Paul Melançon and the New Insecurities – The Get Gos Action Hour!

There’s certainly no shortage of practitioners of power pop, but I’m always happy when one of my favorites resurfaces, as Paul Melançon has done after a lengthy spell punctuated by side projects, live shows, and an EP or two. Melançon’s 2002 opus Camera Obscura is still one of my favorite specimens of the power pop genre, and while he’s an excellent guitarist, his voice may be his most potent instrument, capable of straight up belting out a song in the best rock traditions as well as handling all the nuances of his homemade singer-songwriter fare. I couldn’t even point you to anyone I can honestly claim he sounds like – maybe a little hint of Robin Zander at the height of Cheap Trick’s popularity? – because he just sounds like himself, and I’m a big fan of that sound.

Armed with a three-piece backing band that perfectly complements his sound, and a clutch of new songs exploring some experiences he’s had confronting chronic anxiety in recent years, Melançon delivers a surprisingly sunny musical meditation on mental health that you’d expect to have been the result of 2020’s non-stop roller-coaster of mental-health-challenging events, but instead it arrived, pleasantly enough, right at the beginning of it, and it’s been one of my go-to albums for my self-quarantining playlist. Some of the songs are obvious with the subject matter – “Hyperventilate” conjures up images of a drowning man – while others make the listener work a little harder to get to the song’s center. Which is an absolute delight, since each song is coated in layers of ’70s-inspired pop-rock confection. There are hints of something new in Melançon’s musical vocabulary here too – I definitely picked up on a newfound love of a good freeform jam, which crops up such songs as the jaw-droppingly hummable “The New Decay”, among others. (And when Paul and the New Insecurities bust out a jam like this, they’re not kidding around either. It’s heady stuff.)

Highlights include the aforementioned “New Decay” and “Hyperventilate”, as well as “St. Cecilia”, a fantastic ballad with – yet again – that terrific ’70s vibe, and “Here And Now I Was” and “When Do We Get Smaller?”, the two songs most reminiscent of Camera Obscura. “Fitzcarraldo” is a mesmerizing mid-tempo rocker that challenges you to figure out which is the verse and which is the chorus, but when the whole song sounds great, does it matter? “Mareación” is an eleven-minute journey in the form of a self-contained, 4 out of 4interconnected song cycle that also features that jamming element mentioned earlier. It may be the album’s most challenging listen, but it’s a mini-epic that earns the “power-pop-era” label on the front cover.

All of this is wrapped up in a package suggesting some lost, band-centric 1970s Saturday morning cartoon, an element that also carries over to the videos produced for some of the songs here. In short, this album has just about everything that power pop fans love – new music wrapped up in a dash of nostalgia, and it’s really good new music to boot. Highest recommendations.

Order this CD

  1. Theme from The Get Gos Action Hour! (0:40)
  2. Permanent Makeup (2:34)
  3. Robot World (3:14)
  4. This Shaky Lullaby (2:40)
  5. Hyperventilate (3:56)
  6. The New Decay (5:00)
  7. St. Cecilia (4:36)
  8. When Do We Get Smaller? (3:54)
  9. Fitzcarraldo (3:45)
  10. Mareación (11:09)
  11. Here And Now I Was (4:29)
  12. The Answer Is Yes (3:40)

Released by: Paul Melançon and the New Insecurities
Release date: April 10, 2020
Total running time: 49:37

[…]

The Mandalorian: Chapter 1 – music by Ludwig Goransson

Of all of the elements that have been pored over exhaustively where The Mandalorian is concerned, I’m not sure the music is getting its due. There was an entire episode of Disney Plus’ streaming documentary series Disney Gallery: The Mandalorian devoted to it, making it clear that showrunner Jon Favreau thought that the music was a big deal.

The most obvious antecedent to The Mandalorian’s music would seem, on the surface, to be the two movies subtitled “A Star Wars Story”, which used elements of John Williams’ music as a flavoring, and his style as a template. Composers Michael Giacchino (Rogue One) and John Powell (Solo) struck out in their own Williams-inspired directions. but it still basically sounded like Star Wars stylistically…but that’s not what Ludwig Goransson (who made a fantastic impact with his score to Marvel’s Black Panther) is doing here.

