At number 10 we have the score for W.E., a film directed by the queen of pop herself, Madonna. IMDB says this movie was released in 2011 but if you look at the fine print you’ll see its limited release was Feb. 3, 2012. So it’s kosher. And oh, how kosher! Lush, overflowing with emotion, Romantic to the Nth degree, and with a capital R! Right from the get-go, we get strings heaped upon strings, a beautiful melody building into a lyrical crescendo that crashes like a wave onto a gentle shore and then continues in rivulets of pizzicato between robust boulders of arco … in other words, it’s real purdy. Grandiose without being overbearing, it’s an incredibly satisfying score by a master musician, full of a variety of melodies, shifts in tone, and even the occasional waltz. The only misstep is the inclusion of a final song by the auteur herself, “Masterpiece,” where lyrics like “If you were the Mona Lisa / you’d be hanging in the Louvre / everyone would come to see you / you’d be impossible to move” sit like an ironic crap left by a spoilt Pomeranian on the marbled floor of an art museum. See what I did there? That was super-kosher.
Here’s track 1, “Charms”:
Here’s track 4, “I Will Follow You”:
Here’s the score to a very informative, highly recommended documentary by Brian Knappenberger that tells the story of the group known as Anonymous – and their evolution (some in the doc say de-volution) from a group of 4chan rabble-rousers to the powerful self-made protectors of human rights that they are today. There’s a wealth of musical diversity on hand, from quirky upbeat marches to introspective ambient passages to anthems reminiscent of something you’d hear by MGMT. Added to all the electronic synths, cycling piano, string orchestras and sequenced percussion are some other manufactured sounds as well – including what sounds like a Hawaiian lap steel guitar and swarming electronic insects (not as annoying as you’d think). All in all it’s a radical, shifting score that nicely mirrors its complicated subject matter, and no matter your opinion of the Guy Fawkes – masked Hacktivists, rest assured that there’s plenty for you to love here.
Here’s track 12, “In the Halls of /b/”:
Here’s track 16, “Heal the Sick:”
Here we have a whimsical, light-hearted score to Peter Hedges‘ film about a magical boy found by an infertile couple (played by Jennifer Garner and Joel Edgerton) who seems to have grown in their garden following a buried wish. Doesn’t sound like the typical stuff I go in for, but there’s something special about Zanelli’s music that separates it from this usual type of fluff. There’s a folksy, grass-roots feel to it, with crisp melodies and a memorable theme which Zanelli returns to in a variety of phrasings, featuring beautiful guitar work, piano, accordion and light percussion. It’s not a bombastic affair, but it does resonate emotionally. I haven’t seen the movie but if it’s as magical as its score, I’m definitely looking forward to it – even if the plot does sound like a Disney take on Swamp Thing!
Here’s the opening track, “You’re Gonna Find it Hard to Believe”:
Here’s track 4, “Our Kid”:
Our first animated film score, Jon Brion‘s work for this fun film about a boy who can speak to the dead (directed by Chris Butler & Sam Fell) got my attention right from the gate, in the way it references the great Italian schlock masters of the 70’s – sounding like Goblin‘s Buio Omega, Fabio Frizzi‘s work on Zombi 2 or any of those soundtracks those of us addicted to Midnight movies would instantly recognize. That fat synthy Argento bassline had me hella excited – and in a Children’s movie no less! And while Brion abandons the homage and fills the rest of the disc with the type of understated melodies that befit his work on Punch-Drunk Love and I ♥ Huckabees, it’s the man’s overall attention to detail and the way he balances between the sunshine-y, lilting tunes and the dark foreboding passages that make this such a memorable score.
Here’s track 1, “Zombie Attacks in the Eighties”:
Here’s track 3, “Norman’s Walk”:
The compilation soundtrack that came out in conjunction with RZA‘s directorial debut might have been better publicized – featuring the Wu-Tang collaborating with Kool G Rap, Kanye West, Pusha T, Corinne Bailey Rae, and The Black Keys – but this instrumental score featuring the actual music from the film is even better. Opening with a rocking version of “Shame on a Ni**a” that’s been busted up and put back together (used over the film’s title sequence) and continuing with 29 more tracks featuring some sick blends of Soul, Rock and Asian elements, this is a fantastic outing for RZA and co-conspirator Drossin – and is very likely the best thing about the relentlessly over-the-top movie! And just in case you wanted to get both albums – plus a compilation of old soul and funk originals sampled by the clan, there’s this ultra special limited edition 5 CD set. Go crazy, son!
