Saturday, May 6, 2017

Spotlight On...The Fast and the Furious

The newest Spotlight On takes a look back at the The Fast and the Furious franchise.
These street racing/heist/revenge action films are more popular than ever and have featured what feels like the most frequent action cues.  So rev up your engines and let's take a look back on the films score by score.

The Fast and the Furious (2001)
Music by BT
Composer and musician Brian Transeau was well established in the electronica world, but film scoring was still relatively new.  His score features some non-traditional writing techniques and included complex rhythm patterns on car chassis parts.  Clearly the techno style has followed through most of the later films.  Since the original focus was the song soundtrack, only a few tracks appear on the More Fast and Furious album.  (Just listen to: Race Wars, Nocturnal Transmission, The Fast and the Furious Theme) 

2 Fast 2 Furious (2003)
Music by David Arnold
Director John Singleton brought David Arnold to this less than desirable sequel, with a few action James Bond films under his belt.  Arnold matched the glowing street racing musically with a hard rock influence of drum loops and electronic elements.  Unfortunately no score tracks were released on any official albums.

The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift (2006)
Music by Brian Tyler
Tyler continued the mix of electronics and orchestra, letting guitars and brass stay in the forefront of the constant action cues.  Tyler does include a bit more thematic material that threads through the score.  His action writing led to Tyler basically taking over the franchise's overall sound.  (Just listen to: Neela Drifts, Downtown Tokyo Chase, Symphonic Touge)

Fast & Furious (2009)
Music by Brian Tyler
More symphonic than the last, the score never loses its roots in the guitars and electronic rhythms and hints of techno.  Welcome slower moments include Letty's acoustic guitar theme and love theme.  (Just listen to: Letty, The Showdown, Suite)

Fast Five (2011)
Music by Brian Tyler
The orchestral side of the score is more dominant.  The drumset, guitars and electronic loops give the score a bit more edge.  The new main theme will become a film mainstay while new characters (like Dwayne Johnson's Hobbs) lead to some new thematic motifs.  Overall, Tyler continues his typical action chops, with some memorable cues that don't feel like retreaded material.  (Just listen to: The Perfect Crew, Dom Vs Hobbs, Train Heisht, The Vault Heist)

Fast & Furious 6 (2013)
Music by Lucas Vidal
With Tyler stepping aside for other projects, young composer Vidal stepped with an equally action-packed score that blends nicely with the past scores.  In fact, themes and full cues from Tyler's scores of films 4 and 5 appear.  In addition, no official score album was released. 

Furious 7 (2015)
Music by Brian Tyler
For film 7, Tyler returned with possibly the freshest of the scores while still developing past material.  The main theme returns as does the theme for Hobbs, and a menacing theme for villain Shaw.  Choir makes an appearance in this score, seemingly upping the score just like the films themselves.  The emotional side of the series has popped up occasionally, but with Paul Walker's touching tribute, Tyler's emotional aspect exactly hits the mark.  (Just listen to: Furious 7, Battle of the Titans, One Last Stand, Farewell)

The Fate of the Furious (2017)
Music by Brian Tyler
Containing some of the betrayal and vengeance parts of the film, Tyler connected several past themes for Letty and Dom in slighty darker moments.  All of the Tyler essentials appear at full blast.  This score doesn't add much to the musical world we've heard already as the long album moves along.  (Just listen to: Zombie Time, Davidaniya, The Return)  

Check out the others in the SPOTLIGHT ON.... SERIES!

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Top 10 Scores Turning 20 in 2017

And now for another ride on the musical time machine!  Looking back, it is so hard to believe that these scores from 1997 are 20 years old!  So let's take a look back at 1997 with my list of the 10 Best Scores Turning 20!

Let's start the ranking!

10. Air Force One (Jerry Goldsmith)
Written as a replacement for Randy Newman's score (in two weeks!) this bombastic score isn't the best Goldsmith can offer, but it's full of Americana, a shamelessly patriotic sounding main theme and extended action material.

9. Contact (Alan Silvestri)
Silvestri's score is hopeful, and sentimental. Parts of the score sound close to the introspective style of Forrest Gump, with the occasional action cue. Music really goes for the emotion than the science elements in most scenes and especially the climax. Silvestri would touch some of the same aspects to on the series Cosmos.

