The Sounds of 2021 mix of movie soundtracks comes in at just over two hours: a synergy of cerebral, graceful, paranoid, turbulent, and wondrous sounds from across all genres, merged to tell its own sonic story. The focus is mainly Hollywood and American indie movies, with a few excursions to Ethiopia, Chile, Japan, France, United Kingdom, Italy, and Sweden. My moviegoing practices became ever more erratic this year after a move to a new country, on-off rule changes in cinemas, and a tendency to have cinematic interests in something specific that was not part of the current slate. That being said, there was excitement in the air when it came to new cinema that felt more powerful this year than last and I hope that grows. New work from Mica Levi, Ludovico Einaudi, and a country soundtrack from Clint Eastwood’s latest film are a few of the exciting moments from this year's cinema sonics that you’ll find in the mix. Below are a few highlights.
The beginning track, “Drive My Car (Cassette),” taken from Eiko Ishibashi’s score for Ryusuke Hamaguchi’s Drive My Car,has a mixtape-for-a-long-car-ride quality to it and for this reason felt like an apt place to start. The whole score is beautiful and features throughout. Following that is Tim Fain’s delicate and haunting classical meets lo-fi scuzz for The Bones. Paul Schrader appointed Robert Levon Been for The Card Counter (his late father Micheal wrote and performed the score for Schrader’s 1992 quiet gem Light Sleeper), and in this mix I chose the ambient moments from the score, favoring them over the vocals. Eli Keszler’s score for The Scary of Sixty-First is a total knockout, a giallo trip with an abstract twist just released by Deeper Into Movies, who have recently branched out into releasing scores by new filmmakers—this being their first release—and reissuing forgotten classics.
Both Daniel Hart and Harry Gregson-Williams’ scores for The Green Knight and The Last Duel share tones of folklore, choral majesty, and whispers of ghostly forgotten tales. The medieval hints are done subtly and there are moments of transcendence in both. This mix features “Blome Swete Lilie Flower '' from The Green Knight and “Marguerite de Carrouges” from The Last Duel.
Mycheal Danna (responsible for one of my all time favorite soundtracks, Atom Egoyan’s 1994 Exotica; Danna and Egoyan were frequent collaborators during this period) is behind Tom Mccarthy’s Stillwater score, marrying the sounds of Marseille and Oklahoma respectively. The melancholy guitar piece “Bill Baker” is the theme for Matt Damon’s character of the same name and features in the mix. Joe Delia and Abel Ferrera continue their longtime alliance with Zeros and Ones. It is (unsurprisingly, as with all Delia’s work) cool, sparing, and toes the perfect line between the particular ambience film scoring is meant to provide and the originality and style for the music to play out beyond the screen.
Disappointing only begins to describe Morgan Neville’s documentary on Anthony Bourdain, Roadrunner: A Film About Anthony Bourdain. Any of the priceless footage featured is marred as the documentary throws itself into a cheap, unrestrained oblivion. The film however features Bourdain’s great music taste, and featured in this mix is a beautiful piece from Meg Baird and Mary Lattimore’s collaborative work titled “Between Two Worlds,” as we hear a passage from Bourdain's early travel writing. Devonte Hynes has provided a yearning and tender score for Rebecca Hall’s Passing, which we hear blended with fragments from Swan Song and again towards the end of the mix.
Jonny Greenwood has had quite the year and is present from start to finish. First with Spencer, then The Power of The Dog, and finally the title track for Licorice Pizza. At this point Greenwood is the vanguard of the new wave of celebrated musicians finding a home in Hollywood. His 2021 work exhibits his relentless energy in creating new expressions of composing for the commercial screen without artistic compromise. The disorientating keys and signatures that both Spencer and The Power of The Dog play in are testament to that. A lesser known player in the musician to film score dynamic is Rupert Parkes, a.k.a. Photek, one of the great producers of electronic music in the 90s, who is behind The Protege. Although the film is one I won’t be running to rewatch, hearing Photek behind another score was exciting regardless.
Speaking of musicals and music films, alongside a performance from Sly and the Family Stone for Questlove's Summer of Soul (...or, When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised), Sparks feature with both their work on Annette and then the lens turning inwards through a recited passage of lyrics from Edgar Wright's documentary The Sparks Brothers. Todd Haynes' brilliant documentary on The Velvet Underground closes the mix out, as Nico sings “All Tomorrow’s Parties.” The lyrics feel more poignant than ever as another year draws to an end, moving further ahead into the ever stranger landscapes of now. I wonder what those parties will be and where. And one last wonder: can we hand Hans the Oscar for Dune already?
