Best Scores of 2014

So we come to it at last. The Best Scores of 2014.
This year has been a fantastic year folks, much better than last to be perfectly honest. I had such a difficult time narrowing down the list (More than last year), and ultimately picking the top ten best out of the many awesome scores released. In fact it was so close that it came to a tie for tenth place.
It was also really cool to see many breakout composers this year (Gustavo Dudamel, Tomas Kantelinen, and Alberto Iglesias to name a few), and many veteran composers returning after a hiatus (David Newman and John Powell for example). All of which provided me with several pleasant surprises throughout the year.
So without further ado here are the ten best scores of my choosing for 2014.

10. Tarzan by David Newman-Tie
Rating ****1/2
Tarzan And Jane by David Newman on Grooveshark
I've already reviewed this gem of a score previously, so I'll be brief. Newman is a seriously underrated composer to be sure. The scores that he's composed are amazing, and yet they don't get enough exposure and this one is no exception. He uses a blend of synth layered with strings, brass, and a choir making this score have an epic feel to it.

10. Book of Life by Gustavo Santaollala-Tie
Rating ****1/2
El Aparato-Land of the Remembering (ft. Café Tacuba) by Gustavo Santaolalla on Grooveshark
This score was the pleasant surprise of the year. The album has a strong latin influence, given the theme of the film, but also goes from soothing vocals to fast paced action music with guitar riffs and fast paced percussion. I didn't expect such a wide range of music styles coming from this film score and overall I thought this score was different and fun to listen through.

9. Hidden Kingdoms by Ben Foster
Rating ****1/2
Life by Ben Foster on Grooveshark
There are many amazing animal themed documentary scores out there that are grandiose, beautiful, and big. But this one is somewhat different. British composer, Ben Foster was told to create a score that was similar to that of a charming Pixar film but with the same amount of awe of a classic BBC documentary score. Foster pulled it off. The score ranged from lighthearted to intense styled cues covering various genres like spaghetti western, to latin, to bond-esq, to african, to just plain old orchestral epicness. This one may just be the best BBC documentary score that I have heard out there!

8. Pompeii by Clinton Shorter
Rating ****1/2
My People Were Horsemen by Clinton Shorter on Grooveshark

Anyone who read my previous review can't say their "surprised to see this one on the list, right?" This was my guilty pleasure of the year hands down. I love trailer music and I love period epic scores. The soundtrack is both. While not intellectually stimulating, the music is blatantly heroic, epic, action-filled, and fun. Period epics don't get much better than this, folks!

7. Hercules by Fernando Velasquez
Rating ****1/2
End-Titles by Fernando Velázquez on Grooveshark

While we are on the subject of guilty pleasures of the year, this particular score has to come up. While still very similar to the media ventures style of soundtracks, Spanish composer, Fernando Velesquez delivers a solid action score. The music is brassy, epic, and bold with a catchy and heroic main theme. While many preferred Velasquez's other scores saying that "Hercules was a departure from his normal classic orchestral composing", I disagree. This score is a blast to listen to all the way though and boasts of.

6. Malificent by James Newton Howard
Rating ****1/2
Maleficent Suite by James Newton Howard on Grooveshark

Malificent brings Disney scores back to her golden age; A time when synth in music was virtually unheard of and composers had to rely on creating wonderful themes instead of computers doing it for them (Not that synth is bad, I love a good mixture of synth in scores, but sometimes composers rely on them a bit too much). Composer, James Newton Howard, hearkens us back to that time with this magnificent composition. His themes are dark, but hopeful; broody, but melodic as he utilizes a full choir and orchestra throughout the album. This is what used to make a great fantasy score and it is absolutely wonderful to relive that once again! The movie may be a new twist on a old story, but the score is an old twist on a refreshing musical journey.

5. Planes: Fire and Rescue by Mark Mancina
Rating *****
Fire Heroes by Mark Mancina on Grooveshark
By now, you all probably know how much I enjoy composer Mark Mancina, his first score for Planes, and this one. Although I can't totally pinpoint it, there is just a certain amount of charm that comes from listening to this score. It's a pleasant mix of nostalgia that brings me back to the classic heroic themed scores of the past. Maybe I have scared you all away at this point. Don't worry. It get's better. Seriously, keep reading.

4. Liberatdor (The Liberator) by Gustavo Dudamel
Rating *****
¿Quién Puede Detener La Lluvia? by Gustavo Dudamel on Grooveshark
Originally released in South America, this Venezuelan film follows the military campaigns of Simon Bolivar who never once conquered, but instead liberated. The music itself is an epic battle score of sorts. It's has gorgeous woodwinds, ethnic percussion, and solemn choral themes. Venezualian composer, Gustavo Dudamel outdid himself with this masterpiece. It's heroic, epic, tender, and reminiscent of Italian composer, Ennio Morricone's Latin themed scores.

3. The Giver by Marco Beltrami
Rating *****
End Credits by Marco Beltrami on Grooveshark
I had mentioned to keep an eye out for this one in one of my previous 2014 awards post, didn't I? Well, here it is, listed as the third best score of 2014. The whole score, composed by Marco Beltrami, is just amazing. The choral themes are tender, the action material, (albeit somewhat lacking), is engaging, and the main theme is inspiring. Having seen the film and heard the soundtrack, I can say without a doubt that this is Beltrami's best score. If you haven't heard it, check it out for yourself!

2. How To Train Your Dragon 2 by John Powell
Rating *****
Two New Alphas by John Powell on Grooveshark
How can I say this? HTTYD 2 is just plain awesome. I have listened to this score numerous times and haven't been bored by a single track. The writing put into this music is definitely a work of love on Powell's part and although I'm disappointed that he will be taking another hiatus this year, I seriously doubt he can create a better score than this one. I'm pretty skeptical, but a hopeful skeptic at that! The music boast of being epic, and takes themes from his work with the first film and matures them a great deal. I can't say that I am surprised to see this as the second best score of 2014. There is only one score that is better, and that score is:

1. Field of Lost Shoes by Frederick Wiedmann
Rating *****

(Unfortunately the only online streaming audio I could find for this score was on YouTube, and the cues are only samples.)
The film is based on a true story and follows a group of teenage cadets fighting during the Civil War. The title itself is based on the fact that the battlefield became so muddy that the cadets would lose their boots in it leaving behind a "field of lost shoes."
German composer, Frederick Wiedmann describes his work on the film as "an epic trip down memory lane" with the music being a "sweeping, epic, orchestral work".
It's obvious when a composer puts heart and soul into his work and this is such an occasion. When listening to score I never listen through more than once. I listen through than stir over the music and listen to it a second time on a later date. But upon the album's completion, I felt like I had to hear it all over again it was so good.
Unfortunately the score is not widely distributed and only available on LaLa Land Records with a few available on It's definitely worth picking up your own copy as the music, although not entirely a new style, transcends other war film scores with not just gorgeous themes, but with heart.

Honorable Mentions 

Big Hero 6 by Henry Jackman
Rating ****
Reboot by Henry Jackman on Grooveshark

America by Bryan E. Miller
Rating ****

The Legend of Hercules by Tuomas Kantelinen
Rating ****

The Monument's Men by Alexandre Desplat
Rating ****
Basic Training by Alexandre Desplat on Grooveshark

Refracted Glory by Gabriel Hudelson and Bradley Jamrozic
Rating ****

I hope you enjoyed discovering perhaps, some new scores and finding out my favorites for the year. Be sure to let me know what your favorites were in the comments section and be sure to stay tuned for upcoming reviews for scores releasing this year, 2015!


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