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Soundtrack review: The defenders (John Paesano – 2017)

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Soundtrack review: The defenders (John Paesano – 2017)

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Netflix’s Marvel Universe TV shows started out brilliantly with Daredevil and Jessica Jones. The two seasons of the “Devil of Hell’s Kitchen” and the one season of JJ were among the best shows of the respective seasons. However the next shows, Luke Cage and Iron Fist took a dip in quality to the point where I wasn’t as eager to watch “The defenders” the show when they all come together, as I thought. Musically though the scores have constantly been solid and it is up to John Paesano, the composer behind Daredevil, to write the music for the ensemble series. Set a few months after the events of the second season of Daredevil and a month after the events of the first season of Iron Fist, the vigilantes Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, and Iron Fist team up in New York City to fight a common enemy: the Hand.

The main title is consistent with the ones from the previous shows going just a bit more epic since this is a special series. The main theme comes back in “Chinese drive through” and it sounds even better. “Allies aren’t alone” is the first surprise of the score as it’s adds a haunting solo cello motif to the Daredevil soundscape which is usually minimalistic and tense. This theme is much deeper and complex that I expected and makes the tension and the emotions feel real. I was expecting an action oriented suspenseful score and with the first couple of cues I am getting a beautiful and emotional composition that makes me feel with slow piano motifs and a mood that makes me think of a very different kind drama.

Once the prologue gets out of the way the composer starts weaving his musical net in complex and layered cues that provide for a very entertaining listen. There is no filler music here and I am surprised by how well the different motifs come together in “Board room” which offers suspense, action and mystery in the same cue. Electronic pulses, echoes of the cello and action sprints make this a reminder of how good John Paesano’s music for the “Maze runner” franchise was. I am also reminded of that in the very emotional “Alexandra” theme.

The music of “The defenders” is very cleverly written as in almost every cue very different motifs come together in a coherent and enjoyable manner just as the four different personalities of the heroes must work together for a common goal. The cues are dense and surprising at every turn and the score is not the type to stay in the background as every minute grabs my attention. John Paesano makes sure every moment of his composition brings something new, something interesting in sound and the more I listen to this album the more pleasantly surprised I am. The music is fresh, experimental, with subtle Oriental and choral inserts and a rhythm as jumpy and coordinated as the fighting moves of the heroes of the show.

Without taking anything away from his Daredevil scores or from the other composers from the franchise, John Paesano puts “The defenders” head and shoulders above the rest. It is not easy to make music that mimics the complex and varied movements during a fight and to make it frantic and alert the complex way, the more real way. It’s epic when it needs to and emotional when the story asks. “The defenders” is one of the most fascinating scores I’ve heard this year and a score that shows imagination and intelligence from the composer. Paesano wrote a musical mosaic that is a delight to hear from start to finish and I applaud him for it.

Cue rating: 91 / 100

Total minutes of excellence: 37 / 49

Album excellence: 74%

Highlights:
The Defenders Main Title
Allies Aren’t Alone
Terminal
Board Room
Our Weapon
Chinese Drive Through
Alexandra
Kung Fu Party
Protect My City
The Defenders

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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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