My roundup of the year in cinematic soundtracks is a sonic collage of emotion and sensations, mixed together with both pop and orchestral flourishes.
We start off with music from Tár, Todd Field’s return to filmmaking and the story of the renowned conductor of the Berlin Philharmonic (Cate Blanchett). Hildur Guðnadóttir’s concept album features music from within the film and inspired by it, with original pieces alongside beloved works by Elgar and Mahler.
Experiencing Memoria at the cinema turned my senses upside down. Here Apichatpong Weerasethakul is in full force, offering a cinematic experience of the sensory. If one were to critique a film based solely on its sonic sensibilities, Memoria achieves the highest embodiment of altered states possible through the marriage of sound and visuals. The realms of human consciousness are Apichatpong's focus and it is through sound design and music that we fall into his world. Featured in the mix is César López's piano piece from the soundtrack, titled “Memoria (Una película de Apichatpong Weerasethakul).”
Composer Cho Young-wuk continues his collaboration with Park Chan-wook in Decision to Leave. The thrilling strings of “The Look of Love” richly add tension and mystery to Park’s sensual knockout murder mystery. In the first quarter of the mix you can also hear a film whose reputation precedes it: Olivia Wilde’s Don’t Worry Darling. I was dubious about its score, but one of my favorite things is plucking film music from obscurity or the depths of bad assumption and piecing it together with different sounds to hear it for the first time. John Powell’s wonky, distorted vocals meet with serene strings for a glistening ride.
Crimes of the Future may not have caught fire with audiences (Cronenberg doing Cronenberg) but I couldn’t help but give a nod to Howard Shore’s score and there’s a nice breakout moment in the mix with “Brecken,” a less intense affair than some of the other pieces on the soundtrack. More pulsating intervals of electronic mood come from Martine Syms's The African Desperate and Doug Aitken’s Wilderness. It’s always nice to include Carter Burwell and Mychael Danna, who both have appearances for The Banshees of Inisherin and Where the Crawdads Sing respectively.
Clio Barnard’s Ali & Ava is a film based on music and its power to connect us. It’s refreshing to see the north of England on the screen and Barnard is at her most tender here. In a work where music is the form of emotional expression for the characters where words otherwise fail, there were plenty of great moments to choose from; in the mix we hear Sukhwinder Singh's “Chaiyya Chaiyya,” a fun Bollywood-meets-Punjabi moment. On the topic of pop music, the titles and end credits of The Tsugua Diaries is a work of choreography brilliance, guided by Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons “The Night.”
On hard rotation, I’m currently obsessed with Alex G’s score for We’re All Going to the World’s Fair, continuing the enigmatic producer/songwriter's style with shoegaze dream pop, ambient, and moody Elliott Smith-esque guitar providing feelings of angst. A couple of tracks from this score feature in here. Charlotte Wells’s Aftersun is an assured, beautiful debut—as a fan of Oliver Coates for years it's a brilliant convergence for the next exciting voice in Scottish cinema to have chosen Coates to contribute to the vision. A haunting coming-of-age story built on delicate memories of a young father and daughter on a package holiday in the late 90s. Coates's stunning score and sound cues help build on this tapestry which exposes the universality of the secret lives hidden in the archive of family memory.
Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross made two feature scores this year, with Bones and All being some of their best work yet (and that is saying something!). There are wistful moments of American road-trip guitars, hopeful and melancholy before the reveal of hyper-tense distortion on the soundtrack. A snippet from Sam Mendes's Empire of Light, a love story set at a cinema on the UK's south coast in the 1980s ,also features Reznor and Ross. More duos: two Claire Denis films, Both Sides of the Blade and Stars at Noon, calls for two new Tindersticks collaborations. Two Andrew Dominik, Nick Cave, and Warren Ellis collaborations, first for the Blonde soundtrack, and then the documentary This Much I Know to Be True, following Cave and Ellis as they create their most recently recorded material.
From start to finish the mix moves across moments of sound collage, with echoes of dialogue, score, and sound design glimmering and flickering away into the distance. A favorite lo-fi moment surrounding these ambient intervals is a track by Nick Lloyd Webber, “As Far As We Can Go,” from the soundtrack of Gillies MacKinnon’s The Last Bus. This track falls side by side with the eyes of two dreamers expressed in sound. The first is a climactic scene when Kanye West introduces himself as a figure destined to become a piece of the cultural zeitgeist in Jeen-yuhs, Coodie Simmons’s archival triumph, heard through a mindblowing freestyle with Mos Def caught on camera many moons ago. The unsuspecting room is in awe as a wide-eyed Kayne shimmers unaware of his cultural mark to come, eager to take it. This scene culminates in a moving melody of strings—Kanye grips onto his bars, the arrogance and innocence of the American dream. As this one journey takes off, in the second music cue a character stays put, confined to a dairy farm. The eyes of Luna, the protagonist of Andrea Arnold’s Cow, emit a tragic understanding of the natural world, soundtracked by a haunted cover of Bon Iver’s “Skinny Love.” The song and accompanying sound design signal a universal sense of melancholy, private hardships, and defiance of God’s will.
