The 19th Annual
Best Film Music Releases
Most online lists at this time of year have only recent films released during the past year. Film Music Review has not followed this regimented routine and in the past has listed up to 20 releases on its Best of the Year lists, with an emphasis on vintage soundtrack releases since most online lists devote themselves exclusively to newer film score releases.
It is customary to praise restored films but restored or re-issued soundtracks should also be recognized and they have been included in Best of the Year lists in the past on Film Music Review.
This list below has been compiled by veteran Film Music Review critic, Steven A. Kennedy, who is a member of the International Film Music Critics Association (IFMCA).
Best Film Music Releases of 2016
Selected by Steven A. Kennedy
When the Golden Globe score nominees were announced, I admit I shook my head in wonder. It is not the first time of course where a slate of nominees seems a bit odd, but it also this year tends to reflect the continued slide towards main stream popular music understanding of what a film score is and is supposed to do. Many of the award-bait films themselves felt a bit weaker this year as well. We seem to have moved beyond simple song placement to blurring the lines of what constitutes
an “original score”.
That tends to mean that those of us who have been around a while will seem “out of touch”. One particular controversy actually relates to the use of previous art music used in ARRIVAL. The frustration and outrage in the film music community appeared wondering why Johann Johannson’s score was ineligible which seemed to be a modern version of an argument that goes back to Kubrick’s 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY. It is a discussion I am sure will continue as we move into 2017.
That said, I wanted to think about scores released this past year, of which there are many competent efforts, from both a sense of their musical engagement and/or any particular critical accomplishment of the composer.
First then, here are five scores worth revisitng from 2016 that represent perhaps the most memorable of specific genres this year...
Best New Releases
10 CLOVERLAND LANE - Bear McCreary
(Sparks & Shadwos)
Bear McCreary is sort of a modern-day compositional work horse. There are certain times of the year when he seems to take a deep breath to put together albums of any number of projects he’s been working on and each tend to be quite engaging on their own. The film here itself is engrossing with McCreary’s music tending to heighten tension, or bring just the right amount of beauty and release as needed. The way primary themes move between light and darkness helps make this one of the composer’s finest efforts.
THE BFG– John Williams
(Walt Disney Records)
Disney really seemed to do nothing regarding this Spielberg film with an odd title based on Roald Dahl’s novel. But this is a rather gorgeous score in Williams’ more impressionistic mode. What is most striking is the way the primary theme gradually unfolds until it becomes one of those gorgeous soaring ideas. The orchestral color is fascinating in this work which tends to reveal more upon each listen.
DARK WAVES – Alexander Cimini
Alexander Cimini is likely a fairly unknown composer for most, he has been working on some relatively smaller fantasy films. Here he has managed to create stunning vocalise in this dark Gothic fantasy score that at times hints at Morricone. The writing is gorgeous and the effect of the music lapping against the shore works to create further musical support to the narrative.
PEE-WEE'S BIG HOLIDAY - Mark Mothersbaugh
Probably one of the more odd choices I suspect on my list, but Mothersbaugh’s score for this Netflix return of Paul Reuben’s character is just a delightful comedy score. Mothersbaugh found just the right balance of humor with some perfect musical parodies and touches along the way.
X-MEN: APOCALYPSE– John Ottman
Ottman’s X-men score is filled with thematic development, really excellent orchestral color, and the sort of overall shaping that used to be rather common in film music. Ottman’s ability to move the music dramatically and rather effortlessly from intense action to more reflective moments is certainly quite accomplished in this score as well.
There are a number of films that I did not quite get a chance to see yet from 2016 which might impact some of the choices here. A few others that stood out include Ottman and David Buckley’s funky score for THE NICE GUYS; Charlie Mole’s delightful take on DAD’S ARMY; Giacchino’s DOCTOR STRANGE and STAR TREK BEYOND; Desplat’s AMERICAN PASTORAL
and THE LIGHT BETWEEN OCEANS; Banos’ DON’T BREATHE; and
Patrick Watson’s surprising THE 9TH LIFE OF LOUIS DRAX.
THE BEASTMASTER (1982) – Lee Holdridge
(Dragons Domain Records, 2 CDs)
There is just not enough Lee Holdridge on disc but we can give thanks that fans can revisit his wonderful and exciting score for this 1982 action film. The sound is wonderful and it is a blast to hear the way the thematic development takes place in the score.
THE GOLDEN VOYAGE OF SINBAD (1973) – Miklos Rozsa (Intrada)
This score has been oft-revisited over the years, but it is possible Intrada has finally got this score down right with improved sound both of the score itself and the subsequent album versions. One of their stunning efforts of score restoration this year.
JONNY QUEST (1964) – Hoyt Curtain/Ted Nichols
(La-La Land Records, 2 CDs)
Somehow this 2-disc set of music from Hanna-Barbera’s classic animated adventure series JOHNNY QUEST slipped under the radar. Here are the cues created to follow the adventures of Dr. Quest organized by episode. The music shifts between great action sequences and jazz-inflections making this a true find for those who remember this classic series.
JURASSIC PARK & THE LOST WORLD (1993/1997) –
John Williams Collection
(La-La Land Records, 4 CDs)
There are so many great older scores by Williams and others to consider for special reconstruction that it at first boggled the mind why this set appeared (other than the timeliness of JURASSIC WORLD’s success). But then, you begin listening to the opening bars of JURASSIC PARK and you are stunned at the detail and depth of this remastering which makes this feel like an entirely new listening experience. In the case of THE LOST WORLD, listeners are treated to a great deal more unreleased music which is the real carrot here of an awesome release.
RAN (1985) – Toru Takemitsu
(Silva Screen Records)
Probably one of the surprising re-issues this year was Silva’s remastering of RAN. This Kurosawa film with its parallels to KING LEAR is one of the director’s masterpieces. Takemitsu’s score is part Japanese, part Western with Mahler being the primary shadow cast across the score. The album includes score tracks and then two larger album suites that were originally released. Certainly this is one of the great surprises of 2016’s releases.
Best Film Music Releases for 2015
Best Film Music Releases of 2014
Best Film Music Releases for 2013
Best Film Music Releases for 2012
Best Film Music Releases for 2011
Best Film Music Releases for 2010
The Sammy Film Music Awards
The 29th Annual
Sammy Film Music Awards
will be announced
on 12 February 2017