Later this Awards Season, we'll have the Academy and numerous other awards bodies talking to us about the best scores of the year, (link to eligible scores), but what about the best soundtracks of the year? No love for music supervisors from the movie hemisphere? Sure, the Grammys honor such folk, but coming from a completely different perspective, TV soundtracks are eligible, and the films are honored in most cases an entire year after the typical film awards season. So we took it upon ourselves to honor our favorite soundtracks of 2012.
5. On The Road
A wonderful compilation of that strange and beautiful musical era in american history that bridged the gab between swing and modern jazz where bebop and soul vocals ruled the youth scene, and paved the way for the massive radical change to come. Beat era jazz rose to popularity in the early 50s and its proto-hippie fans could all be found jamming to upcoming entry "Not Fade Away'"s soundtrack 10-15 years later. But before we ever got there, we were toe tapping to Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker and slow dancing to Ella Fitzgerald and Billie Holliday. "On The Road" perfectly encapsulates a time rarely depicted on screen and the corresponding tunes are not to be missed. Oh and Gustavo Santaolalla's score will force you to get up and bop around - money back guarantee!
Favorite Track: Yip Roc Heresy by Slim Gaillard
4. This is 40
While some have joked that this soundtrack is humorously better built for those in their 60s than their 40s, truly anyone can appreciate the old school folksy jams Judd Apatow so regularly leans towards, in this case specifically courtesy of legendary rockers Graham Parker & The Rumour, a central part of the film. Aside from that bands' reunion, the soundtrack showcases original tunes from the likes of Fiona Apple. Norah Jones and Lindsey Buckingham and features oldies but goodies from Ryan Adams, Wilco, Loudon Wainwright (duh), Jon Brion, Paul Simon, Paul McCartney, and The Avett Brothers. Wondering why you aren't listening to this right now? Us too.
Favorite Track: Wilco's reworked I Got You (At The End of the Century)
If "The Hunger Games" is for the kiddies then consider "Lawless" for the grown men who speak unintelligibly while wearing sexy vests and the grown women who get nekkid with them. Hmm. That's how we all remember "Lawless", right? Anyhoo. This song listing shows off how well the new can blend with the old, used "as a way of stretching time…" according to music supervisor and composer, Nick Cave, with rousing bluegrass covers of punk songs from The Bootleggers (Cave and Warren Ellis featuring plenty of Emmylou Harris), Ralph Stanley and Willie Nelson, along with a gorgeous score also from Cave & Ellis. One of the most inventive soundtracks of the year, that you can't help but sing along to, whether you know the songs or not. If you loved the "Oh Brother Where Art Thou" soundtrack, you'll flip for this.
Favorite Track: White Light / White Heat by the Velvet Underground, covered by bluegrass legend Ralph Stanley
While none of these songs were written *for* the film, unlike our #1 choice, "Not Fade Away" features the best compilation of the year, providing a freakishly accurate soundtrack to the lives of anyone who came of age in the late 60s and provides a lesson in the importance of the British Invasion on America to anyone who didn't. Rather than going for the obvious, music supervisor Steven Van Zandt (Springstein's longtime guitarist and "Sopranos" actor) delves into the obscure yet recognizable, going for options that are specific and meaningful to those who lived through this time, rather than a skewed version of what we today think music was back then. For example, while the Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, Van Morrison and the Sex Pistols all appear on the soundtrack, its with songs like Tell Me, She Belongs To Me, T.B. Sheets and Road Runner as opposed to their more well known tunes. Artists like Bo Diddley, Small Faces, The Rascals and Lead Billy balance out the soundtrack, all artists that influence the in-film band, The Twylight Zones, and as an added bonus, a tune Van Zandt wrote for Norweigan girl band Cocktail Slippers, appears, as performed by The Twylight Zones (as do many other songs recorded by the band) and is so good, it'll make you mad it wasn't written for the film and is thus ineligible for Oscar.
Favorite Track: Go Now by The Moody Blues
Our favorite compilation of music written for a film, "The Hunger Games" is to bluegrass/americana what the "Twilight" soundtracks have been for emo: the best of its genre, aimed to introduce the tween set to a stronger level music. The way Twilight took tweens' interest in emo and used it to introduce them to Muse and Florence and the Machine, "The Hunger Games" rode the wave of pop country and newgrass as emerging genres to introduce tweens to The Civil Wars through their stunning song written in collaboration with Taylor Swift, the Punch Brothers, Low Anthem and the Secret Sisters, just to name a few. Each song is inspired by a different aspect of the film and book and is the perfect example of what a soundtrack should aspire to be. Unfortunately, due to Academy rules, the exceptional Safe & Sound is ineligible for a nomination, but on the plus side, this may be the year we can say The Arcade Fire became Oscar nominated.
Favorite Track: Aside from the obvious Safe & Sound? Secret Sisters' Tomorrow Will Be Kinder and Run Daddy Run from Miranda Lambert with Pistol Annies.
The Master, Searching for Sugarman, Perks of Being A Wallflower, Les Miserables, Django Unchained and Moonrise Kingdom. Read about them here.
Other 2012 soundtrack (and score) recommendations:
Holy Motors 3! 12! MERDE! LISTEN FOREVER TO THIS
The Comedy (hat tip: @davidehrlich)
Beasts of the Southern Wild (by the soon to be oscar nominated Behn Zeitlin & Dan Romer)
Anna Karenina (by the very likely to be oscar nominated Dario Marianelli)
Life of Pi (by the maybe oscar nominated Mychael Danna)
Paranorman (by Jon Brion)
Ruby Sparks (by Nick Urata of Devotchka)