KYLE DIXON & MICHAEL STEIN – Stranger Things Vol. 1 OST (Lakeshore): How or why show creators the Duffer Brothers came to call on the Austin band Survive to create a soundtrack for their series is a mystery, and like the series as a whole, the soundtrack has taken on a life of its own. It’s not just popular, it’s already borderline iconic—the Stephen King font of the series title coupled with the John Carpenter arpeggio and heartbeat rhythm have blown up into Twitter memes and invaded late-night sketches. If somehow these thirty-six tracks doesn’t satiate your synth appetite, another volume just dropped yesterday.
But just so we’re not confused, these are compositions, not songs, and soundtrack compositions at that, so they’re meant to accompany action occurring onscreen, not you and your headphones. Meaning that this collection is not wholly uninteresting but will be of little concern to anyone who hasn’t seen the show that isn’t a DJ looking for a boatload of samples for their new ambient synth mix.
Does it work with the show? Sure does. But outside the main theme—which I’m going to go ahead and project is why everyone pissed their pants in anticipation of the soundtrack’s release—these are little more than ornaments; they’re nice, and if you’re in need of something to hang around the inside of your head, it works. But without the sturdy series to rest on, the music amounts to little more than that, which is not to say that the music isn’t skillfully composed, or that it doesn’t evoke the ethos of the era which it imitates, or that it doesn’t capture the emotional intensity of the series’s thrills, chills, and heartbreak. It just says this album is hampered without its visual counterpart, just as the series would be half of what it is without the music. That doesn’t make for compelling, track-by-track listening, though. And really, if you need that kind of audial wallpaper, you can find a dozen other instrumental albums that’d suit you better. B PLUS (**)