By Ryan Keating-Lambert
Along with the best films of the year, which is still undergoing some intense thought, come the best soundtracks. Being a massive soundtrack nerd, this was A LOT of fun to write. Keep in mind however, this is a list comprised of original scores from film and television series released in the Czech Republic during the year 2017. You won’t find Baby Driver on this list, but give it a spin all the same. For those of you too impatient to read and who would rather get straight to the point, scroll down to check out my carefully selected ‘Best of’ Spotify playlist. Happy listening!
The winner for me this year is without a doubt West Dylan Thordson’s soundtrack for Split. Director M. Night Shyamalan went back to his visceral horror roots with this film, and Thordson’s stripped-down score is an ode to the tragic and the broken. The composer relies on layers of jarring construction-like sounds which blend seamlessly with his epic string crescendos. ‘Meeting the Others’ is a particularly powerful track that makes James McAvoy’s performance all the more intense, as does the thumping finale track ‘The Standoff’.
As far as the big guns go, Hans Zimmer is still riding the wave of film composer glory and new soundtracks aside, managed to also pull off one hell of a successful and super expensive live concert tour this year. The ‘Live in Prague’ concert DVD and blu-ray are now in stores. A lot of the composer’s success however, can be linked back to regular collaborator Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk in which Zimmer gave us a slightly more unconventional score based around a slow burn of percussive ticks and tocks, making Nolan’s WWII masterpiece a very beautiful and intense watch. Tracks like ‘The Mole’ and ‘Supermarine’ are real standouts.
Denis Villeneuve’s Blade Runner 2049 also gave Zimmer a lot to work with, and even though the soundtrack doesn’t live up to its predecessor (how could anyone ever top Vangelis anyway?), the score, in collaboration with Ben Wallfisch, meshes incredibly well with Roger Deakins’ stunning cinematography. Although 2049 certainly wasn’t my favourite film of the year, the subtle but wholly magnetic score reeled me in. It would have been nice to hear Johan Johansson’s version of the soundtrack though. The Icelandic composer did the incredible scores for Villeneuve’s earlier films Arrival, Sicario and Prisoners, but left 2049 because the director wanted ‘something closer to Vangelis’.
Then there was Thor: Ragnarok. Taika Waititi gave your average Marvel movie a hell of a makeover with his hilarious ’80s tongue-in-cheek interpretation of the god of thunder. It’s only fitting that he enlisted the skills of Devo frontman Mark Mothersbaugh, who is also a soundtrack collaborator on some Wes Anderson films. Mothersbaugh’s Ragnarok soundtrack is good clean synth-popping fun. Think Alan Silvestri meets Devo.
One of the most surprising blockbuster movie soundtrack breakouts though, was definitely Daniel Pemberton’s epic fantasy/dirty rock score for King Arthur: Legend of the Sword. A classic example of a soundtrack outshining its own film. If you need some music for your running playlist, this is the one for you.
The indie film world also had its fair share of soundtrack glory this year. There was the Oneohtrix Point Never electronic and psychosomatic sh*t-storm that pushed along the Safdie Brothers’ wonderfully Good Time, not to mention the haunting and ethereal Daniel Hart score for A Ghost Story – ‘Thesaurus Tuus’ is an unforgettable track that takes you immediately back to that powerful moment in director David Lowery’s masterpiece of a film.
Television also had a decent year. Ramin Djawadi’s Season 7 Game of Thrones soundtrack was outstanding – no surprises there. However, American Gods was the real standout. Talented composer Brian Reitzell effortlessly captured sounds of multiple cultures, eras and religions, and also collaborated with some of the biggest names in rock, including Shirley Manson, Mark Lanegan and Debbie Harry.
If you’re a soundtrack fan like myself, be sure to check out the Film Music Prague concerts that occur several times a year. Next April, you’ll be able to witness the masterwork of Clint Mansell, genius composer and regular Darren Aronofsky collaborator (Requiem for a Dream, The Fountain), along with Ben Wallfisch (Blade Runner 2049, IT) and more. Mansell’s latest work on the soon-to-be released Loving Vincent is absolutely breathtaking.
Check out the full ‘Best of’ playlist for this year below: