Wednesday 10 January 2018

Best Scores Of 2017

NUTS4R2s Top
Fifteen Scores of 2017

Okay... so I’ve been fairly ruthless again this year with my selections. If the film was released first run either at the cinema or ‘straight to home’ releases then it’s eligible on my list, as long as the score got a CD release. If it only got a vinyl release or, worse still, some kind of rubbishy electronic download (okay, those two formats are almost as bad as each other these days), then it’s not going to be on here.

Also, no archival releases are on here. As with most recent years, there have been some absolutely fantastic CDs of great, past scores in 2018, most of which would easily win out against the newer ones... so it’s not really fair to let them be on this list.

Anyway, here’s are my picks in reverse (aka ascending) order...

15. The Limehouse Golem by Johan Söderqvist
Söderqvist wrote a pretty cool thriller score which included some nice string orchestrations for this Victorian mystery tale. I could also hear some very specific influences from Jerry Goldsmith making their way into the film (although I don’t remember if those sections I’m thinking of made it onto this album). This CD was a very limited release from Varese Sarabande but... well... at least we eventually got a CD version. You can read my original review for this movie here.

14. Wind River by Nick Cave and Warren Ellis
Wind River had a very quiet and contained score, to match the icy visuals of this stark chiller. Everything seems like it’s a lesson in restraint as the score keeps sounding like it’s going to burst forth in anger at any moment. It also contains some vocal passages which I really didn’t like at first but which have grown on me and work as a part of the stand alone listening experience. My review of the accompanying film can be found here.

13. Pirates of the Caribbean - Salazar’s Revenge/Dead Men Tell No Tales by Geoff Zanelli
Probably the best of the poor crop of sequels to the original, much better movie, Zanelli’s score uses the themes developed by Klaus Badelt and Hans Zimmer throughout and, it has to be said, he does so in a much less subtle but certainly way more entertaining manner than most of the sequel scores manage. I was pleased that this didn’t jettison the soundscape developed over the years and was delighted with the results. My review for the ‘not as good as the score’ movie can be found here.

12. Professor Marston and the Wonder Women by Tom Howe
This is a lovely selection of cues from an amazing movie. When you have a dialogue based film with a script that sparkles the way this one does, without relying on any action sequences, some composers are better off just letting their music get out of the way as a support to the visuals. However, Tom Howe provides a rich accompaniment which raises the emotional highs and lows of the characters perfectly. It was an absolute nightmare to get hold of this CD, for some reason. After my third supplier told me it had somehow been lost in the post (How, when every other thing I ordered this year arrived safe and sound, did three copies of this from three different suppliers get lost in transit?) I despaired of ever getting to hear this before it went out of print but, thankfully, it’s here now and worth the wait. My movie review is here.

11. Happy Death Day by Bear McCreary
This is one of a few movies with scores by the wonderful McCreary in it this year, for what turned out to be a kind of teen slasher remake of Groundhog Day, no less. Bear’s score matches the slow burn shock of waking up every day and I love how the first four cues on the album, titled Day One through to Day Four, have similar, chilling, slow building openings to the tracks to enhance the familiarity of where the main protagonist wakes up every morning. The film wasn’t without some minor flaws but the same couldn’t be said for the score, which is absolutely marvelous.

10. Dunkirk by Hans Zimmer, Lorne Balfe and Benjamin Wallfisch
I’m not the greatest fan of Christopher Nolan’s, admittedly epic feeling, movies but I do like the scores on some of them and this one is no exception (thankfully, it’s no Inception, either). The film is quite intense in the way it piles on the suspense but I think, if you took away this score which, it seems to me, is doing all the work, then the whole film would collapse. So a score which, I suspect, saved the move in some ways. As reviewed here.

9. Spider-Man Homecoming by Michael Giacchino
The first of two Giacchino scores in my top fifteen this year is one which I wasn’t overstruck on when I first heard it (asides from the immediate impact of the Marvel Logo music being a new version of the old cartoon series theme). However, it’s really grown on me and it’s had a fair few spins this year. I reviewed the film here.

