Little Miss Sunshine/M. Danna

August 28, 2006

 

Fox Searchlight Pictures and directors Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris have to be absolutely ecstatic over the public acceptance of their new film as box office sales have far exceeded the modest 8 million dollar budget in quite a short period of time. It has gone from a very limited theater distribution to a lot more screens meaning the gross will increase even further. In addition, the reviews have been pretty favorable for the most part. The story of a dysfunctional family taking a cross country trip in hopes of the daughter Olive winning a beauty contest is filled with humor as well as tender touching moments.

For anyone not aware Mychael is the brother of Jeff, who is also a soundtrack composer having done such scores as The Gospel of John, and Resident Evil: Apocalypse. Keep in mind on this soundtrack that it was co-written with a Colorado based group Devotchka, quite popular as of this August 2006 writing. In addition, there are other tracks by artists Rick James, Tony Tisdale, and Sufjan Stevens. There are (6) tracks of Danna material mixed in with the other material and is the focus of this article. Given the fact that his budget was quite limited the tracks are done with a lot of creative ideas using unusual combinations of instruments such as a tuba, string bass, accordian, piano, drums, trumpets and a cello. The main theme which is featured in “The Winner Is” gets the CD going with one of those catchy, hard to get out of your head themes. Simple with a very small amount of instrumentation but very effective. Mychael certainly gets an ‘A’ for orchestration. “Let’s Go” is a great track first using the accordian in a way the French and Italian composers have used it for a romantic interlude and then Mychael shifts gears a bit and uses the tuba and cello in a short but most effective duet! “First Push” is a short one minute track featuring guitar and whistling with the addition of a gypsy style violin at the end of the track. Again, this is yet another example of a limited amount of instrumentation but used very effectively. “No One Gets Left Behind” is another statement of the main theme using guitars, one melody and one harmony, trumpets, accordian as harmony, and percussion. “We’re Gonna Make It” is another cue featuring a quirky but excellent use of the tuba yet again. In fact, while no mention is made of the soloist, he certainly got quite a workout on the instrumental tracks of this CD and performed very well.

Lakeshore Records records and mixes their soundtracks very well. The sound is crisp and clean and doesn’t detract from the material in anyway. The lack of general recording information for us enthusiasts leaves something to be desired! Small items as a short list of musicians who performed on the tracks, the orchestrator (I assume Mychael), etc. A minor but important point at least to me. The fact that a review copy was sent to me (thanks Steph), allowed me the opportunity to listen to and then talk about this nice score. If this had not been done, it is one that very likely would have slipped through the cracks unnoticed by this reviewer and both of us would lose. This is something to recommend either by purchasing the entire score if you like Devotchka or you could get the (6) instrumental tracks on iTunes by going directly to http://www.lakeshorerecords.com. Either way is recommended.

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