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From Stage to Screen: Movie Soundtracks by Musicians

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A great movie or song, alone, can inspire powerful emotions. But combined, sounds and images can amplify the sensation. The Smiths' guitarist Johnny Marr, who worked on the soundtrack to Dennis Hopper's film Colours in the late-1980s, said he enjoys working on movies because “You're not restricted to working on something between three and five minutes long … It also can be quite solitary and it's nice not to have to please four or five other people.”

Film and sound existed separately in the early 20th century, but they ended up cementing a lasting complimentary relationship with each other, from the first feature length sound film in 1927, The Jazz Singer, to music videos today. Our minds love that sync of auditory and visual senses – whether it’s unintentional, like The Wizard of Oz synching with Dark Side of the Moon, or intentional, like the music and movie collaborations that follow: Jónsi (Sigur Rós) – We Bought A Zoo (2012) Some music seems to conjure up movies instinctively, as in the instrumentally and emotionally rich soundscapes of Sigur Rós, fronted by guitarist and vocalist Jón “Jónsi” Þór Birgisson. For those of us wishing that Jónsi would follow us around playing a soundtrack to our lives (and have to settle for iPod daydreaming), we got the next best thing – he scored a movie, We Bought a Zoo. Director Cameron Crowe encouraged Matt Damon, Scarlett Johansson and the other actors in the film to listen to specific Sigur Rós songs so they could create the right energy for a scene: “the actors listened to the music during their takes; it quickly became part of the film’s DNA.” When Matt Damon finally confronts the iPhotos of his deceased wife that come to life around him in a sonic and sentimental crescendo, a little watery DNA can’t help but moisten the eyes of the audience as well. Trent Reznor (with Atticus Ross) - The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2011) After winning a 2010 Golden Globe and Academy Award for their work on The Social Network, Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross decided to pair up again to take on another David Fincher film, the highly anticipated The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Delicate chimes and thin pianos mixed with ferociously plucked strings and ominous bass create just the right amount of foreboding tingles the movie calls for. As the founder of Nine Inch Nails, Reznor seems naturally drawn to the darker side of the music spectrum. This especially comes out in his raw cover of Led Zeppelin’s “Immigrant Song” with Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ singer Karen O during the movie’s opening sequence with a vigor that carries on throughout the film. Johnny Greenwood (Radiohead) – There Will Be Blood (2007) If the images in Paul Thomas Anderson’s There Will Be Blood don’t scare you, the 80-piece in-your-face string orchestra will. Expanding on Radiohead’s already instrumental-heavy technique, guitarist and composer Johnny Greenwood’s score was well received and nominated for a Grammy. From the brooding lows to the quivering highs, the dissonant, disturbing and always loud strings act as a separate character in the film, adding an eerie personality to an already unsettling setting. Neil Young - Dead Man (1995) Leave it to Neil Young to score a psychedelic western starring Johnny Depp as William Blake, an accountant from Cleveland, as well as Jared Harris, Billy Bob Thornton and Iggy Pop in a dress all sitting around a campfire cooking beans. Improvising on guitar, piano and organ as he watched the film alone in a recording studio, Young provides the perfect rugged and deep jolts of music to go along with the story of a man who wrote his poetry in blood when the west was still young. David Bowie (with Trevor Jones) – Labyrinth (1986) The 1980s were an age of synthesizers. Trevor Jones and David Bowie couldn’t resist mixing the wide-ranging electronic instrument with orchestral ensembles in a hodgepodge almost as strange as the Jim Henson and George Lucas production they scored, Labyrinth. Starring Bowie as both the Goblin King and the film’s composer, the soundtrack has a fittingly ethereal, surreal feel. But the movie’s musical spell is often broken when Goblin Bowie and his minions break out into raucous songs that categorize the film in another '80s cliché of cheesy. Queen - Flash Gordon (1980) Queen’s melodic-dramatic overtures provide a natural soundtrack to a movie – especially one shot in the 1980s about a super hero, like Flash Gordon. And what better way to mimic the film’s ka-pow energy than with extensive use of electrifying synthesizers and overpowering harmonies. After all, Freddie Mercury’s music and performance carried with them a certain theatrical thrill fitting of an action movie. The theme song of the movie, “Flash” is a sonic comic book complete with character dialogue and laser beam sound effects over shouts of “flash!” accompanied by complimentary cymbal crashes. Pink Floyd – More (1969) From Dark Side of the Moon to Ummagumma, Pink Floyd has always voyaged into new and strange sonic territory fitting of futuristic movies like 2001: A Space Odyssey, which Roger Water actually turned down the opportunity to score – something he later regretted. Pink Floyd, however, applied their experimental approach to Barbet Schroeder’s More, a film about a German hitchhiker who falls for an American girl addicted to heroin. Their avant-garde instrumentals and some of their heaviest songs are the perfect backdrop to this mind-bending trip. Be Sure to check out: Per_versions - Vitamin String Quartet Vitamin String Quartet Tribute to Nine Inch Nails Vitamin String Quartet: Strung Out On OK Computer Rusted Moon: Vitamin String Quartet Tribute to Neil Young Vitamin String Quartet Tribute to David Bowie Vitamin String Quartet Tribute to Queen Vitamin String Quartet Tribute to Pink Floyd

