Counting down the best scores from 2015. It was a solid year for music from movies. We got epic action compositions, poignant dramatic arrangements as well as uplifting pieces. Enjoy these beautifully written scores.
10. Inside Out – Michael Giacchino.
From the man who brought us the wonderful score to Up (2009), Michael Giacchino returns with another score for an animated film. He’s a master at creating uplifting, light-hearted yet poignant pieces. This is no exception.
The first half of the score features the delicate piano for intimate moments. It’s the strongest half of the score with uplifting tracks featuring guitars, piano, harps, clarinets and strings. It’s quite playful as he adds flutes, percussion and bassoons during the up-tempo pieces.
The second half is much darker in mood and suits the action filled sequences of the film. It becomes more intense as the climax of the film nears. The brass and strings are utilised in these movements.
All in all, a score full of life and a “joy” to listen to. (Get it? Haha).
9. Brooklyn – Michael Brook.
One of this years most talked about films. The score makes a nod towards traditional Irish music. The violin is well utilised in producing a poignant score with an Irish feel. During emotional moments the violin creates a dramatic atmosphere.
The score also features a lot of banjo arrangements which provide a folk-like atmosphere, again keeping Ireland in the mind of viewers even though the setting is America.
The piano arrangements create an intimate backdrop during scenes of drama. One of the highlights is the track “Casadh an Tsúgáin,” sung by Iarla Ó Lionáird. It’s wonderful to hear a song in Irish in an international film. It gives it that bit a authenticity that is always welcomed.
8. Carol – Carter Burwell.
The strings are a real strength in Carter Burwell’s score of Carol, especially the cello during the lower ranges. They suit the dramatic scenes and create a dark and intense atmosphere. The clarinet is also well intertwined during these scenes.
The piano is used well to create a dream like atmosphere. The harp delivers some lightness and delicacy to the score.
Overall, it’s one of the darker and more dramatic scores of this year.
7. Room – Stephen Rennicks.
A beautifully written score from the Irish composer Stephen Rennicks. The score includes soaring pieces with strings to delicate moments with the piano and xylophone.
At times it’s quite minimalist with long string notes which reflects the story of the film. The score also includes a harp which is beautifully arranged. During other times the clarinet creates the feeling of minimalism.
Rennicks also uses slight electronic elements to create a tense atmosphere.
6. Far From The Madding Crowd – Craig Armstrong.
This score felt like classically written music. It suited this period drama perfectly. The string arrangements are beautiful. The harp, flutes, oboes and piano intertwine seamlessly throughout.
The score also features a choir that celebrates English chamber music. Carey Mulligan, who plays Bathsheba, sings on the track “Let No Man Steal Your Thyme” with Michael Sheen. She is no stranger to singing in films, and does a impeccable job here.
There is also some folk music that features on the score which utilises the accordion and fiddle.
A great score that suits the period in which the film is set.
5. The Danish Girl – Alexandre Desplat.
Alexandre Desplat is a personal favourite of mine. I adored his work on the last two Harry Potter films (2010-2011) and more recently The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014), for which he won an Oscar.
He’s on a winner again with this brilliantly written score.
The strings create a beautiful backdrop to this film. You get the tense atmosphere which reflects the film. Along with this is the delicate piano which echoes throughout the score. Desplat also intertwines arrangements of harps, flutes and percussion into the dramatic score allowing for emotion to sweep through.
The score perfectly suits the period drama.
4. The Martian – Harry Gregson-Williams.
This score has a great blend of orchestral and electronic arrangement. It’s one of the most uplifting scores I’ve ever heard. You can’t help but feel positive and elated after listening to it. It’s inspired.
Gregson-Williams creates these large soundscapes using long string notes along with brass. He also uses these quirky electronic sounds to create the backdrop to action sequences which are intense. He also manages poignancy through strings and minimalism through using backing vocals.
The movements of sound throughout the score go up and down and the range of emotions the music creates is incredible. A real gem this year.
3. Steve Jobs – Daniel Pemberton.
This is also a wonderful blend of orchestra and electronic sounds. The electronic arrangements are really impressive. They remind me of the score to The Social Network (2010). You get that sense of deception or plotting. It’s very intense and effective. The highlights of the electronic arrangements are “It’s Not Working,” “Jack It Up,” “Change The World” & “Skylab Plan.”
Of course the score also swings off to the opposite end of the spectrum with the operatic sounding “The Circus of Machines” and the sinister, brass injected “Russian Roulette.”
2. Macbeth – Jed Kurzel.
For some reason this film, along with its score, have been widely overlooked. It baffles me because this is an amazingly written score.
From the very start you’re hit by how harrowing the music is. The strings are ear-piercing and gut wrenching. There is so much pain in those long notes.
Kurzel just creates these large, harrowing soundscapes through the string arrangements. And the pounding drums and percussion signify battle in the film. He is able to move from quite minimal moments to large intense crescendos causing the drama to rise with it. He uses clarinets and flutes well. At one point I think there’s even a didgeridoo in “Turn Hell Around.” And I’m pretty sure there’s a fog horn used.
All in all a wonderful score that is shrill and filled with provocative sounds.
1. The Revenant – Ryuichi Sakamoto & Alva Noto.
This is a seriously impressive piece of work. Sakamoto and Noto create this completely desolate soundscape. The sound moves from being almost silent and minimalist to invasive and overwhelming. They really know how to play with sounds and the instrumentation is otherworldly.
At times, they will strip back all sound and have light percussion or the sound of the wind, and you really get that sense of emptiness and wilderness.
During other times they will completely deconstruct sounds by having the musicians pound drums randomly or play seemingly random string arrangements.
They are also able to create emotion via strings, brass and flutes. The full orchestra works well together but Sakamoto & Noto aren’t afraid to strip it all back and allow one instrument to play a solo creating that feeling of isolation and loneliness, again adding to that sense of desolation and wilderness.
I feel like this is an extremely cleverly written score. Sakamoto & Noto are masters as they play with sound and silence. And you get the sense that they aren’t afraid to pull back and allow those empty spaces between notes. It all contributes to great movements of sounds that rise and fall throughout the score. It’s without a doubt the best score of 2015. Let’s hope they get the recognition they deserve.