Composers: Kyle Dixon and Michael Stein
Distributor: Lakeshore Records
Original Year of Release: 2016
Run Time: 69 Minutes (36 Tracks)
From the moment I heard the opening title music to Stranger Things, I loved it. After I finished binge watching my third episode, I immediately turned to find the soundtrack on iTunes. It wasn’t there. Thankfully, it arrived, quickly enough, on Friday, August 12th with a first volume (Volume 2 arrives on the 19th). There was something unique and yet familiar about the music to Stranger Things, composed by Kyle Dixon and Michael Stein. What makes it unique, to put in bluntly, is that no one composes scores like this anymore. Well, not since the eighties. I believe this music was one of the key factors in series’ appeal. Stranger Things not only looked like it came from the eighties, it sounded like it, too. Thanks to Lakeshore Records, you can take the first volume of this score with you wherever you go. Volume 1 encompasses 36 tracks and 69 minutes of music. Rest assured that perfect tone setting theme is included here. However, as you already know, there is so much more to Stranger Things.
“Nancy and Barb” (track #3) is the Sixteen Candles track on Volume 1. Actually, outside of the opening theme, the first eight tracks are pretty light in tone. They reminded me of the innocence of childhood and the friendships I had that are now more a memory than the reality I once knew. This is why I particularly like “Nancy and Barb”.
“Agents” (track #21) is by far the shortest track on the album, but it builds at an incredible pace. It’s the perfect pulse for the bad guys who stalk our young band of heroes. Listening to it, you can see the faceless men running in the dark with swirling flashlights. It’s a great, albeit short, trip.
“No Weapons” (track #24) is all mood. It sets a tone that swirls in the darkest of places (the upside down). I love it because as you grow accustomed to this place, Kyle Dixon and Michael Stein turn it back on you and remind you of the nightmare that is happening. They don’t end it quickly, but slide it down, very slowly, heightening your fear to where you can’t stand it.
“She’ll Kill You” (track 26) is the track with the most eighties music staples. There is hammering, the organ that stretches the notes, and the beat that speeds along. This is Elle’s music, the music of a dark hero, who only wants to do what’s right. Again, it is utterly fantastic!
The synthesizer music of Stranger Things is very much in the same vein of the era in which it is set. For new fans,of this type of music, I recommend picking up any one of John Carpenter’s earlier scores. His Halloween score is a classic, but is more or less synonymous with that season. Might I suggest his music for either Escape from New York or The Fog? Both of these films contain very similar music to what was produced for Stranger Things. With that being said, two other scores come to mind for John Carpenter films, neither of which he composed. The first is The Thing, composed by the Ennio Morricone. Clearly, this score was an inspiration to Kyle Dixon and Michael Stein, since it is all mood and suspense. Carpenter turned to a different composer for his alien love story, Starman, in Jack Nitzsche. That score supplies more wonder than frights. All of the aforementioned scores are available and there is even a Carpenter collection that includes movie themes to them all.
Sadly, Stranger Things will produce at least a half dozen copy cats. What those copy cats will never be able to reproduce is the lighting in the bottle that the Duffer Brothers captured on their series. Thankfully, you can at least take the music with you. I can think of no better driving music come this Fall.
Download the Stranger Things Soundtrack Volume 1 HERE on iTunes.