The Mandalorian takes a very bold step beyond the anthology movies’ stylistic parameters. Not only is the show’s music (at least in the first season) free of even so much as a single reference to Williams’ body of work, but it stylistically breaks free of the 19th century romantic musical lexicon that has defined Star Wars until now. Sure, there’s an orchestra (and, given how much money Disney threw at every aspect of The Mandalorian, a decent-sized one), but there are electronic elements unlike anything that has graced filmed Star Wars before. The strongest resemblance I can think of to any prior entry in the franchise’s musical canon would be the computer game Star Wars: Force Commander, which chopped up and sampled Williams’ music before throwing it into a kind of techno-metal stew.

The Mandalorian is unapologetic about leaning hard on otherworldly eletronic elements if the scene calls for it, sometimes in combination with purely acoustic instruments, but never in a way that seems out of place; it enhances some of the colder aspects of the story, such as Mando’s ruthless nature, and often coincides with story situations that are down to pure survival, such as trying to get a blurrg to stop munching on you (as blurrgs are wont to do), or IG-11’s unsubtle approach to the encampment where his bounty is being hidden away, and the resulting high-octane response.

There’s a second flavor at work here, mostly acoustic, that seems to sit more comfortably in a Sergio Leone/Ennio Morricone-inspired western vein – just a reminder that The Mandalorian is really more of a modern western with sci-fi trappings than anything. These cues are really among the most fascinating, unafraid to use a momentary silence to build tension rather than slathering on the entire orchestra.

For the big, epic moments, however, Goransson doesn’t disappoint with a full orchestra at his disposal. These three flavors – let’s call them electronic, western, and orchestral for lack of a better set of labels – often occur withing the same cue. “Bounty Droid” starts electronic, but ends with a massive orchestral flourish as Mando commandeers the heavy artillery that, just moments ago, was aimed at him. “The Asset” – the scene which reveals the tiny being whose continued existence is the driver for so much of The Mandalorian’s storyline – starts out in a sparse western vein with electric guitar before culminating in an orchestral conclusion that’s just quite simply magic.

4 out of 4Nearly every aspect of the production The Mandalorian is amazing, and again, nothing less was expected considering that Disney was going to throw everything at the first live-action Star Wars series in an attempt to change course on the franchise after a series of movies that have stirred heated debate among fans (some of whom are, quite honestly, taking the whole thing too damned seriously). The music, either in the show or on its own, is well-judged, perfectly-pitched, epic stuff.

Order this CD

  1. Hey Mando! (2:13)
  2. Face To Face (5:13)
  3. Back For Beskar (2:25)
  4. HammerTime (2:17)
  5. Blurg Attack (1:25)
  6. You Are A Mandalorian (3:55)
  7. Bounty Droid (3:02)
  8. The Asset (1:35)
  9. The Mandalorian (3:18)

Released by: Disney Music
Release date: November 12, 2019
Total running time: 25:23

Sarcastalites – Spaces For Strangers

I discovered the Sarcastalites – not really a group as much as it is one woman with a studio, a lot of groove, and an immense amount of talent at her disposal – through a single track contributed to the Raymond Scott cover album The Portofino Variations (of which more another time), and the disco-flavored cover version of Scott’s gem of early electronic music stood out as my favorite thing on the album, so I wanted to find more. That search led to this EP-length BandCamp release, which, it turns out, is even better than Sarcastalites’ excellent Raymond Scott cover.

The whole idea behind Sarcastalites is a throwback to disco’s heyday. Admittedly, this may not be a thing that a lot of people are consciously pining for, but the seven tracks on Spaces For Strangers attempt to distill the best things about that genre of music and then to boil those ingredients down into something new. The best disco always had one foot in R&B and funk, and most of these songs show that songwriter & performer G.T. Thomas totally gets that. Stylistically, Spaces For Strangers is steeped in late ’70s disco, which was starting to play with the kind of electronic elements that would be taking over the following decade with the advent of new wave. But the backbone of each song is the real deal – bass, guitars, drums, all bringing that funk back where it belongs.

