Top Superhero Film Themes

With so many superhero and comic book films coming out over the last few years, and more still looming on the horizon, I decided to scroll back through my music library and compile a list of what I consider to be the best superhero “themes” from these films. There may be a few films I haven’t seen, so certain themes might have evaded my notice, but I have witnessed the bulk of them and here are my results!

I’ve linked a Youtube video (not mine) after each selection that contains the theme, as well as the Amazon link for purchase/listening. This isn’t sponsored or anything and I don’t own the rights to these songs; just want to have a bit of fun and spread some good hero themes around!

5.) Spider-Man 2 (2004) – Danny Elfman
Obviously I haven’t seen Tom Holland’s solo spin on our friendly neighborhood Spider-Man yet (besides his appearance in Civil War, which was excellent) but I’ll always have a place in my heart for the original Spider-Man films and Toby Maguire’s portrayal of the character. Maybe it’s because they were the first superhero films I got into, but regardless, I love both the original Spider-Man and Spider-Man 2 – I actually still consider the second one to be one of the greatest superhero films to date. Not big on the third one, to be honest, but one thing is consistent throughout the three films – the music, and the amazing Spider-Man theme provided by Danny Elfman. In a way, the theme covers an “arc” – it hits different tones, from sweeping and emotional to action-packed and intense, hitting all the notes that combine to make a heroic sound. I honestly can’t even remember the theme from the second series of films; that’s not to say the music is bad, just that Elfman’s theme packed a bigger punch and has come to define the character (for me, at least.)

Here is the LINK! (Youtube)
Or purchase on Amazon: LINK!

4.) The Avengers (2012) – Alan Silvestri
Though I’ve loved nearly all of the Marvel solo hero films to date, I actually have trouble remembering the theme music for all of the individual characters; they’re all good in the moment, but none of them really “stuck” with me after the films ended. However, when the characters all teamed up for 2012’s The Avengers, they earned a new “team” theme, and it’s pretty great. It’s definitely the kind of song that will encourage you to finish the last strenuous laps of a running session or push you to the end of a difficult workout, and when it plays in the film, it’s easy to get pumped up about seeing a team of heroes take on a dastardly villain. It’s got the right blend of hype-building and morale-boosting, which is perfect for an ensemble film like The Avengers; it helps them sound like a team, instead of just looking like one.

Here is the LINK! (Youtube)
Or purchase on Amazon: LINK!

3.) Doctor Strange (2016) – Michael Giacchino
Benedict Cumberbatch’s turn as Doctor Strange is the most recent introduction into the MCU, and his theme music is very fitting for him as a character. Doctor Strange is enigmatic, sarcastic, and his ingenuity is as much as strength as his actual powers are; and since he is a “different” sort of hero than most of the other MCU characters, his theme is also a little strange – in the best way.  It’s definitely my favorite theme from the Marvel films, which isn’t much of a surprise, since Giacchino consistently delivers great themes and scores (Rogue One comes to mind as a recent non-superhero standout). I went into this film knowing very little about Doctor Strange, and emerged from the theater humming the theme song under my breath. It’s whimsical and heroic and evokes strength all at once; the perfect sound for a hero who defies the norm.

Here is the LINK(Youtube)
Or purchase on Amazon: LINK!

2.) Wonder Woman (2017) – Rupert Gregson-Williams / Junkie XL
One of the major highlights of 2016’s Batman V Superman was the introduction of Gal Gadot’s portrayal of Wonder Woman, and her solo film was released to glowing reception a little over a year later. And her theme music is absolutely BADASS – just like the character herself. The theme was initially created by Junkie XL for BvS but was also included and expanded on in the solo film, and Gregson-Williams does it justice. When this theme starts playing, it’s obviously a pulse-pounding, energetic prelude to some serious action, and it’s the perfect music to serve as the buildup and backdrop to battle. When Wonder Woman made her first appearance in BvS, this theme played to announce her arrival, and I remember sitting in the theater, listening to the music, and thinking “Wow – this is how a hero makes an entrance.” Now, every time it starts playing when Diana is fighting onscreen, I get chills; it’s everything a heroic theme should be and I hope we get to hear it in all Wonder Woman appearances to come.

Here is the LINK! (Youtube)
Or purchase from Amazon: LINK! (WW) and LINK! (BvS)

1.) The Dark Knight (2008) Hans Zimmer and James Newton Howard
Though the theme from the original Batman film back in ’89 is pretty excellent as well, I think Zimmer and Howard’s theme for the caped crusader is the most definitive and powerful version thus far. Whenever this theme kicks up, it gets the energy flowing; it’s come to signify Batman as a character and really helped to mold The Dark Knight Trilogy as a whole. Like Elfman’s Spider-Man theme, this one seems to cover an arc – it hits all the notes of Batman’s character; his suffering, his heroism, his experiences, his humanity. None of these films would be what they are without their score, but I’d argue that Zimmer and Howard’s contribution to this trilogy has the biggest overall impact. It’s a theme I won’t forget, even when new incarnations of Batman take the screen; this is a theme that will endure, and whenever I think of Batman, this is the theme I associate him with. I’m still baffled the soundtrack wasn’t even nominated for an Oscar, though that’s probably because I’m biased. The Dark Knight Trilogy really revolutionized the “comic book film” genre with its gritty, dark tone and groundbreaking performances, and the music provides the a fitting, powerful soundtrack to Bale’s incarnation of the much-beloved character.

