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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. 3 (of 15)

130.) I Want to Live! (1958) – Johnny Mandel

Johnny Mandel’s soundtrack to the great Robert Wise’s film about a wayward woman whose life spirals out of control is jazzy with a Latin tinge, full of bongos and flutes and sudden changes in tempo and tone, meant to represent the protagonist’s low-class lifestyle, which back then meant jazz. Here’s track 4, “Henry Leaves”:

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129.) Coffy (1973) – Roy Ayers

Jack Hill, one of the greatest b-movie filmmakers of all time, gave Pam Grier her first leading role as Coffy, a nurse who’s kid sister is hospitalized after shooting some contaminated heroin, and who hits the streets in search of revenge. This contribution to the world of Blaxploitation soundtracks comes courtesy of jazz-turned-R&B vibraphonist Roy Ayers, and is an altogether funky affair. Here’s track 4, “Aragon”:

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128.) Elephant Man (1980) – John Morris

David Lynch’s first feature film after Eraserhead was produced by Mel Brooks, starred Brooks’ wife Anne Bancroft, and was composed by Brooks’ frequent collaborator John Morris, who had scored Brooks’ parodies and comedies – not the composer you’d pick for a dramatic art film about a disfigured side-show freak in Victorian England. But the soundtrack is magnificent, with dark segments played against lighter, carnivalesque ones, lending the soundtrack as creepy a feeling as anything Angelo Badalamenti would compose for Lynch’s later films (in fact it sounds like Badalamenti lifted entire segments for Jeunet and Caro’s City of Lost Children). Here’s the title theme:

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127.) Mickey One (1965) – Stan Getz & Eddie Sauter

Like many of the directors of the American New Wave, Arthur Penn was influenced by the French Nouvelle Vague, who themselves were inspired by American film noir. So it figures that when Penn made Mickey One, a crime film about a comedian (Warren Beatty) on the run from the mob, that he’d dive deep into the New Wave handbook and emerge with a movie full of jarring cuts, inventive camera angles, atmospheric lighting, and moody JAZZ! It’s a fantastic soundtrack, melodic at times and challenging at others, marked by Stan Getz’s West-Coast-Cool tenor stylings. Here’s track 5, “The Succuba”:

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126.) Daimajin (1966) – Akira Ifukube

Akira Ifukube composed the soundtracks to many of Ishirō Honda‘s most memorable movies – including Gojira (aka Godzilla) – but his score for Kimiyoshi Yasuda’s haunting film about giant stone God-statue rising to protect a nearby village from an evil warlord is his best, filled with rumbling bass clarinets hitting unbelievably low notes, traditional Japanese drumming, and an orchestra of strings, which fuse to create the perfect ominous, otherworldly atmosphere you want out from your kaiju eiga. Here’s the main title theme:

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125.) ¡Mátalo! (1970) – Mario Migliardi

Cesare Canevari’s western, also known as Kill Him! is reportedly one of the trippiest of the genre, a psychedelic mood-piece filled with wild camera angles, heavy use of slow motion, and a climax which features boomerangs – all which place it firmly on my list of “must-watch Westerns.” And if it’s anything like the soundtrack, which is filled with acid-tinged fuzz guitar and weird discordant sounds, then I’m sure it will not disappoint. Here’s the theme song:

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and here’s track 6, “Old Town”:

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124.) Beat Girl (1959) – John Barry

Edmond T. Gréville’s beat-era film about strippers, divorces, and rock and roll is nothing to write home about, but the soundtrack, by Mr. James Bond himself, John Barry, is instantly recognizable, a guitar riff that immediately transports you to the era. Here’s the main title:

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123.) Z (1969) – Mikis Theodrakis

Costa-Gavras’s political thriller is the true story of a Greek cover up, and Mikis Theodrakis’ soundtrack mixes folk music heavy on the Bouzoukis with passages of tension-filled atmosphere, a smattering of jazz, and even caps it off with a couple of traditional songs. It’s a fantastic soundtrack. Here’s track 2, “To Yelasto Pedi”:

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and track 7, “Batucada”:

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122.) Donne-moi la Main [Give Me Your Hand] (2008) – Tarwater

I’ve read mainly negative reviews of Pascal-Alex Vincent’s movie, which I have not seen, but the soundtrack is amazing, composed by Tarwater, the German post-rock/electronic band comprised of Bernd Jestram and Ronald Lippok. Here’s track 3, “The Blacktop”:

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and track 9, “Wednesday’s Child”:

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121.) The Belly of an Architect (1987) – Wim Mertens & Glenn Branca

I’ve never really been a fan of Peter Greenaway’s films, with their cold theatricality and inflated self-importance, but of all of them, Belly of an Architect is by far the one I can almost say I like. Perhaps it’s because of Brian Dennehy, an actor who brings some passion and conviction to the otherwise pretentious affair. Or maybe it’s the soundtrack, which features compositions by minimalist composers Glenn Branca and Wim Mertens, and is chock full of swelling, twirling piano motifs, driving flutes, and even the occasional oboe. Here’s track 7, “Time Passing”:

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30 down, 120 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!

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September 6, 2010   No Comments

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