Funomenal Rear-view Contemplation: Best of Film & Game Music 2015

Mission.Impossible.Rogue.Nation.2015
It’s not every day you get to see a lady assassin, with a flute as her weapon, peeking out traditional Chinese windows…in the Vienna State Opera.

A Year With a Lot of Reawakenings

Allow me to temporarily defect to the West once more, as I look over how 2015 has treated my other passion: film music.

Here’s the thing: I LOVE old stuff when it comes to music: Swing-era and Bebop Jazz, Romantic-era symphonies and symphonic poems…and naturally, well composed and melody-driven orchestral film music are the bee’s knees. Of course, Japanese, Chinese, Korean and other nations’ composers aren’t left out in this little celebration of mine.

In short summary, 2015 has been a marvel for film music, and film in general, especially for those who still hold onto segments of the good old days (but not dwelling on the past…because people like that are assholes): last year saw the return of orchestras in blockbuster scoring, and in fashions that couldn’t be more fittingly grand.

However, tragedy has also befallen in the film music world, with the passing of renowned film composer, James Horner. As a man who may still yet reach his prime in finding his musical voice, the absence of any new works from him will leave a hole inside those who cherished his music.

2015 was also a big one for the spy film genre, with both young contenders and the old flames returning to the big screen, to largely satisfying results. The Kingsman’s hopelessly bombastic but irritably charming personality, successfully won fans over with its stylistically gory action and profanity-filled humour, complimented with a wonderfully goofy performance by Samuel L. Jackson as the diabolical, McDonalds-munching and blood phobic antagonist. Mission: Impossible ups the ante once again with its death-defying PRACTICAL (key word here, as emphasised by promotions) stunts and set pieces in Rogue Nation, whilst also providing us with a worthy successor to the 2011 Brad Bird marvel. James Bond had its newest solid run with Spectre, under the capable hands of Daniel Craig; a film that was disappointing in its retreat back into the overused franchise clichés, but was nonetheless entertaining. Spielberg returned with a understated lawsuit thriller in The Bridge of Spies, offering us an look into Cold War politics through the eyes of a righteous lawyer. The ultimate throwback however, has to go to The Man from U.N.C.L.E: a film with a contrastingly simple premise of the Cold War, where sharply dressed men with charmingly stereotypical accents remind us of what Americans THINK that they were like 50 years ago.

And who could forget the culture juggernaut, Star Wars? Nostalgia may have gotten a SLIGHT overdose…but we were addicted, and we were in turn, rewarded.

But we already talked about that, so let’s get on with it, since we have a lot to cover. These are my picks for best scores, album releases, individual tracks & themes and top composers of 2015.


Best Scores of 2015

10. Blood Blockade Battlefront | Taisei Iwasaki & Various

It IS nice to reflect upon America, isn’t it? The nation where dreams are built, can be proud to have lived up to that name to a certain extent, as we reached the year of 2016, but as all people know…sometimes the dirty stuff behind the spectacles can be a bit overwhelming.

What is it with Japan and showing off the good stuff about American culture? Amongst the pretentious tabloids, idiotic ideals of complete freedom from any sense of law and order; showcased through the overblown sense of self-protection and ‘democracy’ in gun culture extremism; the utter ignorance of basic geography shown by far too many American adults and…Donald Trump, anime seem to have a certain fascination with mid-20th century America, and its then-stylish (and remains so today) and smooth Jazz music culture. After Cowboy Bebop, Bacanno and Kids on the Slope, Blood Blockade Battlefront takes the torch, in producing a show that baths in the style and cultural spectacle of Jazz, with a messy but charming depiction of an alternate-world New York, where multiculturalism is taken to the extreme: now aliens and superheroes share the streets of The Big Apple, with mixed results of co-existence…and threats of total destruction.

Overall, as many critics of animation presentations, technical and artistic merits may tell you, Blood Blockade Battlefront is a show saturated with style: every frame is heavy with atmosphere, influenced from the overwhelming nature of the world hub: the haze of body heat, the smell of instant coffee from 24/7 diners and the rush of coat-wearing and hat-donning crowds all contribute to the passionate but to-the-point world building of BBB’s New York. Needless to say, the soundtrack that is to accompany the show, is no less stylish.

