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Doctor Who Series 6 – music by Murray Gold

Doctor Who Series 6It’s rare, but not unheard of, to claim to have enjoyed the music from a movie or TV show tremendously, while not enjoying the story that spawned the music. Much of the sixth season of revived Doctor Who is like that for me – the season’s reliance on, and constant referral to, the Doctor’s apparent date with death, just rubbed me the wrong way. It might’ve been a brilliant device to use if it had been the final season for the incumbent Doctor, but in this day and age the general public knows that the actor in question is contracted for several years, and won’t be bowing out at the end of his second season. All the constant refrain of the season’s already-witnessed cliffhanger did was remind me how suspense-free the whole enterprise was. It was right up there with the third season (the “Martha season”) as my least favorite year of the show’s revival.

Could I separate my noncommittal grunt of a response to the season from the music? Yes and no. Murray Gold gamely gives his all to every episode, though there’s a lot of referring back to the Doctor’s new theme established in the previous season (and on that season’s soundtrack). There’s also a lot of referring back to the style that Gold employed for much of the Davies/Tennant years – unashamed orchestral bombast, even in scenes that don’t always call for it – and less of the promising experimentation of the fifth season. The season’s opening two-parter is at its best when it’s using a slightly twangy electric guitar to signify its setting, although the “Apollo 11” cue is as good a musical theme for the launch of the first moon landing mission as I’ve ever heard. “Another Perfect Prison”, “Day Of The Moon” and “I See You Silence” are the best examples of this, recalling the best of John Barry’s James Bond scores.

The Curse Of The Black Spot and The Doctor’s Wife have outstanding music, with the latter being a standout of the season both musically and story-wise. The “Run, Sexy” cue is one of the few overt examples of the orchestra-and-electronics-joined-at-the-hip style that made the fifth season’s soundtrack such a welcome change of pace from what had come before. The Rebel Flesh and The Almost People, a two-parter dealing with clones demanding independence, are more subdued to make way for dialogue.

But things crank up for the second half of the mid-season cliffhanger. (Sadly, it’s one of the silliest episodes in the series’ nearly-50-year history, but nobody’s perfect.) Let’s Kill Hitler gets a snarlingly oppressive march for the Nazi terror, a good place for orchestral bombast if there ever was one.

The second half of the season has more interesting episodes and more interesting scores. Night Terrors has a deceptively calm opening theme and sinister passages, while The Girl Who Waited is dripping with uncertainty as Amy comes to grips with a TARDIS-free reality on the run, and then learns that even that isn’t immutable. The God Complex has some very unusual keyboard/synth-heavy cues (including the recurring “muzak” motif). “Room Of Your Dreams” opens up with the kind of electronics that haven’t been heard since the original series.

Closing Time sounds almost like a sitcom in its opening track, and most of the cues presented here stay light-hearted. The music from the season closer, The Wedding Of River Song, starts with a rollicking opening track, “5:02 PM”, before becoming surprisingly quiet. One of the better tracks, “Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart”, accompanies the kick-in-the-gut meta moment where the Doctor learns of the his old friend’s death (Nicholas Courtney, the actor who portrayed the Brigadier in all of his appearances, had died earlier in the year) to a wistful tune.

Wedding finishes off by rehashing the Doctor’s theme in various ways, and includes the cue that sees out the season, accompanying the closing moments in which a portly severed head bellowing “DOCTOR…WHO?” over and over. The soundtrack itself closes by wrapping around to a cue from Day Of The Moon which, again, repeats the Doctor’s theme.

3 out of 4There’s some music here that I’ve had no desire to re-listen to, but that may well represent a failing on my part to separate music from story subject matter. Murray Gold still delivers a unique, full-blooded sounded that’s unlike anything else on TV, and the soundtracks released by Silva Screen are uncommonly generous with their double-disc set covering all 13 of the season’s episodes. Next year, I just want the stories to be as good as the music.

