Pompeii. The ill-fated city of the Romans.
Mount Vesuvius. A live volcano that threatens to erupt any minute.
Lot's of people are aware of this ancient historical event. Pliny the Younger in a letter to Tactucus writes this about the eruption:
"Ashes were already falling, not as yet very thickly. I looked round: a dense black cloud was coming up behind us, spreading over the earth like a flood.'Let us leave the road while we can still see,'I said,'or we shall be knocked down and trampled underfoot in the dark by the crowd behind."
Pompeii, focus's on; Chaos, destruction, action, sword fights, and groundbreaking effects. Yet, amongst all that, the story of, love? Yes of course, a romance. The film has been getting a lot of criticism for be un-original and very cliche story-wise. Apparently, so is the score.
The album, composed by Clinton Shorter, has been described fittingly as 'trailer music'. And trailer music it is. The score is big, brassy, and epic. The main theme appears in all of it's glory, in the opening cue, Pompeii. The theme is a powerful, choral chant.
Most of the music is pure, epic-action music, heavy on the vocals and percussion.
The music takes a drastic change near the end of the album in the cue, I Won't Leave You. The cue starts off with synthetic vocals reminiscent of James Horner's Titanic. It transitions as slow strings play a mellow tune and female vocals take over. The cue is gorgeous and ethereal.
So, does trailer music belong in a movie score? Most critics agree that, 'no, trailer music doesn't belong in a film score'. I tend to agree however, it depends on the film. I believe that an epic film deserves an epic score. Is Pompeii an 'epic film'? Yes, it is and thus needs an appropriate score to follow suit.
- Away From You
- My Gods
- I Won't Leave You
- Praying For Help
The action material is classic orchestral music with suspenseful strings, muted trumpet, and surreal woodwinds supported by a militaristic snare heard in the cues, Champagne, and Ghent Alterpiece.
Other militaristic cues appear throughout the score like, for example the mysterious and suspenseful cue, Deauville.
A mournful solo piano makes up a good amount of the dramatic material supported with a solo Cello. However, melancholic strings also appear (The Letter). Despite that, the score remains hopelessly optimistic.
Overall, this score is a pleasant surprise reminding us of the golden age of film music when monumental scores were made and still loved to this day. Like those, I'm sure this one will remain a constant favorite through the years. It is nostalgia at it's best!
- Opening Titles
- Basic Training
- End Credits
Labels: The Monuments Men
Before we get into the main award I will try to briefly announce the honorable mentions. While each score ended with the same rating save one, the are listed in no particular order. To be quite frank I couldn't decide which one was better than the other. They all have their strengths and weaknesses, enjoyable cues, and un-enjoyable cues.
Saving Mr Banks by Thomas Newman Rating ****
Copperhead by Laurent Eyquem Rating ***1/2
(You can read my review here.)
Man of Steel by Hans Zimmer Rating ***1/2
Exit Marrakech by Niki Reiser Rating ***1/2
The Ultimate Life by Mark McKenzie Rating ***1/2
And now, here are the ten best scores of the year:
(Individually numbered with one being the greatest.)
Best Scores of 2013
10. The Bible by Hans Zimmer
(You can read my original review here.)
This score didn't get enough credit. Many Balfe, Zimmer, and Lisa Gerrard fans were disappointed in this album because of the lack of originality on their part. True, however the score was easy for me to enjoy. It's epic, eerie, and gorgeous. I won't go any further because I realize that this album has already been discussed this one a prior post.
9. Pacific Rim by Ramin Djawadi
Male choral ostinatos, brass stings, and synthesized loops make up the marrow of this amazing action score. This score has a powerful anthem as the main theme, and although the score utilizes Djawadi's stereotypical guitar riffs, the music soars. The acoustic riffs are also kind of old but despite that, the album stands out as one of the best action scores and 9th best score of the year.
8. The Mortal Instruments: City of Dead Bones by Atli Orvarsson Rating ****
.....And another media ventures composer makes the list! Most of Orvasson's scores have been disappointing recently save, for this soundtrack. The music has the make of a perfect epic score. There are vocals (full choir and solo), emotional violin solos, pounding percussion, and fast heart-pounding orchestral numbers. This was the pleasant surprise of the year!
7. The Lone Ranger by Hans Zimmer
This score came across as a nice surprise to me. The music has wonderful violin solos, classical western themes (with a bit of spaghetti western in the mix), and heart-pounding action material. Zimmer breaks from his overbearing, percussion based scoring and focus's on the beauty contrasting it to the gritty aspect of the film.