Due to the still incomplete nature of the show, when it comes to me watching it that is, my exposure to the score in its entirety has been largely album-only. The sheer 100 minute-plus length of the album spreads its wings over a multitude of genres, from the aforementioned Swing, Rock-fusion and Bebop-era Jazz, to traditional, albeit modernised orchestral scoring, and finally soul, pop-rock and country song numbers. What made this album scrape into the top 10 was the sheer quality of its best tracks: the jazz-only pieces are overwhelmingly entertaining and fast-paced, showcasing the best of the genre. The best song numbers were also charming and karaoke-worthy, perfectly acting as the ‘under’score for an equally charming show (trust me…underscore is seriously underselling the importance of the score in the show’s overall presentation).

However, what prevented the album from reaching any further up, was the underwhelming electronic elements of the rest of the score (around half of the total runtime): Brutal in power? Fast-paced and creatively rendered at times? Yes, but sadly, these tracks don’t agree with my taste, and in turn, sound uninspired to me, in contrast to the sheer entertainment value of the rest of the album.

On My Own, Footloose/Run for Cover, Catch Me If You Can

9. Cinderella | Patrick Doyle

With the recent Disney trend of giving its biggest fairy tale transformations (i.e. making stories of child abuse and priests feeling erotic and desire raping a girl, child-friendly) a re-transformation to live-action, what we’ve got thus far, have been beyond extravagant, when it comes to film music. One of the best scores of 2014 was James Newton Howard’s bold, brass-heavy but flighty fantasy score to Maleficent, where a perfect marriage of brutal brass action writing and vintage JNH lyrical grace, successfully established a wonderful musical base for an otherwise forgettable film.

Similar things can be said about Cinderella. In contrast to the alternate ‘the villain wasn’t the villain’ viewpoint of Maleficent, Cinderella was a literal and faithful readaptation of the 1950 Disney classic, intent on giving this generation’s kids the same childhood, with a facelift. This also meant, anyone who has already seen the original animated film, would find little of value in this one.

In accordance to the readaptation of a children’s classic, Patrick Doyle was allowed to score the film with the same whimsical sense of magical optimism that graced the best of Disney music. In addition to original compositions of waltz and polka pieces, Doyle saturated the film with melody-driven cues and a strings-driven sense of weightless grace, granting the film with the sense of childish bliss that it needed.

As a listening experience, the score is an easy one, but provides little else in terms of alternative modes, creative dissonance and general memorability: it’s written like a typical Disney score and it sounds like a typical Disney score. Even the various new themes (outside the wonderful, new symphonic cover for ‘A Dream is a Wish Your Heart Makes’); whilst pleasant and beautiful; don’t remain long in our memories.

Cinderella makes it onto this list for its no-nonsense charm, but stays in its low position, because of its accompanying film’s artistic choice, to remain completely faithful to something we’ve seen before.

A Dream is a Wish Your Heart Makes, A Golden Childhood

8. Hibike! Euphonium | Matsuda Akito

Concert band is serious business for Japan’s high schools…province and national competitions rage on throughout the nation on a yearly basis, where the best of school bands, show off their technical and musical prowess.

So what happens, when a team of tight-knit animators, designers, writers and directors from the highly acclaimed animation studio, Kyoto Animation, decide to adapt a novel’s story about high school ensemble life, where the emotional dissonance, struggles of self-improvement and the conflicting ideologies of individual musicians collide in a dramatic fashion? One of the goddamn best anime TV series I’ve ever beared witnessed to in 2015.

BUT. This is not the place for debates in regards to the show’s merits, so if you are stubbornly unwilling to accept my above words as gospel for the reminder of this segment on MUSIC, Get out (Kidding. Not really…). Otherwise, read on.

As stated in various interviews, composer Matsuda Akito experienced his first venture in writing concert band music with this TV series, which is a marvel, considering their quality. One of the other interesting side issues concerning the scoring process of the series, was the novel author’s fictional descriptions of musical pieces, their musical personalities and arrangement segments, even fictional composers were included in the mix. As a result, the original concert band pieces were composed to reference from the novel’s descriptions, which eventuated in the creation of a suite of wonderful pieces, in addition to the usual collection of background music and classical pieces, such as ‘Orpheus in the Underworld’ and Dvorak’s ‘From The New World’.

However, the two disc package of the score makes a rather frustrating listen, as it separated the pure background music from the concert band pieces. Also, as if it was intended as an in-joke, included were 2 different takes of some of the band pieces…one performed normally, the other performed horridly, with out of tune instruments and players utterly butchering the timing. Fun fact: these versions were used in the series as rehearsal and practice temp track. Only after extensive digital rescheduling and track rearranging to blend both background and band pieces to the show’s chronological order (losing a few more source cues in the process), does the album truly showcase its merits.

