Sucker Punch: Bringing the soundtrack back

We were disheartened to learn that Warner Bros. would not be screening “Sucker Punch,” Zack Snyder’s “Alice in Wonderland with machine guns” fantasy adventure flick, in our market. Warners is usually very good about showing us their wares, and the last two times they passed us by, it was because they had something to hide (“Cop Out,” “The Rite”). Which of course has us concerned that “Sucker Punch” is going to be a dud, even though it has the best title since “Hot Tub Time Machine” (or “Hobo with a Shotgun”) and the trailers make it look, at the very least, like a total blast.

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Further adding to our disappointment is the recent acquisition of the movie’s (spectacular) soundtrack, which sports cover versions of modern rock classics (as well as two psychedelic standards) remodeled as widescreen epics. Actually, calling these tracks cover versions is patently unfair, given the work that went into their arrangents. These are mini-operas, where even the most straightforward of songs will bend, and swoop, or change speeds, until they ultimately explode. Check the positively chilling version of “Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)” that opens the album, or the heartbreaking, string-kissed version of the Smiths’ “Asleep.” The two ’60s nuggets lend themselves the best to the style, though, and they chose two doozies in “White Rabbit” (yes, it’s overdone, but it works wonderfully here) and the Beatles’ “Tomorrow Never Knows,” which is stretched out to a full seven-and-a-half-minute freakout. If there is a misstep, it’s the Queen mash-up. Yes, we get it, hip-hoppers love Queen beats, but the pitch shift they applied to “I Want It All” just sounds wrong.

Simply put, “Sucker Punch” is the ballsiest, most ambitious soundtrack since “Moulin Rouge.” It’s nice to see someone think of pop songs in a broader, grander sense than “Let’s come up with the most hipster-y compilation ever assembled.” We can’t wait to see how these songs work as the backdrop to Snyder’s visuals.

Click to buy Sucker Punch soundtrack from Amazon

  

Steal This Song: Matt Lowell, “Swan Lake”

Best bass line since “Once in a Lifetime”?

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Big words, to be sure, but hot damn, listen to the title track from Matt Lowell’s Swan Lake EP. It’s four notes, the same four notes, carried across several different chords, but in an interesting twist, the song is largely bass-free, with those four notes hitting at an unlikely spot. Musically, it travels this strange land between Joseph Arthur and Guided by Voices, but doesn’t really sound like either. Give it a listen, and see if you’re as enthralled as we are.

Click here to download Matt Lowell – Swan Lake

  

Daft Punk: Tron Legacy Soundtrack


RIYL: Vangelis, Tangerine Dream, James Horner

Highly anticipated by Daft Punk fans, the soundtrack to Disney’s nostalgia-driven sequel to 1982’s “Tron” is the latest from the French progressive electronic dance masters. Happily it turns out that their work on projects like “Irreversible” and “Electroma” has paid off, as Bangalter and de Homem-Christo prove they can manage to create both a true soundtrack in service of a film, and a powerful musical album in and of itself. Just don’t expect to dance to this one.

The “Tron: Legacy” soundtrack is full of the expected mood setting pieces a score is intended for. They utilize strident, driving string sections, pounding tympani and crescendos of dramatic brass, all of it layered with ambient electronic work that is perfectly measured and restrained. A casual listener is not going to hear Daft Punk at all in many tracks, and this might disappoint long time fans, but only because of outmoded expectations. Anyone willing to just listen and be swept up into the sonic world they create will not be disappointed.

The opening “Overture” is a classic work that would blend nicely into “The Grid,” a more techno-specific piece, if it wasn’t for the overt use of Jeff Bridges’ monologue. It isn’t horrible, but the music is so powerful that there is no need for forced movie dialogue to sell the story. Daft Punk also shows a deep respect for not only the original “Tron” score, but other ‘80s influences as well. “Arena” and “Rinzler” are back-to-back pieces that owe much to the original “Terminator” film (the distinct percussion in particular), while the exquisite “Arrival” follows the influences that Wendy Carlos seemed to take in the original, which adopted from Vangelis’ ultimate sci-fi soundtrack, “Blade Runner.”

This is not to say that Daft Punk rest on the influences of the past. At most, these nods to their forerunners serve as grounding points, allowing the rest of their work to soar in new and powerful directions. “C.L.U.” is one of the best modern classical pieces you’ll hear. Whoever might have pigeonholed Daft Punk into the realm of “just another dance band” will have to reassess now, as Bangalter and de Homem-Christo prove they belong in a much higher category of song writers and composers. (Walt Disney Records 2010)

Daft Punk MySpace page

  

Bullz-Eye’s Favorite Albums of 2010: Senior Editor David Medsker’s picks

Having children has had a profound impact on my musical tastes. Will it make them cry? Will it teach them naughty words? Will it bore them? Then it doesn’t get played around the house, which has resulted in my sharp turn towards the poppier side of modern. And really, once you’ve seen your three-year-old completely lose his shit when hearing a song with a chorus of “Na, na na na, na na na, na na na na na na na,” it’s hard to push anything on him that doesn’t come armed to the teeth with the pop hooks. Mind you, I think the Ramones are a pop band too, so I’m painting with a pretty broad brush here. But make no mistake – these bands are pop bands, of varying stripes and shapes. If you fancy yourself a hipster, you’d be best to move on and check out one of the other writers’ lists. I gave up being hip a couple years ago, and let me tell you: it’s extremely liberating.

