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2014 Synchrotones Awards – The Winners

January 2, 2015

Synchrotones_Awards_20142014 Synchrotones’ Soundtrack Awards

Synchrotones’ Soundtrack Reviews celebrates what it believes are the best scores and composers of 2014; and announces its second soundtrack awards winners for achievements in film- and film-related music.

Article by Pete Simons

It’s been agreat year for filmmusic, as there have been many great score releases. The downside to that is that it becomes incredibly difficult to choose nominees, pick winners and put a Top 10 together. The list below has changed many a time, and wasn’t finalised until seconds before publishing it. It’s been one of those years where I simply can’t call it. So… if you come back tomorrow and find I changed the winners, don’t be too surprised! (No, I’m kidding… I’ll try not to edit it any more!)

The Synchrotones’ Soundtrack Awards are just a little bit of fun; one man’s opinion. Below is a selection of my favorite scores, runners-up and honourable mentions. I base my opinion on what I enjoy listening to; and I enjoy music on both a technical and an emotional level. In some categories it was neigh impossible to choose a winner; and where I struggled I favored the ones I think are technically more challenging.

Without further ado… The Winners:

Best Overall Score 2014

The Top 10


How to Train Your Dragon 2” (John Powell)

Maleficent” (James Newton Howard)
Interstellar” (Hans Zimmer)
Automata” (Zacarias M. de la Riva)
“The Leftovers” (Max Richter)
The Theory of Everything” (Johan Johannsson)
The Final Member” (Rob Simonsen)
“The Monuments Men” (Alexandre Desplat)
Big Bad Wolves” (Frank Ilfman)
Godzilla” (Alexandre Desplat)

And 5 More…

“The Monkey King” (Christopher Young)
“The Maze Runner” (John Paesano)
Ballet Boys” (Henrik Skram)
Fury” (Steven Price)
Field of Lost Shoes” (Frederik Wiedmann)


Romantic/Dramatic Score

Cover_TheoryofEverythingThe Theory of Everything” (Jóhann Jóhannsson)

Field of Lost Shoes” (Frederik Wiedmann)
The Giver” (Marco Beltrami)

Notable runners up – “Exodus: Gods and Kings” (Alberto Iglesias), “The Imitation Game” (Alexandre Desplat), “Noah” (Clint Mansell)

About the winner – Johan Johannsson’s “The Theory of Everything” is an exquisite little work. It is beautiful, full of pathos and melancholy. It’s modern, but still feels classical. I want to describe this score as honest and vulnerable. The composition is, for the most part, fairly simple. Everything hangs on the actual performance of the music. Every note is heard, and every note is felt.


Action/Thriller/War Score

Cover_MonumentsMen“The Monuments Men” (Alexandre Desplat)

Divergent” (Junkie XL)
Fury” (Steven Price)

Notable runners up – “Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit” (Patrick Doyle)

About the winner – Not as easy a choice as it may seem. I thoroughly enjoyed Junkie XL’s “Divergent” and it still regularly finds its way to my media player. Yet, Steven Price’s “Fury” is a technical marvel and a very ‘cool’ piece of work. It’s a mesmerising score, only slightly let down by its (too) close resemblance to Price’s Synchrotones’ Award-winning “Gravity”. That said, Alexandre Desplat’s “The Monuments Men” is every bit as cool, harkens back to Hollywood’s glory days and boosts a ridiculously infectious main theme.


Thriller/Horror Score

Cover_bigbadwolvesBig Bad Wolves” (Frank Ilfman)

Godzilla” (Alexandre Desplat)
The Brotherhood” (Arnau Bataller)

Notable runners up – “Stonehearst Asylum” (John Debney), “Supershark” (Jeff Walton)

About the winner – There is real drama here, through excellent writing and wonderful orchestrations. Earlier I made a superficial comparison to Alexandre Desplat, but the more I listen to “Big Bad Wolves” the more I agree with my own statement. On the surface you have this simple, almost elegiac main theme, but in the background things are constantly moving. Combined with a big orchestra, a deep warm sound and a clear recording, you have yourself a very addictive little album. If you want to unhide a gem, make it this one!