Here’s track 2, “Jungle Village”:
Here’s track 11, “Zen Yi Rides In”:
Here’s track 18, “Jack Up the Street”:
We conclude our look at the sounds of 2012 – and close the book on 2012 once and for all – next week. In the meantime you can 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! And look at our companion list: 100 favorite albums of 2012, here!
And please leave us a comment telling us your favorite score of the year!
January 4, 2013 No Comments
Happy New Year! It’s 2013 but we’re not quite done looking back at 2012, with our year-end Top 20 Film Score Countdown. We’re moving now into even more emotional territory – exploring sounds which will surely stir your soul!
I don’t know much about this French film by Director (and Starship Enterprise captain) Luc Picard, and the un-subtitled trailer doesn’t help matters much either. What I do know is that it seems to be a visually stunning fable about a magical village. And that the soundtrack, which I found on emusic entirely by chance, kicks a whole lot of ass. Lyrical, beautiful, it’s simply a well crafted piece of music the whole way through, with intertwining melodies full of guitars, piano, the whole shebang. Emminently listenable without having even seen the film, it’s an emotional journey which conjures all sorts of fantastic feelings. Let’s hope the visuals live up to the music!
Here’s the opening track, “Sur ses épaules”:
Here’s track 3, “Marie”:
More music from a film I haven’t seen or even know much about, with another (this time German) un-subtitled #” target=”_blank”>trailer to pique our interest. This tale of a family’s disastrous trip into the woods by Mathieu Seiler is a low-budget affair, making the soundtrack even more important – since ambiance and mood can heighten production value and make any film look great. Enter Beat Solér, who’s crafted a dark and ominous fairy tale score full of gongs, dissonant piano trills, ethereal vocals and steady low end strings – but plenty of beautiful passages too, which we know from Prokofiev‘s Peter and the Wolf is a perfect way to build tension: when the melody is sweet you can just sense something terrible lurking beneath. Not the scariest score of the year (Christopher Young’s Sinister score is scary to the point of being nearly un-listenable) but very good, especially if you enjoy synthy low-key Goblin fare from the 70’s.
Here’s track 1, “Der Ausflug Main Theme”:
Here’s track 8, “Enter the Forest”:
The score to David Ayer‘s End of Watch opens with Public Enemy‘s awesome “harder than you think,” a hard anthem to follow, but composer Sardy is up to the task, with a score full of muscular riffs breaking down into fragile piano before exploding again, emulating the start-stop suspenseful nature of this fantastic film. Percussion melds with electronics to create a ticking time bomb of adrenaline you’d expect from a Muse or Tool album, and even at just over 20 minutes of original material (complete with Joshua Homme‘s accompanying vocals on the last track) it leaves you emotionally exhausted. Lots of 2012 scores did this “warped industrial” sound well – from Paul Leonard Morgan‘s Dredd to tomandandy‘s Resident Evil: Retribution – but there’s a quality which elevates David Sardy’s score and earns it a place on our list.
Here’s track 2, “I Am the Police”:
Here’s track 6, “Heroes”:
This time it’s obscure 60’s rock band Ten Years After‘s “50,000 Beneath My Brain” that sets the tone, and composer Antonio Pinto who follows up with a fantastic score to Adrian Grunberg‘s Get the Gringo. If you enjoy Joe Strummer‘s score to Alex Cox‘s Walker, Ry Cooder‘s spare guitar on Wim Wenders‘ Paris, Texas and Neil Young‘s atmospheric Dead Man score for Jim Jarmusch you’ll love this low-key affair, peppered with a variety of guitars, tempo shifts, percussive nuances and the occasional echoey reverb. But if you’re like the many haters on Amazon who expected this to be a compilation of tunes more like track 2, Los Fabulosos Cadillacs‘ “Padre Nuestro,” you’ll want to move along.