There isn’t a weak song on the EP, but there are some that are real standouts – “Advice”‘s sparse instrumentation lets the slinky breathless vocals command center stage, with lyrics complaining about the singer’s overbearing gal pal, who “gives terrible advice” before the bridge of the song becomes something modern and trippy. “Strange Nostalgia”‘s lyrics reminisce about the singer’s first mind-expanding experience of listening to a particular band’s records (Yes, in this case), with some great wah-chicka guitar work fading and phasing in and out. “Three Degrees” is a bit more Blondie than Chic, with lyrics obsessing over – of all things – DVD commentary tracks, and referencing The Manchurian Candidate. Thomas might be reviving disco, but she’s doing it on her own terms and with her own subject matter.

4 out of 4“Party People” may be the purest slice of the sound most people associate with disco here, with “Earth Is For Friends, Space Is For Strangers” following closely behind. It’s worth pointing out that each track has its own unique sound, a result of Thomas engaging the services of different sets of ears – all women, by the way – to mix each song.

If there’s a disappointment involved with Sarcastalites’ debut, I guess it’s the fact that it hasn’t caught fire and led to a follow-up yet. But that’s why I’m writing this right now to bring it to your attention so we can change that. It’s a tremendously enjoyable set of songs to which more people need to be exposed.

Go download it

  1. The Real Thing (3:21)
  2. Sand (3:43)
  3. Party People (3:03)
  4. Advice (3:16)
  5. Earth Is For Friends, Space Is For Strangers (4:16)
  6. Strange Nostalgia (3:51)
  7. Three Degrees (3:51)

Released by: Bullshit Night Records
Release date: December 8, 2017
Total running time: 25:08

Crowded House – Woodface (Deluxe Edition)

Since the album’s original release in 1991, the long and twisted road that led to Woodface – Crowded House’s third studio album and arguably the point at which all future Finn Brothers joint efforts took root – has become much more illuminated. From a lengthy stretch of “nice, but we don’t hear a single” conversations with studio heads, to the temporary firing of founding bassist Nick Seymour, to the equally temporary hiring of Neil Finn’s older brother Tim, there’s enough story behind this album alone to power a couple of episodes of VH-1’s Behind The Music, if indeed that show was still being made.

As revealed in Chris Bourke’s warts-and-all band biography Something So Strong (1997), frustrations during the songwriting and recording process led Neil Finn to feel that Seymour wasn’t sparking joy creatively, so the bassist was shown to the door and replacements were auditioned, all of which finally convinced Finn that his angst had been mislaid at Seymour’s feet, opening the door for the band to snap back to its original lineup. The songs recorded without Seymour were put on the shelf; they’d wind up in the live setlist, sure, but the recordings went unheard by the vast majority of us. A few of them surfaced on the post-breakup compilation Afterglow, but the others were a mystery until now, unless you’d happened to hear them in concert. Between the tracks that made it to Afterglow and the bonus disc here, it’s now possible to piece together the original, Tim-less version of Woodface if you’re so inclined.

Spoiler: Tim-free Woodface really wouldn’t have been a bad album. Many of Neil Finn’s rejects are superior to some acts’ number one singles. “My Legs Are Gone” and “The Fields Are Full Of Your Kind” may not be classics on the same level as “Don’t Dream It’s Over”, but they’re worthy additions to the Crowdies’ catalogue, and they’re both incredibly catchy. Another memorable tune that was waiting in the wings is the surprisingly well-developed demo “I May Be Late”, whose harmonies might make you think that it’s a leftover from the Finn brothers’ songwriting sessions, but it was a song written solely by Neil, who apparently deemed it unworthy. Tim-free Woodface would’ve been a very guitar-oriented album that might have needed to lean a bit less on the very “produced” sound that emerged.

