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My favorite soundtrack out of all Marvel movies, moreso than Brian Tyler's soundtracks. Since some people still haven't seen the movie (as I hadn't till yesterday), I'll try to review it without spoilers.
In order to gauge this soundtrack, you must know: This is not big orchestra. This is not Alan Silvestri. This is not "The Avengers" or "Captain America: The First Avenger". This is "Captain America: The Winter Soldier" - a political thriller in a comic book context. The soundtrack has to be darker and full of threat. The nostalgic Americana doesn't fit the chaotic and distrusting world that this movie lives in.
Henry Jackman uses a completely different sound than Silvestri to accomplish this. The album alternates between subtle instrumental and pulsating electronic music, representing a thrilling global-scale spy story overlaying a personal "man out of time" drama. Rather than huge orchestral arrangements, he cultivates a minimal theme driven by the urgency of modern synth.
The album opens with "Lemurian Star", providing a pulsating theme to the entry action sequences of the movie. The track sets the tone for a grittier movie -- mildly sweeping orchestral with a driving electronic sound. It segues nicely into "Project Insight" - which I got to admit, is downright pompous, but judging from the scenes it accompanies in the movie, I think that's intentional.
"The Smithsonian" is the most like Silvestri's work, recalling the "Captain America" leitmotif from the first movie. But unlike Silvestri, Jackman uses the brass to call on a meditative tragic quieter sound. This feel is featured in "An Old Friend", "Fallen", "Frozen in Time", and "Alexander Pierce". They are all very subtle, in a listen-once-and-you'll-miss-it way.
"Fury" is excellent chase sequence music. It starts out unfortunately similar to "The Dark Knight", but quickly develops into a paranoid rapid action electronic track, closing as fast as it starts. Not my favorite, but suits the movie.
"The Winter Soldier" is the best track by far on the album. Clocking in at around six minutes, it spends three minutes cultivating the ambiance by presenting each sound -- low howling, metallic whining, grinding machine parts, and finally high pitched shrieking -- and bringing it together with an overlaid strings section and menacing brass. This theme is designed for the character: a single-minded relentless killing machine with hints of humanity. As it recurs in "The Causeway" and "Countdown", progressively the strings start to dominate the focused electronic noise, fitting the emotional state of the Winter Soldier. I positively adore this theme, and think it is absolutely perfect for this cold-but-tortured ruthless assassin.
"Taking a Stand" is an okay track. It started as my favorite, but I grew to favor "The Winter Soldier" as I could identify each layer of sound. "Taking a Stand" is a strong anthem, with a driving orchestral and no electronic sound. It feels more like "The Avengers", while cleaving to the major theme.
"Hydra" is very enjoyable. It takes a similar approach to "The Winter Soldier" by taking an amount of time to develop the ambiance. Before you know it, you've got this slow sinister theme creeping up on you, wrapping up in a nice suspenseful passage preparing you for the incoming action.
"Natasha" is a gentle tune but isn't exactly appropriate for a deceptive spy. In the movie it's used for her sensitive scenes. Within the soundtrack, it's used as a break between "Hydra" and "The Causeway".
"The Causeway" starts out with an explosive rendition of "The Winter Soldier". It launches into a very fast-paced chase/battle theme, much more action-oriented than "Fury" before it, stopping suddenly due to the reveal that occurs at the end.
"Time to Suit Up" is gorgeous. It begins with a mournful variant of Cap's theme and segues into the urgent fanfare of the movie -- well-suited to the dramatic pause between the previous battle and the major climax of the movie.
"Into The Fray" ties together "Hydra" and "The Winter Soldier", bringing the themes from "Time to Suit Up" against the foreboding enemy themes. Probably my favorite action sequence music as it accompanies the climax.
"Countdown" and "End of the Line" are effectively together, as they reach the heights of this soundtrack's minimalism while underlining the sadness of how the story has resolved. The piano in "End of the Line" presents the most poignant moment in the whole soundtrack. With or without seeing the movie, you know that a great catharsis has been reached -- and it completely rips out your heart.
"Captain America" ends the soundtrack, with a fairly uncomplicated theme that keeps building on itself to generate desperation and an almost unwinnable battle. Unlike the delightful pompous joy of Silvestri's theme, Jackman's theme is mournful with lines of chaos. A great battle has been won but at what cost? Secrets have been revealed but maybe it was merciful to keep them? Jackman's theme leaves you wondering "what next?" while having the unfortunate consequence of whetting your appetite for the next movie. Five stars!