Adventure/Fantasy Score

cover_maleficentMaleficent” (James Newton Howard)

“The Adventurer: Curse of the Midas Box” (Fernando Velazquez)
“The Monkey King” (Christopher Young)

Notable runners up – “Hercules” (Fernando Velazquez), “The Legend of Hercules” (Tuomas Kantelinen), “Pompeii” (Clinton Shorter)

About the winner – The opening suite sent shivers down my spine… and the remainder of the score continued to do so. A film score hasn’t excited me this much in a very long time. The writing is first-rate with strong themes and plenty of variations. I can’t stop humming multiple themes from this score since I first heard it. Despite the music being of such epic proportions and being so loud, you can hear every little detail. It’s a very clear and very bassy recording. You can feel the timbre of those low brass clusters; and the percussion has a serious punch to it. It’s almost hyper-real. In spite of all its melodic beauty, at times “Maleficent” delivers a real kick to the nuts. I for one, absolutely love it.


Sci-fi Score

cover_InterstellarInterstellar” (Hans Zimmer)

Automata” (Zacarias M. de la Riva)
The Maze Runner” (John Paesano)

About the winner – Every fibre in my body knows that “Automata” is the best score here. It’s got heart-wrenching melodies and fantastic orchestrations – at times reminiscent of Elliot Goldenthal, and John Williams, and Thomas Newman. The writing (and the technical skills displayed thererin) is sublime. In comparison, “Interstellar” is loud and simplistic. And yet… “Interstellar” has been growing on from day one. At first I was unimpressed, but it has since moved me in ways I didn’t think it could. This score is a true journey; and it has inspired me to seek out other works by other composers. I have no doubt that Zimmer (and Nolan) have once again changed the sound of cinema.


Comedy Score

Cover_AMillionWaysToDie“A Million Ways to Die in the West” (Joel McNeely)

“Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb” (Alan Silvestri)
Trust Me” (Mark Killian)

Notable runners up – “Muppets Most Wanted” (Christophe Beck), “Paddington” (Nick Urata), “St Vincent” (Theodore Shapiro)

About the winner – It’s so great to see Joel McNeely’s name back on the big screen. He’s been busy, and very succesfully so, with the Tinkerbell movies; still it’s great seeing him tackle a live feature again. The film may have received mixed reviews, but the score is a wonderful throw-back to classic Western scores (particularly the Elmer Bernstein ones), with a lively and catchy main theme. The score perfectly shows off what great a craftsman McNeely is – as if we didn’t know yet!


Animation Score

cover_httyd2How To Train Your Dragon 2” (John Powell)

“The Pirate Fairy” (Joel McNeely)
Postman Pat: The Movie” (Rupert Gregson-Williams)

Notable runners up – “The Boxtrolls” (Dario Maranelli), “Planes 2: Fire and Rescue” (Mark Mancina)

About the winner – Most of the time it is nothing less than magnificent; stupendously fantastic! The writing is inspired. The variations on the existing themes are more than satisfying. The new themes feel instantly familiar, as if they’ve always been part of the “HTTYD” universe; not to mention they are stunningly beautiful. The orchestrations are fantastic. The action cues are rousing; and the quieter ones are simply heart-breaking. Need I go on? I am dumbfounded at the depth of emotions, the sheer beauty of the themes and the detail in the writing.


