Shazam (Benjamin Wallfisch)
Amidst the flurry of blockbuster superhero films which opened in 2019, there appeared Shazam. Despite the critical acclaim the film received, it achieved only a modest box-office splash, in terms of revenue. It was that rare superhero flicks which was perfect in every way, and one of its more memorable aspects was Benjamin Wallfisch’s amazing music composed for it. In every way the score is not only a love-letter to the superhero films of yesteryear but also to maestro John Williams’ past efforts. The score is riddled with references to Williams, ranging from Superman to Indiana Jones. With Shazam, Wallfisch has not only captured the lighter more comedic aspects of the film, but also the darker sections referencing the films’ antagonist Sivana and the Sin Demons, which take up a considerable portion of the album. Undoubtedly Wallfisch’s prior experience scoring horror films like Annabelle: Creation and It, aided him greatly in this. His usage of male chorals to capture these villainous moments are particularly impressive. Over the years Wallfisch has truly become a talent to look forward to. Let’s see what he has in store for us next.
Album Highlights: Shazam, The Consul of Wizards, Seeking Spell, Finale
Achoura (Romain Paillot)
Achoura is a great Moroccan Fantasy-Horror film which may have gone under the radars of most horror film afficionados in 2019. Narrative-wise comparisons to Stephen King’s It is inevitable but the real standout here is composer Romain Paillot’s full-blooded Gothic horror soundtrack for it. There are a great many instances the music reminded me of Christopher Young’s works in the Hellraiser franchise & Sam Raimi’s Drag Me to Hell. The eerie choral sections bring to mind Danny Elfman’s Sleepy Hollow, so as you can Paillot appears to have been influenced by the efforts of a number of film composers who excel at crafting Gothic horror scores. One cannot sometimes put into words, the sheer joy and exhilaration experienced when listening to an intelligently crafted horror score. It has become an almost rare occurrence. And in this instance this talented composer has crafted something that would even be looked at in envy even by Hollywood’s best; it’s that great. So, look no further than this, if you wish to fulfill your horror music cravings because this is truly, as good as it gets.
Album Highlights: Achoura Main Titles, Ali and Nadia, Chased, Achoura End Titles
Marriage Story (Randy Newman)
Noah Baumbach’s searingly realistic heartfelt character study of a couple on the verge of divorce struck an immediate chord with critics and audiences the world-over in equal measure. To complement this poignant drama Baumbach tapped veteran composer Randy Newman to create an appropriate to score for it. From the get-go though the music for Marriage Story treads familiar ground with some portions of it bearing resemblance to Newman’s own effort for the Toy Story franchise and Michael Giacchino’s Up, but thankfully he has been able to capture the more sombre tripped-down heartfelt moments of the narrative with equal skill as well. Many forget that is with small-scale character driven dramas such as Awakenings, Avalon and The Natural before moving on to score animated films. In a way this is fantastic return to form for Newman as he explores his dramatic roots and it’s quite likely his effort will be acknowledged come awards season.
Album Highlights: What I Love about Nicole, What I Love about Charlie, New House, End of Story
Mat Biec (Christopher Wong)
Christopher Wong’s score for the Vietnamese film Mat Biec was the biggest surprise of the year 2019. Coming across it quite by accident, I was simply beguiled by the sheer beauty of its music. Wong, trained under legendary film composer Jerry Goldsmith, which explains his more traditional approach to composing the score for the film. Here he has opted for a sound that seamlessly blend Eastern and Western sensibilities. And the end result is a stunning one that is bound to ensnare the casual listener almost immediately. Rich string sections complementing effervescent piano pieces and ethereal flute playing dominate the entire score. I’m not overtly familiar with Wong’s previous work but listening to Mat Biec made such an impact that I will definitely look out for what this talented composer churns out next.
Album Highlights: First Sight, Festival, Missed chances, The Train
1917 (Thomas Newman)
If you listen to Thomas Newman’s score for 1917, ‘sweeping World War epic’ would be the last thing that comes to your mind. It is one of those challenging scores whose overall effect on you will entirely depend on whether you listened to the score, before or after watching the film. As a standalone listen, getting through it is in itself is a bit of a laborious task. But if you’ve viewed the film beforehand you will start appreciating this score in a different and positive light. Newman’s efforts have always been moody and atmospheric and his score for 1917 is no different. But there are moments of stunning beauty scattered throughout like confetti which breaks this monotony. Undoubtedly 1917 will gain an Academy Award nomination in recognition of the contribution its music makes to the overall movie but Newman is unlikely to walk away with the golden nudie. Nevertheless, this strange unconventional score is certainly worth looking into if you are a fan of the film and Newman’s works.
Album Highlights: 1917, The Night Window, Blake and Schofield, Come back to Us