Thursday, May 29, 2014

The Sounds of Winter

It's been a few months since Captain America: The Winter Soldier swept into theaters. But there's been a lot keeping it on my mind. Besides the fantastic run of episodes of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. that resulted, I've been enjoying the soundtrack album of the movie's score.

The Winter Soldier was scored by Henry Jackman, not necessarily one of the more well-known composers scoring films these days, and not the man who scored Captain America's previous outing. (He does have a superhero pedigree, however; he scored both Kick-Ass films, and X-Men: First Class.) There are many composers whose work I can identity from just a phrase or two of music, but Henry Jackman's voice is one I don't quite know yet.

Actually, some of what's here seems imitative of other work... though not at all in a bad way. The first track of the album, for example -- "Lumerian Star" -- seems quite reminiscent of the music for The Dark Knight, scored by Hans Zimmer and James Newton Howard. But here's the key distinction: it's inventive too. Consider Zimmer's work from Man of Steel for comparison. I enjoy that score too, to be sure, but it's so similar to his style for The Dark Knight Rises that when one or the other comes up on my shuffle, I can't always tell which one is which. They seem like copies of one another. But Henry Jackman, to the degree he adopts the style here for this opening track, feels like he's created a cousin of the Joker's theme, not a clone. It's an effective blend of the disjointed and the familiar.

There's plenty more innovation throughout the rest of the score. Jackman uses a strong blend of orchestral and synthetic sounds in most tracks, showcased most strongly in "Fury," his pulse-pounding music for the big chase sequence involving Nick Fury. Sometimes the balance shifts between those two sound palettes. For example, his theme for "The Winter Soldier" himself is more soundscape than music at times, a sonic assault that perfectly represents the brutal character.

There are a few source cue tracks at the end of the album (Harry James and Marvin Gaye) that I leave out. And sometimes and not in the mood for the quieter, more sedate tracks in the score. But generally, this soundtrack serves up a lot of energizing action-adventure. I'm still listening to it weeks later. I'd give the album a B overall.

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