When we listen to movie soundtracks, we usually don’t give credit where credit is due to the composers. Sure, we’ve all been blasting Awesome Mix Vol. 1 ever since Guardians of the Galaxy reminded us how kickass 70s and 80s pop music is, or maybe we’ve been listening to the original songs composed for Mockingjay or Wish I Was Here. Those are all great, but what about all the original scores that back up the majority of the movie? Yes, most of them are classical music, and rather bland classical music at that, but sometimes a soundtrack really does distinguish itself. I decided to check out the soundtracks of 5 of 2014’s biggest movies and evaluate how they hold up on their own.

Interstellar: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack by Hans Zimmer

Interstellar soundtrack

For better or for worse, Hans Zimmer’s scores have become a rather iconic part of Nolan’s movies, so much so that most people could probably recognize the Inception soundtrack before they could identify, well, just about any other modern movie theme. And yet many have commented that there’s something weirdly… masturbatory about his Interstellar score. I didn’t realize that instrumental music could sound so full of itself, but Zimmer’s constant infatuation with his long sweeping violin segments and his inability to recreate anything as iconic as the Inception “BWAAAAAM” makes you wonder why there’s absolutely no sense of sci-fi majesty to match the subject matter of the movie, and instead why this sounds so purely typical of the composer. Granted, listening to the soundtrack on its own does reveal some moments where he gets more innovative, such as the careful organ tones on “Cornfield Chase.” But on the whole, there’s an enormous amount of time where there’s barely any music at all, and on the occasions where the music does build to a climax, it doesn’t work well without the visual component. 2/5

 Captain America: The Winter Soldier (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack) by Henry Jackman


Typically, soundtracks to major blockbuster action movies aren’t particularly interesting – it’s usually all standard orchestral arrangements with lots of slow, overly-dramatic string builds and climaxes for the action scenes that generally all sound pretty much the same. Jackman’s score for Captain America: The Winter Soldier distinguishes itself mainly because he often takes a more electronic approach, with lots of dynamic mixes of traditional orchestration with unique undertones. The more intense tracks, particularly “Fury” and “Countdown,” manage to properly deliver the tension to match the film scenes they accompany, thanks to their avoidance of the genre’s cliches. On the other hand, the slow subtle parts inbetween are nearly silent and incredibly dull without the film. Still, it’s worthwhile to skip past these and get to the more exciting and interesting tracks. 3/5

Gone Girl (Soundtrack from the Motion Picture) by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross


Reznor (of Nine Inch Nails) and Ross (0f a bunch of stuff, but mostly also of Nine Inch Nails as a producer) also composed the soundtracks of Fincher’s last two films, The Social Network and The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo. They make a consistently good team, bringing out the grime and edge of their NIN work while toning it down to operate as a film soundtrack. Gone Girl is probably their most subdued collaborative work to date – they use almost entirely airy, light synths with minimal percussion. But the soundtrack holds up on its own mainly because of its remarkable dynamism, as the duo significantly alter the instrumentation and tone based on the demands of the scene. From the eerily cheery warmth of “Sugar Storm” to the somber tones of “Background Noise” to the creeping harshness of “The Way He Looks At Me,” the composers explore their reach far more than most soundtracks ever allow. Even if you haven’t seen the film, this may be Reznor’s best release in years and absolutely deserves a listen. 4.5/5

Birdman (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack) by Antonio Sanchez

birdman soundtrack

Antonio Sanchez’s percussion-heavy, minimalist soundtrack played a major role in making Birdman one of the best movies of the year (you know, along with the fantastic writing, fantastic acting and fantastic cinematography). But on its own, the soundtrack basically amounts to one man playing a mostly rather unadventurous drum solo for close to an hour. And if that’s your jam, hey, you’ll love this soundtrack, but it certainly isn’t most people’s jam. With the movie alongside it, the soundtrack added a pulsing, ready-to-explode tone to the film, but on it’s own, it generally sounds like a rather talented jazz drummer playing nowhere close to the peak of his abilities, restraining himself to the point of neutering. And in the occasions where he really does let loose, it’s sometimes powerful, but often underwhelming due to the complete lack of outside instrumentation. Oh, and want to hear the particular drums used for your favorite part of the movie? Good luck finding it, as they’ve chosen to name the tracks based on vague pretentious terms rather than the scenes themselves. 2/5

The LEGO Movie: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack by Mark Mothersbaugh

lego soundtrack

Now this is what I’m talking about. The LEGO Movie explored a wide variety of locations and played on a huge range of genre tropes, and boy, the soundtrack sure embraces all of these with full force. Mothersbaugh’s original score dances from chiptunes-esque blasting electronica to sweeping orchestral swells, from hellish choir chants to country western swing, sometimes in the same track. The result is incredibly scatter-brained, but in a way that ensures that it’s never dull for a second. It’s frankly somewhat unbelievable that he managed to pack so much chaos and creativity into the score without detracting from the main film itself, but for a film as crazy as The LEGO Movie, it works perfectly. Not to mention that the soundtrack comes with the hilarious full recording of Batman’s emo song, and, of course, half a dozen different versions of “Everything is AWESOME!!!” [sic]. Everything about The LEGO Movie, including this soundtrack, is awesome. 5/5

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