Top 10 Best Movie Soundtracks Of Last Year9.02.11 # Top Ten # 6 Comments
Behold the best movie soundtracks of last year. After what seemed like a sluggish start, 2010 actually turned out to be a pretty decent one for motion picture soundtracks. Not a great one admittedly, with there scarcely being a glut of classic albums as we survey the output of the year just gone from the hindsight-tabulous vantage point of January 2011. But a handful sneaked through to thrill us lucky listeners.
If we’re looking for trends with which to characterise 2010, then two things stand out. Firstly, the sheer importance of music to the entire endeavour of movie-making was underlined for the nth but not final time, with many of the best soundtracks of the year belonging to what were also some of the best films of the year (The Social Network, Black Swan, Monsters). And secondly, that while some of the old guard are delivering increasingly formulaic work (Danny Elfman, I am looking at you. Hans Zimmer, you have a golden halo of exemption), there are wise heads on young(ish) shoulders with the raw ability to fill any compositional breach (Trent Reznor, Jon Hopkins, those shiny-faced Daft Punk fellas).
Anyway, on to the bit where I desperately try to talk up my Best of 2010 selections (and I have not one but two lists to stick up for: a favourite ten soundtrack albums of the year and a favourite ten individual songs of the year). So let’s get started…
10. Monsters (Jon Hopkins)
…and who better to commence with than the just-mentioned Hopkins, responsible for the music on one of the sleeper triumphs of the last twelve months, Gareth Edwards’ Monsters? That was a movie I only really came to appreciate on second viewing and a big part of that appreciation stemmed from the understated score by Brian Eno’s sometime sidekick. A brief, mainly electronic affair, it was mellow, occasionally euphoric, and perfectly underlined the sense that Edwards’ excellent film is an indie love story masquerading as a tentacled space monster movie.
9. Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps (Various Artists)
Eno himself, as many of you will doubtless be aware, crops up all over the place, and he duly showed up on one good and one really good soundtrack last year. The good was Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps, with Oliver Stone’s movie primarily playing to the sound of Eno’s recent re-team with old mucker David Byrne, Everything That Happens Will Happen Today. Solid fare saved from ever slipping into MOR damnation by the lasting excellence of Byrne’s voice, it was however a real golden oldie that dazzled on the Wall Street sequel soundtrack, in the shape of Talking Heads’ beguilingly sublime This Must be the Place.
8. Heartbeats (Various Artists)
To get a little more obscure for a minute: this second movie from 21-year-old director Xavier Dolan is also known as Les Amours Imaginaires, and it was not only one of the best-looking things on the 2010 film festival circuit, it was also one of the most pleasing to the ear. The archly cool soundtrack (er, except for Sting) featured such contemporary darlings as the Knife and Fever Ray, although it was Bang Bang, a swirling, swooning ’60s number from chanteuse Dalida, that stole the show.
7. Somewhere (Various Artists)
The latest movie from Sofia Coppola might have drifted towards inconsequentiality (and if it was worth a Golden Lion then so is the ‘Double Rainbow’ video), but there is really is little arguing with the impeccable taste with which Sofia Coppola compiles her soundtracks. Sure, it might all be a bit too trust fund hipster for some, but if you can feel anything other than glowing admiration for something simultaneously so languid and lovely as the demo version of the Strokes’ You Only Live Once – here titled I’ll Try Anything Once – then you are truly a human icicle with a chilly void where your heart should be.
6. Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (Various Artists)
Having mentioned hipsters it would be remiss not to wink and smile at Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, given that a backlash against the replicant trendoids was one, rather fanciful, reason suggested for the commercial failure of Edgar Wright’s film. Still, flop parent movie or not, the Nigel Godrich-curated soundtrack was a sterling offering, boasting surprisingly decent new cuts – Beck providing Sex Bob-omb with their sound, Broken Social Scene essaying Crash and the Boys, and Metric subbing for the Clash at Demonhead – and some choice older numbers, of which Frank Black’s I Heard Ramona Sing was probably just about the best.
5. Black Swan (Clint Mansell)
One of the most intense viewing experiences of 2010 came from director Darren Aronofsky, in the shape of his brilliantly camp psychodrama Black Swan, and a good portion of the tautological hold of that creepy, funny ballet bonanza stemmed from the work of composer Clint Mansell. Rather meanly, the former Pop Will Eat Itself frontman was cut out of the Oscar race because his score, inevitably, leaned heavily on Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake.
But not to dwell on such pettiness, and since we’ve invoked the subject of films with dancing in them, now seems an ideal moment to record that the best individual track from a burlesque movie this year came not from that flick starring varnished waxwork Cher, but rather On Tour, directed by one-time Bond baddie Mathieu Amalric. Both opening and closing that latter film was the vintage garage roar of the Sonics’ Have Love, Will Travel, which sounded every bit as vital and as blistering as ever.
4. Shutter Island (Various Artists)
Back to our man, Brian Eno (remember him?), as we alight upon the really good soundtrack this year to feature a contribution from the keyboard-twiddling chrome dome. Eno’s Lizard Point was amongst the tracks compiled into an eclectic yet entirely coherent whole by The Band mastermind, Robbie Robertson, in the service of the latest film from his old buddy Martin Scorsese. Genuinely chilling in places, Robertson’s long player was, in truth, probably superior to the handsome but rather bludgeoning film that sired it.
3. The Social Network (Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross)
Every bit as tense and edgy as Shutter Island was the freshly Oscar-nominated score to The Social Network, and epitomising the razor blade jitter of that record was A Familiar Taste. If Fincher and Sorkin’s Facebook film was far funnier than many anticipated, then a seething undertow of third millennium angst was provided via the dark night of the soul sounds cooked up by the duo of Reznor and Ross.
2. Inception (Hans Zimmer)
The Social Network featured some choice licks from another cohort of Eno and David Byrne, ex-Talking Heads fret-wizard Adrian Belew, and another six-string idol from the rock aristocracy, Johnny Marr, was called in by Hans Zimmer to help out on the score to Inception. That collection spawned Waiting for a Train, which was the singularly most gigantic movie track of the whole year, it covering a truly epic emotional spectrum in the space of its near ten-minute running time.
1. Tron: Legacy (Daft Punk)
Which brings us to the numero uno entry in this run-down of 2010, that being Daft Punk’s thrilling contribution to Tron: Legacy. With the bombastic thrust of the French duo’s score best encapsulated by The Game Has Changed, it was perhaps the true blockbuster soundtrack release of the year, even if its parent movie did not, once again, quite measure up to the music. Plenty of debate (including on this site) about how much of a debt was owed to Zimmer’s work on Inception, yet there was little arguing with the overall excellence of both records.
Top 10 Individual Tracks Of 2010
(In playlist order, not order of quality.)
1. A Familiar Taste – Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross (The Social Network)
2. The Game Has Changed – Daft Punk (Tron: Legacy)
3. Have Love, Will Travel – The Sonics (On Tour)
4. I Heard Ramona Sing – Frank Black (Scott Pilgrim vs. the World)
5. Black Country Rock – David Bowie (The Kids Are All Right)
6. Symphony No. 3: Passacaglia (Allegro Moderato) – National Polish Radio Symphony, conducted by Antonio Wit (Shutter Island)
7. I’ll Try Anything Once – The Strokes (Somewhere)
8. Waiting for a Train – Hans Zimmer (Inception)
9. Bang Bang – Dalida (Heartbeats)
10. This Must be the Place (Naïve Melody) – Talking Heads (Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps)
What do you think were the best movie soundtracks last year?