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Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters by Andrew Lockington

Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters

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Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters (Soundtrack) by Andrew Lockington
Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters (Soundtrack) by Andrew Lockington

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters (Soundtrack) by Andrew Lockington

Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters
Composed by Andrew Lockington
Masterworks (2013)

Rating: 8/10

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“...(Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters) is still a very impressive, carefully crafted fantasy score, with a rock-solid thematic base lending it cohesion without ever seeming repetitive.”

Polythemeous
Special Extended Review by Edmund Meinerts

 

The first adaptation of a PERCY JACKSON novel was inauspiciously released in January, performed decently but unspectacularly at the box office and was met with critical indifference; a typical sort of second-tier blockbuster that you wouldn’t really expect to generate sequels. Well, somewhat surprisingly, it has (in fairness, it deserves it more than the awful and decidedly sequelless ERAGON or THE GOLDEN COMPASS films) in the form of SEA OF MONSTERS, and it’s even been upgraded to a summer release (the modest box office and indifferent reviews seem to have stuck, though). Out with the first film’s director Chris Columbus went the first film’s composer, comedy veteran CHRISTOPHE BECK, whose robust fantasy score still towers above anything else in his career in terms of orchestral scope and ambition. Ordinarily, the “composer rotating door” effect is a lamentable phenomenon considering how it prevents a franchise’s music from retaining any form of continuity, and has recently plagued the X-MEN and HARRY POTTER series, not to mention the Marvel superhero films.

In this case, however, new director Thor Freudenthal (with a name like that, it seems he’s making a movie about the wrong set of myths) had a pleasant surprise in store to replace BECK: up-and-coming Canadian composer ANDREW LOCKINGTON, whose highly impressive track record in the children’s adventure-fantasy arena made him an ideal choice for this assignment. And once again, he provides everything you would expect to hear in the score to a film like this: a large-scale orchestral and choral foundation, a solid thematic base and plenty of dynamic action cues to drive the pace along.

As was the case with his previous score, the fantastic JOURNEY 2: THE MYSTERIOUS ISLAND, the greatest strength in SEA OF MONSTERS is LOCKINGTON’s ability to conjure several themes and juggle them deftly throughout the entire score. The themes for SEA OF MONSTERS aren’t as instantly memorable or clearly delineated as those for the JOURNEY franchise (or indeed CITY OF EMBER), but there is certainly no decrease in the intelligence and depth of their application and manipulation, and the score proves to be a rewarding one upon repeat listens.

Primary among LOCKINGTON’s four new themes (he abandons BECK’S material entirely outside of a few shared progressions, likely coincidental) is a heroic identity for Percy himself, first introduced twenty seconds into “Thalia’s Story” (1). It is a surprisingly long-lined theme with two distinct phrases, and despite having a similar bold and adventurous feel, it doesn’t quite manage the instant memorability of the Mysterious Island theme from JOURNEY 2. The two phrases are often referenced separately from each other, the opening five notes of the A-phrase appearing in quick-fire references throughout the action music with the B-phrase (beginning at 0:34 in the opening cue) a more frequent guest in the all-out sweeping fantasy cues (“Hippocampus” (9) is a definite highlight).

Countering Percy’s theme is a motif of adversary (probably for all those monsters) that again doesn’t sound too different from its JOURNEY 2 counterpart, making its entrance over a menacingly chopping string figure at 1:54 in “Thalia’s Story” (1). Its low brass performances and limited range are predictable, but enjoyable nevertheless. Equally predictable but again ranking high on the guilty pleasure meter is the mysterious, rising theme for female voice sprinkled throughout the score’s fantasy portions, yet another tactic carried over from, you guessed it, JOURNEY 2. These nods are stylistic similarities rather than direct lifts and they never truly harm the score – it helps that JOURNEY 2 was so good to begin with, naturally. These vocals, performed by IAMEVE who also provides the end credits song, are the first thing you hear in the score.

