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2013 Synchrotones Awards – The Winners

January 3, 2014

2013Awards2013 Synchrotones’ Soundtrack Awards

Synchrotones’ Soundtrack Reviews celebrates what it believes are the best scores and composers of 2013; and announces its first soundtrack awards winners for achievements in film- and film-related music.

Article by Pete Simons

Synchrotones announces its first (and hopefully annual) winners for achievements in film- and film-related music. I believe 2013 has been a great year for film music enthusiasts. Not only have we seen the release (and re-release) of many great scores; there have also been a number of wonderful concerts around the globe. James Horner in Vienna; Danny Elfman’s “Music from the Films of Tim Burton”-tour; Ilan Eshkeri’s “The Snowman and the Snowdog” concerts; Patrick Doyle at the Barbican, and so on. To top it off, the BBC celebrated film music all through the month September with a magnificent 3-part documentary presented by Neil Brand, concerts and (some very honest) composer interviews.

The Synchrotones’ Soundtrack Awards are just a little bit of fun; one man’s opinion. Below is a selection of my favorite scores, runners-up and honourable mentions. I base my opinion on what I enjoy listening to; and I enjoy music on both a technical and an emotional level. In some categories it was neigh impossible to choose a winner; and where I struggled I favored the ones I think are technically more challenging.

Without further ado… The Winners:

Romantic/Dramatic Score

Austenland (Ilan Eshkeri)

Runners up:
Romeo & Juliet (Abel Korzeniowski)
The Great Gatsby (Craig Armstrong)
Saving Mr. Banks (Thomas Newman)
Summer in February (Benjamin Wallfisch)

About the winner: “Austenland” by Ilan Eshkeri is a short, but magnificent score with a strong classical tinge. For the album Eshkeri has rearranged his music into a 4-part symphony (and a separate Prelude) totalling just over 20 minutes. Mozart appears to have been an influence on the composition. The score was nominated and has now won for its strong thematic writing, wonderful orchestrations and meticulous performances.

About the runners-up: “Romeo & Juliet” is a particularly close runner-up. A wonderfully romantic yet restraint score from a very likeable composer. “The Great Gatsby” is a great score by Craig Armstrong with “Let’s Go to Town” and the inclusion of Lana Del Rey’s “Young and Beautiful” being particular highlights.”Saving Mr Banks” saw Thomas Newman delivering at least one of this year’s loveliest themes (for “Uncle Albert”); whilst “Summer in February” saw Benjamin Wallfisch reaching for the limelight with lush writing and equally lush orchestrations.

Honourable mentions: With regret I omitted “The Book Thief” by John Williams (beautiful but a little too familiar); and “Generation Iron” by Jeff Rona (excellent electronica score that I return to frequently, but ultimately a tad too subdued for a top 5 spot). Abel Korzeniowski’s “Escape from Tomorrow” contains a handful of outstanding cues, but the inclusion of some harsh electronics (deliberately; I do get it) makes the album a little too unbalanced for me.

Action/Adventure/Sci-fi Score

Gravity (Steven Price)

Runners up:
47 Ronin (Ilan Eshkeri)
Star Trek: Into Darkness (Michael Giacchino)
Rush (Hans Zimmer)
Now You See Me (Brian Tyler)

About the winner: Steven Price bagged a very narrow win in this category with his remarkable and truly innovative score for “Gravity“, which includes the cheek-clenching “Don’t Let Go”.  Over the course of 70 minutes, the score evolves from  mesmerising sound design to a something altogether more human. It’s a challenging experience (and it must have been a challenging score to write), but one that’s all the more rewarding for it.

About the runners-up: Ilan Eshkeri very nearly claimed a second win with his action-packed, yet sensitive score for “47 Ronin“. Brian Tyler has been a busy bee this year and of all his scores that have been released I feel that “Now You See Me” is the most satisfying. “Rush” was a very pleasant surprise as Hans Zimmer combines rock (plenty of guitars and percussion) with a harrowing theme for cello. Michael Giacchino delivered a rousing score for “Star Trek: Into Darkness” with ‘Harrison’s Theme’ being a particular delight.

Honourable mentions: There were plenty of other action and adventure scores out there, most of which failed to get (or maintain) my attention. The aforementioned Brian Tyler also scores “Iron Man 3” and “Thor 2“, but both are over-long and exhausting though the former at least sprouts a fabulous main theme. Marco Beltrami had an equally busy (if not more so) year, with “World War Z” nearly making it into the top 5. Ryan Amon make a remarkable debut with “Elysium“, but the score’s lack of thematic material results in missing out on a top spot.