Re-Release/Special Edition/Archival Release

Cover_macandmeMac and Me” (Alan Silvestri; Quartet Records)

The Abyss” (Alan Silvestri; Varese Sarabande)
“Predator 2 (Deluxe Edition)” (Alan Silvestri; Varese Sarabande)

Notable runners up – “Clean Slate/The Perez Family” (Alan Silvestri; Music Box Records), “Good Will Hunting” (Danny Elfman; Music Box Records)

About the winner – It’s been a fantastic year for Silvestri-fans. I am one and I make no apologies for the fact that three of his score were nominated here. “The Abyss” kick-started my love for filmmusic, so its 2CD Deluxe version came as a wonderful gift early in the year. “Predator 2” is a great action score, and Varese’s Deluxe version offers it with superb sound quality. However, my pick for the winner is the previously unreleased “Mac and Me”. It’s an archetypal Silvestri score with lush themes, colourful orchestrations (especially where the woodwinds are concerned) and sparkly synth pads. Considering the quality (or lack thereof) of the film, it is a surprisingly mature score. And the orchestral cues are as rousing and energetic as anything Silvestri has ever written.


Documentary Score

Cover_finalmemberThe Final Member” (Rob Simonsen)

Ballet Boys” (Henrik Skram)
Hidden Kingdoms” (Ben Foster)

Notable runners up – “Bears” (George Fenton), “Warsaw Uprising” (Bartosz Chajdecki)

About the winner – Whilst Ben Foster’s “Hidden Kingdom” is a truly exciting score, it’s just a tad over-the-top to take top spot. Between Skram’s “Ballet Boys” and Simonsen’s “The Final Member” I choose the latter. Both are exquisite scores, with Skram displayed excellent writing skills. Of the two, “The Final Member” is the quieter, more introvert score. Its style resonates with me, in the same way that music by folks like Johan Johannsson, Max Richter or Olafur Arnalds resonate with me. The tiny, precisely-placed motions in their works fascinate me. And for that reason, “The Final Member” comes first.


Television Score

Cover_Leftovers– “The Leftovers” (Max Richter)

– “Isabel (Season 3)” (Federico Jusid)
– “Penny Dreadful” (Abel Korzeniowski)

Notable runners up – “1864” (Marco Beltrami), “Grantchester” (John Lunn)

About the winner – as wonderful as Korzeniowski’s “Penny Dreadful” is, this category was always going to be between “Isabel” and “The Leftovers”. The former is incredibly lush and decadent (with large orchestra and choir); whilst the latter is of a more minimal and hypnotic nature, with piano and solo strings taking the lead. Richter’s work is similar(ish) in nature to Johan Johannsson, Olafur Arnalds and, funnily enough, Zimmer’s work on “Interstellar”. I love this type of music, so to be honest I was always going to be biased towards Richter’s score. That said, it deserves a win just for “Dona Nobis Pacem” alone!


Video Game Score

Cover_BannerSageThe Banner Saga” (Austin Wintory)

“Civilization: Beyond Earth” (Geoff Knorr/Griffin Cohen/Michael Curran/Grant Kirkhope)
“Destiny” (Martin O’Donnell and Michael Salvatori)

Notable runners up – “Alien Isolation” (Christian Henson, Joe Henson, Alexis Smith), “The Sims 4” (Ilan Eshkeri)

About the winner – Let me first say that “Civilization” is an immensely entertaining, and grand score. As is “Destiny”, though there are large parts there that don’t appeal to me. Austin Wintory’s “The Banner Saga” is a restraint work compared to the other nominees. It’s much more intimate. Whilst “Civilization” has an instant appeal through its grand gestures, “The Banner Saga” is one that intruiges and possible requires more time to settle. Wintory takes the listener on a real journey (pun intended) with slightly off-kilter instrumentations and harmonies. My first reaction was ‘this is a bit odd’, followed by ‘I wonder where this is going’… It’s this road of discovery that Wintory takes you on, that makes his “Banner Saga” score a winner.