- Eiko Ishibashi, “Drive My Car (Cassette),” Drive My Car (Ryusuke Hamaguchi) 00:00
- The Bones (Cristóbal León, Joaquín Cociña) excerpt 02:50
- Harry Gregson-Williams, “Marguerite de Carrouges,” The Last Duel (Ridley Scott) 06:20
- Robert Levon Been, “Determined Event,” The Card Counter (Paul Schrader) 08:20
- Dan Deacon, “History Converges On The Present,” All Light Everywhere (Theo Anthony) 10:00
- Robert Levon Been, “Casino Floor 1 (Beta Testing),” The Card Counter (Paul Schrader)12:56
- Jonny Greenwood, “Arrival,” Spencer (Pablo Larraín) 14:35
- Eli Keszler, “Enchantment,” The Scary of Sixty-First (Dasha Nekrasova) 21:45
- Steven Price, “You Know Where To Find Me,” Last Night In Soho (Edgar Wright) 22:40
- Bergman Island (Mia Hansen-Løve) excerpt 24:40
- William Basinski, “Cascade” (edit), Faya Dayi (Jessica Beshir) 26:56
- Faya Dayi excerpt (edit) (Jessica Beshir) 30:00
- Kaho Nakamura, “Faces in the Rain,” Belle (Mamoru Hosoda) 31:00
- Daniel Hart, “Blome Swete Lilie Flour,” The Green Knight (David Lowery) 33:15
- Mica Levi, “Wanna Hear A Story,” Zola (Janicza Bravo) 36:10
- Robert Aiki Aubrey Lowe, “Music Box,” Candyman (Nia DaCosta) 37:04
- Joe Delia, “Zeros And Ones Theme,” Zeros And Ones (Abel Ferrara) 39:05
- Roadrunner: A Film About Anthony Bourdain (Morgan Neville) excerpt 42:20
- Meg Baird & Mary Lattimore, “Between Two Worlds,” Roadrunner: A Film About Anthony Bourdain (Morgan Neville) 42:30
- Jim Williams, “Belly Oil,” Titane (Julia Ducournau) 48:16
- Alexandre Desplat, “Obituary,” The French Dispatch (Wes Anderson) 50:24
- Will Banister, “Find A New Home,” Cry Macho (Clint Eastwood) 53:50
- Jonny Greenwood, “Psalm 22,” The Power Of The Dog (Jane Campion) 58:01
- Mark Isham, “The Inflated Tear - Judy Has Questions,” Judas and the Black Messiah (Shaka King) 65:25
- Hans Zimmer, “Herald of the Change,” Dune (Denis Villeneuve)67:05
- Mica Levi, “What Y’all Make,” Zola (Janicza Bravo) 71:40
- Nicholas Jarr, “Tema,” Ema (Pablo Larraín) 72:30
- Swan Song (Todd Stephens) excerpt (edit) 76:10
- Devonte Hynes, “The Drayton,” Passing (Rebecca Hall) 79:31
- Four Roads (Alice Rohrwacher)excerpt 82:16
- Eiko Ishibashi, “Drive My Car (The Truth, No Matter What It Is, Isn’t That Frightening),” Drive My Car (Ryusuke Hamaguchi) 84:04
- Ludovico Einaudi, “My Journey (Film Version for The Father David Menke Remix),” The Father (Florian Zeller) 86:05
- Neil Gaiman, “Amateur Hour (Lyric Read),” The Sparks Brothers (Edgar Wright) 86:24
- Photek, “Poetry Intrigue,” The Protégé (Martin Campbell) 89:20
- Marco Beltrami “Mother and Child,” A Quiet Place Part II (John Krasinski) 90:05
- Clint Mansell, “Spirit Of The Woods,” In The Earth (Ben Wheatley) 91:30
- Eli Keszler, “Vyance Study,” The Scary of Sixty-First (Dasha Nekrasova) 97:12
- Mychael Danna, “Bill Baker,” Stillwater (Tom McCarthy) 98:20
- Cryptozoo (Dash Shaw) excerpt 100:30
- Sparks; Marion Cotillard, “True Love Always Finds A Way,” Annette (Leos Carax) 103:06
- Sly & The Family Stone, “Sing a Simple Song (Live at the 1969 Harlem Cultural Festival),” Summer of Soul (...or, When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised) (Questlove) 104:20
- Roger Suen, “Leaving New Orleans,” Blue Bayou (Justin Chon) 109:26
- Devonte Hynes, “Irene’s Headache,” Passing (Rebecca Hall) 111:23
- Eiko Ishibashi, “Drive My Car We’ll Live Through The Long Days and Through the Long Nights (Oto),” Drive My Car (Ryusuke Hamaguchi)113:45
- Jonny Greenwood, “Licorice Pizza,” Licorice Pizza (Paul Thomas Anderson) 117:12
- The Velvet Underground & Nico, “All Tomorrow’s Parties,” The Velvet Underground (Todd Haynes)