ROMA (2018) / COMPOSER: VARIOUS / LABEL: MUSIC ON VINYL / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW
The world of Alfonso Cuarón’s 2018 film, Roma, is notable in that all of the music is diegetic. At any point there's music onscreen, it's coming from some actual source, be it a car radio, turntable, or actual musicians. It's a bold move, but it enhances the realism of the 1970s Mexico City the director was attempting to recreate.
To that end, the soundtrack release does what so few soundtracks manage: rather than rely solely on recognisable hits and artists, the music of Roma is just as much obscurities and oldies. So many films lazily attempt to set the time and place through a musical shorthand rather than really digging deep into the archives to find out what sort of random song might have been playing from the transistor radio next to the cash register at the corner, popular for a week or two before being subsumed by lack of greater interest.
Roma features everything one might expect, such as the title track to José José's platinum-selling record “La Nave del Olvido”, along with pop icon Juan Gabriel's debut single “No Tengo Dinero.” However, there are also mellow tracks one would hear coming out of a grandmother's kitchen, like Ray Coniff & the Singers' take on the Mary Hopkin single “Those Were The Days,” and Roger Whittaker's “Mammy Blue.”
Those two songs are exactly the sort of once-common background music that is now relegated to the obscurity of bargain bins in thrift stores around the world, but they so perfectly tell the person viewing Roma exactly the time period in which it was set. Throw in some boogaloo from Perez Prado, and the scene's been perfectly set, aurally.
It wouldn't be a good soundtrack without at least one song which makes the listener sit up and take notice, and Roma has two. There's La Revolución de Emiliano Zapata's “Ciudad Perdida,” which not only has a title whose English translation (“Dangerous City”) ably ties into the film's story, but it's a justifiably sought-after fuzzed-out bit of psych rock. The same goes for Javier Bátiz' Spanish version of the Animals' smash “House of the Rising Sun,” here redone as “La Casa del Sol Naciente” and, although that particular track is vintage 1992, the spirit fits.
The packaging from Music on Vinyl's At the Movies might be the nicest ever from the label. The gatefold sleeve has a matte finish which sets off the black and white stills from the film, and it's a heavier stock than usually used. Combined with the 180-gram black vinyl, this is a very hefty release in the most literal sense, and it's sensational. There might not be much in the way of extras aside from credits in the liner notes, but the music tells its own story.