Composer of the Year

Portrait_hanszimmerHans Zimmer

Alexandre Desplat
James Newton Howard
Joel McNeely
Johan Johannsson
John Powell
Marco Beltrami

Notable runners up – Alan Silvestri, Frederik Wiedmann, Ilan Eshkeri

About the winner – I hated “The Amazing Spider-Man 2”, but then I adored “Interstellar”. ‘Composer of the year’ is about much more than liking someone’s work. Yes, I’m giving it to Zimmer off the back of “Interstellar”. That score, even away from the film, takes the listener on a journey. I personally went from being disappointed to being ecstatic, as each listen revealed something new. I also believe Zimmer may be pushing the sound of Hollywood in a new direction. It was him who gave us thundering drums, ostinato strings and that horn of doom; and now it’s him trying to move things along. Whether you like it or not, the man is a driving force in Tinsel Town. And whilst I don’t always agree with his musical choices, I believe “Interstellar” shows us a man who is willing to experiment, who is willing to push boundaries, who is willing to prove everyone wrong. And whilst I also don’t always agree with the ridiculous PR surrounding his soundtrack… it attracts a lot of attention to the geekdom that is filmmusic. And that attention is most welcome, as we can only benefit from it. It’s funny… Zimmer has become a bigger pop-star then when he actually was a pop-star.

Look, I nearly picked Powell. He gave us only one score (correction: two scores), but this one feels like his magnum opus. A ridiculously awesome piece of work. One that brought a single, dignified tear to my eye. Alexandre Desplat would also have been an obvious winner, as he’s delivered several outstanding scores this year. The other nominees all produces top quality soundtracks this year. None will influence the sound of cinema as much as Zimmer’s will – I think.


Special Mentions

– “Anonymous Rejected Filmscore” (John Murphy) – For painstakingly putting together this private release of a lost score. Murphy’s unique guitar-driven style shines through, but there are some wonderful surprises for strings.
– “Coliseum” (Marc Timon Barcelo) – Harkening back to the days of Rozsa, mixed with more than a hint of modern filmscoring. A sterling effort for this live show.
– “The Hobbit: Battle of the Five Armies” (Howard Shore) – Not only the end of “The Hobbit”-trilogy, but also the end of a decade (and a half) spent in Middle Earth.


Notable Omissions & Your Comments

You’re probably looking at the screen, thinking “what about this score?” and “how about that soundtrack?”. Synchrotones gratefully receives a large number of soundtracks each year. Special thanks go out to all the people who make that possible – you know who you are. Unfortunately it’s not always possible to review every single score. No review does not mean that I haven’t heard it; or that I dind’t like it. You can tell from the non-linked nominations that I do listen and take note of a score, even if it misses out on being properly reviewed. And then there may be some (though increasingly fewer) scores I didn’t receive and therefore couldn’t listen to and include in the nominations. Last year’s “Stalingrad” by Angelo Badalementi was a grave omission from the 2013 Synchrotones’ Soundtrack Awards, as I discovered this particular score much later. If you feel strongly about a score that missed out on a 2014 Synchrotones Soundtrack Awards nominations, please post below – perhaps we can make a separate feature out of it!

Happy new year – stay tuned for many more great soundtracks and reviews in 2015.

 (c) 2015 Synchrotones

  1. Tiago Rangel permalink

    I agree with most of the winners, however, I do think Desplat should have won as composer of the year. All of his 2014 scores were outstanding. As for Zimmer, Interstellar is great, but Amazing Spider-Man 2 is terrible and anyone here remembers things like Winter’s Tale or Son of God? All of the composers nominated had a great year though, especially Newton Howard, Powell, Jóhannsson, McNeely and Beltrami.

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. How to Train Your Dragon 2 (John Powell) | Synchrotones' Soundtrack Reviews
  2. The Theory of Everything (Johan Johannsson) | Synchrotones' Soundtrack Reviews
  3. Big Bad Wolves (Frank Ilfman) | Synchrotones' Soundtrack Reviews
  4. Maleficent (James Newton Howard) | Synchrotones' Soundtrack Reviews
  5. Interstellar (Hans Zimmer) | Synchrotones' Soundtrack Reviews
  6. Mac and Me (Alan Silvestri) | Synchrotones' Soundtrack Reviews
  7. The Final Member (Rob Simonsen) | Synchrotones' Soundtrack Reviews
  8. The Banner Saga (Austin Wintory) | Synchrotones' Soundtrack Reviews

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