1. Cosmopolis – Howard Shore & Metric
Howard Shore’s 2012 output will probably be more remembered for his return to Middle Earth scoring Hobbit I, and so to Metric and their latest album, Synthetica, than for their collaboration on David Cronenberg’s latest oddity. Shore’s worked with Cronenberg many times before (his score for The Fly is a particular favourite), and so too with Metric on some other Robert Pattinson movie (Twilight: Eclipse), but here they capture Cosmopolis’ cool sheen as well as imbuing the film with all the emotion and warmth missing from the text. And the appearance of rapper K’Naan on ‘Mecca’, despite sounding initially silly and simplistic, especially in the context of the film, has been lodged in my brain ever since. Swirling, pulsing, electric, and totally awesome.
2. The Master – Jonny Greenwood
Having made his mark with his exceptional, dark and foreboding work on There Will Be Blood, Norwegian Wood and We Need to Talk about Kevin, Greenwood’s music for Paul Thomas Anderson’s latest may be his lightest, most hopeful-sounding score yet. That’s not saying a lot, as there are still unsettling elements, harsh, clipped woodblocks that keep you on edge, but there is something freeing and fluid about the way the strings heave and sigh too. Another great achievement.
3. Prometheus – Marc Streitenfeld
As flawed as Prometheus was, the one component that fully sold a sense of exploration and wonder was Marc Streitenfeld’s score. In this day and age of incessant Hans Zimmer mimicry, where big ominous blasts and the sound of an orchestra crumbling mid-recording are the blockbuster default settling, it’s nice to hear a score with a distinct theme, that feels as grand as the themes the film itself tries to tackle. Wide-eyed and awe-inspiring, Streitenfeld’s music here is reminiscent of TV Star Trek themes at their very best, and I mean that in the nicest possible way.
4. Dredd – Paul Leonard-Morgan
A meaty gritty adaptation of everyone’s favourite law-dispenser deserves such a score as this. Crunchy beats for the action, glorious dreamy flourishes for the “slo-mo” sequences, with hollow dusty electro-industrial soundscapes adding an ambient backdrop. Combined with Anthony Dod Mantle’s impeccable cinematography, it’s a great marriage of sound and vision. Bonus points for having Matt Berry’s theme from Snuff Box make an appearance too.
5. Shame – Various Artists
Though having the one-two punch of Blondie’s ‘Rapture’ and Tom Tom Club’s ‘Genius of Love’ is obvious soundtrack gold for me, and sure Carey Mulligan’s rendition of ‘New York, New York’ is a showstopper (in the film that is, not so much listened to separately and cold), it’s Harry Escott’s compositions amongst the assorted jazz and classical that really stand out. Like a big, brooding wave ready to crash, it’s the soul of a film focused on someone desperately looking for one (a soul, that is, not a film, ya dummy).
6. Skyfall – Thomas Newman
Director Sam Mendes brought in regular collaborator Thomas Newman (just as well as regular Bond composer David Arnold was on Olympic duties), and while the Bond tunes is present and correct, and the action scenes are filled with fairly indistinct bluster and bombast, he adds a lot of personality elsewhere. There’s a melancholic tinge that permeates throughout the quieter moments, and it feels far more of a complete cinematic score of its own than the typical collection of themes and stings that Bond films can sometimes end up being.
7. ParaNorman – Jon Brion
ParaNorman’s quirky charm lends itself well to Jon Brion’s sensibilities, but alongside the breezy guitar strumming, there’s also 80s-horror-inspired synth for when the dead rise from the grave. It works a treat, and there are nice unconventional appearances from The White Stripes and Dizzee Rascal too.
8. Le Voyage Dans La Lune – Air
Air follow in the footsteps of Pet Shop Boys with Battleship Potemkin and Giorgio Moroder with Metropolis – though a bit more of the former than the latter – with their soundtrack to George Méliès’ iconic 1902 film in the restored colourised version that premiered at the 2011 Cannes Film Festival. Spacey, trippy goodness.
9. Moonrise Kingdom – Various Artists
It’s a Wes Anderson film, so you might expect, as much care and attention has been put towards the music as the visuals. Benjamin Britten’s Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra in both diagetic and non-diagetic contexts, and neatly mirrored in Alexandre Desplat’s own compositions, sits side-by-side with Hank Williams and Françoise Hardy, but it all fits together very nicely indeed.
10. Wrong – Tahiti Boy & Mr. Oizo
I’ve not seen Quentin Dupieux’s follow-up to Rubber – it’s played various festivals since premiering at Sundance, but not yet in the UK as far as I am aware – but being that Dupieux is also Mr. Oizo (of Flat Eric fame), his team-up with Tahiti Boy on the soundtrack to his latest film is a delightful mix of cool squelchy beats and sunshiney muzak.
Tracks from all 10 of my favourite soundtracks of the year can be found on the Viewing Gum Soundtracks of 2012 Spotify Playlist, alongside a few other choice selections.