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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. 8 (of 15)

80.) Gothic (1986) – Thomas Dolby

Ken Russell directs the fictionalized account of the much-ballyhooed night that Mary Shelley gave birth to the horror classic Frankenstein at Lord Byron’s manor. Ghost stories, personal horrors, fantasies and drug-induced nightmares come to life as sweet Mary is tempted by the sexual appetites of her lover Shelley and cousin Claire, while holding sway over all the evil Lord Byron toys with his guest’s souls. Starring Gabriel Byrne, Julian Sands, and Natasha Richardson in her feature film debut as Mary Shelley, with a soundtrack by 80’s electronics whiz Thomas Dolby. Here’s track 5, “Party Games”:

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and track 6, “Gypsy Girl”:

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79.) Sin Nombre (2009) – Marcelo Zarvos

Written and directed by Cary Fukunaga, this film tells the stories of those seeking a better life for themselves on the trains bound for the US, as their hopes and dreams clash with the realities involved in smuggling them in. The soundtrack is somber and beautiful, full of pulsing accordion, probing guitar, and mournful strings. Here’s track 1, “The Journey”:

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and track 3, “Vera Cruz”:

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78.) Conan the Barbarian (1982) - Basil Poledouris

John Milius and Oliver Stone wrote this adaptation of Robert E. Howard’s adventure stories, which Milius directs, starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, James Earl Jones and Max von Sydow. It tells the story of the eponymous warrior searching for the evil sorcerer and leader of the Snake Cult, Thulsa Doom, the man responsible for the death of his parents. Basil Poledouris’ soundtrack is a classic, perfect for a testosterone-fueled quest for vengeance. Here’s the Prologue, narrated by the legendary Mako, which leads into “Anvil of Crom”:

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and track 6, “Theology / Civilization”:

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77.) Yellow Canary (1963) – Kenyon Hopkins

Buzz Kulik directs this Rod Serling-penned mystery which stars Pat Boone as a nightclub singer whose child is kidnapped and Barbara Eden (of TV’s I Dream of Jeannie) as his wife, with Jack Klugman as the Lieutenant in charge of the investigation. 20 years ago you’d know who all these people were. All you need to know is that the soundtrack, by Kenyon Hopkins, is full of some of the best, coolest jazz you’ve never heard. Here’s track 5, “The Spindrift”:

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and track 10, “The Menace”:

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76.) Le Passager de la Pluie [Rider on the Rain] (1970) – Francis Lai

René Clément, avid Hitchcock admirer, directs fan favorite Charles Bronson in this mystery set on the French Riviera, in which a woman shoots and kills a masked man who rapes her, dumps his body, and then out of nowhere meets a man who seems to know all about what she’s done. Bronson and co-star Marlène Jobert’s chemistry is palpable, and the odd artsy tone is not unlike the director’s own Purple Noon. Francis Lai, better known for his A Man and A Woman theme, delivers his best score ever. Here’s track 2, “Dobb’s Dualite”:

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and track 20, “Theme Mellie”:

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75.) Beetlejuice (1988) – Danny Elfman

Tim Burton’s classic horror/comedy/fantasy stars Alec Baldwin and Geena Davis as a recently deceased couple who need to exorcise the living (played by Catherine O’Hara, Jeffrey Jones and Winona Ryder) and enlist the aid of Michael Keaton’s title character to do so. It features one of prolific composer Danny Elfman’s most complete scores, full of kooky chanting, crashing crescendos, and a hint of calypso. Here’s track 2, “Travel Music”:

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and track 19, “End Credits”:

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74.) Stone (1974) - Billy Green