Here is the LINK! (Youtube)
Or purchase from Amazon: LINK! 

Writing Techniques: Music

When it comes to my own writing projects, I typically construct playlists to listen to while working. I LOVE when I read a great book and the author includes a list of songs they listened to while writing, either on their website or in the back pages. It helps readers get a glimpse into their process, in a way – to peek at their inspiration.

The full playlist I listened to while writing I’m With You can be found here. Now, the playlist is quite long, so for this post, I thought I’d take just a few selections from the list and explain the impact they had on the writing process. No major spoilers, though. If you’d like to read I’m With You and see the results of the playlist for yourself, here is the link to buy from Amazon! It’s available in print and e-book formats, and is also available in print on the Barnes and Noble website.

Dead Hearts by Stars
This song was pivotal in the creation and evolution of Remiel as a character. Not only for the lyrics, but also for the general sound, which I found incredibly unique from the first time I heard it. To me, this song evokes sadness, but it also seems cold and detached, even when exploring something very visceral – which was fitting for Rem’s personality.

If There Was No You by Brandi Carlile
Valkyrie and Ramus were created as characters long before the plot of I’m With You was finalized. Their original roles were quite different (one of them was originally a hit-man, one had two-toned hair, etc) and they have undergone many changes in personality and background as the narrative evolved into the final version, but their relationship (both the good aspects and the problematic) remained largely unchanged throughout development. This song was a partial inspiration in that regard, as without the other, their characters would not be complete.

Light by Sleeping at Last
A major idea I tried to explore in the novel was the idea of “family,” though not always in a typical sense. To me, this song emulates the influence/impact a person can have on another, whether it be via familial connection, friendship, or some other meaningful relationship. Since the main characters forge bonds with one another over the course of the story, weaving themselves together into a makeshift family, and they each come to be important to one another in some way, the content of this song seemed very appropriate. Also, I like how it sounds.

People Help the People by Cherry Ghost/Birdy
I think people are more familiar with Birdy’s cover of this song, which is amazing, but I will always prefer the original. I love all of Cherry Ghost’s work, which is criminally underrated. Overall, this song’s tone and sound is what I derived the most inspiration from, but one line in particular is what stands out to me the most, and that is: “And if you’re homesick, give me your hand and I’ll hold it,” which reminded me of the sibling relationship between Ciarán and Remiel, and how they support one another.

Dead Man’s Suit by Cherry Ghost
This song sort of served a dual purpose – I consider it thematic for the novel, mostly for the unique sound it has, and also because my play count for this song was extraordinarily high when all was said and done. It’s one of those songs that really hit me when I first heard it, and I never skip it when it comes on shuffle. It is also a partial influence for the character of Ernest Morrigan, Rem and Ciarán’s father, due to some particular lines of lyrics.

Six Weeks by Of Monsters and Men
Along with Your Bones, King and Lionheart, and Silhouettes, this song was pivotal during the writing of chapters 17-19, largely for their sound and lyrical content. Six Weeks, in particular, influenced the development of Cinderflynn as a character, and it, along with some of the other Of Monsters and Men songs on this list (from their first album – the second wasn’t out at the time of the first draft) were on repeat as I wrote those portions of the story, and were a definite factor in the development of the narrative and the overall tone. Of Monsters and Men have a very distinct “mountain sound” to their work that I sought to emulate while writing those chapters, and their songs provided a lot of inspiration.

The Story by Brandi Carlile
In addition to being one of my favorite songs of all time (OF ALL TIME, I TELL YOU), this song was also one I listened to for the general feel of the story/themes. If I hit a snag with writer’s block, this song helped drag me out of it. This song was my rock. I think if the main cast had a theme song to tie them together (you know… like the Power Rangers… or the Planeteers… or the Transformers, maybe) then this would be my choice, because the main characters are bound by their own stories, as well as “the story” that brings them together.

Coming Home (pt. 2) by Skylar Grey 
I listened to this song (the version sans the rap part) while I wrote the closing chapters of the novel, as it definitely struck me as an “ending theme.” It symbolizes the end of a journey; a determination to see something through to the end, until it is time to return “home.” The final stretch of a laborious journey. Etc, etc.

My Silver LiningFirst Aid Kit
This song wasn’t released until I’m With You was in the editing phase, but it still provided a boost of motivation as I worked through rewrites and tweaks to the manuscript. Because if there is anything the main (and supporting) characters needed during their ventures, it was a “silver lining” to their respective circumstances. Also, it’s a total jam, man.

