Film scores

Soundtrack review: City of gold (Bobby Johnston – 2016)

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It’s the equivalent of a morning when you wake up early but love it and you just know you’re going to have a great day.

As the unabashed cradle of Hollywood superficiality and smoggy urban sprawl, Los Angeles has long been condemned as a cultural wasteland. In the richly penetrating documentary odyssey “City of Gold”, Pulitzer Prize-winning food critic Jonathan Gold shows us another Los Angeles, where ethnic cooking is a kaleidoscopic portal to the mysteries of an unwieldy city and the soul of America. Bombing through colorful neighborhoods in his green pickup truck, Gold is sniffing out his next strip-mall discovery—whether Oaxacan grasshopper soup, hand-cut tonkotsu ramen, or a particularly unctuous pad see ew. As piping-hot platters are served up, so are stories of immigrants whose secret family recipes are like sacred offerings pledged for the opportunity to build their American Dream. Bobby Johnston wrote the score.

Now with a multi-instrumentalist like Bobby Johnston I know I’m going to be entertained. Just take “Guerilla tacos” the smooth, jazzy and addictive opening cue. I feel like tapping the rhythm on the table and making air drum signs. Yeah I like the percussion the best but the rest of the instruments join in with the same stride and joy of life. I just adore the fresh sound of this score. I can tell the composer had a lot of fun writing and performing it.

The most intriguing thing is that somehow he made the music actually sound like fresh street music. Just like the restaurants the documentary visits, the cues have the flavor of street food, of something rising from the ground. I feel like listening to street corner bands, I feel as if I am walking through the city in the morning as the world is waking up and I’m getting bombarded with sounds of street performers and the scents the chill of the morning air brings to me.

The music is cool and friendly and I feel as if I could join the performers at any time and contribute to the sound they are creating. Each cue is a collection of different instruments, raw, unpolished and warm. “City of gold” is unlike any score I’ve heard lately. It somehow feels more real and human than other scores. I guess the composer had this luxury since he wrote it for a documentary about people, cultures and flavors coming together. He mirrored them through his instruments and wrote a colorful composition where the most different and sometimes even experimental sounds are fused together.

I loved this score and I will surely listen to it again. It’s the equivalent of a morning when you wake up early but love it and you just know you’re going to have a great day. The smooth and jazzy musings of Bobby Johnston will make sure of that.

Cue rating: 91 / 100

Total minutes of excellence: 18 / 33

Album excellence: 54%

Highlights:

01 Guerilla Tacos

02 His LA

04 Grand Central Market

06 Trois Mec

07 King Taco

08 Pico Project

11 Guac

12 Pulitzer

14 Petite Trois

18 Love letter

 

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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