Film scores

Soundtrack review: Lost river (Johnny Jewel – 2015)

“Lost river” is the first film directed by Ryan Gosling. It is a dark fairy tale about a single mother of two who is led into the macabre world of the abandoned city of Lost river in a quest to save her childhood home and keep her family together. The score was written by Johnny Jewel who was best known before this as a musical artist and producer for bands like Chromatic and Desire. The composer worked side by side with Gosling to develop a score which was very suited with both the script and the visual development of the movie. The soundtrack album is an unusual one: the deluxe edition is 95 minutes long and is made of instrumental score songs, cues featuring voiceovers from the movie and a few songs by Johnny Jewel’s band.

“Tell me”, the opening theme featuring the voice of Saroise Ronan is eerie and fairy tale like with a undertone of chimes and bells that foreshadow nothing dark. That’s just the beginning though because the “Love theme” from “Lost river”, which is performed by Chromatics, made me want to go and watch Twin Peaks. Imagine the ghostly and ambient Twin Peaks sound coupled with a wonderful synth motif. I am a huge fan of this device and the sound of this love theme takes me back to a place inside me I love very much. I am both hypnotized and enchanted by this theme. It’s a magical melody which makes me close my eyes and fantasize. The third cue is performed by Glass Candy and continues the downward spiral or darkness the music has constructed. I feel as if these one-two-three in the beginning is a gateway to the dark and unforgiving world of “Lost river”. The deeper I go, the darker the sound and the more tortured the instruments.

I like a score that challenges me as a listener. “Lost river” isn’t your usual composition. This is a daring and interesting musical experiment by Johnny Jewel and, probably, Ryan Gosling, which intrigues me and makes me pay more attention that I would probably pay to an ordinary score. The music is synth heavy and something like “Echoes” is a cue that I will always listen to again with great pleasure and nostalgia. On the other hand I imagine I would enjoy a cue like “Cool water” way more if I saw the movie. This is an integral part of the movie experience and harder to connect with separated from that.

I feel like the almost seven minutes long “Dead zone” is where I really get to discover Johnny Jewel. He has time here to develop his sound, his ideas and to throw this dark and net made of thin metal around me. I hear chains being rattled, I hear heartbeats and I hear echoes of someone’s still breath. The sound is once again eerie and mysterious. The haunting middle section sounds exactly like a dead zone which still has some stories to tell. I like it and this is the moment where I make a mental note to get to know more of this composer and his bands once this score is over. Luckily there’s still an hour left of music to enjoy here.

I am enjoying voiceover cues like “A bloody good time” as well because the musical background is intriguing and addictive. I love the dreamy synth sound of “Underwater”. It might just be my favorite cue from the entire score. “Carousel” creeps me out but it’s exciting in the same time. It’s a twisted and broken lullaby fir for an abandoned city. I can almost hear the metal squeaking and see the carousel moving, eternally empty and forgotten. This and twisted lullabies like “Yes” and “Echoes” give me a very strange but pleasant feeling.

These were just a few moments from “Lost river”. There’s much more in there. If you are nostalgic for the 70s synth sound you will love this one. If you like to immerse yourselves in a dark velvety shroud which will remind you of Twin Peaks (I swear that “Tell me (jukebox version)” would fit right in there) but will also help you reflect and dream better, give this one a go. Careful though because this kind of sound is not for everyone. If you aren’t keen on some very dark and experimental vibes you will not get much from “Lost River”. Also if you are not a fan of voiceovers tampering with your listening experience there will be parts of this you might skip. Lucky for me this score was right up my alley and I didn’t even feel the hour and a half pass. I will definitely listen to this one again at various moments in the future. This is the beauty of “Lost river”: I can’t associate it with just one particular mood. It molds after my inner state and helps make it more intense. Did I just describe a drug…?

Cue rating: 85 / 100

Total minutes of excellence: 30 / 85

Album excellence: 34%

Highlights:

Tell Me (Featuring Saoirse Ronan)

Yes (Love Theme From Lost River)

Echoes

The Dead Zone

Blue Moon

Underwater

Carousel

Hope

Yes (Symmetry Remix)

Echoes (Reprise)

Tell Me (Jukebox Version)

Carousel Pt. 2

Reunion

Franky’s Theme

Yes (Lullaby From Lost River)

About the author

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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