Animation & Young Audience

The Croods (Alan Silvestri)

Runners up:
Zipi y Zape (Fernando Velazquez)
Planes (Mark Mancina)
Frozen (Christophe Beck)
Epic (Danny Elfman)

About the winner: Again a tough category, though after much deliberation “The Croods” by Alan Silvestri is my winner. Whilst the album is marred a little by mickey-mousing techniques, there is a plethora of strong, memorable themes and exhilarating action set-pieces. I am an unashamed Silvestri-fan and this score is so full of wonderful mannerisms that it simply make me smile, without fail. I have to admit there’s a part of me that thinks Velazquez’s “Zipi y Zape” should be the winner, but whilst I really like that score I love “The Croods”, resulting in a very narrow win.

About the runners-up: Danny Elfman’s “Epic” is lovely score, though a tad unremarkable. The same can be said about Christophe Beck’s “Frozen“. The amount of music written is astonishing though. Mark Mancina made a long-awaited return with “Planes” which features a glorious main theme, but falls a little flat after that. Finally Fernando Velazquez serves up a delicious pastiche of ’80s and ’90s adventure scores with “Zipi y Zape“.

Television Score

Broadchurch (Olafur Arnalds)

Runners up:
Space Shuttle Columbia: Mission of Hope (Blake Neely)
Arrow (Blake Neely)
Frozen Planet (George Fenton)
The Paradise (Maurizio Malagnini)

About the winner: The British TV drama “Broadchurch” has already won several awards, received much critical acclaim and (with 9 million viewers) proved a popular hit. There is no doubt in my mind that Olafur Arnalds’ delicate score contributed massively to the show’s success. Performed by not much more than a piano, a handful of string instruments and the odd synthesizer, the score sets an eerie yet incredibly moving tone. “Beth’s theme” alone oozes with sorrow, despair, hope and love. The phrase ‘less is more’ was never more true than in this case.

About the runners-up: Blake Neely makes the list twice; once with a very moving multi-themed score for “Space Shuttle Columbia: Mission of Hope” and for “Arrow“. The latter is an exciting hybrid of orchestral and electronic music. George Fenton never fails to deliver when it comes to documentaries and “Frozen Planet” is no exception. Masterfully written and performed, though its inclusion is at the expense of an equally wonderful score for “Africa” by Sarah Class. Ultimately, “Frozen Planet” just sounds a little bit grander. The list of completed by Maurizio Malagnini’s quirky and infectious music for the equally quirky show “The Paradise“.

Honourable mentions: Sarah Class’ “Africa” is a lovely score that I’d happily recommend to anyone. She clearly learned from the master (George Fenton, that is). When it comes to a head-to-head though, I must admit that Fenton just edges it.

Trailer Album

Tree of Life (Audiomachine)

Runners up:
End Game (Full Tilt)
Dream Cinema (Larry Groupe)
Existence (Audiomachine)

About the winner: We know trailer music to be loud, aggressive and as-epic-as-humanly-possible. And whilst we all love to crank up the volume every now and then, too much bombast can get tiring. “Tree of Life” is a wonderful trailer album because it’s not all epicness. There are some surprisingly melodic, warm and touching cues throughout the album. This balance between pure bombast and sensible melodies is what makes this my favorite trailer album of the year – by some margin!

About the runners-up: Audiomachine made the list a second time with “Existence“, though in my opinion it misses the sensibility that made “Tree of Life” so great. Full Tilt’s “End Game” is incredibly good fun, though just (and only just) lacks the finishing touches that the likes of Audiomachine, Two Steps from Hell or Immediate Music put to their productions. Larry Groupe’s “Dream Cinema” is an altogether different beast. Like “Excelsius” before it, it is a wonderful album though it doesn’t really feel like a trailer album.

