There are generally two accepted forms of motion picture soundtracks or scores. The first could be a composer you may have never heard of creating a classical orchestral sound that you may forget the moment the credits roll. The other is a quickly put together mixtape of hits or well-known songs that may or may not have anything to do with the film’s content.
On some occasions, filmmakers decide to get a well-known solo artist or band to contribute songs and sometimes even create the entire score for their movies. More often than not, these soundtracks add a much more personal and distinct feel to the movies.
Unlike your usual studio-appointed film score composer, these musical acts aren’t jaded by the filmmaking process and generally take a fresh approach to the music and its relationship to the movie.
With fan appreciation screenings for the British festival hit “Attack the Block” being held across the U.S. on May 25 – which features a score by European music group Basement Jaxx – Scene & Heard takes a look at a few favorite film soundtracks.
“Harold and Maude” – Cat Stevens
Cat Stevens contributed all of the music to this 1971 cult classic about the kookily charming Harold and his odd relationship with elderly firecracker Maude.
The music is nearly inseparable from the movie after you’ve seen it, with the songs “Don’t Be Shy” and “If You Want to Sing Out, Sing Out” lovingly intertwined in the film’s unique heartfelt quirk.
The soundtrack was immensely popular upon the film’s release, but with only a limited vinyl pressing of it produced 30 years after has made it the hardest to find on this list. Brave the prices you’d find for it on eBay, find some other means of downloading it, or, best of all, just enjoy it within the film itself.
“The Virgin Suicides” – Air
Possibly the best decision Sofia Coppola made with her directorial debut -the haunting coming-of-age story “The Virgin Suicides” – was to court French electronica duo Air for the score.
The best way to describe the sound would be the synth-heavy compositions of director John Carpenter, but with a dose of teenage angst. Air revels in the movie’s 1970s setting – making heavy use of synthesizers and ambient guitar that perfectly compliments the dreamy, super-8 film look of the movie.
The crowning achievement of the score is the single “Playground Love,” which features vocals by Phoenix frontman Thomas Mars and plays during the end credits of the film.
“Where the Wild Things Are” – Karen O. and The Kids
The Yeah Yeah Yeah’s frontwoman Karen O. did Spike Jonze a favor by doing the music for his adaptation of the classic Maurice Sendak children’s book “Where the Wild Things Are,” and it turned out not only to be one of the best soundtracks in recent memory, but also some of her best work to date.
The music plays out like the hippest children’s music ever recorded outside of “Yo Gabba Gabba!” Karen O. is accompanied by a children’s chorus for most of the songs, which adds the perfect touch of childlike glee to the rumpus made by the film’s titular wild things and hero Max.
The track “All is Love” in particular will make you want to run and climb trees in the woods. The film’s more sensitive side is also reflected in tracks like the heartbreakingly beautiful “Hideaway,” which can only reach its full impact when hearing it played over teary-eyed Max hugging a wild thing.
“Tron: Legacy” – Daft Punk
Who needs a plot when you have Daft Punk’s bass lines booming out at you from the speakers while light cycles blaze across the screen? Daft Punk’s score to the 2010 film “Tron: Legacy” caused much more of a fervor than the actual movie with its club-friendly, aggressively electronic sound.
The score plays just as well over a sea of strobe-lit ravers or the pristine CGI havoc of the movie. It switches from a traditional John Williams-type score to turntable club beats in the blink of an eye, usually sticking more to the latter.
Almost every track on the soundtrack – especially the hit single “Derezzed” – makes you feel as though you stepped into the flashy, data-strewn world of the movie and the more sensible real world just seems all the less appealing.
“The Social Network” – Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross
Nine Inch Nails lead singer Trent Reznor and collaborator Atticus Ross created a rousing film soundtrack for director David Fincher when they composed the score for the Academy Award-nominated “The Social Network.”
The tale of greed, betrayal and growing pains behind the founding of Facebook provided the perfect avenue for Reznor and Ross to go outside their musical comfort zones. Things are kept dark and ambient for the majority of the score to match the visual tone of the film – creating a thumping ebb and flow that propel Mark Zuckerberg’s rise to power.
Yet it also moves into slightly more emotionally fueled, melancholy-tinged piano and guitar tracks that capture the loneliness that Mark Zuckerberg feels when he finally reaches the top. Reznor and Ross won Oscars for Best Original Score and are set to collaborate with Fincher again on an American remake of “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.”