Audiophiles rejoice. Here’s what 2019 best soundtracks sound like.
Music is an essential part of cinema. As Howard Shore, the brain behind soundtracks for “The Lord of The Rings” and “Se7en”, said:
Music is essentially an emotional language, so you want to feel something from the relationships and build music based on those feelings.– classicfm.com
Soundtracks help us feel what the characters do, set the mood and build contrast in the most unexpected ways and moments.
This year goes strong in comparison with last year, with a wide selection of remarkable productions – both cinematic and for-television. Best soundtracks of 2019 ranged from very experimental pieces to beautifully classic ones which reminded us of James Newton Howard or John Williams.
Without further ado, let’s get down to business.
Note: The list has no particular order. Every soundtrack from this list
Best soundtracks of 2019
Chernobyl by Hildur Guðnadóttir
“Chernobyl” was easily best television series of this year, with every element of the show deserving equal applause.
Nothing else than positive addresses the incredible soundtrack composed by an Icelandic composer Hildur Guðnadóttir. Resonating more like a sound design than a regular theme-based soundtrack, this meticulous work oozes the horror of Chernobyl, elevating its phenomenal narrative to a more sensational, deep-felt experience. And to prove its artistic hegemony, it has scooped an Emmy for best tv show OST.
There’s also the insane amount of details at stake, which also dresses Hildur Guðnadóttir’s work in finest clothes. Apparently, the composer went to a real plant in order to record its otherwordly sounds, which were then used in the final mixes.
“I recorded the building blocks for the soundtrack with field-recordist Chris Watson and score-producer Sam Slater at the Ignalina Power Plant in Lithuania, a decommissioned nuclear reactor in which the show was filmed. The vastness of the site directly influenced the score: ultimately no classical instruments were used, and instead the recordings were turned into music, where the only traditional instrumental element was my voice, which was subsequently processed using Impulse Responses recorded on the site.”– udiscovermusic.com
Midsommar by Bobby Krlic
Bobby Krlic could go many ways with a film like “Midsommar”, and the most obvious one was to opt for Scandinavian folklore. While parts of the soundtrack draw from it quite extensively, Krlic tweaked it and imbued with an uplifting, almost fairytale touch. As a consequence, this weirdly surreal film of Ari Aster turns into a visceral, harrowing experience, at the same time leaving you breathless at its majestic beauty and eerie atmosphere.
Any of those works would be soothing by themselves, but viewing the scenes that accompany “Fire Temple” makes it unnerving, providing the sound of knowing death is imminent and unstoppable.– Virginia Croft from treble.com
While pieces played early in the film are already captivating – like “The Blessing” – it’s the magnificent crescendo of ‘Fire Temple”, which concludes the whole album and speaks for Florence Pugh’s character in her final moments on screen.
Glass by West Dylan Thordson
Many tears were shed because of how disappointing “Glass” was, but the score composed by West Dylan Thordson helped to alleviate the pain.
The score mixed themes from both “Split” and “Unbreakable”, and did so without sacrificing its own soul. Thordson smoothly transitions between the themes of the two movies, bringing a moving score that deserves a much better film to accompany. And frankly, I admit that “Origin Story” was notoriously repeated on my Spotify playlist.
What’s interesting, much of the soundtrack was composed on the spot of filming. As West Dylan Thordson explained,
“A friend mine, the violinist Tim Fain even came to the hospital. We recorded much of the violin work used in the score within the super creepy tunnel system. There was also an enormous upstairs auditorium we used. It was just down the hall from the main surgery room, which I’m certain held many dark stories. The “Pink Room,” with all the lights off, was used too. To say the least, it was an unforgettable experience. I can still feel a vibe from it sometimes.”– filmmusicmag.com
Parasite by Jung Jaeil
Korean composer Jung Jaeil had a tough challenge to face. The unpredictability of “Parasite” required a flexible soundtrack, a kind of mix that could swiftly switch and set the right mood.
And Jaeil’s score does that incredibly well. It’s a lovely trip into a wicked world designed by Bong, where exceptional pieces like “Belt of Faith” mimic the finest pieces of classical composers.
Jaeil doesn’t stop there and puts such Bach-inspired pieces in the same line as ambient or a creepy jolly song played right before a bloodshed takes place. As a consequence, this entire album is just as original and unconventional as the story it accompanies. It’s a well-earned spot among the best soundtracks of 2019.