Also in the “surprisingly well-developed demo” category are early versions of “She Goes On” and “As Sure As I Am”, both of which seem like they’re a mere stone’s throw from the final studio versions, the latter exhibiting some significant lyric changes. The same can be said for “You Got Me Going”, an early version of “Sacred Cow”, one of the Woodface rejects that wound up on Afterglow. “Be My Guest” and “Burnt Out Tree” are home demos from that period when Neil was trying to write the entire album himself, and while they seem like they each have the germ of something interesting, they evidently ran out of time. A real surprise among the pre-Tim material is “Creek Song / Left Hand”, a fully polished studio version of a known song with a very different lyrical/verse structure, with the “Left Hand” portion being the only recognizable part. “Left Hand” is also part of the Afterglow tracklist, though I think I like the tune of this version better, but not necessarily the lyrics. But perhaps the most unfathomable, glad-they-left-that-on-the-cutting-room-floor specimen is an early rehearsal recording of “Fall At Your Feet”, which combined the verses of “You Got Me Going”/”Sacred Cow” with the chorus of “Fall At Your Feet”. This is what demos are for: to find out what is and isn’t working. (This combination wasn’t working.)

Paul Hester’s home demo of “Italian Plastic” is a particularly fascinating listen, as that’s one of the songs that ended up being “very produced” in its final form on Woodface, and since Hester’s no longer with us to offer any hints on what his original intentions were, this demo is the only clue we have.

Much of the rest of the bonus material was recorded circa 1989 by Neil and Tim Finn, with Hester on drums, as home demos for the Finn Brothers album that was eventually subsumed into Woodface. These are equally fascinating, with “Weather With You”, “There Goes God”, “Four Seasons In One Day”, “All I Ask”, and “How Will You Go” shining as the best examples of these. Also interesting are songs such as “It’s Only Natural” and “Chocolate Cake”, which are far less polished musically and lyrically than the aforementioned tunes, and yet the core of each song didn’t change that much between Neil’s home studio and the final studio recording, which may be why those two songs wound up with the level of production that they did: to disguise those very deficiencies. “Catherine Wheel” is here in demo form, though it would have to wait until Together Alone to make its appearance, and I think the demo makes a strong case for the argument that this song was much better with Youth’s production than it would’ve been with Mitchell Froom’s, especially as Woodface was, in a few places, lumbered with the most gimmicky production of any of the original lineup’s albums. The bonus disc is rounded out with a seven-minute live medley and the full version of “I’m Still Here”, a not-safe-for-work jam from which only an excerpt was heard in the fade-out of the original Woodface.

It’s tempting, and also dangerous, to try to read anything into the bonus disc material (indeed, I’m sure one of Neil’s favorite 4 out of 4hobbies is listening to people try to psychoanalyze him on the basis of Bourke’s tell-all book). But I think that a lot of the creative sturm und drang early in Woodface‘s development was down to frustration over what seemed to be the commercial failure of its immediate predecessor, Temple Of Low Men, and a lot of label pressure to just obediently crank out “Don’t Dream It’s Over II: Froom Hammond Organ Solo Boogaloo”. Listening to the original Woodface tracklist, as revealed on both this expanded reissue and Afterglow, I hear an album that would’ve been fine. Perhaps not on a level with Temple Of Low Men or the debut album, but not a stinker. And listening back to some of the more gimmicky production poured into the final mix of Woodface from a distance of 28 years, what I really find myself thinking is: maybe what the world – and Crowded House – really needed was Woodface a la Youth. I find myself taking issue not with the songs, but with the production.

