James Newton Howard,
(Hollywood Records, 2002)

James Newton Howard is obviously an old hand at movie scoring. His credits include films such as The Fugitive, The Prince of Tides, Dinosaur and My Best Friend's Wedding, but he is a perfect match for M. Knight Shyamalan. (Howard also scored Shyamalan's previous films The Sixth Sense and Unbreakable.) Howard's musical style is very much in tune with Shyamalan's directing style, as suspense is their favorite tool. Well, let me tell you, suspense is one thing this album does not lack.

The opening track, "Main Titles," is a thrilling and suspenseful mix of seeming calmness and rushed excitement. It begins with the instruments warming up and slowly waking when suddenly it strikes at your ears with a high-pitched staccato. This theme of building up to a moment is carried throughout the album. The staccato rhythm is also used in nearly every song. While continuity can sometimes hold a work of music together, it can also be a hindrance.

This music is a great accentuating feature for a movie; however, as a stand-alone album it doesn't hold the listener's attention. As I mentioned before, the opening track is very thrilling and suspenseful, but once the same pattern and rhythm is repeated it becomes monotonous. The repetitious theme loses its edge after hearing many tracks. The majority of the songs are indistinguishable -- see if you can tell much of a difference between "Asthma Attack" and "The Hand of Fate - Part I." Don't get me wrong, there are a few tracks that are distinguishable and quite entertaining, notably "Boarding Up The House" and "Into The Basement."

This album is great for background music, but does not take center stage. If that is the purpose of a score, then it succeeds. In the case of this score, it is best suited in its context of the film for its "effects" to be fully appreciated.

- Rambles
written by C. Nathan Coyle
published 14 December 2002

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