MP3: Nightcrawler (2014)

February 19, 2015 | By


Nightcrawler2014_MP3Score: Very Good

Label: Lakeshore Records

Released:  October 28, 2014

Tracks / Album Length:  28 tracks / (51:04)

Composer: James Newton Howard

Special Notes:  n/a




James Newton Howard’s approach to the story of a cameraman racing to gory accidents and bloody suburban violence is very subtle but quite clever, with some great sonic homages to his classic use of electronic pulses.

The score’s first sounds – a group of thin arching tones – evokes the image of bright morning sunlight piercing in small, wavering slivers through a heavily curtained apartment (lead character Lou Bloom), but the main theme is a three-note pattern (presumably) designed to evoke the call tones of a news station (like NBC), from which Howard frequently draws to comment on Bloom’s gradual ascension from wannabe news shooter to a competitive cameraman that even veterans begin to mistrust, and perhaps fear.

In “The First Accident,” the main theme is rearranged into a pattern that reformulates itself as Bloom quickly absorbs the plum opportunity of being the first at an accident scene and rearranges an injured man. Howard then brings in an otherwise absent orchestra to enhance Bloom’s hyper-focusing as he scans news reports for signs of his sold footage, and begins to rapidly catalogue its usage on his laptop, creating a database of Bloom’s Top Hits. Howard also makes use of chimes, synthetic distortion, reverb, and assorted processing which are key elements of the score’s sonic palette.

Fat bass guitar and keyboards characterize the pulse-pounding tension as Bloom and Rick race to an accident scene in “The Wrong Way,” with electric guitar riffing the main theme as organic percussion thickens the cue’s momentum. Processed sounds also dominate “Chinatown Express” with chimes, distant rhythms on cymbals, flanging tones, and some human exhalations.

There’s also a very sparse use of woodwinds that accent Bloom’s social awkwardness, his loner status, and his awkward interaction with station manager Nina with whom he has an affair. “The Shootout” transforms from grim tones to a slow rising elegy, with sampled, blurry chorals, and it form the first signal that Nightcrawler is really a black comedy about a sociopath with an unwavering drive to become a master manipulator and purveyor of timely, grisly news footage. Howard brings in strings, clarinet, and metal scraping, the latter leading into the film’s end credit music, “If It Bleeds, It Leads,” which starts off with an electric guitar solo before a full rock band rendition – a radical departure from the score’s overall somber tone.

Howard’s approach does reflect the film’s weird tonal inconsistencies – it’s part drama, suspense film, crime thriller, and black comedy – but it offers an interesting combination of sounds that evoke the composer’s more rhythmic urban scores (Grand Canyon, especially) and some contemporary ingredients and production design.



© 2015 Mark R. Hasan



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