ScoreKeeper’s Top Ten Film Scores of 2018

When I reminisce upon the collective output of film scores I experienced in 2018 I’m intrigued by two stimulating observations. The first is how surprised I am by what scores piqued my interest the most. I have an open mind and try to ignore expectations when first experiencing a film and its score; however, if you do this long enough, it’s inevitable to notice patterns. There were a lot of fantastic film scores composed this past year (a higher ratio than in previous years) and many of them were completely unexpected. The second intriguing observation is how deeply these scores counter what I usually preach. While I’m constantly on the lookout for bolder, braver scores that take risks and eschew popular trends, I find myself impressed with a handful of titles that excelled at countering these ideals. Though I certainly wouldn’t call these scores “safe,” I recognize they weren’t just taking risks for the sake of risk-taking alone. There were a lot of smart decisions made in the world of cinema in 2018 and it was refreshing to experience so many in film music. To everybody who penned music for a film this past year, I applaud you. You feed this glorious art form and I regret that I can only single out ten of you. There are certainly more to celebrate. I look forward to 2019 where even more amazing film music awaits. Enough with the monologuing…here are my top ten favorite film scores of 2018… 10. Mary Queen of Scots by Max Richter This might be one of the more beautiful scores I’ve heard all year. Max Richter is a well-respected composer of concert music and has only recently begun to make larger ripples in cinematic waters. His sense of narrative is not as refined as his contemporaries; however, Richter makes up this subtle difference with his compositional, textural, and harmonic instincts. What’s especially interesting about Richter’s score for Mary Queen of Scots is that even though it’s accompanying the oft-told tale of Queen Elizabeth I and Mary Stuart’s rivalry in England during the 1500s, the music which makes up the principle ideas of the score are governed by contemporary constructs. There are certainly subtle hints of the period peppered throughout the score. Nevertheless, Richter scribes very modern compositions making this hoity-toity fable more accessible to present-day audiences. For example, the primary harmony Richter employs in the primary theme (I – vi – IV – V) is extremely modern. You’ve heard it a thousand times in various film scores and is even the foundation for practically every rock ’n roll song penned throughout the 1950’s (remember “Heart and Soul” from your piano lesson days?). Richter is not trying to “take us back to the period” per se, but rather bring the period to us. Jealously, pride, ambition, vanity, and treachery are not exclusive to the period in which this film takes place. All are alive and well today and the music is a constant reminder of that. […]