DemonsImagine Dragons
I liked this song for the overall tone and theme, but also as a partial influence for Kaz’s personality and his mentality. Several characters grapple with their own demons over the course of the narrative, so the song is fitting for the plot, but I listened to this particular tune during chapters 23-24, as I tried to convey that, though someone may be plagued by demons, it is not impossible to overcome them.

Believe by Mumford and Sons
This song didn’t come out until after I found out my manuscript was going to be published, but I added it to my playlist during the editing process. To me, the song explores what happens when belief falters and doubt sets in – but also about overcoming those difficulties, or striving to restore dedication in a cause. And that is the main plight that Ciarán faces in the story; his world gets flipped upside down, and he no longer knows what to believe. Through the course of the novel, he must learn to cope with new circumstances; to find belief again, after his perspective gets utterly rearranged.

B.A.P. Concert in Washington D.C.!

Let it be known, before I launch into this post, that I am not a K-pop aficionado. I do harbor a long-running deep love for J-Pop/J-Rock (Do As Infinity, L’arc-en-Ciel, Ayaka, Ayumi Hamasaki, Every Little Thing, Utada, FLOW, etc) and an appreciation for C-Pop and Mandopop (Jolin Tsai, Jam Hsiao, S.H.E., Mayday, Leehom Wang, etc), and while I enjoy K-Pop, my dedication level hovers somewhere above “knowing what Gangnam Style is” and below “creating K-Pop only blogs/twitters and knowing all the former and present members of Super Junior.” One might say I am a casual.

So a couple of months ago, I got a text from my best friend, which read: “Would you….. possibly hypothetically go with me to see a kpop group in dc?” I thought about it, and ultimately settled on, “Why not?” I may not be a mega-fan, but I figured it would be an interesting experience, regardless.

And it definitely was an experience. Now, bear in mind, the following observations are from someone who is not super-involved in the K-pop fandom, so please forgive any ignorance on my part. No offense is meant by anything said in the following blog post.

I might be a novice, but I am aware of the far-reaching scope of K-pop  – it’s basically a global phenomenon with a massive, dedicated fanbase. I know a handful of bands/artists, but I was more or less clueless about B.A.P. going into the concert. My friend actually made me a Google doc about the band/members to study beforehand, but needless to say, I didn’t retain much. However, no amount of research could have prepared me for what I was going to face at the Warner Theater in D.C on April 9th, 2017.

17862549_10210247446681689_2903302992777542961_nDuring the ride down to D.C, my friend (who is a K-pop expert) briefed me on what to expect, so I felt more or less equipped to handle things. However, more details trickled through over the course of the day, as she would casually mention, “Oh, by the way, there will be whistles,” and “Oh, just so you know, it’s going to start with a D.J.” and “There’s like, sort of a dress code…but don’t worry about it” – I half expected her to tell me the boys would land onstage after descending from the ceiling on trapezes. Outside the theater, we were given posters to wave during a particular number… and since I didn’t know any of the songs, my friend assured me she would alert me in advance. Once we entered the venue and got to our seats (in the balcony), she also mentioned, “It’s good we’re not in the orchestra seats, because it gets crazy down there,” and a girl sitting near us assured me, “Oh, it’ll get crazy up here too.”

And they were not wrong. All thoughts of being prepared were whisked away from me as the buzz began to build. Whistles were going off and fans were screaming well before the opening – and once the D.J. (A performer named D.Shoo, who was awesome!) actually began, the hype was ramped up to about a 1000%. Now, the Warner Theater is the sort of venue built for ballets and – so that sort of atmosphere, colliding with the passionate fervor of K-Pop fans and the colorful, flashing lights and screens, was a bit jarring at first. Folks were jumping up and down, whistles were blaring, everyone was standing and cheering, girls (and maybe some guys) were loudly proclaiming their love for certain members of the group, and the main act hadn’t even begun yet.

17796405_10210247446841693_3183343088456269860_nNaturally, when the group members – Yongguk, Daehyun, Jongup, Himchan, Youngjae, and Zelo (I only had to google, like, 2 of those – I’m getting better!) – actually emerged onstage and launched into their first number, the crowd totally lost it. I looked down into the orchestra and it was a literal sea of flailing arms, hands waving those little bunny monster wand things (Matokis, I think?) and screaming. A fan up in the balcony had some sort of light-up sign, as well. At some points, it got so loud that I feared I would lose my hearing for the following day, and my friend and I both had to work at 5AM the next morning, so that would have been less than ideal. Luckily, the ear-ringing ceased on the car ride home.

