As the film-obsessed person that I am, most of the music I listen to consist of soundtracks or I guess more accurately: scores. I am of the opinion that a soundtrack/score can either make or break a film. Sometimes it enhances the overall experience, other times the music loses its magic when not experienced with the visuals of the film, and then in some cases the soundtrack work no matter what. This year has been a good year for soundtracks although for some reason the ones that I consider to be absolutely brilliant rarely appear in year-end lists. At any case here are the best soundtracks of 2013:
10. Upstream Color by Shane Carruth.
Upstream Color is a difficult film to both follow and understand. I admire how bold and distinctive it is, but it left me so confused that I honestly don’t feel like ever watching it again. To be honest, I finally begun to somewhat understand the film thanks to the soundtrack and the title of the songs. Shane Carruth captures that otherworldly feeling of the film and creates an atmospheric experience that is both evocative and mesmerizing. Its stillness communicates the film’s themes in a more intuitive way that always make you want to return.
9. Stoker by Clint Mansell.
Clint Mansell is responsible for the best soundtracks in the history of cinema, and while this entry doesn’t come close to the greatness of his other works it is nevertheless excellent. Blending the Hitchcockian sensibilities of the film with a sense of innocence helped the film greatly. However, the standout track of this soundtrack was not composed by Mansell. “Duet” was composed by Philip Glass and it alongside Emily Wells’ tracks are what further elevate this soundtrack.
8. Prisoners by Jóhann Jóhannsson.
Prisoners is another difficult film of this year but for an entirely different reason. In here things are too raw and it is that rawness meshed with the film’s foreboding nature that truly haunts you. Jóhann Jóhannsson is for me synonymous with annihilation. His songs establish an air of dread and melancholic as a result of death. With Prisoners he instills those qualities to even greater effect. The songs are minimalistic and tender in their communication of the inner turmoil of the character and the utter desperation. Much like the film, the soundtrack imprisons you in a place of uncertainty and darkness where hope rarely shines through.
7. Gravity by Steve Price.
Gravity is a nearly perfect film where all of its elements coverage to create an intense experience unlike any other. Steve Price was able to create a soundtrack of the same level as the special effects of this film. Songs like “Debris” cued the audience into preparing themselves for an onslaught of terror and unprecedented tension. As good as this soundtrack is though, in the end it goes to operatic and uplifting. It works best when it is quite and foreboding, not when it brings forth a choir and forces hope down our throats.
6. Side Effects by Thomas Newman.
This is another film with Hitchcockian elements whose soundtracks shines from the very beginning. I’m always impressed by how playful some of the songs are. Sometimes it almost feels like lullaby and underneath it is this sense of secrecy, mystery and bad deeds. My mind can’t comprehend how does Newman perfectly capture all the subtleties of the film, but my ears are glad he does. This is a incredibly memorial sonic sendoff as Steven Soderbergh’s cinematic career draws to a close.
5. Welcome to the Punch by Harry Escott.
Welcome to the Punch is one of the biggest surprises of the year for me. I hadn’t heard anything about this film or even since a trailer for it. I saw the people involved and went to see because the other film I wanted to see was sold-out. This is one of the most effective action thrillers I’ve seen in a very long time and what impressed me the most was the soundtrack. Harry Escott creates a exhilarating aural landscape of action that doesn’t feel generic in the slightest. This soundtrack is an electronic cinematic album that pumps you full of adrenaline. I especially love the vocal tracks that get really quite only to unleash an Inception-like noise that actually works.
4. Trance by Rick Smith.
Even though Danny Boyle has been hit and miss with me lately, one thing that I know for certain is that the soundtracks of his films will delver the goods. I heard the soundtrack for Trance prior to watching the film and it blew me away to such a degree that I forced myself to love the film, which let’s be honest is not that great. The instrumental tracks here feel epic in the way they take their time to build things up and then cap it off with rapid acceleration that makes you want to run. It’s fantastic and also sentimental in its approach, and then the vocal tracks such make it better. This is a soundtrack that aims to entertain and doesn’t take itself too seriously, which cannot be said about the film itself.
3. Evil Dead by Roque Baños.
I’ve never understood why the original Evil Dead is considered a horror masterpiece. I’ve been forced to watch it twice and both times my hatred towards it have increased. It doesn’t work me, which is why I had high hopes for the remake especially since the trailer was so fucking awesome. Unfortunately, the remake also kind of sucked. But the soundtrack of the soundtrack is such pure unadulterated operatic epicness. Perhaps its a matter of personal taste, but I really enjoy songs with a high degree of over-the-topness. This soundtrack is a spectacle that moves so far away from subtlety that you can almost feel composer Roque Baños saying “fuck it, I’m turning the Evil Dead into a nightmarish, gory and disturbing version of Phantom of the Opera.” It’s an insane soundtrack, especially the song called “Final Scene” where literally hell breaks loose and drills its bloody rage into your brain. I fucking love it.