Here’s track 4, “Driver Sets Fire”:
Here’s track 12, “Sunny Day in Mexico”:
For the score to his controversial and star-studded flick starting MMA fighter-turned actress Gina Carano, Steven Soderbergh enlisted David Holmes, a name familiar to anyone around in the late 90’s (his Let’s Get Killed was on record store end-caps everywhere). Many were turned off by the film’s seemingly in-congruent minimalistic aesthetic and slow pace, but I found it enjoyable, in large part due to the music. Bass-heavy and incredibly funky, it’s propelled by a driving beat and filled with little nuances – like bass clarinet, warped electronics, and voices buried deep in the background. It’s an ironic and self-aware piece of music, nodding heavily towards its influences – from lifting the Western genre’s rattlesnake-percussion to borrowing Italian crime score elements (the work of Riz Ortolani springs to mind) and of course quoting funky keyboards and guitars from old-school Blaxploitation flicks – all in all it sounds like an updated J.J. Johnson‘s Across 110th Street, full of brass and a robust horn section. Give it a spin and see what you think!
Here’s track 9, The Drive Rossbourgh”:
Here’s track 10, “Looking for Clues”:
And so concludes part 2 of our celebration of the sounds of 2012. Check out part 1 here and tune in for part 3 on Friday – 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!
And be sure to leave us a comment telling us your favorite score of the year!
Ooh-ooh! Almost forgot! We also posted a list of our 100 favorite albums of 2012 here!
January 2, 2013 No Comments
Last year around this time we were just finishing up our mega-post on the top 150 movie soundtracks of all time – so as we pause a to reflect on what a fantastic year it’s been, let’s listen to what the films of 2011 sounded like… with our first annual top 20 film score countdown (let’s hope it sticks). And don’t forget to give us some feedback so we can grow brighter and better in 2012!
In a year that saw him also score Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows and Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, Hans Zimmer takes us back to the Old West with a little help from Los Lobos and friends in this musical accompaniment to Gore Verbinski‘s animated film. A fun soundtrack that evokes Sergio Leone by way of Hunter S. Thompson – and uses the kid’s movie as an excuse to just make things even weirder. Here’s track 9, “Underground:”
and track 11, “Rango and Beans:”
target=”_blank”>Fall on Your Sword? Whoever they are, they do a fantastic job creating a sci-fi atmosphere full of bloops and bleeps and some genuinely moving strings, fitting for writer-director Mike Cahill‘s psychological examination on the nature of reality and the universe. Here’s track 7, “The End of the World:”
and track 12, “The Cosmonaut:”
Alberto Iglesias’ other noteworthy score this year was Pedro Almodóvar‘s La Piel que Habito (The Skin I Live In), but this gets my nod for its wonderful mood, dark and tense with hints of adventure. A soft quiet score full of fantastic movement. Here’s track 4, “Islay Hotel:”
and track 18, “One’s Gone:”
Also Known as Director Quentin Dupieux, Mr. Oizo brought us one of the year’s most unique (and most anticipated here at the Isle) bits of celluloid strangeness, in this surrealistic tale of a psychopathic tire on a killing spree in the middle of nowhere America. Though the film didn’t quite live up to our unrealistic expectations, the soundtrack does, thanks to clever sampling and some cool upbeat electronica. Here’s track 3, “Crows and Guts:”
and track 12, “Polocaust:”
IOC Favorite Bruno Coulais’s (who came in at 71 on our mega-post with his score for Himalaya) score for La clé des champs by the writer-director team of Claude Nuridsany & Marie Pérennou features some of the maestro’s inventive orchestration, as he teams up with French singer/songwriter Nosfell on tracks which weave vocals with bass clarinets and other goodness. Check out track 7, “Le lieu du rêve:”
and with singer Rosemary Standley on track 19, “My Kingdom:”
Ernst Reisjeger is an incredible Avant-Garde Jazz cellist whom I got a chance to see play at the Bimhuis in the Netherlands one New Year’s Eve more than a decade ago. Now, on the eve of an entirely different new year, I find myself writing about his wonderful score for Werner Herzog’s 3-D documentary about the untouched scribblings of cave people on a wall in Southern France. Weird how shit goes down. Hypnotic, droning, and beautiful, it’s a score which helps Herzog tap into the ecstatic truth he’s constantly after. Here’s track 10, “Rockshelter Duo:”
