Friday 22 January 2016

The Ten Best Scores Of 2015

Ten Best Scores Of 2015

Okay then. Back by ‘almost popular demand’, here’s my pick of this year’s best new release scores. This column always goes up a little late while I try to give every score due consideration (aka... when the last of the 'straggler release' shiny discs have all finally finished turning up in the mail).

Strangely enough, for the first time in a very long time, I actually own all five scores nominated for this year’s Oscars on CD. I hate what the modern Oscars (post 1920s) have become and frankly, disagree with the nominations somewhat... so only three of those scores make it into my top ten list this year. A couple of scores which might possibly have been included here, The Hateful Eight and The Revenant, didn’t come out in the cinema in the UK until this year and so they are not up for consideration in my list, as far as I’m concerned. They might always make the 2016 list though.

Here we are then... my list in ascending order.

10. The Duke Of Burgundy by Cat’s Eyes
This score as released on CD is short and sweet. I didn’t care too much for the film in comparison to its cinematic legacy but the music by Cat’s Eyes is pretty good and invokes the feeling, perhaps too closely at some points, of Piero Piccioni’s score to Scacco Alla Regina (reviewed here). A nice, laid back listen which harkens back to a more evocative musical past than much music released today. My review of the movie is here.

9. Sicario by Jóhann Jóhannsson
Jóhann Jóhannsson’s score to this truly depressing yet beautiful movie is, perhaps, not quite as present as a stand alone listen as it is in the movie, due to the way the sound design gives it a certain weight at certain points in its motion picture context... but it’s still pretty amazing. Very much a scoring style which seems to be in fashion now, it reminds me a little of scores like Gravity and I think this is one of those classic scores we’ll be seeing in the racks of our local record shops for years to come... assuming they’ll be any actual physical music shops left standing. I reviewed this movie here.

8. Krampus by Douglas Pipes
Douglas Pipes’ score to Krampus is phenomenally good and not at all what I was expecting from something which is basically a pretty good Christmas horror/exploitation flick. It’s fairly Elfmanesque, actually, and it sounds incredibly large scale for the film it’s supporting. This one should get a lot of spins from me again in December, to set myself up with another dose of the Christmas spirit. My review is here.

7. Mortdecai by Mark Ronson and Geoff Zanelli
Wow. What an unbelievably terrible excuse of a movie. The film itself is just awful and surpasses any expectations of anything well below the realms of past Turkeys like Harlem Nights. My new comparison model for going to see a questionable movie is... “at least it can’t be worse than Mortdecai.” Which is a shame because this dreadful experiment in comedy has a truly amazing, 1960s style spy score by Mark Ronson and Geoff Zanelli that surpasses a lot of what’s been written for the genre in years. This seriously got played and played by me and is a prime example of a truth which Jerry Goldsmith demonstrated to his audience of listeners over many decades... just because it’s a bad movie, it doesn’t have to have a bad score. Even the songs on this one are good and if you are a fan of those 1960s spy caper sounds, this is definitely one to pick up. Your ears will thank you for it. My review of the dire movie is here.

6. Tomorrowland by Michael Giacchino
Well this was a bit of a surprise of a score and movie for me, delivering absolutely nothing like what you could expect from it if you’d seen the somewhat misleading trailers. This film is a romp which, while preachy in places, has a lot of heart in its central message of hope and optimism. Composer Michael Giacchino scored a few movies this year... including the not too shabby music for Jupiter Ascending and the less than cool but somewhat appropriate score for the ‘not too hot’ Jurassic World. However, as far as I’m concerned, this melodic and bouyant score is Giacchino’s masterpiece of 2015 and it got multiple listens from me. I reviewed the movie here.

5. Avengers - Age Of Ultron by Brian Tyler and Danny Elfman
It’s strange that this score is even in here because I still, to this day, can’t get the hang of Alan Silvestri’s score to Avengers Assemble (aka The Avengers). This score takes Silvestri’s Avengers theme and runs with it, making reference to other themes in the Marvel franchise along the way but this one, for me, is a much more coherent and listenable album than the score to the first film. The score has a very strange credit on the film... Music by Brian Tyler and then another one which says Music by Danny Elfman. I don’t know where the collaboration between these two composing goliaths starts and ends on this one or, indeed, if there was any real collaboration at all but, however it was created, it’s a hell of a listen. My one grievance about this score is that the one track I wanted... the four or five seconds of music that ensured I sat up in the cinema and took note of it so I could rush out and buy the album later, isn’t actually included on this CD. Hell’s teeth. I thought the soundtrack community was trying to make incomplete releases a thing of the past. Even though it doesn’t have my favourite cue of the movie (perhaps my favourite cue of the year?) on it... I still played the hell out of this one. My review of the film is here.

4. The Man From UNCLE by Daniel Pemberton
If 2015 was anything it was definitely the year of the resurgence of the spy movie in popular cinema. There were so many of them... Mortedai, Kingsman - The Secret Service, Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation, SPECTRE... and this. This contains no themes from any of the original UNCLE films or TV shows and the movie itself treats the originals with a similar lack of respect. That being said, Daniel Pemberton, who is not a name I would have thought I would have been using in regards to big budget Hollywood scoring, absolutely knocks it out of the park with what is the best spy score and best series of action cues in years. I thought Mortdecai would retain that crown this year... until this one came out. Another of the year’s overplayed albums, my review of the movie itself is here.

3. Carol by Carter Burwell
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again... Carter Burwell’s score for Carol is pretty much the dead spit... in tone, melody, structure and orchestration... of something Philip Glass would have written for it. I don’t understand why this soundtrack isn’t being challenged at some level artistically but, regardless, I love the music of Philip Glass and, consequently, I love this score. A truly infectious and somewhat mono-thematic but wonderous musical experience. Definitely getting a lot of plays out of this one. My film review is here.

2. It Follows by Disasterpeace
This film, and the score by someone who calls himself Disasterpeace, came out early in the year and, until I heard the following entry for this year’s scores, I was convinced this was going to stay at the number one spot as my score of the year. The music has a sound just like the kind of film it supports and highlights... something reminiscent of an early 1980s American horror film. You can almost hear John Carpenter noodling around in the background on keyboards... except it’s not Carpenter, it just sounds like something he might have wrote for one of his own movies. A seriously cool listening experience to support a seriously cool horror film. My review of said movie is right here.

1. Star Wars - The Force Awakens by John Williams
Blimey. This takes me back. After hearing the scores for the Star Wars movies Attack Of The Clones and Revenge Of The Sith, I was really not expecting too much from Johnny William’s return to the Star Wars saga. However, what we have here is not just a good Star Wars score... it’s a truly great Star Wars score, worthy of being mentioned alongside A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back in terms of its greatness. I don’t know how the director managed to get modern John Williams to be able to sound just like he did in the late 1970s and early 1980s for this one but it’s a truly striking anachronism of a score which achieves instant greatness. Not all of my favourite cues turned up for the album release and I didn’t understand how some of the things Williams has done here fit thematically with things going on in the picture but... it’s just an unbelievable masterpiece of a score and its a real reminder as to why John Williams is probably the most popular film composer of the late 20th Century. I hope the powers that be can get an expanded release of this score out sometime before I die. Truly gorgeous. My review of the movie is here.

And that’s about it for this year. Honourable, almost made it, mentions to this list would be Ex Machina, Kingsman - The Secret Service, Ant-Man, Mission Impossible - Rogue Nation and Fantastic Four. Reviews of all these movie can be found by clicking on the site index at the top right and then scrolling down past the books to the film section. I hope you like some of the scores I’ve listed here... I think they’re all worth having a good listen to.

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