2013 has been a fantastic year for film. Folks saying that the art-form has all but died clearly haven’t been paying attention to what’s being released in theaters, on home video and VOD, because I’ve seen a handful of great films this year and it looks like 2014 is going to be continuing that trend.
2013 also delivered and even better year for film scores, with such a vast range of music from all sorts of composers. I’ve always been one to pay extra attention to a film’s musical soundtrack, even if I didn’t end up enjoying the film itself, because sometimes the music can prove to be just as important, if not more important than the film itself.
This year we’ve been gifted with some great tracks by some of the industry’s best, plus some new-comers or remotely unknowns have managed to sneak in and deliver where it counts. I know the year isn’t over with just yet, but I’ve thought long and hard about this list of my top five favorite movie soundtracks of 2013. There are a few more films coming out this year that could potentially make this list, but I’ve always been one to listen to a complete soundtrack for a month or two before allowing it to grace such a list, which means that this post wouldn’t be able to run until February or March if I continued to go by those standards.
So, while Inside Llweyn Davis, Out of the Furnace, Her and even The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, all appear to have notable soundtracks and scores, I’m still sticking by this post.
Below is a list of my top five movie soundtracks of 2013, following each write up with my favorite track from each respective album.
Feel free to listen, comment and recommend which songs and albums surprised you the most this year.
5. Only God Forgives
Cliff Martinez‘s score for Only God Forgives isn’t just the most unique score of 2013, but it’s also one of the most creative and inventive. Just reading about how Martinez basically composed this entire album while on the go, in a “mini-studio” makes it that much more impressive.
He’s teamed with director Nicolas Winding Refn before, which makes Only God Forgives‘ unique beats seem that much more fitting to accompany what most will call one of Refn’s most bizarre and visually pleasing films yet. I didn’t fall in love with the film like I did with Drive, but I enjoyed certain aspects of it and one of those was Martinez’s music, which provided a healthy blend of dark energy and a haunting feeling that you just can’t shake.
The score for Only God Forgives is definitely Cliff’s most experimental assortment of tracks yet.
Give it a listen below:
4. The Lone Ranger
Gore Verbinski‘s The Lone Ranger might just be one of the most exciting and fun films of the summer. How it tanked and brought so much negative heat on its cast, crew and parent studio is beyond me. One thing’s for certain and that is that Hans Zimmer has delivered yet another fun-fueled score, full of action and excitement, yet still capturing that inner spirit of the film’s main character just perfectly.
I was mostly surprised when I ended up finding out how much I enjoyed the music from the film. I already was in the minority when it came to enjoying the film in general, but to find out later how much the music kept jumping back into my skull was refreshing and shocking.
Zimmer lays down a well-balanced list of tracks, ranging from energetic and fun, to quiet and slow. I love how effortless each and every track appears to be, almost playing like an instant classic without much worry. I doubt many will remember much about the film, let alone its music, aside from the “classic” final showdown track, but I found myself listening to this particular track the most:
3. The Place Beyond the Pines
Derek Cianfrance‘s The Place Beyond the Pines is a sprawling family epic that captures drama in a scope that’s so large and stretching, unlike anything else released in this day and age. The film is all about life and the choices that are presented throughout and how one must live with the decisions that they make. It’s a stirring and echoing film that surely works even more because of the score, which is haunting and brooding and composed with an unfamiliar style, by Mike Patton.
I’ve never quite heard such a score before, until Patton’s tracks took over the airwaves during one of the film’s many emotional and deeply moving shots. Patton brings a certain level of escalation to each and every track. One that lingers on notes and really allows you to soak up any given emotion during a specific scene. Everything feels consistent, while always quietly building in the background towards something greater or more important.
I love it and I’ve never heard something so chillingly beautiful before.
My favorite track (a slightly edited version from the one that actually plays in the film):
Steven Price‘s work on Gravity proves to be just as important as Alfonso Cuaron‘s breath-taking visuals. Without Price’s score, one might struggle to find that perfect zone that one needs to be in to properly view and experience Gravity, which is still one of this year’s strongest films by far.
Price efficiently mixes the tracks, creating such a strong contrast to the visuals on display. He manages to make the gripping space drama that much more intense, through the use of dynamic range and volumes.
Gravity may be getting all of the attention and praise for its visuals and groundbreaking effects work and camera techniques, but Price’s work on the film’s score is equally impressive, creating such a unique environment for the tracks to come alive and integrate with the film’s many stunning visual shots.
1. Man of Steel
Man of Steel might just be one of the most across-the-board films of the year, meaning that so many people have either came down really hard or really soft on Zack Snyder‘s dark and gritty Superman origins tale. I came down smack dab in the middle, highlighting Snyder’s talents as one of the strongest visual filmmakers of our time, while also poking at David S. Goyer‘s flimsy script and character writing.
One thing that most seem to agree on his Hans Zimmer‘s effective score, which brings that certain familiar tone from his work on Christopher Nolan‘s The Dark Knight trilogy, while also reinventing what a summer blockbuster sounds like. I love that he keeps such a consistent theme present throughout almost all of the tracks, while also really maximizing on Superman’s alien origins, with an assortment of sounds that he hasn’t quite tapped into before.
It’s hard to describe why I love the music from Man of Steel so much, but I think my appreciation mostly rests in Zimmer’s ability to find such a balance in his work, while also always creating new and original sounds. Some can easily tie his work together, while I on the other hand find most of his work as standalone products.
There’s definitely an underlying theme that ties his Man of Steel work with The Dark Knight, yet these tracks speak differently and with an entirely separate voice that really captures the character and his struggles in a way that’s intimate and self-reflective, yet large and destructive when the film calls for a change in mood.
Below I’ve posted my two favorite tracks from the film’s score. I just couldn’t pick one and I feel that both of these tracks represent just exactly what I mean about Zimmer’s ability to capture the film’s emotions on both big and small levels:
*Note that the second sample isn’t the exact track from the film’s soundtrack and instead a retooling. I have not been able to find the entire track unedited for some reason, since it was only featured on disc 2 of the Limited Edition version of the soundtrack*[divider top=”no”]
I’d like to close this post with a call out to the readers. Feel free to chime in on what you thought of these soundtracks and the particular sample tracks that I chose from each of the presented films. Do you agree or disagree with me on any of them? Which songs did you most enjoy from film’s that came out this past year?
Let me know down in the comments below.
Also, here’s a list of my five favorite tracks of the year. Up above I ranked the soundtracks based on how much I listened to and enjoyed each album as a whole. This list below is specifically my top five tracks from films released in 2013:
Runners up: Gravity (Gravity) and Waking Up (Oblivion)
5. Snow Angel (The Place Beyond the Pines)
4. I’m Big (Pain & Gain)
3. Home (The Lone Ranger)
2. Arcade (Man of Steel)
1. What Are You Going To Do When You Are Not Saving The World? (Man of Steel)