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2015 Synchrotones Awards – The Winners

January 8, 2016

Synchrotones_Awards_20152015 Synchrotones’ Soundtrack Awards

Synchrotones’ Soundtrack Reviews celebrates what it believes are the best scores and composers of 2015. Find out who won the third, and probably still unwanted, Synchrotones’ Soundtrack Awards. Predictable? Any surprises? Notable omissions? Share your thoughts in the comments section.

Article by Pete Simons

Here are the 2015 Synchrotones’ Soundtrack Awards winners…

Best Overall Score 2015 – Synchrotones’ Top 25

Wolf Totem“, James Horner [review]
Paper Planes“, Nigel Westlake [review]
Pirate’s Passage“, Andrew Lockington [review]
Carlos, Rey Emperador“, Federico Jusid
In the Heart of the Sea“, Roque Banos [review]
The 33“, James Horner [review]
Ori and the Blind Forest“, Gareth Coker [review]
Sicario“, Johann Johansson [review]
Zhong Kui: Snow Girl and the Dark Crystal“, Javier Navarette [review]
Steve Jobs“, Daniel Pemberton
Crimson Peak“, Fernando Velazquez [review]
Peter and Wendy“, Maurizio Malagnini [review]
Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn“, Robert Gulya [review]
The Walk“, Alan Silvestri [review]
The Little Prince“, Richard Havey and Hans Zimmer
The Hunt“, Steven Price
The Great Human Odyssey“, Darren Fung [review]
I Am Big Bird“, Joshua Johnson [review]
Spectrum“, Frederik Wiedmann [review]
Atlantis“, Stuart Hancock [review]

Broadchurch“, Olafur Arnalds [review]
The Leftovers“, Max Richter
Texas Rising“, Bruce Broughton and John Debney
Sid Meier’s Civilization: Beyond Earth – Rising Tide“, Geoff Knorr/ Griffin Cohen/ Grant Kirkhope
Z for Zachariah“, Heather McIntosh [review]


Romantic/Dramatic Score

“Wolf Totem”, James Horner Cover_WolfTotem

“The 33”, James Horner
“Carol”, Carter Burwell
“Desert Dancer”, Benjamin Wallfisch
“Far From the Madding Crowd”, Craig Armstrong
“In the Heart of the Sea”, Roque Banos
“Paper Planes”, Nigel Westlake
“Steve Jobs”, Daniel Pemberton
“The Walk”, Alan Silvestri
“Z for Zachariah”, Heather McIntosh

This is such a tough category. Every single one of them is a winner. The very fact that I couldn’t bring this down to five nominees, and still have a handful of strong runners up listed below, speaks volumes! “Wolf Totem” embodies every thing I love about James Horner and it had me in awe (and in tears) long before the tragic news of his passing. Such as stunning score. And he showed off his craftsmanship and his storytelling one last time in “The 33”, a much smaller but no less heartfelt work.

Daniel Pemberton really impressed me with “Steve Jobs” which, seemingly effortlessly, combines opera (“The Circus of Machines”) and ultra-cool electronica (“The Skylab Plan”). Roque Banos wrote a belter of a score for “In the Heart of the Sea“, so majestic and graceful – just wonderful. As a fan of Alan Silvestri I can’t not be impressed with his lovely work on “The Walk“; and elsewhere Craig Armstrong poured his heart and soul into the wonderful “Far From the Madding Crowd“. Nigel Westlake’s “Paper Planes” is one of the feel-good scores of the year; whilst Carter Burwell, Benjamin Wallfisch and Hearth McIntosh impressed me with their heartfelt and beautiful work on “Carol“, “Desert Dancer” and “Z for Zachariah” respectively. Notable runners up include: “The Age of Adaline” (Rob Simonsen), “Bridge of Spies” (Thomas Newman), “Broken Horses” (John Debney), “Brooklyn” (Michael Brook), “A Little Chaos” (Peter Gregson), “Suffragette” (Alexandre Desplat), “Trumbo” (Theodore Shapiro) and “Victor Frankenstein” (Craig Armstrong).


Action/Thriller/Horror Score

“Sicario”, Johann Johansson Cover_Sicario

“Child 44”, Jon Ekstrand
“Crimson Peak”, Fernando Velazquez
“El Desconocido”, Manuel Riveiro
“Kingsman: Secret Service”, Henry Jackman & Matthew Margeson

Often, we feel obliged to say that it was really tough to make a choice – and sometimes it’s true. In the case of this category, the choice was easy. Johann Johannson’s “Sicario” is such a bad-ass score, so rich and complex and so unbelievably cool at all once. The only that came close, very close in fact, was “Crimson Peak” by Fernando Velazquez, which is a stunning score that could’ve easily won in any other year, but was sadly just out-done by others. Jon Ekstrand’s “Child 44“, Manuel Riveiro’s “El Desconocido” and Henry Jackman’s & Matthew Margeson’s “Kingsman: Secret Service” all featured great music, sometimes surprisingly so.


