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The Little Things
  • Composed by Thomas Newman
  • WaterTower / 55m

Starring Denzel Washington and Rami Malek as detectives who suspect Jared Leto is behind a series of murders in LA in the 1990s, The Little Things is directed by John Lee Hancock and released to little positive reception early in 2021. The film marks the third collaboration between the director and the great composer Thomas Newman – their previous one, The Highwaymen, was a score I listened to many times but didn’t write about because frankly I couldn’t think of much to say. Well, in musical terms The Little Things makes it sound like Angels in America or something by comparison – this may be the dullest music Newman has ever written. He’s always loved doing ambient, textural material and while there are some more “conventional” scores for thrillers in his back catalogue, he does look for opportunities to write this kind of noirish atmosphere when he can. I’m just not sure he’s ever quite done it to this extent before.

You would have to really love Newman ambience to like this in any way. The occasional interesting texture comes along every few tracks (usually , but it’s almost entirely very dark, very subtle (barely audible) electronic throbbing, with distant chimes, the occasional growl or groan. The opening “Chevy Nova” with its jabbing pianos, interesting textures (I think there is an array of guitar-style instruments including some real flavour from a sitar or something similar) is – by a considerable distance – as good as it gets, and it frankly probably wouldn’t warrant a mention if it appeared on most Newman albums. I know this side of the composer has its fans – and it’s clearly a style of music he loves writing – but this score is so static, so extraordinary in its restraint, it may well be the least interesting of his career.

Rating: * | |

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  1. LUC VAN DER EEKEN (Reply) on Saturday 20 February, 2021 at 17:23

    The last score by Thomas Newman that I really liked was ‘Victoria & Abdul’, everything else since then I found incredibly boring and uninspired. His love for ambient stuff has reached its peak with this one and I found it unlistenable. Of course, it’s on the shortlist for the Oscars…I hope he finds his way back to the orchestra.

  2. Ian Simpson (Reply) on Monday 22 February, 2021 at 00:02

    I enjoyed Thomas Newman’s scores for “1917” and “Tolkien” rather a lot (although “1917” was harder to appreciate until after I saw the film). I found “The Highwaymen” pretty mediocre.

    I have a higher opinion of “The Little Things”, but only to about the same extent as Jonathan Broxton’s review over at Movie Music UK. I find about half the tracks pretty enjoyable in a subtle way – “Chevy Nova”, “Musica Latina”, “Hollywood Cross”, “Buck Twenty” for instance – but the other half are mostly pretty dull. The album could certainly do with a few more openly expressive tracks like “The Night Window” from 1917. Overall, for me this album falls somewhere in between Newman’s stronger ambient scores (“Side Effects”, “The Judge” for instance) and his low point when he scored “In the Bedroom” and “Salton Sea”.