Individual Cue

These are all winners:

– “Beth’s Theme” from “Broadchurch” (Olafur Arnalds)
– “Big Idea” from “The Croods” (Alan Silvestri)
– “Breaking Through” from “Tree of Life” (Audiomachine)
– “Blood & Stone”, single (Audiomachine)
– “Copperhead Main Title” from “Copperhead” (Laurent Eyquem)
– “The Crypt (Part 1 and 2)” from “Romeo & Juliet” (Abel Korzeniowski)
– “Don’t Let Go” from “Gravity” (Steven Price)
– “February 1, 2003” from “Space Shuttle Columbia” (Blake Neely)
– “The Forest River” from “The Desolation of Smaug” (Howard Shore)
– “Iron Man 3” from “Iron Man 3” (Brian Tyler)
– “Lamorma” from “Summer in February” (Benjamin Wallfisch)
– “Leafmen” from “Epic” (Danny Elfman)
– “Lost But Won” from “Rush” (Hans Zimmer)
– “A New Season” from “Winnie Mandela” (Laurent Eyquem)
– “Niin The Memory Hunter” from “Remember Me” (Olivier Deriviere)
– “Now You See Me” from “Now You See Me” (Brian Tyler)
– “The Paradise Lovebirds” from “The Paradise” (Maurizio Malagnini)
– “Planes” from “Planes” (Mark Mancina)
– “Romanze” from “Austenland” (Ilan Eshkeri)
– “The San Fran Hustle” from “Star Trek Into Darkness” (Michael Giacchino)
– “Saving Mr Banks End Title” from “Saving Mr Banks” (Thomas Newman)
– “Sent Here for a Reason” from “Man of Steel” (Hans Zimmer)
– “Seppuku” from “47 Ronin” (Ilan Eshkeri)
– “Stress Relief” from “Generation Iron” (Jeff Rona)
– “Zero Injuries Sustained” from “Elysium” (Ryan Amon)

About the winners: These are all magnificent cues in their own rights. It is impossible to choose. From the deeply dramatic “Beth’s Theme”, to the OTT action set-piece “Big Idea”, to the immensely moving “The Crypt” (both parts), to the intense “Don’t Let Go”, to the wonderfully lush “Lamorma”, to the brilliantly paced “Now You See Me”, to the exuberant “Planes”, to the mind-bogglingly beautiful “Romanze”, to the pumping “San Fran Hustle”, to the heart-wrenching “Seppuku”, to the brilliant electronica of “Stress Relief” and to the masterful rawness of “Zero Injuries Sustained”….. these are all winners.

Composer of the Year

Ilan Eshkeri  (Austenland, Justin & The Knights of Valor, 47 Ronin, The Invisible Woman)

Notable runner-up:
Abel Korzeniowski (Escape from Tomorrow, Romeo & Juliet)

Runners up:
Blake Neely (Arrow, Space Shuttle Columbia: Mission of Hope)
Audiomachine (Tree of Life, Existence, Blood & Stone)
Steven Price (Gravity, The World’s End)
Craig Armstrong (The Great Gatsby)
Fernando Velazquez (The Last Days, Mama, Zip & Zap)
Laurent Eyquem (Copperhead, Winnie Mandela)
Brian Tyler (Now You See Me, Iron Man 3, Thor 2)
Marco Beltrami (Carrie, A Good Day to Die Hard, Snowpiercer, Warm Bodies, The Wolverine, World War Z)

About the winner: Ilan Eshkeri has had a magnificent year. “Austenland” is the most beautifully romantic score I’ve heard in a long time; whilst “47 Ronin” is one of the most exciting action scores of 2013. Furthermore, his lovely score for “The Snowman and the Snowdog” was performed live over a several nights in London to critical acclaim.

Notable runner-up: Abel Korzenioswki is a very close runner-up. Not only has he penned two magnificent works this year (“Escape from Tomorrow” and especially “Romeo & Juliet“), he is also a very likeable person and one who is happy to interact with his fans, something I personally greatly appreciate.

Congratulations to all composers and their fabulous works!
Have a wonderful, productive and inspired 2014!

Additional Honourable mentions – There are a number of other scores that I greatly enjoyed this year, but that I haven’t been able to squeeze into a neat ‘top 5’. Especially Games scores such as Patrick Doyle’s “Puppeteer” and Olivier Deriviere’s “Remember Me“. Maybe next year I will have heard more Games soundtrack to dedicate a category to them. A very special mention should also go to Tuomas Kantelinen’s “The Snow Queen“. Seeing as it’s a ballet it could not be nominated in any of the above categories, but it is no less a stunning work; easily on par with the likes of “Romeo & Juliet” and “Austenland”.

Share you thoughts… leave a comment. It’s free!

(c) 2013-2014 Synchrotones.

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