole”. The melody completely captures her personality – approachable, pleasant, helpful, positive, but also with hidden depths of romance and love – and it’s the best thing about the score.

A lot of the rest of the score has a busy, can-do spirit, scherzos full of cheerful life and movement; cues like “Lucky Day,” “Bag of Bones,” “It’s Called a Stroke,” are built around sparkling string passages, little flute motifs, gentle tinkling pianos, and often feature light cymbal rings as a prominent part of the percussion section. There is pathos and drama too, notably in “Footloose and Fancy Free,” “Streets Paved with Broken Dreams,” “Making Moonlight,” “Say Something Love,” and “The Dream Fades,” which speak to Mrs. Harris’s loneliness after the loss of her husband in the war with tender, lyrical writing. A few of the light, high-pitched string passages in some of these cues have a hint of Alexandre Desplat’s work in the genre too, which is another positive for me – listen to “Lovely, But Not Real” to see what I mean.

There are also one or two cues of more upbeat and tenacious jazz, in the classic British 1940s big band style, notably in “In a Flap” and “Up in Flames” which are a ton of fun. These contrast with the more sophisticated, magical sounds that over the course of the score come to be associated with the House of Dior itself – lots of shimmering writing for harps and pianos, clarinet textures, elegant strings – which can be heard prominently in “10th Anniversary Collection,” “Premiere,” and others.

Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris is a lovely score, a total delight. The fact that it accompanies one of my favorite films of 2022 helps, of course, but the warmth and emotion that Rael Jones brings to the story of this woman, and her desire to recapture a little sparkle in her life, should not be overlooked. The Michael Giacchino/Up similarity will undoubtedly bother some people, but I was able to overlook it easily and appreciate the score for what it is. The soundtrack has not been released on CD but is available to stream/download on Amazon and most other major digital music services.

Track Listing: 1. Mrs. Harris (1:59), 2. Lucky Day (1:17), 3. In a Flap (0:41), 4. Footloose and Fancy Free (1:20), 5. Bag of Bones (1:48), 6. Chasing Natasha (1:49), 7. 10th Anniversary Collection (2:42), 8. Temptation (2:16), 9. Streets Paved with Broken Dreams (2:13), 10. A Proper Angel (1:45), 11. Tour of Paris (1:06), 12. Toad in the Hole (3:47), 13. A Thousand Apologies (1:11), 14. Late for Fitting (0:59), 15. Making Moonlight (3:05), 16. Lovely, But Not Real (2:02), 17. Premiere (1:42), 18. It’s Called a Strike (2:40), 19. Say Something, Love (1:32), 20. Mrs. Mops (1:36), 21. Peas in a Pod (2:03), 22. Shut Up and Kiss Me (2:40), 23. Being Seen is Everything (3:07), 24. Up in Flames (0:37), 25. The Dream Fades (2:38), 26. From All Your Friends (2:20), 27. Ada On the Stairs (1:47), 28. The Legion Dance (3:10). Back Lot Music, 55 minutes 52 seconds.



Overwhelm the Sky and Torch are likely to be the two most under-the-radar film scores I will review this year. Both films are micro-budget indie features from young directors; the IMDB plot summary for Overwhelm the Sky describes it as ‘an existential epic neo-noir, loosely adapted from Charles Brockden Brown’s 1799 novel Edgar Huntly, or Memoirs of a Sleepwalker’ which tells the story of Eddie, an east coast radio personality who moves to San Francisco to marry the sister of his best friend. However, shortly before his arrival, his best friend is found murdered in Golden Gate Park in what the police surmise was a simple mugging gone awry. Eddie gets a job as a late-night talk-radio show host, and begins to obsess over his friend’s death, eventually coming into to contact with a sleepwalking drifter with a mysterious past and who may have something to do with the crime.

Meanwhile, Torch is a thriller directed by Christopher Coppola, Nicolas Cage’s younger brother, and stars Lacey Dorn as Clara, a young woman who grew up in the jungles of Belize, but was sent to live in San Francisco after a childhood trauma. Years later Clara returns to her jungle home, accompanied by her boyfriend Gabriel, where she has to deal with the legacy of the dark events that caused her to leave in the first place.