Even though I went into the experience mostly unprepared and unaware of what was about to ensue, I was completely blown away. From the moment the concert began, the crowd never lost their intensity- we were on our feet the entire time, and B.A.P. did a fantastic job keeping the energy level at it’s peak the entire night, even during “slower” numbers. It took me a little while to adjust to the ardent nature of the crowd, but I settled into a zone and found myself having an excellent time. It barely even felt like 2 hours, and even though my friend and I had been walking around D.C. most of the day beforehand, the exhaustion didn’t hit me until the car-ride home. Also, I can say, with 90% certainty, that I was the only person in the audience who didn’t know any of the words. The fans knew exactly when to join in with the next lyrics and didn’t even need any sort of cue – it was seriously awe-inspiring.

17523631_10210247447161701_8871979680167774961_nMy favorite performances from the event were “Wake Me Up,” “Feel So Good,” “B.A.B.Y,” and “Spy” – at least, I’m pretty sure those are the titles. I had to google it. But I enjoyed all of it, and at no point or during any song did I think anything like, “Meh, this one’s just okay.” I also enjoyed the “Baby’s Lounge” segment, where the band members were charismatic and entertaining and got a window to interact with the crowd. I was surprised that they didn’t take more of a break between numbers – there were really only a couple of times where they stopped for a “costume change,” and they performed most of the songs back to back, which has to be exhausting. Regardless, they never lost their momentum and it kept the crowd enthused. I was jamming out to pretty much all of the songs – I’m not the type to really “let loose” and go crazy with the dancing and arm waving, but I did my share of “stand a sway” and moving to the rhythm. I let out a few “Wooo!”s of my own. The members each have their unique talents and voices, and they combine and complement one another in a way that makes a spectacular sound – plus their dancing/choreography is superb and was executed to perfection. “Feels So Good” and “B.A.B.Y,” were on repeat in my head for a couple days after – they are SO catchy. Not a single number or performance fell flat – as someone who knew pretty much nothing going in, I came away from it with a big grin on my face.

17884498_10210247447401707_6298726364486903065_nNow that the concert is over and I have had time to process, I can declare that, while I liked all of them, Himchan is my favorite… or I guess he would be my “bias?” I’m still not entirely clear on the terminology. Like, there’s something about “sons”? Or was it “children”? My friend tried to explain it to me but I was more or less like a well-meaning, yet clueless mom at her kid’s anime convention. The people around us in line and the girls sitting behind us were chattering on about their “biases” and all sorts of things and my friend could follow every word, but I was lost.

Despite my lack of knowledge, I also came away from the event with a new admiration for the dedication and persistence of the K-pop fandom. I can understand why some people think being that level of “fan” is obsessive/unhealthy, and it is a little overwhelming/off-putting at first to an “outsider” who is unfamiliar with the lingo and the customs, but honestly, as long as someone doesn’t let a passion or an avid interest affect their life in a negative manner, or allow it to completely consume their existence, or use it as a means to cause harm to someone else, then I don’t see the issue. Everybody’s got something they love – I’d be the same way at a Lord of the Rings event or something, and once I got used to the atmosphere, I no longer felt out of place. Even though I’m not at that level when it comes to K-Pop (and I likely never will be, though I do intend to broaden my range) I  can’t wait to add B.A.P.’s discography to my mp3 player so I can jam out while I’m at the gym. My interest in K-Pop might not be as off-the-charts as it is for some, but it certainly has been reignited. I wasn’t even upset that we didn’t get home until after midnight and I had to get up at 4 to go to work – the fatigue I felt the following day was worth it.

If my friend hadn’t invited and brought me along with her, I likely never would have attended a K-Pop concert of my own volition – so I’m grateful she included me. I consider the experience a valuable one, and can say, without a doubt, that it “feels so good” to have had the chance to witness B.A.P. perform live, and I might even venture out to more K-Pop shows in the future.

Game of Thrones Live Concert Experience: From Westeros to Boston

Contains spoilers for major moments of HBO’s Game of Thrones s1-6 and the Live Concert Experience. 

Last August, the Game of Thrones Live Concert Experience was announced, and, as a diehard fan of both the books and the show, I eagerly scanned the list of dates/venues to see if it was coming to my area. Unfortunately, the closest was Philadelphia on 2/26/17, which is about 2 hours away. I’m unfamiliar with Philly and the date was questionable for my schedule, so I didn’t think I would be able to attend… until I saw the location of the 3/6/17 show, and a lightbulb sparked above my head.

Since I’ve got family/friends in NE and I’m much more familiar with the area, I snagged tickets for the Boston show. Also, because my parents decided to start watching Game of Thrones with me and have spent the past ten or so months getting all caught up,  we made a mini family-vacation out of it and split the expense.

