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Anomalisa by Carter Burwell (Review)

posted Mar 5, 2016, 12:03 PM by Koray Savas

Anomalisa is the latest trip Charlie Kauffman offers us to take into his deeply unique psyche. A stop motion animated film, it his second directorial effort after 2008's Synecdoche, New York. Frequent collaborator Carter Burwell scores, and the music's rich sense of melancholy and sorrow cuts straight to the heart of the protagonist, who is crippled by depression.

Burwell fans will recognize his sound immediately in the "Overture," which isn't far removed from the instrumentation and pacing of his work for In Bruges. The soul of the music runs in the same vein for both scores, with sparse strings and dissonant piano chords taking the center stage, moving at an inconsequential pace. However, Anomalisa's presentation is a major factor in how its listening experience holds up away from the film. The OST is unfortunately littered with dialogue from the movie, a practice among film score releases that I never understood nor liked. It borderlines unlistenable, but there is also the For Your Consideration promo as an alternate experience. Neither formats quite nail the proper structure that this score deserves, though, since the complete presentation on the promo includes extremely short snippets and edits which include the source music Burwell wrote for the film. As a result, the first half of the score is interspersed with lobby and bar music that isn't all that interesting on its own terms. The last 30 minutes or so of the promo offer a wonderful playlist of Burwell's themes and underscore, and this section is where the heart of the score lies. Beginning with "Lisa In His Room," and including "Anomalisa" and "My Name Is Lawrence Gill," these three cues showcase Burwell's ability to translate simple ideas into meaningful passages that truly depict the character's journey.

2015 is one of Burwell's strongest years as a composer, and while many are looking towards Mr. Holmes and Carol for their Burwell fix, it is Anomalisa that expresses his true voice and strengths as a musical storyteller. Utilizing his established harmonic language, Burwell takes us on an intimate journey into Kauffman's endearing narrative.