Both films were scored by the young Greek-heritage composer Costas Dafnis, a rising star in the San Francisco classical music world. It’s clear from this music that Dafnis is seriously, seriously talented. The liner notes that accompany the album state that, on Overwhelm the Sky, Dafnis ‘paints a dark and evocative musical environment for this ambitious surrealist, neo-noir film, bathing the listener in a powerful sonic experience that is both hauntingly melodic and unnervingly atmospheric. It’s a bold and complex work, one that hints at composers like Herrmann, Corigliano, Glass, and Kamen, whose works are at home both in film and the concert hall – a perfect complement to this strikingly original film.’

I agree. This is dark, challenging, complicated music, but fascinating to experience as an intellectual exercise. It shifts tones and colors constantly, from tonal and thematic to anguished and dissonant, sometimes within the same cue, with instrumental ideas playing off each other in a variety of fascinating ways. Dafnis uses the whole orchestra confidently, with impressive results. I love the cold, isolated sheen of the piano notes in “Golden Gate Park,” the brief moments of light and hope in “The River,” the anguished cello and piano duet in “Faceless Hordes,” the western-like sparkling energy of “Fallen Territory,” the guttural frenzy of “Angry Insomniacs” and the conclusive “Accidie”. The approach of it reminds me a little of the music Abel Korzeniowski wrote for the experimental film Escape from Tomorrow, albeit without the intentional Disney parodies. It’s impressive, promising stuff.

Meanwhile, the score for Torch is presented as a three-movement 18-minute orchestral suite. It’s perhaps more conventionally tonal and filmic than the music for Overwhelm the Sky, but it’s no less impressive – light, whispery themes weaves in and out of the work, occasionally rising to more grandiose levels of power and volume. There’s some fascinating writing for multi-layered strings, pianos, and languid clarinets. Dance-like rhythms that come and go, interrupted by shrill flute figures, and explosions of sound and chaos – again, it’s really good, and well worth exploring.

This album was produced as a labor of love by Matthew Price, and is a testament to his tenacity and his dedication to bringing these little known gems to a wider audience. It was released as a 1,000 unit limited edition CD by La-La Land Records and you really might want to pick this up as, in future years, if his talent is an indicator of anything, Costas Dafnis could be very big very soon.

Track Listing: 1. Overwhelm The Sky (4:40), 2. Golden Gate Park (2:47), 3. The River (1:55), 4. Nocturnal Wanderings (1:55), 5. Handwritten Letters (2:15), 6. Faceless Hordes (2:15), 7. Fallen Territory (2:13), 8. Particular Animal (2:46), 9. The Hammer (2:30), 10. The RV (1:02), 11. Angry Insomniacs (1:39), 12. The Mysteries, The Problems, and The Solutions (1:55), 13. Transit (2:25), 14. Talking to the Headstones (1:41), 15. For All You Have Left Me (1:50), 16. The Desert (4:10), 17. Ceremonies (1:16), 18. Accidie (1:53), 19. Orchestral Suite from Torch: First Movement (7:47), 20. Orchestral Suite from Torch: Second Movement (5:31), 21. Orchestral Suite from Torch: Third Movement (4:56). La-La Land Records LLLCD-1599, 59 minutes 21 seconds.


THE PHANTOM OF THE OPEN – Isobel Waller-Bridge

The Phantom of the Open is a British comedy-drama film directed by Craig Roberts, which tells the mostly true story of Maurice Flitcroft, an amateur golfer from Manchester who somehow manages to gain entry to the 1976 British Open Golf Championship qualification round, and is subsequently dubbed “the world’s worst golfer”. The film is classic underdog story, a celebration of Maurice’s never-say-die attitude and unrelenting optimism; it stars Mark Rylance as Maurice, with support from Sally Hawkins, Rhys Ifans, and Mark Lewis Jones.

The score for The Phantom of the Open is by Isobel Waller-Bridge and, like her score for Emma a couple of years ago, it’s a cheerful, tuneful, immensely enjoyable work for a chamber orchestra and soloists. A lot of it reminds me of something Rachel Portman might have written in the 1990s, which is always a good thing, but something that Waller-Bridge does here that I especially enjoy is combine the orchestra with idiosyncratic hummed vocals and the bright sound of a northern English brass band – one of the ones that a person like Flitcroft might have heard growing up in his working class hometown. People familiar with Eric Spear’s classic theme tune from the TV soap Coronation Street will know what I’m talking about.

