Noice 3

This is the third in a series of lists in which I share five soundtrack recommendations.  Specifically, these are tunes that I’ve found are great background noise when I’m busy drawing.  I know the Dark Knight Rises OST is already available online, but I have this personal rule of not really diving into a film score beforehand, as it becomes a bit of a distraction when I get to view the movie.  But all that aside, here are some excellent musical scores to some movies I actually have seen.

The Social Network (Trent Reznor, Atticus Ross)

Bit of an oldie but still a mainstay in my hard drive, the accompanying theme to the deceptively naive and cutthroat world of software infringement helps me get in the zone when I’m trying to power through layouts at 3 in the morning.  The industrial flavor is just manic enough that you get an extra buzz with your coffee, without distracting from whatever text or research material you need to go through to get your job done.  This OST has gotten a lot of hype from many more eloquent than I, so I’ll mainly just recommend you find out for yourself if you haven’t checked it out yet.

Contagion (Cliff Martinez)

Echoing the film’s ominous mood and fairly large scope, Martinez’ mix of dark ambient electronica and acid jazz results in a throbbing collection of tunes that practically grows into a “presence” in your music archives.  I got a very strong sense of build up from this OST and highly recommend it to anyone still getting started on a day’s pile of crap to do.  That’s right, nothing gets me in the mood to make a living like the sound of people dying (not really, but that metaphor was too good to pass up).

Stand out tracks in this are They’re Calling My Flight, Bad Day to be a Rhesus Monkey, and Handshake.

Deus Ex (Michael McCann)

While we’re on the subject of electronica, there’s no forgetting the soundtrack for Deux Ex.  I’m not a gamer per se (I play around three or four “new” games a year, and don’t always finish them), but I love the cyberpunk sub-genre of science fiction.  With something as niche  as the human augmentation trope, I first thought I was just going to end up comparing this to Ghost in the Shell when I first gave it a listen.  While sharing some flavors, Deus Ex boasts a very unique Middle Eastern vibe to its music, which is something I personally had not come across in this facet of science fiction.

Moneyball (Mychael Danna)

I guess because I’m Filipino, I don’t have a natural love for baseball.  I once cracked a really colonial joke stating that the reason why Americans love the game so much is because it involves hitting things and claiming land as their own.  But yeah, I guess it’s just not my thing.  That said, I enjoyed Moneyball quite a bit, and thanks in no small part to the film’s score.  Equal parts uplifting and tension inducing, it never fails to give you the sense that what you’re doing is waaaay more important than it actually is.  If you hear a crowd roaring in your head every time you finish a chunk of work, this is for you.

The Ides of March (Alexandre Desplat)

Been doing a lot of writing lately, which can be argued takes a little more active thought than drawing.  A lot of times when I’m illustrating, part of it becomes muscle memory, but writing is never quite that for me.  I don’t know if I just haven’t done enough of it, or if I’m simply not very good at it. But that’s that.  The OST for the Ides of March is a nice steady collection of tracks that never become overtly tense or downright boring.  Each track, in and of itself, very richly lends to storytelling that it has very quickly become one of my favorite work themes.  And when all is said and done, I think what we’re looking for is not just music that reminds us of something we enjoyed anyway, but sounds that help us create something special of our own.

Sampler: Jad Montenegro

And today I bring you the music of one of my favorite artists.  It’s fairly difficult to get copies of her singles, but I have the distinct advantage of living with her.  So suck it, fools.  Below are two tracks from Jad Montenegro with percussions by Dave Ibao, and bass by Pjoe Sabanpan — the finished radio edit of Guitar Man, followed by a rough demo of Invincible.  Enjoy.

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Noice (Part 2)

Here’s the rest of my favorite soundtracks to listen to, especially when working at night.  Of course, it’s an ever-growing list and has a few left out… partially because I’ve gotten sick of them, but mostly because I can’t remember them all.  But yeah, below are a few more of my staples.

transformers Transformers

I know, I know.  But like I said in the previous post, these are my favorite work themes precisely because they’re not iconic.  They don’t muddle what I’m working on, creatively.  Jablonsky filled this score with powerful anthemic melodies that helped me enjoy reading the Sinestro Corps War like a pig in shit.  And that’s a good thing.

Neon Genesis Evangelionevangelion

And while we’re dealing with big robots and proud majestic themes, we contrast good guy music with my absolute favorite bad guy audio.  Anytime an angel shows up in the cartoon, the music jacks up the tension ten-fold, which is why the Eva OST always has to be on queue for sinister shots.

jinrohJin-Roh: The Wolf Brigade

But sometimes ominous music has to be big and grandiose too, and that’s where Jin-Roh comes in.  Evocative of dystopian scenery, this OST has a healthy balance of destructive melodies and sentimental snippets.  And on a side note, this feature had one of the most man-tear choking endings of any animated film.  Ohgoddamnit.

ironmanIron Man

Among the most recent of my favorite scores, Djawadi’s compositions had the upbeat feel of Ghost in the Shell, but de-personalized it to the point where it feels more like an anthem than a personal soundtrack.  Conversely, while GITS has a more textured feel to its sound, Iron Man’s as sleek as the hotrod-hued suit itself.


It seems fitting to end this list (for now) with my latest favorite.  Mansell’s soundtrack is lonely and emotive — equally uplifting and haunting.  The string symphonies and piano-drum pieces both succeed in saddening without being depressing, a definite must-hear.

Noice (Part 1)

Can’t not have music playing when I work.  The pencils become stale and the inking tedious.  Sure I listen to a handful of bands, but I tend to prefer instrumentals so I don’t have some guy telling me what to think the music is trying to say — know what I mean?  And I guess, by that same logic I don’t stick to the iconic scores coz they’ll get me thinking about the movies they came from, even subconsciously.  I mean I love Williams, Zimmer, and Horner, but few things are weirder to me than drawing a superhero sequence to the Back to the Future soundtrack.

“This ends NOW!  Face the wrath of my… MARTYYY!!!”

No.  So here I poke at you with five (of ten) of my  favorite movie scores to listen to when bands don’t cut it.  The list tends to change depending on my headspace and the actual material I’m working on, but this is the soul of it.

The Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone ComplexGITS

You can’t go wrong with Yoko Kanno when you’re looking for a mix of classical and tech.  The GITS score’s rich strings inspire grand themes worthy of everyone’s inner Shirowe.  I make sure this is playing when any piece of art calls for something epic or a climactic scene needs sprucing up.


This is probably the single most-listened-to soundtrack I own, as I most enjoy it in conjunction with a suspenseful read.  The Hitchcock-esque pulses have served as accompaniment for such books as Locke and Key, The Surrogates, 30 Days of Night, Fell, and most recently Alan Moore’s run on Swamp Thing.

Cowboy Bebop: Music for Freelancecowboy bebop

While Kanno’s original jazzy score for the series continues to be among the best ever for any animated work, I find it to be too upbeat for working late at night and can be a bit jarring.  The remixes in this volume are a great alternative while still capturing the happy-go-lucky essence of the initial Seatbelts renditions.

matrix reloadedThe Matrix: Reloaded (and Revolutions)

Sure, The Matrix films have one of the most identifiable themes around — what I can only describe as drunken warp-trumpets on speed — but the second and third film’s action sequences didn’t use as much Manson and Zombie, and so the musical score’s energy is much better distilled.

Now and Then, Here and ThereNow and Then

Not since Glory have I heard so rich a dramatic symphony, and I first found it in an unsubtitled cartoon that literally got me all man-teary more than once.  I listen to this soundtrack when drawing dramatic and altogether uplifting scenes, though the darker melodies aren’t anything to scoff at either.