Rounding out the quartet of themes is a warm theme (perhaps for the friendship of the three leads, perhaps for the Golden Fleece they’re searching for…who knows) introduced in the conversational “Percy at the Lake” (2) cue, played frequently on harp during softer moments and inflated to humming choral stature in later cues. Once again, the way LOCKINGTON interweaves these four identities (five if you count the two separate phrases of Percy’s theme) is highly impressive; there are very few moments in this score where a theme isn’t being referenced, and in between those moments LOCKINGTON maintains a keen sense of movement thanks to the rapid, nimble string runs that are emerging as the composer’s most easily identifiable trademark. The choral element is used generously, though mixed a little low (the fantasy moments are all right, but some chanting parts in the second half’s action cues are barely audible). Electronics also play a role in this score (unlike BECK’S), both the subtly propulsive synths familiar from LOCKINGTON’s previous scores and some heavier, more obviously modern and “cool” drum loops and warping effects from time to time. Only in “Colchis Bull” (3) do they become too overbearing, though (prepare to roll your eyes at the cliché “sinking feeling” effect at 1:51).

A few stylistically unique moments beg to be singled out, led by the absolutely riotous “Wild Taxi Ride” (7), three and a half minutes of sheer insanity that would make DANNY ELFMAN blush. Its ingredients include but are by no means limited to: a frenetic xylophone, slide whistles, funked-out slap bass lines, all sorts of outlandish percussion and even a snippet of scat-like vocalizing that must have escaped from ALEXANDRE DESPLAT’s ARGO or something. There’s a fine line between creativity and obnoxiousness here, one which LOCKINGTON manages to walk remarkably well by keeping the foundation of orchestral action intact beneath the specialty instruments. Less distinct than that but still worth mentioning is the creepy children’s choir in “The Oracle’s Prophecy” (5), a cute excursion into Mickey-mousing in “Hermes” (8) and an impressive but frustratingly underused motif for Percy’s water-controlling powers that trickles its way down through the woodwinds at 4:22 of “Wave Conjuring” (11) and 0:26 of “Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters Main Titles” (20) before being used as counterpoint to the B-phrase of Percy’s theme at 2:25 of the same cue. One might be forgiven for calling it the “waterbending theme,” actually, given its similarity to JAMES NEWTON HOWARD’s THE LAST AIRBENDER.

So far, this score (and, to a lesser extent, LOCKINGTON’s career in general) has received a surprisingly mixed reception, with “generic” being a frequent adjective leveled at it. Another complaint seems to be that LOCKINGTON has no style or personality of his own, with DAVID ARNOLD being the usual point of comparison. True, there are definite similarities between the two composers’ work – Nicholas Dodd being the orchestrator for both doesn’t help – but with each score LOCKINGTON puts out, his own unique voice becomes more and more apparent. PERCY JACKSON: SEA OF MONSTERS isn’t quite the best we’ve heard from him, with the lack of more obvious themes (as well as a single cue that pulls the material together in one glorious package a la “Mysterious Island Main Titles”) probably the main reason why this score seems to be going in people’s ears and out the other. But it is still a very impressive, carefully crafted fantasy score, with a rock-solid thematic base lending it cohesion without ever seeming repetitive. There are plenty of lesser recurring motifs I haven’t even mentioned yet just waiting to reward the attentive listener. It is great to see a young, talented composer like LOCKINGTON picking up these larger assignments, and routinely delivering strong scores on them, too. Let’s hope they continue, and that we are witnessing the start of a long and fruitful career!
 

Rating: 8/10


Track

Track Title Track Time  Rating
1 Thalia's Story 3:42  *****
2 Percy at the Lake 1:29  ***
3 Colchis Bull 4:09  ****
4 The Shield is gone 1:30  ***
5 The Oracle's Prophecy 3:08  ****
6 Cursed Blade Shall Reap 1:44  ****
7 Wild Taxi Ride 3:26  *****
8 Hermes 2:35  ***
9 Hippocampus 3:35  *****
10 Onboard the Yacht 1:39  ***
11 Wave Conjuring 6:50  *****
12 Sea of Monsters 2:32  ***
13 Belly of the Beast 3:53  *****
14 New Coordinates 2:14  ****
15 Polyphemus 2:58  ****
16 Thank You Brother 6:00  ****
17 Kronos 5:06  *****
18 Annabeth and the Fleece 2:03  ****
19 Resurrection 3:06  ****
20 Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters Main Titles 3:16  *****
21 To Feel Alive (Iameve) 3:16  N/A
  Total Running Time (approx) 69 minutes  

 

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