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Soundtrack review: Mid90s (Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross – 2018)

Film scores

Soundtrack review: Mid90s (Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross – 2018)

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“Mid90s” is a 2018 American coming-of-age comedy-drama film written and directed by Jonah Hill, in his feature directorial debut. It stars Sunny Suljic, Lucas Hedges and Katherine Waterston. The movie follows a teenager named Stevie growing up in Los Angeles. He’s struggling with his family, including his co-dependent single mom and his abusive older brother, and at school, where his richer friends seem to overlook him. When Stevie befriends a crew of skateboarders, he learns some tough lessons about class, race, and privilege. The music was written by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross.

This score is only an EP, 12 minutes long, but when it comes to Reznor and Ross, I review everything and besides, I have heard 13 minute long scores that have stayed among my all time favorites. The film music of Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross is usually very polarizing, you are either a fan or you dismiss it as not music. I fall into the first category especially since I’ve been enjoying their instrumental music also as Nine Inch Nails for over 20 years. The first cue “The start of things” is beautifully nostalgic, written in the purest 90s style, to fit the story, the mid 90s where grunge was dominating and a lot of the music had that industrial edge to it. Here as well alongside the usual keyboard musings of these composers there is that 90s edge that takes me back to my teen years when this was all I listened to. For me this particular cue doesn’t only evoke NIN but other bands as well like Smashing Pumpkins or Placebo who used to have wide similar instrumental passages on their album.

People who usually are put off by the heavily electronic sound of Reznor and Ross will have a surprise here as the composers go for sweet melody. “Big wide world” is the kind of relaxing, light cue you might find on scores for coming of age or road movies from composers like Rob Simonsen or Dan Romer. The piano / keyboard sound is playful and actually optimistic. I wish this score was longer, maybe another release will come because it’s a side of the Reznor / Ross sound that I don’t heard often; it’s as if the angst and the darkness are gone and replaced by teenage doubts, on a lighter tone that opens up to a larger category of music fans.

The “Mid90s” EP score is, simply put, wonderful. It’s a collection of minimalistic piano anthems, quiet and nostalgic, with an open ending. This will work for non fans as well.

Cue rating: 100 / 100

Highlights:
The Start of Things
Big Wide World
Finding a Place
Further Along

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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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