- Composed by Carter Burwell
- Varese Sarabande / 2015 / 53m (score 37m)
Based on a novel by Patricia Highsmith, Carol chronicles the relationship between two women in New York in 1952 and the impact it has on their lives. Starring Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara and directed by Todd Haynes, the film has received a rapturous critical response and is a significant player in all the awards shortlists. Haynes previously enticed one of the finest scores of the later part of Elmer Bernstein’s career, for Far From Heaven, and it’s fair to say that Carter Burwell has pulled out all the stops here. At first glance, “Opening” might be mistaken for Philip Glass – the delicate wind writing in particular – but on repeated listenings it’s actually easy to hear Burwell’s own voice running through it, albeit the comparison is inevitable. It’s a sumptuous theme – those winds are a highlight through the score.
A secondary theme – heard first in “Taxi” – is no less attractive, but this one is much more slow and deliberate, with a slight stop-start nature that gives it a tentative feel. That cue features the score’s other main colour, the piano, along with the winds. The composer often uses the piano in a dreamlike way, high-end twinkling creating a hypnotic effect. There are darker moments – these are sometimes brooding but retain a deftness of touch, a delicateness that renders even them rather beautiful. The ensemble never rises above chamber dimensions and the instrumental clarity is a real boon; a distant vocal adds an occasional colour, subtle guitar another, there are strings at times but really it’s all about the gorgeous winds and piano. The album unwisely alternates Burwell’s precise music with a large number of period songs, which in themselves are mostly very good but I’d probably have put them all together in one section at the start or end because stylistically they do not fit with the score. Of course, that’s very easily remedied. Carol is one of the most immediately and easily accessible pieces of music this talented composer has ever written and certainly ranks with his very best; 2015 has been a good year for new film music and this is another one to add to the list of fine scores.