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Year One by Theodore Shapiro

Year One

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 Year One (Soundtrack) by Theodore Shapiro
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Year One (Soundtrack) by Theodore Shapiro

Year One
Composed by Theodore Shapiro
Lakeshore Records (2009)

Rating: 7/10

Buy Year One:  Prince Caspian (soundtrack) by Theodore Shapiro from 

Soundclips below provided by AmazonMP3


“Where YEAR ONE really succeeds is in its handling of humour. THEODORE SHAPIRO's score comes in the form of musical deadpan, versus outright slapstick humour, and the result is an intelligent, effective, and entertaining listening experience within the context of the film.”

"A Knowledge-y Sort of Taste..."
Review by: Marius Masalar

If, on a lazy sort of Sunday afternoon, your mind wanders to the depths of history in search of humanity's first forays into the realm of heroics, I will forgive you if Jack Black and Michael Cera are not the first potentials that come to mind. Nevertheless, the comedic duo is filling those hero shoes enthusiastically in Harold Ramis' latest film, YEAR ONE. Even though, for some of us, just the promise of having these two misfit characters doing their thing is enough to get us into the theatre to watch this film, there is another incentive in the form of a fun, evocative, and surprisingly intelligent score from THEODORE SHAPIRO, whose various credits have earned him the title of the "king of comedy scoring".

Though the film itself hardly breaks any new comedic ground, it offers up a unique set of opportunities for SHAPIRO to develop his technique of providing large-scale, serious, and impressive musical scores for projects —something we've seen previously in TROPIC THUNDER as well. "Serious" does not seem like a word I should be using to describe a comedy score, and I'm by no means implying that the score isn't entertaining and fun —because it is —but it carries the comedy in a dignified way.

At the very beginning, we are greeted by a dark and primal mood. There's no grand orchestral overture, no bombastic cue with soaring themes. Instead, in the "Main Titles" (1), we find ourselves drawn in more slowly and carefully, with a deep percussive opening sprinkled with various ancient instrumental stabs and groans, all of which grows to a ritualistic climax of quick percussion, male grunts, and general tribal excitement. This general soundscape is maintained, with occasional glimpses of more melodic instruments shining through, especially in "The Forbidden Fruit" (3) where the strings open the cue, and quickly give way to soft woodwinds, all of which floats upon a bed of ancient instrumental flourishes. An air of mystery and foreboding characterizes the end of this important cue, and careful listeners will even pick up a warbling reedy statement of a Middle-Eastern sounding melodic fragment near the end, which foreshadows the direction the score will eventually take.

"The Jackal Dance" (4) is a highlight of the score, especially for fans of skillful percussion writing. This track is simply pulsing with excitement, and manages to capture the wild sensation of a tribal ceremony in the guise of what sounds like the love child of Tarzan and STOMP. Along with the very brief cue that follows it, this track is also significant because it marks the last instance of an overtly tribal sound in the score. As the two protagonsists of the story are banished from their village, the music begins to progress with them, departing from the primal sound of the opening and moving into a more Middle-Eastern realm. "Flight From the Village" (6), the transitional cue between those two musical worlds, also presents us with our first instance of Shapiro's rather comedic modern elements. In this case, they come in the form of a sleazy synth that kicks in with a low-key hip-hop beat near the end of the track. The anachronism is endlessly entertaining.

The middle portion of the score is an exercise in this style clash, and frequently features a massive string section that plays mostly unison lines, in the traditional manner of the cultural stereotype. Tracks like "Bazaar" (7), "The House of Adam" (9), and "Meet the Hebrews" (11) all include a comical beat of some sort, and are interspersed with more peaceful or thoughful cues. Interestingly, the occasional cue like "Wine and Spongecake" (12) or "Abraham and Isaac" (13) brings to mind an almost Western-type sound, which actually works well considering the journey aspect of the film that serves as such a powerful influence on the score.

As the protagonists reach the latter part of their journey, the score makes one more transition with them; this time, into a more epic and Biblical sound. By the time we reach "The Rape Stick" (19) —which, by the way, must win some kind of award for intriguing track title —SHAPIRO has started to incorporate more regular orchestral elements and has also acquired a sense of scale and importance to match the escalating stakes in the story. All this is done while maintaining the evocative cultural sound of earlier cues, as the beginning of "The Holy of Holies" (20) demonstrates.

By the final three tracks come about, we're hearing a full orchestra, the huge Middle-Eastern string section, a large and culturally confused percussion section, and the perpetually funny modern beats and synth elements. The most impressive part is how coherent it all sounds. One would think that bringing together such vastly different genre elements would make for a disjointed listening experience, but the fact that the progression is so carefully controlled and expertly crafted keeps things together. YEAR ONE conveys the journey aspects of the film very well in the music, and it makes for a good listening experience on the album.

The issue with the score is that it's so varied and so rich in cultural and stylistic quirks that it simply doesn't leave you with a definite element to remember it by. You won't leave the theatre humming any themes, and while the music is excellent, it doesn't make a whole lot of sense when taken outside of the context of the film. On the album, a number of the cues feel like filler, and while they help smooth the transitions between the styles over the course of the album, they're just not very interesting to listen to.

SoundCast Interview: Theodore Shapiro (Year One)Where YEAR ONE really succeeds is in its handling of humour. THEODORE SHAPIRO's score comes in the form of musical deadpan, versus outright slapstick humour, and the result is an intelligent, effective, and entertaining listening experience within the context of the film.


Rating: 7/10

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Track Title Track Time  Rating
1 Main Title 1:30  ***
2 Hunters Gatherers 0:37  **
3 The Forbidden Fruit 2:11  ***
4 The Jackal Dance 1:33  ****
5 Hut Burner 0:20  **
6 Flight From the Village 1:23  ***
7 Bazaar 1:04  **
8 Yak Attack 2:32  ****
9 The House of Adam 1:05  ***
10 Looking for Abel 1:17  ***
11 Meet the Hebrews 0:29  ***
12 Wine and Spongecake 0:41  ****
13 Zed and Lilith 0:49  **
14 Abraham and Isaac 1:11  ***
15 Sargon Attacks 1:56  *****
16 Reading the Entrails 1:09  **
17 Virgin Sacrifice 2:27  ***
18 The Gates of Sodom 1:13  ***
19 The Rape Stick 1:07  **
20 The Holy of Holies 4:36  ****
21 The Royal Orgy 2:30  ***
22 A Royal Reprieve 1:28  ****
23 Zed to the Rescue 6:06  *****
24 The Chosen Ones 3:59  ****
  Total Running Time (approx) 43 minutes  





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