5 Albums That Film & Film Score Fans Might Appreciate
The best way I can sum myself up is that I’m an obsessive fan of storytelling, specifically film and its related art forms (television, comic books, video games, etc.), and I’m an obsessive fan of music. So I guess it makes sense that I would be an obsessive fan of film scores too. Composers like Hans Zimmer and John Williams have made a lot of music that is very near and dear to me. However, their work is specifically written for films. What about music that sounds like it could be a film score, but is actually just a regular album, produced independent of any film or other form of media? In the interest of introducing people to what I think are amazing records that sometimes don’t get talked about too much, as well hearing myself talk, here are 5 albums that not only mean a lot to me, but also have a sound that is closely related to the sound of film score music
- The Who- Quadrophenia
This one is definitely the most well known on this list. Released in October 1973, this album is, in my opinion, the seminal British rock band The Who’s masterpiece. A lot of people would make the argument for Tommy or Who’s Next– and I adore Who’s Next- but in terms of storytelling, album cohesion, and sheer amount of amazing music, I have to give it to Quadrophenia as the best Who album ever made. Much like Tommy before it, Quadrophenia has a central story to it. The story of the album concerns Jimmy, a young working class man who’s a part of the mod culture in early 1960’s Britain. Jimmy has four different personalities, and each personality is given it’s own theme. This is incredibly similar to how a lot of film scores are written, where oftentimes, characters and idea’s get themes. At multiple points throughout the album, the four central themes are played, corresponding to different parts of Jimmy’s story. The use of thematic motifs is just incredible, and the rest of the music works incredibly well too, always supporting the story being told about Jimmy.
The Who- Quadrophenia
2. King Crimson- In the Court of the Crimson King
A little more obscure then The Who and Quadrophenia, but nonetheless, King Crimson and In The Court of the Crimson King – which is Crimson’s first album- are landmarks in music history, since this album could be considered the first ever progressive rock album. While the genre of progressive rock does share some DNA with film scoring, particularly with an acute influence from classical music, the two are usually pretty different beasts. However, this album lends itself quite a bit more to being a film score than say, a Yes or Genesis album. I’m guessing I feel that way because the atmosphere on Crimson King is just incredible. More so than a lot of prog albums, and even the later works by King Crimson, this album is very heavily based on atmosphere and emotion. Tracks like Epitaph, I Talk to the Wind, and the title track are written in an incredibly symphonic way, and would lend themselves quite beautifully as pieces in a film score.
King Crimson- In the Court of the Crimson King (First Half Only, most of King Crimson’s music was taken off of Youtube a few years ago, as per Robert Fripp’s wishes.)
3. Flying Lotus- Until the Quiet Comes
This one is a completely different genre then the previous two albums. The Who and King Crimson are pretty firmly rooted in rock music, but Flying Lotus doesn’t make rock music. He’s a producer who makes this fascinating blend of hip- hop, jazz, and electronic music. While all of Flying Lotus’ other albums are great, this album for me is the best album in his discography. Again, like In The Court of the Crimson King, there’s this incredible atmosphere on this album. It’s like it was made for traveling New York City at night, which took full advantage of throughout my senior year of high school, when I discovered this beautiful album. There’s nothing quite like riding through Brooklyn on the N train to this record. The mood constantly switches between upbeat, relaxed, and contemplative, and the textures and sound are always phenomenal, and go a long way at suggesting a sort of story and atmosphere resembling something you’d feel watching a film. An important thing to note is that most of the tracks on this album are 3 minutes or less, so much like Dark Side of the Moon, the album functions more like one giant piece of music. You can easily picture a movie in your head to this music, which definitely explains why Flying Lotus has written and directed his own film, called Kuso, which is coming out July of this year.
Flying Lotus- All In
4. Global Communication- 76:14
This one is my personal favorite on this list. Words wouldn’t do justice what I feel when I listen to this album, but since this is an article, I’ll try my best. This album comes from the 90’s ambient electronic group Global Communication. The best way I can describe their sound is that it sounds like a mix of Aphex Twin, Tangerine Dream, and Brian Eno. So you have the 90’s electronic techno and house beats, the atmospherics of ambient music, and synths straight from 70’s and 80’s electronic artists. As for the actual music on this album, it’s this ingenious, soothing, awe inspiring, and mesmerizing mix of sounds and textures. Unlike the first 3 albums on this list, there are no words being spoken, and not even the song titles have words in them. It’s almost as if this album just fell from space, and someone discovered it, and made CD’s out of it, and released it. This is music to listen to as contemplate your life, and your place in the universe. If you love science fiction and space, as I do, I would hope you’d be able to appreciate this as the perfect soundtrack to an imaginary space science fiction film.
Global Communication- 9:25
5. Russian Circles- Geneva
Perhaps the most abrasive album on this list, this album was released in 2009 by the post rock group Russian Circles. Their music is a perfect blend of the styles of post rock and post metal. Think Tool meets Explosions in the Sky. You get the hard rocking drums and heavy guitar and bass, but you also get a lot of atmospherics and melody. The songs on this all go beyond 4 minutes, with the last two tracks being 8 and 10 minutes long. These guys really like to play with epic, long form structures, and it shows. The music is expertly crafted, and the way moods and textures are used throughout the album makes this one of the best post rock/metal albums I’ve ever listened to. The band also really like to switch between and mix beauty and ugliness, and darkness and light. You hear both fury and tranquility, and tension and catharsis. This is very evocative music, and hopefully conjures up very evocative stories and visuals in your head as you listen. I can easily imagine an action packed film or video game being scored with this type of music.
Russian Circles- Fathom
And there’s the list! While The Who and King Crimson probably won’t be scoring any films anytime soon, and Flying Lotus already has done film score work, I would kill to hear what Global Communication or Russian Circles would do with a film score. I should also mention that I know for a fact there’s a ton of beautiful albums that I skipped over that could easily be included on this list. With these 5 artists, I tried to go for artists people knew for the first two albums, and then for the final 3, I tried to get as broad a range of music as possible. Because I’m nice, here’s a few bands and artists that I thought about including: Tortoise (jazzy post rock), God is an Astronaut (post rock with some heavy and electronic elements), Lights Out Asia (electronic blended with post rock), Lights and Motion (essentially, soundtrack music for imaginary films. An overdose of pretty guitar, pianos, and strings), Aphex Twin (electronic, obviously), Tim Hecker (experimental ambient), Hammock (ambient post rock), Loscil (ambient electronic), Benn Jordan (ambient electronic), ISIS (yes, that’s an actual band. They’re post metal, they’ve toured with Mogwai and Tool, and they’re incredible), Neurosis (sludge metal with a lot of experimental elements, they essentially created the blueprint for post metal), Opeth (progressive death metal), Steven Wilson/Porcupine Tree (progressive rock/metal), Bonobo (jazzy, soulful house music, mixed with other electronic styles), Deru (ambient electronic), Tycho (electronic music, like a much happier Boards of Canada), and Meniscus (post metal). Hopefully someone in the film, TV, or video game industry gets a clue, and gives any of the artists mentioned in this article a call.