Order this CDDisc One

    The Impossible Astronaut / Day of the Moon

  1. I Am The Doctor In Utah (1:44)
  2. 1969 (2:01)
  3. The Impossible Astronaut (3:16)
  4. Trust Me (1:39)
  5. Help Is On Its Way (3:59)
  6. Another Perfect Prison (0:53)
  7. Greystark Hall (2:53)
  8. Apollo 11 (0:54)
  9. Day Of The Moon (2:44)
  10. I See You Silence (1:05)

    The Curse of the Black Spot

  11. You’re A Dead Man (1:40)
  12. Deadly Siren (5:30)
  13. Perfect Reflection (1:03)
  14. All For One (3:49)
  15. The Curse Of The Black Spot (1:14)

    The Doctor’s Wife

  16. I’ve Got Mail (0:45)
  17. My TARDIS (1:30)
  18. Run, Sexy (1:56)
  19. Locked On (1:11)

    The Rebel Flesh / The Almost People

  20. The Chemical Castle (1:30)
  21. Which One Is The Flesh? (1:39)
  22. Scanning Me (2:31)
  23. Ransacked (2:01)
  24. Always With The Rory (1:22)
  25. Double Doctor (2:02)
  26. Tell Me The Truth (3:48)
  27. Loving Isn’t Knowing (The Almost People Suite) (5:29)

    A Good Man Goes to War

  28. River’s Waltz (1:53)
  29. Pop (1:36)
  30. Tell Me Who You Are (1:52)
  31. Melody Pond (2:36)

Disc Two

    Let’s Kill Hitler

  1. Growing Up Fast (1:21)
  2. The Blush Of Love (1:22)
  3. Terror Of The Reich (3:05)
  4. The British Are Coming (1:07)
  5. A Very Unusual Melody (2:53)
  6. When A River Forms (1:32)
  7. Pay Attention Grown Ups (2:10)
  8. The Enigma Of River Song (3:59)

    Night Terrors

  9. Bedtime For George (2:24)
  10. Tick Tock Round The Clock (2:11)
  11. A Malevolent Estate (3:58)
  12. Night Terrors (1:19)

    The Girl Who Waited

  13. Apalapucia (1:29)
  14. 36 Years (0:55)
  15. Lost In The Wrong Stream (3:25)

    The God Complex

  16. The Hotel Prison (0:47)
  17. Room Of Your Dreams (1:21)
  18. Fear Enough (1:17)
  19. What’s Left To Be Scared Of? (1:00)
  20. Rita Praises (1:08)

    Closing Time

  21. Stormageddon, Dark Lord Of All (1:34)
  22. Definitely Going (1:56)
  23. Over Your Shoulder (1:11)
  24. Ladieswear (0:45)
  25. Fragrance (2:17)
  26. My Time Is Running Out (4:55)
  27. Tick Tock (vocal track) (1:23)

    The Wedding of River Song

  28. 5:02 PM (2:43)
  29. The Head Of An Enemy (1:15)
  30. My Silence (1:13)
  31. Brigadier Lethbridge–Stewart (2:19)
  32. Forgiven (2:31)
  33. Time Is Moving (1:31)
  34. The Wedding Of River Song (4:32)

    Day of the Moon

  35. The Majestic Tale (Of A Madman In A Box) (4:01)

Released by: Silva Screen
Release date: 2011
Disc one total running time: 68:05
Disc two total running time: 55:27

Liam Finn – FOMO

FOMOThe eagerly awaited second effort from Liam Finn was a major event for indie music in 2011; indeed, it was easier to find his new album than it was to track down the latest efforts from his famous father or uncle. I’ll Be Lightning had set the bar incredibly high, with across-the-board great songwriting, crisp (if occasionally slightly lo-fi) production, and mind-boggling performances from Finn, who played and sang every note on the album. How could he surpass that opening act?

With FOMO, it would seem that he wasn’t trying to surpass it, but to steer clear of it. As universally lauded as Lightning was, it was a pretty good bet that the follow-up wouldn’t live up to everyone’s expectations. FOMO‘s lead single, “The Struggle”, was a sonic mess compared to Lightning‘s panoramic production and gorgeous harmonies – swampy, even more lo-fi, and more suited to fans of shouty punk rock than to fans of the previous album. It was evolved from the loop-based style that Finn had adopted during endless one-man-band touring for Lightning, but was a little off-putting if you’d grown accustomed to I’ll Be Lightning‘s house style.

Fortunately, it’s also an oddball song on FOMO, which opens with four songs as good as anything on Finn’s debut album. “Neurotic World” picks up where the Lightning‘s relaxing, harmony-based pop songs left off, while “Don’t Even Know Your Name” is a jumpier rock song with improbable ascending vocals in the chorus. The one-two punch of “Roll Of The Eye” and “Cold Feet” is the strongest pair of songs on FOMO, and it’s no accident that the latter was quickly rolled out as the album’s second single with an amusing video to match. It’s with these two songs that one of Liam Finn’s major influences can be found: while his father may be aspiring to be the 21st century’s answer to Paul McCartney, Liam is exploring Lennon territory and doing so boldly. If you’ve been missing the John Lennon sound, just as melodic as McCartney but occasionally bolder and more unpredictable, you need to be following Liam Finn’s musical exploits. “Cold Feet” was one of the catchiest songs I heard in 2011.

