Okay let's get to it. Doing a "best of" seems to be all the rage these days so here we go! Here are the top 10 scores of 2010. These are the best of the best and do what every great score should do. They are filled with emotion, they have character and depth, and they are all telling a story through music.
10. The Ghost Writer by Alexandre Desplat
Forget about Harry Potter and The King's Speech. Early in 2010 Roman Polanski's The Ghost Writer quietly came and went. Desplat's score to the film was exquisite. The tones and atmosphere that were created pulsated with a wondrous and mysterious life. The score painted a picture in the most unique way it could. Desplat's best of the year and totally overlooked.
9. Black Swan by Clint Mansell
Clint Mansell's score to Black Swan isn't his best with director Darren Aronofsky but it's nonetheless a striking piece of work. It may rely heavily on Swan Lake but it still feels like a fresh and dark experience that only Mansell could deliver.
8. Let Me In by Michael Giacchino
Michael Giacchino made one of the best horror scores I've heard and it wasn't even a horror score. The score was intimate and extremely quiet. The themes evoked isolation and a yearning that complimented the characters so well. The score ends on a beautiful and swelling conclusion that screams Giacchino. Simplicity strives here.
7. TRON: Legacy by Daft Punk
While the score may have been heavily influenced by Hans Zimmer's style it was still one hell of an experience. The score didn't accentuate it participated and became the biggest character in the film. The score carried every moment and every scene. It's the perfect example of what an action score should do. Not only did it create a unique universe but the thematic grounding was so strong that the whole experience became an overwhelming experience.
6. Dinner For Schmucks by Theodore Shapiro
Probably a score that passed by everyone's radar. Not only was this a quirky comedy score but it also had an unexpected emotional side. It took us into the misunderstood character that was Barry. The track "Mouse World" speaks volumes and won me over in a heartbeat. Behind the goofiness there are some small beautiful moments.
5. The Town by Harry Gregson-Williams & David Buckley
This atmospheric score was heavy on the electronics but filled every void it needed to. It created tension in the most amazing ways and balanced it with a beautiful piano theme. The characters became fleshed out through the most simple melodies and tension rose from a wide range of electronic drones and beats. The score is more complex in the film than it is as a standalone listen.
4. The Social Network by Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross
A very simple score. The musical style complimented Fincher's style perfectly and was able to make a dialogue driven film edgy. It lacks strong emotional groundings but makes up for it by creating the atmosphere the film needed.
3. Mao's Last Dancer by Christopher Gordon
Every now and then you come across a score that you simply don't understand how it goes unnoticed. Such is the case with Gordon's score for Mao's Last Dancer. This brilliant score soars with emotions that will have chills sent all through your body. The beauty in the swelling melodies is immense and the score is filled with so much character. I urge anyone who hasn't heard this score to go out of their way to do so immediately.
Tied For First Place: Inception by Hans Zimmer & How To Train Your Dragon by John Powell:
I spent the entire year battling in my head which was a better score. I knew all year long that these two were simply some of the best scores I've ever heard. For most of the year I decided How To Train Your Dragon was the better score. It simply breathed life into me as I listened to it. I felt human and in a way felt grateful to be alive. It was one of those rare scores that makes you realize the beauty in your own existence. The emotions are that powerful. It is simply stunning and the best score John Powell has done to date.
Then there was Inception. A score that pushed what a score was meant to do. The music worked on so many levels and was telling a story with every note. It echoed the journey of our main character and defined the images we were seeing. The emotional intensity left me trembling after my first listen. It was a riveting experience, and then seeing it with the images was even more overwhelming. While The Thin Red Line is still Zimmer's masterpiece this is a close second. The score feels personal and carries you to a place you never thought you could go. The ending is beautiful because it echoes the themes of the film so well.
So, two masterful scores at hand. Which one is better? I can't honestly say one is better than the other. They are both different scores to different films and they are each perfect in every way. Both of these scores celebrate the human condition and every time you listen to them you are lifted to a place that words cannot describe. Both of these scores will have tears streaming down your face guaranteed. The beauty behind them is incomprehensible at times.