Mindhunter Season 2 by Jeff Russo
David Fincher stepped up the game in the second season of “Mindhunter”. The series turned from a collective of fascinating interrogations to a full-blown drama where the murder talks are an addition and not the shows’ heart. The incredibly tense atmosphere pulses to the rhythm of Jeff Russo’s ominous score.
The composer defines the unease of “Mindhunter” by blending themes from season 1 with more eerie ambient than before. The result is a score that sends chills down your spine. Sound design is the key here as well, because Russo’s most unnerving pieces flow from the speakers during most basic scenes – like one of the detectives putting his kid to sleep. But that’s exactly why the soundtrack achieves its terrifying power, as it alerts the viewers about the constant unease and tragedy that the story unfolds.
Note: no official soundtrack was unfortunately issued at the moment of writing this article.
Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance by Daniel Pemberton
Ever since “All The Money In The World” stunned me with its grand, choral score, I had my eyes on Daniel Pemberton’s career. This year, the talented composer worked closely with Netflix on the fantastically creative series “Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance”.
The entire season 1 soundtrack comprises of 2 albums, where Pemberton paints the incredible world of Thra through an arsenal of vibrating violins, playful flutes and pompous trumpets, Pemberton brings Jim Henson’s world to life. But that’s only part of it all. As Pemberton admitted in an interview covering “Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance”:
“Originally I didn’t really want to use orchestral music. I wanted it all to feel like instruments you’d never heard. (…) You see the characters playing these unique instruments, and I wanted them to sound in the score like they could have been made by someone in Thra. So there are a lot of interesting instruments like the nickel harp, crumhorns, bansuri flutes, and sazes, along with a lot of unusual, more medieval instruments in the mix to create that visceral feeling that plays like part of this world.”– filmmusicmag.com
Just as the entire series became Netflix’s highly praised gem, this score’s enjoyable on its own too.
Once Upon a Time in Hollywood by Quentin Tarantino
It’s no surprise that Quentin Tarantino’s “Once Upon a Time In Hollywood” appeared on a “best soundtracks of 2019” list. The director is known for a distinguished taste in music, and his last film proves so.
“Although they were approached by several name acts to record covers or – in the case of Lana Del Rey – offer up their own material, Tarantino stuck with his time-capsule idea. “Nothing later than 1969, some things from before,” Ramos says. “He was a bit more anachronistic with this. He wanted to stay very specific to the period.”– Rolling Stone
The selection of hippie rock ballads and classics gathered from iconic movies is consumed like the ripest of fruit. 60s rock adds so much to the colourful image of Hollywood from Tarantino’s film that you can’t imagine anything else taking its place. It’s an exemplary party playlist and I bet many of New Year’s Eve parties will include parts of this soundtrack.
The Highwaymen by Thomas Newman
Given all the talent included in its production – from the acting duo of Woody Harrelson and Kevin Costner to cinematographer John Schwartzman – “The Highwaymen” glided just above the surface of “okayish”, mostly by taking a series of safe routes rather than exploring the story of Bonnie and Clyde from a more unpredictable angle.
Paradoxically, the mediocre overall quality of “The Highwaymen” allowed Thomas Newman’s inventive, lively score to stand out. The entire album relates the pursuit after these infamous criminals with an energetic score. Artistically drawing from joyful country but also jive and jazz, this soundtrack elegantly paints an image of America in the 30s.
Joker by Hildur Guðnadóttir
Dark and brooding is the mind of Todd Phillips’ “Joker”, and it’s no surprise that the Venice-winning film stirs the pot more than anything else this year. The omnipresent iniquity, which like a hammer hits soon-to-be-Joker Arthur Fleck, is explained as the system’s fault – and such explanation is a thin ice to walk on.
Hence, while some see “Joker” as dangerous or even inappropriate, there is no denying that its craft serves the final result immensely. Phillips immerses the audience in the hopeless portrayal of Gotham City, and spices it up with an incredibly morbid work by Hildur Guðnadóttir.
A vast part of its depression-oozing sound hinges on string crescendos, accompanied by “Zimmerian” drum sections, which often cause an overwhelming effect when combined with Phoenix’s charismatic performance. At the same time, this work expresses all the signs of depression which wreaks havoc in Arthur Fleck’s life. Hildur Guðnadóttir catches the wild, unpredictable nature of Fleck, but also his deep sadness, as if a personal orchestra followed him everywhere, stringing and drumming to the rhythm of his diabolical transformation.
What were your favourite soundtracks of 2019? Share your thoughts in the comments!