8. Men in Black (Danny Elfman)
Fitting in the niche of quirky comedy and sci-fi lands Elfman's score. Most of the score has a spy groove that becomes the identity of the MIB and its sequels. It has plenty of past and future Elfman elements with a lovely emotional guitar theme that often gets forgotten.

7. Seven Years in Tibet (John Williams)
The dramatic and personal tale is told with an almost reflective mood. There are moments of sweeping orchestral writing, and plenty more subtle and introspective moments with hints of the Tibetan locale. The score shines with haunting cello solos melodies performed by Yo-Yo Ma.

6. Anastasia (David Newman)
I do love song scores - especially in an animated film. In this case, Newman rarely interpolates the song melodies into the score and lets it become something on its own. The one exception would be the music box theme which ties both songs and score together. The Russian musical influences work well. I'd love to hear an expanded score album, with the original album featuring far more songs.

5. Tomorrow Never Dies (David Arnold)
The Bond franchise got a big jumpstart musically with Arnold's first score. For those worried about the future of these scores, Arnold was able to keep the mold of the Barry-era scores, while adding in new motifs and themes while piling on more blaring brass, jazz and techno.

4. Starship Troopers (Basil Poledouris)
Straddling the aggressive action and the military satire, Poledouris gave the large orchestra a strong workout of bombastic themes, brilliant action cues, creative orchestral techniques and the humorous propaganda bits.

3. L.A. Confidential (Jerry Goldsmith)
Source songs are featured heavily in the film with Goldsmith's score there to bind the rest of the film together. This dark noir features some fantastic instrumental writing and suspense cues. The trumpet variations of the main title are a particular standout.

2. The Lost World: Jurassic Park (John Williams)
Returning to the dinosaur blockbuster gave Williams a chance to take the score in a different direction. Matching the darker tone, the score went much darker with hardly any references to the majestic themes of the original. Instead a new theme conveyed a lot of the island travel and how scary the dinos can be with brutual action rhythms overlayed with lots of jungle-themed percussion. The score fares better in the film or in the expanded soundtrack.

1. Titanic (1997)
1997 was dominated by Titanic. Easily one of the most influential aspects is the score. Horner's grand and romantic score is dominated by Celtic influences, stunning vocal solos, lush orchestral and synth techniques. Even with all its flaws, this score's staying power 20 years later is astonishing. The radio play of the song, award winds and album sales is still rare for a film score.

Honorable Mentions:
Amistad (John Williams), Batman & Robin (Elliot Goldenthal), Con Air (Mark Mancina/Trevor Rabin), Face Off (John Powell), Good Will Hunting (Danny Elfman) My Best Friends Wedding (James Newton Howard).

Any favorites of yours from 1997 that I didn't include?  Comment below!

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Quick Review: Beauty and the Beast

Beauty and the Beast
Music composed by Alan Menken
Songs by Alan Menken, Howard Ashman, Tim Rice
Music conducted by Michael Kosarin
Music orchestrated by James Shearman, Kevin Kliesch, Michael Barry
Songs orchestrated by Doug Besterman, Michael Starobin, Danny Troob, Jonathan Tunick
Additional music and arrangements by Christopher Benstead, Michael Kosarin
Music recorded at Abbey Road Studios, AIR Lyndhurst Studios
Album running time: Regular (53 minutes), Deluxe (131 minutes)
Available on Walt Disney Records

The next film to receive the Disney live-action remake is Beauty and the Beast.  In the past films, they've mainly shied away from the full musicals or incorporating much of the musical past into the new film.  (The recent The Jungle Book is the exception with songs, and with mixed results).  This new film, however, takes the original musical film and adds more songs.  None of the songs written for the Broadway version have ported over (with one exception that I'll mention later).

For this film, we get 2 albums, with the deluxe edition adding in a full disc of newly written/arranged/orchestrated score by Alan Menken and the new songs presented in demo format.  Unfortunately, as Disney's habit of separating songs from score, you'll have to make your own film order arrangement by combining discs.  It is worth noting that the complete 1991 score has never been released, with only a few original tracks released. 

