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Year in Review: The 13 Best Movie Scores and Soundtracks of 2013

5. Spring Breakers

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When Cliff Martinez teamed up with Skrillex you knew you were going to get something insane, and Spring Breakers needed something insane. The story of a group of bored college students looking to have the best spring break of their lives quickly devolved into madness when the girls hook up with local thug, Alien (James Franco). From the opening track, you are brought into a heightened world that is equal parts mindless party and timeless trance. Where Skrillex delivers the beats, Martinez scales things back a bit to create a tranquil sound that perfectly sets you up for the next downbeat. Alien may be charming enough to make you forget your inhibitions and the Spring Breakers soundtrack is the perfect mix to have you dive into a world of pure escapism.

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4. Oblivion

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Creating music for the future is never an easy task, but M83 rose to the occasion by composing a score that sounds like it was created sixty-four years from now while still having the emotional resonance to make you want to fight for humanity alongside Jack (Tom Cruise). Veteran composer Joseph Trapanese (who also worked with Daft Punk on Tron: Legacy and Linkin Park‘s Mike Shinoda on The Raid: Redemption) helps give the score a cinematic feel without losing M83’s signature sound. M83’s understanding of how to layer electronic elements keeps Oblivion feeling fresh and draws you into this off-putting world that has familiar elements, but never feels quite right.

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3. Inside Llewyn Davis

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When you combine Joel and Ethan Cohen with T-Bone Burnett, you are pretty much guaranteed fantastic music and the three deliver once again with the soundtrack for Inside Llewyn Davis. The music is endlessly singable (as folk music should be) while still reflecting the pain Llewyn (Oscar Issac) is going through as he struggles to create a place for himself within the gig scene of the time and come to terms with the loss of his collaborator.

Inside Llewyn Davis celebrates this music by allowing the performances to play without interruption and the soundtrack gives you all that music in one place on a compilation you will be playing (and singing along to) well into the new year.

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2. Stoker

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Director Chan-wook Park created a highly stylized world surrounding a family dealing with the death of their patriarch and Clint Mansell composed a score that perfectly reflected this strange, surreal family while tracks from Emily Wells provided added texture within the film and on the soundtrack. Music plays a pivotal role in Stoker as both India (Mia Wasikowska), an accomplished piano player, and her mother, Evelyn (Nicole Kidman), use music to get closer to Uncle Charlie (Matthew Goode). All these elements come together to create a layered soundscape that is frightening, beautiful, and concerning – usually all at once.

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1. Only God Forgives

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Cliff Martinez described his score for Only God Forgives as an accidental “horror score,” and he is not wrong. Nicolas Winding Refn‘s long-time collaborator follows the director to Bangkok and creates a score that delivers his signature electronic elements, but infuses them with the sounds of Thailand. But the most memorable element is the terrifying undercurrent of vibrating tones that run throughout the entire score, never letting up and never letting you (the listener) relax.

The local singers featured on the soundtrack have beautiful voices, but that tranquility is ironically juxtaposed with intense violence on screen. And even though you cannot see those images when listening to the soundtrack on its own, Martinez reflects that fear throughout his score, and did in fact end up creating his own brand of unforgettable, unrelenting “horror.”

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More Best of 2013

Allison has always been fascinated by the power music has when paired with an image – particularly its effect in film. Thanks to a background in recording and her days spent licensing music to various productions (including, of course, movies), Allison can usually be found sticking around to see all the songs noted in a film’s credits and those listening to her iTunes inevitably ask, “What movie is this song from?”

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