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Soundtrack review: The book of life (Gustavo Santaolalla – 2014)

Film scores

Soundtrack review: The book of life (Gustavo Santaolalla – 2014)



I’ve been a big fan of Gustavo Santaolalla’s music for almost ten years. He got my attention with his sweet guitar rhythms from “Babel” and “Brokeback Mountain”, but my favorite score of his is “Things we lost in the fire”.
I’m excited every time there’s new material from him because he rarely disappoints.

“The book of life” is an animated story about a group of kids who discover some tales from Mexican folklore in a museum and the adventures that follow. The score starts light and pleasant. “The tale begins” introduces Mexican rhythms and it’s a fresh sound for an animated score. I am already surprised by the first cues because Santaolalla’s guitar is very discrete and in the background, we get full orchestral tracks. The mood is gentle and lullaby like and it’s very easy and pleasant to listen to… I am happy when I listen to “Lullaby theme” for example, because it has no shadows.

Even the action cues like “Sanchez bullfighting” (the most complex track of the score, intense and emotional), “The bandidos are coming” or the exciting “The maze” have a distinct warmth about them. They tell a story. The whole score does, and for me, “The book of life” rises above the pack of animation scores precisely because of this feeling it leaves me with: warmth. This one is not as adventurous and loud as other similar scores; it’s friendlier and reaches a slightly deeper level for me.
“Chakal” is the only theme that doesn’t seem to fit, it’s too aggressive compared to the rest of it, but I love a heavy metal guitar tune so I’m not complaining.

Usually an animation score is a lot of fun to listen to, but if it’s not a masterpiece like “How to train your dragon” I can rarely remember specific parts from it. It’s not the case here. With its acoustic guitars and trumpets sprinkled over a very nice orchestral base, “The book of life” makes for a very enjoyable listen and I’m sure I’ll be able to single it out later.

Cue rating: 70 / 100

Total minutes of excellence: 21 /49

Album excellence: 43%



Lullaby Theme

Sanchez Bullfighting History

The Banditos Are Coming!

Maria Is Gone

El Aparato / Land Of The Remembering

The Maze

Welcome To The Cave Of Souls

Victory / Don’t Forget Me

Mihnea Manduteanu

I have been listening to film music for 25 years and writing about it since 2014. I've written over 1000 reviews and I can't imagine myself doing anything else. I am also a member of IFMCA (International Film Music Critics Association).

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