As far as material: “Prologue”, “Belle”, “Gaston”, “Be Our Guest”, “Something There”, “Beauty and the Beast”, “The Mob Song” all appear in full, with melodies used in the score again.  New material also appears in song and score: “Aria”, “How Does a Moment Last Forever”, “Days in the Sun”, and “Evermore”.  For new songs, Menken again collaborated with lyricist Tim Rice, who also was lyricist for the Broadway adaptation. 

I don’t feel particularly needed to review the songs –not much has changed from the originals.  There are obvious lyrical changes (some original cut lyrics from “Gaston” make an appearance) and the arrangements and larger orchestration are noticeable.  The newer songs have a bit of longing to them, and dig deeper into the minds and thoughts of our main characters.  The vocals are another matter, which are divisive amongst listeners.  Disc One ends with the end credit version of the new songs, and includes a handful of piano demos sung by Alan Menken. 

My focus is the new score featured on Disc Two of the Deluxe Edition.  Used heavily are the various thematic material – a Menken staple.  Melodies of “Beauty and the Beast”, “Belle”, “Be Our Guest” and the Prologue’s magic theme appear regularly while “Evermore”, “How Does a Moment Last Forever” and “Days in the Sun” make some important appearances.  Themes are woven into practically every track with some featuring alternate orchestrations/arrangements.

The score album opens with the full Main Title: Prologue sequence sans narrator.  Belle Meets Gaston is some light underscoring featuring both moments from Belle and Gaston's pompous motif.  Your Mother is a semi-continuation of “How Does a Moment Last Forever”, revealing a tender cello solo.  The Laverie incorporates bits of the “Belle” melody while giving a bit of French accordion feel.  The action cue Wolf Chase has a sense of menace using snarling brass and a hint at the melody from "Belle".  The magic theme melody is given a full reprise with chorus as the Beast's castle is revealed.  

Entering the Castle is a bit mysterious and hesitant and ends with a musical cameo of harpsichord-led “Be Our Guest”.  The White Rose continues the same style, before becoming larger with magic theme statements in the strings as the brass shine.  The Beast contains some of brooding, darker moments of the score.  The magic theme is often quoted, with a reprise of “How Does a Moment Last Forever” in a touching cello solo, using the theme as a connection between Belle and her father.

Meet the Staff begins the more lighthearted sections with the transformed objects, with accordions introducing Lumiere as the “Be Our Guest” theme is used.  If the bulk of Home sounds familiar, the twinkling melody is from the Broadway song of the same name.  The earlier song “Aria” makes a reprise as it introduces Madame de Garderobe with a playful waltz.

There's A Beast and A Petal Drops alternate between the sweet and brooding sounds, with a few magic theme quotes, giving the Beast a more sorrowful backstory.  A Bracing Cup of Tea contains some lovely featured solos melodies of “Days in the Sun” and “How Does a Moment Last Forever”.  The West Wing gives hints to “Be Our Guest” again, this time in an interesting arrangement, and later features a dramatic quote of “Days in the Sun” before building upon the magic theme.  Wolves Attack Belle is larger than the earlier wolf sequence, with jabbing strings, strong choir and pounding percussion.  Slower and minor-key arrangements of “Belle”, magical rose theme and “Something There” make appearances.

The Library features a warm string sound and woodwind solos, all while giving the first hint of the melody from “Beauty and the Beast”.  Colonnade Chat features lovely statements of “Evermore” and “Beauty and the Beast” with a sweeping orchestral crescendo at the end.  The Plague is a short cue, featuring another snippet of “Evermore”.  Maurice Accuses Gaston is a bit darker keeping the strings on their opposite ranges for an eerie effect.  

Beast Takes a Bath begins with lighthearted accordion reprise of “Evermore”, “Beauty and the Beast” and another frilly waltz reprise of “Aria” for comic effect.  The Dress builds upon the 'little town' melody from “Belle” before the celeste and orchestra lead into a reprise of “Home” and serves as a delightfully syrupy introduction to their first dance.  You Must Go to Him reprises “Beauty and the Beast” on harp and “Evermore” returns as his chance for love might be gone.

