Thursday, December 15, 2011

Soundtrack Review: THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO Soundtrack

Javi here. As part of a way of bringing more (hopefully) interesting content apart from the movie trailers, reviews, and news, I'll be trying, to the best of my abilities, to write some soundtrack reviews. Talk to me, and you know I dig my music even if I don't like the music culture that has developed in the last year. Regardless, music scores are a point of contention among many music fans. I know that NPR All Songs Considered host, Bob Boilen, has called music scores cheesy and manipulative. He says that they cheapen the scene by playing strategically placed uplifting or somber strings. What it sounds like, to me, is that he heard a really cheesy low-brow score for some British Oscar-bait film.

I truly believe that there a good place for music to elevate a scene in a movie beyond  to make it memorable. There's a reason why the theme songs to so many older and iconic movies are now nothing more than pop culture cliches (I'm looking at you, 2001: SPACE ODYSSEY theme). It's because the images that they are paired with sync in a way that is transcendent. But enough introductions, hit the jump for the review.

Just to preface this, I purchased the Apple Lossless version of of the album and listened with my Beats headphone. Because, hey, I've got the hard drive space, and I'm willing to have good audio. To begin, this is yet another collaboration between the Academy Award winning duo, former Nine Inch Nails front man, Trent Reznor, and his long time buddy, Atticus Ross, and this time they scored the David Fincher American remake of the Swedish film and book, THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO.

The soundtrack contains over two and a half hours of "pieces" and two actual songs, including one featuring the Yeah Yeah Yeah's Karen O covering Led Zeppelin's Immigrant Song, which most have heard from the original teaser trailer, and the other being a How To Destroy Angels track, which is Reznor's main band as of late. Immigrant Song and the HTDA track, Is Your Love Strong Enough?, book end the soundtrack which helps keep the soundtrack's very fluid feel. Unlike last year's THE SOCIAL NETWORK soundtrack where you had a lot of very catchy and almost poppy riffs within the songs, most of the tracks in this album just seem to seamlessly transition from one to the other.

The instrumentation is very similar to the latter day Reznor output, meaning there are lots of sparse synthesizers, drum machines, the occasional overly processed and distorted guitar, and some crazy sound effects at a slower tempo. There were some stand-out tracks such as Great Bird Of Prey, Please Take Your Hand Away, What if We Could? and With The Flies,, but most of them feel like they exist to serve the scene and to create a very moody atmosphere that feels reminiscent of the original Swedish film.

A big point of contention is how you listen to the soundtrack. The soundtrack is quite lengthy, and I believe it actually is longer than the movie itself. Most soundtracks are a pretty short listen which makes them easily accessible. But this is a hard album to listen to all the way through in one setting, unless you're doing a marathon study session/walking/writing/whatever you do when you're listening to this. You almost need some smoke breaks in between. It doesn't help that around every 13 tracks or so there seems to be a thematic shift among the songs. For example, the middle third of the album has a tendency of being more mellow and sparse while the last third feels more aggressive. The best way of listening to this album is not just through an iPod but either through the three C.D. set or the six vinyl record set, that way the themes come out more easily and the album is more easily digestible since it's broken up between disk/records.

Even with those issues, trust me when I say you're getting your money's worth with this album. The tracks stand as their own entities without needing to have seen the film. It's a joy to listen to with a good pair of quality headphones where you can hear the intricacies of the sound design. It doesn't quite have the catchy tracks like THE SOCIAL NETWORK soundtrack did, but this works really well as a standalone piece of music.

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