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Saturday, May 30, 2015

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Michael Giacchino -- Lost Season 3 (Original Television Soundtrack)

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If you want the short of this review, here it is: Lost Season 3 (Original Television Soundtrack) is overall enjoyable, but doesn't hold together quite as well as the season it was created for.
For those who want the long of it...this is going to take awhile.
Lost's third season may be the most noteworthy of the Lost's entire run--it's the hinge-pin. Show runners, Carlton Cuse and Damon Lindelof, had to make some major decisions about the very nature of the show: what exactly is this Lost show anyway? What is it really about? How should it tell that story? How long was going it going to run? A certain fan contingent complained about how the first and second seasons would air a handful of new episodes, then a few repeat episodes, then a string of new episodes again. Despite the fact that this is how television has aired for decades, this group complained that airing the show this way was completely unfair and too confusing.
In response, ABC announced that Lost would air a six episode "pod" of episodes beginning October of 2006, take a three-month hiatus, and then air one new episode a week, continuously, for 16 weeks, without interruption (being the definition of continuously). The answer to just how long Lost was going to run for, though, was not answered til near the end of Season Three. Ostensibly, ABC wanted to run Lost for either forever, or when the show wasn't profitable anymore. This felt creatively stifling for Lindelof and Cuse. How were they supposed to keep a show like Lost going forever? How could they stretch the story they wanted to tell that far? The answer was, they couldn't. All it took to convince the network of this was an early Season Three episode entirely focused on how a particular character received a tattoo. Now they knew that Lost spinning its wheels was perhaps in nobody's best interest. As a result, Lindelof, Cuse, and ABC decided on a show end-date: May of 2010. The show would have three more seasons at its disposal, and an end in sight. As for all those more difficult, more abstract questions: what is Lost? and such...Season Three, particularly its first third acts as a sounding board.
Cuse and Lindelof had there work cut for them in that regard. Season Two ended with Lost's Oceanic 815 survivors spread across many geographical locations: several characters were kidnapped by the Others, several were scattered across the jungle in an explosion, and many were still hanging out safely on the beach. Therefore, the show had to jump around from place to place...meaning several episodes could pass before certain major characters even popped up. The majority of Lost's dozen-plus protagonists are not reunited until after the six-episode pod. Also, in a great example of the old "shoot yourself in the foot" expression, the producers made an ill-fated attempt to add two MORE characters to the show, who had apparently been there all along, so that past events could be explored from a different angle. The fans (yours truly included) were vitriolic about this creative choice. You are not only going to separate and alienate our favorite characters, but you're going to make us endure these two dunderheads in their stead?!
All of this together makes for quite a messy start. Season Three has trouble coming together during the opening pod, takes off for the two following episodes, as most of the characters reunite, then spins its wheels in the aforementioned "tattoo episode." However, after that episode, something incredible happens: the show rattles off perhaps the best 13-episode stretch of its entire 121-episode run--Cuse and Lindelof figured it out.
Apparently, the knowledge that the end was in sight freed the show runner duo to reveal the show's mysteries at a more natural pace, which then allows the show's characters to act and develop more naturally, as well. Also, they kill off those two dunderheads, halfway through the season. Most importantly, though, Lost completely flips its script in the Season Three finale...but I'll get to that soon enough (maybe not soon enough for some of you). Now, let's dive into a more thorough exploration of Lost, Season Three, and its accompanying soundtrack.
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Season Three begins just as Season One, with the crash of Oceanic 815...except, this time it's from "the Others"' perspective. Turns out the Others aren't savages, but civilized people living in their own little jungle suburb, replete with book clubs and fully equipped middle-class homes. Composer, Michael Giacchino, is given the honor of revealing the true nature of these island suburbanites, as the Others' slippery string theme rolls out the moment their book club is interrupted by 815's crash, in the album opening "In with a Kaboom!"
"...Kaboom"'s suspense then mounts with clanging percussion and frenzied...harp?, and then a more definitive statement of the Others' theme with rowdy brass...then the trademark Lost "stone locking into place" sound." Next (after the customary JJ Abrams-created sound of the show's logo) is "Awed and Shocked," a high energy brass and strings piece, featuring some hammered out low-end piano that sounds like it could accompany a sinister footrace in a 70's cop film. Then boom boom percussion, and the end.
"Fool Me Twice" features restatements of Ben's theme (Ben is the Others' leader) from Season Two with strings, then segues into the action theme introduced during the build up of "In with a KABOOM!" This action statement will be repeated throughout the season, eventually listed on the soundtrack as the "Paddle Jumper" theme.
Next is "Pagoda of Shame," a further exploration of 815'ers Sun and Jin's theme know what? There are 67 tracks on this soundtrack. There's is no way I am going to dissect every single one of them. You can hit up Lostpedia for that.
Let's get more general.
By this point, we've covered the first two episodes. So far, the show hasn't let us in on anything going on back at the main beach, where the majority of Lost's characters are currently hanging out. The third episode finally goes there, and features the standout track "The Island," featuring a bunch of creepy harp and then strings and clackity percussion, followed by a serious string barrage, as island seeker, John Locke, has one hell of a hallucination.
The next episode, "Every Man for Himself," further illustrates the severity of the situation faced by the survivors kidnapped by the Others, while also pinging over to the beach-dwellers, but there is no music from that episode on this soundtrack.
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Also, "Every Man for Himself" is a really hopeless damn hour of television.
The next episode, "The Cost of Living," is focused on the death of a character who ends up having contributed little to nothing to the long-run of the series, outside of making Season Two a bit more interesting. The Season Three soundtrack features three songs from that episode. Granted, the actor who played this character asked to be written off the show, derailing the writers' future plans for him, but it would still have been nice if an episode that proves so inconsequential to the show's run didn't receive 10% of disc one's run-time. As it is, these three tracks feature suspenseful, sometime violent strings, with a calm little interlude in the middle...WAIT A MINUTE!!! Eko and Yemi are mirrors for Jacob and the Man and Black! How come it takes me insulting something to realize the value in it, sometimes?!
Anyway, with this particular character dead, and consequently, all of the major "tailie" characters introduced during the previous season gone (sans sometimes the guest-starring Bernard), Season Two feels put to rest. And with the next episode, "I Do," one of the most emotionally draining of the show's entire run (there's a whole lot of crying and mud and yelling and guns, and also just a little bit of sex), Season Three's opening pod is put to rest.
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Giacchino contributes the gentle quivering strings of "Romancing the Cage" for the sex part, and the slow-burning string and percussion suspense of "Under the Knife" for the crying, mud, yelling, and guns part. Ben's theme comes up subtly in the background, as do the trombones, with the percussion growing heavier, leading into an emotional, almost defiant statement of the show's trademark death theme (including a brief solo piano statement), building and building suspense, and then that's it. Pod's over.