2. Only God Forgives by Cliff Martinez.
Once in a while a film comes along where there is a unnaturally perfect combination of talents. Drive would not have been the masterpiece that it is today if it wasn’t for Cliff Martinez’s majestic soundtrack. He helped make that film better and the same thing occurs with Only God Forgives but to greater effect. Only God Forgives disappointed a lot of people for not being like Drive, but I thought it was excellent. It is a hopeless, atmospheric and nightmarish version of Drive where darkness and death reign. The soundtrack mirror those sentiments to perfection establishing an aura of dream-like landscapes bathed in blood. It’s dark, haunting and without a sense of humour which surfaces on the vocal tracks sang in collaboration with Vithaya Pansringarm. To be honest, I think this is a much better soundtrack than Drive.
1. Evangelion 3.33: You Can (Not) Redo by Shiro Sagisu.
People tend to forget that animated films can also deliver outstanding soundtracks. The Evangelion series is my favourite anime ever and the Rebuild of Evangelion films have gotten much, much better. With this third entry the series went to a new direction that while not liked by everyone demonstrates that the people still have a lot to say. Likewise, the soundtracks moves towards a direction where piano reigns supreme. This may sound pretentious, but I feel this soundtrack was made for me because the reason why I am obsessed with instrumental music is to the piano. The piano is such amazing musical instrument that can capture the entirety of human emotion and really touch you. I connected a lot with this soundtrack and the best part is in the midst of the beautiful piano-driven songs, there are these epic songs full of sprawling spectacle. It is a powerful soundtrack that I consider to be the absolute best of the entire series.
Honourable Mentions: The Great Gatsby (hated the film but goddamn that soundtrack was just flashy awesomeness), The Last of Us (not film related but definitely a must-have), Ain’t Them Bodies Saints (powerful stuff).
Thank you for reading and do check these amazing soundtrack if you can. Check the LINK for more year-in-review lists.
It’s been ages since my last post of this kind. Well in the past few months I have uncovered and been introduced to some excellent music. So much so that I’m starting to consider this year to be a fair improvement from lacklustre 2012. Anyway, here are 10 must hear/have/experience tracks:
10. The Future by Teen Daze.
As the band’s name suggest, this song will immediately put you into a sort of trance where all you feel is the sweet tenderness of nostalgic electronic music. Don’t exactly what that means, but it’s great.
9. I Blame Myself by Sky Ferreira.
Ever since Sky Ferreira’s Ghost EP I’ve been a big fan and while her debut album Night Time, My Time shifts gears slightly in terms of sound, it sill works very well. In fact I like the risks she takes here, as some songs feel like straight up pop songs (like this one), others feel more like ambient dubstep (My Time, Night Time), and then others are just weird (Omako).
8. The Energy Story (feat. Minitel Rose) [dvas Remix] by College.
Leave it to DVAS to render an already brilliant song into an even better one. I don’t know about you, but good remixes are hard to find and very rarely do they match or surpass the original song. I think this remixes surpasses it without a doubt. It feels more clubby but in a good way.
7. The Set Up by Favored Nations.
An instantly recognizable song if you’ve played GTA V. That game by the way has an insultingly excellent soundtrack that grows progressively better. At any case, this is one of my favourite tracks. Even though it is very repetitive, for some reason it just works.
6. Do It With a Rockstar by Amanda Palmer & Grand Theft Orchestra.
Nothing much to say besides that it is exceedingly fucking awesome. Good to pump some adrenaline on you.
5. Please Turn by Little Dragon.
Ever since her duet with Gorillaz in Empire Ants, I’ve been meaning to give Little Dragon’s albums a listen. Can’t say I’m a fan of most of her songs, but I do thoroughly enjoy this one. Best word I can find to describe it would be: kinetic. It over powers your body with it sweetly up-beat vibe and you can’t help yourself but dance.
4. abnormalize by Ling Tosite Sigure.
Been watching a lot of anime shows for the past couple of months, and the one opening song that I simply cannot get enough of is this one right here. It’s a rage inducing alternative/rock/metal track with badass guitar riffs and a chorus that will make you go crazy. I always feel the urge to scream this song even though I do I’m totally butchering Japanese. Oh in case some of you were wondering, this is the intro song from the first half of Psycho Pass.
3. Light the Path by The Capsules.
Usually you fall in love with one artist’s song and then when you check out their full length album you’re left disappointed. Sometimes what made that one song great isn’t present on the other tracks. Well that’s not the case here since everything about The Capsules’ Someone for Everyone is pure excellence. There’s an overwhelming sense of melancholy and nostalgia within most of the song there, and they form achieve a balance between making you depressed and sending you into a contemplative state.
2. True Romance by CITIZENS!
The cool thing about spotify is that it constantly introduced you to new music. Sometimes the songs hit the mark, and then there are those very rare times when they totally blow up the mark with euphoric ferocity. That’s exactly what this song did. “True Romance” is an incredibly awesome whose gradual build-up and fireworks-like release pushes you into insane zero-fucks-given dance. I fucking love it.
1. Chamakay by Blood Orange.
I’m always surprised when I listen to an artists I had never heard of before and with the opening song alone I fall in love with them. “Chamakay” is such an enchanting song with its jazzy vibe, 80s chill techno and beautifully sentimental vocals. Lyrically the song is also pretty fantastic and relatable. This is a perfect set up for the rest of Cupid Deluxe, which is easily one of the best albums of 2013.
Here’s a LINK to the entire list. Let me know if there are any issues with the link.