6. Iron Man 3 by Bryan Tyler
Tyler had a prolific year. Composing the scores for Thor 2: The Dark World, Assassin's Creed V, Now You See Me, and this amazing album, Iron Man 3. The theme is what makes this score. It's blatantly heroic, fast-paced, and very catchy. If I had an award for "best theme" and "best action score of the year" this soundtrack would win them both.
5. Beyond Two Souls by Lorne Balfe
So, Balfe makes it into the list once again! This video game score as I have stated in a post prior, is absolutely amazing! Instead of focusing on the action material in the game, Balfe creates several beautiful themes and focus's his thematic material mainly on the drama and the main character, Jodie Holmes', emotions.
4. Romeo and Juliet by Abel Korzeniowski
(You can read my original review here.)
This score was love at first listen. Heartrending themes are intertwined by melodramatic action material as Polish composer, Korzenioski weaves together a high quality score. This film was originally meant to be scored by veteran composer James Horner, who had plenty of experience writing romantic music. Horner had apparently written most of the music but, for whatever reason he was dropped and Korzenioski was called upon and given a short time to completely re-write this score. And what a masterpiece he wrote. Initially, I was very disappointed when Horner was dropped, but it didn't last for long (My apologies to Mr. Horner).
This is what a romance flavored score should sound like folks!
3. Frozen by Christophe Beck
(You can read my original review here.)
Yes, once again this score wins another award of the year. Clearly, this score is a spectacle that dazzles the ears! Like I mentioned earlier in a prior post, this music is chilling, gorgeous, and spectacular. Hats off to Mr. Becke.
2. Planes by Mark Mancina
(You can read my original review here.)
"Why?" You may ask. "Why in the world is this album #2?"
For me it is due to taste. I enjoyed this music to death. That was just me. I enjoyed Mancina's contributions to the 1990's and I still enjoy his 90's style today. The theme in this score is big, powerful, and the thematic material, (including a blatant ripoff of one of my favorite scores last year; The Life of Pi,) is plentiful. I didn't dislike the film as the critics did and I most certainly didn't dislike this score as much as critics did!
What can I say? Haters gonna hate......
1. Winnie Mandela by Laurent Eyquem
This score was probably the biggest surprise of the year.
Composed by French newcomer, Laurent Eyquem, the album is mixed with source cues and cues from the score. Appropriately enough, the music has African-American vocals throughout the score material creating a semi-African feel to the album. He also utilizes a solo piano for several cues making the score range from almost epic at times, to minimalistic drama. I enjoyed every minute of this soundtrack, and though it's unfortunately only available for digital download only, it's totally worth it!
It's been a great year for film scores. Be sure to stay tuned as I continue to follow up and coming scores for the year 2014. I'm only two months in and it's beginning to show a lot of promise!
In this post I will announce several miscellaneous awards for the year including best video game score, best TV score, best song, and best animated film score. (In numerical order with number one being the greatest.)
Best Television Score of 2013
There were several amazing TV scores to choose from this year including Africa by Sarah Class and two by the amazing Frederik Wiedmann. However it came down to these two amazing scores:
I came close to choosing another score by Gold, the Christmas Specials from Series 7, but this score from all of Series 7 takes the cake. The music is classic Dr Who with his bond-esq/jazzy theme and iconic action music. It isn't quite as good as the first four scores (Dr Who Series 1-4), but remains up to par with Gold's standards. Honestly, you can't find any other television music this good unless it's.....
(You can read my original review here.)
I can just hear some people steaming over my choice! I understand this score is not Zimmer and Balfes most original score. I understand, that Lisa Gerrard's vocals are nothing different, but I enjoyed this score immensely. I couldn't help it. The music is epic, big, and bold. I was disappointed with the score in that the music wasn't quite as epic as it should be for a biblical epic, but it grew on me, and now I love this score to death. I'm sorry haters, you're simply missing out.
Best Video Game Scores of 2013
There weren't many outstanding video game scores to choose from this year, but the two chosen for this award, are solid.
This score is original. The musical feels like a wintry blast of fresh air. The score is a good balance of action, drama, and song material. Becke avoids mickey mousing for the most part and focuses on the emotional aspect of the film using vocals singing acapella in old Norse. The songs are fun, inspirational, comedic, and also quite original. Here's to hoping that Becke will get to score another big film like this in 2014!