Order this CD

    Disc 1 – original album:

  1. Chocolate Cake (4:02)
  2. It’s Only Natural (3:32)
  3. Fall at Your Feet (3:18)
  4. Tall Trees (2:19)
  5. Weather with You (3:44)
  6. Whispers and Moans (3:39)
  7. Four Seasons in One Day (2:50)
  8. There Goes God (3:50)
  9. Fame Is (2:23)
  10. All I Ask (3:55)
  11. As Sure as I Am (2:53)
  12. Italian Plastic (3:39)
  13. She Goes On (3:15)
  14. How Will You Go (4:14)
    Disc 2 – bonus tracks:

  1. Burnt Out Tree (Home Demo) (1:36)
  2. I May Be Late (Home Demo) (3:06)
  3. She Goes On (Home Demo) (3:13)
  4. As Sure As I Am (Home Demo) (2:37)
  5. My Legs Are Gone (Studio Demo) (4:33)
  6. You Got Me Going (Home Demo) (3:23)
  7. Italian Plastic (Home Demo) (2:54)
  8. Be My Guest (Home Demo) (2:03)
  9. Weather With You (Home Demo) (3:08)
  10. Chocolate Cake (Home Demo) (3:50)
  11. How Will You Go (Home Demo) (2:46)
  12. It’s Only Natural (Home Demo) (3:21)
  13. Four Seasons In One Day (Home Demo) (2:42)
  14. There Goes God (Home Demo) (2:43)
  15. Catherine Wheel (Home Demo) (3:00)
  16. All I Ask (Home Demo) (2:43)
  17. Fields Are Full Of Your Kind (3:29)
  18. Creek Song / Left Hand (3:04)
  19. Fall At Your Feet (Rehearsal Early Version) (3:22)
  20. The Burglar’s Song (Medley) – Around The UK In 7 Minutes (Live) (7:21)
  21. I’m Still Here (Full Version) (2:19)

Released by: Capitol Records
Release date: 2016
Disc one total running time: 48:06
Disc two total running time: 1:07:03

Black Mirror: Hang The DJ – music by Alex Somers & Sigur Ros

Arguably the 21st century’s most legitimate and enduring successor to the O’Henry-inspired twisted morality tales of The Twilight Zone, Black Mirror began on Channel 4 in the U.K. before migrating to Netflix and gaining an international audience beyond C4’s reach. Each of its stories are couched in the technology we have, or the technology we’re all but destined to invent given current trends of both technology and society. While many an episode of Black Mirror ends with a dark twist, Hang The DJ has a much happier one, an oddball among the show’s typical cynicism.

Hang The DJ‘s score is an exercise in barely-tonal minimalism. The episode concerns itself with an omnipresent matchmaking system, Coach, which pushes couples together for relationships of various lengths as it tries to determine their ideal match. Failure to abide by Coach’s matches risk banishment beyond an unspecified wall around the city/county/country in which the story happens, but when the alternative is being permanently paired with someone who isn’t one’s ideal match, and one is forbidden from doubling back to a former match, is that really such a threat?

Rather than hewing closely to the contours of the two protagonists’ budding-but-uncertain romance, the score almost seems to be providing accompaniment for Coach and its influence on the lives of everyone seen on screen: it’s atonal at times, almost a background drone that only foregrounds itself in melodic terms when the two main characters’ attraction increases. Even at the end, when they seriously contemplate climbing over the wall themselves rather than waiting for banishment, there’s little in the way of urgency or traditional tonality. It’s not an action scene, and the momentousness of it isn’t signalled by the score.

4 out of 4Things become more melodic and “human” once they’ve escaped – the constant drone of Coach’s presence is gone, and along with it the rigid matchmaking system that dominates everyone’s lives, and suddenly it’s Sigur Ros doing the music.

Hang The DJ is a fairly brief score, one whose impact and meaning may be a little hard to grasp when heard in isolation. But despite its brief duration, much like the story it accompanies, the score makes an impact.

Order this CD or download

  1. All Mapped Out (1:26)
  2. Sorry (2:58)
  3. Hours, Days, Months (1:31)
  4. Into Place (3:31)
  5. Match (1:31 – Sigur Ros)
  6. Out There (1:43)
  7. Sleeps (0:48)
  8. See You (1:53)
  9. Treasured (1:34)
  10. Ruined It (3:19)
  11. One Year (2:09)
  12. Doubts (1:58)
  13. Three, Two, One (1:12)
  14. We Agreed (0:33)
  15. One, Two, Three, Four (0:39)
  16. There’ll Be A Reason (1:28)
  17. End (4L58 – Sigur Ros)
  18. Over And Over Again (1:07)

Released by: Lakeshore Records
Release date: December 30, 2017
Total running time: 34:18

Raymond Scott Rewired

So, stop me if you’ve heard this one already: three remix producers walk into a bar, suddenly gain access to the complete recorded works of the late big-band-leader and electronic music pioneer Raymond Scott, and go back to their studios to do their own thing. Actually, it’s not certain if there was a bar involved, but that minor detail aside, that’s how you get this album.