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Reviews They Probably Regret

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Music criticism is difficult. It can be hard to have a solid, journalistic opinion on every piece of new music and feel out a rating based on that opinion. Then, they have to convince people that their feeling is more than just a relative, subjective opinion, but that it contains factual authority about the album's failures and accomplishments. The worst case scenario for many critics is that their panning or praising of an album is looked at as not just an outlier, but illogically wrong-headed. It's a risk with every review. Now that we understand that good music criticism is a difficult job, let's take a look at its most delicious failures. These are reviews on albums that went against the grain in the worst way, likely causing some palms to meet foreheads in hindsight. Unfortunateley, there's no sweeping under rugs, because the internet is forever. Weezer's album Pinkerton is rightly considered a '90s alternative classic. While it wasn't a financial success right out of the gate, it had the right critical reception from most outlets at the time. Except Rolling Stone, who gave it a middling 3 out of 5 stars, which is as useful as Rolling Stone saying “This sure is music.” The text of the review cites aimless songwriting and a juvenile point of view as faults in the overall mixed evaluation. What makes this a gaffe is the attempt to correct things in hindsight. In 2004, the album was re-reviewed with a perfect 5 stars, and the 2009 deluxe reissue was awarded 4 ½ stars. Then there's Daft Punk's Discovery and Pitchfork's 6.4 review. Kanye's use of Daft Punk on “Stronger” just kicked into high gear what was already happening: a lateral shift of pop music towards club-centric house beats, which Daft Punk demonstrated to be their strong suit. So if something had such an impact, how do you give it 64 points out of a possible 100? First, by complaining about the lyrics. In hindsight, reviewer and Pitchfork owner Ryan Schreiber admitted to being wrong and falling in love with the album later on in the summer. These days, it's frequently listed as one of the best albums of its decade. While those two focus on classics being downplayed, there's also something to say about loving a universally reviled album. This was the case with Chris Cornell's Scream, a Timbaland-produced pop album from the Soundgarden frontman. It was so thoroughly disliked that even his friend Trent Reznor had to say something. Over at Entertainment Weekly, they loved it enough to give it an astounding B+ grade. That wouldn't be so bad, as having enthusiasm for something that no one else likes is admirable for its positivity. But the language of the praise – saying Cornell almost succeeds at creating his own Thriller – is a little bit out there. It's hard to imagine the connections one has to make in order to listen to Scream and think, “This is almost as good as Michael Jackson's best work.”

Vitamin String Quartet Performs Weezer's Pinkerton Available at iTunes and Amazon


Beaucoup de VSQ Available now at iTunes and Amazon

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Trent Reznor Releases Free Social Networking Songs

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Nine Inch Nails mastermind Trent Reznor and his frequent collaborator Atticus Ross, were recently tapped for some soundtrack work for the upcoming Facebook bio The Social Network. The album, which is set to be released on Sony Records on September 28th, can be preordered, but users can also get a free 5-song sampler of the album right now. All users have to do is visit that site and enter their email address for a link to the download.

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Trent Reznor And Wife Starts Band, How To Destroy Angels

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The annoucment came yesterday that Trent Reznor and his wife Mariqueen Maandig, former singer for LA band West Indian Girl, have formed a group called How to Destroy Angels. Their new site shows Maandig in a video playing some very NIN-like music on some type of instrument with keys. A self titled EP has been disclosed as being self-released this Summer, putting an end to the questions of just what would Reznor do after putting NIN to bed. To add to the rumors of this, Twitter, Youtube, Vimeo and Myspace accounts have been setup for the band, leading one to believe that there’s a lot of footage to be released in the near future. The name of the band is said to probably originate the band Coil’s single of the same name, a band Reznor has claimed were a big influence. In fact, Coil’s Peter Christopher had been involved in many NIN projects as a music video director, producer, and even remixer. You can check out their videos on Vimeo. Hard to say what this will yield, but I’m guessing some very dark music with the lovely voice of Maandig over the top. What do you think? Does this new husband/wife collaboration interest you?

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Bonnaroo 2009 - Nine Inch Nails's Last Show Ever

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It was Sunday morning at exactly 12:41 am that I heard the news via twitter. (Yes, I check twitter in the wee hours of the morning. Be honest - you do it, too) It was at this time that I saw a tweet by Matt Jordan from You Ain't No PIcasso reporting Trent Reznor's announcement:

“I just realized this is our last show in the United States… ever. Don’t worry. We’ll keep on going, I just feel like I’ll go f***ing insane if I keep doing this.” - Trent Reznor

Having done six tributes to Nine Inch Nails, I think it's safe to say that we at Vitamin Records are huge fans and definitely bummed to hear this news. This announcement comes less than a week after his letter of retreat from social networking in which he basically calls twitter uses idiots. (not all of us are!) We totally understand Trent's point of view though - you can't live life based on what millions of people want you to do, even if you are a rockstar.

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