I have always loved film music; it can play a vital part of the emotional experience and engagement of a film, but is also just great to listen to in isolation as a wonderfully composed piece of music. In fact, the music can often elevate a film from feeling better than it actually is and rescue some shoddy screenwriting or directing. Though however, sometimes a wonderful score is completely wasted in the film it is in, and it is best just to listen to the album and forget about the film. Here are my five favourite scores of 2014 so far that I have been listening to on a very regular basis and I recommend them highly to all other lovers and appreciators of film music.
5. You and the Night – M83
After his epic score for the big budget Oblivion last year (which in my view was one of the best things about what was overall an average film), Anthony Gonzalez (aka M83) has composed are more low key score for this surreal French sex comedy (please do not let those three words put you off) directed by his brother Yann. The result is a beautifully intimate and ambient electronic composition featuring M83’s trademark soundscapes and some haunting vocals. His music has always been very cinematic in my view; hence individual tracks constantly being used in films and trailers, and I hope Gonzalez continues to use his talents to compose film scores.
4. Transcendence – Mychael Danna
Wally Pfister’s debut directorial effort may have not have capitalised on its potentially interesting premise to produce a film that was a continual anti climax, but no fault can be placed on the shoulders of composer Mychael Danna (Life of Pi). Instead of going for the much copied Hans Zimmer style approach of loud bangs and rousing strings that drown out everything else, Danna goes for a more low key approach, producing a score that when listened to in isolation, is a relaxing and ambient work of subtle beauty. Does it work with the film? Maybe not (though the film is such a mess that it is hard to tell), but forget about the film and just listen to the score and you will not be disappointed.
3. Pompeii – Clinton Shorter
Paul W.S. Anderson does not do subtle, and his Pompeii is in my view one of the year’s guilty pleasures. It is a film that is so over the top and ultimately rubbish, it is impossible not to enjoy, and Clinton Shorter’s score is just as over the top and enjoyable as the film. Original it is not, but it is sixteen tracks of rousing strings and over the top choral arrangements that it is impossible not to enjoy when listened to solo. Just make sure to play it loud!
2. Noah – Clint Mansell
In my view, as a film Noah had some great moments, but overall was not up to the phenomenally high standards that Darren Aronofsky has set for himself as a director. However, his regular composer Clint Mansell’s score was as ever, an excellent score that highly complemented the visuals. Adapting a similar approach to his impressive score for Aronofsky’s The Fountain, Mansell’s score is a truly epic composition.
1. The Grand Budapest Hotel – Alexandre Desplat
The music has always played a key part in Wes Anderson films, complementing his unique visual style with aplomb, but this is usually actual songs with the score playing second fiddle (there is probably a pun in there somewhere). This time, and with Alexndre Desplat on scoring duties instead of regular Anderson composer Mark Mothersbaugh, it is the score that plays a significant part in the narrative and only enhances the unique enjoyment of the film, feeling like a character all of its own. Anderson states in the sleeve notes that he and Desplat wanted to create a unique style of music that sums up the fictional country the film is set in, and through occasionally sampling lesser known pieces Desplat creates this perfectly. When listened to in isolation, the music has a character of all of its own; feeling like a symphony that builds and grows as it goes along.