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With the ghosts of Season Two laid to rest, the beach clean, and most of our band of Others-captured heroes finally out of their cages and on the move, the show can get some momentum going.
First up is "I Do," a thrilling episode which humanizes the Others' Juliet, and which features Giacchino's booming "Teaser Time," and the more tender "Here Today, Gone to Maui." At this point, it sounds like Giacchino can rattle off tracks like "Here Today, Gone to Maui" in his sleep, and while the music is wonderful in service of its episode scene, that particular sound begins to grow a little tiresome on this soundtrack. "I Do" is followed by "Flashes Before Your Eyes," which further expands the legend of consciousness-time-jumping Desmond Hume. "Flashes Before Your Eyes" allows Giacchino to unleash his epic love theme for Desmond and and his girlfriend, Penny, in "Distraught Desmond." Desmond and Penny's love is supposed to be LITERALLY mightier than time and space, and Giacchino makes you believe it (also, Henry Ian Cusick's and Sonya Walger's excellent performances certainly don't hurt...also, this episode aired on the night of my wife and my first Valentine's Day...we stayed in...nice). Granted, this hasn't exactly been a century full of orchestral love themes, but Desmond and Penny's has to be somewhere near the 21st-century top.
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"Flashes Before Your Eyes" also deepens bonds between Desmond and several of the survivors, particularly Charlie, and really exemplifies what Season Three does so well: deepens character relationships while moving Lost's story forward. Unfortunately, before this great quality can be further espoused, there is one hiccup in the road: the "tattoo episode."
"Stranger In a Strange Land" is generally considered the worst episode Lost ever aired. While it's not a great hour of television, I do not think that is a fair assessment. For one thing, "Stranger In a Strange Land" begins with Sawyer singing "Show Me the Way to Go Home" from Jaws. For another thing, it's completely harmless.
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Is Jack flying a kite with some random beautiful woman that runs up to him on the beach and starts hanging out with him for no reason good television? No, but it also doesn't hurt the show past the episode's 42-minute run time...unlike some of Season Two's episodes (COUGH***"Fire+Water"***COUGH***COUGH AGAIN, BUT A REAL COUGH THIS TIME...I HAVE THE FLU). "Stranger In a Strange Land" is just a silly little episode, and it's the last of the show's run that seems to obscure the Other's nature for no reason. Perhaps this is the episode that emboldened Cuse and Lindelof to not stall anymore, or maybe they were already well into the talks with ABC that led to the May 2007 decision to end the show three years later, after six seasons. Having an end date logically makes planning an ending easier, and from here on out, it's easier to tab all of Lost's seasons with the title of what they explore--3: The Others Season, 4: The Freighter Season, 5: The Dharma Season, and 6: The Jacob and the Man in Black Season, or simply, The Last Season. You can even retroactively call Season Two "The Hatch Season," now that it's clear Two is the only season to focus on it. Season Three's opening pod, as well as "Stranger In a Strange Land" share the same flaw: they want to flesh out the Others, but they don't want to show any skin. After "Stranger In a Strange Land," Season Three is a veritable Other's orgy.
As it stands, Giacchino adds two tracks from "Stranger..." to this soundtrack. The first is "Achara, Glad to See Me?" a gentle variation on Jack's theme with a nice little orchestral swell, followed by some sinister piano at the end. The second is "Ocean's Apart," a gorgeous, powerful rendition of Juliet's theme, with huge, hopeful strings, and an emotional piano line. While "Ocean's Apart" livens up the soundtrack, though, it actually makes the episode worse. The show wants us to believe that the Others move from Hydra Island to the Main Island (where the survivors' main beach is) is a big, emotional deal, but as Lost has been so mute about the Others true nature up to this point, "Ocean's Apart" is the equivalent of some stranger coming up to you off the street and saying, "Hey, we're going to be great friends!" You just want to shove them away. Still, when the episode is done, it's done, and Lost can move on to better things.  In this case, better things is Season Three, Episode Ten, "Tricia Tanaka Is Dead."
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I'll make a bold statement here: I think the fun, light-hearted "Tricia Tanaka Is Dead" is the most important episode in Lost's run. The second season of the show wavers in quality and lacks focus. The first third of Lost's third season wavers in quality and lacks focus. From "Tricia Tanaka..." on, the quality rarely wavers, and the show never lacks focus.
The premise of the episode is simple: the usually fun-loving Hurley is down. His best friend Charlie is down--Desmond, whose consciousness, as I've previously stated, is now jumping in time, has foreseen Charlie's death to be soon. Hurley finds a 20-year old van in the woods. Hurley decides he is going to get the van to run, in order to cheer up his friend. That's it. After so much wheel-spinning, this plot is literally about getting wheels to spin. I remember clearly, as a triumphant Hurley gives his friends a joyride in the episode's final minutes, feeling like everything was going to be okay...on Lost, and even in my own life. The show, from here on out, was going to deliver on its promises. As much as anyone wants to argue about Lost's overall ending, the show does right by every character for the rest of its run, and eventually answers nearly every question it raised (that is, if you actually pay attention). The show runners decided to dive headfirst into the crazy ride they had planned. The start off with Hurley's..
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The soundtrack features four tracks from "Tricia Tanaka Is Dead," the most from any episode featured on the first disc, and sure proof that Giacchino agrees with my assessment of the episode (I like pretending that Giacchino made this CD out of plastic with his bare hands, but Executive Producer, Robert Townson, actually decided which tracks to include on this soundtrack). "The Lone Hugo" features a melancholy strings-and-brass intro that reminds me of a 1970's drama, then a sad piano line featured as Hurley talks to his dead island girlfriend's grave. "Fetch Your Arm" follows with some creepy electronic sounds, followed by high-pitched strings, and then the fun, frantic percussion and rumbling piano horns of Hurley's "running theme," before more mysterious music as Hurley finds the van. "Ain't Talkin 'Bout 'Nothin" is the kind of low-key music that I've already mentioned is a little stale on the soundtrack at this point. Then comes the uplifting "Shambala," an orchestral version of the classic Three Dog Night song of the same name (the real song blares on the cassette player when Hurley finally gets the van to start), which plays at the end of Hurley and Friend's groovy van ride.
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"Tricia Tanaka Is Dead" is followed by the incredibly tense "Enter 77" (which also has a fun subplot...the latter 2/3 of this season really nails the balance between humor and drama/action). No music from that episode here. Next are "Claire-a Culpa" and "A Touching Moment," two quieter tracks from some following episodes that barely register. The former does include a lovely string part in its mid-section, but the latter adds little to this soundtrack.
Way back, about 10,000 words ago, I mentioned that the producers attempted to add two new characters to the third season, two passengers of Oceanic 815 who had supposedly been with our survivors all along, and whose perspective we would now see. I also mentioned how negative fan response was to those two characters. It turns out Cuse and Lindelof heard the outcry. "Exposé" is Season Three's dead-weight dropping episode, but also perhaps the closest the show came to fan service. The results are highly entertaining, with the two new characters literally being buried alive (after being given suitably unlikable characterizations). Giacchino contriubtes the suitably chaotic and spidery "Sweet Exposé" to the episode, a Hitchcockian tune for a very Hitchcockian episode. Brilliant.
