• Best of 2011: New Score Releases & Twas the Night Before Oscar...Announcements

    2011 will likely be one of the final couple of years for CDs.  With more brick-and-mortar stores closing and the increased interest in downloads, the audiophile will continue to be at a loss.  The major labels announced that they will cease producing CDs within the next 5 years while many specialty labels seem to be flooding the market with one amazing release after another.  To that end, the blog here will begin incorporating reviews of material received as download only which will likely increase the posts here more in the coming year. 


    As film music goes, 2011 was a rather odd year.  Most of the really good scores appeared in a flurry towards the end of the season.  Among my picks for “Best New Soundtrack Releases,” are some pretty standard names (Desplat, Giacchino, Shore, Williams) and probably a couple of surprises. 


    If I were to pick just five “must” scores for 2011, it would still be difficult, but one would have to start with Ludovic Bource’s gorgeous work for The Artist.  This throwback to the Silent and Golden Age of film dramatically (the film is shot in black and white and is “silent” except for the musical score) is really an amazing accomplishment.  John Williams’ had two scores back-to-back as the year ended, but the one that will stand in memory will be his moving accompaniment for War Horse.  Though most of Desplat’s score was missing from the resulting film, the release of his music for Malick’s The Tree of Life is still stunning as an orchestral work and worthy of your attention.  Alberto Iglesias had two scores appear as the year ended and it is really a close call as to which one is preferable.  The Herrmann-like sound he has perfected for Pedro Almodovar’s films is on fine display in The Skin I Live In while a noir-ish style finds its way into the superb Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy.  Howard Shore’s score for Hugo is fascinating because we get to hear some new directions in the composer’s music alongside some of his hallmark sound.


    There are several “guilty pleasure” scores from the year as well.  First up is Patrick Doyle’s amazing work on Rise of the Planet of the Apes.  Seriously one of the finest scores the composer has provided in some time in a genre that he has somewhat avoided.  Thor perhaps got more attention, and is a strong score, but it is the former that features a great deal of integrated writing and technique.  Desplat’s score for the final Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows was well done with some revisiting of classic themes, but with strong scoring and original thematic writing bringing that franchise to a close.  Henry Jackman continues to build an impressive catalogue of scores and the surprise hit of the summer, X-Men First Class featured one of that franchises strongest musical supports as well.  It is a great action score that works well in the film.  Michael Giacchino continues to prove he is the newer generations top choice and has a grip on classic film scoring technique and enough originality to keep things fresh.  His score for Super 8 was fine, but the guilty pleasure for me was the scoring for Mission:Impossible—Ghost Protocol.  Reminiscent of his Star Trek scoring approach, MI4 featured strong thematic writing and the sort of integration of Schifrin’s classic theme to help provide the necessary glue for a rather strong action film.  It is simply a lot of fun to listen to on its own.


    I would be remiss to not mention a few scores also that perked up my ears in 2011 that otherwise get lost in the over-attention to more familiar names and scores.  These are often for films that just did not work, or which got lost in the shuffle of many scores and films in 2011.  Of many, the one I return to quite a bit is Conrad Pope’s gorgeous score for My Week With Marilyn.  Desplat provided a theme, but Pope manages to show off his own ability quite well.  Mark Isham’s fascinating score for The Mechanic is also worth a look for his fans.  I have been enjoying Murray Gold’s Doctor Who scores quite a bit and have wished for some even broader canvasses for the composer to see what he would do.  While not the best film in the world, his music for Hoodwinked Too!—Hood vs. Evil is a great little action adventure score that will have to satisfy for now.  Also quite interesting was Lorne Balfe’s score for the period war film Ironclad which addresses the revolt against King John at the time of the Magna Carta.  The film features an oddly cast, but still interesting Paul Giamatti as the King.  Balfe’s score works quite well on its own and in the film.  And the new discovery for 2011 may be Daniel Alcheh with his score for the odd little film The Man Who Collected Food. 


    This week I will be posting selections for 2011.  You can see the same article in its entirety at

    www.americanmusicpreservation.com/best2011.htm along with critic Roger Hall's equally superb suggestions.