and track 15, “Forgotten Dreams #2:”
At the IOC we loves ourselves a good ol’ action score, and this soundtrack to Jon Favreau‘s by-the-numbers Sci-Fi-slash-Western/James-Bond-meets-Indiana-Jones/based-on-a-comic-book tentpole is a fun variation on a familiar theme, with guitars and electronics weaving in and out of testosterone-inducing swells guaranteed to move its target demographic. Here’s the opening track, “Jake Lonergan:”
and track 7, “Alien Air Attack:”
and track 17, “See You Around:”
A beautiful score to Régis Wargnier‘s film (also known as Straight Line) which brims with strings and evocative piano. Doyle had a busy year, providing scores for Thor, Jig, Man to Man and Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes. This is his personal best of ’11. Check out track 1, “Leila Runs Free:”
and track 5, “Training Games:”
and track 19, “Through the Tunnel:”
Martin Scorsese‘s much-ballyhooed children’s movie and homage to Georges Méliès was a huge disappointment for this moviegoer, and further evidence the gifted auteur should steer away from sentimentality and stick to people blowing each other’s brains out. But there’s no doubt the score by the always dependable Howard Shore is a thing of beauty: measured, understated, lilting and always beautiful – like a slow waltz through a fantastic dream. Here’s the opening track, “The Thief:”
and track 9, “The Movies:”
and track 19, “The Magician:”
Also known as His Mother’s Eyes, Director Thierry Klifa‘s film benefits tremendously from this haunting score – featuring wailing cellos and eerie guitar, complete with scratching and distortion – composed by a gifted Argentinian composer who also gave us the soundtrack to this year’s Biutiful. Here’s the title track:
and track 8, “Le Sourire De Maria:”
and track 13, “Ma Mere:”
Jodie Foster stood by her buddy Mel Gibson and gave him the starring role in a movie that may have been too on-the-nose and self-reflexive for it’s own good, about “a troubled husband and executive who adopts a beaver hand-puppet as his sole means of communicating.” So was the movie The Beaver trying to actually be the Beaver within? Who knows – I didn’t go see it either. But composer Marcelo Zarvos, who also gave us the scores to Too Big to Fail and Beastly this year, acquits himself nicely with this intimate score which keeps things understated and quirky – something I suspect the film failed to do. Here’s track 7, “Walter and Beaver Jogging:”
and track 13, “Today Will Set You Free:”
and track 17, the unfortunately named “The Beaver Becomes a Phenomenon:”
Icelandic composer Atli Örvarsson’s score to Kevin Macdonald‘s movie about two centurions who set out across Hadrian’s Wall into the uncharted highlands of Caledonia is fantastic, a self-assured and inventive affair which marries bagpipes with stringed dulcimers, string sections with ambient hums to create a hypnotic sound-scape at once both mysterious and beckoning. Makes me want to see the movie! Here’s tack 3, “The Return of the Eagle:”
and track 6, “Honourable Discharge:”
and track 13, “Better Angry Than Dead:”
Joe Wright‘s action film about a preternaturally gifted assassin starring Saoirse Ronan, Cate Blanchett and Eric Bana marketed itself like a high-brow sprint across familiar ground – a feat greatly assisted by the participation of the Chemical Brothers – aka The Dust Brothers – who gained similar such cred from their score to David Fincher‘s 1999 Fight Club. This turns out to be an even better score. Here’s the opening track:
and track 6, “The Forest:”
and track 16, “Special Ops:”
Writer-Director John Michael McDonagh‘s fish-outta-water comedy about an Irish policeman who teams up with an uptight FBI agent to investigate an international drug-smuggling ring has several things going for it, including the presence of thesps Brendan Gleeson & Don Cheadle. The fact that indie darlings Calexico provided the score is just a plus. And the fact that it’s a great one – full of guitars, electronics, and hipster folk riffs – can only help! Check out the opening track, “Boyle Gets Dressed:”
and track 7, “Into the West:”
and track 17, “Good to Go:”
