Welcome to the Music Section of the 2017 Holiday Gift Guide! Below you'll find a whooooooole lot of soundtracks. I'm pretty dumb when it comes to most non-movie related music so you're not going to find a whole lot of popular music stuff, fair warning.
What you will find are a combination of CDs and cool vinyl. One note: most of the vinyl and CDs sold through Amazon comes with a complete album MP3 download as well. I didn't always mark that bonus with the items I link, so keep your eyes peeled for that should you be interested in that.
Cheap ($24.99 and under)
PRE-ORDER, December 15th. A new John Williams Star Wars Score! A new John Williams Star Wars Score! He has said he returned because he couldn't bear to let another composer write music for Rey, which is his new favorite character. We get to benefit from that jealousy. Easily my most anticipated soundtrack of 2017. With Rian Johnson's film clocking in at 2 ½ hours that means we're gonna get a whole lot of John Williams music. ::insert Mr. Burns Excellent Gif here::
PRE-ORDER, January 12th. A new John Williams/Steven Spielberg collaboration is always something to be celebrated even if their dramatic team-ups aren't as instantly hummable as their genre, more-action-y stuff. Williams must be pushing 90 by now and he's still going strong. I hope he's still got a dozen more great pieces to give us before he decides he's done making amazing things.
Hans Zimmer and Benjamin Wallfisch had some pretty big shoes to fill here. Vangelis' score to the first Blade Runner is all-time classic stuff and tied so strongly to the distinct Blade Runner universe that didn't leave much wiggle room for new composers, but they killed it. This score is not only great, it feels right, which is the tougher of the two targets to hit in my book. It evokes the same feeling you got from the original without just copying it... kinda like the movie it was written for. It's a great score.
Christopher Nolan's Dunkirk is all about immersing you in an experience. It's light on story and heavy on making it feel like you're in the world with those trapped soldiers. Hans Zimmer brings it with this score for one of the most impressive cinematic feats of the year.
Michael Giacchino has been a busy bee this year. In fact, he's got three big, big, big soundtracks on the list this year, but I'm starting with War for the Planet of the Apes because I think it's his strongest work. Much like the movie itself it's emotional, rich, complex and the themes Giacchino uses and resurrects at key moments are very powerful. Giacchino is one of my favorite working composers and he knocked this one out of the park.
I've been buried in compiling this Guide so I haven't seen Coco yet, but I visited Pixar earlier this year to see a little behind the scenes of the making of this one and what I saw and heard was very impressive. Giacchino was very excited about his work on this one and even the little taste of it I heard you could hear the enthusiasm ring through.
And the third Michael Giacchino score on the list this year. He did a pretty bang-up job keeping Spider-Man: Homecoming lively. I still don't think we've gotten the definitive Spider-Man theme the way Batman, Superman and even Wonder Woman has, but Giacchino has done the best job since Danny Elfman's score for the Raimi films.
Marvel's in their “top of the world/don't give a shit” phase right now and nothing underlines that more than Mark Motherbaugh's weird, fun, absurd score for Thor: Ragnarok. Keep in mind this is for the score itself, not the Led Zeppelin needle drops, but the score should be enough, it's that good.
How great is this score? I'm not a massive fan of Wonder Woman's main theme being a crazy guitar riff, especially since it doesn't fit at all with the WW1 setting of this film, but I'll be damned if it doesn't work here. Very emotional, uplifting score from Rupert Gregson-Williams.
PRE-ORDER, December 8th. Danny Elfman's Justice League score is actually pretty good. The movie's a mess, but Elfman had the good sense to finally bring in some of the classic hero themes. Even if they were just hints it was nice hearing John Williams' Superman and Elfman's own Batman cues again. If he was able to use them more often and had a better movie to go along with it this could have been the soundtrack of the year.
PRE-ORDER, December 8th. Guillermo del Toro's known for his attention to detail and that reflects in his film's scores as well. Pan's Labyrinth is up there for favorite film music post-2000, for instance. Alexandre Desplat teamed with del Toro of his latest, The Shape of Water, and word is the movie is excellent and the score is just as beautiful as the images.
Bear McCreary is best known for his TV work, but he's done his fair share of big screen outings. This year he composed the score for the high concept slasher film Happy Death Day and here's the result: a fun horror score to jive along with.
PRE-ORDER, December 8th. Hugh Jackman has a new song and dance musical coming out at the end of the year called The Greatest Showman, a story about PT Barnum. It's been a passion project for the A-lister and he's been developing it for years. The song team behind La La Land is behind this one which means the soundtrack is all but guaranteed to stick in your brain.
If you're one of the people who saw the live-action Beauty and the Beast film (and judging by the box office I'd assume most of you did see it) and would care to have the soundtrack then this one's for you! Hear Hermione crank out Belle and Josh Gad and Luke Evans' charming performance of Gaston.
