Latest reviews of new albums:
Broken Horses
  • Composed by John Debney
  • Lakeshore Records / 2015 / 63m

A contemporary western, Broken Horses – written and directed by Vidhu Vinod Chopra – stars Anton Yelchin and Chris Marquette as a pair of brothers – one enslaved in a life of crime, the other a violin prodigy chasing his dream to become part of the New York Philharmonic – who are reunited in their home town as they try to escape the clutches of a local gangster.  The prolific John Debney provides the music which again shows off his chameleonic nature, various styles on display within the score, none of which sounds particularly like music I can remember from him before.  The highlight is undoubtedly the lilting main theme, heard sometimes on guitar, sometimes piano, sometimes clarinet, sometimes violin, sometimes wordless soprano; warm and nostalgic, it’s a classic piece of western Americana and the variations it goes through are interesting.  Within the first few tracks on the album, it has served as a scene-setting opening in the main title, a haunting lullaby in “The Killing” and a warm, glowing pastorale in “Coming Home”.

There’s a beautiful love theme too, with a tragic side to it that’s captivating.  “The Homestead” is absolutely gorgeous, bucolic music as beautiful as anything I’ve heard from this composer.  Another theme is a simple melody for acoustic guitar, not unlike something Clint Eastwood might write for one of his movies – and it’s exquisitd.  But there is another side to the score and that’s the suspense and occasional action music, which is generally much more modern, sometimes with hypnotic drum loops punctuated by fluttering low winds and ominous keyboard strains.  At times it gets very dark indeed.  One particularly ingenious idea is using subtle interpolations of “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” as, I presume, a kind of macabre villain motif – the familiarity of the nursery rhyme tune making it very effective in this unusual setting.  “Into Mexico” is a brilliantly colourful piece reminiscent of Marco Beltrmai’s 3:10 to Yuma; later, “Tell Me Everything” is a dynamic and exciting action cue.  However, some of the darker material is quite humdrum, fairly standard modern thriller stuff, sometimes crossing to the wrong side of the line between edgy suspense and monotonous drone, which is such a shame because that does detract from the quality of what surrounds it.  Had that aspect of the music been dialed-down a little for the album, it would surely go down as one of Debney’s best.  As it is, the cream at the top of the score makes it certainly one to recommend, with some very beautiful music on offer slightly diluted by some much more uncomfortable material that may have been necessary for the film but surely wasn’t for the album.

Rating: *** 1/2 | |

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