Vinyl Lives: Mondo’s Three Album Marvel Collection is Stunning


 Jessica Jones

 Luke Cagemondo-marvel

The team up of Marvel and Netflix has, so far, turned out to be about as groundbreaking as it seemed it might be back when it was first announced. In just two years, they’ve introduced us to three new heroes—who otherwise might not fit into the scope of the MCU—across 4 seasons of television, with more on the way. With their focus on long form storytelling, Marvel has grown their universe, which began a mere eight years ago with Iron Man, in new and unique ways, deepening the overarching narrative established by their films.

What’s been so remarkable is how unique and independent each series has felt from the last. Daredevil took us to the world of street level vigilantism with gritty determination, proving that this corner of the MCU would not be the kid-friendly world presented in the movies. Jessica Jones added elements of noir to the streets, giving us a story that was, at its heart, a traditional detective story wrapped up in the supernatural that served, brilliantly, as a metaphor for surviving trauma and abuse. Luke Cage switched gears, giving us a black superhero in a predominantly black neighborhood in order to give us an insight into how the culture would be affected, positively and negatively, by the introduction of superheroes.

That each series could maintain such a strong sense of identity was shocking in itself. Marvel movies tend to feel like Marvel movies. Elsewhere on TV, DC’s Arrowverse on The CW tend to all have the same general vibe, with episodes and arcs playing out in familiar ways. Not so here. While they all clearly belong to a larger brand, Daredevil, Jessica Jones, and Luke Cage all peddle their own individual brands as well. Part of why that works as well as it does is in the uniqueness of their scores.

Continuing their long history of packaging unique scores into amazing, collectible sets, Austin-based art studio Mondo has partnered with Netflix and Marvel to release the scores for the first seasons of Daredevil, Jessica Jones, and Luke Cage. As with any Mondo release, the newly released vinyl is a stunning addition to any record collection. Quite simply, they’re must own records for any fans of score, Marvel, or Mondo in general.

Part of what makes a Mondo record so special is their commitment to recognizing that owning an album is so much more than just the music. You can’t just listen to a record casually, as you might be able to with a streaming service or iTunes. Listening to a record requires intent. It’s an immersive experience that commands respect and attention. Mondo reminds us of this, as they do with each release, by making their records a total experience.

Each of the three Marvel soundtracks features beautiful artwork from artist Matthew Woodson, with each drawn in a way that presents the live action characters of the Netflix TV shows while respecting their comic roots. It’s realism mixed with comic book sensibilities. The cover of each showcases the hero of each series against a colored backdrop most associated with the character—red for Daredevil, purple for Jessica Jones, and yellow for Luke Cage, matching the color of the vinyl it holds—while the gatefold features stunning portraits of each of the three big bads who torment our heroes.

Gatefold art from Mondo's Luke Cage Soundtrack; art by Matthew Woodson.

Gatefold art from Mondo’s Luke Cage Soundtrack; art by Matthew Woodson.

It’s easy to get lost in the artwork of the albums while they spin on your record player, as the packaging is about as beautiful as you can get for any record. Just as nothing is spared in the presentation, however, so too is nothing spared musically.

The transfers to vinyl are impeccable, and somehow each record sounds larger and more bombastic than they do even during the series. With the composers working on each series, it’s not hard to see why. Each brings their own unique musical voice to the mix, which not only adds to the series in which it’s showcased, but symphonically tells the story in their own ways.

John Paesano’s Daredevil score is haunting in its evocativeness. Each piece brings to mind the scene it accompanied perfectly, and its mix of classical sensibilities and occasionally guitar driven harmonics take on new life when listened to on vinyl. Sean Calley’s Emmy winning work on Jessica Jones, meanwhile, is the kind of modern jazz you expect to hear in a smoky dive bar, between sips of whiskey beneath a dim neon glow. It’s perfectly suited for the neo-noir pastiche of the series, moving from slow and cool to frenetic at near the drop of a hat.

Gatefold art, inset, and vinyl for Mondo's Jessica Jones Soundtrack. Art by Matthew Woodson.

Gatefold art, inset, and vinyl for Mondo’s Jessica Jones Soundtrack. Art by Matthew Woodson.

Musically the real cream of the crop, however, is Luke Cage. Composed by A Tribe Called Quest’s Ali Shaheed Muhammed and producer Adrian Younge, who blend classic R&B and hip-hop to create a score that fully stands on its own, even without the backing of a major Marvel and Netflix series, is some of the most stunning instrumental work to come along in recent memory. The throwback to the Blaxploitation films of the 70’s encapsulates the vibe of the series, and both Muhammed and Younge produce some of the best work either has put forward in years.

Each album stands fine on its own, but it’s hard to deny how well they all look side by side by side. Just as each hero will come to complement the rest in the upcoming crossover series, The Defenders, each record serves as a sort of companion to the rest, at least in terms of packaging and presentation. For the non-collectors out there, however, the albums are worth owning for the music alone, whether you’re a score hound or just a fan.

With the pressing limited to 3,000, these are records that won’t be available forever, or for long. That’s part of the appeal of Mondo to a large extent—feeling like you’re owning a part of something special. While it’s possible they might be repressed at a later date, that’s not yet confirmed or, really, even in the discussion. Fans will want to do act quickly to get their hands on these incredible presentations, which you can do by clicking here, here, and here.

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