Being that last years’ The Social Network score won this duo the Oscar™- and given the fact that their version of Led Zeppelin‘s target=”_blank”>The Immigrant Song (featuring Karen O) was a year-long mainstay in people’s laptops thanks to an incredible first-person target=”_blank”>teaser trailer, all ears are now peeled for their latest collaboration with director David Fincher. Just released, it proves to live up to the hype – thanks to angst-filled melodies that crescendo into crunchy electronics, recalling Reznor’s NIN days. Take track 20, “You’re Here:”
and track 28, “A Viable Construct:”
and track 35, “A Pair of Doves:”
One of my big regrets this past SXSW was that I missed Evan Glodell‘s apocalyptic drama… and ever since hearing this score a few months back I’m even more amped to see it! Who is this guy Jonathan Keevil? I can’t find very much about him on the internet, so I’ll tell you my impressions upon hearing this soundtrack: the first half ranks up there with low-fi wunderkinds The Palace Brothers or Skip Spence‘s seminal Oar for sheer man-with-a-guitar-moody-goodness while the second half delves into nicely-produced electronics. In a word – a revelation! Check out the opening track, “Bland:”
and track 6, “Dreadnought Sideroad:”
and track 9, “Bracketflower:”
Guys like us on the Isle – who grew up on all things Star Wars/Jaws/Indiana Jones – have John Williams running through our brains just as sure as we have celluloid running through our veins. So it’s great to hear the master back with a score that’s fun, inventive, and most of all ALIVE! The intricately woven melodies, shifting rhythms, and fantastic orchestration – complete with clarinets, clavinets, bass drum punctuation and piano trills – not only capture the spirit of Hergé‘s legendary comics – but also invoke the sense of adventure and FUN which these sorts of movies should be about. Check out the opening track:
and track 2, “Snowy’s theme:”
and track 18, “The Adventure Continues:”
Cliff Martinez is no stranger to the top of our countdowns at IOC, his score for Kafka having charted at #7 in our previous soundtrack mega-post. And though Martinez’s score for Drive may have gained more airtime in trendy coffee shops and on listener’s iPod’s this year, this one – which reunites him with Director Steven Soderbergh – is the one I prefer: as moody and glitchy as it gets, and the perfect soundtrack for our impending doom! Reminding listeners to enjoy 2012 – it may be the last year we get! Check out track 8, “They Didn’t Touch Me:”
and track 9, “There’s Nothing In There:”
and track 20, “Affected Cities:”
One of my favorite movie-going experiences of 2011 was seeing Writer-Director Joe Cornish (credited as a writer on The Adventure of Tin Tin by the way) discuss his soon-to-be-cult-classic Attack the Block at SXSW (read my glowing review here). But before the man’s gracious Q and A charmed me, before his writing dazzled me and the special effects thrilled me it was the music that struck me – prompting one of those rare occurrences where I immediately rush home to seek out more info on the soundtrack. Check it out for yourself with track 1, “The Block:”
and track 3, “Round Two Bruv”
and track 20, “The Ends:”
There’s some varying information available concerning this soundtrack’s release date, which some have as 2011 (the MP3 download I got from Amazon) while others have as 2012 (RYM) – all very ironic given that Jonathan Segal‘s movie came out in 2010! But regardless of vintage, what’s important is that it’s Andrew Bird – one of the true musical geniuses of the age. Seeing the man play – manipulating loop after loop of violin, layering incredible whistling over it, then singing over the vortex of sound – is like witnessing a real-life version of target=”_blank”>The Sorceror’s Apprentice from Fantasia, conducting a maelstrom of brooms in a castle. So a soundtrack which allows him to stretch his talents would be a score which would rise to the top of any year! Just check out track 2, “3:36:”
and track 3, “Arcs and Coulombs:”
and track 13, “Epic Sigh / The Python Connection:”
There you have it! The sounds and sights of another year are over! Hope you’ll join us next year for more lovin’ of cinema on the Isle of Cinema. Have a happy and safe New Year’s!
- AllMusic’s Favorite Soundtracks and Scores of 2011 (allmusic.com)
December 28, 2011 No Comments