I bought the tickets way back when it was first announced, so by the time March finally rolled around, my excitement levels were at a potential Cleganebowl level. We got to the TD Garden about an hour ahead of time, and  the atmosphere inside the stadium was definitely meant to ramp up the hype-meter. Outside, they had some of the costumes from the show on display, which was a treat to see. There were smoke machines; not terribly intrusive, which set the scene with a light mist. I had gotten tickets for the “middle-ish” area of the stadium, so we had a great view of the screens and the stage… I’d initially gotten seats for one of the ends, but after some research, I called and swapped my seats, and the new ones were significantly better. For a Monday night, the turnout was decent; it wasn’t sold out, but the middle areas were packed, even up in the nosebleeds, and it seemed to me as though the empty seats were all on the ends, where the view of the concert was restricted. But as for the set up, there was a main stage connected to a smaller stage, which the soloists frequently moved to, as well as two smaller satellite stages, so, even if you couldn’t see the main screens from your seat, there was something to look at the entire time. There was an onscreen clock counting down the final minutes before the concert began, and from the moment the lights went down and the orchestra began the “Main Theme” as the Iron Throne materialized through a plume of smoke, I was as excited as Sansa was when she found out she was going to marry Joffrey…. you know, before he had her dad’s head cut off.

After a pleasant introduction by Ramin Djawadi, the creator of the music and themes all GoT fans have grown to love, the next track was an amalgamation of sorts of the character/house themes, as the sigils/banners unfurled from the rafters and the characters appeared in clips on the screen. I may not be a Lannister fan, but I got chills when their theme began; it might be my favorite motif from the series, and listening to it live was equal parts chilling and thrilling. Hearing the audience cheer for their favorite characters/houses and boo for their least favorites (Joff and Ramsay, in particular) was a surreal experience.

A major highlight of the concert was the soloists that composer Ramin Djawadi brought on tour with him; Christine Wu on violin, Cameron Stone on cello, singer Stevvi Alexander, and Pedro Eustache on winds, as well as a couple of others whose names I couldn’t manage to track down on the internet. Christine Wu played a wonderful solo as a “Weirwood Tree” descended and bloomed around her onstage, complete with red leaves raining from the sky, Cameron Stone rocked out on the cello during the Greyjoy number (on a water-soaked platform, no less) and Pedro Eustache played a 14-foot “wildling horn” in the midst of a snow squall during the White Walkers bit. Shockingly, no one went running for the doors when “The Rains of Castamere” (sung by soloist Stevvi Alexander) started, nor when they launched into the Red Wedding (“The Lannisters Send Their Regards”) afterwards. One truly understands what it means to be a fan whilst watching such misery play out onscreen with hundreds of other fans, though they did edit the sequences from the show to show less stabbing (of the back/neck/chest variety) than the full episode. The performance of the soloists/choir also gave those with a poorer vantage point something to watch, including a semi-reenactment of Cersei’s walk of atonement (no actual nudity, obv) and “warring” cello and violin during the sequences from “Battle of the Bastards.” The choir even donned Harpy masks for the relevant number. As someone who could see the screens perfectly well, it was nice to switch my view between stage and screen, and thus experience the entire concert without fearing that I missed anything big.

All in all, it’s hard to peg my favorite moment from the night – I enjoyed every note and each performance. The setlist featured a lot of the big musical and thematic moments of the series, such as the dramatic dragon-hatching ending of season 1, Jon and Ygritte’s doomed romance, and Sam seeing the library in Oldtown for the first time. One of my favorite episodes is season 2’s  penultimate “Blackwater,” so hearing the music live whilst watching the sequences play out onscreen was a treat for my inner fangirl. I also loved soloist Stevvi Alexander’s haunting and beautiful rendition of “The Rains of Castamere,” and her vocals, combined with the talents of a local choir, brought new life and fire to “Mhysa” and various other tracks, such as “The High Sparrow,” “Sons of the Harpy,” and “The Winds of Winter.” Ramin Djawadi also played the dulcimer during the Arya-centric “Needle,” and it gave the song a new, vibrant sound. The “Battle of the Bastards” segment was stellar, and the performance of the orchestra complemented the action-packed scenes of one of the greatest episodes of the series. Hearing the music in person, often with instruments added and the occasional new vocal or twist, also gave me a new appreciation for songs that previously had never stood out to me, such as the Greyjoy themes and Melisandre’s/Stannis’s.

The concert also included special effects aside from the images and scenes on the screens, which enhanced the overall experience and made for a visual feast for most of the concert. My favorite track from the season 6 soundtrack is actually “Reign,” so when the clip of Dany and the Masters played, with our favorite Dragon Queen saying “My reign has just begun,” I was thrilled; but add actual fire into the mix? We were several feet away and could feel the heat when the flames shot into the air. Gosh, it was like Drogon was actually present! Well, not really, but it was an awesome addition to the concert nonetheless. The second major instance was “The Light of the Seven,” the piano-centric track that leads up to Cersei’s act of ultimate vengeance in the final episode of season 6. Djawadi took the piano for this one, on the smaller stage, and as the song reached its peak, he was engulfed by green light and smoke. Thankfully it was all for show, and Djawadi did not suffer the same fate as poor Margaery, Loras, Kevan, and the others in the sept.

