This article is part of our 2020 return. Follow us and discover the best and most interesting films, shows, performances and more from this very strange year. In this post, we listen to the best film music soundtracks of 2020.
Don’t have to tell you how tough 2020 was for all of us, but on the good side, the music from the cinema was fantastic. With the film exhibition changing due to the COVID-19 crisis, the playing field appears to be level, with a lot more independent film scores being noticed than the usual blockbuster blackout. And from then on, the kind of scores we were blessed with – synth-heavy, delicate chamber music, symphonic brilliance – were amazing.
It could still be better if women composers were given opportunities, as composers are still heavily favored but with scores like Tamar Kaliis Shirley, Hannah Peel‘s The Deceived, Gazelle twinis nocturne, Isobel Waller BridgeEmma and Aska MatsumiyaI am your wife plus Hildur GuðnadóttirWith Joker’s groundbreaking Oscar win, the future is certainly bright.
(We also saw the loss of an absolute legend in the industry in 2020, the great one Ennio Morricone, but luckily with the amount of music he’s written, there’s still a lot to discover.)
This year’s list has a good mix of drama, adventure, horror, and even the occasional super villain, as well as, as usual, some great archive releases. There is a lot to do so let’s celebrate the wonderful music the year has given us. Here are the 20 best film music soundtracks released in 2020, in alphabetical order:
Ammonite (Milan Records)
Volker Bertelmann and Dustin O’HalloranScore for Ammonite, a romantic drama about paleontologist Mary Anning, is for sure one of the most exciting works of 2020. The music is created by a small chamber orchestra with a piano leading to absolute beauty. While the palette seems limited, the two composers use this sense of reluctance in narrating the music, keeping in mind 19th century sexual culture in Britain, and allowing the score to evolve and develop into a fully formed piece. It is one of the most beautiful independent listening experiences of the year.
Birds of Prey (Watertower Music)
Who would have thought that of the two female DC superhero images that came out this year, the winner wouldn’t be the girl with the lasso? The secret ingredient for birds of prey is Daniel Pemberton‘s crazy score that mixes hip-hop, riot grrrl and morricone. The “cu-cu-cuckoo” vocals that open the score set the tone, and from there Pemberton musically disassembled the “birds” – and of course Harley Quinn – before bringing them together as a true force. The music for the Slayer, and her story in particular, is a shining example of how good this score is, with an amazingly operational story of tragedy and vengeance told through two key words. Wild.
The Call of the Wild (Hollywood Records)
Not happy with the young Han Solo, John Powell also took on the old Harrison Ford vehicle The call of the wildand it was a great return to the elevated melodies of the How To Train Your Dragon series. Powell’s talents lie in giving hearts to great adventures like this, with the soaring choral sections instilling a sense of nature with their ethereal manifestations and use of the banjo and piano evoking a sense of americana. What makes it over the top is the way these strands tie together as they go through all sorts of virtuoso action set pieces, which shows how Powell makes this a truly memorable musical escapade.
Rest with Horses (Invada Records)
The best films about violence and indeed violent men use the violence not as a thrill but as commentary, and you will find that these films often have opposing results to those that do, such as the mind-numbing action pictures repetitive low-end bashes instead of music. Ben “Blanck Mass” Power‘s Rest with horses (known in the US as The Shadow of Violence) is one of them that offers a meditation on the life of a petty enforcer and the consequences of choosing a side between his employer and his family with a deeply introspective electronic score highlighting the danger with the feeling of digital quicksand whirling around in elongated drones and holding you tight, pulling you in. Sometimes it’s presumptuous and foreboding, as if your head is so full of steam that it can explode, and with others it’s ready soothes that with beauty and tenderness, resulting in an emotional release that in its simplicity makes you cry.
Color from Space (Milan Records)
After becoming one of the composers du jour for the horror genre after Hereditary, Colin StetsonScore for the HP Lovecraft story Color from the room is downright fascinating work that encompasses the underlying sense of fear that invariably invades Lovecraft’s material. At first, Stetson’s music feels innocent enough, but soon it begins to take on an unknown presence that, true to Lovecraft, draws us screaming into the gaping throat of cosmic horror while hair-raising synth lines like Tron’s motorcycles whiz brass instruments sound like this, as if they were being tortured existentially. There is something majestic about what Stetson created that advances Lovecraft’s themes of the insignificance of mankind, and something even bolder about taking all of that and crushing it in a sonic meat grinder.