5. Motherless Brooklyn
Jazz has been a defining aspect of crime film scores since the 1940s, and Daniel Pemberton continues that with his tense and languid score to Edward Norton’s noir epic, even going so far as to recruit genius trumpet player Wynton Marsalis. There’s a feeling of inevitability in Pemberton’s score, a palpable sense of dread through the tight percussion and dissonant piano, and it builds that feeling until you’re strung up and waiting for the ax to fall. It’s also heartbreakingly beautiful, especially in the central cue “Woman In Blue.”
4. Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker
With his ninth and final score to the Skywalker Saga of the Star Wars franchise, you would have thought John Williams would want to go out with a bang, and boy does he. It has all the huge action you’d expect, with bold and brassy set pieces and liberal quotes of older themes from the series, along with several new themes including the gorgeous “The Rise of Skywalker,” resulting in an emotionally explosive final chapter. What a treat.
Mica Levi‘s talent is now widely known amongst the film music world, and this guerilla warfare thriller cements that reputation. Monos is both beautiful and savage, combining organic and synthetic noises to create a mesmerizing soundscape for Alejandro Landes’ film. And while in other hands these noises may not add up to anything but a cacophony, here they’re coherently stitched into a profound score.
2. The Last Black Man In San Francisco
Emile Mosseri‘s score for Joe Talbot’s film is gorgeous and infectious from the first minute, with warm strings and piano encompassing the viewer in the protagonist’s story and enveloping it with a sense of truth and nostalgia. There’s a quasi-religious feel to the score and its use of a chorus, and it has a wistful atmosphere, reflecting on things used to be compared with how they are, and how that affects people. But the score doesn’t just stick with that feeling, and what eventually rises to the top is a sense of reclamation and restraint, alongside acceptance and the beauty of reconciliation.
You know from the first moments of this score, as a sense of ethereal beauty is quickly corrupted into droning strings, that things are not going to go well. Bobby Krlic‘s music is both hypnotic and sickening; you’re not sure if you’re going to be conjured by a higher power or vomit all over the floor. That ambiguity keeps you on a knife’s edge throughout the entirety of the score as it twists, grinds, and slides the blade further and further into your gut. At times you feel like ascending, at others it’s a cruel ritual that will end in your death. That’s the power of Midsommar.