Atomic [OST] (CD)

Mogwai – the Scottish purveyors of contemplative, swirling, cinematic instrumentals – have certainly found an extracurricular niche scoring diverse projects such as the documentary Zidane: A 21st Century Portrait, Darren Aronofsky's film The Fountain, and French TV series Les Revenants. Their latest album, Atomic, is a re-recording of their soundtrack to the Mark Cousins' Hiroshima documentary for the BBC, Storyville - Atomic: Living In Dread & Promise. More of an art-piece than a documentary, Storyville deals with the horror, fear, innovation, and hope surrounding the events of the Hiroshima nuclear bomb with images and moods as opposed to a structured narrative. Mogwai’s Atomic matches the film’s contrasts at every turn with their trademark shifts from shimmering minimalism to grand noise-oriented rock, sometimes in a sinister vein. The dualities of the modern world – innovation and obliteration – are heard in these revelatory shifts. 

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Moana [OST] (CD)

If you've stepped out of your house sometime in the last three years, at some point you were bombarded with the inescapable soundtrack from Frozen. Those songs were everywhere and became part of American pop culture in an unexpected way. Disney is looking to strike twice with the soundtrack to their newest film, Moana, even recruiting the talents of Lin-Manuel Miranda (of Hamilton fame) to mix things up and give it a new dimension and success. The film is set in the South Pacific, so the songs all have flavors of Polynesian melodies with island rhythms, Hawaiian percussion, and catchy chanting that feels perfect to sing along to. Australian band Te Vaka was enlisted to capture the feel and sound with the right level of authenticity. Bandleader Opetaia Foa'i uses the sounds of Somoa and New Zealand to capture a type of music which you've never heard before. "Logo te Pate," one of their classic tracks used in the film, is catchy beyond belief. With the heavy drums, clapping, and chanting, the song almost possesses you to dance and move. The song doesn't use any synths, just old fashioned musical styles that make it addictive and it will get stuck in your ear. This music is atypical of Disney's Broadway-style songs, but is no less moving than any of their previous soundtracks. When Hollywood scores start to sound the same, Moana's soundtrack is a refreshing splash of cold water.

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Almost Christmas [OST] (CD)

Likely to be a popular gift this season is John Paesano’s soundtrack for the 2016 holiday family mayhem romp Almost Christmas. Most recently renowned for his sober compositions of The Maze Runner franchise and Netflix’s Daredevil, Paesano’s string work can be at times heavy-handed for a comedy about a grandpa (Walter, played by Danny Glover) wanting his family to get along for Christmas. While a track like “Walter In Bed” is more apt for Matt Murdock rising like a phoenix once again as his indestructible alter ego Daredevil, perhaps Paesano and the film’s director David E. Talbert are making a statement about the heroics of this elder window. Otherwise, the majority of Paesano’s compositions here are mostly full of funky fun, such as “Shatow!” and “You Don’t Want Her To Get Grandma,” which easily could have oozed out of a ‘70’s exploitation flick. His infectious version of “Oh Christmas Tree,” with its cool Jimmy Smith organ riffs, almost blows Vince Guaraldi’s “O Tannenbaum” out of the water. Almost. Additional popular music used in the film also appears on this soundtrack, including the funk of The Dazz Band to the soul of The Four Tops to the schlock of Force MD’s, and some well-placed Slick Rick.

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