Overall, the score is anchored by one central theme, reprised in multiple styles and instrumentations, such as chamber strings and harp, acoustic guitar, and finally getting a cameo in the climactic concert piece. One of the interesting creative choices made by the composer, was limiting the background music tracks to just strings-based instruments, to reportedly make the distinction between actual band music; where only brass, woodwinds and percussion instruments were used; and background music obvious. Although I question this decision, there’s little doubt, that the music were enjoyable in their simplicity, but also engaging and epic in their complexity when the band pieces rocked the speakers.

Album previews (main theme showcased first), Crescent Moon Dance (original band piece | cover. Also featured towards the end of the album previews), Starting the Project (Trailer piece)

7. Peter and Wendy | Maurizio Malagnini

They are seriously running out of ideas for naming Peter Pan adaptations, huh… What’s next? Pan and Darling? (I quickly checked…they haven’t taken this one yet, it seems)

Ahem* On the bright side…Peter Pan film adaptations seem to always attract some great music: John Williams’ Hook, James Newton Howard’s rather pedestrian, but nonetheless charming score for 2003’s live action Peter Pan, Joel McNeely’s Return to Neverland and a suite of Tinker Bell scores, John Powell’s recent Pan, and finally, Maurizio Malagnini’s Peter and Wendy.

And why wouldn’t it? Tales of a island on a bright star second to the right of its partner, surrounded by Indians, crocs, fairies and pirates, where a boy who never grows up can fly: it is literally a treasure trove for musical ideas…and it’s backed by the scientifically proven fact, that flying themes and cues are always the best in their respective scores, for whatever reason… (it’s not that the freedom of flight is such an creatively inspiring motif or anything…#mytsunderemoment)

It should go without saying, that this tradition is kept upstanding, with the score delivering a wonderful experience as a standalone listen, save for the less than substantial recording, probably due to the lessened budget for a TV release.

6. Texas Rising | John Debney, Bruce Broughton

You know…for a TV channel that calls itself ‘The History Channel’…the amount of liberties reportedly taken by Texas Rising in its blending of actual proven history and fictional poetry, was questionable at best. Granted, I can’t say I’ve any exposure to the mini-series, nor do I have any in depth knowledge in regards to the historical events, which the series claimed to portray (e.g. romanticize), but the numerous amount of articles I’ve skimmed and poured over throughout the week regarding this topic, has led me to pretty much steer clear of this series, as a source of knowledgeable and reliable source material. But we’re not here to talk about that, are we?

John Debney and Bruce Broughton are big names within the film music community; being pretty much known as two of the most underutilised and talented composers of the 2000s. Rather interestingly, both their fames were somewhat tied to a few specific genres of the film music tapestry: John Debney’s still standing magnum opus was the 1995 pirate bomb Cutthroat Island, whose one of the few aspects which received critical acclaim was its grand scale swashbuckling, fully symphonic and choral score, rightfully compared with the best of Erich Wolfgang Korngold. Few Debney scores reached any sort of similar acclaim and popularity after that, save for the religious drama, Passion of the Christ, and the score to a failed video game, Lair, whose almost entirely acoustic and theme-based orchestral scoring methods were rare within the industry. In contrast, Bruce Broughton’ turf was established when he scored the American Western Silverado, solidified with Tombstone 8 years later; successfully offsetting the stereotypical musical depiction of the Wild West, following the definitive minimalism style of Ennio Morricone, which dominated the scene in the 1970s.

To say the least, Texas Rising was a welcoming return of the Broughton Western sound: with its main theme lovingly reminding us of Silverado’s energetic sense of adventure. You will notice snippets of both Debney and Broughton’s habitual flourishes throughout the tracks, which were admittedly disappointing in their inability to even touch the ankle of the award-worthy quality and memorability of the main theme and the beginning suite, but were nonetheless well orchestrated and performed, and above all, entertaining.

Not the big break film music fans were looking for in terms of recognition and general quality of work for the two composers, but I will take it.

5. Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation | Joe Kraemer

James Bond, Superman and Mission: Impossible all have two distinct common traits; despite their somewhat dilated clarity these days: the starring of an unkillable superhero and a GODDAMN badass main theme. Having looked at the recent 2010s treatments of these three franchises’ music, I think it’s pretty clear which one got the most universally satisfying treatment.

