Looking back over the past year in film, it is impressive to remember the different styles and forms of music that accompanied these various releases as they bring back the memories and emotions felt when first hearing a particular song or watching a piece of orchestration pair perfectly with what was happening on screen. When it comes to music, it is not simply a question of what was the best; it is a question of what resonated the most.
Music created for film is unlike any other type of music because it is intended to be listened to while watching specific images. Of course there are songs that stand well on their own (see: Adele’s “Skyfall”), but hopefully even outside of the film, those songs conjure up memories of the films they came from. Sometimes a song placed in a particular scene can take on a whole new meaning, giving you a new ideas to reflect on when you hear it (see: “The Air That I Breathe” by the Hollies as used in a pivotal scene in Seeking a Friend for the End of the World.)
Soundtracks and scores help add to the emotion of a film and this year’s musicians delivered in spades. From turning found sounds into orchestration to adding a new layer of depth to the end of a trilogy to proving that sometimes words simply are not enough, 2012 was filled with new, inventive, and memorable music.
Let’s look back and listen to the twelve selections that had me hitting repeat on my iTunes all year long.
12. The Impossible
It is almost impossible to watch a family suddenly gets swept apart thanks to the 2004 tsunami that hit the Indian Ocean and not get emotional, and it would have been easy for composer Fernando Velázquez to use his score to simply elevate those emotions. But instead, Velázquez allowed the stunning images of The Impossible to speak for themselves, creating a score that simply added to the raw and visceral displays on screen without manipulating them. Such an event is moving on its own and Velázquez wisely used his score to round out the performances rather than have the music take center stage on their behalf.
Adele’s powerful voice was perfectly paired with one of Britain’s most indestructible agents as audiences fell back into the world of full of sharply tailored suits, cutting edge technology, and death-defying missions. While Adele may have voiced one of James Bond’s most memorable songs, Thomas Newman swung from that raised bar with a score that added to the mystery and mayhem of Bond’s latest adventure. Newman wisely injected Bond’s well-known theme throughout his score, but surrounded it with fresh instrumentation that kept it from feeling like anything we had heard before while still driving all the action on screen.
10. Seeking a Friend for the End of the World
Seeking a Friend for the End of the World actually made music a supporting character, proving that sometimes the worst part about having to come to terms with your fate is the deafening silence that precedes it. Penny (Keira Knightley) may have spent the film running around with an arm full of records, but in the end, it was Dodge (Steve Carell) who turned to them for solace and comfort, taking songs you may have heard before, such as The Beach Boys’“Wouldn’t It Be Nice” and P.M. Dawn’s “Set Adrift On Memory Bliss,” and giving them an entirely new meaning.
9. The Hunger Games
The Hunger Games takes place in a post-apocalyptic world where children are selected to fight in a battle to the death while the rest of the world watches on. This dark premise was accompanied by an impressive list of musicians who helped create the soundscape of this desolate world through stripped down songs that mirrored the stark world of Hunger Games’ heroine, Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence.) The Hunger Games may get filed under “kid fare” thanks to its Young Adult fiction roots, but with a soundtrack full of sophisticated songs from Arcade Fire, The Civil Wars, and Glen Hansard, all produced by the legendary T Bone Burnett, the music is anything but child’s play.