Original Music by: Ian Hultquist
A cursory glance at Ian Hultquist’s filmography will tell you one simple fact – for the past eight years he’s been very busy. Over that period, the former Passion Pit member has scored no fewer than 19 films … five of those in 2015 alone. His score to one of those 2015 films – Burning Bodhi – was one of the year’s overlooked gems.
It should come as no surprise then, that 2016 is shaping up as another busy one for the composer. He’s already provided the score for one of the year’s best documentaries inThe First Monday In May. And he’s got two more film scores on the way. As it happens both of those films are hitting theaters in the next two weeks. The first to arrive is the buzzed about Compaq Computers documentary Silicon Cowboys. The other is the hotly anticipated indie rom-com My Blind Brother. Yes, those are dramatically different projects. And yes, Hultquist takes dramatically different approaches to each.
Different is exactly what you’re in for with Hultquist’s synth-heavy score to Silicon Cowboys. I know what you’re thinking, the 2016 soundtrack landscape has been dominated by synthesizers. And you’re right. After heavy hitters like The Neon Demon and Stranger Things Vol. 1 and 2 there seems little room for different in the synth field. But as wonderful as those soundtracks are, they’re fueled by the doom and gloom of the stories that inspired them. Hultquist’s Silicon Cowboys compositions bests them in one specific area – fun.
With the propulsive beats and splashy synths that drive the album’s opening tracks ‘Intro’ and ‘The New Alternative’, Hultquist wastes no time bringing the pep. The two tracks combine for just under four-minutes of synth-pop ecstasy. And they set a snappy tone for the edgy electronics that follow. Over the album’s 17 tracks, Hultquist keeps the energy coming with a mix of epic electro-dance numbers like ‘The Race Is On’ and beat-driven grooves like ‘Motherboard’.
But Silicon Cowboys is more than one big party. Hultquist tempers the ‘let the good times role’ attitude with moodier fare like the glitchy ‘Big Bad Blue’ and the brooding waves of ‘Operator’. The result is a soundtrack as upbeat as it is introspective. Of course, that all goes out the window with the balls-out party jam of the album closer ‘Good Night’. Big and boisterous and full of reckless abandon, you’ll be hard pressed to find more fun in a pop song this year. Let alone a film score.
Hultquist keeps the balls firmly undercover for the romantic whimsy of My Blind Brother. If Silicon Cowboys is all about good times and moody grooves, My Blind Brother is all about sticky-sweet sentiment and folky strumming. That indie attitude provides a heartfelt backdrop to the Jenny Slate, Zoe Kazan and Adam Scott starring rom-com.
Featuring little more than acoustic guitars, simple string arrangements and a few minimalist beats, Hultquist’s compositions for My Blind Brother feel like snippets drawn from some little heard folk rock record. The sparse percussion and fancy finger-picking of the album’s fourth track ‘How Do You Feel About Dancing’ would feel just as at home in a bedroom pop song from Kurt Vile as they do amongst the songs from My Blind Brother. And the infectious “la la la-ing” of ‘Baby Elephants’ harkens back to the psych-folk of a ‘60s sex comedy.
That same indie attitude lends a spirited sense of whimsy to the 16 tracks that comprise the score. The eloquent, straightforward guitars on songs like ‘I Love You, Rose’ hit the heartstrings all the more when offset by that playfulness. Hultquist’s score swells to grand romantic highs when it achieves both effects in the same song. That doesn’t happen until the album’s ninth track, ‘You Swam Off’. That song starts slow and low but it builds to a crescendo of uplift and hope. In just over two minutes ‘You Swam Off’ achieves folk-pop perfection. It proves a subtle, stirring bit of pop whimsy captured for what promises to be a touching romantic-pop comedy. And it may just be the sweetest two minutes of your day. Sadly, there’s no sample of Hutlquist’s My Blind Brother music available online. So you’ll just have to take my word for it. And I really hope you do.