As all ride-or-die GoT fans know, the show would not be what it is without the gut-wrenching (and occasionally vindicating) stream of character deaths. After the orchestra finished the  last number, the hype-tastic song used to close out season 6 known as “The Winds of Winter,” Ramin and his band members played “The Bear and the Maiden Fair” while a montage of deceased characters played on the screens. A brilliant way to both close the show and offer a bit of a recap of our heartbreak, misery, and, in some cases, victorious moments over the last six seasons.

One complaint? Not NEARLY enough of the suave and mysterious Jaqen H’ghar/Faceless Man. (I jest, I jest – but he is my fave.)

The Game of Thrones Live Concert Experience was exactly that; an experience, and one I definitely recommend to anyone who is a fan of the show and the music. It’s approximately 2.5 hours of music and action – what’s not to like? I cannot imagine the amount of preparation and precision that went into making this concert, and I left the stadium with an ear-to-ear smile – a testament to what Djawadi has done with this score, and what GoT means to fans of the series. Ramin Djawadi and all those who have brought this concert to life have done an excellent job creating this experience and bringing the music to fans in a new, dynamic way, and I am so thankful I got to see it.

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Cinema and Sound

I’ve said it in previous posts, but I’ll reiterate here; I love movies. And, to take it even further, I love movie soundtracks.

A couple of years ago, while watching The Hobbit: Battle of the Five Armies on opening night, I saw a teaser trailer for Star Wars: The Force Awakens. When the iconic Star Wars music started to play as the Millennium Falcon burst into the air, I promptly teared up. Then, last December, I saw The Force Awakens for the first time. I’ve never seen a Star Wars film in theaters before, and as soon as the familiar theme started to blast through the speakers over the opening credit scroll, I was in an emotional upheaval. It was such an awesome moment, to hear that iconic music blare as a new space adventure was prepared to begin.

Some soundtracks are just so evocative; so definitive of the work itself that it plays through your head whenever you call certain scenes or characters to mind. There are themes and soundtracks that everyone knows, even if they haven’t seen the movie it’s from. Jaws, anyone? I knew the “da-dum…..da-dum….da-dummm….DA-DUM DA-DUM DA-DUM” way before I ever mustered the courage to actually sit down and watch it.

In the Star Wars vein, everyone knows/recognizes the Imperial March. I recently saw Rogue One, and (MINOR SPOILER) when Vader appeared onscreen, his famed theme providing an ominous introduction, it set the scene and re-emphasized exactly the kind of character Vader is, even so many years after his initial appearance. Vader is the embodiment of that theme and vice versa. It’s a testament John Williams’s strength and prowess as a composer.

For me, the same goes for the theme from The Lord of the Rings; mainly the Shire theme. The tin-whistle and violin create a feeling of nostalgia and sense of “home,” and whenever it comes up, it’s easy to see and recognize how important that idea is to so many of the characters, especially Frodo and Sam. Sections of that legendary score translated seamlessly into The Hobbit series, which played on those familiar themes while simultaneously providing new ones, such as the “Misty Mountains” song and the instrumental motif that accompanies it. For all the flaws in the Hobbit films (while I personally enjoyed the films, I recognize the issues) the music was exceptional thanks to the genius of Howard Shore.

The theme from the Indiana Jones franchise is another example of a film’s music becoming essential to a character, much like the “Imperial March” and the “Jaws Theme.” I can’t think of Indy’s daring adventures, whether it be fleeing an immense boulder or taking a leap of faith for the Holy Grail, without also conjuring up that heroic theme. The music from Jurassic Park has a similar effect, but with a particular scene instead of a character. When Alan and Ellie first see the dinosaurs at the park and the music starts to play… it’s legendary. A brilliant movie moment that will go down as one of the best and most memorable, thanks to yet another marvelous theme from John Williams.

Disney films and their associated scores and composers (especially Menken, but also Hans Zimmer in the case of The Lion King) are also consistently fantastic, especially during the Disney Renaissance period. If I had to pick my favorites (as far as music is concerned), I’d probably have to say The Lion King – especially the track “Under the Stars” and the beautiful theme that plays when Simba officially becomes the King of Pride Rock. I also think the music to The Hunchback of Notre Dame is severely underrated, especially the music from the prologue, which has a haunting, almost dirge-like quality. But I don’t know if any Disney score can top the one from Beauty and the Beast. From the chilling piano in the prologue to the tune as old as time and the Beast’s magical transformation, the music definitely helps make the film pack an emotional wallop. When the familiar strains of the score started to play over-top the trailer for next year’s live-action remake, I legitimately teared up. It hit me right in the feels in the best way possible, as music should.

Whether it’s Daft Punk’s stellar and groundbreaking contribution to the Tron: Legacy soundtrack (“The Grid,” man… I am all about that movie and the music) or the gentle theme of Forrest Gump playing as a feather spirals into the air, movies are enhanced by their score on an emotional and visceral level that moving pictures and scenes typically cannot accomplish alone. For some, it might be the whimsical, fantastical themes from the Harry Potter franchise, or the swashbuckling theme from Pirates of the Caribbean, the music from some films can resonate in a person’s mind long after the film has ended. Sure, there are some notable and famed film scenes that occur in complete silence, but often, it’s the music that makes the movie, in a fusion of cinema and sound.

