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Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Top Original Film Scores/Soundtracks of 2015

            **for my official Top 10 Films list, click here**

            **for my personal film awards, click here**

            I love music.  I also love movies.  Therefore, it stands to reason that I would be slightly manically obsessed with the great music that often walks hand-in-hand with great movies.  In fact, given the rise of studio pop and the popular decline of classical composition, I am of the opinion that a very large percentage of the best music written in the past 50 years consists of original film scores.  And after I had such fun last year listing my favorite new sets of music, I am back to opine briefly on my favorite original works from 2015. 

            For this list, I only consider movies with scores/soundtracks either completely or mostly original, which means nothing that used a mixed track of other works.  That said, I must proffer a brief shout-out to The Big Short, which supplemented its fantastic editing with a topically perfect selection of classic rock/heavy metal tracks (here’s to getting a Mastodon song in an Oscar-nominated film!). 

8. The Salt of the Earth (Laurent Petitgand)

            It’s unusual to associate great original music with a documentary (at least for me), but part of the appeal in this moving portrait of an artist almost losing all faith in humanity, only to find it again late in life, lay in the quiet undertones of its score, providing an ambient background and was a perfect addition to the start beauty of the photographic works of art it discusses. 

7. Ex Machina (Ben Salisbury and Geoff Barrow)

            Sci-fi has always provided us with some of the most enduring musical themes, and while Ex Machina might not have anything as infectious or catchy to its music as another sci-fi film from 2015 we’ll get to shortly, it’s no slouch in the audio department.  The undercurrent of the soundtrack expertly matched the surreal smoothness of the cinematography, effectively building an atmosphere that, almost from the word “go,” seems to whisper, “Something’s not right here…”

6. The Hateful Eight (Ennio Morricone)

            Ennio Morricone made a big turnaround from heavily criticizing Tarantino’s use of music in his movies just a few years ago, and provided a wholly new original score for his latest romp into the territory of the quasi-Western flick.  Much of it is precisely the kind of over-the-top that just about any Tarantino film needs, but a big part of what drew me into the experience of the film was the expertly-crafted groove of this quieter, more subtle opening track. 

            Is there any point in me elaborating on why this is on here?  It’s John.  Fuckmothering.  Williams. 

4. Pale Moon (little moa and 小野雄紀/山口龍夫)

**there is currently no way to find the soundtrack on Youtube, so here is a link to the Itunes page**

            Given how big a fan I am of the work Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross have done on David Fincher’s films, I couldn’t help but fall in love with the mix of score and song provided for my favorite Japanese film of the year, much of which falls under a similar vein sound-wise; a mixture of ambience and slick electronic beats that further immerse the film in its setting. 

3. Inside Out (Michael Giacchino)

            Like with John Williams, no surprise here, since Pixar’s best works have almost always included fantastic original scores.  Inside Out joins the ranks of Up, Finding Nemo, The Incredibles, and other great works by the animation giant that deserve to be heard just as much as they deserve to be seen. 

2. Mad Max: Fury Road (Junkie XL)

            Of course this is on the list.  Just listen to that main track.  Pulse-pounding.  Gets your rage on.  Makes you want to fling flaming guitars at a polar bear.  Bear witness to this, my friends, for THIS is how the right music can make a solidly great action film into an experience of genuinely epic proportions. 

1. Chi-Raq (Terence Blanchard)

            For the first time in Lord knows how long, we got a great musical movie that actually used original music.  The fact that it was great music in and of itself was a huge part of what makes Chi-Raq such a unique viewing experience, and for this, that made the excellence of the music here a more crucial key to the effectiveness of the film than any other original work that came out this year.  As a result, not only does Chi-Raq have a well-deserved place on my Top 10 List, its soundtrack also earns it the distinction (in my mind, at least) of being the best original film music to come out last year. 

            This officially concludes my own look-back at what I found to be the best in film for 2015.  Up next, my picks for the 2015 Oscars, after which we can finally close the book on last year and look forward to whatever 2016 has in store for us.  

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