Sandy Harbutt stars in and directs this cult film about the Grave Diggers, a bike club whose members are being murdered one by one. Full of nudity, violence, gore and motorcycle stunts, Stone stars several actors who would later make up the core of George Miller’s Mad Max. It’s a low budget, dated exploitation movie, but like other cult Australian films (Stunt Rock, The Man From Hong Kong) it’s got that unique Aussie brand of fun (check out Mark Hartley’s Not Quite Hollywood for more info). The soundtrack is eclectic and zany, full of didgeridoos, funky wah-wah, and even some crazy banjo, like on track 2, “Septic”:

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and track 12, “Stone”:

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73.) Blood on Satan’s Claw (1971) – Marc Wilkinson

Piers Haggard directs this low-budget horror film set in 17th century England about a farmer who unearths inhuman, fur-covered remains that seem to cause the townsfolk commit horrific acts, and may have something to do with the satanic rituals the town children begin performing in a desecrated church in the woods. Atmospheric and beautifully shot, the performances are strong, including Patrick Wymark’s, who died soon after. The soundtrack is creepy and elegant, befitting such a sophisticated take on witchcraft. Here’s track 9, “Mark Alone”:

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and track 21, “Ralph Chops Tree”:

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72.) Les Gants Blancs Du Diable (1973) – Karl-Heinz Schäfer

Karl Heinz Schäfer’s moody, psychedelic score for László Szabó’s rarely seen crime drama (which translates to White Gloves of the Devil) features some inventive instrumentation and is a mixture of soothing and startling sounds that make me wonder what the movie which accompanies them might be like. You can do the same as you listen to track 1, “La Victime”:

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and track 3, “Kidnapping”:

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and track 7, “La Couleur Des Yeux”:

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71.) Himalaya (1999) – Bruno Coulais

Eric Valli directs this tale of an aging Nepalese chief whose only son dies returning from Tibet’s salt lakes, and who blames Karma, his son’s friend, for the death, refusing to make him the new chief in his son’s place. What follows is a battle of wills and a glimpse into the inner politics of a group we don’t get to see much, all set to the sounds of traditional singing arranged by Coulais. It was a difficult choice, as I also love his soundtrack to Coraline, but this score got the nod for it’s sheer unadulterated beauty. Here’s track 6, “The Night”:

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and track 9, “The Songs”:

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and track 11, “Karma”:

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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).

October 11, 2010   No Comments

SCORE! The 150 greatest OST’s – pt. 4 (of 15)

120.) King Kong (1933) - Max Steiner

Merian C. Cooper and Ernest B. Schoedsack’s King Kong was revolutionary in many ways, not the least of them its use of music. Rather than “underscore” the action, the filmmakers used it to add tension and atmosphere. To do this they enlisted Max Steiner, who would go on to compose the scores for Gone with the Wind, Casablanca, and The Searchers, among others. Along with Erich Von Korngold and a handful of others, Steiner would emerge as one of the most important figures of film composition from the Golden-era of Hollywood. For more on the subject, look Here. Here’s track 5, “Entrance of Kong”:

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119.) The Collector (1965) - Maurice Jarre

Based on a novel by author John Fowler and directed by William Wyler, The Collector stars Terence Stamp as an introverted butterfly collector who begins to collect human specimens, namely beautiful young women. This is my favorite score by Maurice Jarre, who won Oscars for Lawrence of Arabia and Doctor Zhivago, and also scored the fantastic The Professionals.

Here’s track 3, “Trapped”:

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118.) Die Faust in der Tasche [Fist in the Pocket] (1978) - Satin Whale

Never seen it this German take on the “Angry Young Man” films of the 70’s, directed by Max Willutzki, but the soundtrack is awesome, composed by a Krautrock band. Check out their first album, 1974’s Desert Places, as well. Here’s track 4, the flute-rock classic “Archie’s Flucht”:

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and track 6, “Blutspende”:

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and track 10, “Kampf in der Lackiererei”:

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117.) Memories of Murder [Salinui Chueok] (2003) - Taro Iwashiro

Director Joon-ho Bong is a master of dark comedy, and while I’ve seen The Host (which has a great score as well) and Barking Dogs Never Bite, I missed this film based on a notorious real-life unsolved murder. The score is full of Didgeridoos, ambient electronics, sweeping violins, and altogether haunting melodies. Iwashiro also scored the videogame soundtracks to Onimusha 2.

