Unlike the last time (2014, yikes!) that I posted for The 405, this playlist has little reason for existing except to bring about the always relevant reminder that Paul Thomas Anderson is one of - if not the - master of his craft. I could tenuously connect it to the 20th anniversary of Hard Eight's first screening at France's Deauville Film Festival, but I won't.

So, apropos of nothing, here are the most essential tracks from PTA's filmography, from Hard Eight (aka Sydney) to Junun. As if it really needs to be said, I'll be explaining plot points from each films. If you haven't seen them, stop reading this and watch them, because what Anderson expresses with his films is better than I ever could with words.

John Brion - 'Clementine's Loop' (Hard Eight)

In a film that has scant musical accompaniment aside from a Jon Brion track here and there, some frequent in-casino house jazz, and slot- and fruit- machines substituting for tangible instruments, Hard Eight has proved a very difficult starting point for this article because most of it what you can hear has gone uncredited or is simply impossible to find online.

My favoured track comes after the second-act conclusion, with John (John C. Reilly) and Clementine (Gwyneth Paltrow) taking a honeymoon trip to Niagra Falls whilst Sydney (Philip Baker Hall) cleans up an incident caused by the pair; holding a bloodied man hostage after the captive refused to pay Clementine for sex. It's a moment that sends the film on an entirely different path - both thematically and literally - with the newlyweds driving across the country and recounting their promises to one another as a vibrato-style Asian instrument* plucks away in the background.

The soothing, harmonious strings dip in and out of being audible as it cuts to Sydney watching their wedding video, a moment wherein he understands the love he has for his surrogate son.

*I've attempted to identify this instrument, and have settled on it being a Gottan or hako-jamisen, though I've found little evidence to back this up. If anyone out there can classify the sound, I'll credit your name here.

Rick Springfield - 'Jessie's Girl' (Boogie Nights)

Easily the most soundtrack-heavy of all Anderson's films, Boogie Nights is a film that drenches itself in the atmosphere of the mid-1970s-through-80s with track-after-track of fantastic disco music. It's a tough call, especially after the one-two punch of The Emotions' 'Best of My Love' and Boney M's 'Sunny' during the exceptionally kinetic opening tracking shot, but it has to be Rick Springfield's 'Jessie's Girl' that recalls the best of Boogie Nights' era.

During Dirk (Mark Wahlberg), Reed (John C. Reilly) and Todd (Thomas Jane)'s drug deal in which they try and scam the unpredictably erratic Rahad (Alfred Molina) by attempting to pass half a kilo of baking powder off as cocaine, Springfield's exuberant tale of an unrequited love for another's girlfriend interrupts the awkwardness, whilst Rahad amateurishly sings along, rentboy Cosmo throws firecrackers around the nervous trio, and the bodyguards test the grade-A raising agent for its non-chemical properties.

It's an amazingly framed scene that increases the tension with a near--minute long static shot on Dirk's face as Springfield forlornly wails "And she's watching him with those eyes" at the same time the three scammers are watching Rahad's movements, waiting for their time to steal the love of his life: drugs and money.

PS: I jest, but really, this is the best song in Boogie Nights.

Supertramp - 'Goodbye Stranger' (Magnolia)

After a brief opening introduction to the multitude of characters set to Aimee Mann's version of Harry Nilsson's 'One', it's not until the 54-minute mark that we get a truly great piece of music accompanied with a blackly funny and altogether depressing scene. As Donnie Smith (William H. Macy) - a former champion of a televised children's game show (think Jeopardy! for kids) - walks into a bar after being fired from his job in an electronics store, Supertramp's 'Goodbye Stranger' spins from the jukebox as he takes a seat in the corner, alone.

Smith's idiosyncrasy is that he's obsessed with perfect teeth, a characteristic that follows him wherever he goes, including the bar that he presumably frequents. As Rick Davies' wurlitzer piano fills the tavern, the camera whirls around, checking in briefly on each patron before settling on the hunky young bartender: an adult with full top and bottom orthodontics. Smith's fantasising for perfect gnashers as well as the perfect man is interrupted by Henry Gibson's wealthy, money-waving customer, whilst Supertramp's lyrics muffle their instruments during a moment of solemn realisation that Quiz Kid Donnie Smith's happiness solely rests on the costly oral surgery that he so desperately craves.

Conway Twitty - 'Danny (Lonely Blue Boy)' (Punch-Drunk Love)

What is best known as the film that unlocked Adam Sandler's sparse talents, Punch-Drunk Love matches this with a sparse soundtrack, with a near-continuous music bed of Jon Brion's analogue sampler re-creating realistic drum beats and plinky-plonky keys. But it's the first - and final - confrontation between Sandler's browbeaten novelty peddler Barry Egan and Seymour-Hoffman's skeezy mattress salesman/phone-sex pimp, Dean, that has the best non-Brion moment in Conway Twitty's 1960 country hit: 'Danny (Lonely Blue Boy)'.

This choice is - at first - a well-aimed dig at Barry, and due to the command of the scene by Hoffman's character it's an exact - if not entirely truthful - depiction of how the other characters' define Barry: lonely, pathetic and blue, both in emotion and dress-sense.

The final words on the background radio speak more volume than the mostly inaudible track: Twitty singing "lonely blue boy is my name" has - at this point - become the opposite of what it meant when the confrontation began: Barry's impulsive nature has intimidated the bullying Dean, and he's won. He's won the fight, he's won the girl back, he's won a whole lot of pudding, and he's won against loneliness, even if his suit is still very blue.

