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2016 Synchrotones’ Soundtrack Awards

January 15, 2017

synchrotones_awards_20162016 Synchrotones’ Soundtrack Awards

Synchrotones’ Soundtrack Reviews celebrates what it believes are the best scores and composers of 2016. This year, we’re doing things a little bit differently. No ‘awards’ as such; more a celebration of great music. Let us know what you think. Any surprises? Notable omissions? Share your thoughts in the comments section.

Synchrotones’ Soundtrack Reviews celebrates what it believes are the best scores and composers of 2016. This year I’m not doing that via individual categories, but rather through one extensive lists. Why? Partially because I think it’s fairer; partially because it seemed easier (it so wasn’t!); but mostly because I want to celebrate all of the scores that I enjoyed (more than average) rather than just a top selection. I mean, who am I to say what’s the ‘best’? Every composer ends up writing what they (and their employers) believe is the best, most appropriate music for the project. Now, I mustn’t be hypocritical. I do believe some composers are better than others at finding the right tone, the right pace, etcetera. And I do believe that some scores just work a bit better than others; for all kinds of reasons. Hence I did try to put the first 25 in some sort of rated order, though really… beyond the top 5 it’s virtually interchangeable.

In the end, very often it simply comes down to: do you like it? And that’s why these are my favourites, not the best, of the past year. I’m sure some of you will be surprised; others might even be aghast at my selections; but they are my selections. There are some very popular scores out there, that did much less for me than they did for others. And vice versa. That is what makes us all unique; and it’s what makes life so very interesting. So finally, without further ado about nothing, here are…

Synchrotones’ Favourite Scores of 2016


Top 25 (Rated… or at least tried to)

01. Pete’s Dragon (Daniel Hart) – Review
02. The Magnificent Seven (James Horner/Simon Franglen) – Review
03. Planet Earth II (Hans Zimmer, Jacob Shea, Jasha Klebe) – Review
04. Zipi Y Zape Y La Isla Del Capitan (Fernando Velazquez)
05. We’re Going On A Bear Hunt (Stuart Hancock)
06. Eddie The Eagle (Matthew Margeson) – Review
07. Nerve (Rob Simonsen) – Review
08. Brothers Of The Wind (Sarah Class) – Review
09. Ozzy (Fernando Velazquez)
10. Abzu (Austin Wintory)
11. Tutankhamun (Christian Henson)
12. A Monster Calls (Fernando Velazquez)
13. Gernika (Fernando Velazquez)
14. City Of Gold (Bobby Johnston) – Review
15. Desiree (Bill Brown)
16. Call The Midwife (Maurizio Malagnini)
17. Tales Of A Lake (Panu Aaltio) – Review
18. 93 Days (George Kallis) – Review
19. Bellerofonte/Dark Waves (Alexander Cimini) – Review
20. The Finest Hours (Carter Burwell, Philip Klein) – Review
21. Autism In Love (Mac Quayle) – Review
22. Revelation (Neal Acree) – Review
23. Diablo (Timothy Williams) – Review
24. Kubo And The Two Strings (Dario Marianelli) – Review
25. Halt And Catch Fire (Paul Haslinger) – Review

There’s a fair bit of shoulder-rubbing taking place at the top of the list. Daniel Hart’s delightful Pete’s Dragon wins it in the end, for its infectious themes and colourful orchestrations; but I was more than tempted to push James Horner’s and Simon Franglen’s The Magnificent Seven to the top. It’s a score that on first listen raised a few reservations; but over time it has grown into one of my favourites of the year. Hans Zimmer, Jacob Shea and Jasha Klebe nearly threw a spanner in the works, as their Planet Earth II is nothing less than sublime, especially its main theme. Fernando Velazquez’s Zipi y Zape y la Isla del Capitan is a swashbuckling orchestral score full of catchy melodies and highlighting Velazquez’s sophisticated writing style. Rounding off the top 5 is Stuart Hancock’s playful and utterly beautiful We’re Going on a Bear Hunt. This man has yet to disappoint me and I hope he will soon receive the exposure and recognition he so richly deserves.

For me, the top 5 is pretty much set in stone (a soft lime-stone, but still), whilst the rest of the list is more interchangeable. Eddie the Eagle came out early in the year and was an instant favourite. The retro, yes cheesy but also quite classy, synths are a delight; but it’s Margeson’s ability to instil some real emotions into his score that really makes it such a fun and addictive work. The same goes for Nerve, really, where ultra-cool synth never get in the way of real emotions. Brothers of the Wind is a wistful orchestral score with beautiful colours; whilst Ozzy marks Velazquez’s second entry on the list. It’s a grand, playful score with an earworm for a theme. Game score Abzu closes the top 10; a beautiful, ethereal score like only Wintory can write them.

Tutankhamun has all the swagger you’d expect from such an adventure (and probably also serves as an impressive demo for Henson’s sample libraries). A Monster Calls and Gernika mark Velazquez’s third and fourth entry. The former a slightly gothic-y score, the latter a sweeping melancholy one. City of Gold is a delight with its inventive and addictive rhythms; whilst Desiree is another melancholic powerhouse (it’s basically Bill Brown venturing into Max Richter / Johan Johannsson territory).

