2012 was the first year in a long time where I didn’t compile a playlist of my favourite songs of the year. Either I’ve reached the age where I can’t hear ‘new’ music because nothing will ever top Mansun’s Attack of the Grey Lantern, or I’ve been too focussed on film to notice. I just haven’t had time to properly explore the great new music that is out there (although I did really enjoy the new Spector album). I did, however, listen to more film soundtracks than ever before. I present a virtual mix-tape of my favourite musical moments in film during 2012.
Let My Baby Ride – Doctor L (Holy Motors)
Otherwise known as ‘that awesome accordion song from Holy Motors’, which is exactly what I typed into Google to find out its proper name. One of the most exhilarating moments of Leos Carax’s bonkers masterpiece. Sadly there is still no sign of a Holy Motors soundtrack, so watching this on YouTube will have to do for now.
Tainted Love – Soft Cell (Sightseers)
One of the great advantages of discussing the best music used in film during the year is that a few stone cold classics will appear. This is one of those old songs given new life by a new context; this time by Ben Wheatley in his black comedy about a couple on a caravanning holiday who enjoy the thrills of serial killing. Frankie Goes to Hollywood’s ‘The Power of Love’ gave the film a beautifully dramatic climax, but Soft Cell’s electro classic is the song that everyone remembers from the start of the road trip.
Firework – Katy Perry (Rust and Bone)
Another song given new meaning by the context bestowed on it, this time by Jacques Audiard in my favourite film of the year. As well as being the soundtrack to a tragic accident involving a killer whale, it is used to even greater effect in one of the film’s most touching moments. Sadly not included on the official soundtrack, which means I’ve had to actually buy a Katy Perry track.
Skyfall – Adele (Skyfall)
You can judge a Bond film very quickly by the quality of its pre-credit sequence, and its theme tune. Skyfall delivered wonderfully on both counts, with Adele’s effort creating the best Bond theme since Goldeneye, and a throaty homage to Shirley Bassey at her best.
Jamming (live at the Jamaican Peace Concert) – Bob Marley (Marley)
I know this feels a little bit of a cheat, a Bob Marley song from a documentary about Bob Marley. However, this version (as used in the film and on the official soundtrack) is taken from a pivotal moment in the life of Bob Marley; his return to Jamaica to headline the 1979 Peace Concert where he persuaded the two political rivals of the time to shake hands on stage. An incredible moment.
Who Were We – Kylie Minogue (Holy Motors)
Another entry for Holy Motors, this time performed by the wonderful Kylie Monogue and written by Neil Hannon (of The Divine Comedy) in full-on Jacques Brel/Scott Walker mode.
Man or Muppet – Jason Segel & Walter (The Muppets)
The song that earned an Oscar for one half of The Flight of the Conchords, and the highlight of Brett MacKenzie’s soundtrack for one of the funniest films of the year. I have adopted it as my own personal theme tune.
The Concept – Teenage Fanclub (Young Adult)
The resurrection of this classic track from the vaults of Scottish indie-band Teenage Fanclub was made possible by writer Diablo Cody and director Jason Reitman, who used it to great effect in one of the most underrated films of the year. What made this song unforgettable for me was how integral it was to the film, and how it became the trigger for Charlize Theron’s character (in an incredible performance) to go fully off the rails.
Song of the Lonely Mountain – Neil Finn (The Hobbit)
Watching The Hobbit felt like slipping on a pair of comfortable slippers. I knew exactly what I was going to get, and I was very content to spend a few more hours in Peter Jackson’s Middle-Earth. A major contribution to that was provided by the Howard Shore score, and in particular this song which combined the vocal talents of the wonderful Neil Finn with Shore’s recognisable music, and the sound of Dwarfs singing and hammering on metal.
As well as these individual songs, I cannot end my round-up of the great film music of 2012 without mentioning the incredible work of Alexandre Desplat. This year alone he has produced brilliant scores for Moonrise Kingdom, Argo, Rust and Bone, and Rise of the Guardians. I cannot think of a more consistent brilliant composer working today.