It took two viewings, multiple listenings, and an open mind; I quite like the new Trek and it's various components, notably the soundtrack by Michael Giaccino.
I have been a fan of Trek and especially its scores / soundtracks from my early days in the 70s. Faithfully, I have purchased every soundtrack as it was released concurrently with each film. Even when Next Gen, DS9, Voyager and Enterprise fell into place, I sought the musical releases with anticipation. I have heard 'em all - many times.
Change is paradoxically the only constant in this universe (aside from death and taxes, of course, as the joke goes). Realizing and accepting change is the difficulty for most. Giaccino is change - writing a score for a "reboot" film for a multi-media empire that, arguably, falls short of only Star Wars for enduring legacy and legions of fans. He faced a dilemma: Glean from the past, or boldly venture into a new realm of musical cues and themes. He, most likely with the direction of Abrams, opted for the latter, which is a refreshing development on the Trek frontier.
I listened to this soundtrack many times before seeing the film, as I often do with major fantasty / sci-fi flicks (ie Star Wars). I like to interpret / imagine the story through the notes before I see the actual images. I at first didn't care for this music. It didn't have much linking it to the previous films, save the end credits. Upon further reflection, I now interpret this absence of the traditional Trek fanfare and cues as the "learning curve" for the crew to climactically "graduate" into the recognizable Trek we know where Kirk is finally Captain, with Spock & Bones at his side. The absence of the fanfare throughout the entire score actually makes it more nostalgic and poignant to conclude the film / soundtrack. Dare I argue that it was intentional and designed to build up to the film's conclusion? I'd like to believe that.
I appreciate Giaccino's exploration into the unknown for Trek. His villain's theme is pounding and discordant at times. In isolation without any visual cues, I wasn't terribly impressed; when heard with the non-stop action that it promotes, it works and makes complementary sense. Listening to it now, with those images emblazed in my memory, it is quite fitting. The haunting theme of 5 simple notes played successively 3 times at the film's start, is woven throughout the soundtrack and effectively unifies the album. This theme is adapted in many ways: its tempo is quickened at times, buried yet subconsciously noticeable in other scenes, augmented by a choral arrangement in an epic manner during the film's emotional climax, and consistently interpreted by various combinations of instruments.
Break from the past - explore a new sound. I quite enjoy this album and if there is any major flaw, it is that this album doesn't contain the incidental music that would perfect this product to a 5 star rating in my books. On an 80 minute disc, summing up over 120 minutes of film, 45 minutes of score is a weak entry for any soundtrack. I hope that an "Ultimate" edition is in the works with 2 discs of music as was produced for the original Star Wars Trilogy. Hey, I can dream, can't I?