The year 2023 is officially behind us; for most of us this means a new beginning, but for a critic like me, it means something else: I need to be concentrating to find out the best soundtracks that came out in the past year. For this reason I have introduced a more compact review to the site, called Spotlights. These smaller reviews are a great way to give several scores some attention, while allowing me to listen to as many scores as possible to catch up with the ones I have missed.
Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom – Rupert Gregson‐Williams
The movie Aquaman, together with its score, was well received, which is an excellent reason to ask Rubert Gregson-Williamsagain to write the music for the sequel Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom. As with the previous score, different kinds of soundscapes are blended into the music, and with the main focus on orchestra and electronic sounds, it emphasizes that Aquaman has a connection with the mainland and the futuristic underwater civilization. For the music Gregson‐Williams again focussed heavily on existing thematic ideas. The theme for the Black Manta gets more play time in this movie and is expanded significantly. Also, the theme for the mother returns and becomes more of a family theme. There are several new thematic ideas as well, including one for the ominous Lost Kingdom, with massive electronic sounds and choir. Overall, this is an excellent continuation of Gregson-Williams’ first score for Aquaman. It does not add much new to the table, but it does not have to, as many characters and ideas remain the same as in the previous film.
De Oneindige Slijmfilm – Jeffrey Van Rossum and Thomas Van Der Burg
Orchestral scores are quite a rarity for Dutch media, but luckily they do sometimes appear, as is the case with De Oneindige Slijmfilm. Apparently family-friendly adventure movies, like The Pirates Down the Street, are ideally suited for those kinds of scores. The music for De Oneindige Slijm film is written by Jeffrey van Rossum and Thomas van der Burg, whom I have met on several occasions, and I am quite happy they have received this assignment. Not only could they write the music for a film shown in theaters, but they also wrote a gorgeous score for it, with, as mentioned, quite a few orchestral elements based on a simple but elegant main theme. I hope that this assignment is the beginning of a fruitful collaboration for many more movies.
The Boy and the Heron – Joe Hisaishi
The first music from a movie that triggered a physical emotional response while listening to it was Joe Hisaishi‘s score from the Hayao Miyazaki movie Mononoke Hime. I was quite excited when I heard Miyazaki came out of retirement to make the movie The Boy and the Heron, with music by Hisaishi once more. It should not be a surprise that the music is gorgeous, and it has already been nominated for a Golden Globe, which is his first nomination for a major western award. It is also quite different from previous music Hisaishi has written for this well-respected director. The music still contains the extraordinarily beautiful melodies that Hisaishi is famous for, but the music sounds a bit darker and less innocent. I would not have been disappointed if the music had won one of the big western awards, as it is a remarkable score.
Blue Eye Samurai – Amie Doherty
One of my surprises this year was the music for the Netflix show Blue Eye Samurai by Amie Doherty. This animated series is about a samurai who has inherited blue eyes from a western father. The music Doherty has written for this show is quite impressive, with a beautiful blend of eastern influences and orchestral sounds to emphasize both worlds of the samurai’s heritage. What stands out in the music are the emotional lines played by instruments from both worlds: They take me back to scores like The Last Samurai by Hans Zimmer. I also like Doherty’s approach of focusing on eastern drums for the fight scenes. If you are interested in listening to the music, I recommend both suites, “Blue Eye Samurai (Mizu Suite)” and “Akemi’s Theme (Suite),” but afterwards you will probably want to listen to all the other tracks as well.