Film scores

Soundtrack review: First girl I loved (John Swihart – 2016)

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“First Girl I Loved” is a poignant coming-of-age tale that captures all the anxiety, bravery, and heartbreak of first love. On assignment for her high-school yearbook, social-misfit Anne (Dylan Gelula) charmingly hits it off with the beautiful star of the softball team, Sasha (Brianna Hildebrand). But when Anne tells her best friend Clifton (Mateo Arias) about her new crush, he reveals a hidden jealousy that threatens more than just the girls’ budding romance. The score was written by John Swihart.

I have never been hypnotized but I’m sure that if I were to try the process would have to start like this score does; the opening cue “Camera” is the kind of minimalistic ambient piece, warm and caressing, that hits the sweetest spot inside me and I just slip into a different state of mind where everything is floating peacefully in an eternal haze. I get the feeling of the softest of brushes drawing on a white canvas before something just as good interferes, an electronic motif. Give me more of this, please… As a fan of ambient music to my core every time I run into a score like this I am just happy beyond words.

Sometimes the minimalism flat lines like it happens in the end of “Sasha bus texting”. I hope this doesn’t mean that scene ends with an accident or something, but that insert was really strange and noticeable.

The score is quiet and beautiful and the way it’s written makes me think about it exploring the tribulations of a soul. I don’t hear the outside world in the music, I don’t hear anything interfering, just a quiet flow of emotions that never stop. I like the whispering vocalizations in “I let everyone down” as it reminds me of the Twin Peaks atmosphere. Even when the score gets bit louder like in “Argue bike lock” the minimalistic tone keeps the music contained and believable.

Whenever I listen to a score the think that connects me the fastest with it is the nostalgia factor. When a score has this lonely and slightly cold ambient feeling and adds a touch of electronic music I am back in the 80s in a winter vacation where everything is fresh and quiet. I like to be in that place. I find the biggest comfort in this sound. The music doesn’t have to be exceptional or intense to make sense to me and to find a place inside me. I like this score so much exactly for what it is:  a moment in someone’s life, a minimalistic painting that calms me down and makes me smile. I will definitely listen to it again.

Cue rating: 88 / 100

Total minutes of excellence: 16 / 28

Album excellence: 57%

Highlights:

Camera

Softball, Not Baseball

Sasha Takes a Shower

Did You Kiss?

I Let Everyone Down

Argue Bike Lock

Picture from Last Night

What About Her?

Did Anne?

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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