(You can read my original review here.)
Mancina makes a triumphant return with his stellar 90's styled action music, powerful themes, brilliant drama, and his heart-pounding paced racing music. He even utilizes acapella vocals for a side character's theme and it's powerful to the core. The uniqueness of this album lies within Mancina's ability to transition from one genre of music to another so quickly, but smoothly. The score includes a wide variety of music ranging from western to Indian to Americana to Mexican flavored cues. This is probably the best animated score with the largest amount of thematic material that I have heard from in a while!
Top 6 Songs of 2013
6. Monster’s University- Monster’s University performed by Various Cast Members
The score for this Pixar animated film was composed by veteran Randy Newman. Instead of a jazz flavored song that he used in the first Monsters Inc film, he uses a traditional acapella method used by most modern college campuses for their anthem. The lyrics are creative and clever, while the performance remains a bit droll, but fun to listen to regardless.
5. Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters- To Feel Alive performed by Lameve
4. Jobs-Scarborough Fair performed by Dylan McDonald & Cassidy Cooper
This song isn't the most original nor was John Debney's score for this film, but it's the harmonies that make this song, amazing. Granted, I have a soft spot for any version of this particular song, but this performance is really stellar by Dylan McDonald and Cassidy Cooper. The song is a tad bit repetitive and the acoustics simple, but it's the simple instrumentation that makes the vocals soar wonderfully.
3. Oblivion-Oblivion performed by M83 and Susanne Sundfør
This is a classic retro 80's styled song, but so beautifully orchestrated that it stands out, especially the powerful chorus. I don't normally enjoy this type of song, but honestly, it grew on me. M83, having scored the entire film finally get to do what they do best, create a song with words, and Susanne Sundfør's haunting vocals is topping on the cake.
2. Winnie Mandela-Bleed For Love performed by Jennifer Hudson
This gospel/R&B styled song is a powerful representation of true love. The lyrics are powerful and bring to mind the Bible verse, "greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay his life down for his friends." -John 15:13. The song is inspirational and the instrumentation, evocative. Jennifer Hudson, an American Idol finalist, tenderly performs this song.
1. Despicable Me 2-I Swear performed by the Minions
(Not a band called "The Minions, but characters from the film known as "the Minions")
Yeah, I'm not quite sure how this song got up there to the top of the list. I just kinda played the song so much that it had to be there. No excuses here, I actually enjoyed it that much. This song is absolutely beautiful and hilarious! What is not to like? The vocals are completely nonsensical but still harmonious and the song is based off of a popular love ballad from the ninety's. The song is cute, outstanding, and just beautiful! Now, where are the Golden Globe Award Nominee's for this performance?
To kick this off I've decided to continue the Best Cues Award of 2013. For this award I base my decision on how much I enjoyed the cue, the amount of thematic content in the cue, but most importantly how often I clicked play on the particular track. Brace yourselves, there was a lot in this category for the year!
(In numerical order with the number one being the greatest.)
Before we get into the top ten, here are a few honorable mentions:
4. Epic-Pursuit by Danny Elfman
For being a score called Epic, the music wasn't. However, that didn't stop me from enjoying Elfman's newest score. The music is acoustic, heroic, fast paced and exciting.
3. Gravity-Gravity by Steven Price
Up and coming new film composer Price, employs the use of gorgeous female vocals ranging from delicate to wailing. Most of the score unfortunately is heavily atmospheric, so it makes for a boring listen by itself, but given the title of the album, I'm sure it works perfectly with the film.
2. Jack The Giant Slayer-Chase To Cloister by John Ottman
The music by Ottoman is massive and horrifying at times. This particular cue utilizes both and includes a heroic theme. Typically, I don't enjoy music with large amount of cacophony, but Ottoman pulled this one off alright!
1. Ender’s Game-The Battle Room by Steve Jablonsky
A huge disapointment of the year was removing James Horner from this film project and sticking composer Steve Jablonsky to score this film. This cue, is the highlight of the album shining like a gem. This cue has beautiful violin arpeggios supported by the classic Jablonsky percussion and instrumentations.
And now, here are the Best Cues of 2013:
10. Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon-Blood Dragon Theme by Power Glove
The score for this video game is extremely retro 1980's, and I love it. OK, so it's a little more upbeat than I like, however the throwback-ness of this score is very cool to hear and quite brave on the composer team, Power Glove's part. It's definitely one of the most unique scores of the year.