Jonny Greenwood - 'Convergence' (There Will Be Blood)

I'd be remiss if I didn't say that my favourite Anderson film in toto is his epic portrayal of greed at the dawn of the 20th century: There Will Be Blood. The film opens to one of the most deafening orchestral swells I've ever heard in film presenting a New Mexico plain in the foreground and mountains in the back, suddenly broken by the sound of Daniel Plainview (Daniel Day Lewis) pickaxing precious ore from a rudimentary pit hole. This, whilst not the musical selection I've chosen, is one hell of a way to start a film: it takes this insidious, unnervingly aggressive audio that's reminiscent of an air-raid siren and carries it through to the final, "I'm finished!" frame.

No, the soundtrack selection to one of the best films of all time is also party to one of cinema's finest scenes, shot by the crazily talented DOP Robert Elswit. At the one-hour mark we have silence; at the one-hour-and-forty-five-second mark we have a catastrophic oil blow-out, then five seconds later it's silent again. This latter silence is the result of H.W. Plainview (Dillon Freasier)'s burst eardrums due to the powerful blast of natural gas to his person.

The initial moments of this scene are played without music, but instead use in-scene audio; the workers shouting, the wooden pumpjack collapsing, and oil geysering into the sky. It's not until Plainview has rescued his adoptive son from immediate harm that Jonny Greenwood's clacking, erratic, 'Convergence'* starts up. For the next few minutes, this track keeps the intensity burning as strongly as the blazing oil well, only to end abruptly with a nitrous BANG! It's a remarkably soundtracked scene in a remarkably soundtracked film, played with the utmost restraint and delicacy to the music.

*I cheated a little: 'Convergence' isn't technically part of There Will Be Blood in that it's not on the soundtrack, nor is it credited, but it's still a Greenwood track used in the film. A quick search tells me it's from one of his earliest forays outside of Radiohead for Bodysong, a 2003 biological documentary.

Jonny Greenwood - 'Able Bodied Seaman' (The Master)

Often regarded as the most boring Anderson film - which is nuts - The Master features another winning soundtrack collaboration with Jonny Greenwood, taking cue from post-WWII American musical styles as well as integrating classic jazz (Ella Fitzgerald) and interpretations of 19th-century English folk songs (Glenn Miller, and The Andrew Sisters).

After choosing what is essentially a 'hidden track' for their previous collaboration on There Will Be Blood, it's only fair that this time I pick a Greenwood track that is actually certified on the soundtrack: 'Able Bodied Seaman', which guides us through the introduction of arguably one of the most fascinating protagonists of all Anderson's films: Joaquin Phoenix's Freddie Quell. This scene introduces us to his sex-obsessed, alcoholic ways with a metronome of percussion blocks and drums that tick down to a radio report declaring the end of WWII, and the end of his freeloading, debauched lifestyle. And that's only the first five minutes.

Neil Young - 'Journey Through the Past' (Inherent Vice)

We've had disco in the 80s with Boogie Nights, turn-of-the-century singer-songwriters in Magnolia, There Will Be Blood's jangly orchestras, and post-War jazz in The Master. For Anderson's last full feature - Inherent Vice - he's firmly rooted in the psychedelia and acoustic rock of '60s and '70s California. I was tempted to go with the bassy, bouncy krautrock percussion of Can's 'Vitamin C' (used to perfection as the neon green titles burst onto the screen), but instead chose to go for one of my favourite Neil Young songs: 'Journey Through the Past'.

As Larry "Doc" Sportello (Joaquin Phoenix) reads a postcard from his first, true love, he's reminded of a moment of authentic happiness in his life: attempting to score dope through a Ouija board with Shasta Fay Hepworth (Katherine Waterston). Calling a number that their uncontrolled, ghostly fingers tell them, Shasta and Doc go running through the rain looking to score whilst Young's wavy alto accompanies their sodden search. The scene is inaudible, except for the slight patter of a rainstorm and Young's lyrics that reflect every aspect of Doc's lost love as they seek shelter in a doorway.

"Will your restless heart come back to mine / on a journey through the past / will I still be in your eyes / and on your mind?" can be heard as Joanna Newsom's narration tells the audience that this was their finest, most bittersweet moment as a couple; a moment that can be backed up by the postcard's jostling rememory of the event, one that neither of them will want to forget, but that Doc possibly already has.

The song finishes on a journey in the present, as Doc's investigative lead takes him back to that doorway, alone, and though he passes it by with little incident, Young highlights his loneliness and dependency with the line "I will stay with you, if you stay with me / said the fiddler to the drum".

Inherent Vice ends with the couple back in each others' lives - though not together - and at that conclusion, the final line of Young's song is more prescient of their story than first realised: they need each other to be happy, whether or not it's in the same capacity as their past.

Shye Ben Tzur, Jonny Greenwood and the Rajasthan Express - 'Junun' (Junun)

A brisk, sumptuous documentary that feels like it was almost made by chance were it not for Anderson's precise direction (even exhibiting immense control over the aerial drone shots), Junun puts us directly in the middle of a jam session of delightfully rustic music from Shye Ben Tzur, Jonny Greenwood and The Rajasthan Express, all within the beautiful constructs of a 15th-century Indian fort.

The film clocks in at 54 minutes, so I'm going to cheat here and say watch/listen to the entire thing. 'Junun' directly translates to 'obsession' or 'passion', and both of these nouns are on full show here as the Indian ensemble utilise brass, bowed-strings and a combination of Hebrew, Hindi and Urdu lyrics, mixed with some typically skillful guitar and keyboard from Greenwood. It's a gorgeous album to suit a gorgeous, relaxing film.


So there we have it. A run-through of every Paul Thomas Anderson features detailing my personal favourite selections of the music he so impeccably chose. An undeniable force in cinema, every one of his films is greeted with huge anticipation and love, and so it will continue. His next feature - an as-yet-untitled period-drama about the New York fashion industry in the 1950s - will no doubt be as perfectly cast, shot, written, edited, designed, scored (etc) as the rest of his peerless career.