I took an afternoon to rack my brain and curate a Spotify playlist containing what I considered to be the best uses of music and score in film throughout the last year. With the wonders of modern technology, I’m able to provide you with my efforts directly in the form of the playlist below, using Spotify, and I’ll discuss some of the tracks I chose. If you have anything you feel I left out and deserves recognition, it’s an ever-changing playlist that I can edit! I’m sure there’s a bunch of stuff I missed, I’m far from an expert in film scores and soundtracks. So let me know in the comments below and we can come up with the most complete year in review playlist possible. (No spoilers for discussed films below.)
1. What Are You Going to Do When You Are Not Saving the World? (Man of Steel) Even if you hated the movie, I think most would agree that Zimmer’s score for Man of Steel is really powerful and propulsive. This is the standout track. There’s also the bits with the evil dub-step-machine that Supes saves everyone from that feels pretty cool, but I think this track (especially its use in the trailer, which I think we can all agree is incredible even if the resulting movie wasn’t) makes you feel Superman’s journey.
2. Blue Moon (Blue Jasmine) An integral part of Woody Allen’s Blue Jasmine. I don’t believe this is the version they actually used in the movie, but I feel like it’s close enough. Just listening to it now reminds me of its bittersweet use in the movie, and I drift into a comforting melancholy that takes me back to Woody’s vision.
3. Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites (Spring Breakers) If I had to pick the best use of music in a film this year, it would probably have to be this. Controversial pick? Maybe. This track definitely stands out in this playlist as maybe not belonging. But you just have to watch the first few minutes of Spring Breakers to be totally enveloped in a neon day-glo nightmare of alcohol and tan breasts, and this track sells it with the obnoxious party atmosphere.
4. Mega City One (Dredd) This score is, like Man of Steel, better than the movie. I liked this movie more than MoS, but this score is incredible. It brings me back to a simpler time when action movies had memorable electronic scores that contained hooks you could latch on to and associate with the characters on screen.
7. Debris (Gravity) It’s hard to overstate how integral Gravity‘s score is to the film. Because Cuarón neglected to use sound effects and explosions that wouldn’t be audible if you were really in space, he had to rely on the score to let the audience feel the impact of these massive objects colliding in space. It’s incredibly effective and evocative.
9. Roll Joran Roll (12 Years a Slave) Audio from a crucial scene. There’s this moment when our main character, Solomon Northup, half way through the song joins in. It signifies acceptance of his situation. Throughout the rest of the movie, he’s “above it all” in a way, and you never really feel him connecting to his situation in a meaningful way. This might be the first time he really lets his guard down.
12. Leaves Expanded May Be Prevailing Blue Mixed With Yellow of the Sand (Upstream Color) Probably my favorite movie of the year still, this strange film brings you into the character’s journey with its disjointed storytelling. It confuses you on purpose, because our characters are confused, but by the end you’re enveloped in this journey with the leads. You stop caring about the details as much, and become one with the experience. Sounds pretentious, but this music totally helps sell it.
14. Wanna Fight (Only God Forgives) Holy shit, this scene. It’s just so good. What I think is the best scene in the movie, the big fight, is not only thematically interesting (our hero loses, and terribly) but this rocking electronic acid-trip of a song leads us through the whole event.
20. Black Skinhead (The Wolf of Wall Street) Best trailer of the year? Yes. I haven’t even seen the movie, nor do I know if this track is used in the final film, but the trailer is such pure cinema that I had to include it in the list.
23. Young and Beautiful (Great Gatsby) I think this track is the best thing to come out of this movie. It’s haunting and beautiful, just like the story. I’m not very familiar with Lana Del Ray or the “controversy” surrounding her, but this is a great track even outside of the movie.
27. This is Home (Short Term 12) I’m a huge baby and tear up at this music by itself, just at the reminder of the images it accompanies in the movie. The theme runs throughout the film, but the most powerful use of it is definitely at the end. No spoilers, but if you don’t get misty eyed here, you’re a monster. A monster!
28. Solomon (12 Years a Slave) Yes, Hans Zimmer is stealing from himself again. But you know what? This theme is so good that it doesn’t matter. It first appears in Journey to the Line from The Thin Red Line, and pops up again in Inception‘s theme, primarily the track Time.
Side note: Zimmer was really busy this year, huh?