-->
Film

The Best Film Scores of 2013

Brice Ezell and Robert Rubsam

This year saw no shortage of innovative, exciting film scores. Notes on Celluloid counts down the ten soundtracks that lingered the longest in our minds.

The end of 2013 marks the first half year of the existence of "Notes on Celluloid", and I'm happy to say that thus far, things have been going remarkably well. The column has been fortunate enough to showcase interviews with some of film music's eminent composers, Clint Mansell and Cliff Martinez, in particular.

Then there's the matter of the body of film scores and soundtracks released this year, which is, as is usually the case, voluminous. Film music is unlike any other genre when it comes to end-of-the-year reminiscing, for whereas in most cases an artist can escape the follies of the genre he plays in even if it's become unmemorable as a movement (See Touché Amoré's Is Survived By, a gem nearly drowned out by the muddy waters of the so-called "emo revival"), with scoring, much of the probability of success for the music is contingent on the quality of the celluloid it is paired with.

Were 2013 to be dominated by more films like Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2 than those like Prince Avalanche, the world would have heard a very different set of tunes. Fortunately, what the year did bring was a rather impressive collection of scores and soundtracks, ten particularly great ones of which are documented below. Both film and television are considered, though one honorable mention from the world of video gaming -- which, even more than film music, is criminally overlooked-- is worth pointing out. Brice Ezell

 
Artist: David Wingo

Album: Mud

Label: Lakeshore

Image: http://images.popmatters.com/misc_art/m/mudost.jpg

Display as: List

Display Width: 200

List Number: 10

David Wingo
Mud

If with Explosions in the Sky Ola Podrida's David Wingo moved toward the intimate with Lucero, he pushes upward and out, transforming the Memphis band's rootsy punk with violin stabs and percussion plunks. Much of Mud feels as if it possesses a greater thing inside of something small, the skin ripping to show you what lives underneath. Wingo pushes the rudiments of Americana through a meat grinder, resulting in accordion that menaces, guitars that creep, all festooned in pronounced horns and swelling strings. In feel, at least, it approaches old Ennio Morricone scores, a comparison I'm sure Wingo wouldn't mind one bit. Robert Rubsam

 
Artist: Jon Hopkins

Album: How I Live Now

Label: JustMusic

Image: http://images.popmatters.com/music_cover_art/j/jon_hopkins.jpg

Display as: List

Display Width: 200

List Number: 9

Jon Hopkins
How I Live Now

In more ways than one, Jon Hopkins' score to Kevin Macdonald's film How I Live Now picks up where his ingenious Immunity left off earlier in the year, particularly with the sparse, piano-led cut "Abandon Window." Like that sonic meditation, How I Live Now focuses on the space between ambience and individual notes; Hopkins creates wide-open sonic spaces and methodically interrupts the airy tension and tranquility with gorgeous piano chords and melodies, which both beautify the landscape and problematize it. Just as the post-nuclear fallout of How I Live Now frequently moves from serenity and chaos ("Distant Fire" even evokes the doomy two-note horn motif from Inception), Hopkins guides the natural movement of these tracks as they range a continuum spanning intimate beauty and tense anticipation. Brice Ezell

 

Artist: Steven Price

Album: Gravity

Label: WaterTower

Image: http://images.popmatters.com/news_art/g/gravity_original_motion_picture_soundtrack.jpg

Display as: List

Display Width: 200

List Number: 8

Steven Price
Gravity

Upon the release of Gravity, director Alfonso Cuaron, already revered for classics such as Children of Men and Y Tu Mama Tambien, was showered with garlands of critical praise that seemed to flow from an endless fount. Cuaron's achievement is considerable, but equally impressive is composer Steven Price's skill in maintaining the intensity of the film's narrative in the format of the soundtrack CD. There are long stretches of the Gravity OST when not much happens -- until, of course, it happens. Price knows how to make a crescendo feel exciting without making it totally obvious that it's on the horizon. If it's true that in outer space no one can hear you scream, Price's score to Gravity is an auditory manifestation of the realization of that terror. Brice Ezell