“Real Late” has a faux-Eastern flavor to it, but loses a lot of the energy built up in the first four songs. This is followed by “The Struggle” and “Little Words”, another low-key number with some great harmonies. “Reckless” gets things back on track with a jumpy punk-pop feel that – as much as I don’t want to make the obvious comparisons – would’ve fit right into the early ’80s Split Enz setlist. “Chase The Seasons” is a pleasant, beautifully-harmonized shuffle, while “Jump Your Bones” closes things out with a bit of a free-form jam – the closest any other songs on the album gets to “The Struggle”.

4 out of 4Most of the album is a real joy, even in its quieter moments. Liam Finn continues to show expert songwriting and performance chops, and some impressive production skill to boot – bits of “Cold Feet” are almost Lindsey Buckingham-esque (perhaps even moreso than anything Buckingham himself has turned out in recent years), and that’s not a bad thing.

Order this CD

  1. Neurotic World (3:00)
  2. Don’t Even Know Your Name (4:09)
  3. Roll Of The Eye (4:40)
  4. Cold Feet (4:16)
  5. Real Late (3:11)
  6. The Struggle (2:52)
  7. Little Words (2:37)
  8. Reckless (2:36)
  9. Chase The Seasons (3:01)
  10. Jump Your Bones (5:37)

Released by: Yep Roc
Release date: 2011
Total running time: 35:59

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Gotye – Making Mirrors

Gotye - Making MirrorsRapidly gaining notice outside of his native Australia, Gotye is yet another one of these artists who plays and sings nearly everything himself, and produces his own material as well. Originally starting out with a heavy reliance on sampling, Gotye has managed to emerge as an musician with originality and a style not unlike something I’ve been missing for a while: it certainly doesn’t hurt that, when the man lets rip vocally, he sounds like Peter Gabriel at the height of his powers, or late-Police-era/Dream Of The Blue Turtles-era Sting. Put that voice together with a quirky approach to instrumentation and you’ve got a pretty potent brew that’s hit the top of the charts in Australia and New Zealand, and might well do some damage elsewhere in the world.

The single that brought Gotye to everyone’s notice (mine included) was “Somebody That I Used To Know”, a song that’s uncompromisingly Gabriel-esque in its execution (and the striking-but-not-flashy video’s not a million miles away from the groundbreaking stuff that a younger Pete used to do, either). Featuring a guest vocal from New Zealand jazz singer Kimbra, it’s a handy jumping-on point for those unfamiliar with Gotye. The rest of the album isn’t necessarily just like it, but with songs that walk deftly between such well-defined genres as techno and reggae, we shouldn’t be expecting any two Gotye songs to be alike: this guy clearly loves to kick down the barriers that common sense and received wisdom tell us should exist between these styles of music, and the result is startlingly original cutting-edge rock.

Much of the album is sunnier than the somewhat angsty “Somebody That I Used To Know”, but it’s no less listenable. “State Of The Art” is as close as Making Mirrors gets to revisiting “Somebody”‘s dark feel, relying on samples, spoken word, and instrumentation that doesn’t normally get paired together. It’s a stranger specimen than “Somebody”, but it’s still listenable and re-listenable. The echoing “Smoke And Mirrors” and the low-key, atmospheric “Giving Me A Chance” Gotye has some fairly daring ideas on what kind of percussion and 4 out of 4instrumentation to use – it’s innovative and unconventional, but not alienating. Which really sums up the album as a whole.

Go ahead and give Gotye a listen. I think this one’s going to wind up being on a lot of people’s “new discoveries” lists for 2012, and I for one plan to also put him on the “track down his older stuff and watch closely for what he does in the future” list.

Order this CD

  1. Making Mirrors (1:01)
  2. Easy Way Out (1:57)
  3. Somebody That I Used To Know featuring Kimbra (4:04)
  4. Smoke And Mirrors (5:13)
  5. I Feel Better (3:18)
  6. In Your Light (4:39)
  7. State Of The Art (5:15)
  8. Don’t Worry, We’ll Be Watching You (3:18)
  9. Giving Me A Chance (2:56)
  10. Save Me (3:53)
  11. Bronte (3:18)

Released by: Eleven
Release date: 2011
Total running time: 38:52

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