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SCORE! Top 20 Film Scores of 2012 (pt. 1)

Welcome to IOC’s annual, year-end Top 20 Film Score Countdown! As always, the rules are simple – each score must feature original music composed by an individual (or team working together) for a Motion Picture. If there are compilation tracks included they must make up the minority of the disc. This eliminates certain soundtracks – like those of the documentary Searching for Sugar Man and Tarantino’s Django Unchainedbecause they feature tracks culled together from prerecorded material. Bummer. But get over it quick… ‘cos awwayy we go!
 

20.) ComplianceHeather McIntosh

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For writer/director Craig Zobel‘s tense workplace drama about a middle aged fast food manager (played superbly by Ann Dowd) who takes a prank caller too seriously, Zobel (one of the founding fathers of the awesome Homestar Runner website) enlisted Heather McIntosh, an Athens, GA cellist who’s worked with Circulatory System, The Instruments, Japancakes and Animal Collective to provide the atmospherics his narrative inspired by true events needed. Full of brooding cellos (natch), ringing vibraphone, a pulsing tempo and an overall ominous quality, McIntosh’s first soundtrack is a winner, a chamber piece which helps build the suspense while feeling as indie as the pedigree and subject matter would indicate. Have a listen.

Here’s track 1, “Compliance Theme”:

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Here’s track 3, “The Investigation”:

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19.) Low & ClearDoug Major

Low & Clear Original Score

This time it’s the score for this indie documentary about a duo of fly-fishermen friends directed by Kahlil Hudson & Tyler Hughen that’s got our attention, an eclectic affair that mixes banjo-like steel guitars with electronics to great effect. Pianos phase in and out, synths almost blow the speakers and wooden blocks join the fray to create a meditative yet melodic sound-scape full of surprises.

Here’s track 6, “J.T. Tracking Down the Canal”:

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Here’s track 21, “Xenie’s Theme”:

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18.) RealityAlexandre Desplat

Reality

Desplat was a busy man in 2012, giving us the score to Rise of the Guardians, Argo, Zero Dark Thirty, Rust and Bone, and of course pitching in memorable vignettes alongside the posthumous work of Benjamin Britten and others in Moonrise Kingdom, a fantastic compilation soundtrack which despite being ineligible for our list is a must-have for any discerning hipster. Here Alexandre crafts a lilting surreal score for a film by Gomorrah director Matteo Garrone. Featuring wind chimes, strings, and a choir of caroling voices straight out of Christmas and punctuated with bells a’la Danny Elfman on a subtle and restrained day. Pay close attention and you’ll spot some pipe organ, oboes and weird whirling electronic “chortling!”

Here’s the opening track, “Reality”:

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Here’s track 5, “L’Illusione”:

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17.) Hard Boiled SweetsTom E. Morrison

Hard Boiled Sweets

Writer-Director David L.G. Hughes’ hard-nosed British indie crime thriller gets a big boost from this exciting score full of loud guitar riffs, a choir of wordless angelic voices, and enough wah-wah pedals and effects to fill a high school basement. All this is spelled by some tension-filled ambient tracks featuring bleeping and blooping electronics, creating an overall score that’s truly unique – complete with track names like “Gobstopper,” “Fruit Bonbon” and “Chocolate Lime.” Must keep an eye on this composer!

Here’s track 1, “A Girl and a Gun”:

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Here’s track 13, “The Chocolate Lime”:

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16.) Mains ArméesSacha Di Manolo & Adrien Jolivet

mains armess

Frequent Luc Besson collaborator Pierre Jolivet‘s police thriller gets a haunting and propulsive soundtrack straight out of a Michael Mann movie, capturing that perfect 80’s late night atmosphere. Thick bass-lines and moody synthesizers build with hints of flamenco guitar peppered underneath, creating a familiar yet exotic backdrop. Singer Laetitia Bourgeois adds vocals to 2 tracks. Think Tangerine Dream by way of Ottmar Leibert – only endlessly better than how that sounds.

Here’s track 3, “Highway Lunch”:

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Here’s track 6, “Cocteau”:

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And so concludes part 1 of our celebration of the sounds of 2012. Tune in for part 2 later in the week – and check out last years’ countdown as well as the ridiculously ambitious and highly subjective countdown that started it all – our Top 150 scores of all time!

Oh yeah – and don’t forget to leave us a comment with your favorite soundtracks of the year… perhaps yours will make our list!?

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