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SCORE! Top 20 Film Scores of 2011

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!

20.) RangoHans Zimmer

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:”

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and track 11, “Rango and Beans:”

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19.) Another EarthFall on Your Sword

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:”

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and track 12, “The Cosmonaut:”

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18.) Tinker Tailor Soldier SpyAlberto Iglesias

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:”

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and track 18, “One’s Gone:”

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17.) RubberMr. Oizo & Gaspard Augé

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:”

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and track 12, “Polocaust:”

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16.) La Clé des ChampsBruno Coulais

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:”

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and with singer Rosemary Standley on track 19, “My Kingdom:”

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15.) Cave of Forgotten DreamsErnst Reijseger

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:”

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and track 15, “Forgotten Dreams #2:”

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14.) Cowboys & AliensHarry Gregson-Williams

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:”

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and track 7, “Alien Air Attack:”

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and track 17, “See You Around:”

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13.) La Ligne DroitePatrick Doyle

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 ThorJig, 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:”

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and track 5, “Training Games:”

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and track 19, “Through the Tunnel:”

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12.) HugoHoward Shore

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:”

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and track 9, “The Movies:”

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and track 19, “The Magician:”

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11.) La Yeux de Sa MereGustavo Santaolalla

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:

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and track 8, “Le Sourire De Maria:”

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and track 13, “Ma Mere:”

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10.) The BeaverMarcelo Zarvos

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 quirkysomething I suspect the film failed to do. Here’s track 7, “Walter and Beaver Jogging:”

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and track 13, “Today Will Set You Free:”

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and track 17, the unfortunately named “The Beaver Becomes a Phenomenon:”

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9.) The EagleAtli Örvarsson

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:”

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and track 6, “Honourable Discharge:”

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and track 13, “Better Angry Than Dead:”

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8.) HannaChemical Brothers

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:

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and track 6, “The Forest:”

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and track 16, “Special Ops:”

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7.) The GuardCalexico

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:”

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and track 7, “Into the West:”

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and track 17, “Good to Go:”

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6.) Girl with the Dragon TattooTrent Reznor & Atticus Ross

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:”

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and track 28, “A Viable Construct:”

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and track 35, “A Pair of Doves:”

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5.) BellflowerJonathan Keevil

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:”

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and track 6, “Dreadnought Sideroad:”

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and track 9, “Bracketflower:”

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4.) The Adventures of TintinJohn Williams

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:

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and track 2, “Snowy’s theme:”

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and track 18, “The Adventure Continues:”

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3.) ContagionCliff Martinez

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:”

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and track 9, “There’s Nothing In There:”

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and track 20, “Affected Cities:”

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2.) Attack the BlockSteven Price & Basement Jaxx

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:”

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and track 3, “Round Two Bruv”

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and track 20, “The Ends:”

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1.) NormanAndrew Bird

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:”

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and track 3, “Arcs and Coulombs:”

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and track 13, “Epic Sigh / The Python Connection:”

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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!

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December 28, 2011   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

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