The Best Film Music Of 2013

December 30, 2013
  • The Best Film Music Of 2013

We’ve counted off the best albums of the year. All that remains are the top reissues (not gonna happen, there are just too many!) and the soundtracks. And when I say soundtracks, I mean original film music. None of that “There’s a Vashti Bunyan song on the LABOR DAY soundtrack!” bullshit. I’m talking about the good stuff. Like these:

The Best Film Music Of 2013

Honorable Mention: Clint Mansell – Stoker – All the music they used in this film was great. How about the use of Lee Hazlewood’s “Summer Wine”? Pretty much the only sore spot was that goofy song at the end, otherwise the combination of selected music and Clint Mansell’s score would have been one of my ten favorites of the year. I hope Chan-wook Park is given a chance to direct another (better) English language film soon.

10. Explosions In The Sky / David Wingo – Prince Avalanche – I actually watched this last night BECAUSE so many people have written about the EITS-composed score. It was nice, but it kind of reminded me of a lot of other scores I’ve been hearing recently. I’d say “It’s no FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS” but you can’t really compare the two soundtracks because “Your Hand In Mine” (on the FNL soundtrack) was also the core of the band’s studio LP, THE EARTH IS NOT A COLD DEAD PLACE. Although maybe “Six Days At The Bottom Of The Ocean” was the centerpiece of that album. Either way, I’d say the  music was probably the part of  Prince Avalanche  I liked the most. Afterwards I decided to watch SNOWTOWN. That was kinda fucked up.

09. Mike Patton – The Place Beyond The Pines – I picked up one of the limited edition vinyl pressings of this score because even though I thought the movie was only so-so (a bit too ambitious for its own good), I really liked Mike Patton’s score. You could imagine my horror when, at the end of side two, a fucking Bon Iver song started blasting through my stereo. Even though I might never have outwardly expressed it on this website, I’ve been trying to go my entire life without hearing a Bon Iver song. Now I fucking own one. I almost turned around and sold the record back because it crept up on me and I felt cheated having that fucking dweeb sullying Patton’s amazing work.

08 . M83 – Oblivion – I’m not a huge M83 fan. The only record of theirs I own is DEAD CITIES, RED SEAS & LOST GHOSTS. And in fact I heard HURRY UP, WE’RE DREAMING shortly after it came out and I decided that I hated it AND the band. It was that bad. Alas, I have this weird compulsion to buy every single LP that Mondo issues, so I had to buy the OBLIVION soundtrack even though I knew Anthony Gonzalez was involved. Joseph Trapanese (a fellow Jersey boy!) also worked on THE RAID: REDEMPTION so I felt a bit better about my chances of enjoying OBLIVION. Turns out it was really good!

07. Daniel Hart – Ain’t Them Bodies Saints – A movie as Malick-esque as this needed a dense, magical score to accompany it, and Hart (who I’ve never head of before) came up with something really ingenious that fits perfectly with the film’s visual elements. I honestly think that without his music, the aesthetic of the film would not have been fully realized. You’ll probably never hear me say anything like this ever again, but I want to go on record as saying that I really like all the handclapping, too! Normally I’d be all, “The fuck is this shit!?” but, again, because it’s juxtaposed to huge layers of strings and some mandolin it WORKS!

06. Alex Ebert – All Is Lost – I feel like I’m the a) the only person my age who has seen ALL IS LOST, and b) the only person who really loved every element of it. The story, the direction, fucking Robert Redford, and Alex Ebert’s score! By the way, I’ve never heard of Alex Ebert before. Apparently he’s in an indie band? Eh, could be worse. Everyone knows it’s pretty much a wordless movie, which means the music has to hit on every emotion Redford isn’t able to express. Shockingly, Ebert achieves this, and his drone-y, dirgeful, sweeping score is one of the main reasons (Redford’s performance being the other, of course) that I so enjoyed this film.

05. Johann Johannsson – Prisoners – This is one of those films you see just because someone gives it to you, not because you were dying to get to the theater and watch Hugh Jackman and Jake Gyllenhaal…uh…what’s the opposite of “light up” the screen? “Dark down?” Yeah, I was really into the idea of watching Hugh Jackman and Jake Gyllenhall “dark down” the  screen. And as little as I cared for the revenge drama, the music was impeccable. I don’t know anything else Johannsson has done, but his name is DEFINITELY on my radar now.

04. Cliff Martinez – Only God Forgives – As much as I wanted to love this movie (or the idea of it? or maybe just the trailer?) it turned out to be almost unwatchable. I love Nicolas Winding Refn. I can get behind the weirdness of VALHALLA RISING, I loved the darkness and brooding silence of DRIVE, but this one…it just went a bit too far. Visually it was one of the most beautiful movies of the year. Martinez’s score — like all his scores — was a home run. The rest of the film (the story, mostly) just sucked the life out of me and I couldn’t get into it. Love the music though. So good. Even the karaoke jams.

03. Upstream Color – Shane Carruth – Have I been on Shane Carruth’s dick enough yet this month? I mean…if I laud him any more I think I’d be in danger of doing whatever the journalistic equivalent of biting off a dick is. Still, that doesn’t make UPSTREAM COLOR any less of an achievement, nor does it make Carruth’s score any less incredible. It’s going to sound cliche, but there really isn’t anything I can say that is going to do this film justice. Just go see it. We’ll talk about it later.

02. Gravity – Steven Price – Every sound element in this film was outstanding. The design was just…bonkers. I’m sure I’ve mentioned this by now, but I saw GRAVITY with Dolby Atmos sound and it was unlike any other moviegoing experience I’ve had. That opening scene, with the radio communication between Clooney and mission control, the country music, the breathing and dialogue between the other characters…everything came at you in every direction, in true stereo, and that was just the opening minute. Then Price’s score took over and stole the entire fucking film. Sandra Bullock, whatever. Super-intense survival whatever blah blah blah, this movie is ALL about Price’s score. I mean, the 3D visuals were insane too, but the score! Oh, the score! I blasted this in the store one day last week and I think I scared off some potential customers. I don’t care. It was amazing.

01. Robin “Rob” Coudert – Maniac – This is #1 with one caveat. It technically premiered in 2012, but it didn’t play in Los Angeles until May, I think. Maybe June? I just remember going to the first showing at a little theater in Hollywood the first night of its run and being super amped up to see a re-imagining of one of my favorite slasher/horror films. I know Jay Chattaway’s original score is pretty brilliant in its own right, but Rob really did something special with this updated version of the film. I’ve listened to it far more than any other score this year. I set my alarm clock for early one morning to make sure I nabbed a copy of the vinyl Mondo pressed. Hell, I even considered buying one of the Death Waltz versions just to compare the two. I was that into it. So, if you consider a movie that hits the festival circuit in 2012 but doesn’t have a limited US release until 2013 eligible for this prize, then MANIAC wins my best film music of the year award. If you think the 2012 screenings make it ineligible, just strike it from the record and bump everything else up one place. The end. [Listen to “Haunted” [MP3]]


  1. |

    I have the exact same personal goal RE: Bon Iver!
    I understand your pain.
    I had my Vampire Weekend cherry nastily popped a while ago..
    It was my own fault for asking “What is this dry-pap we’re listening to?”

  2. |

    …also, this list is great. I’ve seen most of these films.
    Generally speaking pretty_ “meh”, but with stand out soundtracks.

    Oddly, (for me) more tolerable than the reverse.

  3. […] (Steven Price) – If you read this blog regularly you know I already cast my ballot for the best film music of 2013. That said, I have a problem with this category in that I think some worthy composers were robbed […]

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