May 30, 2010 5

Soundtrack Sampler 2009

By in Mix CDs, Soundtracks

Soundtrack Sampler 2009
It’s “Soundtrack Sampler” week here on the blog, as I’ve completed not 1, not 2, but 3 Soundtrack Samplers in the past several months! Over the course of the week, I’ll be giving each one its moment in the sun with some photos of the liners and a brief run-down of my thoughts for each of the included scores, my picks for some of the best of the given year.

If you’d like a copy, PLEASE LET ME KNOW. They’re totally FREE, but I only do a limited run (usually less than 10) of each. Post a comment, e-mail me, tweet me, etc. to reserve one and they’ll be mailed out at the end of the week. A digital download will be available at that time as well.

2009 was a different year of compiling a Soundtrack Sampler for me because for once I added tracks to a playlist throughout the year, as they were released, and finalized the mix as I went along. Yeah, there was still lots to be done at the end — omissions to be made, last-minute additions to work in, and liners to design — but the majority of the work was already done. It sounds like an easy decision, but in the end I’m not sure how I felt about that sort of timeline for the project. I’m very happy with the final disc’s worth of music, but for some reason it doesn’t feel as warm and personable a mix as some of the previous Samplers have. The individual scores, however, are just as interesting as ever, with a significant number of “new-to-the-scene” composers finding inclusion this year, and that alone makes it a worthwhile compilation in my eyes.

Where the Wild Things Are (Karen O and Carter Burwell)
Karen O and Carter Burwell’s dreamy efforts for this kids-film-for-adults were overshadowed by O’s indie rock songs, but when the score is given a chance to show through it’s amazingly beautiful in its simplicity. Only a couple of score tracks showed up on the soundtrack, but a download-only score album exists.

Coraline (Bruno Coulais)
It’s always wonderful when you see a film, have no expectations about the music, and are instantly amazed by it. “Coraline” was one such film for me. Bruno Coulais’ wildly original music was robbed of an Oscar nomination. The nonsense choir, exotic instruments, and even a single song from They Might Be Giants somehow all work together to equally give you goosebumps and fill you with wonder.

Duplicity (James Newton Howard)
This was another score that I heard for the first time in the theater, having no prior expectations about. A really fun romp from start to finish, JNH’s score is both jazzy and spanish, with a touch of spy thrown in now and then. A great album to cook to.

Star Trek (Michael Giacchino)
What can be said about the Giacchino-Abrams collaboration, other than that the guys obviously work fantastically together? Their love for each others’ storytelling strengths is tangible in every film and score they put out together.  The standout track, above and beyond everything else, is “Enterprising Young Men,” one of the best tracks of the year in any score.

Julie & Julia (Alexandre Desplat)
This was Alexandre Desplat’s year (although Michael Giacchino certainly made him work for it), scoring film after film back to back, and never letting up on quality. His two themes for the two female chefs work lovely together, but both stand separately. I’m more partial to the French-tinged tracks for Julia, but the download-only bonus track “Julia At Home, Julie At Work” unites them nicely.

Fantastic Mr. Fox (Alexandre Desplat)
Alexandre Desplat’s Oscar-nominated effort may be a tad short, but it’s strangely perfect for the film. A mix of banjo, children’s choir singing a nursery-rhyme-esque tune to book-author Roald Dahl’s lyrics, and delicate Desplat melody, it’s insanely catchy.

Up (Michael Giacchino)
The “Up” score holds an odd release factoid: the first score to win an Academy Award in over 20 years that hasn’t been released on a physical disc.  It’s well worth the $10 for the mp3-album, however, as just like the film, it’s sad, thrilling, and has a great retro sound to it. The main theme is beautiful and catchy; I always love when a bunch of my friends can recognize a theme after seeing a film, and “Up” was that score for 2009. The dialogue-free montage towards the beginning of the film (“Married Life” on album, and here) is so well-scored, it’s very likely those 4 minutes that won Giacchino his Oscar statue.

Ponyo (Joe Hisaishi)
Joe Hisaishi needs to find some way of getting Pixar to not only import the Studio Ghibli movies, but also their scores — no North American release of this music exists. A gorgeous work, as usual, Hisaishi has a lot of fun with the child-like wonder and water elements. If anyone tells you that good-old-fashioned epic scoring has gone out of style, point them to “Ponyo” to prove them wrong.