Belle Stops the Wagon balances between drama and action, giving a few action arrangements of past themes among fast string runs and brass and suspenseful writing.  Castle Under Attack begins with an air of spookiness as the magic theme is reprised before the orchestra (and castle objects) attack into a frenzy.  There are humorous nods to several past themes (including a funny moment for Maestro Cadenza the harpsichord) and the themes shine as their characters interact on screen culminating in a frenzied finale of “Be Our Guest”.  Turret Pursuit continues the large orchestral sound, again with the magic theme, “Evermore” and “Beauty and the Beast” making appearances amongst the action as the action rotates around the Beast and Gaston.

You Came Back continues the action material from the last cue, before quotes of the twinkling magic theme, “Beauty and the Beast”, "Home" and moving reprises of “Evermore” take over.  It's beautifully moving as themes are brought back as we transition to Transformations.  It's almost note-for-note from the original film in some sections, with the magic theme finally taking its large moment as the Beast transforms.  The exciting finale naturally reprises all the main themes as the film focuses on all the characters individually – “Beauty and the Beast”, “Be Our Guest”, and “Days in the Sun”.  A horn reprises “How Does a Moment” before fading away, an odd ending of the album without the songs and end credits in the proper order.

This new version of Beauty and the Beast feels a bit bloated (it is around 45 minutes longer) than the original film.  Expanding upon the original work a few times since 1991, Menken’s evolution of the themes is the strongest aspect of this new score.  This does show Alan Menken’s progression as a score composer – even in 1991 he was still new to film.  We hear new arrangements and variations on the classic themes which blend easier with the score and new material.  I know director Bill Condon was going for a different atmosphere with the film, and giving Menken a temp-track to catch the right mood.  The larger expanded orchestra works nicely in some moments while the lighter and more nimble orchestration from the animation is clearly missing from this new film.  While several aspects of the new score works, there’s no matching the original’s magical touch.  

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Top 10 Scores Turning 30 in 2017

My newest yearly tradition - taking a ride on the musical time machine. This was a tough one: 1987 had a list of great scores that have stood the test of time, and over 30 years become fan favorites. So let's take a look back at 1987 with my list of the 10 Best Scores Turning 30!

Let's start the ranking!

10. The Princess Bride (Mark Knopfler)
Yes, the score is outdated and corny. The action bits are goofy, but the romantic acoustic guitar make this score still likable and unmistakable after all these years.
9. Hellraiser (Christopher Young)
For this horror flick, Young brought the horror score to a large orchestra while expanding the orchestral textures. The gothic style would be his mainstay for many more films and a larger trend in orchestral horror scores. 
8. Harry and the Hendersons (Bruce Broughton)
For this comedy/drama/family film, Broughton uses a strong main theme and brings it through many variations - a classical Mozart style, a love theme and even fits into the cartoon-style antics for Harry. It is rare to find a charming and heartfelt score as touching as this. 
7. Lethal Weapon (Michael Kamen & Eric Clapton)
Kamen and Clapton collaborated with the BBC miniseries Edge of Darkness, and again for this film. With this quintessential 80's action blockbuster, Kamen brought the orchestral chops, themes, with Clapton adding his guitar expertise, with David Sanborn on sax solos. This trio would return for the rest of the series, and Kamen would continue his large scale orchestral action to Die Hard. 
6. Witches of Eastwick (John Williams)
In a rare comedic turn, Williams' score matches the humor and menace of this tale. The main theme is devilish scherzo which repeats through the score and the playful woodwind writing stands out as more scores went electronic. His arrangement of the main theme - retitled Devil's Dance has made frequent appareances at his film music nights for years. 
5. The Living Daylights (John Barry)
The last James Bond film scored by Barry, the music mixes the old style with the modern drum loops and synth elements. Melodies are strong and heard often, with great suspense motifs used. Easily one of the best of Barry's later Bond work. Notable also for the cameo by Barry conducting an orchestra featuring the female lead as cello soloist.
4. Empire of the Sun (John Williams)
While often a forgotten film of Steven Spielberg, the score is extremely emotional and effective. Through our main character, the score transforms from frightening/sometimes atonal to the imaginative world he created. The choir used in the second half of the film is moving and used very well. The beautiful Cadillac of the Skies and joyful Exsultate Justi have also made film concert appearances. 
3. The Untouchables (Ennio Morricone)
The match the striking Brian DePalma visuals, Morricone produced an arresting score full of tension-filled cues and strong themes. He displays bits of jazz, music box suspense, a lyrical family theme, and haunting death theme. A standout for a Hollywood score by Morricone.
2. Robocop (Basil Poledouris)
The orchestral and electronic elements work together in this dark action film.  Even while director Paul Verhoeven goes comic or satirical, Poledouris plays it straight with a full range of large orchestral themes and motifs even during the action material.     
1. Predator (Alan Silvestri)
Silvestri brought a thrilling score to the alien jungle thriller. He provides a relentless drive to the film led by the piano/snare militaristic theme. He layers on dissonant brass, high tension strings, noble trumpet moments, jungle percussion and synth material. It's like a darker minor-theme version counterpart to Back to the Future. It's a score that still stands out

