It's a pretty light release week leading into the new year, but a few notable releases are hitting stores, including Solange Knowles' much-anticipated True EP as well as some big soundtrack releases.
Broadcast – Berberian Sound Studio
This posthumous Broadcast album is the soundtrack to an upcoming independent film about a sound engineer who loses his mind while soundtracking an Italian giallo film — think Suspiria. True to its background, the soundtrack is full of ominous organ tones, whispered Italian and the terrifying sounds of screaming into madness. This may not sound like the recipe for a Broadcast album, which typically are more subtly haunting works of droning electonic pop, featuring the ethereal vocals of the late Trish Keenan. It is instead more in line with the “in betweens” in Broadcast’s work — the interstitial instrumental tracks, their instrumental collaboration with The Focus Group — which serves to show just how much depth there was (and is) to Broadcast’s work. Though Keenan’s trademark voice only appears occasionally, mostly as wordless breathing over the proceedings, their ghostlike quality further the foreboding tone of the album. Barberian Sound Studio’s dissonant tones and frightening utterances aren’t for anyone, but Broadcast fans (and fans of giallo films and Italian soundtrack kings like Goblin) won’t be let down by the vampiresque sound world created in Berberian Sound Studio.
Solange – True
What is it about “Losing You” that makes it one of the most enjoyable songs released in recent memory? Is it those gently bummed-out synths, or Solange’s warm vocals bubbling along blithely with the music? Whatever that unnamed quality is, that thankfully continues through the rest of Solange’s True EP, her first release in her new, more indie-friendly guise, released on Grizzly Bear’s Chris Taylor’s co-owned lable, Terrible. Despite its name, “Some Things Never Seem to Fucking Work” has the same casual grace as the single, drawing from ’80s R&B vocally and dreamy radio hits of the era by Phil Collins and Alphaville musically. “Locked in Closets” pairs spare 808-funk with a silky ’90s R&B style vocal. “Lovers in the Parking Lot” is the next-catchiest song on the album, its chorus sticking in the mind as Knowles goes hard on herself for letting a guy get away. “Don’t Let Down” is the most experimental track on the disc, with squirrly synth stabs and cut-up vocals cut turning unexpectedly lush in a unique movement. True closes with “Bad Girls,” a lovelorn slow-motion ballad that lets Solange loose a bit vocally, going high and birdlike, turning yet a new leaf and leaving us hungering for more. If this is just the first taste of the true Solange Knowles, the name “Beyonce” won’t even come to mind next time around.
Dropkick Murphys – Signed and Sealed in Blood
The latest from the Irish pub-rock kingpins does what they do best, booming with intensity and vibrancy while lacing the music with traditional instrumentation like banjo and stomping percussion. “The Boys Are Back” shuffles between a pogoing punk rhythm and its rousing chorus. “Prisoner’s Song” is similarly anthemic, while “Rose Tattoo” goes for the heart by way of a walking blues ballad. Remarkably the band remains adept both at going full-force pub punk (“Burn”) and more sensitive material that draws from traditional Irish music, such as the beer-soaked elegy “Jimmy Collins’ Wake.” They even squeeze in a Christmas song with “The Season’s Upon Us.” Signed and Sealed in Blood’s good-natured Irish punk is strong enough to ensure Dropkick Murphys will be a sports bar staple for years to come.
Zero Dark Thirty [Original Soundtrack]
Composer Alexandre Desplat’s soundtrack for Zero Dark Thirty will hopefully get the same kind of accolades its accompanying film has received. Desplat, who also soundtracked the Oscar-winning The King’s Speech and this year’s similarly well-received Argo, among many others, dials down the volume while pushing the intensity. There’s a striking subtlety and variety here, in the jazz-inflected “Drive to Embassy,” which gives way to the spare, industrial “Bombings,” leading into the synthesized Eastern tonalities of “Ammar.” “Seals Take Off” is terrifically tense, its strings and horn blasts breathing air into a claustrophobic score. A dark bassline moves “Preparation for Attack” into epic territory, while “Balawi” is elegiac, with a beautiful, mournful vocal. The blend of real and synthesized sounds, in addition to the foreboding, contemplative quality to the Desplat’s score, serve as an appropriate backdrop to the film, about the 10-year search for Osama Bin Laden, as well as a stunning piece of music in its own right.
Girls [Original Soundtrack]
True to its show, the soundtrack for HBO’s “Girls” is a snapshot of current music a mid-20s city girl might be spinning. You have the requisite sparkling synth-pop of “Dancing on My Own” by Robyn, used so well on the show when Hannah learns to accept that she has HPV and that her ex-boyfriend is gay. The soundtrack moves between amenable folk, like Harper Simon’s Elliott Smith-ish “Wishes and Stars” and Fleet Foxes' winsome “Montezuma,” and alternative dance pop by Icona Pop, White Sea and Oh Land. The choices here are somewhere between adventurous and safe, making the soundtrack an ideal sampler to newer sounds for listeners weaned on radio pop, as well as an easy way to pick up a batch of quality indie hits. Jessa would totally approve.