Adventure/Fantasy Score

“Zhong Kui: Snow Girl and the Dark Crystal”, Javier Navarette Cover_ZhongKui

“Cinderella”, Patrick Doyle
“Jurassic World”, Michael Giacchino
“Pan”, John Powell
“Peter and Wendy”, Maurizio Malagnini
“Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn”, Robert Gulya

Another strong category where I really struggled to pick a winner, though ultimately went with Javier Navarette’s “Zhong Kui: Snow Girl and the Dark Crystal” – a score so big it borders on madness. It’s incredibly ambitious, huge, yet colourful and full of strong themes. Robert Gulya wrote a big and infectious score for “Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn“, which really should be on everyone’s wishlist. As for Michael Giacchnino… he’s had a very prolific year, and everyone seems to have their own favorite; mine being “Jurassic World” (especially the “Nine to Survival Job” cue). John Powell and Maurizio Malagnini both wrote a “Peter Pan”-inspired score with Powell’s “Pan” being as energetic and memorable as you’d expect from Powell, whilst Malagnini’s “Peter and Wendy” generally takes a gentler, heart-warming, but still adventurous approach.


Sci Fi Score

“The Martian”, Harry Gregson-Williams Cover_TheMartian

“Debug”, Timothy Williams
“Ex Machina”, Geoff Barrow and Ben Salisbury
“Jupiter Ascending”, Michael Giacchino

“Star Wars: The Force Awakens”, John Williams

For me, Harry Gregson-Williams’ score for “The Martian” is this year’s best sci-fi score. It perfectly captures the vastness, the loneliness and the alienation of space and being stranded rather a long way from home (not that I’ve ever been to space, so what do I know). I love the optimistic, forward motion in Gregson-Williams’ music, which he achieves through ultra-cool synths. Timothy Williams wrote a slick, and perhaps surprisingly enjoyable, score for “Debug“, which also relies heavily on synths and processed sounds. And there are more synths in “Ex Machina” by Geoff Barrow and Ben Salisbury, who wrote a sombre but mesmerising score. There are three Williamses in this category and I know you’ll be scratching your heads as to why John didn’t win this with “Star Wars: The Force Awakens“, whilst others are wondering why Michael Giacchnio’s “Jupiter Ascending” isn’t taking this home? Well, truth is: I’m not a fan. The craftsmanship on display in both scores is phenomenal, there is no doubt about it. I enjoy both scores (though “Jupiter Ascending” particularly has taken a long, long time to grow on me), but I don’t love them enough to declare them my winners.


Comedy Score

“The D-Train”, Andrew Dost Cover_TheDTrain

“Infinitely Polar Bear”, Theodore Shapiro
“Pixels”, Henry Jackman
“The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel”, Thomas Newman
“Spongebob: Sponge out of Water”, John Debney

Should I admit that I’m not a great fan of comedy scores? Often they suffer from mickey mousing and other compositional gimmicks that aren’t usually ‘up my street’.  That said… Andrew Dost’s “The D-Train” really made me smile. It’s so cheesy, so retro and so cool-y done. Theordore Shapiro’s “Infinitely Polar Bear” is short, but oh so very pleasant and catchy. John Debney’s “Spongebob: Sponge out of Water” and Henry Jackman’s “Pixels” both are a tremendously fun ride, whilst Thomas Newman’s “The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” is as colourful and infectious as anything the composer has done. I appreciate that some of the latter are more complex, better writing scores… but “The D-Train” is the one I still get these odd cravings for.


Animation Score

“Pirate’s Passage”, Andrew Lockington Cover_PiratesPassage

“Un Gallo Con Muchos Huevos”, Zacarias M. De La Riva
“Gamba”, Benjamin Wallfisch
“The Good Dinosaur”, Mychael Danna and Jeff Danna
“The Little Prince”, Richard Havey and Hans Zimmer

Although ‘animation’ proved to be a very strong category this year, Andrew Lockington’s “Pirate’s Passage” is an easy winner for me. I just love the themes, the big and colourful orchestrations. It is such an energetic and infectious score. Both “Gamba” by Benjamin Wallfisch” and “Un Gallo Con Muchos Huevos” by Zacarias M. De La Riva are rousing (sometimes zany), orchestral scores. Both incredibly good fun, with strong themes. “The Good Dinosaur” by Michael & Jeff Danna and “The Little Prince” by Richard Harvey and Hans Zimmer are both a little more understated, incredibly colourful and passionate. The latter especially should be on anyone’s playlist. Further runners up include: “Menique y el Espejo Majico” (Manuel Riveiro), “The Prophet” (Gabriel Yared) and “Shaun the Sheep” (Ilan Eshkeri).