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The season continues as our survivors confrontations with the Others begin to escalate into an us or them frenzy. Meanwhile, The Island's mythos is explored more deeply, and our characters grow closer together, through drama and through some lighter moments. From this portion of the season, the soundtrack includes "Storming Monster," with the black smoke monster theme we've heard several times already, and "Heart of Thawyer," which again treads familiar ground, this time in the acoustic guitar, everyone hanging out vein. Next is "Juliet Is Lost" featuring some unusual percussion, but the track is too short to make much of an impression. It is followed by "Beach Blanket Bonding," a quiet emotional track that will really test the patience of the listener who has already been listening to this soundtrack for an hour--again, you've heard this music before. "Rushin' the Russian" is a short action piece that again uses the "Puddle Jumper" theme so prevalent throughout this season. "Deadly Fertility" is a lovely statement of Sun and Jin's romantic theme. And finally, closing out disc one is "Dharmacide," beginning as a sinister statement of the muted-trumpet theme for Ben, leader of the Others, but then taking the theme in a surprisingly tender direction. This piano-version is Ben's more dominant theme from here on out, as the rest of the show will flesh out this extremely complicated individual in a more thoughtful manner.
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That ends disc one, and covers episodes 1-20. Haters hated. True fans endured. The show got better. This happened.
 photo Lost Man Behind the Curtain Jacobs Cabin_zpskrimxt8x.jpg (We) Fans obsessed over it.
But wait...there are three episodes left! And Giacchino somehow convinced Varèse Sarabande to release an extra disc for this soundtrack with music taken solely from those three episodes (Episodes 22 and 23 are technically two-parts of the same episode, the season finale).
The first of these episodes is titled "Greatest Hits," and is dedicated to ex-junkie, ex-rockstar, Charlie, who has resigned himself to his death foreseen by Desomond, and decided to undertake a certainly suicidal mission in order to save his friends. In lieu of his mission, Charlie makes a list of the five greatest moments of his life. Eight of Disc Two's 37 tracks are taken from "Greatest Hits." Giacchino does a great job of building up anticipation for Charlie's fate with several emotional pieces, as Charlie says his goodbyes and writes out his "Greatest Hits" list.
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Giacchino also builds up anticipation for the upcoming showdown between our survivors and the Others. Juliet has now switched from the Others' side to that of our heroes, and has spilled the beans to the 815 survivors: the Others are coming for them. The frequently mentioned in this review "Paddle Jumper" finally makes its appearance, and even gets a reprise, a frenetic string piece with a violin-smashing ending. The episode ends with Charlie swimming down to meet his fate in the Looking Glass station. What he does there makes up only part of what's to come in the finale--the reward to all the fans who stuck around through Season Three's early rough patches: one of the greatest television episodes of all time.
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"Through the Looking Glass" is an absolute mind-exploder, and I'm going to have to simply sum up the 28 tracks it contributes to this soundtrack, as not even I'm cruel enough to make you endure that many more song breakdowns. I watched this episode live at the top of a mountain in Tennessee on the last night of the first non-Honeymoon vacation my wife and I ever took together. The setting was epic, but I could have watched it in a broom closet and been as equally blown away. Giacchino always brings his A-game--even if tracks don't necessarily work on the soundtrack, the music always works perfectly backing the scenes in which they are featured, sans the previously mentioned "Ocean's Apart." Like the writers, director, cast and crew, Giacchino brings his A+ game to "Through the Looking Glass." He gets to re-state, expand, and alter almost all of his major themes here (even "Parting Words!"), with multiple variations of his Williams-esque "travelling theme," soundtracking the survivors trek to a mountain radio tower to send out a radio signal--Charlie and Desmond's underwater mission is to destroy the signal-jammer that will potentially block it. My favorite permutation of the "travelling theme" comes on the 36-second "An Other Dark Agenda," featuring strings and what sounds like harpsichord.
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This second disc is full of quick, fun tracks that barely reach half-a-minute. Ten of the tracks between the 9th and 21st fall under a minute in length.
Giacchino also gets to further explore Jack's theme. While Lost has multiple...or a multitude of protagonists, surgeon and group leader, Jack Shephard, has always been just a little closer to the forefront. Jack's theme, featured here in full on "Flying High," is an emotional piano piece that always seems to be looking for the right note, just as Shephard's heroics are a search to somehow dull his deep personal pain and feelings of inadequacy. It's a very moving piece of music.
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Meanwhile, the episode, like these tracks, delivers payoffs galore.
Remember the van? Now the Others will.
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And of course, who could forget the COMPLETE EMOTIONAL DEVASTATION.
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Lost gifts Charlie with its most epic death, and Giacchino gives him the sendoff he deserves, as well, combining the show's classic, sentimental, piano-based "death theme" with the uncertain string motif for Charlie. His theme always gave the feeling of someone who could either be a good man, or something darker, but combined with the "death theme," "Charlie's Theme" is now at piece.
Oh, and hey, how could I forget about this guy:
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Season Three sees island servant, John Locke, wavering in his loyalty to the 815 survivors, and yet not completely sold on the Others' agenda, either. Season Three is essentially one long spirit quest for Locke, as he searches for ways to best serve The Island. His desire to stay and protect The Island contrasts violently with Jack's desire to get himself and the other survivors the hell off it. All of these Island storylines are intercut with what seems to be a series of flashbacks of a rough patch Jack went through back on the mainland when he was a doctor. This Jack is an angry, despondent alcoholic. Lost. These scenes contain a strange, almost apocalyptic resonance, and combine with Giacchino's score to create a certain sense of false hope and impending doom. Check the rising strings 1:15 into "Naomi Phone Home" to hear what I'm talking about here. Those tones remind me of the time I found a pile of eggs under my lakeside friend's back porch. I couldn't wait to see the baby birds hatch...would they be ducks? Geese? In an awful twist that has perhaps shaded my life ever sense, no fuzzy hatchling emerged from those eggs. It was a nest of cottonmouths. Ironic then, that the producers' code-word for this finale's ending is "The Rattlesnake in the Mailbox." "Through the Looking Glass"' final twist is perhaps the most shocking in all of television, a spike to the hand, and it helps give Michael Giacchino a pretty cool distinction: he has scored two of the greatest, most shocking season finales of all time (the first being Alias' "The Telling."
And that's as good a place to wrap up this tome of a review as any. Lost's Third Season wraps up on an incredibly high note, and the season as a whole ends up becoming something very special. Lost Season 3 (Original Television Soundtrack), due to some repetition of more monotonous material, doesn't quite reach the heights of the season that birthed it, but its high points are still quite high.
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P.S. This is the final Lost soundtrack to feature Giacchino's piece for the closing credits. While Clemmensen nonsensically holds something against it, I think it's great, a suspenseful, percussion-heavy piece that sustains enthusiasm for the show, making that week between episodes (or summer and fall between seasons) seem so much longer.

