July marks the middle of summer, but it also marks the half way point of each year which means half the movies you were looking forward to seeing this year have already hit theater screens! With so many major studio releases out each weekend (plus a healthy offering of indie fare) it can be overwhelming to try and remember what you’ve seen, what you wanted to see, and any unexpected titles that may have caught your eye, but you never got a chance to actually sit down and check out.
At the beginning of the year we posted a list of the 52 Most Anticipated Movies to come out in 2013 and with half the year already gone, it seemed like a good time to look back on the films that have already come out and highlight those with fantastic music you might have missed. Summer is the perfect time to play catch up on entertainment with most television shows on hiatus and long summer nights to fill so if you are looking for a list of movies from this year that featured noteworthy tunes, you have come to the right place.
Some of these films are still out in theaters, some are already available on DVD, and some may need to be added to your Netflix queue to ensure you don’t miss them a second time, but all ten of these soundtracks should have you humming along well into December.
With a title like Sound City, you know it will be a film full of good music. Dave Grohl’s debut documentary does not disappoint and its accompanying album, “Sound City: Real to Reel,” is filled to the brim with brand new songs from artists like Stevie Nicks, Paul McCartney, and Trent Reznor. Grohl brought together some of the most well-known artists to record at Sound City and had them lay down new music as a tribute to the iconic studio.
Sound City is a wonderful behind-the-scenes look at the infamous Neve board (which all these songs were recorded on) that made the studio famous, making this album the perfect accompaniment to the film. But more importantly, the album is proof that while the doors of Sound City may now be closed, the studio’s legacy and influence will continue to rock on.
Stoker presented a fairly off-putting premise, but it also featured fantastic new music from composer Clint Mansell plus hip-hop styled tracks from Emily Wells and an unsettling piano duet from Philip Glass. The combination of these various styles caused both Stoker and its soundtrack to never feel quite right, but the way these styles ended up playing off each other created a sonic landscape that was too intriguing to turn away from.
Music certainly played a pivotal role in Stoker with the family’s piano poised as a major fixture in the house, and one that led to some of the film’s most climactic moments. At the hand of a master like Mansell, the piano almost became a character in its own right, driving the narrative and making Stoker’s soundtrack both beautiful and terrifying.
Spring Breakers may have come across like a neon infused fever dream, but if the color and flash didn’t catch your attention, the music definitely should. Boasting a soundtrack full of new music from Cliff Martinez, Spring Breakers ups the ante by also teaming the composer up with well-known dupstep artist, Skrillex. Martinez’s penchant for creating electronic based scores paired perfectly with Skrillex’s frenetic beats making Spring Breakers’ music both kinetic and in-your-face, but also surprisingly catchy.
It was clear that a very specific style of music would be needed to bring the unforgettable world of Spring Breakers to life and the combination of Martinez and Skrillex, plus tracks from artists like Waka Flocka Flame and Gucci Mane, definitely made it feel like in this world, Spring Break could last forever.
Olympus Has Fallen
While that “other” movie about the White House being taken over is currently out in theaters, the music driving this year’s earlier release, Olympus Has Fallen, was the stronger offering as it demanded you sit up and take notice. Working in seamless concert with the film’s impressive (and vibrating) sound design, Trevor Morris‘ score delivered everything you would want from the music for a blockbuster by adding to the fun and action on screen.
Where White House Down pays homage to films like Die Hard through its action and costuming, Olympus Has Fallen followed the lead of movies like Top Gun to create action packed music that also plays to the emotion of the narrative, but never exploiting it. Fantastic action sequences can be found in both films, but it is Olympus Has Fallen that used its music to make you feel as though you were truly in the movie with those on screen, creating an immersive experience that was made to be listened to in Dolby surround sound.
Mud was one of those little indie features that seemed to fly under the radar earlier this year, but should definitely be sought out as it is a film that features strong performances accented by intoxicating music. David Wingo and Lucero created a beautiful and haunting soundtrack for Mud that took you right into the film’s slightly mysterious world. Wingo is no stranger to the world of film music (having composed the music for Snow Angels and Take Shelter) and his thought provoking, nuanced tracks pair perfectly with the rougher, more rock ‘n roll tracks from Lucero.