Cues like the opening piece “Maurice” feature this style extensively, as well as later cues like “I Can’t Think of Everything,” and “Par 4”. Elsewhere, the cue adopts a more wistful and nostalgic sound with a prominent lead piano often augmented by gently lilting flutes, notably in cues like “The Prime of Our Lives,” “No-One Can Say You Didn’t Try,” and “While You’re Still Young,” among others. There’s also an aspirational light choral sound that related to Maurice’s dreams of playing professional golf that appears in cues like “I’ve Got It,” “Posting the Letter,” “First Shot,” and the lovely “Next to the Flipping Pin” – those piano arpeggios! – and which eventually climaxes in the wonderful “A Dream Come True”.

“Ladies & Gentlemen, Maurice Flitcroft” is an unexpectedly elegant waltz, “My Jean” is the emotional climax of the score, and then the “Phantom of the Open Suite” reprises all of the score’s main material in a satisfying end credits coda. The Phantom of the Open is a short, pleasant, very enjoyable diversion from an increasingly impressive composer, whose music I look forward discovering with every new work she writes. The Phantom of the Open is not available on CD, but can be downloaded and streamed from all the usual sites.

Track Listing: 1. Maurice (4:27), 2. I Can’t Think of Everything (0:46), 3. The Prime of Our Lives (1:16), 4. I’ve Got It (1:27), 5. Posting the Letter (1:35), 6. No-One Can Say You Didn’t Try (1:03), 7. Par 4 (1:07), 8. First Shot (0:34), 9. Next to the Flipping Pin (2:26), 10. You Can’t Be Both (1:09), 11. While You’re Still Young (1:03), 12. A Dream Come True (2:26), 13. Maurice On the Crane (1:26), 14. The World’s Not An Oyster (0:43), 15. My Dad (0:44), 16. Ladies & Gentlemen, Maurice Flitcroft (0:56), 17. My Jean (2:41), 18. The Phantom of the Open Suite (3:20). Decca, 29 minutes 09 seconds.



The 1989 film Prancer was a reasonably well-liked Christmas movie about one of Santa’s reindeer, who is found by sad little girl after being injured, and nursed back to health. It spawned a couple of sequels, none of which were especially popular, but this new film – Prancer: A Christmas Tale – might be about to buck the trend. The film is directed by Phil Hawkins, produced by Rafaella De Laurentiis, and stars James Cromwell, Sarah-Jane Potts, and young Darcey Ewart. The story follows a little girl named Gloria who, along with her widowed grandfather Bud, happen upon a reindeer with mystical characteristics during Christmas holidays, whose seasonal magical helps heal family rifts.

The score for Prancer: A Christmas Tale is by the wonderful composer Mark McKenzie, who has written excellent music for Christmas-themed films before (Blizzard, Silver Bells), and seems to excel at that sound. Budget constrains meant that McKenzie had to write the score for an all-electronic palette, using sampled strings and woodwinds, but with real pianos and woodwind recorders layered on top; as I have said before, these sonic limitations – when forced upon someone like McKenzie, who writes so wonderfully orchestra – are frustrating, but the excellence of the actual composition shines through.

The score overflows with gorgeous, evocative, emotionally resonant music; it’s not always happy music – there are plenty of shades to keep the tone interesting – and sometime its rather poignant and moving, but it’s always firmly anchored around McKenzie’s obvious love of thematic content and melody, melody, melody. It has warmth and heart, tenderness, playfulness, an occasional touch of whimsy, and more than a sprinkle of festive seasonal magic.

There are occasional flavors of John Williams in the music but, interestingly, the composers whose music really come through in Prancer: A Christmas Tale are Ennio Morricone and Georges Delerue, both of whom knew their way around a gorgeous recorder solo. Some of the more spiritual elements of the story also feature the familiar ‘McKenzie Sound’ from scores like Max and Me, The Greatest Miracle, and many others, which is of course a huge positive.

There are so many standout cues, from the soft and gently lyrical opening “I Can’t Wait to See You,” to the heart-meltingly beautiful “Nothing Is Beautiful Without You,” the more strident piano sound at the end of “Love Arrives As a Reindeer,” the soft angelic chorus of “Your Smile Lights Up the Room,” and the many reprises of this sound in later cues, including highlights like the graceful and intimate “We Were Magic Together,” the more intensely dramatic “I Will Always Believe in You,” and the sensitive, kind-hearted “Healing Memories,” and the beatific “I Have To Thank You”.

