[Article - The Best of 2005]

It's been a very busy year for the film music industry, with hundreds of films released, large and small. As 2006 comes around, it's time for our annual end-of-the-year event, my picks for The Best of 2005. Please note that they are not in any specific "ranking" order!

Top 10 Soundtracks of 2005

Hostage (Alexandre Desplat)
Easily one of my favorites of the year, Desplat's Hostage shows that he can tackle a standard Hollywood thriller just as easily as the smaller films he'd been doing. The main title alone is worth the price of the disc.

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (Danny Elfman)
The other Tim Burton soundtrack this year gets special mention, and while the score isn't as "vintage" as Corpse Bride, Elfman's work on Charlie and the Chocolate Factory has all the quirkiness you would expect, and some zany Oompa-Loompa songs.

Munich (John Williams)
For his final score of 2005, Williams wrote an emotionally affecting score, with the standout theme being "A Prayer for Peace". His use of limited loops adds to the tension, and solos by Lisbeth Scott and Steve Erdody leave a mark.

King Kong (James Newton Howard)
With only five weeks to write the score, James Newton Howard managed to deliver rousing action, tender emotion, and mysterious adventure. The album has only about 1/3 of the final music, but the selections work as a solid listening experience.

The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe (Harry Gregson-Williams)
Gregson-Williams created a large orchestral sound for the fantasy world of Narnia, including soft ethnic source material and a warm family theme. The battle sequence is a knockout, although the songs feel tacked on at the end.

The Chumscrubber (James Horner)
The synth-heavy score to The Chumscrubber is so unlike any other Horner score in recent years - it could find a home quite comfortably in a Michael Mann movie! There's something really calming and ethereal about this score, and the whimsical saxophone melody is refreshing.

Memoirs of a Geisha (John Williams)
At times it might feel like Memoirs is going overboard, using both Yo-Yo Ma and Itzhak Perlman, but these two masters contribute to a very solid score by Williams, with plenty of Asian overtones.

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (Patrick Doyle)
Williams is out, but Doyle is in - and while it's much different than the first three Harry Potter score, his score works wonderfully when taken on its own. Dark and dramatic, there is some great orchestral action, and a beautiful love theme.

The Kingdom of Heaven (Harry Gregson-Williams)
Harry Gregson-Williams has created an operatic score on a grand epic scale. With ethnic instruments and a variety of religious sounds, he created a very dynamic score that shouldn't be overlooked.

Wallace and Gromit: The Curse of the Were-rabbit (Julian Nott, et al)
Wallace and Gromit finally hit the big screen, and Nott's fun score - with a little help from a few other folks - keeps the energy and excitement coming. It's a blast to listen to, and even if you're not a Wallace and Gromit fan, you would be remised to overlook this one.

Honorable Mentions

The Machinist (Roque Banos)
This dark Herrmannesque score uses a theremin and heavy strings to build a sonic texture that feels both vintage and modern at the same time. While the film came out in 2004, the soundtrack didn't come out until the summer of 2005, so we're mentioning it now.

Tim Burton's Corpse Bride (Danny Elfman)
Elfman is at the top of his game with his score to Corpse Bride, and anyone who liked his masterpiece The Nightmare Before Christmas, this album is definitely a revisiting of the classic "Elfman style", infused with a bit of New Orleans jazz.

Syriana (Alexandre Desplat)
Desplat also scored this political drama about interconnected stories in the oil industry. Ethnic instrument solos and tense electronic pulses mixed with strings and a soft piano theme result in a solid effort, but while it's extremely effective in the film, it's not as effective as an album. Desplat is sure to be A-list within a year at this rate!

Top 5 Song Soundtracks of 2005

The Producers
Basically a retread of the Broadway cast album, the songs by Mel Brooks are funny and entertaining, and the new songs at the end are a blast.

Walk the Line
The film's cast sings the songs themselves, which makes this album all the more impressive - if you didn't know otherwise, you would think they were the original performers. It will appeal to more than just Johnny Cash fans.

Raging Bull
It wasn't even released this decade, but there was never a soundtrack release for Martin Scorsese's Raging Bull. This two disc set contains a huge amount of songs, and - like most Scorsese films - works great as a compilation mix album.

Good Night, and Good Luck
There is no underscore for George Clooney's film about Edward R. Murrow taking on Senator Joe McCarthy. Instead, he uses singer Dianne Reeves performing old standards as transitional material. It's all smooth and enjoyable.

Wedding Crashers
It's a veritable party-on-a-disc, and the songs used in the Wedding Crashers soundtrack work well for the romantic comedy. The "Hava Nagila" bonus track at the end will definitely make you smile.

Top 5 Songs of 2005

"The Hop Clop Goes On" - The Producers
Mel Brooks decided to take his "Guten Tag Hop Clop" and re-envision it as a Celine Dion Titanic-inspired pop song, for the end credits. With Will Farrell singing it, the result is a hilarious jab at the trend for pop songs at the end of films.

