Album reviews: Our round-up of the best film soundtracks of 2018
Mary Poppins Returns
SET 24 years after the practically perfect nanny left the Banks' lives, this new sequel sees Emily Blunt land via umbrella to help the Banks family in the magical way that only she can. This is a Disney soundtrack from top to bottom, but there seems to be something missing. It was never going to be easy following the classic songs made infamous by Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke, but Blunt and Lin-Manuel Miranda's vocals are sharp and clear, evoking memories of the original. Marc Shaiman's orchestration is out of this world, and transports you back to the 1930s and Scott Wittman's lyrics. We are introduced to this new Poppins world in Underneath The Lovely London Sky with Mary's pal Jack, and Mary's cousin Topsy (Meryl Streep) has the lively bouncy number Turning Turtle. This soundtrack would be supercalifragilisticexpialidocious to add to any Disney fan's collection.
AT THE first take, one might assume the soundtrack the Queen biopic about the late, great Freddie Mercury is just another compilation album of the band's greatest hits. But it's much more than that. Yes, there is a fair whack of some of the group's best-loved songs, including Bohemian Rhapsody (obviously), Crazy Little Thing Called Love and I Want To Break Free, but it's also filled with nearly a dozen previously unreleased recordings, all of which feature in the film, starring the brilliant Rami Malek as Mercury. There are five tracks from Queen's iconic Live Aid performance in 1985, which makes up the climactic conclusion to the film, as well as a 1974 recording of Keep Yourself Alive from London's Rainbow Theatre and the 1985 Rock in Rio festival version of Love Of My Life. All in all, the official soundtrack offers up a fresh, creative way to relive Queen's incredible story.
ASTONISHINGLY, Jonny Greenwood's Oscar nomination for Phantom Thread was his first, with his stunning There Will Be Blood soundtrack deemed around 10 minutes too short on original music for consideration a decade ago. This time around his exquisite score for Paul Thomas Anderson's acclaimed film should give him plenty of reason to go shopping for a dinner suit. Phantom Thread depicts a power struggle between dressmaker Reynolds Woodcock (Daniel Day-Lewis) and a young waitress whom he leads to London as his lover (Vicky Krieps). In keeping with the deepening and tumultuous power struggle that plays out, Greenwood's orchestrations are sumptuous yet fragile, always laced with tension and melancholy. Unlike some of his prior work with Anderson, the former BBC composer-in-residence shows a much lighter touch here, taking a more subtle neo-classical approach, perfectly in keeping with the fraught world of 1950s high fashion in London. The result is stunning.
A Star Is Born
THE third remake of A Star Is Born has been in the pipeline since 2011 and two years ago Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper signed up to the project. The film has received critical acclaim, and expectations were high for the music. Without seeing the film, there is quite a divide in musical style, but the listener will get the gist of the tale. Cooper gives a bluesy performance on the grinding opening track Black Eyes and Alibi. Meanwhile Gaga transforms from club singer to a pop/R&B artist. Heal Me and Why Did You Do That? are highlights, but Gaga truly shines in the ballads Always Remember Us This Way and the closer (and possible spoiler) I'll Never Love Again. These songs are good enough to stand alone but no doubt work best in context of the film.
Brooding, disconnected, an ever-present sense of dread and paranoia... it's not too hard to imagine why Luca Guadagnino, the Italian director behind the new remake of 1977 horror classic Suspiria, was so set on having Thom Yorke write the music for him. The Radiohead singer's 23-track album – his first full film score – takes in a range of influences from choral to Krautrock, and offers a chance to take his experimental sensibilities one step further, away from the constraints of the popular album format. But amidst its eerie instrumentals and suffocating darkness, Suspiria also features some insanely beautiful songs. Open Again is a smothering slow-roller enveloped by swirling delay loops. And Unmade – a fragile falsetto piano ballad that shatters into tiny fragments – is a moment of stunning clarity that could easily have made it on to a Radiohead record (perhaps it still will). Does an Oscar beckon next year? It'll certainly be up there. Either way, this is a worthy addition to an already glittering back catalogue.