      Best New Soundtrack Releases of 2011 

    Listed in alphabetical order:

    The Artist – Ludovic Bource

    The Cape – Bear McCreary

    HArry Potter and the Deathly hallows Part 2 – Alexandre Desplat

    Hugo – Howard Shore

    MISSION:IMPOSSIBLE—GHost protocol – Michael Giacchino

    Rise of the Planet of the Apes – Patrick Doyle

    The Skin I Live In – Alberto Iglesias

    Tinker TAilor Soldier Spy – Alberto Iglesias

    The Tree of life – Alexandre Desplat

    War Horse – John Williams

    X-Men First Class – Henry Jackman

      Best New Soundtrack Releases of 2011, Honorable Mention 

    Hoodwinked too!—Hood vs. evil – Murray Gold

    Ironclad – Lorne Balfe

    The Man Who Collected Food – Daniel Alcheh

    THE MECHANIC – Mark Isham

    My Week with Marilyn – Conrad Pope (themes by Alexander Desplat)

    Normally this lengthy blog entry happens the week Oscar nominations are announced.  I am a bit early, but apart from a score by Abel Korzeniowski (W.E.) I think I've had a chance to explore some of the choice cuts of the year.  The International press choices for best score may more closely reflect the Academy's this year.  The scores nominated for the Golden Globe are:

    The Artist -- Ludovic Bource

    The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo -- Trent Reznor, Atticus Ross

    Hugo -- Howard Shore

    W.E. -- Abel Korzeniowski

    War Horse -- John Williams


    I think three of these scores have a good chance for an Oscar nod as well.  John Williams' final scores of the year were as about as different as one could expect, but War Horse is the better of the two.  Shore's Hugo is equally fine.  It is Bource's The Artist though that stands out in a crowd in a throwback to classic film scoring.  Nine Inch Nails artists Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross I think got a nod this year having been overlooked for last year's The Social Network.  Frankly, that score, though it won an Oscar, is about as annoying as they come.  The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is simply more of the same.  The music received a 3-disc release which is unconscionable for film score fans who wait for some of the big popular scores to get even a regular issue.  And the music here is essentially more musique concrete explorations that are variations on some very banal ideas.

    I will be reviewing each of the Oscar-nominated scores once they are announced, but it is always fun to do a little predicting just to see how close one can come.  The choices are as wildly unpredictable, but these are my five "picks" for the list this year.  We'll know soon enough and I look forward to some surprises!

    The Artist -- Ludovic Bource

    Hugo -- Howard Shore

    The Iron Lady -- Thomas Newman

    Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy -- Alberto Iglesias

    War Horse -- John Williams


  • Giacchino Wins Oscar

    The 2009 Oscar Ceremony is still being reviewed everywhere, but I wanted to take a moment to congratulate Michael Giacchino on his first Oscar for Up.  I am still not sure why stars who can barely pronounce the titles of the films are sent out to mispronounce the names of the composers.  At least they did it with conviction--something they tell young radio announcers honing their skills at college classical music stations.

    I'm not sure why contemporary dance is necessary to accompany music for film when they scores are chosen because of how they work in a film.  Surely it is now possible to perform a score segment live to picture during this telecast and let the music speak for itself which each of the nominated scores could easily have done.

    I have been watching Giacchino's rise to Hollywood luck, because really that is what it takes sometimes, that must just be one wonderful ride for him.  In 2004, long before anyone even knew who Michael Giacchino was, I had a chance to write a review of his video game score for Secret Weapons Over Normandy for Film Score Monthly (I think it was January of that year).  Back then my first reaction was, "video game music, good grief what next."  But then I popped in the music from this La La Land release and was totally enthralled.  Giacchino had been writing for video games for a while so this was not necessarily his first or even best score necessaruly.  It was filled with plenty of martial Americana and my review commented on some of the similarities with his approach being similar to that of John Williams' military music.

    At the time, Giacchino had taken over Pixar's The Incredibles.  Film music fans were quite frustrated that John Barry had been taken off the project.  From my 2004 review, [Giacchino's] break may be around the corner with next fall’s Pixar release of “The Incredibles.”...There is no doubt that here is a composer that can continue the tradition of Hollywood scoring that many have come to love through other Lucas and Spielberg films.  How prophetic that statement seems now 6 years later with one score after another continuing to impress fans even when the films themselves seem lackluster. 

    The hope now is that he can break out of animated films more and work in some more serious fare that can further expand his musical horizons.  Hmmm..didn't we think the same over thirty years ago for another composer whose style is part of Giacchino's musical material?  Here's to more wonderful music making and a new year of potential great music from all the composers out there!