Honorable Mentions:
*batteries not included (James Horner), Cherry 2000 (Basil Poledouris), Innerspace (Jerry Goldsmith), The Last Emperor (Ryuichi Sakamoto/David Byrne), Monster Squad (Bruce Broughton) 

Any favorites of yours from 1987 that I didn't include? Comment below!

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Sharing a Film Score

Every so often a composer equally shares a film score.  Sometimes they actually collaborate on the score and sometimes another composer is called in to supplement or replace.  Since the beginning of the film industry, there have been additional composers, uncredited composers, and music directors that have done plenty of scoring jobs as well.  But in this case, I've selected 5 different films and how the composers worked together to achieve the final product.

1. The Egyptian (Bernard Herrmann and Alfred Newman)
For this 1954 religious epic, two of the heaviest hitters of scoring actually worked together.  Newman was originally assigned to the score, but other scoring commitments and deadlines had Fox studio head Darryl Zanuck recommend Franz Waxman or Bernard Herrmann to finish the project.  Newman composed several cues and melodic ideas which Herrmann came in to arrange and develop.  A rarity in his career, Herrmann did eventually collaborate with Newman to form a cohesive score.  The score in the end sounds more like a Herrmann score, but each cue has a separate composer credit and each composer even conducted their respective cues at the recording sessions.  

2. Batman Begins (Hans Zimmer and James Newton Howard)
Story goes that Christopher Nolan had Zimmer in mind for the score for this new Batman franchise.  Zimmer turned to veteran composer Howard as a possible collaborator.  Rather than splitting the work, they composed together taking turns at each other's material. Indeed it is often hard to tell who wrote which cues with many shared by both composers - but sometimes you can as stylistic choices give some parts away.  Additional composers and orchestrators helped unify the score's sound.  With the sequel, The Dark Knight, Zimmer and Howard divided more of their work up separately.      

3. The Social Network (Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross)
Initially asked by director David Fincher, Reznor first turned the project down before finally accepting.  Reznor then turned to Atticus Ross (who previously co-wrote and produced Nine Inch Nails albums) to co-write the score with him.  Exploring new ways to produce sound and expand on earlier Nine Inch Nails electronic sounds, the results are oddly mesmerizing and unsettling.  They both share credit on the film (which went on to win the Academy Award) and later work together on Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Gone Girl and Patriots Day.

4. Chicken Run (John Powell and Harry Gregson-Williams)
After working with Hans Zimmer's Media Ventures and several DreamWorks films, they worked together on Antz.  Naturally they teamed up again for Chicken Run.  This wacky score seems to be primarily Powell, but both composers shared each others themes.  Their successful scores together led to their collaboration on their most popular project - Shrek.    

5. The Last of the Mohicans (Trevor Jones and Randy Edelman)
For Michael Mann's 1992 film, he turned to Jones for an electronic score.  When the production changed to a more traditional orchestral sound, Jones reworked and rewrote a large majority of the score including the main thematic and battle material.  To finish scenes not scored, Mann turned to Edelman who composed a handful of cues for some of the quieter moments.  Overall the score is mostly Jones' work.  The original soundtrack album oddly separated the composers work into distinct parts, while a 2000 re-recording put the cues back in film order.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Song and Score Oscar Winners

With the recent Oscar win of Original Score and Original Song going to Justin Hurwitz's on La La Land, I thought back to the other times both Song and Score Oscar went to the same film (and in many cases the same composer).

