Monday, December 27, 2010

Daft Punk (TRON: Legacy)

I really dug the new TRON: Legacy movie, and at the risk of sounding like a shill, I'm super grooving on the new Daft Punk original motion picture soundtrack.

I was first exposed to Daft Punk via their Cartoon Network exposure in the late 90s (early 2000s?), and then had elliptical run-ins with them via acting things like their "Electroma" short film Cannes Film Festival offering. Band members Thomas Bangalter and Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo are talented, and the soundtrack is a solid album offering from them -- surpassing (I think), even their more well-known "Alive 2007".

I generally wait to buy album soundtracks and musical scores until after I've seen the film, so the music is more evocative of key moments in the film. This sometimes creates a bias for liked and disliked tracks based on their movie tie-in, as opposed to them as stand-alone offerings. But at least I'm honest about my review biases. ;-)

I did the same for TRON, and while there are moments and beats that do pull me back into the film (the music interleaving to the movie sound track is pretty unique) -- "Arena" and "Disc Wars" in particular --there are beautiful, unique tracks that are startling self-contained. The Jeff Bridges narrated "The Grid" is a surprisingly solid tone-setter for the rest of the album, is a wonderful remix of the original TRON theme, and avoids the "show don't tell" trap into which it could easily fall. I actually wish the album started with this particular track.

For whatever reason, I'm fascinated by the Recognizer vehicles -- the hefty AT-ATs of the world of TRON. For me, they're more evocative of the technology gone awry than the light cycles, and the eponymous track drives that home.

Likewise "C.L.U." is a nicely complex piece, evocative of some of the depth of stuff hinted at with that character (and the related relationships). It arguably tries to do too much, possibly because it is the longest track on the album (though short by normal band standards).

"Fall" is one of the shortest, most powerful tracks on the album; it's in danger of being overlooked, because it's easy to mistake it as the bridge between the "Derezzed" (vintage-ish Daft Punk) and "Solar Sailor" (a beautiful, solemn subtle track of its own).

And while not the star of the album, the Amazon-exclusive "Sea of Simulation" track fits solidly (and congruently) within the whole album.

If you do/did see the film, you'll notice Daft Punk's  camera-averse, robot-during-live-shows persona works without much tweaking in their cameo (during the "Derezzed" performance).

Overall, the TRON: Legacy Original Motion Picture Soundtrack is an enjoyable, accessible, semi-house / electronica offering.

(As an aside, I'm also a toy and Japanese anime fan, so add that to my rekindled love for Daft Punk, and I'm likely going to pick up a set of their Zentradi-lookalike Interstella 5555 figures for enjoyment. And possibly parody. It's part of what I do.)

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Cloud Cult

I've been listening to a lot of Cloud Cult lately, thanks to a co-worker letting me borrow a couple of albums, "Advice from the Happy Hippopotamus (2005)", and "The Meaning of 8 (2007)". I previously knew their "Lucky Today" song from the Esurance commercial, but not much beyond that.

"The Meaning of 8" is a rawer, more authentic album, largely because a lot of the content deals thematically with the somber and celebratory exploration of what it would have been like if front man Craig Minowa's son had reached 8 years old (he sadly died unexpectedly at the age of 2 in 2002). I'm not sure if the songs for the album were new for the album, or pulled from the nearly 100 songs Minowa allegedly wrote as he grieved for his son.

This is one of the those bands I don't like to say a lot about, because it's kind of hard for me to articulate why I like them, and I don't want to sell there sound or messages short. If you thematically like groups like Bear in Heaven or Cymbals Eat Guitars, you may like particularly like Cloud Cult.

All of their albums are available for streaming from their official (very indie) site.