James Bond’s John Barry era was practically legendary amongst film music oldies, but many of them would agree, that passing the baton onto David Arnold of Independence Day fame was a solid one for the Bonds of the 1990s and 2000s, save for one or two rotten eggs; with 2006’s Casino Royale reigning supreme as the latest and still defining Bond score experience. However, the switch to Thomas Newman; a composer whose musical style differed far from the definitive, snazzy and brassy personality of a Bond score; alienated many listeners during his debut in Skyfall. Despite the acclaimed inclusion of Adele’s Skyfall song number; the best in arguably decades; the score was met with disappointment. Similar things can be said about Spectre, which Newman returned to score: the attempt at injecting some regional flavours did not help with the fact that it didn’t feel like a Bond score.

The Superman March was one of the earliest worldwide phenomena penned by John Williams in 1978, alongside his famous Imperial and Indiana Jones marches; rightfully earning its place as the definitive music for Superman. 2013’s Man of Steel’s wager to tell a gritty and more dark tale of Superman also resulted in Hans Zimmer completely reinventing the musical identity for the man with the big ‘S’: a move that polarised film and film music fans. Whilst the Zimmer anthem has its no-nonsense epicness, its memorability doesn’t hold a candlelight against Williams’ venture.

Then there’s Mission: Impossible. An old TV show, after being resurrected as the baby of action superstar and producer Tom Cruise, it has seen itself beating expectations repeatedly, not just because of the recent sequels’ continuous ability to retain and even improve their quality, nor just because of its ever daring set pieces, but how it treated its musical identity. After Danny Elfman and Hans Zimmer & Co.’s forgettable attempts at modernising the iconic themes, Michael Giacchino’s two scores successfully pushed the franchise’s musical identity back into friendly zones of traditional orchestral action scoring, despite their workman-like quality. 2015’s Rogue Nation; without a doubt; has received the best musical treatment of the franchise thus far; one that pays faithful homage to the old, under the guidance of composer Joe Kraemer. In addition to a magnificent-sounding acoustics and great live performance ambience with no sense of electronic manipulations, the score is littered with broken quotations of the iconic theme, percussion and brass-led action, in addition to a rightfully menacing villain theme for Solomon Lane, all packaged in a 70 minute experience that begins and ends with a satisfyingly full performance of the snazzy main theme.

What ascended Rogue Nation to its respectable spot on the list, was a balance between its experience on album, and its use in the film: despite the bombastic and fast-phased nature of its action and chase sequences, the music’s loud exterior was allowed to shine in the forefront, not to mention the unfortunately omitted, but fascinating inclusion of the opera ‘Turandot’ as diegetic accompaniment to the Vienna State Opera action set piece. Overall, Rogue Nation is certainly one of the best pure action scores we’ve beared witnessed to in years.

The A400

4. Paper Planes | Nigel Westlake

Remember my little spat about how flying always bring out the best of composers? What happens when a composer gets to score an entire movie on childhood passions, inventions and flying?

As a little children’s film production from Australia, the film featured well-trodden stories of a underdog. This time, it’s a boy who wants to win the paper planes competition in Japan. Standing between him and his goal is a bully, a depressed father after the death of his wife, and the current paper plane champion.

No doubt personally affected and inspired by the echoing similarities between the tragedies suffered by both the film’s main family and his own, composer Nigel Westlake sought to write music that harkens back to the optimistic and energetic personality of ambitious children: fluttering woodwinds, a sweeping strings section, punchy brass and an onslaught of percussion; all featured in spades during the entire run time of Paper Planes, accompanied by fitting moments of endearing intimacy, carried sorely by piano, harp and an introverted base of strings. It all accuminates to a climactic mixing of Japanese shakuhachi and taiko drums with the evermore energetic Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, as the final competition takes place.

Paper Planes is a film music marvel: its main theme is thrilling and adaptable, perfectly able to fit into moments of triumph when the brass takes centre stage but also fittingly lovely when utilised by strings and woodwinds, it was composed with expert control of the orchestra and a sense of sentimental and vivid emotional attachment to the subject matter: not many scores today can achieve such heights of lyrical and inspirational beauty.

