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MusicScreenwriting

New Year, New Music

By January 25, 2018No Comments

Last year I took some of my favorite soundtracks and sorted them as best as I could by genre, but now there’s more music to explore and utilize in your own inspirational playlists. I like to choose from both film, TV shows, and video games. I’ll try to do my best and go through my personal favorites of 2017 soundtracks and give a brief description of how it will enhance your music selections.

Movies

Rupert Gregson Williams’ Wonder Woman soundtrack is a gem whether you’re writing an Action-packed emotional Drama or are simply working out. The theme is a little glaring, but it’s not as intrusive as the Pirates of the Caribbean’s theme (hence why Dead Men Tell No Tales is not listed). This song is good for any Fantasy, Action/Adventure, or Superhero playlist. It could work with Sci-fi and Drama, but it’s a little too upbeat and powerful for Drama and not as futuristic as some people want for Sci-fi.

Mark Mothersbaugh’s Thor: Ragnarok soundtrack is one that’s hard to place. It has a very tribal and forceful sound to it, but it’s also laced with nostalgic chiptune or 8-bit like tone quality to it you would normally find in old arcade games. It definitely gives the movie a unique tone, but makes it difficult to use. Definitely a good soundtrack for any Sci-fi ideas with Action, but some songs have minimal usage of the chiptune and are salvageable for anything from Action to Crime (if it’s really exciting or something like Mr. Robot) to Post-apocalyptic. However, it has a lot of energy so be prepared to want to write battles to this music.

Michael Abels’ Get Out soundtrack is interesting for a Horror film OST. By itself, the music itself has a dark color, but doesn’t always make your skin crawl. The songs average under one minute with a few outliers, so it’s good for adding some quick dark feelings, but not to base your soundtrack off of. It almost as an ethereal quality to it at times which makes it a good match for Sci-fi. Definitely good for Horror with the whispering vocals in some of the songs, but it could also help darken a Drama, Supernatural, or Mystery playlist.

Alexandre Desplat’s otherworldly soundtrack for Shape of Water needs to be listened to through both headphones or speakers. It has a great whimsical Fantasy feel to it in some moments and some suspenseful ominous music that would pair well with any Mystery or Drama. It could be, with the right accompanying music, a good dark and strange filler for a Supernatural or Horror playlist.

Hans Zimmer teams up with Benjamin Wallfisch to create Blade Runner 2049’s soundtrack. If you’re looking for an echoing minimalist soundtrack, then this is for you. It focuses on tone and vibration with a little startling percussion every now and then. I would definitely recommend this for any Post-apocalyptic or Sci-fi theme. It reminds me a lot of a more intense Gravity (Steven Price). I really appreciate how, even though some of the tonality and use of the music seems is random, it feels like a lot of effort and precision went into its creation. It has some Supernatural moments with a sometimes heavy dark feel that could enhance a Crime or Horror playlist.

Marco Beltrami’s Logan has a strange almost Noir quality to it at times, while definitely keeping up its Action moments and darker, self-reflective moments. Crime would definitely benefit from this, but since it is heavy in slow, thoughtful music, almost any genre from Drama to Disaster that doesn’t mind solo piano that stabs you in the gut could use it.

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri’s soundtrack by Carter Burwell has an almost modern Western feel to it. Like Logan, it has a very emotional-centered soundtrack that’s perfect for Drama’s and Crime and character development moments. It has its moments and does have suspenseful moments where the pace picks up and keeps a steady rhythm. I think it could be great for a colorful Sci-fi like a Space Western or a Post-apocalyptic civilization decades after the event. There are moments with lyrics, but if you’re dedicated to the unique tone of this soundtrack, it shouldn’t be too bothersome.

