2014_scoresAnd here we are, another year done and another year of incredible soundtracks which are pushing the limits of the art form. As always, there were a lot to choose from, but I these were the ones that I just couldn’t let go of. Like the films they represent, it’s an eclectic bunch, and I hope you get to discover any of them that you might’ve missed!

girlhood_soundtrack_coverGirlhood by Para One – I discovered this score on accident, thinking it was for an older film, when it reality, it just hadn’t been released stateside yet. I was immediately enamored by the staccato synths and catchy melodies that I put the album on loop – then I saw the film and liked it even more. Celine Sciamma’s coming-of-age story about young black girls in the rough streets of Paris is utterly charming and raw, and Jean-Baptiste de Laubier’s music gives the tough film it’s heartbeat. “Slow Down”, a track sung by Swedish singer Frida Sundemo and played during a pivotal scene, is perfection. Film Review

knick_soundtrack_coverThe Knick by Cliff Martinez – The crazy thing about this one is that I haven’t even seen the show. But! I’ve given this soundtrack a lot of play based solely on the strength of Martinez’ melodies and the eerie atmosphere that they create. I think that says a lot, that the score can be so evocative out of context and in its own right. Minimal, powerful and anachronistic, you can’t help but be hypnotized by what you’re hearing.

300_rise_empire_soundtrack_cover300: Rise of an Empire by Junkie XL – Out of all the scores on this list, I may have listened to this one the most. As a film, I found this sequel a lot more watchable than it’s predecessor. It doesn’t have the same sense of gravitas or visual flair as Zack Snyder’s film, but what it lacks in mythos and finesse, it more than makes up for in brute force – and the same can be said about Junkie XL’s score. From the epic opening track, “History of Artemisia”, the composer takes us deep into an unforgiving world of anthemic synths mixed with ethnic instruments, ethereal vocals and raw, thundering power. More emotional than the film and just as visceral, this thing gets my blood flowing every time. Film Review

the_congress_soundtrack_coverThe Congress by Max Richter – Richter is really one of the best unsung heroes out there. As someone who generates self-described “post-classical” music outside of his film work, Richter’s attention to detail and musical experimentation brings a whole level of nuance not usually found in a lot of scores. He’s all over the place in this one, culling punk, pop and classical influences to stitch together the media-obsessed world of the film. At times beautiful, noisy, irreverent and haunting. Film Review

girl_walks_homeA Girl Walks Home Alone at Night by ??? – This one’s a bit of a cheat. Death Waltz Records is set to release the soundtrack early this year, and I don’t even know the names of the songs used in it, let alone whether or not or there was a singular composer creating the non-diegetic score. Still, as Ana Lily Amirpour impressionistic film is one that deals in raw, abstract emotion rather than standard exposition, the soundtrack is something that guides us through her eclectic influences. What we end up with is a collection of glossy pop, electro and folk tunes infused with Iranian flavor which doesn’t add to the film, but is instead embedded inextricably into it’s soul. Film Review

only_lovers_left_alive_soundtrack_coverOnly Lovers Left Alive by Sqürl and Jozef van Wissem – More than anything, Jim Jarmusch’s film was a mood piece that took us deep into a secret world, never before glanced by the human eye. While the film mixed gothic influences with modern-day grunge, the soundtrack by Jarmusch’s own band Sqürl and Jozef van Wissem straddles that same line between classic and modern. Sqürl’s droney alt-rock mixed with Wissem’s pounding percussion and sitar create an otherworldly combination while guest singers such as Madeline Follin, Zola Jesus and Yasmine Hamdan sing songs for the forlorn. Film Review

penny_dreadful_soundtrack_coverPenny Dreadful by Abel Korzeniowski – I’ve been a fan of Korzeniowski since I saw A Single Man. His work is unmistakably sophisticated, and coupled with the show’s mixture of arthouse-meets-grindhouse, this score is a perfect fit. The theme song, “Demimonde”, is one of my favorite things on TV right now; as a whole, this is a sweeping, urgent work with tinges of melancholy and complex orchestral arrangements.