Note: It’s the FINAL DAY to enter my Goodreads Giveaway! Enter HERE for a chance to win one of five free copies of my debut YA novel, I’m With You.

Destroyer of Technology

Over the years, I have earned a title.

This particular title is not quite as impressive as Daenerys Stormborn of House Targaryen, Queen of the Andals and the First Men, of the blood of old Valyria, Breaker of Chains, Mother of Dragons… etc, etc. No, my title is significantly shorter, and it does not denote any particular achievement or accomplishment. Rather, it declares me as a harbinger of doom.

I am the Destroyer of Technology.

For the record, I love technology. I’m not one of those folks who keeps up with all the latest trends or anything, and I don’t rush to pre-order every time a new version of the iPhone comes out (still rocking my LG G3) but I do have a deep respect for the latest trends, even if I don’t follow them all. I love my gadgets and electronics… but sometimes, I have an odd way of expressing my appreciation.

When I obtain a new electronic device or some form of technology, there is a fairly decent chance that I will somehow destroy it. Accidentally, of course. Some minor incidents include kicking a printer during a bout of frustration and breaking it beyond repair (it was a crap $50 printer from Circuit City, don’t know why I was surprised that it didn’t work well) and tripping over my power cord, breaking it, and knocking my laptop off my desk in the process. However, these were not the most damaging incidents.

My legacy began with my first iPod. It was a nano. The old version, which only came in black and white. My sister and I each got one as a gift and I cherished that thing. I took it everywhere. So, inevitably, I left it in my pocket one day and accidentally put it through the washing machine and about half of a dryer cycle. Needless to say, it was ruined for good and I was devastated.

Now, typically, one would think that after leaving a valuable electronic device in a pocket and subjecting it to a rinse cycle, I would have learned to always check my pockets before doing a load of laundry. But no, no… my first iPod was not the last to suffer so.

A couple of years later, I left my cell phone (Razr, anyone?) in the pocket of a sweatshirt and it ended up going through the washer, which killed it. To my credit, my mom is the one who put it through the laundry, however, I am the one who left the phone in my pocket and put the sweatshirt in the hamper, so I certainly shoulder the brunt of the blame.

I eventually procured a second iPod while in college. It was my running buddy; a companion that provided musical motivation for those early jogging sessions on brisk New England mornings. How did my workout companion meet his untimely end? You guessed it; death by washing machine. But this time, I managed to realize it before it got put into the dryer, so it wasn’t roasted as well as drowned. Regardless, it was rendered unusable and I was bereft of portable music once more.

Shortly after this, I went to the Apple Store and bought a new nano, determined to keep it alive for longer than 2 years. That might not seem like an impressive goal to meet but for me, it seemed pretty reasonable. I treated this iPod very well, and was vigilant about checking my pockets before each load of laundry.

One day in December, about a year or so after I bought it, I went to the gym, jammed out to my tunes while strolling on the treadmill, then came home, only to realize that my iPod was not in my pocket. Naturally, I thought I left it at the gym, but it wasn’t there the next day, nor was it in the lost and found. It wasn’t in my car, or anywhere I had been in the interim. It had seemingly vanished into thin air. I thought maybe I forgot that I had put it in my bag, but it wasn’t in my purse, or my wallet, or anywhere else I might have absently dropped it and forgotten about.

For ten days, I searched. And my search was fruitless. During this time, there was a period or torrential rainfall, a day of snow, and generally damp, cold, and miserable conditions. I bet you can see where this is going.

On a lark, I decided to check my front yard, just in case my iPod fell out of my pocket on my trek from my car to the front door. LO AND BEHOLD, beneath a brown, soggy, withered leaf, nestled between the sidewalk and the wet grass, was my beautiful pink iPod nano. It had been out in the wind and the snow and the rain for TEN DAYS. I was not – ABSOLUTELY NOT – going to lose another one. No way. Not like this.

Horrified, I snatched it up, took it into my bathroom, set my hair-dryer on low, and put my iPod under it for about five minutes, praying that it would live. I believe I was chanting, “LIVE, LIVE, FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, LIVE” over and over. And, to my utmost relief, when I went to plug my iPod into my laptop, the screen lit up.

And it worked.

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So, how did I celebrate this joyous occasion? By screaming for joy and jumping up and down, of course. And I renamed my iPod Lazarus, because I thought it was hilarious.

Good ol’ Lazarus worked for about eight months, but I guess he caught some kind of delayed pneumonia from his ten day ordeal in the elements, because he stopped functioning over the summer and I recently replaced him with a $20 mp3 player I got on Amazon because I think I have proven numerous times over the years that I can’t, and shouldn’t, have nice things.

The moral of the story?