2008 Varèse Sarabande

from "A Tale of Two Cities"
1. In with a KABOOM! 1:56
2. Main Title (Composed by J.J. Abrams) 0:16

from "A Tale of Two Cities"
3. Awed and Shocked 1:34

from "The Glass Ballerina"
4. Fool Me Twice 3:18
5. Pagoda of Shame 2:02

from "Further Instructions"
6. The Island 2:57

from "The Cost of Living"
7. Eko of the Past 2:45
8. Church of Eko's 0:58
9. Leggo My Eko 3:12

from "I Do"
10. Romancing the Cage 1:48
11. Under the Knife 4:18

from "Not in Portland"
12. Teaser Time 2:52
13. Here Today, Gone To Maui 4:53

from "Flashes Before Your Eyes"
14. Distraught Desmond 3:36

from "Stranger in a Strange Land"
15. Achara, Glad to See Me? 2:25
16. Ocean's Apart 3:02

from "Tricia Tanaka Is Dead"
17. The Lone Hugo 3:34
18. Fetch Your Arm 2:24
19. Ain't Talkin' Bout Nothin' 2:05
20. Shambala 2:04

from "Par Avion"
21. Claire-a Culpa 5:21

from "The Man from Tallahassee"
22. A Touching Moment 2:34

from "Exposé"
23. Sweet Exposé 4:36

from "Left Behind"
24. Storming Monster 1:31
25. Heart of Thawyer 1:51

from "One of Us"
26. Juliette is Lost 1:28
27. Beach Blanket Bonding 1:54

from "D.O.C."
28. Rushin' the Russian 1:06
29. Deadly Fertility 2:05

from "The Man Behind the Curtain"
30. Dharmacide 3:56

Disc Two

from "Greatest Hits"
1. Paddle Jumper 1:16
2. She's Dynamite 1:16
3. The Good, the Bad and the Ominous 1:07
4. Charlie's Fate 2:58
5. Paddle Jumper Reprise 2:12
6. Ta-Ta Charlie 1:28
7. Heirloom Holiday 1:21
8. Greatest Hits 6:03

from "Through the Looking Glass, Part 1"
9. Flying High 6:30
10. The Good Shepherd 0:58
11. Manifesting Destiny 0:40
12. The Looking Glass Ceiling 3:30
13. Ex Marks the Jack 2:10
14. Jintimidating Bernard 2:42
15. Benomination of the Temple 0:39
16. An Other Dark Agenda 0:36
17. Kate Makes a Splash 0:32
18. Diving Desmond 0:47
19. Weapon of Mass Distraction 0:50
20. The Fallen Hero 0:26
21. Sticking to Their Guns 0:58
22. Torture Me Not 2:44
23. Through the Locke-ing Glass 2:13

from "Through the Looking Glass, Part 2"
24. The Only Pebble in the Jungle 1:31
25. Early Mourning Mystery 1:54
26. Patchy at Best 2:04
27. All Jack'ed Up 0:12
28. Hold the Phone 3:49
29. Code of Conduct 1:42
30. Act Now, Regret Later 5:11
31. Just What the Doctor Ordered 1:24
32. Hurley's Helping Hand 1:06
33. Looking Glass Half Full 4:16
34. JACK FM 0:30
35. Naomi Phone Home 4:01
36. Flash Forward Flashback 4:16
37. End Title 0:32

