The best soundtracks of 2010 are somewhat varied and random. Not always does a great film produce great music and sometimes a horrible film can have decent music, there is no pattern. Thus, I have made my own very subjective selective pattern. Using my main theory that a soundtrack is best when it reflects and capitalizes on the moments and story of the film and weaker when its motive is good music placed thoughtlessly in scenes, each inclusion still has its own exceptions. For instance, monotony is not a highly praised quality, but see how many Brian Eno and Broken Social Scene tracks are present on this list! So read, enjoy, agree or disagree because it is all in good fun.
10. It’s Kind of a Funny Story
Though I am generally disappointed that the Broken Social Scene score was not included anywhere on the soundtrack, the remaining inclusions of BSS as well as some notables almost make up for it. Almost. Classic BSS tracks like ‘Major Label Debut’ and new ones like ‘Not at My Best’ are great, they always are; BSS has not become one of Canada’s most successful and respected bands by making uninspired music. The listing seems to follow the plot, which I believe is always a mark of a great soundtrack—the music embellishes the story, reflecting it back but also proposing different avenues for emotions or capitalizing on an aforementioned thought. It is varied in feeling, light and hilarious with the Wowz ‘Happy Today’, understated and breathless with Pink Mountaintops’ ‘Tourist in Your Town’ and serene with the Middle East’s ‘Blood’. I hope one day the score is released as it’s inclusion within this good soundtrack would have made it so great that it would be hard to contain.
9. The Twilight Saga: Eclipse
I know. By no means do I want to be the person to add any credibility to the Twilight Saga, nor do I want to praise the producers misguided attempts to include popular bands with original songs just so they can cash in more handily on the teenage vampire loving market, but it is a good soundtrack. However misguided or terrible the film (and its agenda) the fact that so many burgeoning and successful artists created music continually for the soundtrack—for whatever the reason, I will guess money—doesn’t take away that much from the songs. Going for obvious dark subject matter, Metric, Muse, Sia and The Dead Weather are big players here and the Black keys, Florence + The Machine and Band of Horses are just a few other hitters on the soundtrack. Maybe it is just the fact that random great bands were compiled into a listing and the thought of ‘how can this not be good’ comes up because it is true and that is why the soundtrack is good. But it needs to be said: the songs created are fine, but not each artists best because of where the musical inspiration was drawn from is a poorly written and intensely flawed screenplay. End Rant.
8. The Kids Are All Right
Layered with all the hip indie bands one can handle—MGMT, Deerhoof and Fever Ray—and a smattering of old time classics like David Bowie and Joni Mitchell, The Kids Are All Right soundtrack is suave and cool. The songs are offbeat in that they are not the typical inclusions; where MGMT’s ‘kids’ would have sufficed, their ‘The Youth’ was used providing better fit and variation from the formers endless rotation. Bowie and Mitchell are used frequently, although monotonously, in other listings but here ‘Black Country Rock’ reminds that Bowie is way more then the seven songs constantly heard and ‘All I Want’ swoons the memory into Mitchell’s lush sounds and away from the overplayed ‘Big Yellow Taxi’ and its terrible covers. It seems it is a battle or maybe just a cleaving of coolness of the soundtrack—hip according to the parents versus hip according to the kids. Quadron ‘Slippin’ and Leon Russel ‘Out in the Woods’ are cleverly posed to represent the dynamics involved within the relationships of this film and keep the mind guessing which way the soundtrack will tilt next.
7. Scott Pilgrim VS. The World
To score a comic book movie can be tough; most reincarnations rely too heavily on over-amped ‘action music’ or wimpy, low substance love ballads, not so here. The music manages to capture the comic book story and feel without falling back on these standbys and instead digging deeper to find interesting and raw sounds. The Rolling Stones ‘Under My Thumb’, T Rex’s ‘Teenage Dream’ and Broken Social Scene’s ‘Anthems for a Seventeen-Year-Old Girl’ are great songs and always add cred to a soundtrack, but the contributions for the film’s fictional bands, Sex Bob-Omb and Crash and the Boys, align well. Composed by Beck and Kevin Drew and Brendan Canning respectively, the sound of the two bands is believable and fun, specifically ‘Garbage Truck’. Also, the touch of obscure depth with bands like Pumtree, much ignored Frank Blank and Blood Red Shoes diversifies the listing and makes it more then just teenage music for a teenage film. The amount of gifted artists present to help the music in this film—Sloan’s Chris Murphy as guitar teacher and Metric’s Emily Hanes inspiring Clash at Demonhead’s music and fashion—gives it a familial and consistent feel.