Disney's Robin Hood was a cornerstone of my childhood and I still love the music, which is way more folksy than most Disney films giving this one a distinct identity. It's just fun and still holds up. I've watched this one with my nephews one night WHILE on a trip to Disney World and they love it just as much as I did when I was their age. These Legacy soundtrack releases Disney has put out are spectacular and I imagine this one is another winner.
This is the second volume of a series of Jazz musicians taking on classic Disney music. I'd wager this would be absolutely perfect for new parents to soothe their baby at night or for totally hip cats to dig, daddio. This release includes songs and music from Steamboat Willie, Mary Poppins, The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast and many more.
Akira's 35th birthday is this year and as such you can now buy the crazy soundtrack to one of the most famous anime films of all time.
PRE-ORDER, December 15th. Stranger Things Season 2 continues the trend of that great throwback '80s synth score and this CD comes with 34 tracks packed to the gills with electronic music. Sadly no “Bob Newby, Superhero” theme to speak of, but it'll always be in our hearts, no?
This past season of Game of Thrones has been epic and so has Ramin Djawadi's already fantastic score. So much bombastic war and dragon action music to get the heart pumping.
Here's a collection of Bear McCreary's work from The Walking Dead. His title theme is mega-catchy and he's done some really strong work throughout the years. This CD has 23 tracks ranging from the first season to this new one.
From the new Twin Peaks, this isn't the score (you do get the main theme, however), but the actual musical performances from this new season. You get songs from the Chromatics, Nine Inch Nails, Au Revoir Simone and many more.
If the score is more your jam, then this release is for you. Angelo Badalamenti is such a big part of the feel of Twin Peaks that Mark Frost and David Lynch pretty much didn't have any choice but to bring him back for The Return. Great stuff. The man hasn't missed a beat.
Now that we've highlighted the new Twin Peaks, how about we go back in time and take a look at Angelo Badalamenti's original Twin Peaks score put out on this fancy LP with a perfect cover designed by Mondo's Jay Shaw. Remastered for vinyl, special “damn fine coffee” colored wax and personally approved by David Lynch.
I double dog dare you to listen to the Fraggle Rock theme song and not hum it the rest of the day. The only catchier Muppet-related song is Mahna Mahna. Here we have an LP that gathers 24 pieces of Fraggle Rock music and songs, including the theme song, in one limited vinyl set! Dance your cares away! (Clap Clap) Worries for another day. Let the music play! (Clap Clap) Down in Fraggle Rock! See, now it's stuck in your head. I've successfully passed the curse on to you. Good luck.
John Carpenter hasn't been making many films recently, but he has been killing it with his music. He's been on tour with original compositions and now he has out this anthology set with new recordings covering 24 years of his his work, from Dark Star to Vampires, with all the big hits like Halloween, Escape from New York, The Thing, Big Trouble in Little China, Prince of Darkness (one of my all-time favorites) and In The Mouth of Madness in-between. No film lover will be disappointed with this one.
Robert Altman's Popeye is kind of incredible. It doesn't have the best reputation and it is a very, very long movie, but the choice to hire brilliant singer/songwriter Harry Nilsson to compose the music and write the songs is inspired. It's the most inspired comic book-y musical decision this side of Prince doing the soundtrack for Tim Burton's Batman. And the songs are legitimately great. They're all earworms and will be stuck with you. Now you can get this awesome 2-CD set of the music. One CD is the soundtrack and the other are all of Harry Nilsson's demo versions of the songs.
A while back La La Land Records put out a really awesome box set of the first six Friday the 13th scores (that was a whole lotta Ki-Ki-Ki Ma-Ma-Mas), but that's sadly out of print. However you can get two of the film's scores packaged together in this set. Friday the 13th Part 3 is particularly fun because they decide to do a crazy disco version of the iconic creepy theme song on that score and it's frickin' awesome.
This is the vinyl pressing of the IT soundtrack. The only CD soundtrack I saw was a very expensive import. You can always just download the MP3 copy of the score, but for $10 more you can get this vinyl that comes with a download of the MP3s via Amazon. That cover art is pretty badass, no?
Hellraiser is having its 30th birthday this year and to celebrate we're the one getting the presents! Specifically Christopher Young's score has been remastered and reissued after being long out of print. Just don't listen to it while fiddling around with a weird puzzle box. You won't like what happens next.
The grandfather of all Evil Kid movies, The Bad Seed has a nice, creepy score by Old Hollywood favorite composer Alex North (A Streetcar Named Desire). Limited to only 2500 units, this is the first time this score has ever seen release on CD.
