The Top Soundtrack Albums of 2013

Christopher Fowler
I don't collect soundtracks,I have always been obsessed by them; I have thousands, catalogued (in the way sad men do) without slipcases so that I can store them without it feeling as if I live in a warehouse. Some of these are temp scores given to me by directors who used them to shoot with (Baz Lurhmann gave me his early scores which were very different to what ended up on screen.) Some are so obscure that they don't exist anywhere online. Some are discoveries I've made through watching rare films and thinking 'Wow - listen to that!' Some recent scores, like the soundtrack to 'Mr Nobody', which apparently exists, have eluded me. There are moments in cinema when music catches me so by surprise that I almost stop watching the film at all and just listen. In the Japanese animated version of 'Metropolis', where the city falls at the end of the film, the sound of its destruction fades away and is replaced by Elvis singing 'I Can't Stop Loving You' in one of those moments that catch at your heart. Hollywood action scores have been very boring of late - all drums and over-dense orchestration - but a few had a left-field fragile quality. I can't work without playing music from films. Here are some of the stunning albums I discovered in the course of 2013. Metro-Manila'The Best Offer' - Ennio Morricone I saw him in concert two years ago and he was on fine form, still as strong and creative as ever. This score echoes another film he scored about paintings, 'The Stendhal Syndrome', and could be considered a companion piece. Una Música De Cine Español, Volumes 1 & 2 These immense double albums unveil an astonishing richness hitherto hidden from the world of cinema soundtracks; every kind of theme imaginable, epics, romances, horror and suspense movies, comedies, by composers who deserve to be household names. Many of the tracks are from recent Spanish films for which there are no soundtracks. Thirty quid on iTunes buys you the entire library - far and away my pick of the year. Metro Manila A superlative, dark score (barring two old Maria Callas tracks) from Robin Foster; melancholy and eerily cool, perfect for late nights. The UK produced great composers, from Michael Nyman to Craig Armstrong, and Foster's the man to watch. Cloud Atlas Tom Tykwer is a director who is very conscious of the way his films need to sound. I loved his scores for 'The International' and 'Perfume', Here he scores his own film with some beautiful grand themes that match an underrated film few people took to their hearts. Oblivion Not a great film, but it was a smart move getting a band, M83, to provide an ethereal score the space drama, an idea that also worked when Daft Punk scored the remake of 'Tron'. Dans La Maison Philippe Rombi's score accentuated the unease in this story of a pupil who manipulates his teacher with alarming results, one of several rich French scores this year. The Returned It was a TV series, but getting Mogwai to score it proved a smart idea - I hope they continue with the second season. My other favourite TV score was for 'Dead Like Me', written by Stewart Copeland from The Police.


Reuben (not verified) Thu, 12/12/2013 - 14:01

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Mogwai's music for The Returned was spot on. An subtle soundtrack for a program which understands understated storytelling, far removed from some collection of overblown emotionally manipulative orchestra pieces that usually passes for a soundtrack.

pheeny (not verified) Thu, 12/12/2013 - 18:15

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

I've only just recently become alive to the importance of film/TV soundtracks (thanks to a series of BBC programmes) and the subtleties involved (the timing of the notes on the Dracula soundtrack for eg "Dra - cu -la"
... also the way that recent mixes of the Dr Who theme tune have emphasised the dadadada double timelord heartbeat and "drumbeat"/knock four times trope in one of the overarcing plot lines

Fascinating stuff to one with tin ears ... (not to mention geeky)

Bangbang!! (not verified) Thu, 12/12/2013 - 21:16

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

I have to admit that I don't always pay as much attention to soundtracks as I probably should although I am obviously aware of them. One that does stick in my mind is for 'Hanna' penned by The Chemical Brothers. It isn't the type of music I listen to at all but It really caught my attention.

snowy (not verified) Thu, 12/12/2013 - 22:05

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Oh, Oh, Pheeny was that the one on R3?

[Mr Nobody soundtrack, tricky but not impossible, 1 copy €20 plus p&p. Secondhand, Import.]

Ken Murray (not verified) Thu, 12/12/2013 - 22:08

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

The soundtracks for a lot of the HBO tv series have been very good and that's probably a reflection on the bigger budgets and growing importance of a global tv 'hit'. A highlight for me was the title sequence for the tv series Boss. Starring a stand out performance from Kelsey Grammer. Who knew?

Dan Terrell (not verified) Fri, 13/12/2013 - 03:32

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

I see Colin Wilson, the Outsider, has died. His visit book influenced me when I was in school. He was a reasonable age.

Dan Terrell (not verified) Fri, 13/12/2013 - 03:34

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

His "first" book. Thought I'd struck all that sentence, missed a word. Oh well, it's late.

pheeny (not verified) Sat, 14/12/2013 - 16:30

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Yes Snowy, also "Sound of Cinema" on BBC4. A real eye (ear?) opener

snowy (not verified) Sat, 14/12/2013 - 22:48

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Thanks Pheeny, I missed them all and the Beeb then decided to hide the podcast downloads under a different name, naughty poppets.

But I've found them now. :-)

Shuku (not verified) Tue, 24/12/2013 - 06:59

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

I'm a musician, so music in films and soundtracks catch my attention first off most of the time (funnily enough I've a film background too, not as a musician - worked in the industry for a short while - but it's the music that gets me first.)

One of the delights I've discovered all over again is the gorgeously orchestrated jazz music for the American series, A&E's Nero Wolfe. It's set in the 1940s and 50s, and everything from the costumes to the dialogue is spot-on and snappy. But oh that music! I can sit and listen to that and the dialogue for hours.