I had a feeling, as I watched the opening scenes of The Adjustment Bureau, that I recognized the music. Not because I've heard these themes before - I hadn't until I saw the film. But that certain combination of sweeping strings, sharp piano notes and quirky rhythms is something I've come to expect in a Thomas Newman score, and here he does not disappoint.
Listen to just four of the songs and see what I mean.
"The Girl on the Bus" is a great example of a signature Thomas Newman piece: playful, short and sweet with a steady beat, all light piano and rhythmic guitar. The next song, "Square-One Reset," abandons the piano and amps up the tension, keeping the rhythm going, adding some electronic elements, and making it faster and more dramatic. "Richardson" is up next, a menacing, complex and strange piece that reflects the nature of one character in the film perfectly. "None of Them Are You" blends clarinet, guitar and strings so beautifully and heartbreakingly that you can't help but be swept away.
Within these four songs is the essence of what makes a Newman score, and The Adjustment Bureau in particular, such a delight. His music, while recognizable in style, is unique and suited ideally to the film, a story about fate and free will, fast-moving and complex. As with most good music for film, the music enhances the movie while it's playing, but it also stands up very well on its own.
And that doesn't even get to a couple of my personal favorite stand-alone songs, like the flawlessly-layered "Escher Loop" or the ethereal "Real Kiss."
As with many Thomas Newman scores, there's a few songs from other artists sprinkled into the mix. Usually, I'm not a fan of this, but in this case those songs fit the overall tone very nicely. While it may seem to some a travesty to remix Sarah Vaughan's "Fever," the Adam Freeland mix here is not overdone, and perfectly suited to the high-octane chase scene where it's used (it's actually one of my favorite tracks). The two Richard Ashcroft songs, "Are You Ready?" and "Future's Bright," also fit well and don't slow the pace of the music overall. While not strictly necessary to include, they were part of the movie and simply put, they fit.
While I would have preferred a CD release, the digital release is very reasonably priced, with clean and clear sound reproduction.
Simply put, I was very pleased to see that Thomas Newman composed the music for The Adjustment Bureau. Newman's music here moves up and down the emotional scale as easily as the notes move along the musical range. This is rich, complex, rewarding music, and well worth listening to.