I’m kicking off the year with something new. To most people it’ll just come off as a modest housekeeping move, but bear with me. It’s good stuff. Instead of lumping all genres and release types into the typical One-Liners column — as I have since its inception in 2015 — I’m separating out the scores and soundtracks. They’re now in this lovely new Score-Liners column (which probably doesn’t need that hyphen but it’s a journey I’m embarking on anyway). As with the One-Liners series, it’ll be impossible for me to live up the promise of concise, one-line reviews. You’ll just have to open up your mind and enjoy the ride.
All right. Enough of that. Let’s get to the music. I’ve chosen five releases to get things going.
Ben Salisbury & Geoff Barrow — Archive 81 (Soundtrack From The Netflix Series)
It’s no secret that I’m a fan of the work of Salisbury and Barrow (as articulated in this interview with Salisbury and Bob Locke about Devs and in this review of Annihilation, among other things). With their music for Rebecca Sonnenshine’s Netflix horror series, Archive 81, they have yet to disappoint me (or anyone). The Invada Records/Lakeshore Records release showcases the duo’s staggeringly eerie and satisfyingly imaginative approach to composing music for film and TV. They are quick to challenge our preconceived notions of what a score should be — leaving the viewer stuck in a state of perpetual wonder and terror as they watch this show about a researcher cataloging the rather messed up video archive of a missing filmmaker. Some of the cues contain rhythms, sound designs, or melodies that recall the duo’s groundbreaking work on Julius Onah’s stunning Luce, but they’re not resting on their laurels here. Get this release as fast as you can and watch the Mamoudou Athie- and Dina Shihabi-starring show now. Like, right now.
Isobel Waller-Bridge — “Play Your Cards” from Munich: The Edge of War
I haven’t yet heard the full score for this — Milan Records will release it Friday, concurrent with Netflix’s release of the World War II film itself — but even with just this single out there it’s clear that Isobel Waller-Bridge is continuing her trend of creating compelling scores. Waller-Bridge is perhaps best known for her work on Black Mirror or her sister, Phoebe’s, groundbreaking show Fleabag, but on Munich she really, well, lays all her cards on the table.
“I created original sounds from woods and metals that I found in the city where my studio is located,” she said in a statement recently. “I designed the layers of sound in combination with strings and piano to speak to the foresight of war – the sirens, the shrapnel, old bells and the transmission of codes and information. The fate of these people and their countries is heavy and I wanted to haunt the film with textures that reflect and to some degree anticipate this. Much of the score is minimalist sound design, but very dense as I wanted a close feeling…finally, when the chapter of the film is reached where our protagonists believe they have achieved peace, the score opens up for a sense of relief, but also vulnerability.”
The film, directed by Christian Schwochow and starring Jeremy Irons, George MacKay and Jannis Niewöhner, takes place on the eve of Hitler’s invasion of what was then Czechoslovakia, and gains much from the stirring trepidation and visceral intensity of Waller-Bridge’s score. I’m keeping my eye (and ears) on this one, for sure.
Joseph Trapanese — The Witcher: Season 2 (Soundtrack from the Netflix Original Series)
Netflix is dominating this inaugural Score-Liners. This time, it’s the music to the second season of Lauren Schmidt Hissrich’s The Witcher from the inimitable Joseph Trapanese (Tron: Legacy with Daft Punk, Oblivion with M83, Straight Outta Compton, Prisoners of the Ghostland, and many more). For something this epic you really need someone with a knack for composing gargantuan but inventive fare, and naturally Trapanese delivers. Go ahead and dive in, it’s a blast. The show, starring Henry Cavill, just finished up that second season. (The first season’s music, composed by the famed duo, Sonya Belousova and Giona Ostinelli, is also compelling and worth your time.) The score is out now digitally via Milan.
Trapanese is teaming up again with Tron:Legacy and Oblivion director Joseph Kosinski on Escape from Spiderhead, a psychological sci-fi film coming out this year on Netflix and which stars Chris Hemsworth, Miles Teller and Jurnee Smollett.
Carter Burwell — The Tragedy of Macbeth (Soundtrack from the Apple Original Film)
Another recent Milan Records release is Carter Burwell’s stunning music for Joel Coen’s mind-blowing iteration of William Shakespeare’s classic play. Even though it’s only one Coen brother this time, the film marks merely the latest venture in a decades-long partnership between Burwell and the Coens that began with 1984’s Blood Simple. (He’s scored so many other amazing films from other directors, too, that I’ll refrain from trying to list them here just to save space). This time around, Burwell honors The Bard so well, cultivating a downright captivating score that boilers over with dark foreboding and mesmerizing melody. Those of you on the fence about Shakespeare might find your hearts and minds changed when faced with this film and Burwell’s music. (Just check out the acting talent: Denzel Washington, Frances McDormand, Kathryn Hunter, and Brendan Gleeson, among others.)
Brian Tyler — Scream (2022) (Music from the Motion Picture)
I haven’t yet seen the fifth entry in the franchise, but let’s just say Tyler’s score is a, well, you know…
You can pre-order the vinyl via Varèse Sarabande, and the digital is out there in the usual spots.
This is the first Score-Liners column, which is a spin-off of the One-Liners column that has become quite popular on Vehlinggo since its introduction in November 2015 and re-introduction in January 2019.