 
Artist: Explosions in the Sky & David Wingo

Album: Prince Avalanche

Label: Temporary Residence

Image: http://images.popmatters.com/music_cover_art/p/paost2.jpg

Display as: List

Display Width: 200

List Number: 7

Explosions in the Sky & David Wingo
Prince Avalanche

Most impressive among Wingo's skills as a composer is how he draws new and surprising sounds out of his collaborators, turning expectations on their head. Though many of us know Explosions in the Sky as an epic rock band, hitting emotional peaks through guitar strums, with Wingo it produces something at once subdued and tense, a flipside to their work in Friday Night Lights, dominated by acoustic guitar and clarinet, oscillating between tuneful movements and Tim Hecker-style collages. Avalanche is a small film, and so its score feels intimate, though always threatening to soar. Robert Rubsam

 
Artist: A Hawk and a Hacksaw

Album: You Have Already Gone to Another World

Label: LM Dupli-cation

Image: http://images.popmatters.com/music_cover_art/8/88572277.png

Display as: List

Display Width: 200

List Number: 6

A Hawk and a Hacksaw
You Have Already Gone to Another World

Though Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors, the Sergei Parajanov film A Hawk and a Hacksaw has scored, is from 1964, the band's soundtrack feels fresh. Mixing traditional eastern European folk songs with its own numbers, A Hawk and a Hacksaw capture the wild joy, pandemonium, and sorrow of a film concerned with witchcraft and the connections between life and death. The soundtrack is most effective when channeling the rhythm and spirit of celebration, particularly through a prominent use of percussive beats, at times chaotic, as on "Witch's Theme" and "Horses of Fire Rachenitsa". A Hawk and a Hacksaw captures the soul of a world where magic is not yet lost, and then brings it to us, life still caught in its jaws. Robert Rubsam

Next Page
Music

The Best Indie Rock of 2017

Photo courtesy of Matador Records

The indie rock genre is wide and unwieldy, but the musicians selected here share an awareness of one's place on the cultural-historical timeline.

Indie rock may be one of the most fluid and intangible terms currently imposed upon musicians. It holds no real indication of what the music will sound like and many of the artists aren't even independent. But more than a sonic indicator, indie rock represents a spirit. It's a spirit found where folk songsters and punk rockers come together to dialogue about what they're fed up with in mainstream culture. In so doing they uplift each other and celebrate each other's unique qualities.

With that in mind, our list of 2017's best indie rock albums ranges from melancholy to upbeat, defiant to uplifting, serious to seriously goofy. As always, it's hard to pick the best ten albums that represent the year, especially in such a broad category. Artists like King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard had a heck of a year, putting out four albums. Although they might fit nicer in progressive rock than here. Artists like Father John Misty don't quite fit the indie rock mold in our estimation. Foxygen, Mackenzie Keefe, Broken Social Scene, Sorority Noise, Sheer Mag... this list of excellent bands that had worthy cuts this year goes on. But ultimately, here are the ten we deemed most worthy of recognition in 2017.

Keep reading... Show less

From genre-busting electronic music to new highs in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and Americana to rock and pop, 2017's music scenes bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us.


60. White Hills - Stop Mute Defeat (Thrill Jockey)

White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

Keep reading... Show less
Music

The Best Country Music of 2017

still from Midland "Drinkin' Problem" video

There are many fine country musicians making music that is relevant and affecting in these troubled times. Here are ten of our favorites.

Year to year, country music as a genre sometimes seems to roll on without paying that much attention to what's going on in the world (with the exception of bro-country singers trying to adopt the latest hip-hop slang). That can feel like a problem in a year when 58 people are killed and 546 are injured by gun violence at a country-music concert – a public-relations issue for a genre that sees many of its stars outright celebrating the NRA. Then again, these days mainstream country stars don't seem to do all that well when they try to pivot quickly to comment on current events – take Keith Urban's muddled-at-best 2017 single "Female", as but one easy example.

Keep reading... Show less

It's ironic that by injecting a shot of cynicism into this glorified soap opera, Johnson provides the most satisfying explanation yet for the significance of The Force.

Despite J.J. Abrams successfully resuscitating the Star Wars franchise with 2015's Star Wars: The Force Awakens, many fans were still left yearning for something new. It was comforting to see old familiar faces from a galaxy far, far away, but casual fans were unlikely to tolerate another greatest hits collection from a franchise already plagued by compositional overlap (to put it kindly).

Keep reading... Show less
7

Yeah Yeah Yeahs played a few US shows to support the expanded reissue of their debut Fever to Tell.

Although they played a gig last year for an after-party for a Mick Rock doc, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs hadn't played a proper NYC show in four years before their Kings Theatre gig on November 7th, 2017. It was the last of only a handful of gigs, and the only one on the East coast.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image