2016, Music

Stranger Things: Volume Two (2016) by Kyle Dixon, Michael Stein

Here I am listening to the second volume of the soundtrack to the (first season, I believe of the) TV show Stranger Things, a show I have never seen and don’t really intend to watch. I have also not listened to the first volume. What is going on?

My cousin produces a best music of the last year list each new year. In 2024, I decided to go through the lists he’s made as a way of acquainting myself with at least some contemporary music. This second volume of the score to the first season of a show I’ll probably never watch was on his list.

Fortunately for me, I have listened to some progressive electronic music, particularly German electronic music of the 1970s. More than a lot of the music on his lists, I have context for this music, having seen numerous (and I mean numerous!) horror, science fiction and fantasy films with synthesizer scores (and listened to a few of those soundtracks) so this music, as music, is not unfamiliar to me.

I will say that, at times, this music does seem to reach beyond the conventional world of a synthesizer score. There are sounds that I don’t immediately identify as produced by an analogue synthesizer or at least that don’t fall within what I regard is the usual array of sounds on one of these soundtracks.

To me, the sign of a truly great soundtrack as a piece of music is if it can stand alone, on its own, apart from the movie or TV show. That’s a really hard thing to do and is not what most soundtrack composers are trying to do. I don’t think this gets there, as a number of pieces just feel like cues that I don’t have the visuals for.

But it’s still reasonably compelling as electronic music. I have listened to far more boring, far easier to ignore, electronic music. So many of these scores just fade into the background and this one definitely does not.

Is it effective for the show? No idea. (Though I suspect it works given what I believe the show is about.) But it’s perfectly fine as analogue electronic music.


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