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Soundtrack review: House of cards – season 3 (Jeff Beal – 2015)

HouseOfCards3
Highlighting single cues? Pointless. Sure I could say that “We were equals” represents this score for me but it would be unfair to the other 90 minutes of this release.

I reviewed the music of the first two seasons of “House of cards” after seeing the show in order to replicate that exciting experience and return to that world. There wasn’t much sentimental value, just curiosity. It didn’t matter. The music Jeff Beal wrote grew a life of its own and conquered me. It’s not the type of music that’s in your face, or spectacular, or simply beautiful. Oh no, that would be easy. The music of “House of cards” is shrewd and manipulative like Frank Underwood himself; it has the same condescending smile Kevin Spacey keeps in the corner of his mouth and it has the beauty, wits and sophistication of Robin Wright’s character. The music of house of cards is dark, gorgeous, elegant and addictive, just like the most intriguing and fascinating woman you will ever meet.

When the third season was released, things changed. If until now I couldn’t wait to enjoy the scheming and machinations in the series, this I was ready and prepared to look for the music, to welcome it, to be proactive, to get in its way and to explore every dark corner Jeff Beal tried to hide from me. This time my mind wasn’t the only one being stimulated. I was just as excited about hearing that new violin theme over and over again and chasing those motifs all through the 13 episodes. It was as if I was more aware and new doors of perception had been opened. It was one of those times I was watching a TV show multi dimensionally. Yeah I pay attention to TV music all the time and I notice great pieces and cues that serve the images well. With “House of cards season 3” though the themes were just as important as the characters to me and I was excited every time I caught the trails of a new motif. It was one of the very few times when I was almost writing the review in my mind as the show was developing, without even knowing if there was going to be a release. I was hearing the themes, I was imagining writing about them and I was actually looking into the future at this moment right now when I would finally have the score and I could spend some more time getting to know the music.

And in season 3 the violin really shined… in the first couple of seasons it waited for its turn, making itself noticed every now and then but staying quiet like the composer asked her to. This time though, as the tone of the show changed, it was time for this magnificent instrument alongside its equally emotional cousins the viola and the cello to just lay a dark and deceitful veil around me and surround me with ghosts. The unique musical fabric that Jeff Beal has crafted for “House of cards”, the dark, sensual and intelligent combination of strings, electronic music, trumpet and those haunting female vocal inserts that give me the chills as they come and go like mermaids is one of the most memorable TV soundscapes I have heard on TV in the past 20 years. The musical identity of “House of cards” is so unique, so rich and so inexplicably addictive that I get lost in it as I turn layer after layer of dark velvet. The music is in the same time luscious, intense, alert, accusing, forgiving, revealing. It slithers around me, it drips with darkness and, most importantly, it makes me want to take its hand and run away with it. I want to know all its secrets and I want to explore everything inside it.

Highlighting single cues? Pointless. Sure I could say that “We were equals” represents this score for me but it would be unfair to the other 90 minutes of this release. Sure an 8 minutes long theme like “Don’t break a promise” makes me forget about time and space but still… not fair to the other 82 minutes. I am so happy that each season gets a 2 CD treatment because more is better in this case. As soon as I am finished I will probably listen to it again.

Yeah, this is one of the best TV scores of the year and, by extension, I wouldn’t mind putting the entire “House of cards” musical legacy right up there with the likes of “The X-Files”, “Buffy” or “Mission: Impossible” as something that will live forever. Until it becomes something to fondly remember and expect in a box set, I hope the show goes on for a few more years and Jeff Beal keeps developing his masterpiece.

Cue rating: 100 / 100

Total minutes of excellence: 95 / 95

Album excellence: 100%

Highlights:

Losing Rachel

Not Coming To Iowa

Respect

We Were Equals

Underwood’s New Deal

Don’t Break A Promise

Jordan Valley

He Was Brave

A Desperate Plea

Smoking Cubans

Human Cost

God’s Ear

Submerged

Betrayal

Capture The Imagination

Expect Landfall

Remy Spurned

Every Intention

I Didn’t Jump

Trust

Power Run Amok

Empire Without Heirs

Yard Work

Stamper’s Grief

Taking Rachel

Leaving You

More Courage

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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