Note: Some of the notes at the end of the write-ups will offer suggestions of which songs to check out. Others actually offer the songs. If you see “Click here for a free download…”, those songs are on our server, meaning you won’t be dragged off to some site that asks you to give up your email address for a song. These puppies all come with no strings attached, so please download away.

Top 10 Albums of 2010

1. Mark Ronson: Record Collection
Ahhhhhh. If I get to heaven, this is what the radio station will sound like. Tasteful drum beats paired with even tastier synth tracks, highlighted by brilliantly chosen guest contributors from Q-Tip and D’Angelo to Simon Le Bon and a devastating performance by Boy George. Definitely gonna ride this bike until we get home.
Download these: “The Bike Song,” “Somebody to Love Me,” “Record Collection”

2. Hey Champ: Star
I’m a sucker for any band that justifies my love for New Order and the Buggles, and this Chicago trio threw down synth pop/rock that, in an ideal world, would have Passion Pit opening for them, not the other way around.
Click here for a free download of Hey Champ’s “Neverest”
Click here for a free download of Hey Champ’s “Cold Dust Girl”

3. Prefab Sprout: Let’s Change the World with Music
Man, what a sweet surprise this was. Originally scheduled to be the follow-up album to 1990’s Jordan: The Comeback, the album was scrapped despite Prefab leader Paddy McAloon already finishing studio-quality demo versions of every song. Eighteen years later, the songs finally see the light of day, and the result is instant nostalgia. He supposedly has dozens more albums on his shelves from the same period. Please don’t make us wait 18 years for the next one, Paddy.
Download these: “Let There Be Music,” “Ride,” “God Watch Over You”

4. The Hours: It’s Not How You Start, It’s How You Finish
This one is knocked down a few rungs on a technicality, in that it’s a Franken-album consisting of the best songs from the band’s two UK-only releases. But hot damn, are those songs good. Shimmering, sky-high, piano-driven pop that addresses the darkness in people’s lives but strives for hope and change. No wonder Nike used one of these songs for their unforgettable “Human Chain” ad earlier this year. Favorite lyric: “I can understand how someone can go over to the dark side, ’cause the Devil, he’s got all the tunes.”
Download these: “See the Light,” “Big Black Hole,” “Come On”

The Hours – “See The Light” 2010 Edit from Adeline Records on Vimeo.

5. The Silver Seas: Chateau Revenge
I’m still pissed about this one. I got a sneak peek of the record months before its release because our publicist is tight with the band. We played the daylights out of it, and couldn’t wait to sing its praises when it came out in April…only April never happened. Then it was July, and when it came out, the damn thing was buried. Why, why, why? Not enough irony or cynicism? I see no reason why the Shins can sell millions while the Silver Seas still toil in obscurity. The phrase ‘criminally underrated’ was written about bands like this.
Click here for a free download of the Silver Seas’ “The Best Things in Life”


Read the rest after the jump...

The Hours: It’s Not How You Start, It’s How You Finish


RIYL: Pulp, Coldplay, The Wonder Stuff

To call It’s Not How You Start, It’s How You Finish a debut album is technically true, but a bit misleading. In truth, it’s a Franken-album, culling the best moments from the Hours’ first two, import-only albums, 2006’s Narcissus Road and 2009’s See the Light, plus one new track (two if you buy the deluxe edition). Still, debut* album or not, it’s a doozy, filled with sky-high chorus after sky-high chorus, gorgeous octave-jumping piano lines and one of the most optimistic lyric books you’ll find outside of Christian pop (or Howard Jones). On the opening track “Ali in the Jungle,” better known here as the soundtrack to Nike’s “Human Chain” ad, speaks of how “everybody gets knocked down / How quick are you gonna get up?” In “These Days,” singer Antony Genn (think Miles Hunt of the Wonder Stuff, with better pipes) advises us, “If there’s ever a time we need to come together, the time is now.” In “Icarus,” he opines that “If you don’t shoot, then you don’t score.” They’re not deep statements, but they resonate in conjunction with the music.

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The band admittedly runs at two main speeds. There are the upbeat, chugging skyscrapers like “Big Black Hole,” “Narcissus Road” and “Ali in the Jungle,” and there are the showstopping ballads like “Back When You Were Good” (a very gutsy song title in a snarky world) and the splendid “Come On.” The big exception to this is the closer “See the Light,” a slow-building, two-chord track in the vein of Pulp’s “Common People.” It’s arguably the best song here, though a thousand lashes to the person who decided to edit it down from its original seven-minute glory. This is beautiful stuff across the board, but a quick note to Genn: the people most likely to buy your music probably have kids, so let’s cut back a bit on the ‘F’ bombs, shall we? It’s unbecoming. (Adeline 2010)

The Hours MySpace page