Ready to Launch

3. Wolf Totem | James Horner

A word of comment as we reach the top 3: I didn’t live long enough to experience James Horner’s definitive triumphs throughout the decades. I wasn’t alive, when The Wrath of Khan hit the hype waves, I was barely out of the womb when Titanic flooded the cinemas, and I wasn’t following film music, when Avatar threw listeners into another world. Wolf Totem was the first, and perhaps the only film, that I will ever experience in the cinemas, sorely intending to pay close attention to Horner’s music. And it was an experience to remember.

I wonder if that’s what fans of Horner have been experiencing all these years before me: to hear unashamed emotional downpouring and…music whose simplicity and transparent density allowed it to aim straight for our collective hearts, barely seconds after it started playing.

With the flaws of the production aside; as they were most definitely contributed to by either political restraints or the lack of cultural awareness by a foreign director; the film was gorgeously shot and cinematically vast, showcasing the endless mountain ranges and grassy plains of the Tibetan landscape. The wolves were also depicted wondrously; their warrior and tribal life styles a fascinating one to observe on screen. Accompanying the poetic eye candy was James Horner’s breathtaking score. With one central theme acting as the backbone of the entire score, Horner weaved a tapestry of intricate musical identities that range from the noble bid for survival, to the bittersweet departure of loved ones, all the while working in regional flavours of Tibet into a otherwise typical Horner soundscape.

Stay for the end credits when it comes to Wolf Totem, as James Horner saved the best for last. Meditate on the significance of that statement, as you bath in the epic beauty of the rest of the album. Also remember, that this is one of the last scores, ever to be penned by the maestro. Cherish what you have to the very last note.

Leaving For The Country – Main Theme, Wolves Stalking Gazelles

2. Jupiter Ascending | Michael Giacchino

I think it’s safe to say, that this score topped my list for most of the year. Michael Giacchino has rocked the world, with no less than 4 solid entries for blockbuster films in 2015; and so close to each other’s release dates, as well. It’s rather disturbing then, that one of the most unfortunate bombs of 2015, a rare space opera original story, gone wrong with its overly indulgent self-importance and a basic lack of ANY humanity, as told by so many reviewers, commentators and my own friends, had one of the biggest and grandest scores of the year. I lacked the time to check out the film myself, but the score amazed me.

With its two disc and almost two hours runtime, the album echoes the vastness of intergalactic space systems with an almost entirely symphonic personality: big fanfares, brutal action cues and curious passages of majesty that accompanied alien worlds. Jupiter Ascending is definitely Giacchino’s biggest score to date.

The intricate nature of some of the film’s themes were given solid introduction in the album opener’s 4 movement symphonic suite; glorious when played on the loudest volume, and needless to say, the rest of the score followed suit. The crown was practically Giacchino’s Jupiter Ascending for the taking, until…Read on.

Symphony: Movements I – IV, The Titus Clipper

1. Star Wars: The Force Awakens | John Williams

Talk about rotten luck…barely TWO weeks and Michael Giacchino would have taken the gold. Then, John Williams decided to crash the party with a boom drop so epic…worldwide nerd tears poured as loudly as The Niagara Falls.

This is going to be a short one, because as far as I can tell, STAR WARS IS BACK! Not only are most of the famous original themes back in full glory, Williams graced us with no less than five new solid themes; three of which caught my undivided attention.

Rey’s Theme was an utter delight: a mix of whimsical youthful optimism and wonder, with a hesitating tip of unsure doubt, which speaks volumes about one of my favourite new characters in the Star Wars universe. Poe’s Theme was as sparingly used as his character, but its proud anthem-like spirit remained as likeable as Poe himself (wow…we’re starting to get a pattern here.) The Resistance now also have a march; one that isn’t as iconic as The Imperial March, but it served as a solid collective identity for our heroes.

What a way to end the year, huh…with a film score that not only satisfied our appetite, but also expanded it to a point of impatience, as we wait for our next journey into the galaxy far, far away.

Scherzo for X-Wings, The Scavenger

Honourable Mentions (No particular order)

For the sake of my own sanity, I’ve limited my honourable mentions to 5 scores, preferably all with different reasons for their close-but-not-quite situations, to keep the diversity going.

Pan | John Powell

Put simply, Powell’s replacement effort made this score a triumph on its own right: the time constraints did not deter the animation master from penning a competent score, that still shared shadows with his masterpieces, How to Train Your Dragon and its arguably superior sequel. Whilst its themes failed to truly capture the sense of freedom and childhood innocence, the score managed to utilise what it had to high standards.