Michael Giacchino is back with his punny song titles in Coco. Of course, it has a very beautiful acoustic quality with Latin rhythms. It may seem like it can only work for a specific niche, but think of how it makes you feel. If it makes you think of travel or if the bright music makes you tap your feet and nod your head along, add it to any playlist you need to lighten up! Most of the soundtracks already listed were dark and heavy, but this soundtrack takes the weight off your mind and you can be absorbed into it. I think it’s also a great way to think about culture in your story. Why not have some Latin music in your High Fantasy? Or on your spaceship? Especially with this soundtrack, you’ll want to find as many playlists as you can so you can listen to this all the time. There is an English and a Spanish album, but that only changes the lyrics of the movie’s ballads and other accompanying songs with lyrics and the Spanish album has some bonus music, but not part of the orchestral soundtrack.

With Tyler Bates’ Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, it’s very important to look it up by “score” instead of just “soundtrack” or else you’ll have to sift through every 70s tune used in the film. It is Action-packed and has a wonderful balance of emotional themes and suspenseful energetic moments. The theme is sometimes hard to miss, but it blends well unless you’re looking for it. It would go best with any sort of Action-focused playlist. From Sci-fi to perhaps Urban Fantasy or Crime, it would be a great score to include.

Alexandre Desplat makes another appearance with Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets’ score (it also includes some lyrical songs from David Bowie to Cara Delevingne. It’s perfect for the Sci-fi playlist that craves the full orchestra sound that makes it feel a little retro. This soundtrack definitely makes me think back to Star Trek: Original Series and other old Sci-fi and Noir films that used full orchestras without much digital modification. If you want a classic feel to your playlist, whether it’s a Crime or Drama story, sort through these songs and see what works best.

Atomic Blonde’s score, crafted by Tyler Bates, is another Action-filled soundtrack that will be able to get your heart racing and work in almost any fast-paced situation. It has a futuristic tone to it that could enhance any Sci-fi playlist. Also, with its suspenseful Spy feel to it, this soundtrack would be a great accompaniment to any Crime playlist too. Just like Tyler Bates’ other albums, it is almost all Action, so not the best soundtrack for an emotional Drama or laid-back Romantic Comedy.

Marcelo Zarvos created a light and whimsical soundtrack for Wonder. Unlike all the previous soundtracks and scores listed, it’s veritably void of intense action and is pleasantly light. Perfect for any Indie, Comedy, or Romantic playlist. It has a delicate depth to it and a wonderful use of instrument variety. It doesn’t overwhelm with a crowded orchestra, there’s a beautiful minimalism to the music, centered on a wonderful piano theme. It has some somber moments that evoke a soft sadness, but even those moments have their places in any bright film.

There were other soundtracks to listen to however some, like Jon Brion’s Lady Bird, I was unable to find a source I could listen to while some, like the musical-esque The Greatest Showman, is composed completely of lyrical music.

TV Shows

Kyle Dixon and Michael Stein’s Stranger Things scores are retro with the synthesizer dominating the melody. It has a foreboding Horror feel to it and a dark theme that makes it perfect for a Crime or Mystery playlist, especially if you want it to have an 80s/90s feel to it. Of course, it could be used in a Sci-fi, but the music is dated and might take a toll on any “futuristic” feel you might imagine for your story. Of course, a story about what it would have been like if we had space travel in the 80s might be cool.

Jeff Russo’s Legion soundtrack is an ominous futuristic score that has some trance-inducing (or maddening) repetitive tones. With splashes of action, this album would fare best in playlists of Sci-fi or Post-apocalyptic stories. Of course, it could always translate into a Crime or Urban Fantasy playlist seamlessly since it has an otherworldly quality to it.

Blake Neely’s Riverdale soundtrack definitely captures the nostalgic feeling of high school days. It has a darkness to it that works well with Drama and Mystery. With a suspenseful tone that is sometimes light in a hopeful way, this soundtrack could color any playlist with low-action dark themes. From Sci-fi to Crime, this soundtrack works especially well since the music doesn’t have a forced directionality. While it’s not entirely “spooky”, Psychological Horror could also gain some good inspiration from this soundtrack.

Godless’ soundtrack is the wonderful work of Carlos Rafael Rivera. It has a great acoustic soundtrack featuring strings and environmental sounds like water. Of course, it’s perfect for anyone building up a Western playlist, but the color of the strings and heavy downbeats can be applied to other genres. Perhaps your Crime story could do with some inspiration from Western. It is pretty modern, which makes it more versatile than most. It also has some action moments that could work in a Fantasy or even Sci-fi. Heavy percussion and ominous strings do not discriminate.

