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Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Monsters vs. Aliens Soundtrack Review

Written By E. Corrado

Monsters vs. Aliens is Henry Jackman’s first solo score for a film. Already an accomplished artist in scoring, he shared an award with Hans Zimmer & John Powell for the music in Secrets of the Furious Five at last year’s Annie Awards.

His score for Monsters vs. Aliens is just so much fun to listen to - and a great first solo film effort! The thing is that this score’s mix of quiet moments and action sequences really helps make the film. Listening to it again, I am reminded of the film, which I haven’t seen in about 6 months. Even so, the soundtrack stands very well on it’s own. It’s a nice length too - 1:05:46.

Jackman makes good use of rhythm and instruments for the appropriate feel here. Particularly in tracks Meet The Monsters, and the great ending The Ginormica Suite (a wonderful compilation piece - if you’re just going to buy one track on iTunes, buy this one). Track 13 also shows a good variation... I love tracks 10 & 11 as well - although all of the pieces are great, and I probably shouldn’t name them all one by one! Because of Jackman’s musical training in various forms, he makes good use of complementing this orchestral score with electronic instruments. (For an example of a mostly electronic piece, listen to track 19.)

Many of the themes for the film were set up in tracks 1, 4 & 5. These themes are threaded throughout, without becoming repetitive. Perhaps Jackman has gotten the hang of this from his work with Hans Zimmer? His scores often have themes that manage to clue you in without hitting you over the head with them. I can actually hear vague similarities to some of the Pirates and Kung Fu Panda music a few times in here - both movies that Jackman did additional music for, while working alongside Zimmer. (Interestingly enough, I realize now, it's between the Battle at the Golden Gate Bridge piece in this, and The Bridge score in KFP... It's just in a few of the chord sequences - maybe they are good for scoring bridge fights.) As for Pirates, I think it's more the rhythm style that's reminding me.

The score is pretty much all done in a light major feel. It has a certain bounciness throughout, yet effortlessly changes to a slow pace when needed. And when it is at a slow pace, the piano has some really beautiful themes - like in track 11. The strings also get a nice showcase in track 18. The soundtrack on a whole is actually very lyrical. Some scores are hard to listen to all in one sitting - this one is most definitely not. After it ended, I started going back and listening to some of the tracks again!

I was disappointed to see though that this particular score was not translated into a music book, like most DreamWorks animated film scores are by Cherry Lane Music Publishing. While the score does have a lot of enormity to it, it is very lyrical/theme based, and I think for that reason, it could have been translated well for piano, and (especially for) small band.

I wouldn’t be surprised if we see another nomination for Henry Jackman at this year’s Annie Awards - although he would be facing extremely tough competition with Michael Giacchino’s very different from this, yet still wonderful, score for Up, which will probably take home the actual award.

The full soundtrack includes a great balanced mix of 14 original scores, with 6 classic monster/alien themed songs. Because this isn’t a soundtrack with a lot of variation between really loud and really quiet tracks, it makes for a great listen in the car, since it can withstand highway noises without being drowned out, or getting too loud. This is also one that will be enjoyed by all ages.

The Monsters vs. Aliens soundtrack just leaves you feeling really good - it’s a happy set of music. Get this one.

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