8. Blade Runner 2049 by Hans Zimmer and Benjamin Wallfisch
This unwanted sequel to the greatest movie ever made really missed the mark in a big way but I was really interested in seeing what the director’s more recent collaborator, Jóhann Jóhannson, was going to do with the score. Alas, he was replaced fairly late in the game with Zimmer and Wallfisch, both excellent composers in their own right but almost every decision about this film seemed ‘off’ to me. However, this final score, with an overpriced limited edition soundtrack which then turned out to be not so limited after all, is an okay listen, although it never quite seems to get to the heights of sonic empathy it really sounds like it wants to in terms of relating to the original Vangelis score for the original classic. The CD album suffers from the placement of songs dropped into the score which doesn’t help maintain a steady atmosphere in places. My review of Blade Runner 2049 is here.

7. War of the Planet of the Apes by Michael Giacchino
My second Giacchino score is his second score for the Planet Of The Apes series but, it’s also the first one of the modern films, as far as I am concerned, that doesn’t sound out of place with the stylistic leanings of the majority of the scores from the original, five films from the late 1960s and early 1970s. This one has some really great stuff in it including a kind of march for the apes to counter some of the rich, emotional stuff at other points in the movie. I reviewed this one here.

6. A Ghost Story by Daniel Hart
About the worst thing you can say about this truly interesting score by Daniel Hart for this amazing film is it’s too short. I could quite happily have listened to a double CD of this stuff. It even has a not unlistenable song on it which carries a lot of the emotional weight at times. My look at A Ghost Story is here.

5. Shin Godzilla by Shiro Sagisu and Akira Ifikube
The score from Shin Godzilla is a far greater achievement than the actual movie itself, as far as I’m concerned. Shiro Sagisu’s new material blends in perfectly with the new recordings of Akira Ifikube’s melodies from some of the original films and it’s a pure joy to listen to this. The CD is a bit pricey, as it comes from Japan but, worth every penny as it’s been in my player quite a bit since it arrived. I recently reviewed this one here.

4. La La Land by Justin Hurwitz
Despite what I said in my initial review, this film has both a strong score and a pretty good, if small, range of songs in it too. When I’d listened to the songs a second time, after writing my review, I realised just how great they were and what I’d been missing. The album had a strange release in that it was split, unnaturally, into two albums... one for mainly score and one for mainly songs... which is an expensive way to do it, especially when I suspect most people, myself included, were going to recompile it into a proper album reflecting the combined order in film sequence. Then, towards the end of the year, a third double CD in a box was released with even more stuff and alternate material which is finally, more or less, what should have been released in the first place. My slightly wrong headed review of this movie is here.

3. Jackie by Mica Levi
I was absolutely gutted this music by relative newcomer Mica Levi didn’t win the Oscar for best score last year. Well, at least it got nominated, I guess. Like her earlier Under The Skin score, this one is just pure genius and may take you to emotional places you didn’t realise you had. Any other year, this may well have been my number one choice but, as you can see below, the competition for the top spot was tough in 2017.

2. King Arthur - Legend of the Sword by Daniel Pemberton
Well, this is one of those ‘not so rare as you may think’ instances when a quite terrible movie has a truly stupendous score which takes on a life of its own as a stand alone listen. This is right up there with Pemberton’s equally cool score for the same director’s recent reboot of The Man From U.N.C.L.E and it basically feels like... well... medieval rock n’ roll. The percussion and various other effects like the use of breathing as a musical instrument really serves to give a fresh and ‘beyond toe tapping’ suite of musical delights. I gave this one a lot of play and you can read my response to the less than stellar movie it’s trying its best to support here.

1. Wonder Woman by Rupert Gregson-Williams
I couldn’t believe I missed just how brilliant Rupert Gregson-Williams’ score for Wonder Woman is on my first listen through at the cinema. I sure as hell twigged it when I heard it away from the images which inspired it, though. This is a case of my number one film from 2017 and the score from the same both taking the top spot. While Gregson-Williams occasionally uses Hans Zimmer’s Wonder Woman theme from Batman VS Superman (to very good effect... less is more) he also introduced numerous rich, extremely emotional and, for sure, powerful themes which tend to sweep me off my feet every time I listen to it. In fact, when I was walking around London with earphones on and listening to this thing, I began to start tearing up exactly the same way that I do when I see the movie (actually, tearing up may be a bit of an understatement). A truly soulful set of cues which, considering just how much good music has been left off the CD, really needs an expanded 2-3 disc release from one of the boutique soundtrack labels like La La Land or Intrada. This disc has been played to death by me this year and I suspect it will be getting a lot of spins by me over the next decade or more. My review is here.

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