Rich’s Picks: Soundtracks

GravityDuring the movie nomination season, the tight Best Original Score category is of particular interest to A Closer Listen.  Here are five nominees for your Oscar consideration, plus two bonuses: scores released in 2013 for films released in 2012 and 2014.

1)  Steven Price ~ Gravity
I’m not alone in choosing this score to occupy the pole position.  In a film dominated by the vastness of space and low on dialogue, the score needed to carry the film ~ and it did.  The surprise is that the music is so heavy on drone, with long, building stretches punctuated by sudden swirls of nearly atonal sound that disappear without notice.  A triumph in every way, and well deserving of every accolade it receives.


2)  Hans Zimmer ~ Man of Steel
Scorn Zimmer if you must, but the man is a force of nature.  For Man of Steel, he brought his A game, with all-new Superman themes and many memorable motifs.  The sense of excitement was palpable from the very first preview, and the traditional Zimmer combination of tenderness and bombast was perfect for the comic book narrative.


3)  Jóhann Jóhannsson ~ Prisoners
Jóhann Jóhannsson has been doing soundtrack work for a few years (Varmints, The Miners’ Hymns, Copenhagen Dreams), but this is his highest profile release to date.  It still managed to go unnoticed by many people, perhaps due to its subtle nature.  Restraint was key in building cinematic tension, and one can’t imagine the film being as successful with a louder score.  But in the main theme, the composer brings all threads to a satisfying conclusion ~ more satisfying, it must be said, than the open-ended conclusion of the film itself.


4)  Shane Carruth ~ Upstream Color
The best way to avoid splitting profits is to do everything one’s self, and this is exactly what Shane Carruth did by writing, directing, scoring and starring in Upstream Color.  The abstraction of the film was beautifully matched by the ambient score, which somehow managed to avoid drifting into mist.  An exercise in color and movement, Carruth’s score takes on a life of its own.


5)  Daniel Hart ~ Ain’t Them Bodies Saints
Occasionally a film becomes known less for its images and its acting than for its score.  This may well become the fate of Ain’t Them Bodies Saints, by most accounts a well-intentioned yet mediocre movie lifted by an evocative batch of banjos, violins and handclaps.  The low profile of the film may keep it from Oscar consideration, but we think it deserves a seat at the big dance.


Honorable Mention #1
William Ryan Fritch ~ The Waiting Room
Film Released in 2012, Score Released in 2013
The Waiting Room already received awards consideration in 2012, but we first heard it in 2013, when the album was released.  Easily one of the best scores in recent years, the album bears up well after repeat listens, and establishes Fritch as a major league contender.  Read our full review here.


Honorable Mention #2
Dustin O’Halloran ~ Breathe In
Film Released in 2014, Score Released in 2013
It’s rare that a score is released so long before a film, but this indie circuit darling just couldn’t wait.  Dustin O’Halloran turns in some of his best score work to date, and adds previously released music from Efterklang and his own A Winged Victory for the Sullen to round out the set.  If the movie is as good as the score, we’re in for a treat.

Richard Allen

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