2011: Soundtracks of the Year

SPOTIFY PLAYLIST ALERT! Before we head into the actual films of the year list itself, let’s take a moment to pause and reflect on some of the best scores and soundtracks of the year. While an unmemorable score won’t necessarily detract from my feelings toward a film, an excellent one will certainly reflect better in my mind, listening to the soundtrack post-watch perhaps elevating it in my estimation. But why shouldn’t it? And what better way to look back at the year gone by then by listening to my Spotify playlist while you skim through my top 10 for an extra immersive experience?

1. Drive – Cliff Martinez and Various Artists

A perfect combination of score and song, ice-cool brooding minimalist metallic electronica synched with bubbling retrotastic contemporary synth and breathy vocals to create the must-have soundtrack of the year. And not just the ideal soundtrack for the film, but for any night-time car journey. Once Kavinsky’s ‘Nightcall’ kicks in, you’re hooked, while College’s ‘Real Hero’ might just be the theme tune of 2011. Also works when playing Portal, I find.

2. Confessions – Various Artists

Another example of incredible visuals requiring just the right musical accompaniment, as Tetsuya Nakashima draws largely from epic Japanese rock band Boris, plus tracks from Radiohead, The xx and (yes) KC and the Sunshine Band. A sumptuous listening experience.



3. Hanna – The Chemical Brothers

British electronic and dance acts played catch-up with their French counterparts this year, and in response perhaps to Air and Daft Punk, Messrs Rowlands and Simons work on Joe Wright’s teenage killing machine on the run/comedy fish-out-of-water/fairytale parable action flick was superb. And surprisingly, it’s the quieter calmer tunes that stand out the most.


4. Super 8 – Michael Giacchino

If there’s one thing about Super 8 which evokes the Spielbergian family adventure film more than anything, it’s Giacchino’s score. Managing to out-John Williams even John Williams, it has some of the most heart-warming/-pounding/-string-tugging (delete where applicable) themes in recent memory.


5. Norwegian Wood – Jonny Greenwood

Based on a book taking its title from a Beatles track, and featuring cameos from YMO’s Haroumi Hosono and Yukihiro Takahashi, with Can also on the soundtrack, Norwegian Wood is steeped in musical lore, so it’s just as well There Will Be Blood composer and Radiohead member Greenwood is on hand to deliver another masterwork. Strings haven’t sounded this piercing since Bernard Hermann thought some shower sequence in some film could do with a musical sting.

6. Attack the Block – Steven Price, Felix Buxton & Simon Ratcliffe

Another fine example of a Brit beats duo turned film scoring duo, as Basement Jaxx team up with Steven Price for a pulsing soundtrack, as if John Carpenter had gone grime.



7. Submarine – Alex Turner

Arctic Monkey Alex Turner’s selection of short songs for Richard Ayoade’s directorial debut succeed on two fronts, both avoiding the risk of the familiar and cultural baggage that previously existing songs invariably are saddled with, and just being really lovely originally songs indeed.


8. Underwater Love – Stereo Total

2011 was not exactly a big year for musicals, but in any year, a Japanese pink sex film musical shot by Christopher Doyle about a kappa would always stand out. French-German duo Stereo Total provide the film’s barmy songs (in Japanese, no less), and they’re all wonderful fun.


9.  Take Shelter – David Wingo

Sometimes the most simple ideas are the most effective, and Wingo’s plinky-plonky contribution (for want of a better phrase) sounds like an ominous wind-chime, matching the film to create a genuinely unsettling experience.



10. The Artist – Ludovic Bource

It’s rare that a silent film is ever a silent experience, the musical accompaniment providing an even more essential role than it would in a ‘talkie’. So it’s just as well Ludovic Bource was around to provide such an accomplished score, nostalgic without ever sounding stuck in the past.