inherent_vice_soundtrack_coverInherent Vice by Jonny Greenwood and various artists – You can never go wrong with Jonny Greenwood and a perfectly handpicked collection of classic rock. What stood out to me while watching the film, is that Greenwood’s music is subdued and almost just hinted at while a collection of funk and pop drive the film’s rhythm. On their own, the two disparate voices contrast each other perfectly, with Greenwood’s pensive and paranoid strings creating a suffocating (I mean that in a good way) atmosphere which make the pop selections all the more brighter and bit more strange. Film Review

grand_piano_soundtrack_coverGrand Piano by Victor Reyes – This is another film that absolutely relies on it’s score, but in a smart, clever way. Rather than use the music as a crutch, the score is an integral part of the plot, driving it forward and even separating the film into chapters with its evolving movements. Since the film is a race against time featuring a pianist making his way through a do-or-die concert, Reyes’ score operates on multiple levels. On it’s own, the music is a well-rounded piano concerto, but placed within the film, can be seen in another light, guiding us through intrigue, unbearable tension and even cathartic release. “La Cinquette”, lauded by the film’s characters as a legendary, unplayable piano piece is perfect, starting slow before building to a mind-numbing climax of chaotic notes and melodic flourish. Film Review

enemy_soundtrack_coverEnemy by Danny Bensi and Saunder Jurriaans – Denis Villeneuve’s paranoid thriller is one of the most mind-bending films of the year, and this soundtrack is equally as impressive. Together, Bensi and Jurriaans really take us into our protagonist’s oppressive state of mind. The labyrinthian strings, woodwind instruments and percussion give the film’s dreamlike imagery and tone an unsettling backdrop that pierces our soul on an unforgiving level. The more I listen to this, the more I become obsessed – and afraid. Unforgivably dark, this score takes no prisoners.  

frank_soundtrack_coverFrank by Stephen Rennicks, The Soronprfbs & cast – This thing puts a giant grin on my face without fail. The film, about an avant garde pop band gives composer Stephen Rennicks and the cast (consisting of drumming extraordinaire Carla Azar) a chance to really let loose. Like the eclectic characters of the film, the music is a schizophrenic mixture of odd timings, vocal performances and atypical band arrangements that border on performance art. From the sampling of a shrill scream, ordinary objects like a door opening and closing, to quiet, folk interludes about loose hanging sofa tufts, you haven’t heard it all until you’ve heard this! The film’s climactic tune, “I Love You All”, is a powerhouse of emotion and quirk. Film Review

disappearance_eleanor_rigby_soundtrack_coverThe Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby by Son Lux – Ryan Lott’s enchanting score for this film is used very sparsely, but it’s there and it makes a huge impact. The story, an experimental narrative told through multiple films and points of view is heartbreaking, and it took the keen sensitivity of Lott’s music to add a proper backdrop. There are still, quiet moments of ambient chords which bridge the film’s themes of memory and emotion together, while a few choice duets with vocalist Faux Fix top things off in what have to be some of the most beautiful songs I’ve heard all year. Film Review

gone_girl_soundtrack_coverGone Girl by Atticus Ross and Trent Reznor – These two honestly can do NO WRONG – all caps because you know it’s true. Following up successful collaborations with David Fincher, the duo return with their best work yet. Their score is much more nuanced this time, oft-times finding a balance between the hard blips of their previous electronic work and a more orchestral sound to find something more subtle and dynamic; listen to the way the noir-ish melody snakes around unassumingly in the opening track, “What Have We Done to Each Other” for proof of this. There’s much more subtext this time around, with tracks like “Sugar Storm” emulating the type of hopeful melody we’d expect from a romance theme, but twisting it and making it feel unrecognizable through the synthesis of their instrumental execution. Brilliant stuff. Film Review

interstellar_soundtrack_coverInterstellar by Hans Zimmer – Zimmer is a composer who needs no introduction. He’s been pushing the limits of what we understand as film scores to be for decades now and is still going strong, thanks to a fruitful relationship with Christopher Nolan. Choosing to score the soundtrack with organs to evoke a timeless feel was a very smart solution – and with Zimmer’s unparalleled ability to bring out emotion in a scene, we’re left with something just jaw-dropping. Tracks like “Stay” and “Detach” show the auteur at the top of his game, delivering music that’s bold and destined to become iconic and emulated for years to come. Film Review

under_the_skin_soundtrack_coverUnder The Skin by Mica Levi – I don’t think anyone was expecting this one, but it completely blew my mind and only continues to dig deeper into me the more I listen to it. Jonathan Glazer’s impressionistic film is not one that adheres to the templates of how a story should be told, instead asking us to project our life experiences onto what we’re seeing on screen. Concurrently, Levi’s haunting score provides a truly out-of-this-world backdrop that puts us in a trance, making us forget about everything else to transport us deep into Glazer’s twisted mirror of the human emotions we take for granted. Frantic strings, odd time signatures and unsettling melodies have never been more intoxicating. Film Review

SG