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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

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