Here’s track 3, “Face”:

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and track 16, “On The Other Side Of The Hill”:

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and track 22, “White Face”:

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116.) Enter the Dragon (1973) - Lalo Schifrin

The ever-swanky Lalo Schifrin brings us the soundtrack to the great Bruce Lee movie directed by Robert Clouse, full of battle cries, driving bass-lines, and funky wah-wah pedals. Schifrin also scored Cool Hand Luke, The President’s Analyst, Dirty Harry, and Jackie Chan’s first attempt at crossing-over to American audiences, Battle Creek Brawl – as well as his later Rush Hour series.

Here’s the main title:

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And here’s an Asian influenced track called “The Banquet”:

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115.) Kûki Ningyô [Air Doll] (2009) - World’s End Girlfriend

Here’s a Japanese movie about a blow-up doll that comes to life, directed by Hirokazu Koreeda. The soundtrack is beautiful, played fairly straight by the fantastic electronica/post-rock/freak-folk band, World’s End Girlfriend, whose 2007 album, target=”_blank”>Hurtbreak Wonderland, is another must-own. Here’s track 7, which has a definite Erik Satie feel to it:

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114.) In the Heat of the Night (1967) – Quincy Jones

Quincy Jones is responsible for many excellent film & TV soundtracks, including a theme for target=”_blank”>Ironside recycled by not only the Shaw Bros. in 1972’s target=”_blank”>Five Fingers of Death but also re-recycled by Quentin Tarantino in target=”_blank”>Kill Bill. Though it’s hard to pick between The Pawnbroker, In Cold Blood, The Italian Job and Dollar$, this Norman Jewison classic starring Sidney Poitier, Rod Steiger, and Warren Oates gets the nod – in large part thanks to noted musicians Glen Campbell on banjo, Billy Preston on organ, Ray Brown on bass, and the great Rahsaan Roland Kirk on flute. Here’s the title song featuring Ray Charles:

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and track 2, “Peep-Freak Patrol Car” featuring Rahsaan Roland Kirk:

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113.) Samurai Fiction (1998) – Tomoyasu Hotei

Like Hiroyuki Nakano’s film, which re-envisions feudal Japan according to current sensibilities, the soundtrack also takes the ancient and the new to create an enchanting fusion. Japanese Guitar God Tomoyasu Hotei not only composed the soundtrack but also starred as Rannosuke Kazamatsuri. Here’s track 1, “Transnational Spirit”:

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and the main theme, where you might learn something about Budo and Ronin:

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and an accordion-driven theme:

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112.) Caramel (2007) – Khaled Mouzanar

Director Nadine Labaki also stars in this ensemble love story about six women seeking love & marriage in a Beirut hair-salon. The soundtrack features fantastic work by Khaled Mouzanar. Here’s track 10, “Zaghloul El Hamam”:

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111.) Histoire d’O [The Story of O] (1975) – Pierre Bachelet

Another in a long line of sleazy movies with amazing soundtracks, as director Just Jaeckin’s adaptation of Pauline Réage’s novel stars knockout Corrine Clery as a photographer whose boyfriend (the creepy Udo Kier) dishes out physical and sexual abuse in a storyline which transports De Sade to the world of soft porn (the two always manage to go hand in hand). Bachelet also scored another notorious Just Jaeckin (seriously? that’s a name?) soft core film, 1984’s Gwendoline.

Here’s track 1, “Histoire d’O”:

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and track 2, “O’ Et La Rencontre”:

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40 down, 110 to go!!!

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).

Check back in the coming weeks to see the rest of the countdown, and be sure to leave feedback!

September 13, 2010   1 Comment

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