Yona of the Dawn | Kunihiko Ryo

This album couldn’t make it any further for similar reasons as the just-scraped-in Blood Blockade Battlefront. Whilst the latter suffered due to its inconsistent experience between extravagant style and bland dullness, Yona of the Dawn suffered due to its instrumentations and the utilisation of its themes.

As usual, as an anime TV series production, budgets tend to be a problem, which hampers the quality of its music. A shame, really, because Japan-born Korean composer Kunihiko Ryo has penned a selection of utterly GORGEOUS themes and musical identities for the fictional world of an alternate ancient Korea. The main theme for Yona was apparently so good, that the creators decided; in an incredibly rare move; to designate it as the first OP sequence’s song accompaniment, a position usually reserved for third-party song numbers. This move resulted in Yona having one of the best OPs of its season. The theme is a wonderful creation of oriental melodic constructs, whilst also being energetic, playful and heroic, when taken up by a string section and later a flute solo. On album, this cue spans 3 minutes, but also immediately exposes the main problem: it’s heavily synthesised and lacked the organic flavour and symphonic depth that defined great West-East fusion film scores.

Throughout the album, you find plenty of issues that mirror this: wonderful themes butchered by subpar mixing or instrumentations, even bizarre compositional decisions that makes one scratch their heads.

Take the cue ‘Jeaha, Elegy of Moonlight’, for instance: it begins WONDERFULLY, with tinkering bells, light accompaniment from a strings section, harp and piano, with the erhu taking centre stage, performing a toxically beautiful melody. Then electronic beats decided to join in and ruin the mood, trying to introduce dubstep into the soundscape. Not cool.

Even so, despite the uneven genre fusions and some utterly poor recording choices, flickers of perfections do peek through the windows, including one hell of an epic Chinese-ballad inspired song number for the show’s second ED sequence.

Peaceful Days in Kouka Kingdom (fall in love with that violin, why don’t you?), Akatsuki (ED2)

The Heroic Legend of Arslan | Taro Iwashiro

Having not watched the TV series, nor have I listened to the score extensively, I cannot afford this album with a position any higher than this, despite the high amount of enjoyment and some quality tracks from Taro Iwashiro, who once again penned a score that can be immediately associated with his own unique style: he truly is the James Horner of Japan, for better or worse.

Shounen Ha Soshite Ou To Naru

Inside Out | Michael Giacchino

I didn’t warm up to this score until after a couple more listens, and rewatching the film: the creativity behind representing emotions with such bubbly and rhyme-driven compositions was a good move by Michael Giaachino, despite lacking the emotional payoff achieved by his one-theme-wonder with Up.

Jurassic World | Michael Giacchino

Not only did Giacchino respectably incorporated John Williams’ classic themes, his new theme for the new Jurassic World was equally mesmerising and awe-inspiring, not to mention the quality of the music in general.

Best Remastered / Compilation / New Composition Albums of 2015 (No particular order)

Here, we celebrate a multitude of albums that were either remasters of the oldies, or compilation albums and re-recordings that aim to present some old material in a new light.

Dances With Wolves (25th Anniversary) | John Barry

Home Alone (25th Anniversary) | John Williams

The Last Starfighter: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack Remastered | Craig Safan

No need to comment on these three, do I? Remastered classics, all the better.

Concert Suites: Music For Films | Fernando Velazquez

A late discovery of a largely unknown composer by my part: It took him precisely 5 minutes to hook me with his wondrous sense of melody.

Big Band For Anime Songs | Lowland Jazz

It’s not rare for anime OP, ED and insert songs to be awarded Jazz rearrangement, these days…Rasmus Faber has released 5 volumes of his Platina Jazz: Anime Standards albums to date, all stuffed with snazzy and smooth gems (not to mention actually IMPROVING upon some original tracks, by turning them into Jazz). Now it’s Lowland Jazz’s turn to do the same. And it’s glorious.

Album previews

Final Symphony: Music From Final Fantasy VI, VII and X | Nobuo Uematsu, Masashi Hamauzu, Jonne Valtonen, London Symphony Orchestra

Final Fantasy. London Symphony Orchestra. All-new arrangements, symphonic movements, poems and piano concertos. Need I say more?

Best Individual Tracks from Scores of 2015

Naturally, as a chance to perhaps celebrate the scores not featured in the above lists, below are my favourite individual tracks from a multitude of albums. Previews included.

