Category Archives: Music

Nine Songs: Howard Shore

He’s a three-time Oscar-winner who’s composed music for over 80 films, yet – excluding when he’s returned for sequels or spin-offs of movies he previously worked on – no Howard Shore score sounds quite like another.

There’s a chameleonic quality to the oeuvre, perhaps reflective of how he tells me that every score he works on is deeply personal in its own way. Somewhat to my surprise, when speaking about his Nine Songs selections, each a pivotal composition in his life, Shore nominates just one piece purposefully written for a film: Nino Rota’s title theme for Federico Fellini’s 1973 film Amarcord.

“It’s pieces that influenced me,” Shore says of his final choices. “Mostly when I was younger when I was developing my ideas. It took quite a process, actually, because I was trying to show a range of influences.”

Talking with the great Canadian composer proves fascinating for how even the smallest attribute of a track can get the mind’s gears going for an artist finding their own voice. Bar one piece by someone he’s collaborated with in the past, it’s not immediately obvious, until he elaborates, how many of his jazz-heavy selections could have been a direct influence on his output for film, television and stage. But then, it’s perhaps daft to try assuming what Shore’s influences might be when his work is so eclectic in its own right.

In the mainstream consciousness, Shore is likely best known for the music of Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings trilogy, for which he received his three Academy Awards – one for the song “Into the West”, co-written with Annie Lennox and Fran Walsh. But while he’s worked on many grand epics (Martin Scorsese’s Gangs of New York and The Aviator, plus Jackson’s later Hobbit films), he’s just at home with small-scale comedies (High FidelityBigMrs. Doubtfire) or low-key dramas (SpotlightPhiladelphia). Or in the weirder fringes of studio films, such as Tim Burton’s Ed Wood, David Fincher’s Seven and The Game, and his iconic work on Jonathan Demme’s The Silence of the Lambs.

His latest full score, for the sci-fi Crimes of the Future, is his 16th feature with director David Cronenberg. His earliest frequent collaborator, Shore has composed the scores for all of Cronenberg’s features since 1979’s The Brood, excluding 1983’s The Dead Zone. For as much as films like VideodromeThe FlyDead RingersCrash and A History of Violence may linger for their transgressive material and shocking images of human bodies in distortion, they’d not be nearly as impactful without Shore’s soundscapes in accompaniment…

Full interview for The Line of Best Fit

Tape Crusader: The Bizarre Brilliance of ‘Batman Forever’’s Soundtrack

In Spin magazine interview marking the 20th anniversary of his band’s 1995 album Clouds Taste Metallic, The Flaming Lips frontman Wayne Coyne was asked about their involvement with the soundtrack for Batman Forever, an album described by interviewer Dan Weiss as, “Even by ‘90s standards… one of the weirdest batches of artists.” Coyne – reportedly not a fan of the finished film itself, though he enjoyed his group’s aural appearance – had this to say:

“I think it set up a blueprint that you could really have an interesting soundtrack that really doesn’t have that much to do with the movie and people would accept it. It was just a record that had another branding that went with it. I thought that was really a cool move, that it didn’t always just have to be a group of popular artists doing something to promote the movie. It really was a weird mixtape collection that had a movie with it too.”

Wayne Coyne, The Flaming Lips

A packed film soundtrack of popular music wasn’t a concept born in the 1990s, nor is it something that’s completely died out since, but various factors have led to that decade being the peak ‘music from the motion picture’ era, and how Coyne describes the Batman Forever soundtrack is reflective of why. And in the year 2020, Batman Forever’s album stands out as one of its decade’s most emblematic musical artefacts for how it both followed trends and also bucked the system in a way that arguably influenced the construction of soundtracks going forward; Entertainment Weekly ran a non-review article the summer of release on the extent to which the soundtrack was an outlier among its field…

Full article for The Companion

The great Leonard Cohen moments in film

With Nick Broomfield’s documentary Marianne & Leonard: Words of Love, an in-depth look at the relationship between Leonard Cohen and muse Marianne Ihlen, playing at the Edinburgh International Film Festival this month and on general release in July, we thought it an appropriate time to highlight some of our favourite Cohen needle drops in cinema.

Whether with his own voice or through cover versions, many films and TV shows have made stirring use of Cohen’s music, though there is no instance in which the songs in question were written with the intention of featuring in that movie or episode.

For inclusion in the small selection below, we’ve stuck to the following criteria: feature films only, one entry per song, and Cohen recordings only, not covers of his work…

Full feature for The Skinny

Nicolas Winding Refn on curation and Americana

From Bronson and Valhalla Rising to DriveOnly God Forgives and The Neon Demon, Danish filmmaker Nicolas Winding Refn has a reputation for filtering all sorts of reference points, from cinema or other artforms, into movies that never quite feel like anything else out there, even if it might initially seem clear what you’re going to get from a surface glance.

The director’s passion for the idiosyncratic recently extended to the world of digital media with byNWR.com, where an exclusive film – a restored lost gem with little to no previous cultural legacy – is presented each month as a jumping off point to inspire creativity. Although film and the moving image takes up the bulk of the venture’s content right now, the site is moving into music. And not only music, but music festival collaborations.

As part of this year’s Black Deer Festival in Kent, a specially-curated trilogy of films will be presented for the first time in a new form, under the banner of byNWR Expressway. In keeping with the spirit of the Americana and country music-focused festival, each film harks back to America’s drive-in heyday…

Full interview for The Line of Best Fit

Jenny Lewis is following the magic

“People always want to know what, why, how, when. I don’t know. Which? Who? Whom! Whomst!”

Jenny Lewis has told me she doesn’t have a problem talking about new record, On the Line but there’s a certain reticence to divulging much about intent or any unifying connection between the thumping, lush ballads she’s assembled. It sounds like even she won’t know what the songs are about for a while…

Full interview for The Line of Best Fit
Photography: Chris Almeida

Lola Kirke: ‘As a woman, I felt uncomfortable with my libido’

Lola Kirke is perched at the table of an east London restaurant, surrounded by the remnants of scones. Though enthusiastic and engaging in conversation, the 28-year-old actor and musician is prone to getting distracted: on this occasion, it’s a fellow customer wearing a beret with the term ‘Solidarity’ on it that has interrupted her train of thought. “I think that’s hysterical,” she says, genuinely delighted…

Full interview for HUCK

Writing by Josh Slater-Williams