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2017 Synchrotones’ Soundtrack Awards

January 28, 2018

2017 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 2017. 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. That said, my list is much more about why I favour over what I think is best.  In the end, very often it simply comes down to: do you like it? And that’s why these are my favourites, not necessarily 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, here are…

Synchrotones’ 10 Favourite Scores of 2017


1. Thor: Ragnarok  (Mark Mothersbaugh)

Never would I have expected to place a Mark Mothersbaugh at the very top of any of my lists. His music usually isn’t quite my thing; often a little too quirky or comedic. In a single word Thor: Ragnarok is “holy sh*t, where did that come from?!” It’s bold, it’s rich, it’s epic and it’s got a stellar main theme. So many cues are highlights and amongst the best cues of the year; and when Mothersbaugh combines Doyle’s Thor theme with his own, goosebumps appear in place where they really don’t belong. The orchestrations are out of this world; and the synth programming is both bonkers and brilliant.

2. Viceroy’s House  (A.R. Rahman)

Equally, I wouldn’t have thought Rahman to sit so highly on my list; and it was a close call between Thor: Ragnarok and Viceroy’s House for that coveted top spot. Rahman’s score is rich, lush, and simply utterly gorgeous from start to finish. A perfect blend between Indian and Western styles. The composer presents a handful of themes, each of which are little diamonds.

3. Captain Underpants  (Theodore Shapiro)

I was reluctant to give Captain Underpants a go, solely based on that title… but boy, does Theodore Shapiro deliver the goods. A fantastic, big and bold, epic and at times hilarious blend of huge orchestra, choir and electronics.

4. Ferdinand  (John Powell)

John Powell makes a welcome return to the big screen with Ferdinand, an utterly lovely and heart-warming score for orchestra with Spanish influences. Though it has moments of high-energy, as we’re used to from Powell, on the whole it’s a gentle and mature score. Absolutely sublime.

5. Bitter Harvest  (Benjamin Wallfisch)

The top 5 is completed by Benjamin Wallfisch’s Bitter Harvest, a rich orchestral score with lush themes. It’s got a wonderful pastoral tone to it; and a gorgeous main theme. At times I’m reminded of Elfman’s Black Beauty; I think it’s down to that pastoral style.

6. Tommy’s Honour  (Christian Henson)

7. Downsizing  (Rolfe Kent)

8. Their Finest  (Rachel Portman)

9. Mully  (Benjamin Wallfisch)

10. Blue Planet II  (Zimmer/Shea/Flemming)

Some wonderful titles there! Henson’s Tommy’s Honour is a delight. Kent’s Downsizing and Portman’s Their Finest features some lovely melodies. Mully marks Wallfisch’s second entry in this list. It’s a little predictable, but that hymn-like main theme is very addictive. Blue Planet by the Bleeding Fingers gang took a little while to grow on me; but grow it did. Strong follow up to Planet Earth II; with some interesting techniques that have been turned into a sample library.

And here are 25 more…

American Assassin  (Steven Price)
The B-Side: Elsa Dorfman’s Portrait Photography  (Paul Leonard Morgan)
Battle Of The Sexes  (Nicholas Britell)
Broadchurch [Season 3]  (Ólafur Arnalds)
Call The Midwife [Season 6]  (Maurizio Malagnini)
A Cure For Wellness  (Benjamin Wallfisch)
Diana, Our Mother: Her Life And Legacy  (Miguel D’oliveira)
Divide  (Chris Tilton)
Earth: One Amazing Day  (Alex Heffes)
Gift  (Ian Honeyman)
The Great Wall  (Ramin Djawadi)
Jumanji: Welcome To The Jungle  (Henry Jackman)
Kingsman: The Golden Circle  (Henry Jackman And Matthew Margeson)
Knock  (Cyrille Aufort)
The Last Post [Season 1]  (Solomon Grey)
Life  (Jon Ekstrand)
Murder On The Orient Express  (Patrick Doyle)
Negative  (Bill Brown)
The Post  (John Williams)
Taboo [Season 1]  (Max Richter)
El Secreto De Marrowbone/Marrowbone  (Fernando Velázquez)
The Shape Of Water  (Alexandre Desplat)
The Zookeeper’s Wife  (Harry Gregson-Williams)
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri  (Carter Burwell)
Victoria and Abdul  (Thomas Newman)

Any other day… and any of those titles could find themselves in the top 10 (though arguably some more likely than others). I appreciate that you might have wanted to see them ranked, but I couldn’t really bring myself to suggest that one is better than an other. The top 10 was hard enough and even on the eve of publishing this, I’m still not sure. And therein lies the difficulty and the beauty of reviewing soundtracks (or anything for that matter): every score has its merits, but those merits vary one to the next. Some scores are more dramatic, others more fun, others more cool, others technically challenging, others easy on the ears. The bottom line is… may be we shouldn’t get so obsessed with numbers and rankings and just enjoy the music.

You may have noticed that Synchrotones has been very quiet this year. There are a couple of reasons for that. Some are personal, and some relate to the music of 2017. It’s been a year of stark contracts, in my opinion. There have been some really big and pleasant surprises (as listed above), but there have been many scores that simply did not resonate with me; some big orchestral ones, and plenty of electronic ones. Too many scores sound so bleak these days. It’s like film-makers just want some generic background noise; afraid to show any strong emotions; reluctant to allow the music to add to the story. Films and their soundtracks are about story-telling… or should be, but it seems that the art of narrative music has made way for generic mood music. It’s not a trend I approve of. That said, I guess it allows for the odd surprise or underdog, like Thor: Ragnarok or Captain Underpants or Tommy’s Honour, to really shine with their memorable themes and colourful orchestrations, and to make it to the top of (hopefully many) fans’ lists.

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 2018!

Article by Pete Simons. The 2017 Synchrotones’ Soundtrack Awards (c) 2018 Synchrotones

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