The set of a meta film is where we end: within the dreams of making a film, dreams of making an impact in life. In Joanna Hogg’s coming-of-age saga The Souvenir Part II, Julie’s (Honor Swinton Byrne) life is a poignant reminder of how having the confidence to pursue creative desires is a life worth fighting for. In its astonishing climax, pop songs from Julie’s life are layered with sound stage cues, the voice of a director commanding a film set, and conversations about future hopes and dreams. Hogg magically evokes the uncanny reality of emotional experience—a life imitated on screen. And then cut to 2023.
- Hildur Guðnadóttir, “Guðnadóttir For Petra (Vocal Version),” TÁR (Tod Field, 2022), 00:00
- Excerpt, Vortex (Gaspar Noé, 2021), 1:15
- Tindersticks, “Both Sides of the Blade,” Both Sides of the Blade (Claire Denis, 2022), 06:00
- Cho Young-wuk, “The Look Of Love,” Decision to Leave, (Park Chan-wook, 2002), 10:00
- Excerpt, How Is Katia? (Christina Tynkevych, 2002), 14:00 (edit)
- Nick Lloyd Webber, “As Far As We Can Go,” The Last Bus (Gillies MacKinnon, 2022), 15:15
- John Powell, “Beginners Ballet Class,” Don't Worry Darling (Olivia Wilde, 2022), 19:00
- John Powell, “Whisky by the Hearth,” Don't Worry Darling, 20:10
- Excerpt, The African Desperate (Martine Syms, 2022), 21:15
- Martin Dirkov, “The Holy Spider,” Holy Spider (Ali Abbasi, 2022), 22:30
- Excerpt, This Much I Know to Be True (Andrew Dominik, 2022), 15:15
- Carter Burwell, “The Mystery of Inisherin,” The Banshees of Inisherin (Martin McDonagh, 2022) 28:15
- Mychael Danna, “A Feather From A Tate,” Where The Crawdads Sing (Olivia Newman, 2022), 30:40
- Excerpt, Wilderness (Doug Aitken, 2022), 32:40
- Trent Reznor, “The Great Wide Open,” Bones and All (Luca Guadagnino, 2022), 34:40
- Sukhwinder Singh, “Chaiyya Chaiyya,” Ali & Ava (Clio Bernard, 2021) 39:20
- Alex G, Casey’s Fair, We’re All Going to the World’s Fair (Jane Schoenbrun, 2021), 45:55
- Excerpt, A Chiara, (Jonas Carpignano, 2021), 47:35 (edit)
- Nick Cave and Warren Ellis, “Goddess Of Love On A Subway Grating,” Blonde (Andrew Dominik, 2022), 49:20
- Marco Beltrami, “Dybt Vand Groove,” Deep Water (Adrian Lyne, 2022) 51:30
- Pawel Mykietyn, “The Beginning,” EO (Jerzy Skolimowski, 2022), 54:04
- Excerpt, Godland (Hlynur Pálmason, 2022), 56:35 (edit)
- Howard Shore, “Brecken,” Crimes of the Future (David Cronenberg, 2022), 57:35
- Excerpt, Hideous (Yann Gonzalez, 2022), 57:35 (edit)
- Excerpt, Invisible Demons (Rahul Jain, 2021), 60:00 (edit)
- Exuma, Exuma, “The Obeah Man,” Nope (Jordan Peele, 2022), 60:40
- Tyler Bates and Chelsea Wolfe, “Oui Oui Marie,” X (Ti West, 2022), 67:00
- Excerpt, The Worst Person in the World (Joachim Trier, 2021), 73:00
- Saul Williams, “Matalusa's Dream,” Neptune Frost (Saul Williams and Anisia Uzeyman, 2021), 74:30
- Hildur Guðnadóttir, Elgar: Cello Concerto in E Minor, Op. 85 – I. Adagio – Moderato (Recording Session / Excerpt), TÁR, 75:30
- Trent Reznor, “I’m With You (You Seem Nice),” Bones and All, 78:56
- Animal Collective, “Phonecall,” The Inspection (Elegance Bratton, 2022) 80:52
- Excerpt, Empire of Light (Sam Mendes, 2022), 82:10
- Cliff Martinez, Do You Have a Bathroom, Kimi (Steven Soderbergh, 2022), 83:10
- Excerpt, The Tsugua Diaries, (Maureen Fazendeiro, Miguel Gomes, 2021), 84:30 (edit)
- Christopher Spelman, Walking Home, Armageddon Time (James Gray, 2022), 88:00
- Tindersticks, “Burning Car,” Stars at Noon (Claire Denis, 2022), 89:00
- Alex G, End Song, We’re All Going to the World’s Fair (Jane Schoenbrun, 2021), 92:20
- Excerpt, Aftersun (Charlotte Wells, 2022), 93:30
- César López, “Memoria (Una película de Apichatpong Weerasethakul),” Memoria (Apichatpong Weerasethakul, 2021), 99:00
- Excerpt, Jeen-yuhs (Coodie & Chike, 2022), 101:45 (edit)
- Excerpt, Cow (Andrea Arnold, 2021), 103:30 (edit)
- Excerpt, The Souvenir Part II (Joanna Hogg, 2021), 106:40 (edit)