Monday, May 18, 2015

Michael Giacchino -- Lost Season 2 (Original Television Soundtrack)

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Lost found itself in a bit of a conundrum after its first season. It had achieved blockbuster (couchbuster?) viewer numbers, helping to bring glory back to the once slumping ABC, and earning a place atop the heap of pop culture. One thing, though...Lost isn't really that kind of show. It's not the popular's the freak. But ratings...high ratings are so awesome. The second season of Lost finds the showrunners timidly raising their freak flags, while still trying to maintain some modicum of populist identity. Yeah, there might be a computer in a deep underground bunker, and the characters might have to type numbers into it every 108 minutes to prevent the end of the world, but hey, there are still a bunch of good-looking people hanging out on the guys like good-looking people hanging out on a beach, right?
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I feel like this juggling process hinders Season Two a bit in comparison to its five (season) siblings. Don't get me wrong, Lost's second season contains more high-water marks than most shows have to show for their entire run, but in the grand scheme of Lost, Season Two is lacking. There's a sense of aimlessness, like the show is merely biding its time. A handful of major characters are introduced--in a season's time, all but one bite the dust. Several major characters who enjoyed nice arcs in Season One get either sidelined, or placed on a treadmill. What the season does with Charlie seems particularly wasteful. His featured episode, "Fire + Water," regresses the character for no logical reason, and features strange dream sequences that feel out of place with the show. They're weird, but they're not "Lost Weird."
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Also, the entire season revolves around "the hatch" (a nickname for the underground bunker)--by season's end, the hatch is a smoking crater. This is a majorly flawed season of television.  Still...there's something there.
Michael Giacchino's score follows suit. It feels aimless at times, particularly its wandering, too quiet midsection, but its high-points are major.  Let's intertwine the up and downs of Lost Season Two with the high and low of Lost Season 2 (Original Television Soundtrack).
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Season Two begins with a virtuoso, completely out-of-left-field sequence,  featuring a guy waking up and working in what looks like a nicely stocked 1970's apartment, all to the sweet sounds of Mama Cass' "Make Your Own Kind of Music." A sudden rumble stops the record, the man snaps into action, the camera pans through the apartment, up a mineshaft, and up-and-up, all the way to low-and-behold, our main characters from the last season. Turns out that hatch they dynamited leads to this tweaked out man, Desmond, his groovy underground chamber, and the computer referenced above.
As cool as this opening sequence is, the show drags the night it takes place in out to three episodes...eventually feeling like a soap opera in its lack of egress. Giacchino, who also produced the album, only includes two musical cues from this opening episode trio (Just kidding. Executive Producer, Robert Townson, actually decided on the final tracklist cut). The first is the action-packed  (2) "Peace Through Superior Firepower," an adrenaline-pumping action piece featuring some frenetic percussion-work. The next is the more drawn out (3) "The Final Countdown," featuring a reference to "Locke's Theme" from Season One.
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The scary teddy-bear above makes an appearance, but not on the soundtrack. One of the show's best qualities early in this season is creating a feeling of all out horror surrounding the survivors' nemesis, The Others. The Others seem to be everywhere, soundlessly, and always in greater numbers than the survivors think.
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Giacchino comes up with a dastardly, classic theme for these guys' leader, and a great one for The Others as a group, as well, but that music doesn't appear in full this early in the soundtrack.
For now, at track four, Lost Season 2 (Original Television Soundtrack) completely changes gears, featuring a trio of more whimsical tracks in service of an episode centered on the light-hearted Hurley. The third of these, (6) Hurley's Handouts," is a gentle piece based around the acoustic-guitar, a nice breather, though a breather isn't really needed when the album hasn't even taken off yet....but take off it is about to do.
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That was a visual gag, by the way.
Anyway, Season Two finally gets its legs, and perhaps peaks at the thrilling "The Other 48 Days," which reveals what happened to the survivors of Oceanic Flight 815's tail section (the protagonists up to this point have all been survivors from the middle-sections of the plane.) These harrowing 42-minutes show that, while our heroes have had it rough at times, they've essentially been on a 48-day vacation in comparison to these tail-section survivors, headed by Ana Lucia Cortez. Giacchino pays nice homage to "World's Worst Beach Party" from Season One's soundtrack, with (7) "Just Another Day on the Beach." Scoring the immediate moments after the tail-section's crash on a far part of the island, "Just Another Day on the Beach" sounds like a nightmare version of the already nightmarish "...Beach Party." "Just Another Day..."'s final fifteen seconds is some of my favorite Lost soundtrack work, as Giacchino ends with a version of Season One's "Survivor's Theme" that sounds as if it's been set on fire. (8) "Ana Cries," a short piece of emotional music, comes next, followed by the terrifying (9) "The Tribes Merge."
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"The Tribes Merge" features a slow, steady, hammering percussion that sounds like the oncoming steps of doom, backed by menacing strings. It soundtracks a horrific montage, showing how the "tailies," accompanied by the middle-section survivors whose raft washed up on the tailies' beach at the start of the season, make it to our protagonists' beach. Things don't go...well.
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Giacchino follows this brutal track (as brutal as classical music can be) with "The Gathering," another complete change of pace. Scoring the scene where the raft survivors meet back up with their middle-section friends, and featuring a reunion of husband and wife, Jin and Sun, "The Gathering" is a beautiful piece of work. The track works as a payoff to the first season soundtrack's high-point, "Parting Words," repeating its themes, developing them more fully, and providing that piece a sort of beautiful sonic catharsis.
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(11) "Shannon's Funeral" follows...uh, spoiler alert...Shannon dies. She was dead weight as it was, and really only became sympathetic during the episode that killed her (actually, she became EXTREMELY sympathetic in the episode that killed her...poor Shannon). Anyway, "Shannon's Funeral" is a really lovely piece of music, a delicate piano and strings display with a lovely peak 1:20 in, and a piano-led outro, as the strings perform a subtle rendition of the "survivor's theme."