9. Man of Steel-Goodbye My Son by Hans Zimmer
This score was probably the most anticipated score of the year and many people, upon listening to it, cried bloody murder or just fell in love with it. This cue is like a lullaby with soothing female vocals humming then the cue transitions to an beautiful powerhouse anthem. Classic Zimmer.
8. After Earth-After Earth by James Newton Howard
This is another powerhouse anthem for the books. This cue utilizes the main theme Howard created for the score and maximizes it to beyond its potential!
7. The Lone Ranger-Silver by Hans Zimmer
Like I stated in my review for this score, Zimmer uses an Irish folk song, "After the Battle of Aughrim" in the theme for Silver who is.....well....a horse. If there were any epic themes for a horse then this cue is it.
6. Beyond Two Souls-Jodie’s Suite by Lorne Balfe
Another video game cue makes it into the list! This cue composed by Balfe, is another emotional powerhouse. It has mournful female vocals and a wonderful choral and orchestral accompaniment.
5. Iron Man 3-Iron Man 3 by Bryan Tyler
There is no denying it, Tyler is good at powerful superhero themes. This one is hands-down, his best. It's exciting, tense, and most importantly; blatantly heroic!
4. Winnie Mandela-Sunrise by Laurent Eyquem
Eyquem is another up and coming composer that is showing real potential. This cue is full of mournful vocals, simplistic woodwind accompaniment, and powerful percussion. (My apologies to you non-Spotify users, I could only find this particular cue there.)
3. Dr Who: Series 7-The Long Song by Murray Gold
Though, the score itself wasn't as great as the other Dr Who soundtracks from earlier seasons, I always manage to find a song in each score that I absolutely adore. This cue is amazing! The song has epic vocals with the solo performed by a child. The end is complex and stunning making this my 3rd favorite cue of the year.
2. Planes-Planes by Mark Mancina
Yes, I admit it. Upon seeing the trailer with this cue used, I fell in love with the film and score. Mancina has added a certain amount of charm and complexity to the score different from any of his other scores.
It's charm soars above its other competitors making this my 2nd favorite cue of '13.
Balfe and Zimmer have yet, another emotional powerhouse and it's in the form of a television score. This cue is simply powerful and intense. There is no denying it. One of Balfe's and Zimmer's best cues to be sure and definitely the most played cue of the year! Folks, this is what awesomeness is made of.
From the makers of 2010's popular animated flick, Tangled; came another Disney movie, Frozen. For Tangled, the director had chosen the Disney composer standby, Alan Menken. Interestingly enough, a different composer was chosen to score this film.
Christophe Becke, had previously scored Disney's short film Paper Boy, which played adjacent to the feature film, Wreck-It-Ralph. The music for Frozen is very unique.
Being a classic Disney musical, Becke had to write music for a number of source cues that were interspersed throughout the movie. The husband-wife team, Robert and Kristen Anderson Lopez, hopped on board as the song writers for the source cues while Becke composed the orchestration for the cues.
The first source cue which starts the movie off, is Frozen Heart. The music boasts of a "classic work song" style as the scene in the movie is about ice cutters working at their job. It's an Irish flavored cue with all men's vocals and the lyrics serve as a great allegory hinting at what's to come. The music starts off with the sound of ice picks then the vocals and music take over.
Another staple theme is heard in the cue, For the First Time In Forever, which once again relies on Anna's voice heavily. The cue is lighthearted, fast-paced, and distinct and the melody is beautiful. Becke refers to it throughout the score using it as Anna's theme.
A reggae styled cue, Love Is An Open Door, is performed by Anna and Prince Hans (Santino Fantana). The cue is an upbeat, bongo/acoustic pop song. The vocal harmonies blend perfectly making the tune really catchy.
Another funky song is the Latin flavored cue, Fixer Upper performed by a number of cast members. It's a classic Broadway styled song with fast paced lyrics, snazzy brass stings, and off-kilter percussion.
Let It Go, is the highlight of the score, performed by Elsa (Idena Menzel). It's a classic piano-laden pop song with yet, another catchy tune.
The score composed by Becke is gorgeous to the core. The opening cue, Vuelie, is a song perfromed by Cantus, a nine member, male accapella band singing in old Norse. The harmonies blend melodically and the theme is heard again in the cues, Heimr Arnadalr and The Great Thaw.