Check your pockets before you do your laundry, and always be mindful of your valuables and belongings. Not only have I slaughtered innocent electronics over the years, but also several chapsticks, (one which ruined the clothes in the laundry, as well) money, and poor defenseless hair-ties. Treat your things with caution and care, or else, you could end up with a title like mine… the Destroyer of Technology.

 

Odes for Short Attention Spans

Though I am not a musically-inclined person, as I possess a voice that sounds like a wailing rhinoceros, I am a big fan of music in general. However, I also have the attention span of a hyperactive dog. A hyperactive chihuahua, specifically.

Thus, it is very rare for me to listen to one album in it’s entirety. However, over the years, I have accrued a list of albums from a variety of artists that I am fully capable of listening to from start to finish, without getting bored, and without skipping a single song.

AND HERE THEY ARE…

1.) Viva la Vida or Death and All His FriendsColdplay – 2008
Though I have liked pretty much every Coldplay album, I think their 2008 effort is my favorite of them all, though X&Y is a close second. The titular song, as well as Violet Hill, Cemeteries in London, and Lovers in Japan, are frequent visitors on my iTunes shuffle.

2.) BabelMumford and Sons – 2012
While going through a difficult time during my second year of college, I listened to this album on the way to and from school, and to and from work, every day for several months. It helped me out a lot, but, apart from that, it’s a really freaking great album overall. Particular favorites from this one include The Boxer, Broken Crown and Below My Feet.

3.) The Black ParadeMy Chemical Romance – 2006
I love(d) MCR so much that I wrote my final exam for my English class during freshman year of college about my affection for the song The Sharpest Lives. I also cried when I heard the band was breaking up. Yeah, I was one of those. But I still listen to their stuff on a fairly regular basis, especially most of the hits from this album, including the titular track, This is How I Disappear, Disenchanted, and Dead! All of them, really. It’s impossible to whittle down which ones I like the most.

4.) Thirst for RomanceCherry Ghost – 2007
I’m really astounded that this band doesn’t get more coverage. I had a significant portion of their music on the playlist I listened to while writing my debut novel, including Thirst for Romance, People Help the People, and My God Betrays. Really great stuff, and if you’ve never heard of them before, I definitely recommend them.

5.) My Head is an AnimalOf Monsters and Men – 2011/2012
I have heard Little Talks at least a thousand times because, for some reason, it is ALWAYS playing at the gym while I’m there, but I never tire of it. Same goes for the entire album, but, in particular, I’m fond of King and Lionheart and Your Bones. My play-count for all of the songs on this album is absurdly high.

6.) Too Weird to Live, Too Rare to Die!Panic! At the Disco – 2013
I have distinct memories of listening to this album on the day of release and not stopping or pausing it at all. This is Gospel might be my favorite Panic! song ever, and A Casual Affair and Nicotine are also highlights. Lots of catchy tracks from this one, though I’ll admit, it’s hard to pick between this one and Pretty.Odd (2008). However, this album takes the cake for the simple fact that I’ve listened to it at least a billion times.

7.) Save Rock and RollFall Out Boy – 2013
Though I also really liked their previous album, Folie a Deux, NO MATTER WHAT ANYONE ELSE SAYS, this album is probably my favorite from these guys, and it really sucked me back into their music after their hiatus. Just One Yesterday (feat. Foxes) was probably my most played song of 2013, and not far from it were Alone Together, the titular track from this album, and My Songs Know What You Did in the Dark. Consequently, that last track was the sole redeeming feature of the Percy Jackson and the Sea of Monsters film adaptation, but that’s neither here nor there…

8.) Random Access MemoriesDaft Punk – 2013
WHILE I LOVE EARLY DAFT PUNK VERY MUCH (so set down your pitchforks, please) I really do love their latest stuff the most as a WHOLE. I could get down to Get Lucky all day, man, and I especially love Instant Crush (feat. Julian Casablancas) and Contact. And, as a side-note, I also really, really love their work on the Tron Legacy soundtrack in 2010, which was absolutely stellar. But their wins at the Grammys in 2014 were utterly deserved.

9.) Do the A-SideDo As Infinity – 2005
Back in my cringe-fest weeaboo days, I was a big fan of the anime InuYasha, and the second ending song, Fukai Mori, introduced me to the J-Pop band Do As Infinity. To this day, over a decade later, I still absolutely love them, and this compilation album hits on some of their best work, especially Fukai Mori, Tangerine Dream, and Week! They broke up for a while, and this album was pretty much their send-off, but you can imagine how pumped I was when they reunited. Fukai Mori is probably my favorite J-Pop song of all time; certainly my favorite from that era.

10.) Hopes and FearsKeane – 2004
This is the first album I ever purchased with my own money. I was 12, and obsessed with Somewhere Only We Know, which is still one of my favorite songs to date. The play count for that song, as well as Everybody’s Changing and Bedshaped, is well into triple digits. I’ve loved it for so long, this album will forever hold a special place in my heart, and I will never skip a song from this album if it pops up on iTunes shuffle.