After these slower tracks, Giacchino amps things up a bit with...just kidding. The next track is "All's Forgiven...Except Charlie,"  just a lighter version of "Hurley's Handouts," replete with the acoustic-guitar and the "everything's going to be alright vibe." Unfortunately, that's not what the album needs at this moment. It needs a kick in the pants. Unfortunately, it will be a whopping eight tracks before that happens. The album mid-section is completely aimless, sharing the same flaw as the season it was created for. However, like the Lost's Season Two, even this overly quiet dearth of tracks is full of high-points. In fact, none of these songs are bad, per se. They all just run-together, generally starting with gentle piano, and then just moseying around. Repeat listens does help to separate them from one another.
(14) "Charlie's Dream," coming from the previously mentioned "Fire + Water," does reach a rather unsettling dissonance halfway in.
(15) "Charlie's Temptation" fully develops Charlie's theme, a low-register six-note string motif that conjures the troubled character's possible paths as an agent of good or evil.
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(15) "A New Trade" similarly lays out the enigmatic Sayid's theme, taken from a scene that ironically, is a conversation with Charlie. The theme is initially stated with four uncertain piano notes, before the keys are relieved by strings which fully explore the melody's possibilities. It's almost like the soundtrack for the color gray, the world within Sayid often finds himself, containing a hopeful mid-section before delving deeper into darkness.
In the show, "A New Trade" followed an incredible scene where Sayid beats someone who may or may not be evil. That someone ends up becoming one of the most significant characters on Lost...actually, the non-tailies introduced in this season all end up becoming pretty significant...making Season Two more significant than it appears on the surface...those introduced with little fanfare become the greatest. Also, Michael Emerson may Lost's casting director's greatest find. And this face Emerson made creeped me out severely.
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(16) "Mapquest" is a quiet, suspenseful, very short track, followed by (17) "Claire's Escape," which follows in the same quiet, suspenseful tone. It very faintly reminds me of John Williams' "Velociraptor Theme" from Jurassic Park.
Up next are two romantic themes. (18) "The Last to Know" represents Sun and Jin's burgeoning relationship--the two are married, but had been growing apart before the crash. Life on the island has brought the two closer together, and Giacchino's hopeful piano and string theme suits their relationship well. (19) "Rose and Bernard" is a gentle, more mature theme, fitting for a couple twice Sun and Jin's age. If you can tell me of another action/adventure/drama/mystery program that will stop to tell a thoughtful tale of a middle-aged interracial couple who found each other late in life, you're probably lying to me. Giacchino's music for the duo is mostly piano-based, with a hint of strings at the end, and lacks the more tentative nature of Sun and Jin's theme, as Rose and Bernard's love for one another is a steady and unmovable rock.
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Actually, as I type this, I can't think of any other show that pulled off so many successful ADULT romances. I don't mean like, pornographic romances, I mean believable, realistic romantic relationships between adults. Sun and Jin, Rose and Bernard, Desmond and Penny, Sawyer and Juliet...hey, even Jack and Kate when the two finally decide to grow up. And of course Libby and Hurley, who don't really get a theme here, but c'mon, look how cute.
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Not just Hurley and Libby, but the latter part of the season as a whole gets short shrift on this soundtrack, as the final six episodes before the finale are represented by only one track, the aforementioned "Rose and Bernard." That's a bit shocking considering that during that span of episodes, this happens:
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I just got sidelined from an album criticism, though. I love "Rose and Bernard" and "The Last to Know," and really, all eight of the tracks that come before (20) "Toxic Avenger," but together, these eight create a major problem--they're eight mostly quiet, non-action cues in row on an hour long, 26-track disc. That's simply too much downtime, and makes listening to Lost Season 2 (Original Television Soundtrack) in one sitting a bit of a slog.
The rest of the album does pick up the pace, though, big time. "Toxic Avenger,(21) "I Crashed Yo Plane, Brotha," and (22) "Eko Blaster" introduce panicked percussion, violent start and stop strings, and a sudden sense of urgency. The tracks soundtrack Season Two's two-part finale, and are followed by three more that score its final half-hour. First up is "The Hunt," an absolutely excellent track. It sounds like its name, as Sawyer, Kate, Jack, and Hurley are ambushed by The Others. Giacchino finally unleashes The Others' leader's theme in full-force here, a lecherous little muted-trombone line. It's reminiscent, to me at least, of William Alwyn's music for the pirates of Swiss Family Robinson, or really any music for villains from classic nautical cinema. Up above I asked the question, "can classical music be "brutal?"" "The Hunt" is savage.
(24) "McGale's Navy" and (25) "Bon Voyage, Traitor" also contain repetitions of this motif, as well as another theme for the Others in general, featuring a woozy, disorienting string pattern (and a sort of subtle, shifting, aquatic rhythm underneath). "Desmond and Penny's theme" is also introduced on "Boy Voyage Traitor," with a short statement at the beginning, followed by music for The Others, and then a more full statement. The viewer doesn't get to know Desmond very well at the start of the season, as he is neurotic and paranoid from being stuck alone in an underground bunker for three years. In fact, Desmond leaves for the rest of the season, and I had completely forgotten about him, but in a masterstroke, his storyline, with the exception of several of our main protagonists' journey to a far part of the island, takes precedence in the finale. Desmond's tale is gripping, incredible considering he wasn't even a starring character before this moment. As I said, it's the new, non Oceanic 815 characters introduced by Season Two that end up becoming the most vital.
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The more definitive statement of "Desmond and Penny's theme" is then following by an evilly triumphant statement of The Others' leader's music, intertwined with the Others' theme, as Jack, Kate, and Sawyer are shockingly defeated, the music growing more frenzied and panicked as the protagonists look at each other, the viewer expects them to find a way out, they don't find a way out, the bag guys win, cue that Lost classic episode-ending sound of a giant stone locking into place, the end.
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A strong moment in a season and soundtrack full of them, despite the fact that the wholes don't quite add up to what came before, or what lies ahead.