The snowman, Olaf is given a classic bumbling theme with a trombone, pizzicato strings, harp, and clarinet. Becke does perform a bit of mickey-mousing here but the cue doesn't suffer too much because of it.
In the cue Wolves, the action material resurfaces but with more intensity. Becke reverts to some of his classic acoustics to keep the cue from being overly noisy and the result is a snare-ripping, fast paced but somewhat lighthearted cue.
A glorified version of Olaf's theme is heard in the cue, Marshmallow Attack, when some giant snowmen begin to assault the heroes. The brass remains intense, but still bumbly and overbearing.
In the final cue, Epilogue, the cue refers to several of the source cue themes including two triumphant versions of, For the First Time In Forever and Do You Want To Build A Snowman?
Overall this album is a wonderful action and drama filled score that is both intense, wintry, and beautiful. Christophe Becke really went all-out and it's a blast to listen to, there's barely a dull moment! It's definitely a step up from Alan Menken's, Tangled.
If you are the kind that enjoys more dignified, boring, scores and this album has no effect, then seriously, you need to Let it Go.
- Frozen Heart-Song
- Let It Go-Song
- Fixer Upper-Song
- Elsa and Anna-Score
- Reindeer's Are Better Than People-Song
- Heimr Arnadalr- Score
- The Great Thaw (Vuelie Reprise)-Score
The Polar Express
Beautiful choral melodies, powerful brass anthems, and many sleigh-bells bring together this classic Christmas score.
The film directed by Robert Zemeckis and starring Tom Hanks is the Christmas story that everybody has heard of; but told in a different style. The film boasted of breakthrough, lifelike animation and broke the Guinness World Record for the largest budget used on an animated film. Zemeckis turned to composer, Alan Silvestri, having previously worked with him on the film, Cast Away. What a stellar choice that was!
The score starts off with a hopeful main theme, which includes a children's choir, celestial strings, and sleigh bells. The cue then turns to the train's theme which is has Russian sounding, wordless men's vocals and a mysterious melody heard on the strings. The action material is typical Silvestri style; big, bold brass, frenetic strings, and thundering percussion. That can be heard in the cue, most notibly, Runaway Train. It's a heroic, fast-paced, and bombastic cue.
An upbeat song, heard in the cue, Hot Chocolate, is a jazzy break from the intense cues and offers a light-hearted and festive melody. It's subject is most appropriate and the lyrics are quite simple: "Hot Chocolate." That's about the gist of the song!
On a sidenote, the Christmas carol, Jingle Bells, is heard briefly in the cue, Seeing is Believing.
The score also has several source cues, the first being heard in the cue, The Spirit of the Season. It's a catchy, festive sounding song with ringing sleigh bells, beautiful vocal harmonies, announcing the start of the Christmas season. The second source cue, Believe, is a simple, but powerful song performed by Josh Groban.
If you enjoy lively, festive, choral, Christmas music, then this album comes highly recommended.
"Its the spirit of the season
- Spirit of the Season
- Runaway Train
- Seeing Is Believing
- Suite from the Polar Express
A Christmas Carol
The producer from the box office topping, The Polar Express returned to direct another well-known Christmas story with the same extremely life-like animation, but instead of starring Tom Hanks, he got Jim Carrey. Thankfully, he stuck with the same composer returning Alan Silvestri to his festive roots.
Bah, festive indeed! The music croaks of all humbug and and Victorian themed cues. Ok, correction; some of it.
The score is a classic orchestral work as Silvestri reverts to his wonderful music personality avoiding synth and keeping the music organic in nature.
Scrooge's "bah humbug" theme is heard in the cues, Scrooge Counts Money and Marley's Ghost Visits Scrooge. The bassoon is heavily relied on creating a perfect "grumpy old man theme".
The ghost material is handled tastefully with the darker music blended in with the beautiful. For the ghost of Christmas past, a harp is heard playing the carol "Oh Come All Ye Faithful" in the style of classic Victorian music. The ghost of Christmas present is presented in a jovial manner even including a brassy/choral performance of Hark the Herald Angels Sing heard in the cue, Touch My Robe. For the ghost of Christmas Yet to Come, Silvestri weaves a haunting orchestral/choral theme.
The main theme is utilized in the last two cues then finally taken over by Bocelli's amazing performance.
God bless Alan Silvestri, and God bless us, everyone!
- Main Title
- Flight To Fezziwigs
- Touch My Robe
- Carriage Chase
- Who Was That Lying Dead
- God Bless Us, Everyone