Documentary Score

“The Hunt”, Steven Price Cover_TheHunt

“The Great Human Odyssey”, Darren Fung
“He Named Me Malala”, Thomas Newman
“I Am Big Bird”, Joshua Johnson
“Spectrum”, Frederik Wiedmann

I don’t think this category has ever been stronger than in 2015! How do you pick a winner out of those five? I’m giving it to Steven Price for his mammoth work on the BBC documentary “The Hunt“. It’s big, it’s complex, it’s thematic and it’s simply ginormous in scope – the album release features two-and-a-half hours of music. And whilst that is too much to sit through in one session, the consistency of quality throughout is truly impressive. Also, where “Fury” still remained very close to Price’s awards-winning “Gravity”, “The Hunt” ventures out a little further, showing us some new sides to Price (whilst still retaining some of the electronic tinkering we loved about his previous works). Darren Fung’s “The Great Human Odyssey” is a joyous and colourful work. Joshua Johnson treated us to an incredibly lovely, strongly melodic and sometimes Horner-ish score for “I Am Big Bird“. Frederik Wiedmann’s “Spectrum” is a sparkling and sparkly little score, perhaps displaying a touch of Thomas Newmanisms; whilst Newman himself wrote a beautiful, mesmerising, India-infused score for “He Named Me Malala“. Further runners up are: “Cartel Land” (H. Scott Salinas and Jackson Greenberg), “Human” (Armand Amar), “Monkey Kingdom” (Harry Gregson-Williams), “Japan: Earth’s Enchanted Islands” (Benji Merrison) and “Frame by Frame” (Patrick Jonsson).


Television Score

“Carlos, Rey Emperador”, Federico Jusid FedericoJusid

“Atlantis”, Stuart Hancock
“Broadchurch”, Olafur Arnalds
“The Leftovers”, Max Richter
“Texas Rising”, Bruce Broughton and John Debney

Has the television category even been this strong? The music written for the small screen this year is of outstanding quality. Even any of the ‘runners up’ listed below could have won it any other year. Ultimately, the one that simply blew me away the most is Federico Jusid’s “Carlos, Rey Emperador“. The classically-styled writing, the strong themes, the choral writing – it is simply astonishing. Stuart Hancock wrote a powerful, cinematic score for the show “Atlantis“, whilst Bruce Broughton and John Debney teamed up to write a richly thematic, Americana-themed score for “Texas Rising“, which really brings back memories of Broughton’s lush scores from the 80s and 90s. Kindred composers Olafur Arnalds and Max Richter wrote some phenomenal music for “Broadchurch” and “The Leftovers“, but I already honoured their works in recent years. Further runners up are: “The Casual Vacancy” (Solomon Grey), “Indian Summers” (Stephen Warbeck), “Lego Ninjago: Masters of Spinjitsu” (Michael Kramer and Jay Vincent), “Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD” (Bear McCreary), “Outlander” (Bear McCreary), “Thunderbirds Are Go!” (Ben Foster and Nick Foster) and “Tyrant” (Michael Danna and Jeff Danna).


Video Game Score

“Ori and the Blind Forest”, Gareth Coker Cover_OriForest

“Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate”, Austin Wintory
“Destiny: The Taken King”, Michael Salvatori
“The Order 1886”, Jason Graves
“Sid Meier’s Civilization: Beyond Earth – Rising Tide”, Geoff Knorr/ Griffin Cohen/ Grant Kirkhope

Gareth Coker’s “Ori and the Blind Forest” is easily my favourite game-score of the year. There is really nothing that comes even close. The lovely melodies, the orchestrations, the ethereal soundscapes, “Ori” is a unique listening experience. “Sid Meier’s Civilization: Beyond Eart – Rising Tide” by Knorr, Cohen and Kirkhope is also fantastic, huge and epic and a joy to listen to. Wintory’s “Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate” is as unique and peculiar-sounding as you may expect from Wintory by now; whilst Graves’ “The Order 1886” and Salvatori’s “Destiny: The Taken King” are both solid works.


Composer of the Year

James Horner JamesHornerRIP
For “Wolf Totem”, “The 33” and “Southpaw”, for making us weep and laugh, for making us feel heroic and humble, for being such a master of storytelling, for enriching our lives with his music. Godspeed Maestro!

Bear McCreary
Benjamin Wallfisch
Daniel Pemberton
Federico Jusid
Frederik Wiedmann
Johann Johansson
Manuel Riveiro
Max Richter
Michael Giacchino
Theodore Shapiro
Thomas Newman

Congratulations to all winners. Thank you for reading! … ’til next year!

(c) 2015-2016 Synchrotones

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