The '80s had a ton of great adventure scores (John Williams' Indy stuff, James Horner's Trek and Cameron stuff, Basil Poledouris' Conan stuff, etc) and this one is sometimes overlooked for those other, bigger examples. Alan Silvestri's Romancing the Stone music is not only great, but is also important as essentially teeing up his work with director Robert Zemeckis' next film, Back to the Future, which gave us one of the best movie themes of all time. Limited release, has cues never before released and all that jazz.
The Big Brawl was Jackie Chan's first starring role in a film meant to make him a star in the west. Legendary composer Lalo Schifrin (Enter the Dragon, Bullitt) did the score and it's awesome. For the first time it is available in it's nearly complete state that was previously only released in Japan.
Sky Captain is an underrated movie. It's an unapologetically swashbuckling period adventure story that embraces the same pulpy material that so entranced George Lucas and Steven Spielberg. Edward Shearmur composed the score, which is just as uplifting and fun as the movie demands. This 2 CD set has a full hour of score that wasn't included in the original soundtrack release and is limited to 3000 units.
Composer Blake Neely is a busy dude. He's pretty much got DC TV locked down as you'll see below. Let's start with his energetic score for Season 3 of The Flash. Limited to 3000 copies.
Limited Edition release of Blake Neely's score for Season 2 of Supergirl. They only printed 3000 copies of this score, so if you're a Supergirl enthusiast (don't be creepy about it) you better scoop this up.
Blake Neely also composed the music for Riverdale, which La La Land Records also has out this year. This one's also limited to 3000 copies and, as a bonus, if you buy it directly from La La Land your copy comes autographed by Neely himself!
Carol Burnett, at the height of her TV star powers, released an album of her singing random showtunes and Top 40 pop. Don't forget, Burnett spent quite some time on Broadway, so she has the pipes even though she's known mostly for her comedy (can't forget her Miss Hannigan in Annie, either). This originally came out in 1967 and now they've pulled it out of obscurity, remastered and re-issued it, complete with an unreleased track called “Make Me Rainbows,” which was actually composed by one Mr. John Williams, before he became the most famous film composer ever.
Umm, you guys. Bill Murray made an album... The legend goes that Murray met a German cellist named Jan Vogler on a flight, struck up a friendship and just decided to make an album of classy tunes. Bill Murray sings and narrates to Gershwin, Foster and Bernstein, sometimes reading poetry and prose by Mark Twain, Ernest Hemingway and others. Stuff like Moon River, I Feel Pretty from West Side Story and Porgy and Bess. How badass is this?!?
I know I'd freak out if someone gifted this to me, so with that bar cleared I knew this limited edition Fallout 3 score LP had to make the list. This is the score and ambient in-game music, not the GNR tracklist, which I would just about murder a hobo for, but that score is frickin' iconic.
Mondo has some great vinyl out this holiday season (especially a pricy box set that ends this section) and there's no better way to start than with their 30th anniversary release of the Contra soundtrack.
Josie and the Pussycats is enjoying a well-deserved reevaluation. The movie deserves to be a cult comedy and damned if it doesn't seem to finally be getting that recognition. Mondo has put the soundtrack out on vinyl for the first time ever and even went so far as to include a 7-inch with DuJour's single. How absolutely nerdy. I love it.
This is the first time Michael Giacchino's Oscar-nominated score for Ratatouille has been released on vinyl and Mondo, of course, knocked it out of the park. Look at how gorgeous this release is! The artwork by Nicole Gustafsson is beautiful and the vinyl itself is pretty! Great release.
Now, Mondo's Monster Squad LP soundtrack came out last year, but I'm including it again for two very important reasons. One: Bruce Broughton's score for The Monster Squad is one of the unsung great '80s movie soundtracks and I'll take any chance to celebrate it. Two, the folks at Mondo were kind enough to invite me to write the liner notes, so this gorgeous packaging has my blatherings about this particular favorite score and I like show off. So there you have it! The movie's awesome, the score's awesome and my liner notes are legendary. See how humble I am?
Black Christmas is one of my favorite Christmas movies. If you haven't seen it, it's kind of the original slasher. A lot of the visual language and rules of the slasher movie (killer POV, the final girl, etc) come from this movie, which pre-dates Halloween by a few years. Directed by Bob Clark (who also directed another, radically different, holiday classic: A Christmas Story) this movie's bonkers in the best ways. The score by Carl Zittrer is great and before this release was thought to be lost forever since the master recording couldn't be turned up anywhere. Waxwork tracked down the masters and has finally given the work its due with this release, personally supervised by the compser.
Since we're doing the “Twisted X-Mas” stuff right now, I couldn't pass up Waxwork's release of the Krampus score. I adore Michael Dougherty's dark morality tale that happens to have evil gingerbread men, creeping snowmen and some really fucked up toys and Douglas Pipe's score is A+, too.