2006 Varèse Sarabande
1. Main Title (Composed by J.J. Abrams) 0:17

From "Man of Science, Man of Faith"
2. Peace Through Superior Firepower 1:26

From "Orientation"
3. The Final Countdown 5:48

From "Everybody Hates Hugo"
4. World's Worst Landscaping 1:17
5. Mess It All Up 1:27e
6. Hurley's Handouts 4:42

From "The Other 48 Days"
7. Just Another Day on the Beach 2:47
8. Ana Cries 1:48
9. The Tribes Merge 2:03

From "Collision"
10.The Gathering 4:19

From "What Kate Did"
11. Shannon's Funeral 2:12

From "The 23rd Psalm"
12. All's Forgiven... Except Charlie 5:19

From "Fire + Water"
13. Charlie's Dream 1:50
14. Charlie's Temptation 0:51

From "One of Them"
15. A New Trade 2:39

From "The Whole Truth"
16. Mapquest 0:39

From "Maternity Leave"
17. Claire's Escape 3:44

From "The Whole Truth"
18. The Last to Know 2:21

From "S.O.S."
19. Rose and Bernard 2:39

From "Live Together, Die Alone, Part 1"
20. Toxic Avenger 0:42

From "Live Together, Die Alone, Part 2"
21. I Crashed Your Plane, Brotha 1:45
22. Eko Blaster 1:44
23. The Hunt 3:57
24. McGale's Navy 2:22
25. Bon Voyage, Traitor 5:30
26. End Title 0:32

Friday, May 15, 2015

Michael Giacchino -- Lost (Original Television Soundtrack)