And what a fun album it is! From a near-nonsensical mash-up of Scott’s electronic music and his extensive work in the realm of commercial jingles (“The Night & Day Household Greyhound”) to a career-spanning mash-up that somehow manages to encapsulate everything Raymond Scott was about (“A Bigger, More Important Sound”) to truly tuneful remixes that almost transcend their source material (“Cindy Byrdsong”, “Hey Ray”), every approach from very light remixing to almost rewriting the DNA of the original music is tried out here. Piling the output of Scott’s legendary homemade analog synthesizer/sequencer, the Electronium, on top of most conventional acoustic sounds does wonders (“Very Very Very Pretty Petticoat”), but that’s no less enjoyable than a cut-and-splice treatment of Scott’s narrated notes on a new piece of recording gear (“Love Song To A Dynamic Ribbon Cardioid”). At the end of the album, it’s all hands on deck as all three producers pay tribute to Scott’s most enduring creation (thanks to its heavy use in Carl Stalling’s cartoon music), “Powerhouse”.

4 out of 4I can’t help but think that Raymond Scott would have approved. The man devised and implemented a new instrument combining the functions of analog synths and sequencers in one massive box, in a near-total vacuum of information as to how one would create such a beast, because these ideas were new to everyone at the time. (No less a later electronic music pioneer than Bob Moog himself would go on to say that Scott was a huge influence on him.) A mind that could jump from big band stylings to otherworldly sounds for which there was no frame of reference…one can’t help but think that, had he been born a bit later, Raymond Scott himself would be doing some remixes of his own.

Order this CD

  1. A Bigger, More Important Sound by Raymond Scott & The Evolution Control Committee (1:38)
  2. The Toy Penguin by Raymond Scott & The Bran Flakes (3:12)
  3. Cindy Byrdsong by Raymond Scott & Go Home Productions (4:09)
  4. Ripples on an Evaporated Lake by Raymond Scott & The Evolution Control Committee (4:10)
  5. Sleigh Ride To A Barn Dance in Sorrento by Raymond Scott & The Bran Flakes (2:01)
  6. The Night & Day Household Greyhound by Raymond Scott & Go Home Productions (2:50)
  7. Love Song To A Dynamic Ribbon Cardioid by Raymond Scott & The Evolution Control Committee (2:25)
  8. (Serenade On) Carribea Corner by Raymond Scott & The Bran Flakes (4:08)
  9. In An 18th Century Discotheque by Raymond Scott & The Evolution Control Committee (3:35)
  10. The Sleepwalking Tobacco Auctioneer by Raymond Scott & Go Home Productions (2:10)
  11. Very Very Very Pretty Petticoat by Raymond Scott & The Bran Flakes (2:22)
  12. Hillbilly Hostess In Haunted Harlem by Raymond Scott & The Evolution Control Committee (2:28)
  13. Good Duquesne Air by Raymond Scott & Go Home Productions (3:06)
  14. Hey Ray by Raymond Scott & The Bran Flakes (2:54)
  15. Mountain High, Valley Higher by Raymond Scott & Go Home Productions (3:35)
  16. Siberian Tiger On An Ocean Liner by Raymond Scott & The Evolution Control Committee (2:35)
  17. Shirley’s Temple Bells by Raymond Scott & The Bran Flakes (2:12)
  18. Tick Tock Cuckoo On Planet Mars by Raymond Scott & Go Home Productions (1:56)
  19. Powerhouse by Various Artists (3:29)

Released by: Basta
Release date: January 14, 2014
Total running time: 54:55

[…]

Star Wars: The Last Jedi – music by John Williams

Star Wars fandom may never be a cohesive whole again once the post-original-trilogy trilogy wraps up. The Force Awakens was knowingly derivative – on purpose, so we’re told in hindsight – to bring a new, younger audience into the familiar story beats of a Star Wars movie, while The Last Jedi‘s iconoclastic approach to the story’s remaining original trilogy characters seemed to split Star Wars fandom down the middle. The one unchanging constant in this whirlwind, however, has been John Williams, the architect of the orchestral Star Wars sound.

