As we close out 2019, it’s time to put together a few Top 10 lists based on my key entertainment passions – film, TV and film scores.
I’ve gone back and forth on decade lists but I suspect I’m just going to keep to 2019 releases on the blog, and maybe do something more with the decade on my Twitter or FB, so stay tuned in that regard.
I’m going to start with Film/TV Scores. This hasn’t been as great a passion for me in the second half of 2019, after especially the end of Season 1 of Between the Notes, but I’ve still been listening along to cinematic and prestige TV music, so here are my choices for the most impressive listens of 2019, with a sample to listen to along the way…
10. THE SISTERS BROTHERS (Alexandre Desplat)
A late delivery on UK shores by a good six months, The Sisters Brothers didn’t make a huge mark as a film but it has some sumptuous Alexandre Desplat music such as ‘To San Francisco’. I’ve yet to hear his Little Women score, which I hear is brilliant, but this is one not to miss either.
9 – DOCTOR SLEEP (The Newton Brothers)
Though flawed, Doctor Sleep didn’t deserve to underperform as it’s got some great visual moments and call backs to The Shining, especially when it comes to the music, which to my mind was the best thing about the film.
Check out ‘The Overlook’ as an example of weaving Stanley Kubrick’s haunting soundscape with the sense of seeing an iconic film location again – it worked brilliantly in the film.
8 – GODZILLA: KING OF THE MONSTERS (Bear McCreary)
Though one of the most overblown and underwhelming blockbusters of the summer season, Godzilla: King of the Monsters has an absolute belter of a score. Bear McCreary has made a name for himself as one of the premier composers in recent years and this thunderous audible paean to Toho Studios adds to that stature.
Here’s standout track ‘King of the Monsters’ as an example. Check out Sean Wilson’s interview with McCreary on our Between the Notes special on the film from last summer.
7 – COLETTE (Thomas Ades)
I didn’t see Colette until quite recently and while visually arresting, I found it quite a dull, flimsy affair. The score, however, by Thomas Ades is a glorious whirlwind, a sound-based confection that sweeps you up into the romance of late 19th century Paris.
Here’s one of many gorgeous tracks, ‘Valse du Salon’, as an example.
6 – WATCHMEN (Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross)
I had to get this one in there by sheer virtue of the show not just being the masterwork of 2019, but the fact Reznor & Ross’ extended score – released in three volumes in step with the TV show airing every three episodes – is utterly sublime. It’s very much their dark, sonorous, synthetic wheelhouse, but it fits the world of Watchmen so perfectly.
My standout track is ‘Nun with a Mother*ucking Gun’ but here’s a link to a Spotify playlist I have with all of the albums, plus a few extras from the show ranging from Desmond Dekker to Mozart…
5 – THE FRONT RUNNER (Rob Simonsen)
For a film that barely registered on the radar–Hugh Jackman as an 80’s presidential candidate mired in scandal–Rob Simonsen’s score hugely stood out at the start of the year. It was tense, electric and vibrant stuff, cleverly packaging the fast paced muck and mire of political skullduggery and reporting.
A great piece is ‘Can’t Make Kentucky’ but the whole album is great and Sean Wilson and I discuss it more on this episode of Between the Notes.
4 – AVENGERS: ENDGAME (Alan Silvestri)
We couldn’t leave this one out. After Infinity War largely underwhelmed (though it has grown on me a great deal over time), Alan Silvestri returned with a rousing belter of a blockbuster score for this capper on the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s first ten years, appropriately given Avengers: Endgame is the more rousing film of the two.
It’s chock with great tracks Sean Wilson and I discuss on Between the Notes but the sad and beautiful ‘The Real Hero’ is hard to beat.
3 – ONCE UPON A TIME IN HOLLYWOOD (Various)
Okay so this is probably cheating because it’s not merely a score (though it does of course have some Ennio Morricone involved), but I’m not sure I played a soundtrack more in 2019 than I did Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, which is full to burst with fun, frothy 60’s tunes which will get you up and dancing.
My favourite? I think ‘Son of a Lovin’ Man’ by Buchanan Brothers but sod it, here’s a link to the entire album because it’s all just gold.
2 – AD ASTRA (Max Richter)
One of the year’s most underrated pictures, Ad Astra also boasts a really beautiful, haunting and elegiac score by Max Richter, one of the best composers working today.
‘To the Stars’ is a wonderful piece of work which sends you utterly into outer space.
1 – STAR WARS: THE RISE OF SKYWALKER (John Williams)
Of course this is top of the tree, did you expect anything else?
The greatest living composer, John Williams, gives us a stunning final Star Wars score, the best to my mind of the entire sequel trilogy, chock with themes which draw together 40+ years of musical storytelling. The Rise of Skywalker may not be much cop as a film but the score is majestic.
‘The Rise of Skywalker’ is now one of the entire franchises’ most beautiful pieces. What a way to end the decade!
Let me know your Top 10 scores in comments…