There are occasionally some more comic moments too, often showcasing pizzicato strings, notably towards the end of “The Greatest Gift Is Friendship” and in later cues like “Woo-Hoo She Likes You!” and the pretty, crystalline “Prancer Dances,” which takes some clear inspiration from Tchaikovsky. The “Silent Night Hug,” which incorporates the famous melody from the Christmas Carol, is just sublime, a beacon of warmth on a cold winter’s night.

I also really appreciate how McKenzie always puts together a lengthy suite from each of his scores as a bonus track on the album, and this is no exception – the 6-minute “Prancer: A Christmas Tale Suite” is just wonderful. I feel like I’ve been writing variations on this sentence since 1999 but, for heaven’s sake, someone give this man an orchestra and a major movie to score. I don’t know what we need to do to make this happen. It’s ridiculous that he is writing music this good for movies that – with the best will in the world, and with no disrespect intended – are nowhere near the quality of the projects he should be receiving.

The score is available on CD from Intrada Records, and as a digital download from BackLot Music via most of the usual sites. Highly recommended.

Track Listing: 1. I Can’t Wait to See You (1:06), 2. Nothing Is Beautiful Without You (2:28), 3. Love Arrives As a Reindeer (2:24), 4. Nothing Is Impossible (1:47), 5. The Greatest Gift Is Friendship (5:34), 6. Your Smile Lights Up the Room (4:01), 7. Woo-Hoo She Likes You! (1:59), 8. She Was As Kind As the Day Is Long (4:42), 9. We Were Magic Together (2:43), 10. I Will Always Believe in You (2:15), 11. This Feels Like Home (1:39), 12. My Tears and the Magic of Your Light (1:49), 13. I Can Be Closed Off Sometimes (2:05), 14. Prancer Dances (1:00), 15. Healing Memories (1:32), 16. I Have to Thank You (2:10), 17. Silent Night Hug (2:24), 18. It’s Time to Celebrate (1:03), 19. Love As Though You’ve Never Been Hurt (2:27), 20. Prancer: A Christmas Tale Suite (6:13). Intrada INT-7173, 51 minutes 21 seconds.


WEIRD: THE AL YANKOVIC STORY – Leo Birenberg and Zach Robinson

The cult singer-songwriter Weird Al Yankovic is best known for his hilarious parodies of mainstream pop songs, as well as his original accordion polka pieces, so it stands to reason that his ‘biopic’ should be a parody of the genre too. While real nuggets from Yankovic’s life are included, the film is mostly a hilarious send-up of the music biopic genre. It follows young Al as he discovers the accordion at a young age, initiating a lifelong love of music, but who then suffers all the success and pitfalls of the music biz – including, but not limited to, drugs, arguments with his bandmembers, being kidnapped by South American drug kingpins, being stalked and seduced by Madonna, and eventually dying on stage during an awards ceremony. The film stars a hilarious Daniel Radcliffe as Yankovic, and features a whole host of celebrity cameos in small roles, including Evan Rachel Wood, Rainn Wilson, Thomas Lennon, Jack Black, Quinta Brunson, Will Forte, and Lin-Manuel Miranda, among many others.

The score for Weird: The Al Yankovic Story is by the composing duo Leo Birenberg and Zach Robinson, who rose to fame scoring Cobra Kai, the V sequel series to The Karate Kid, and are currently among the most in-demand young composers in the business. As all good parody scores should, Birenberg and Robinson treat Weird completely seriously, which as Elmer Bernstein knows is the best way to present the joke. What this means is that, because Weird presents so many sensationalized and hyperbolic events from Weird Al’s life, they get to approach the score from numerous different angles and in numerous different styles.