Maurizio Malagnini has made my lists before and he does so again with the charming innocence of Call the Midwife. Released early in the year, Tale of a Lake was an instant favourite for it’s colours and quirky themes. 93 Days and Dark Waves are two passionate works with strong themes and lush writing. The Finest Hours sees Burwell tackling something a little more action-packed without losing his own sense of romance. Autism in Love is another one of those really classy electronic scores that (still) manage to evoke a real emotional response; whilst game-score Revelation is about as grand as they come. Its main theme is staggeringly epic. Diablo caught my ear for being a deliciously dark and snarling western score; whilst Kubo sees its composer successfully exploring Asian quirks and perks. Halt and Catch Fire was a bit of a surprise for me. Again, it’s a really cool, nicely done electronic score.


Second Tier (Alphabetical)

10 Cloverfield Lane (Bear McCreary)
Alice Through The Looking Glass (Danny Elfman)
Allegiant (Joseph Trapanese)
Anthropoid (Robin Foster)
Before The Flood (Trent Reznor, Atticus Ross, Gustavo Santaolalla, Mogwai)
Birkebeinerne/The Last King (Gaute Storaas)
Blindspot (Blake Neely)
The Curse Of Sleeping Beauty (Scott Glasgow)
Denial (Howard Shore)
Doctor Strange (Michael Giacchino)
Exposed (Carlos José Alvarez)
Ghostbusters (Theodore Shapiro)
Gods Of Egypt (Marco Beltrami)
Hacksaw Ridge (Rupert Gregson-Williams)
I’m Not Ashamed (Timothy Williams)
Kung Fu Panda 3 (Hans Zimmer)
The Last Guardian (Takeshi Furukawa)
Lion (Dustin O’Halloran, Volker Bertelmann)
The Man In The High Castle S2 (Dominic Lewis)
Me Before You (Craig Armstrong)
Money Monster (Dominic Lewis)
The Night Manager (Víctor Reyes)
Now You See Me 2 (Brian Tyler)
Of Mind And Music (Carlos José Alvarez)
Rogue One (Michael Giacchino)
Snøfall/Snowfall (Henrik Skram)
Star Trek Beyond (Michael Giacchino)
Swiss Army Man (Andy Hull, Robert Mcdowell)
Synchronicity (Ben Lovett)
Zoolander 2 (Theodore Shapiro)


Third Tier (Alphabetical)

1898: Los Últimos De Filipinas (Roque Baños)
The 9th Life Of Louis Drax (Patrick Watson)
Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. (Bear Mccreary)
Arrival (Jóhann Jóhannsson)
Bridget Jones’ Baby (Craig Armstrong)
The Cairo Declaration (Ye Xiaogang, Chad Cannon)
Carlos, Rey Emperador (Federico Jusid)
Doctor Thorne (Ilan Eshkeri)
Nocturnal Animals (Abel Korzeniowski)
Only The Dead See The End Of The War (Michael Yerzeski)
Passengers (Thomas Newman)
Pee Wee’s Big Holiday (Mark Mothersbaugh)
Penny Dreadful (Abel Korzeniowski)
Pride And Prejudice And Zombies (Fernando Velázquez)
Swallows And Amazons (Ilan Eshkeri)
The Monkey King 2 (Christopher Young)


Special Mentions (Otherwise Ineligible) (Alphabetical)

Collage: The Last Work (James Horner)
Living In The Age Of Airplanes (James Horner)


Composers of the Year (Rated)

01. Fernando Velazquez
02. Michael Giacchino
03. James Horner, Simon Franglen
04. Timothy Williams
05. Daniel Hart

With so many entries in this years ‘honours list’, Fernando Velazquez is the obvious Composer of the Year. Whether we’re talking about Zipi y Zape or Ozzy or Gernika or A Monster Calls or PP&Z, they’re all meticulously written and orchestrated, with a handful of wonderful themes between them. The same really goes for Michael Giacchino, who’s had yet another prolific year tackling Star Trek, Star Wars, Doctor Strange and various other high profile projects. Fans of James Horner experienced a bitter-sweet year with a number of gorgeous posthumous releases, such as Collage, Living in the Age of Airplanes and of course The Magnificent Seven, which was spectacularly and respectfully brought to completion by Simon Franglen. Timothy Williams offered a number of great works such as Diablo and I’m Not Ashamed; whilst Daniel Hart only went and wrote one of my absolutely favourite scores of the year: Pete’s Dragon.

Congratulations to all composers on their wonderful works. Many thanks to all the composers, agents, publicists, record labels who made it possible for me to hear so much great music this year. I wish you all a fabulous 2017!

Article by Pete Simons. The 2016 Synchrotones’ Soundtrack Awards (c) 2016 Synchrotones

  1. verian permalink

    I haven’t heard all these, but my own list would have to include the Soundtrack to ‘Stranger Things’, some other nice choices there

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  1. 93 Days in Synchrotron’s best scores of the year | GEORGE KALLIS | composer |

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