It is interesting to note how the patterns of film scores go from musicals, to the title tunes of the 1960's, to the overwhelming wins of the Disney renaissance years and the infrequent occurrences since.  I've also include a handful of ceremony pictures just for fun.

1939 (12th Academy Awards)
The Wizard of Oz (score by Herbert Stothart)
"Over the Rainbow" (music by Harold Arlen, lyrics by Yip Harburg)

1940 (13th Academy Awards)
Pinocchio (score by Leigh Harline and Paul J. Smith)
"When You Wish Upon A Star" (music by Leigh Harline, lyrics by Ned Washington)

1952 (25th Academy Awards)
High Noon (score by Dimitri Tiomkin)
"The Ballad of High Noon" (music by Dimitri Tiomkin, lyrics by Ned Washington)

1955 (28th Academy Awards)
Love is a Many-Splendored Thing (score by Alfred Newman)
"Love is a Many-Splendored Thing" (music by Sammy Fain, lyrics by Paul Francis Webster)

1958 (31st Academy Awards)
Gigi (score by Andre Previn)
"Gigi" (music by Frederick Loewe, lyrics by Alan Jay Lerner)

1961 (34th Academy Awards)

Breakfast at Tiffany’s (score by Henry Mancini)
"Moon River" (music by Henry Mancini, lyrics by Johnny Mercer)

1964 (37th Academy Awards)
Mary Poppins (score by Richard M. Sherman and Robert B. Sherman)
"Chim Chim Cher-ee" (music and lyrics by Richard M. Sherman and Robert B. Sherman)

1966 (39th Academy Awards)
Born Free  (score by John Barry)
"Born Free" (music by John Barry, lyrics by Don Black)

1969 (42nd Academy Awards)
Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (score by Burt Bacharach)
"Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head" (music by Burt Bacharach, lyrics by Hal David)

1973 (46th Academy Awards)
The Way We Were (score by Marvin Hamlisch)
"The Way We Were" (music by Marvin Hamlisch, lyrics by Alan & Marilyn Bergman)

1980 (53rd Academy Awards)
Fame (score by Michael Gore)
"Fame" (music by Michael Gore, lyrics by Dean Pitchford)

1989 (62nd Academy Awards)

The Little Mermaid (score by Alan Menken)
"Under the Sea" (music by Alan Menken, lyrics by Howard Ashman)

1991 (64th Academy Awards)
Beauty and the Beast (score by Alan Menken)
"Beauty and the Beast" (music by Alan Menken, lyrics by Howard Ashman)

1992 (65th Academy Awards)

Aladdin (score by Alan Menken)
"A Whole New World" (music by Alan Menken, lyrics by Tim Rice)

1994 (67th Academy Awards)
The Lion King (score by Hans Zimmer)
"Can You Feel the Love Tonight" (music by Elton John, lyrics by Tim Rice)

1995 (68th Academy Awards)
Pocahontas (score by Alan Menken)
"Colors of the Wind" (music by Alan Menken, lyrics by Stephen Schwartz)

1997 (70th Academy Awards)
Titanic (score by James Horner)
"My Heart Will Go On" (music by James Horner, lyrics by Will Jennings)

2003 (76th Academy Awards)
The Lord of The Rings: The Return Of The King (score by Howard Shore)
"Into the West" (music and lyrics by Annie Lennox, Howard Shore, Fran Walsh)

2008 (81st Academy Awards)
Slumdog Millionaire (score by A.R. Rahman)
"Jai Ho" (music by A.R. Rahman, lyrics by Gulzar)

2016 (89th Academy Awards)
La La Land (score by Justin Hurwitz)
"City of Stars" (music by Justin Hurwitz, lyrics by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul)

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Quick Review: La La Land

La La Land
Music composed by Justin Hurwitz
Songs composed by Justin Hurwitz, lyrics by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul
Music conducted by Tim Davies
Music orchestrated by Justin Hurwitz
Soundtrack running time: 45 minutes
Score album running time: 52 minutes
Available on Interscope Records

One of the most talked about films in the 2016 season was La La Land. Director/Writer Damien Chazelle teamed up again with composer Justin Hurwitz after their breakout film Whiplash (2014).  Music is just as much a major component in this film, with large musical numbers harking back to the old Hollywood studio musical days.  This story tells the industry ups and downs of Sebastian (Ryan Gosling) the jazz pianist looking for a club of his own and Mia (Emma Stone) an actress wanting her big break.  