The soundtrack from The Last Jedi, appropriately for the middle chapter of a trilogy, leans heavily on themes already established. Themes for Rey, Kylo Ren/the First Order, and Poe/the Resistance are holdovers from The Force Awakens, with Rey’s theme given a great deal of development here. From the original trilogy, the Force theme (also frequently associated with Obi-Wan Kenobi) gets plenty of play here, as does a theme for another Jedi Master long past. The TIE Fighter battle theme is back as the Millennium Falcon shakes off its pursuers on Crait, with maybe two seconds of whimsy dropped in for Chewie’s new Porg sidekick. (Not heard on the album: the re-use of the Emperor’s theme for Snoke – perhaps a tacitly tuneful admission that the two were nearly interchangeable?) Luke and Leia’s reunion gets a somber, low-key treatment of their theme from Return Of The Jedi, tagged out by a short reference to Han and Leia’s love theme before Luke strides into battle against Kylo Ren.

Virtually the only truly new theme here is reserved for Finn’s winsome new partner, Rose (though that description should, perhaps, be the other way around). This leaves the movie’s major action setpieces for the majority of “new” material – percussive, raging battle music for Rey and Ren’s fight against Snoke’s guards, Finn’s final fight with Phasma, and naturally Luke’s climcactic duel with Kylo Ren. “The Battle Of Crait” rolls out a low, threatening motif for the oncoming First Order forces, as well as a choral interlude for Finn’s futile attempt to sacrifice himself for the Rebel cause.

The introduction to Canto Bight has an opulent opening (hearkening back to some of the “Coruscant” music from the prequel trilogy, which then segues into a boisterous jazz tune that sounds like it’s played by the same ensemble as the original Star Wars‘ Cantina Band music. It’s not a callback to that specific tune, but very much a delightful callback to its style. “The Fathiers”, accompanying the scenes of Finn and Rose lowering Canto Bight’s property value with large, four-legged help, is a callback of another kind – it sounds like a theme from an Indiana Jones movie slipped into the Star Wars universe.

I can handle a soundtrack falling back on old favorites more gracefully than I can handle the entire script of a movie doing so, and – spoiler alert – John Williams gives Luke Skywalker and Leia a truly epic sendoff, the 5 out of 4former with a mythic choral treatment, and the latter with her theme from Star Wars arranged for piano during the end credit tribute to the late Carrie Fisher.

With J.J. Abrams back in the driver’s seat for Episode IX, the question isn’t whether John Williams’ final Star Wars outing is worthy of the franchise. The question now becomes whether or not the movie itself will be worthy of Williams’ grand finale.

Order this CD

  1. Main Title and Escape (7:26)
  2. Ahch-To Island (4:23)
  3. Revisiting Snoke (3:29)
  4. The Supremacy (4:01)
  5. Fun with Finn and Rose (2:34)
  6. Old Friends (4:29)
  7. The Rebellion is Reborn (4:00)
  8. Lesson One (2:10)
  9. Canto Bight (2:38)
  10. Who Are You? (3:04)
  11. The Fathiers (2:42)
  12. The Cave (3:00)
  13. The Sacred Jedi Texts (3:33)
  14. A New Alliance (3:13)
  15. Chrome Dome (2:03)
  16. The Battle of Crait (6:48)
  17. The Spark (3:36)
  18. The Last Jedi (3:04)
  19. Peace and Purpose (3:08)
  20. Finale (8:28)

Released by: Walt Disney Records
Release date: December 15, 2017
Total running time: 77:49