Composed By: Jeff Russo
Distributed by: Sony Classical
Reviewed by Melissa Minners
The award-winning FX television series, Fargo, may have the same name as the film, but this is not the same story. Inspired by the movie, the television series is set in 2006 in Bemidji, Minnesota. In the first season of Fargo, Billy Bob Thornton stars as Lorne Malvo, a drifter who passes through the town, wreaking havoc and making a lasting impression on much-put-upon insurance salesman Lester Nygaard (Martin Freeman). Deputy Molly Solverson (Allison Tolman) finds herself teaming up with Duluth police officer Gus Grimly (Colin Hanks) to solve a series of murders that appear to be linked to Malvo and Nygaard.
The musical score of Fargo was created by musician and composer Jeff Russo. You may recognize Jeff Russo as the founding member of the successful American band Tonic, with whom he still performs. In 2004, Russo began composing music for television and film, creating musical scores for The Unusuals, My Generation, Necessary Roughness, Free Ride, Hostages and more.
As I listened to the Fargo Soundtrack, I marveled at the exotic sound, thinking it more of a score for a film set in Russia than Minnesota. The first track, Bemidji, Minnesota, features a beautiful, if not melancholy, strings theme, eventually accompanied by piano, bells, kettle drums, woodwinds, horns and (I had to look this up because I thought I might be imagining things, but I was right) even a washboard. This theme is so striking that I found myself smiling every time it appeared in another track (It does appear in a couple of tracks in the beginning of the soundtrack, but then disappears until the end of the album.). Malvo's Theme has a jazz-like feel complete with plucked bass strings and brushed snares.
But this series is about more than melancholy themes or the jazz theme of a mysterious drifter that turns the town on its ear. It's about that turning...the danger...the murders. To credibly define this, Russo offers up some ominous undertones, featuring tension building strings and timpani strikes. As for that Russian sound, well that is probably inspired by the orchestra Russo chose to perform his score - the Prague Philharmonic.
Overall, the musical score of the first season of Fargo is quite an interesting listen. There is the beautiful melancholy sound of the town theme, mixed with the ominous tension-building sound that leads the listener to believe that something evil is brewing in the quiet and beautiful backdrop of Bemidji, Minnesota. I wonder what kind of score the next season of Fargo, set in an entirely different locale with different main characters, will inspire. As for this season's offering, the Fargo Soundtrack is definitely well-worth the listen.