500 Days of Summer (Mychael Danna and Rob Simonsen)
Continuing the unfortunate trend, here’s another score that is only available as a digital download. The soundtrack album is good too, but the lovely, floating whistling of the “Main Title” is overlaid with dialogue on that release. The score overall is very simple, and has frustratingly short track times, but it’s lovely stuff, perfectly suited for the modern-fairy-tale stylistic flourishes of the film.

The Twilight Saga: New Moon (Alexandre Desplat)
Continuing the Desplat love, “New Moon” is, in my opinion, a much better score than Burwell’s effort for the first “Twilight” film. I’m all for achingly-depressingly beautiful love themes, and Desplat brings out a great one here.

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (Nicholas Hooper)
Hooper’s two efforts for the latest “Potter” films have divided score fans. I felt like “Phoenix” was a mixed bag, containing both some amazingly catchy melodies and also entire sections of the album that were completely forgettable. “Half Blood Prince” fares much better; a very solid album overall without any wildly impressive tracks to stand out and render the rest of the album obsolete. This would seem like a bad thing, but it actually makes for a very solid, satisfying listen as a whole piece, from beginning to end.

Sherlock Holmes (Hans Zimmer)
Zimmer continues to impress by being able to change gears wildly at the drop of a period inspector’s hat. His gypsy/zydeko violin melodies combined with his action scoring work effortlessly together for one of the MOST enjoyable score albums of the year.

The Informant! (Marvin Hamlisch)
Do you have a fondness for those old 60’s and 70’s scores of yore? If so, you’ll find this a hoot. If not, you may wonder what the hell is going on here. Blending just about every type of score from those years into one, every track takes on a life of its own and feels like it’s the main melody an entire other score could jump off from.

Amelia (Gabriel Yared)
Completely straightforward: Gabriel Yared writes beautiful music, and “Amelia” is no exception.

Avatar (James Horner)
James Horner takes a lot of crap from movie score buffs, constantly being lambasted about his originality or his choices. I, for one, grew up on his music; I have the same fondness for his music that many others older than I have for Jerry Goldsmith. So, personally, I’m very happy to see him back scoring big blockbusters. “Avatar” fits the film like a motion-sensor bodysuit, while on album it can be both engaging and wonderful background music to work to, making it one of those perfect score albums, fit for any mood. A truly solid effort.

Drag Me to Hell (Christopher Young)
While I’m sad at Sam Raimi’s fall-out with Danny Elfman over the last “Spider-Man” film, I’m very tickled to see Christoper Young getting to score some very fun projects as a result. Young’s melodies for Spidey 3 were truly excellent (even if the rest of the score suffered from multiple composers, temp-track plucking, and a horrendous mashing of tracks from the previous two scores), and his Main Title piece here is a helluva stand-alone effort as well.

Broken Embraces (Alberto Iglesias)
Alberto Iglesias scoring a Almodóvar film is like John Williams scoring a Spielberg film: you KNOW it’s going to be good, no matter what they both do. Quieter than his work on “Bad Education” and “Volver,” Iglesias’ tone remains consistent and still excellent.

A Single Man (Abel Korzeniowski)
The album as a whole is a gorgeous effort in both composition and also arranging, as original pieces by Japanese composer Shigeru Umebayashi, Korzeniowski’s lush score, and previously composed pieces (particularly the prominently used “Carlos” by Bernard Hermann) seamlessly integrate together to create a very fluid listening experience. Young composer Abel Korzeniowski is certainly one to watch.

Bright Star (Mark Bradshaw)
Why oh why would you do this to us, Mark Bradshaw? The album’s opening track, “Negative Capability,” comprises almost the entire composition of music from the film — everything else is just variations on the ideas from this one track. A beautiful minimalist work, rooted in period instruments, the track perfectly captures the delicate nature of the film. But unfortunately the track on album has dialogue covering up the beginning of it! To be fair, the dialogue is beautiful in its own right, but releasing it both with and without shouldn’t be a problem in today’s score-release environment, especially with digital releases becoming more common (as this year in particular attested to).

See the full tracklist over at my Mix CDs site

See more shots of the liners on Flickr

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5 Responses to “Soundtrack Sampler 2009”

  1. Christi says:


  2. Christi says:

    … *ahem*

    Or something less greedy 🙁

  3. KatieP says:

    OMG ANOTHER CD. Your CDs rock. I would love to have one, but if you are bombarded, I can also make do with a download. YAY! YAY! YAY!

  4. Katie says:

    I want!

  5. Adam says:

    I don’t care what you say, this is still my favorite Soundtrack Sampler cover. So there.

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