By Ryan Keating-Lambert
It certainly wasn’t the most exciting year in the soundtrack world, but 2018 was at least the year that musicians-turned-composers really got to shine. From Radiohead’s Jonny Greenwood and Arcade Fire’s Colin Stetson, to Jóhann Jóhannsson’s… Jóhann Jóhannsson and… Radiohead’s Thom Yorke, here are my personal picks for soundtracks of the year. Keep in mind, this list only includes original film scores released in the year 2018. You can also listen to the playlist on Spotify. Enjoy!
Although the film never had an official release this year, Suspiria is the easy winner for me. Thom Yorke, following in the footsteps of fellow Radiohead bandmate Jonny Greenwood (There Will Be Blood, You Were Never Really Here), took the plunge into soundtrack territory with Luca Guadagnino’s Suspiria remake, and it was a ballsy move considering that the prog rock Goblin soundtrack from Dario Argento’s original Suspiria was nothing less than iconic. Yorke pays somewhat of a creepy tribute to the original with eerie tracks like ‘Volk’ or ‘Belongings Thrown in a River’ which are a perfect fit for the film’s more colourful and violent moments. However, Yorke’s soundtrack works best when it amplifies the dull grey colour palette and overall doom and gloom that Guadagnino’s film does so well. Tracks like ‘Unmade’, ‘Has Ended’ and the gorgeous piano ballad ‘Suspirium’ and its accompanying finale are basically a new Radiohead album.
From Hollywood, A Star is Born obviously scored majority of attention with Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper’s ‘Shallow’, a powerful track that has had more than 140 million views on YouTube alone – none of them were from me though. I much preferred the more low key, and certainly more diverse, soundtrack and score to Cold War by Marcin Marcecki and Joanna Kulig, also a film told through music. Kulig is an incredibly talented performer.
Also impressive was Marvel’s African inspired Black Panther soundtrack by Ludwig Goransson – ‘Warrior Falls’ is an incredible track that takes you straight back to that waterfall scene and Daniel Kaluuya’s shoulders bobbing up and down. Speaking of bobbing up and down, the synth heavy Game Night soundtrack by the great Cliff Martinez (The Knick, The Neon Demon) makes you want to do exactly that. A very underrated soundtrack, and to be honest, a very underrated film.
In the world of horror, the LEGENDARY John Carpenter made a triumphant return to composing with his son Cody Carpenter for the new Halloween, and it would appear that he’s still got it. The score is a wonderful homage to the original that’ll tickle your nostaglia buttons right from the opening credits. Then there was indie horror Hereditary, the uber-disturbing but undeniably beautiful soundtrack by saxophonist, and Arcade Fire member, Colin Stetson. Who knew it were even possible to make the clarinet sound scary?
Also in the land of indie film, Disasterpiece’s noir inspired soundtrack to David Robert Mitchell’s Under the Silver Lake was easily one of the best things about this complicated but alluring, and balls out trippy outing into David Lynch territory. Jonny Greenwood’s wonderfully chaotic score to You Were Never Really Here is packed to the brim with sweeping strings, synthesizers, surf grooves and more that seamlessly compliment Lynn Ramsay’s brutal film and Joaquin Phoenix’s damaged hitman. And how could we possibly forget Alexandre Desplat’s heavily Japanese sounding score to Wes Anderson’s Isle of Dogs? An essential for both Anderson and Kurosawa fans alike.
By far the most whack soundtrack of 2018 though, and film no less, is definitely the score to psychedelic horror movie Mandy by the late Jóhann Jóhannsson (Arrival, Sicario). According to an interview in Spin Magazine, director Panos Cosmatos stated that “Jóhann went above and beyond, and I suspect to the limits of his sanity, to make the music for this movie. His words and his actions made him more than a great collaborator, they made him like a brother to me. I’m sad our time together was so brief but I’m very proud of what he accomplished on Mandy and I believe he was too.” The industry has lost a true artist.
Other notable contenders this year include Justin Hurwitz’s bold and varied soundtrack to First Man, Rob Simonsen’s ’80s inspired John Hughes(ish) score to Love, Simon, The Album Leaf’s electro sci-fi sounds to The Endless, and of course Ben Salisbury’s fantastic synth and string score to Annihilation. Remember that alien reveal scene? Phenomenal.
If you’re a fan of soundtracks, be sure to check out the Film Music Prague festival which puts on several concerts a year and has hosted some of Hollywood’s most notable composers such as Jerry Goldsmith, John Powell, Craig Armstrong, Clint Mansell and more.
What were your favourite soundtracks of 2018? Let me know. Remember to check out the full playlist on Spotify!
Feature photo: Bandcamp