When it comes to Brian Reitzell’s American Gods soundtrack, I find this one is hard to place as well. It has a very tribal feel to it, with interesting exotic instruments and a steady rhythm. It definitely evokes a feeling that I could see being used in a Fantasy playlist or Urban Fantasy. It has a similar use of unique instruments that makes each song of the albums unique and stand out on its own. You could use “Shopping” in a city exploration montage moment while “Vulcan” takes you to an almost blues-like jazz setting. It’s definitely worth listening to, if only just to hear a range of musical collaboration unlike most you might hear in a soundtrack.

Of course, with most TV shows, the majority of their soundtrack is probably subtle instrumental and needle drops (like Glow’s completely lyrical soundtrack). I was unable to find a score for The Good Place and The Handmaid’s Tale, but I’m sure they’re worth listening to.

Video Games

Before I list these, I’m sure you might be wondering why these soundtracks are listed. First off, some of the best music that I have in my playlists are from video games (Inon Zur’s Fallout 4, C418’s Minecraft albums, Gustavo Santaolalla’s The Last of Us, etc). Why is that? It’s because video game music is designed to help players focus which, for a writer’s inspirational playlist, they’re gold.

Mick Gordon’s Prey soundtrack is one of my new favorites for dark Sci-fi. It would also be a great fit for any Horror playlist. It has a fluid movement that can lull you into a comfortable theme before it changes seamlessly into something that turns dark and ominous. It has some action moments that give you the feeling of urgency as if hunting or being hunted. It would do well in a Supernatural or Superhero playlist, depending on how dark you get.

Sarah Schachner created the newest Assassin’s Creed soundtrack for Assassin’s Creed: Origins. Remaining true to all other soundtracks before her, it has an insatiable feeling of adventure. Similar to Prey, there’s an urgent feeling embedded into the music that is good for all Action and edge-of-the-seat playlists. Since the game takes place in Egypt, the music adopts a middle-eastern rhythm and feel, but amongst a variety of other music in a playlist, you will barely notice.

As a fan of Clint Mansell and Various Artist’s Mass Effect 3 album, I was super excited when John Paesano’s Mass Effect: Andromeda came out. It has all of the resonate Sci-fi feelings with thrilling Action segments and chilling quieter moments. I would highly recommend this for any Supernatural or Sci-fi playlist. It is heavily futuristic so Urban Fantasy or Dystopia/Utopia will only benefit from this if it wants the metallic and echo-like qualities of futuristic scores.

Darren Korb’s soundtrack for Pyre has an acoustic/rock feel that will make it difficult not to nod along with it. It definitely has an “outlaw” and “mystical” feel. It would work with a Crime or Sci-fi story playlist. I would even recommend this for Fantasy since not all Fantasy playlists have to only have orchestral music or Howard Shore’s Lord of the Rings soundtracks. While it doesn’t have intense Action to it, but there’s definitely the suspense of a Thriller and stirrings of a Mystery.

If you were looking for a whimsical Fantasy feel, David García Díaz’s Rime soundtrack is what you need. It has an ethereal quality to it that makes you feel like you’re in another world. It is soothing and mysterious which could benefit Sci-fi and Mystery. It has a soft, flowing theme to it that could enhance any playlist, but it doesn’t have the conflict-heavy tones that most film soundtracks have.

As with all music, don’t just take my word for it. Go listen to it on your own and make your own judgments. Perhaps there are certain songs you can pick and choose from some of the suggested playlists that are perfect for a certain playlist while not for others. Don’t see a soundtrack that came out in 2017 that you loved? Leave a comment!


Beverly Peders is a Screenwriting student at Drexel University. While focusing on writing for the screen, she has also dabbled in playwriting, writing comic books, and video games. World building is her favorite and she constantly obsesses over anthropology and linguistics. In her non-existent spare time, you may find her begging her plants to stay alive or trying to convince nonbelievers that dragons are real. She is also a percussionist in several ensembles with a love of music that outweighs her skill.