The old ways were the best in 2015 as a host of celebrated and upcoming film composers opened a can of nostalgia, throwing back to beloved film scores of yesteryear. Not only did we have the likes of Ant-Man and Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation resplendent in a delightfully retro vibe; there were also pastiche Euro soft-core scores in the form of The Duke of Burgundy, and the return of John Williams to Star Wars. At the same time, we were devastated to say goodbye to one of the old guard: the late, great James Horner. Despite that profound loss, it's quite possibly the greatest year for film soundtracks in recent memory – any list where four excellent scores from Thomas Newman fail to make the grade clearly indicates how rich the pickings were.
Listen to the 10 greatest scores of 2015 here: Spotify Playlist.
The success of David Robert Mitchell's acclaimed pastiche horror owes a lot to its authentically creepy score by Richard Vreeland, otherwise known as Disasterpeace. Resplendent in a jangly, eerie, synthetic air that calls to mind John Carpenter and a host of other masters, It Follows is a brilliantly designed throwback to the golden age of electronic horror music, dripping with nostalgia although challenging as a stand-alone listen away from the movie. For a debut feature score, it's seriously impressive. The soundtrack is available in online stores in various formats including CD, MP3 Download & Vinyl - check these links at Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com.
Michael Giacchino had an outstanding year in 2015, possibly his best ever, the composer again cementing his position as the heir apparent to John Williams' adventurous crown with the likes of Jupiter Ascending and Tomorrowland. However, his most sensitive score of the year was for Pixar's imaginative, heart-rending coming of age masterpiece, a soundtrack circulating around a host of ideas that, mirroring the narrative of the movie, only fully come together and mature by the album's conclusion. By turns manic, thrilling and very moving, Giacchino's work adds immeasurably to the film's impact. The Inside Out soundtrack album is available from these links at Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk.
Brook's score for this praised Colm Toibin adaptation achieves an incredibly difficult feat: wearing its heart on its sleeve without ever feeling maudlin or schmaltzy. The Canadian guitarist and composer delivers a beautifully sincere score that speaks directly of the emotional journey undertaken by Saoirse Ronan's central character, utilising Irish characteristics tactfully and sparingly with a host of gorgeous violin solos tying everything together. It's a gentle and delicate work and ultimately one that's genuinely moving. Michael Brook's Brooklyn score album is available from these links at Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk.
After several years of efficient yet strangely impersonal action scoring, Patrick Doyle reclaimed his crown as one of film music's most emotional and sensitive composers with Cinderella. The gregarious Scotsman has always been one of the best at spine-tingling, heart-on-the-sleeve moments and his music for pal Kenneth Branagh's live-action fairy tale didn't disappoint. Resplendent in full orchestra, choir and chimes for an added bit of magic, this thematically driven effort is Doyle's most joyous effort in a long time, one with a big, big heart. The score is available as both a CD release and MP3 download on Amazon, and you can check details and availability via these links at Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com.
It's about time the Marvel film score got a kick in the pants. And it fell to Frozen composer Christophe Beck to deliver it with Ant-Man. Drawing on a delightfully retro wellspring of Lalo Schifrin, John Barry and other celebrated godfathers of film music, Beck fashions an awesome throwback action score that's perfectly tailored to Ant-Man's heist movie storyline. However, it's not just an exercise in style: Beck knows how to properly open the taps when needed, resulting in the most exciting score of his career to date. The Ant-Man score album is available from these links at the following stores - Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com.
Few scores in 2015 were as feverishly anticipated as this. And for good reason. John Williams' extraordinarily rich legacy of Star Wars music, encompassing both the original and prequel trilogies, marks some of the 20th century's most accomplished musical storytelling. So it's perhaps inevitable to describe his score for The Force Awakens, at least on initial listening, as somewhat 'functional' with a curtailed album presentation not necessarily doing the score justice. Nevertheless, repeat listenings reveal the typical intricacy of Williams' vision: a wonderful integration of new ideas (several of which require close attention) with the staple themes we know and love. Williams' old-fashioned mastery makes this the equivalent of a treasured vintage vinyl in a year of digital overload. The score album is available from these links at the following stores - Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com.
Following in the footsteps of the legendary John Williams, let alone one of his greatest scores, Jurassic Park, is not easy. But Michael Giacchino does a terrific job with his soundtrack for the long-awaited fourth movie in the dino franchise. The composer has become famous for his ability to emulate Williams' sweeping, full-blooded style but that approach here reaches a new level of maturity, fusing brilliantly with Giacchino's own dynamic voice and lending the blockbuster some genuinely roar-some oomph. Blending thrilling action, terror and soaring beauty, Jurassic World is a superb soundtrack. The film score album is available from these links at Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk
Several film scores this year have thrown back to a bygone age of film music. And one of the most distinctive was this impressive and memorable debut from duo Cat's Eyes, a wonderful imitation of the erotic art house soundtracks so prevalent in cinema throughout the 1960s and 70s. Together, Horrors frontman Faris Badwan and Italian-Canadian soprano Rachel Zeffira have constructed a lush, loving homage to Ennio Morricone and numerous other masters: a score that is both swooningly romantic and hauntingly melancholy, perfectly in-keeping with the nature of Peter Strickland's acclaimed film. The Duke of Burgundy soundtrack album is available from the following links: Amazon.co.uk (on Vinyl!) and Amazon.com.
British composer Daniel Pemberton has had a superb year in 2015, composing excellent scores for acclaimed Michael Fassbender biopic Steve Jobs and this, Guy Ritchie's unfairly maligned take on the classic 1960s TV show. Although the movie died a death at the box office, it did provide Pemberton the opportunity to gift us an effervescent, finger-snapping and hugely entertaining throwback to the heyday of Lalo Schifrin and Jerry Goldsmith. Endlessly stylish, it's easily the best of the year's pastiche soundtracks. The Man from U.N.C.L.E. score album is available from these links at the following stores - Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com.
The Mission: Impossible franchise has had mixed fortunes soundtrack-wise. So it's ironic that the least-known composer to have taken on the mantle should be the one to show how it's done. Kraemer follows in the footsteps of Danny Elfman, Hans Zimmer and Michael Giacchino, besting all of them with a terrifically exciting action score that honours Lalo Schifrin's retro roots whilst also providing the dynamically thrilling adrenaline surge that modern audiences demand. It's a perfectly pitched action score, both within the context of the movie and outside of it, and the most entertaining soundtrack of the year. The score album for Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation can be found at the following links on: Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com.