6. Jack Goes Boating
Phillip Seymour Hoffman can always capture the complex neuroses of his characters, whether they are forlorn academics or passive stoics and in his directorial debut, he hits that mark, excelling in the dreary set scenes of New York. The film is set in the misty, nautical space and the snowy space of east coast winters and uses beautiful music to capture those feelings of fall and winter. Grizzly Bear (who helped arrange this soundtrack) can be considered a quintessential fall band because their brand of indie style ambient music creates the melancholy but also comfort of the charm of the season. The soundtrack is beautiful and complex: DeVotchKa’s ‘Dearly Departed’ is heartbreakingly beautiful, Fleet Foxes’ ‘White Winter Hymnal’ is astounding and the instrumental ‘Snow’ by Evan Lurie provides substance and thickness with layering to even a banal scene. Even with the reggae tunes, included because of Hoffman’s character Jack’s musical obsession, the soundtrack is still a delicate mix epitomizing the idiosyncrasies present in love, humanity and fear.
5. Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps
Redundant, monotonous, unoriginal—all words that some may use to describe the Wall Street II soundtrack; however, when the artists include David Byrne, Brian Eno and David Byrne & Brian Eno, one need not use these. The original, Oliver Stone’s Wall Street, may also have had these names, hell even some of the same songs, but good is still good. Byrne is such a wonderful composer, a musical freak of sorts, and he creates these outrageous and intertwining lyrics settled against ambient sounds, and they are just so great. And Eno famous for the creation of ambient music as well as successes with David Bowie and Devo, only continually develops their beautiful soundtrack. The sublime Byrne and Eno song ‘Home’ as well as Byrne’s ‘Tiny Apocalypse’ is fantastic and if Stone is to ever make a third installment, will surely be featured on that soundtrack.
4. Shutter Island
Super close to resembling a score, but a score this is not—it is a hand picked selection of scope and sound by Martin Scorsese’s long time collaborator Robbie Robertson. Departing from their usual style of fuzzed out Rolling Stones B sides, the soundtrack is all classical except for a few modern notes by artists like Kay Star and Brian Eno. The use of non-lyrical music subtracts the obvious suggestions posed and heightens the guttural responses to scene and moment within the film. This movie is all about suspense and unpredictability uses music as the catalyst for response and assumption. Nothing could have been ascertained without the use of this selection, aside from the given; but, lets be honest sometimes the greatness we perceive in movies is what we subjectively draw out of them. The music allows the audience to extend belief beyond what is physically happening and into what could happen or what one wants to happen. The venture into different territory—no Boston mob scene, no Rolling Stones—is unique and beautiful, creating one of the most original soundtracks of the year.
When the trailer began with a stripped down Julian Casablancas ‘I’ll Try Anything Once’, unedited and unassuming, it was clear this soundtrack was going to be as good, as interesting as those preceding it in Sophie Coppola’s film catalogue. Book ended by Phoenix’s ‘Love Like a Sunset Part I’ and ‘Love Like a Sunset Part II’, Coppola melds her mix of hip and honest, superficial and sincere, into the characteristic complement her auteur status demands. Shying away from her teenaged passions and more those of her adult, the eclectic mix is best because it does not compromise the integrity of the movie by just filling it with music that will be attractive options, nor does it sway from Coppola’s prominent musical influence in her movies. She is best when a project inspires her and all her projects inspire her. Watch this movie for the beautiful scenery, the astounding script writing and of course the music that washes a viewer even deeper into the complex and stunning mind of Sophia Coppola.
2. Les Amores Imaginaires (Heartbeats)
This soundtrack is good because it takes the urgency, naivety, complexity and heat of passion and creates an ingenious soundtrack exemplifying it. Rarely is Bach featured alongside House of Pain or Fever Ray and done so, so solidly and well placed. The ingenuity of the use of music is funny and heartbreaking, describing all those quirky subtleties that tie in the complexities of menageries. Joking aside, Xavier Dolan recreates the club scenes of Montreal, superficiality of hip culture and despair of deception through this music, but also gives life to those images within audiences. The standouts are Dalida’s version of ‘Bang Bang’ and of course, the strangely awesome Fever Ray with ‘Keep the Streets Empty for Me’, just two of the many on a great vision of the world of Heartbeats.
James Murphy is a visionary genius and applies his skills and craft exquisitely to the Greenberg soundtrack. Creating a lot of his own songs and contributing some previous LCD Soundsystem tracks as well as adding other artists, the soundtrack is great, perfect even, if perfection were attainable. Murphy has been responsible for some of the 2000’s most important and best songs so it comes as no surprise that he assembles such gems from his own collection as well as from others. The Sonics ‘Shot Down’ highlights a very great, very underrated band and the addition of ‘It Never Rains in Southern California’ by Albert Hammond may seem obvious because it is popular but the use of it is wonderful within the film and that is what is important. The meat of the album, the core of its strength is Murphy’s original material and the authenticity is has. It is nothing like LCD Soundsystem—or at least farer down the spectrum. As stated by Murphy and evidenced through the music, he understood what director Noah Baumbach wanted and what the film was portraying and provided the music around that. This soundtrack is an achievement for the film, but also largely for Murphy himself.
Also take a listen to episode #245 of Sound On Sight Radio as Simon and Ricky count down there own list of what they think are the best soundtracks of the year and play their favorite songs from each album.