Both styles give the feeling of the Deep South, but in very different ways that surprisingly compliment one another. While the music works beautifully within the film, Mud‘s soundtrack also stands well outside of it with catchy songs from Ben Nichols you could imagine playing on any radio down South, giving the film a subconscious sense of authenticity.
Pain & Gain
The premise of Pain & Gain seemed silly and over the top (body builders turned murders directed through the lens of Michael Bay), but when a top notch composer like Steve Jablonsky comes on board, things get interesting. Jablonsky went against expectation and did not create a score that was all gruff and flash to mirror the protagonists, instead creating music that is both fresh and layered, giving the film a real pulse. Jablonsky has collaborated with Bay on the past three Transformers films so it is no surprise the composer understands how to highlight the director’s signature style in a way that resonates with audiences and has created a hidden gem in what could have been an easily dismissed film.
Also – it is rare that the score (not soundtrack) for a film is featured heavily in the film’s trailer (especially for a movie aimed to immediately grab people’s attention) so it is a testament to Jablonsky’s work that it scores the trailer for Pain & Gain as much as it did the film.
The Great Gatsby
Baz Luhrmann has long been known for his ability to fill his films with memorable, contemporary music, but many thought the Jay-Z curated soundtrack for The Great Gatsby was a misstep and took away from the film’s time period rather than energizing it. However, on its own, the soundtrack sings with fantastic music that works from beginning to end. Some of the songs are well used within the fabric of the film (like Lana Del Rey‘s “Young and Beautiful” and Florence + The Machine‘s “Over The Love”), but overall the soundtrack works better on its own.
The soundtrack successfully takes current artists and styles them in music of the 1920s or has them singing to key moments in the story, creating a soundtrack that works better as a stand alone companion piece to the film by capturing Luhrmann’s more modern take on this classic American novel.
Fast & Furious 6
The Fast and the Furious franchise has always been known for three things: fast cars, insane race sequences, and pumping music. Fast & Furious 6 does not miss a beat and fills its soundtrack with songs from 2 Chainz, Wiz Khalifa, T.I., and (one of the race crew’s own) Ludacris. The Fast movies know how to give audiences what they want which is a simple formula of amazing action sequences set to adrenaline driving music.
Fast & Furious 6 was one of the most fun movies to hit theaters this year and the soundtrack successfully recreates that exciting feeling – just be sure you watch your speed when listening to it while driving.
Despicable Me 2
Pharrell Williams and Heitor Pereira team up once again on the soundtrack for Despicable Me 2 and create music that is fun and catchy without dumbing things down for kids thanks to clever lyrics and layered grooves. Williams jumped into the world of film composing with Despicable Me so it is no surprise to see him return to the sequel as he brings with him the original film’s signature track, “Despicable Me,” along with new tracks like “Just a Cloud Away” and “Happy” which are sure to become new classics.
Add to that some hilarious and charming tracks from The Minions themselves (see: “I Swear”) and you have a soundtrack that proves why some of the year’s best music can be found in animated films.
The Way, Way Back
Coming of age movies always seem to feature the best music and The Way, Way Back is no exception, delivering a soundtrack full of tracks from classic artists like Mr. Mister and INXS and current artists like Wild Belle and Tim Myers. The Way, Way Back never sets itself in a specific time period and the soundtrack’s combination of older and current music create a timeless feeling that perfectly reflects the universal experience of growing up.
The upbeat soundtrack adds to the film’s authentic feeling by reflecting those times when you were stuck listening to music your parent’s liked while on vacation and then you popped in your own ear buds to listen to the music you actually liked. The narrative may deal with some heavier issues (even when off-set by some brilliant comedic timing from Allison Janney‘s Betty), but the soundtrack keeps things light, giving The Way, Way Back its charming appeal.
What movie music have you fallen in love with this year?