Film Music Reporter’s Top 10 Original Scores of 2016 (in alphabetical order):
Following their acclaimed work on Prisoners and Sicario, Johann Johannsson and director Denis Villeneuve collaborated for a third time on the sci-fi drama Arrival, resulting in arguably the most original score for a major studio release this year. Using processed electronics in combination with manipulated vocals and orchestra, the composer created an otherworldly sound that gives the movie a unique feel. Johansson’s score is available on Deutsche Grammophon. (Standout tracks on soundtrack album: Heptapod B, Kangaru, Arrival).
Another director/composer relationship that produced yet another memorable work is Steven Spielberg’s and John Williams‘ 28th collaboration on The BFG. The composer wrote a purely orchestral score with some of his most playful writing in years for the underrated movie and proved once again that he is still at the top of his game when it comes to orchestration and thematic writing. Williams’ music is available on Walt Disney Records. (Standout tracks: Finale, Sophie and the BFG).
Possibly the biggest film music surprise for us in 2016 was the quality of the score for Dexter Fletcher’s sports comedy drama Eddie the Eagle. Matthew Margeson composed a highly enjoyable and appropriate throwback 80s score with synthesizers from the time period the movie takes place in and provided the film with a sense of inspiration. Margeson’s score is available on Varese Sarabande. (Standout tracks: Eddie the Eagle, Eddie Jumps the 90M, Now the Real Work Begins)
Another score benefitting from a highly original approach and a movie which lets the music shine in numerous sequences is Mica Levi‘s work on Pablo Larrain’s drama Jackie. The composer, who only had one other film scoring job on her resume prior to this one, wrote a disorientating and unnerving string-based score, which perfectly captures the movie’s title character’s state. Levi’s score is available on Milan Records. (Standout tracks: Children, The End, Credits)
Dario Marianelli‘s second animated feature and his second project for Laika on Kubo and the Two Strings continues the composer’s track record of excellence. For his shamisen- and koto-infused orchestral score, he composed two memorable themes, which he intelligently develops throughout the film. The composer also arranged Regina Spektor’s cover of While My Guitar Gently Weeps, which is probably our favorite non-original song recorded for a movie this year. (Standout tracks: Showdown with Grandfather, Rebirth, Monkey’s Story)
One of the greatest achievements in film music not just of 2016, but of the last couple of years is Justin Hurwitz‘s work on Damien Chazelle’s La La Land. The rare movie musical whose musical underscore isn’t just filler between songs, but adds to the drama and film’s story and thanks to Hurwitz’s involvement in both score and songs, it all feels seamless and the songs and score blend together. The composer’s score is available on Interscope Records. (Standout tracks: Mia & Sebastian’s Theme, Epilogue, Credits)
Alexandre Desplat had yet another busy year with around half a dozen of movies he scored being released in 2016. Our clear favorite of his work this year was his music for Derek Cianfrance’s underrated drama The Light Between Oceans. The composer wrote a melodic orchestral score for the director who brought him on early in the process with one of his themes being played by Alicia Vikander’s character on screen. His music provides the film with a fitting melancholy tone. Desplat’s music is available on Lakeshore Records. (Standout tracks: Isabel, To Be Loved, The Light Between Oceans)
Another unexpected positive surprise this year was Dustin O’Halloran‘s and Hauschka‘s first collaboration on the score for Garth Davis’ Lion. The composers’ central piano theme effectively unifies the different time periods in the movie and stands out in a positive way numerous times during the film and adds to the movie’s drama. O’Halloran’s & Hauschka’s score is available on Sony Classical. (Standout tracks: Lion Theme, Arrival, Mother)
Rob Simonsen who continually impresses with original and innovative approaches to film music and a singular, unique voice composed one of his best scores yet for the teen thriller Nerve directed by Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman. His pulsating, synth-based music with an 80s vibe adds to the excitement and tension of the film. Simonsen’s music is available on Lakeshore Records. (Standout tracks: Night Drive, Game On, New York F***ing City).
Abel Korzeniowski reunited with Tom Ford following his Golden Globe-nominated work on A Single Man on the director’s dramatic thriller Nocturnal Animals. The composer came up with a Bernard Herrmann-inspired orchestral score, which works for both the dramatic and suspense elements of the film and gives the movie a timeless quality. His score is used relatively sparingly in the movie, but is all the more effective whenever it comes up. Korzeniowski’s score is available on Silva Screen Records and Back Lot Music. (Standout tracks: Wayward Sisters, Table for Two, City Lights)
Check out a list of all scores/movies considered for our listings, as well as our top 10 movies of 2016 on the next page.
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