The music and songs weave the story together and there are two album releases - soundtrack with all the songs, jazz source cues and score highlights, and the score album with no songs.  Naturally, there is a bit of overlap between the two albums with tracks appearing on both.  For the full experience, you'd have to make your own film arrangement playlist.  For now, I'll look at them separately but write about how the thematic material from one album expands into the other.

Much like the Disney Renaissance films,  the score is extensively linked to the songs.  Almost every song's melody is incorporated into parts of the score.  Here are the songs and their connections:
Another Day Of Sun - a Hollywood theme for their aspirations
City of Stars - Sebastian's Theme
The Fools Who Dream - Mia's Theme

The melody from A Lovely Night appears through the score, while Mia & Sebastian's Theme is the love theme heard prominently in the film.    

Let's start with the songs:
Another Day Of Sun starts the film off with a large production number on the freeway.  The infectious toe-tapping song introduces us to the Hollywood Theme and introduce the jazz instrumental influences, solo vocalists, big band large orchestra, samba feel, and large choral arrangement.  Someone in the Crowd continues the Hollywood big band style with fast paced action on screen with Mia and roommates dressing up to go on the town.  After a dance break and softer/slower section, the music roars back with a big chorus finish.  
A Lovely Night is the song that Mia and Sebastian flirt through.  Hurwitz's song echoes the styles and harmonies of old tunes, and the lyrics reflect the "totally not in love with you" style from 1940-1950s musicals.  The dance break gives orchestra time to show off with cute musical syncing, also fitting for that nostalgic feel.  City of Stars straddles the line of score as and song as the melody represents Sebastian's Theme through the film.  This version features piano, other orchestral bits and Sebastian singing longingly.  The next reprise of City of Stars is a duet and the lyrics represent their budding romance.  The piano accompaniment is stronger, but still features the minor key pattern - unusual for a tune between lovers.  It seems that this song is the breakout of the film, mainly because its thematic usage.

Start a Fire sounds like it should be out of place in this album, and it's on purpose.  It's a John Legend song, and he appears in the film as a band mate of Sebastian.  Funny enough, the characters are supposed to hate the song, but it's another catchy song for us.  The Audition (The Fools Who Dream) is Mia's standout song.  It comes in the film where we almost forget it's a musical - her song is spun out of dialogue as she sings it tearfully right to the camera.  I'll also add City of Stars (Humming) to the song list, it's exactly that - a guitar and humming rendition of City of Stars.  

And on to the score:
Mia Gets Home is a very short cue, but shows off a hint of Hurwitz's jazz instrumentation -  vibraphone, woodwinds, piano and celeste.  Bathroom Mirror/You're Coming Right? is upbeat with guitar, piano and drum set and feels like an extension of his song material.  Classic Rope-a-Dope is a bit of Mia's Theme on vibraphone with a few other instrumental flairs.  

Mia & Sebastian's Theme introduces their Love Theme, a gentle waltz on piano which is expanded as a large scale piano solo.  Stroll Up the Hill features more vibes, celeste and piano in this short flighty cue.  There The Whole Time/Twirl continues the previous orchestration and quotes moments of A Lovely Night.  Bogart & Bergman is an airy rendition of Mia's Theme heard later in The Fools Who Dream.  This charming arrangement features woodwinds on the melody, cascading celeste and pizzicato strings among others.

Mia Hates Jazz features Sebastian's Theme on guitar.  Herman's Habit is a full-on jazz tune, fitting right into the jazz club they visit.  Rialto At Ten seems like the same style jazz tune, but a chunk of it is the melody from A Lovely Night.  The short cue Rialto repeats the same A Lovely Night refrain on vibes.  Mia & Sebastian's Theme (Late for the Date) is a piano-led version of the theme, building to a thrilling statement of the theme in the string section with piano rippling arpeggios in the background.  Planetarium is one of the standout moments of the film as a result of the fanciful imagery and music.  At the beginning, flutes play off of each other before Mia & Sebastian's Theme takes off into a dreamy dancing waltz.  The orchestra builds several times before the fantastic full Disney princess-style statement of the theme.  The clarinets twirl the characters down (literally) with some playful musical banter between pizzicato strings and woodwinds that lead to a large final note.  

