The Girl on the Train is a 2016 psychological thriller based on the previous year's best-selling novel by Paula Hawkins. Versatile Grammy-winning composer and The Simpsons theme writer Danny Elfman furnishes the film's original score. It falls over 30 years into the former new wave rocker's scoring career, between the whimsical Tim Burton fantasy Alice Through The Looking Glass and the historical drama Tulip Fever. Here, his music is serious and restrained (for Burton), but hardly bland. Instrumentation includes strings and other members of the orchestra but also conspicuous electric guitar, prepared piano, and electronics. Percussive tones, distorted guitar, and an electronic bassline join strings in the opening moments of "Riding the Train," introducing not only the palette but a mood that's both gloomy and unsettling. Something's not quite right in "Something's Not Right," which opens with lurching low strings, then adds manipulated piano, dissonance, and zapping sounds that prod. The piece has a beginning, climactic middle, and end, and unlike a lot of ambient-minded scores, leaves a lasting impression. There are moments in the soundtrack that feel like a classic Bernard Herrmann, too, despite the quite different, non-symphonic arrangements. "3 Women" has simmering arpeggios, off-kilter harmonics, and constant motion remindful of Vertigo, if in the sense of third-generation removed. In contrast, "Really Creepy" is quietly melodic until it transforms into turbulent noise. Consistently atmospheric as well as uncanny, The Girl On The Train is a compelling diversion for Elfman, who makes more of it than a mere genre exercise.
Label: Sony Classical Records