In “Soundtracking,” The Dissolve listens to the official soundtrack albums for upcoming or recently released films, to consider how the music serves the movie—either as a teaser for what’s to come or a souvenir of what’s already out.
The movie: Cold In July, director Jim Mickle’s adaptation of Joe R. Lansdale’s novel, starring Michael C. Hall as an ordinary Texas family man who shoots a burglar and finds himself drawn into a criminal underworld, where his path intersects with an ornery ex-con (played by Sam Shepard) and a gregarious private eye (Don Johnson).
The composer: Jeff Grace, who apprenticed with Howard Shore on The Lord Of The Rings trilogy (and Gangs Of New York), and since then has carved out a good career for himself as a composer for arthouse thrillers and horror pictures, such as Mickle’s Stake Land and We Are What We Are, and Ti West’s The House Of The Devil and The Innkeepers. (He’s also scored two Kelly Reichardt films: Meek’s Cutoff and the upcoming Night Moves.)
The album: Aside from songs by White Lion, Dynatron, and Landsdale’s accomplished singer-songwriter daughter Kasey (the latter of which can be heard below), the Cold In July soundtrack is all the work of Grace, who goes for a spare, synthesizer-driven sound that recalls the work of John Carpenter on films like Assault On Precinct 13. Cold In July is a tense film throughout, and Grace’s music helps set the stage by working on the viewers’ nerves, with a few repeated chiming or pulsing notes broken up by loud, buzzy synth-blasts. The score evokes how it feels to sit in a darkened kitchen in the dead of night, listening to the peaceful noises outside while waiting for the worst.
Best song titles: “He’s In The House,” “Recon And Grave Digging”
The song that defines the soundtrack: In “Whole Lot Like You,” a slow, minimalist melody gives way to an atonal drone, which intensifies for a few seconds until pounding electronic percussion and a relentless repetition of tones rises up, with a dark inevitability.
Where to hear it: The Cold In July soundtrack is available now digitally via iTunes, and on CD from various retailers.