There’s some thrilling and intense modern action (“Back from the Dead,” “Diner Kidnapping” – the latter featuring a sensational action accordion!), gentle and tender writing featuring some lovely Thomas Newman style oboes and moments of sweeping orchestral magic (“Weird,” “The Accordion,” “Cracked the Code,” “My Parents,” “Dad Apologizes”), moments of dark melodrama (“The Closet,” “It’s All Business”), a pretty piano-based love theme that swells into classic Golden Age romance (“Al and Madonna”), wistful Americana (“Raised Amish”), and even a huge piece for orchestra and chorus that parodies Howard Shore’s Lord of the Rings scores (“LSD Trip”) – someone hire them to write a real score like this! The whole thing climaxes in a rousing, heroic, superb all-orchestra finale that raises the roof (“In Memoriam”).

Also included on the album are a handful of Yankovic’s classic parody songs, newly-recorded for use in the film – my favorites are “My Bologna,” a take-off of “My Sharona” by The Knack, his version of Joan Jett’s “I Love Rock and Roll” in “I Love Rocky Road,” and of course the classic “Eat It,” his brilliant riff on Michael Jackson’s “Beat It” – plus various source music cues, polkas, and other songs.

There’s also an original song, “Now You Know,” which was written by Yankovic for the film’s end credits; as I said, Yankovic’s entire career has been built on parodies, and the film itself is a parody of music biopic genre, but the song takes this concept to a meta level. It works as a fun song in its own right, but it also speaks directly to the audience by trying to re-iterate the film’s ridiculous take on Yankovic’s life. It’s so much fun, a ballsy rock and roll piece, but it’s self-referential cleverness it what appealed to me the most.

Weird is a terrific score, one of 2022’s best comedy efforts. I love the career path that Leo Birenberg and Zach Robinson are on; their Cobra Kai scores are excellent, and this score builds on that sound with unexpected intelligence and emotional depth. The score is widely available, on CD, to stream and download, and even as a vinyl LP!

Track Listing: 1. You Don’t Know Anything (dialogue, performed by Diedrich Bader) (0:10), 2. My Bologna (performed by Weird Al Yankovic) (2:09), 3. I Love Rocky Road (performed by Weird Al Yankovic) (2:36), 4. Another One Rides the Bus (performed by Weird Al Yankovic) (2:34), 5. Eat It (performed by Weird Al Yankovic) (3:18), 6. Like a Surgeon (performed by Weird Al Yankovic) (3:23), 7. Amish Paradise (performed by Weird Al Yankovic) (3:19), 8. Now You Know (performed by Weird Al Yankovic) (5:19), 9. Dr. Demento Opening Theme – Pico & Sepulveda (performed by The Roto Rooter Goodtime Christmas Band) (1:33), 10. Beer Barrel Polka – Roll Out the Barrel (performed by Cory Pesaturo) (1:32), 11. Helena Polka (performed by Cory Pesaturo) (0:31), 12. The Chicken Dance aka The Bird Dance (performed by The Emeralds) (2:44), 13. Clarinet Polka (performed by Weird Al Yankovic) (0:36), 14. Beat on the Brat (performed by Weird Al Yankovic) (0:20), 15. Bowling with the Devil (performed by Skunk Barf) (0:13), 16. The Cobra Pit (1:09), 17. Demento’s Pool Party (4:08), 18. You’re All a Bunch of Slaves – Instrumental (performed by Weird Al Yankovic) (1:32), 19. Guadalajara (performed by César Ramírez, Omar Estrada, and Cesar Chavira) (1:16), 20. Back From the Dead (0:46), 21. Weird (0:53), 22. The Accordion (2:09), 23. Hay Boy (0:43), 24. The Closet (1:44), 25. Epiphany (0:52), 26. Cracked the Code (1:12), 27. On the Spot (0:36), 28. A Rare Gift (0:47), 29. My Parents (1:11), 30. Write Your Own Songs (1:21), 31. LSD Trip (2:06), 32. Al and Madonna (3:07), 33. A Parody of Eat It (1:35), 34. Drunk Driving (0:54), 35. You’re All I’ve Got (0:34), 36. Diner Kidnapping (1:23), 37. Heart of the Jungle (1:23), 38. Certified Platinum (1:28), 39. It’s All Business (2:38), 40. The Factory (1:23), 41. Dad Apologizes (2:09), 42. Raised Amish (3:11), 43. It’s Nothing (0:58), 44. Would You Be My Son? (0:39), 45. Al’s Speech (1:30), 46. In Memoriam (2:34). Legacy Recordings, 78 minutes 08 seconds.

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