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Lost. It conjures strong emotions. Love. Hate. Indifference, only from those who haven't seen it.
Lost. It means a lot to me. It means a lot to a lot of people. It hurts a little to know there are people out there who hate the show so much.
Here's the thing with Lost...from multiple perspectives:
The opening logo was just too weird. Isn't Survivor premiering tonight? You'll get your island fix there. Click.
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You thought this was going to be like Gilligan's Island. This is not like Gilligan's Island. You're gonna put it on Matlock now.
You were skeptical about the show from the get go. Popular things are stupid. You didn't see what the big deal was right off the bat. You weren't surprised at all that people were disappointed with how the show ended. You stopped watching it during the first season because you could already tell how stupid it was.
You loved the first season of Lost. Sure, it bothered you that mysteries weren't explained right after they were introduced...but they'll probably explain all that stuff in the second season, right? Except, now it is the second season, and they aren't explaining anything. Just introducing new and weirder mysteries. Now this opening six-episode pod for Season Three is just introducing more, and you can't tell what is going on. Back to CSI!
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You loved (X-actor or actress). You watched the show for (X-actor or actress). (X-actor or actress) just got killed off the show. See you later, Lost.
You started watching Lost on the Internet after the first season hoopla. It was cool. You kept watching it, even though each season seemed to be stranger than the last. You make it to the last season. You watch the last episode. You do not understand the last episode. You hate this stupid show.
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You've loved Lost from the beginning. Maybe you started watching it from the premiere. Maybe you binge-watched the entire show after the fifth-season ended, and then only watched the sixth one live. You may have just binge-watched the entire series for the first time last week. Whatever the case may be, you loved it. You can admit that certain stretches of the show were stronger than others, but you love the show as a whole. You paid close attention. Maybe you were one of those people who cataloged every detail. Maybe you didn't catalog every detail, but you sure were observant. You enjoyed the mysteries, but your main take from the show wasn't how well or badly, or how much or little of the mysteries were resolved. Your main take was that a television program created 25+ flawed, severely-screwed up people, made you care about them like they were your own family, and then proceeded to develop them in a way that every single character's end seemed completely justified and in line with where they had been headed all along. You cared more about what episode flashbacks revealed about the character of Lost's protagonists than what it revealed about their connection to the island. You didn't watch the first season thinking things like, "for the love of my TV, are they going to explain that damn polar bear already?!" You instead watched with intent focus on moments like this:
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, listened to John Locke bellow "I've done everything you've wanted me to do, so why did you do this to me?" over Michael Giacchino's soundtrack, and felt complete emotional devastation. You cared more about the characters than the plot, but the plot didn't disappoint you, either. After the series finale, you most likely called everyone you knew who watched the show, explained the ending to them, and they most likely said "Oh! Okay, I get it." But they didn't really get it. They'll probably never get it. You don't understand why. It wasn't that complicated. At least the friendly confused are not as bad as the haters who didn't understand the ending but WON'T let you explain it to them. Most importantly, through the six years that Lost aired, it felt like a vital part of your life. It still feels like a vital part of your life.
Lost is not my favorite show of all time, but it is in my top ten. The last, Times New Roman perspective is most definitely mine. I am not even going to pretend that I will be objective when it comes to the show in these seven Lost album reviews. Cat's out of the bag: I love it. That said, I think I can be pretty objective about these Michael Giacchino soundtracks. Let's begin with Season One.
Lost starts off with a bang.
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Michael Giacchino's score follows suit. After the atmospheric :16 (1) "Main Title" (written by JJ Abrams, who writes the opening theme for every show he creates), and the subtle electronics and impressionistic, building strings and rising trombones of (2) "The Eyeland,"(3) "World's Worst Beach Party" explodes with moody trombones, rowdy percussion (Giacchino had his percussionists bang on plane parts), and the strains of Psycho-esque, sometimes stacato strings. The trombones suddenly go from forlorn to rising in sudden suspense, and "World's Worst Beach Party" ends--
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a fitting musical backdrop for a scene where survivors panic around the chaotic wreckage of their crashed, fiery, exploding plane. Also, it may sound like I just said "trombone" a lot, but the fact of the matter is, over the next six seasons of television, they are the only horn you'll hear. This is a brave choice by Giacchino, which helps lend Lost's soundtrack its own unique identity.
(4) "Credit Where Credit Is Due" introduces the weary, string-led "survivors theme" (more fully fleshed out on (11) "Departing Sun"), a piece that's both contemplative and determined, and a direct counterpoint to the following (5) "Run Like, Um...Hell?" Lost hooked many viewers during its Pilot episode with its mysterious monster, and "Run Like, Um...Hell?," like the beast that inspired it, smashes along nicely. It features ramming percussion, and panicked harp-playing straight out of Jaws.
Speaking of John Williams, "Hollywood and Vines" is a serious march in the vein of the master. Clemmensen says "Hollywood and Vines" reminds him of Raiders of the Lost Ark, and I won't argue with that, but to me it's a lot closer to the darker, more percussive work Williams put in for The Lost World: Jurassic Park. And that's it. We've covered the two-hour pilot-episode.
Lost's first season actually contains 25 episodes (the pilot accounts for two, as well does the finale), and 17 of them are represented here.
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Over the course of these mid-section (non premiere, non-finale) tracks, Giacchino crafts subtle themes for each of the show's multitude of characters, as well as themes for certain events or emotions. For instance, Giacchino crafts a "death theme," composed of a somber, yet respectful and a bit sentimental piano line, and gently swelling strings, utilizing it on (10) "Win One for the Reaper," (12) "Charlie Hangs Around" (as a bit of a musical red-herring), and most significantly, "Life and Death," which soundtracks the first of many major character deaths. Giacchino also creates a stormy, slightly menacing theme for the troubled his girl Friday of Lost, Kate Austen, mainly featured in (23) "Kate's Motel." This theme explores Kate's troubled past, musically explaining why she tends to run.
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However, I think Giacchino's finest character-theme work on this first Lost soundtrack is for John Locke. Locke, who has been beat down most of his life, slowly becomes the island's servant, and chosen son. Giacchino creates a beautiful theme that begins with a sort of searching piano line and strings, almost as if the two are together asking a question. The piano and strings continuously build upon one another, swelling outrage and heartbreak at the indignities suffered by this noble, diligent, yet long-suffering man.
 photo Lost Pilot Locke_zpsormfnjuw.jpg (19) "Locke'd Out Again," which soundtracks the Locke-featuring scene I referenced in my opening statements, fully expresses Locke's theme, building and building until it seems that everything in the world will break, but fittingly for the character, falling out before any catharsis is given. Then the trombones suddenly rise in the final second, and the track ends. This is a trick Giacchino would play on listeners' ears throughout the show's run, especially in an episode's final seconds.
There are many other character themes introduced and more fully explored as the show goes on, and we'll get to those in subsequent reviews, but respect must now be given for what is perhaps Giacchino's crowning achievement, (26) "Parting Words." In a surprisingly poignant scene during the first part of Season One's two-part finale, the survivors complete work on a raft, and send several of their members on a mission to find help.
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As the raft-riders say goodbye, raise their sail, and safely pass through the surf, Giacchino backs the scene with a stirring piece of music. He employs an emotive string melody, falls out to let a piano take it, comes back more powerfully with the strings, repeats the line again and again with building power, moves to a counter-melody, comes back to the melody, continues to build, then alternate between the two, building and building, adding thundering percussion, lending power from the trombones, until the emotional goodwill of the scene is flowing over--yet if you are only listening to his soundtrack absent the images, the music works just as well on its own.
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I want to conclude by adding a note that, over the whole of this soundtrack, Giacchino gives a subtle island flavor to the proceedings, with the sometimes wandering nature of the orchestra, and the percussional tones (especially when he uses the airplane parts).
Overall, Lost (Original Television Soundtrack) is an exciting album, with some blood-pumping action pieces, counter-balanced with some really beautiful, gentler, contemplative work. The mid-section sags just a bit, perhaps under the weight of the sheer length and scope of the album, but overall, I've greatly enjoyed the dozen or so listens I've put in for this review.
*    *     *
I'll review Season Two's soundtrack in several days. The final seconds of this album rather brilliantly segue to that season for me, the dread-filled, spidery conundrum of Giacchino's "hatch theme" (on (27) "Oceanic 815") leading the soundtrack out, and into the unknown.
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Of course, if the hatch isn't enough to get you to come back for Season Two, there's always this incredible, haunting image:
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Also, I've been looking for an excuse to post this video for a very long time. One of my favorite TV shows + one of my favorite bands = the best television advertisement I've ever seen. Wish someone would post it in high-def!

And finally, here is "Parting Words"

2006 Varèse Sarabande
1. Main Title (Composed by J.J. Abrams) 0:16

From "Pilot"
2. The Eyeland 1:58
3. World's Worst Beach Party 2:44
4. Credit Where Credit Is Due 2:23
5. Run Like, Um... Hell? 2:21
6. Hollywood and Vines 1:52

From "Tabula Rasa"
7. Just Die Already 1:51
8. Me and My Big Mouth 1:06

From "Walkabout"
9. Crocodile Locke 1:49

From "White Rabbit"
10. Win One for the Reaper 2:38

From"House of the Rising Sun"
11. Departing Sun 2:42

From "All the Best Cowboys Have Daddy Issues"
12. Charlie Hangs Around 3:17

From "Whatever the Case May Be"
13. Navel Gazing 3:24

From "Hearts and Minds"
14. Proper Motivation 2:02
15. Run Away! Run Away! 0:30

From "Homecoming"
16. We're Friends 1:32
17. Getting Ethan 1:35

From "Outlaws"
18. Thinking Clairely 1:04

From "Deus Ex Machina"
19. Locke'd Out Again 3:30

From "Do No Harm"
20. Life and Death 3:39

From "The Greater Good"
21. Booneral 1:38
22. Shannonigans 2:25

From "Born to Run"
23. Kate's Motel 2:07

From "Exodus"
24. I've Got a Plane to Catch 2:37
25. Monsters Are Such Innnteresting People" 1:29
26. Parting Words 5:30
27. Oceanic 815 6:11