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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

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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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December 31, 2012   No Comments

SCORE! The 150 greatest OST’s – pt. 12 (of 15)

40.) Crash (1996) – Howard Shore

David Cronenberg directs from JG Ballard‘s cult classic where collisions and mangled metal become allegories for human sexuality – as car crash victims become dangerously obsessed with scarification and death. Perfect subject matter for the evolution of Cronenberg’s body horror aesthetic, and for fellow Canadian Howard Shore to craft ominous futuristic landscapes with jagged guitar lines pervading the melody. Shore won an Oscar for Lord of the Rings, and his work on Silence of the Lambs, Ed Wood and Naked Lunch (with Ornette Coleman!) are also worth checking out. Here’s track 1, “Crash”:

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and track 5, “Where’s the Car?”:

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and track 12, “Triton”:

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39.) Into the Wild (2007) – Michael Brook

This film, based on a true story, tells the tale of a top student and athlete who chooses to abandon all possessions, donate his savings to charity, and hitchhike to Alaska to live in the wilderness. Starring Emile Hirsch, directed by Sean Penn and adapted from John Krakauer‘s book, the film was released with 2 soundtracks: one with songs by grunge legend and paragon of social and environmental consciousness Eddie Vedder and this one, which features a haunting instrumental score by Brook, who also scored Albino Alligator, Affliction, and is Canadian, just like David Cronenberg and Howard Shore. What’s going on up there? Here’s track 3, “Carving”:

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and track 9, “Birds Snow Ice”:

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and track 11, “Carthage Grain Sale”:

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and track 15, “The Rapids”:

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38.) Colpo Rovente [Red Hot Shot] (1969) – Piero Piccioni

Don’t know much about this film directed by Piero Zuffi. except that it involves drug trafficking and illegal experimentation on teenagers, and stars Barbara Bouchet. Piccioni also composed the soundtrack for one of my personal favorites, The 10th Victim, a fantastic score in its own right, but this gets the nod for it’s cohesiveness and overall beauty. Here’s track 1, “Colpo Rovente”:

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and track 2, “Kintabu”:

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and track 25, “Occhio Dell’urangano”:

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37.) Codice D’Amore Orientale (1974) – Alberto Baldan Bembo

Like Colpo Rovente, this one’s a mystery, directed by Piero Vivarelli. From the titles of the tracks this figures to belong more to the soft core/mondo films than adventure or crime films. The composer also did 1969’s Io e Mara, and is featured on a great compilation, The Smart Set of Alberto Baldan Bembo. Check out track 1, “Kamasutra”:

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and track 4, “Nude Love”:

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and track 7, “Thai Pop”:

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36.) A Streetcar Named Desire (1951) – Alex North

Controversial director Elia Kazan adapts Tennessee Williams‘ pulitzer prize winning play, in which Vivien Leigh and Marlon Brando star. The sexual tension-laced tale of disturbed sexpot Blanche DuBois, who moves in with her younger sister Stella and is tormented by her brutish brother-in-law in sultry New Orleans is a classic, as is the soundtrack by one of the most lauded of composers, Alex North, who also scored I’ll Cry Tomorrow, Spartacus, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? and Dragonslayer. Here’s track 3, “Belle Reve Reflections”:

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and track 6, “Stan and Stella”:

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and track 11, “Mania”:

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35.) Apartment #5C (2002) - John Surman

Raphaël Nadjari‘s film follows several individuals trying to survive in New York, including Nicky (Tinkerbell) and Uri (Ori Pfeffer), two Israelis making ends meet by robbing local stores at gunpoint. When things get out of hand at the titular apartment and Uri is shot, Nicky and the building’s maintenance person (Richard Edson) begin a relationship which Harold’s wheelchair bound brother-in-law (Jeff Ware) doesn’t approve of – all culminating in a violent end. Jazz musician Surman has an impressive body of work, most of it on the ECM label, and he’s delivered a great electronic-tinged score. Here’s track 1, “Beginning credits/ Running away”:

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and track 2, “Taxi to Brooklyn/ Nicky Shoots Herself”:

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and track 4, “Harold Working, Nicky Recovering/ Nicky on the Stairs”:

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34.) Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call – New Orleans (2009) - Mark Isham

Werner Herzog‘s quasi-sequel to the Abel Ferrara film (which starred Harvey Keitel) tells the story of a drug- and gambling-addicted detective (Nicolas Cage) in a post-Katrina New Orleans who is investigating the killing of five Senegalese immigrants and ultimately joins forces with drug dealers to feed his addictions. Co-starring Val Kilmer and Eva Mendes. Composer Isham, a jazz musician, also scored After Glow, The Hitcher, Short Cuts, and Fly Away Home, but this is his best. Here’s track 1, “Trolling”:

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and track 3, “Meet Big Fate”:

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and track 8, “Stakeout”:

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33.) Ghost Writer (2010) – Alexandre Desplat

Another Roman Polanski film – that guy knows soundtracks! In this film a ghostwriter (Ewan McGregor) hired to complete the memoirs of a former British prime minister uncovers secrets that put his own life in jeopardy. Desplat is a popular guy lately, providing the scores for Syriana, The Queen, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, and Wes Anderson’s Fantastic Mr. Fox. This is his best. Check out this gaggle of bass clarinets on the opening track, “The Ghost Writer”:

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and track 2, “Rhinehart Publishing”:

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and track 4, “Lang’s Memoirs”:

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32.) Milano Calibro 9 [Caliber 9] (1972) – Osanna

Another Italian Crime Film, this one directed by Fernando Di Leo – Just out of prison, an ex-con teams up with his former employer, a psychopathic gangster who enjoys sick violence and torture, to find $300,000 stolen from an American drug syndicate boss. This one stars Barbara Bouchet as well – popular actress this post! Osanna was one of the greatest Italian prog bands, and this is a fantastic, 70’s era jazz-rock-fueled-jam score! Here’s track 1, “Preludio”:

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and track 5, “Variazione III/ Shuum”:

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and track 9, “Variazione VII/ Posizioni Raggiunte”:

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31.) Sweet Movie (1974) – Manos Hadjidakis

Dusan Makavejev‘s art film exists in its own little dimension, somewhere between Jodorowsky and Godard, and is a series of WTF? moments and incredible cinematography, dealing with revolution, beauty, sex, and capitalism. There are several memorable moments, including a beauty queen whose wealthy husband delights in urinating on her, a penis chopped off during a party, and my favorite scene – a naked woman covered in chocolate! Besides scoring tons of Greek movies, Hadjidakis also did Topkapi, Pornografia, and established the New York Rock & Roll Ensemble, but this is his greatest soundtrack. Here’s track 1, “The Urchins Down in the Meadow”:

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and track 2, “Shanties and People”:

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and track 14, “Polyrhythmic Sexuality and the Three Boys”:

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Click to see part 1 (OST’s #141-150) , part 2 (131-140),  part 3 (121-130), part 4 (111-120), part 5 (101-110), part 6 (91-100), part 7 (81-90), part 8 (71-80), part 9 (61-70), part 10 (51-60), part 11 (41-50), part 12 (31-40), part 13 (21-30), part 14 (11-20) and part 15 (1-10).

November 8, 2010   No Comments

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