Holy Hell is another short cue with flitting woodwinds, light strings on a charming melody.  Summer Montage/Madeline brings the Lovely Night into a full jazz/big band setting giving the ensemble members a chance to shine.  It Pays brings the Hollywood theme (Another Day Of Sun) to the jazz setting with a killer sax solo.  Chicken on a Stick brings the Hollywood theme into another arrangement with vibes and celeste taking the majority of the melody.

City of Stars/May Finally Come True is the only song to make the score album, but this extended version contains an orchestral interlude.  Chinatown is light underscore with framework hints of the Hollywood theme under the celeste and vibes.  Surprise is a jazz number with trumpets in the foreground.  Boise uses the City of Stars melody, although this is sped up and swinging.  The piano carries the tune, with a saxophone solo adding a fantastic layer.

Missed the Play has a very paused rhythm with an appearance of Mia & Sebastian's Theme.  It's Over/Engagement Party has an extended intro on the score album, and then goes into a piano-led somber version of the dance break from Someone in the Crowd, making this version stand out compared to the happiness of earlier.  In its short time, The House In Front of the Library references Mia's Theme and Sebastian's Theme.  You Love Jazz Now returns us to the chorus and verse of A Lovely Night while Cincinnati fits as jazz club source music.  

Epilogue represents one of the highlights of the film letting the music, direction, choreography, costumes, art direction, et al really shine.  A 7-minute medley of the film's music, it starts with Mia & Sebastian's Theme and the lush, waltz variation before going into the Hollywood/Another Day Of Sun material and the Someone in the Crowd interlude before transitioning to Fools Who Dream (Mia's Theme) which almost becomes a different tune by changing the orchestration and it feels sunnier and more lilting than ever before.  A jazz rendition of Fools Who Dream takes over, with a short trumpet cadenza-like passage.    We return to Mia's Theme and when the chorus arrives, it becomes a thrilling magical moment.  City of Stars and the Love Theme are reprised, but the piano seems distant and bare.

The End is one more glimpse at the Love Theme with the choir and orchestra crescendoing to a final chord.  Credits brings us an orchestral arrangement of Another Day Of Sun with a larger sound, vocals and a few trumpet solos.  This cue is by far one of the catchiest tunes to walk out of a theater to.  The album ends with Mia & Sebastian's Theme (Celesta), with the celeste almost sounding like a dreamlike music box.          

This score is one of the only one like it this year.  Some listeners have made comparisons in film and score to The Artist which was also a critics darling in 2011.  That score felt more pastiche than Justin Hurwitz's work on this film.

One thing that I always look forward to is song-to-score continuity.  When one composer tackles it all, it can flow evenly between and the parts mean more as a whole.  For example, the Alan Menken scores of the early 1990s, use this method which also takes its inspiration from the Broadway tradition.  In this film, Hurwitz also takes the jazz source music into the same level as original score (and also sometimes sneaking in a major melody in).  

He's matured a lot since Whiplash (2014) with Tim Simonec writing a bunch of the in-film jazz music.  The score cover credits Hurwitz as "Music Composed and Orchestrated by", which is a great to see with the crafting of the orchestra is essential to this film.  The instrumentation makes it not sound like any recent score.  The jazz arrangements are also fantastic and played by some of the best (Randy Kerber as featured pianist, Wayne Bergeron on trumpet and Dan Higgins on sax, among others).  Credit also goes to lyricists Benj Pasek and Justin Paul (known also for their Broadway musical work).  So many lyrics fly by and it's worth seeking them out to catch them.

In this throwback/homage/nostalgic film of classic Hollywood and French musicals, the music carries a lot of weight.  I found Justin Hurwitz's music sticking the landing at each moment, crafting a handful of melodies and utilizing them from the saddest moments to the brightest dance breaks and all the romance in between.  As the film sweeps at just about every awards ceremony in 2016-2017, I'm thrilled to see lots of recognition to this excellent score.