20. Blue Team | Halo 5: Guardians

19. Theme from Ant-Man | Ant-Man

18. 暁のヨナ (Yona of the Dawn) Main Theme / OP 1 | Yona of the Dawn

As you will see later…the hero is dat Yona’s Theme.

17. Opening | Far From the Madding Crowd

TOTALLY reminds me of James Newton Howard’s The Village…but whatever.

16. Courage and Kindness | Cinderella

15. The A400 | Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation

14. はじまりの旋律 (The Beginning Melody) | Hibike! Euphonium

Link is the piano version. Regular version showcased on the album previews, linked above.

13. Flying Ship Fight | Pan

12. As the Jurassic World Turns | Jurassic World

11. The Competition | Paper Planes

10. Texas Rising Suite | Texas Rising

Can’t find any links for this one.

9. Pin-Ultimate Experience | Tomorrowland

Hey, it’s just repeating like 3 arpeggios, but it’s still awesome.

8. Footloose / Run for Cover | Blood Blockade Battlefront

7. Catch Me If You Can | Blood Blockade Battlefront

Smooooooth.

6. Commitment | Jupiter Ascending

5. Crescent Moon Dance | Hibike! Euphonium

Yep. Still the cover version.

4. Return to the Wild | Wolf Totem

3. The Shadow Chase | Jupiter Ascending

2. Rey’s Theme | Star Wars: The Force Awakens

1. The Jedi Steps and Finale | Star Wars: The Force Awakens

In regards to my best two picks…was it REALLY a surprise?

Best New Themes of 2015

10. Ant-Man’s Theme | Ant-Man

9. Main Theme | Far from the Madding Crowd

8. Riley’s Theme / Main Theme | Inside Out

7. Main Theme | Hibike! Euphonium

6. New Jurassic World’s Theme | Jurassic World

5. Texas Rising Main Theme | Texas Rising

4. Tomorrowland’s Theme | Tomorrowland

3. Wolves’ Theme / Main Theme | Wolf Totem

2. Rey’s Theme | Star Wars: The Force Awakens

1. Yona’s Theme | Yona of the Dawn

Let me explain myself a bit: this segment was to celebrate the theme ITSELF. Yona’s theme was…perfect: its beautiful, grand and memorable, and held itself onto my memory far quicker than both Wolf Totem’s main theme and Rey’s theme. Its utilisation in the TV series; despite the instrumentation issues; was on point, as it was continuously rearranged for different scenes, whilst also playing an important role in the show’s defining moments. Just imagine that theme as the centrepiece for a symphonic suite.

And thus, Yona’s theme held itself up above both heavy hitters from James Horner and John Williams.

Top Composer of 2015

Michael Giacchino

Yayyyyy! Michael here finally got something! With such a consistent portfolio, he’s pretty much the only clear candidate for me in 2015.

Honourable Mentions (No particular order)

Michiru Oshima

Personal pick. Although both of her works this year are still unreleased, I thoroughly admired her work in the two anime TV series, Rokka no Yuusha and the Disney-esque Snow White with the Red Hair. Oshima is still one of the most consistent anime composers working today.

Thomas Newman

Despite my personal distaste for his works in general; an issue of Newman’s style being of an acquired taste; I must commend him on his professionalism in handling 4 scores in one year, two of which are high profile ventures: Spectre and The Bridge of Spies; the latter being a solid Spielberg film score; the first in 30 years that wasn’t composed by John Williams.

John Williams

This man gets a high five just for his Star Wars score.


Phew, that was a handful…Well, now that’s ALL over, here’s to another year of music! (Can’t believe I wasted 18 hours writing this thing…)

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2 thoughts on “Funomenal Rear-view Contemplation: Best of Film & Game Music 2015

  1. Damn, that’s a hell of a retrospective you’ve written and I loved how you characterized and stylistically wrote about the various films, shows, and albums. Your diction within your Kekkai Sensen entry I think especially encapsulated the feel of the show and its music (though maybe this is just because I am most familiar with it). I regret that I’m only acquainted with a handful of these selections but I think many of these are great inclusions. I remember being totally floored near the end of Yona when the choir arrangement of the show’s second ending ‘Dawn’ chimed in for the first and only time. Wonderful post and thanks for the read.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Oh wow. This post is EXTENSIVE! Well done. You’re pretty meticulous, aren’t you? There are some that I’m familiar with and there are some that I’m not. i love the Yona soundtrack album. Beautiful! Anyway, thank you for sharing this post to my blog carnival. Keep it up. Cheers!

    Liked by 1 person

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