The Exorcist is one of the most iconic horror films of all time and the tone of that movie is set thanks to the music. This release was approved by director William Friedkin, who also wrote the liner notes, and yes it does include Tubular Bells, which has been forever tied to this movie to the point where most times it's put out they title it like this: “Tubular Bells (The Exorcist Theme).”
I'm pretty partial to this film, which was supposed to be the last Friday the 13th (hence the subtitle), and introduces Tommy Jarvis to the franchise in form of a little monster-loving kid played by Corey Feldman. Harry Manfredini's Friday scores are all quality and this limited vinyl release looks really good. It includes cues from the previous Friday films as well Part 4, so you get a nice variety.
You get two soundtracks in this package. Included are vinyl pressings of Friday the 13th composer Harry Manfredini's scores for both House and House II, both were movies that enjoyed heavy rotation during my childhood. They're pretty silly now, but when I was a kid the first one in particular creeped me out. If you dig B-movie soundtracks this one's a great package with sweet art and some underappreciated horror music.
Creepshow was Stephen King and George Romero's loveletter to EC Comics stuff, like Tales from the Crypt, which resulted in a really fun flick and an even more entertaining score by John Harrison.
Jerry Goldsmith was flat-out one of the best composers ever to work in film and his work on Star Trek: The Motion Picture is transcendent in its elegance, beauty and scope. La La Land Records has put out this score in a limited edition double LP vinyl. Only 1500 have been pressed!
Back to CDs for a bit, here's one of the best purchases you could make if you like iconic movie music. For the 35th Anniversary of ET La La Land has put out this special edition 2-disc set of John Williams' classic score. It comes with the full soundtrack, including alternative cues never before released, and it even has the entire score for the Universal Studios ET ride!
Jurassic Park is unquestionably one of the most memorable film scores of all time. Every time Spielberg and Williams collaborate they give us magic of some form, but that Jurassic Park score is way up there (I'd still rank Indy, ET and Jaws above it, but those are some crazy high bars). Here you get both John Williams-scored Jurassic Park scores (the original and The Lost World) which have been remastered and comes with additional music never before released.
AI is perhaps Steven Spielberg's most misunderstood movie. It's a masterpiece that is constantly misread. I once wrote a long essay about that when a revisit of the film devastated me emotionally in a way I wasn't prepared for. It's an incredible film that I hope will be reevaluated by the world at large at some point. Until that day we have this fantastic, loving release of John Williams' score done by the good folks at La La Land Records. So, order it and then curl up with whatever Teddy is in your life and get ready to cry your eyes out.
Nobody is going to argue that Waterworld is great cinema, but I think time has been kinder to it than you'd expect. It's such a big vision that goes so wildly off the rails that it'll always have a little bit of a kitsch value to it. James Newton Howard's score is pretty baller and this limited 2-CD release from La La Land smartly used the fantastic unused poster art by legendary artist Drew Struzan for the cover.
For us old farts out there, here's a great 3-disc set containing hours and hours of music cues from the original Wonder Woman TV show. Limited to 3000 copies and containing cues from all three seasons plus the TV movie score.
PRE-ORDER, December 15th. So, back in the early days of The Beatles they had a fan club that they were actively involved with. Members of this fan club would get 7-inch vinyl singles sent to them over Christmas that had special recordings from John, Paul, George and Ringo for their fans. Those have been reproduced for this set, which also includes reprints of the original Beatles Fan Club newsletters. This set is a limited edition that faithfully reproduces these special singles, down to the original sleeve artwork.
This is pretty neat. Cuphead took a very specific '30s animation style for its look so when they went to put out the jazz and swing soundtrack they went with packaging that is straight out of the '30s as well. Looks great!
If you're a gamer and an audiophile I can imagine it'll be mighty tempting to hear that guttural main Skyrim theme blasting out of your speakers. You get 52 music cues over 4 LPs in this nifty limited edition set and you don't even need to take an arrow to the knee to get you one!
This is the vinyl I'm most tempted to splurge on. I have a... difficult... relationship with the prequels, but as much as they might piss me off John Williams' scores are absolutely incredible for all of them. This Ultimate vinyl release has the scores for every Star Wars from Episodes 1-6. For extra value they also come with a download card that gets you MP3s of every single one of the 80+ cues from these LPs.
For The Super Rich Only ($250.00 and up)
Mondo and Death Waltz have put out this thing of horrible beauty. It's an 8LP box set for the original run of A Nightmare On Elm Street films. That's a whole lot of creepy music wrapped in some seriously insane artwork. The '80s kid in me freaks out every time I see a picture of this set. Ten year old me would think this is the coolest thing in the world. Thirty-six year old me ain't too far behind in that line of thinking, to be honest.