"Remains of the Day" - Tim Burton's Corpse Bride
With many songs to choose from, Danny Elfman's "Remains of the Day" stood out for me, with its jazzy roots and narrative ballad.

"Listen to the Wind" - The New World
Composer James Horner teamed up with Polar Express lyricist Glenn Ballard to pen this unused end title song, performed by Haley Westenra. Using the theme from his score, Horner's melody grows on you the more you listen to it.

"Travelin' Though" - Transamerica
Even if you're not a country music fan, Dolly Parton's song has a great message, and the knee-slapping rhythm will stick with you.

"Oompa Loompa Songs" - Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
It's nearly impossible to pick just one of the songs from this film - all of the Oompa Loompa songs have different "genres", but they're all zany, and the closest thing we'll get to new Oingo Boingo songs. Elfman voices all of them, and his energy is infectious, even if you can't make out half of the lyrics.

Top 10 Special Releases / Re-Recordings of 2005

Knight Rider (Stu Phillips)
Our reviewer didn't like the album, but he just didn't 'get it'. There's something about Stu Phillips' score to this classic 80's TV show that just feels retro and awesome at the same time, and I'm glad Film Score Monthly released it!

The Escape Artist (Georges Delerue)
Delerue's lush melodic emotional score finally gets released, courtesy of Percepto Records. As a bonus, we get a demo track of the composer himself performing, and a very informative booklet.

Capricorn One (Jerry Goldsmith)
Intrada digs into the archives to bring us an expanded version of this classic late-70s Goldsmith score. The sound quality good, and the liner notes informative.

Extreme Prejudice (Jerry Goldsmith)
Although it was previously released, this newly expanded and remastered score showcases Goldsmith at the height of his orchestral/electronic fusion days. La-La Land Records made sure to include director Walter Hill in the project, and his insights enhance the package.

Silverado (Bruce Broughton)
Bruce Broughton's Oscar-nominated score gets new life, with a completely new 2-CD complete remastered release from Intrada. There's so much great music here that I don't even know where to begin - but you should just get it anyways.

The Getaway (Unused Score) (Jerry Fielding)
Film Score Monthly rescues Fielding's unused score to this Steve McQueen film, and while it might confirm why the score was tossed, it's always great to hear newly-available Fielding.

The Howling (Pino Donaggio)
Last year Varese Sarabande released a Club release of Piranha, and this year, La-La Land Records released the soundtrack to Joe Dante's next film, The Howling. Basically the LP release, cleaned up, with some bonus tracks, the album is a must-have for horror movie fans.

The Hallelujah Trail (Elmer Bernstein)
This Varese Sarabande Club release isn't very long, but it's Elmer Bernstein at the height of his Western phase, and the song lyrics will have you chuckling.

The Guns of Navarone (Dimitri Tiomkin)
This re-recording, released by Tadlow Music, might not be a perfect one-to-one recreation of the original film score, but it sounds great, and the music showcases Tiomkin's skills.

Three Choral Suites by Miklos Rozsa (Miklos Rozsa)
This album contains newly restored and recorded suites of music from three films: Ben-Hur, Quo Vadis, and King of Kings. Telarc's digital recording is superb, and the performances by the Cincinnati Pops Orchestra and the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, conducted by Erich Kunzel, are great. If you can, get the SACD version.

Honorable Mention

The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring - The Complete Recordings (Howard Shore)
With three hours of music, informative liner notes, a DVD with the complete score in 5.1 surround sound (both in Dolby Digital and PPCM DVD-Audio), and very nice packaging to boot, what's not to like about this set? Well, the price. But that aside, this is one hell of a box!

Best Computer Game Soundtracks

The Incredibles: Rise of the Underminer (Michael Giacchino)
Last year, Michael Giacchino's computer game score to The Incredibles was on this list, and it wasn't released. Sadly, the same goes for the sequel to that game. But with new themes, including a kick-ass one for Frozone, it's a nice trip down memory lane. Get the game to hear it!

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (Jeremy Soule)
Soule's fully orchestral bombastic score for this fourth game in the Harry Potter series builds off his themes established in the first four games. While there is no score album available, and he doesn't use any of Williams or Doyle's themes, Soule's music is definitely worth checking out, if you can get your hands on the game.

Kameo: Elements of Power (Steve Burke)
This Xbox360 game features a fully orchestral score, with choir. Lucky for you, there is indeed a soundtrack release, and it's well worth picking up. This is the kind of score that easily could have been written for a feature film.

Peter Jackson's King Kong (Chance Thomas)
Speaking of cinematic computer game scores, Thomas's take on King Kong is so immersive and theatrical, that you would have sworn it was written for the film - and not the computer game. Pieces of it are available online from the official website.

Gun (Christopher Lennertz)
This surprisingly energetic score works not only as computer game music, but also as a full-fledged western. The score is thematic and ethnic where needed, the action cues stand out and really enhance the game play. While Lennertz has Medal of Honor: European Assault and From Russia with Love out this year, Gun is the one to hear.