With the end of the year rapidly approaching and numerous websites including our own going ‘end of year list’ crazy, I thought it was only fair that film scores got a look in. It’s been an interesting, varied year for film music, with memorable scores appearing across the cinematic spectrum. The following contains a heady mix of the grand, the haunting, the lauded and the overlooked, the very best 2014 had to offer. It would be remiss of me not to give an honorable mention to Johnny Greenwood’s score for the upcoming Paul Thomas Anderson film Inherent Vice, I’ve heard it and it’s wonderful, but since the film isn’t released yet I can’t really include it.
10. Young Ones – Nathan Johnson
It’s certainly gratifying to see Nathan Johnson start making a name for himself. Up until recently his name would almost always be handcuffed to his brother, Rian, director of Brick and Looper. He scored two films this year, the thriller Kill the Messenger and Jake Paltrow’s Young Ones, a flawed but fascinating post-apocalyptic drama starring Michael Shannon and Nicholas Hoult. The work he did for it is a far cry from what you’d expect, elements of blues and country combine with a disparate, haunting dissonance to create something unique and instantly memorable. In places it reminded me of Inon Zur’s work on Fallout 3 and Fallout: New Vegas.
9. Interstellar – Hans Zimmer
Hans Zimmer’s credibility has faltered somewhat of late. His overbearing score for Inception was more effective at generating memes than tension and a lot of his work since has come and gone without much acclaim. His score for Intersteller, which marks his fifth collaboration with Chrisopher Nolan is his most interesting work in years. While it can be overwhelming at times, the carefully crafted, organ-heavy score is at its best during the more subdued, emotional beats the film has to offer. So effective are these sombre moments that when the loud, brass-heavy onslaughts inevitably arrive, it’s all the more effective and evocative.
8. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes – Michael Giacchino
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes was not only one of the strongest blockbusters of the year, it was also the best entry in the Apes cannon since the 1968 original. Jerry Goldsmith’s score for that film is fondly remembered for its bizarre, off-key style and unsettling piano and vocals. Michael Giacchino managed to honor that score whilst bringing his own, worth influence to the table. It’s a phenomenally varied score, wildness and bombast are offset by sombre majesty and slow, murmuring sadness. The contrast of the budding ape society with the crumbling human one is reflected perfectly.
7. Antonio Sanchez – Birdman
It was always going to take a feat of wild imagination and serious dilligence to produce a worthy score for Alejandro González Iñárritu’s Birdman. Filmed to appear as if it was all shot in a single continuous take, the film is gloriously bizarre and off-kilter. Antonio Sanchez’s score for it is a damn sight more than worthy though, it might even be the best thing about the film. The music feels rough, raw and the percussive rhythms flitter through unsual time signatures relentlessly. The director himself had a lot of input into how the film would be scored, acting out scenes as Sanchez composed. Birdman resultingly succeeds in being one of the most audibly delightful films of the year as well as the most visually striking.
6. The Guest – Steve Moore
The Guest is fucking awesome, a ridiculous, glorious homage to 80s thrillers and Hitchcockian mysteries in equal measure. Steve Moore compounds that pedigree with a score that throbs and hums with nasty electronic growls straight out of a classic John Carpenter horror. During the high-octane moments later in the film it builds and intensifies with a kind of wry self-awareness, sounding like vintage Nine Inch Nails. There’s some genuine heart and beauty interspersed with the terror though, as the music floats through the less unsettling, more tender beats that the film has to offer. Ultimately you end up with something with all the variety and evocation of the score for Drive, but only a fraction of the resources. A massive achievement.
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