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• Posted by: Craig Richard Lysy   <Send E-Mail>
• Date: Thursday, February 24, 2022, at 6:27 a.m.
• IP Address:
• In Response to: My Top 10 of 2021 (featuring massive commentar... (Ramůn)
Message Edited: Thursday, February 24, 2022, at 6:28 a.m.

Very much enjoyed your commentary! Thank you for the kind words.

All the best

> 1. Chicory: A Colorful Tale - Lena Raine
> 2. The Green Knight - Daniel Hart
> 3. Aliens: Fireteam Elite - Austin Wintory
> 4. Dune - Hans Zimmer
> 5. Masters of the Universe: Revelation - Bear McCreary
> 6. Us Again - Pinar Toprak
> 7. Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart - Mark Mothersbaugh & Wataru
> Hokoyama
> 8. Battlefield 2042 - Hildur Gudnadůttir & Sam Slater
> 9. Succession (Season 3) - Nicholas Britell
> 10. Raya and the Last Dragon - James Newton Howard

> As usual, huge thanks to Craig for organizing these. Iím always down to
> talk about music I love.

> For this list Iím gonna break one of the cardinal rules of my Scoreboard
> lists, which is that I only include scores Iíve experienced in context. No
> real reason why this rule exists, I often just find myself saying more
> interesting things about scores when Iíve heard them in context. But in
> 2021 I watched a lot less films and shows, played a lot less games, and
> even listened to a lot less scores (not that my sample size every year is
> stupid high anyway).

> So this list is a mix. Most of them Iíve heard in context, but some I
> havenít. Iíve also already done a Top 10 write-up on my site, featuring
> all video game scores. Some overlap with this one, so I will be referring
> to it when they pop up here.


> 10. Raya and the Last Dragon - James Newton Howard
> When I first listened to this, I didnít think much of it. It took me a
> couple of listens and watching the film to warm up to it.

> And now I think itís great. Itís Howard fantasy like only Howard can do
> it. I love the very distinctive sound that he creates for this world,
> coupled with his signature emotional and action writing. The Unity theme
> (the one heard very prominently during the first half of The Drunn
> Close In
) is a vintage Howard theme, and itís very moving, as is
> Running on Raindrops.

> It may not have the easy accessibility of other fantasy scores of his, but
> its creativity and sense of fun more than make up for it.

> 9. Succession (Season 3) - Nicholas Britell
> I was surprised by how angry I found the third seasonís music to be. Itís
> still very much that quasi-classical music pastiche, but thereís a
> certainÖ yeah, anger to it that I found fascinating.

> It fits the Roys losing control over their empire and even themselves
> really well, and itís a very necessary dimension to be added to the music
> after the more Ďclinicalí approach from the previous two seasons.

> I adored it in context, and elevated a lot of the sequences from the show
> a lot. I just wish there was an album so that I could mention specific
> highlights.

> 8. Battlefield 2042 - Hildur Gudnadůttir & Sam
> Slater

> Thoughts are on the article. The only update being that I have now played
> a couple of hours of the game. The score doesnít do much within the game,
> but that doesnít diminish my opinions on it in any way.

> 7. Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart - Mark Mothersbaugh &
> Wataru Hokoyama

> Thoughts are on the article.

> 6. Us Again - Pinar Toprak
> I probably couldíve asked Craig if short films were fair game, but I
> really loved this score and I feel very strongly about what I have to say
> about this one.

> Captain Marvel is the score that put Toprak on the map for many
> (including me), and I know that itís a lot of yíallís favorite of hers,
> but Iíve always been mostly indifferent towards it (with the exception of
> a couple of cues). Until very recently I hadnít been able to put into
> words why that was.

> I heard a certain composer I really respect say recently that one of the
> most common crutches of composers in the early stages of their career was
> their inability to stick with one musical idea for a reasonable period of
> time, resulting in pieces of music that constantly shift from motif to
> motif, from rhythm to rhythm more than is actually necessary, and often to
> the point of overload.

> And while I donít presume to know Toprakís frame of mind when writing her
> score or her methods, it suddenly dawned on me what it is that I donít
> like about it, and itís just that. The action music is extremely frenetic
> to me, constantly jumping around and not letting any of its ideas stay for
> a little bit for me to enjoy them or develop organically so that one leads
> to the other. Itís musical whiplash to me. Itís also probably why I enjoy
> Iím All Fired Up the most.

> All of this to say that Us Again is the exact opposite. Throughout
> its 6+ minutes, Us Again hits many more sync points than any single
> cue in Captain Marvel ever does, and yet the music in this short
> film reads as far more effortless than an entire feature score. Toprak
> riffs on a handful of ideas, but itís the way that she leads from one
> section to the next, to the way that she uses her main theme as a
> throughline and develops it for a myriad of settings and instruments.

> Listen to how she uses the electric bass as the cue jumps around from the
> jazz ensemble to electric guitar to muted trumpets to accordion to low
> woodwinds and finally to piano, which after some more riffing, finally
> leads to the reveal of the main theme on piano at 1:12. She piles up so
> many musical lines on top of each other in rapid-fire fashion, but itís
> done in such an elegant and effortless way that itís not exhausting or
> jarring; it feels like a piece of music naturally evolving and developing.

> By the time that the cue hits that intense, climatic moment at 4:12, it
> doesnít feel like it came out of nowhere or that the cue took a sudden
> left turn to get here. It feels like a piece of music that organically
> evolved towards this point. It feels earned, which makes that adrenaline
> rush that youíre supposed to be feeling seeing the old man frantically,
> and foolishly, chasing after his youth all the more palpable and sincere.

> I was very, deeply moved by this score, both before and after I watched
> the short. I think itís my favorite thing that Toprakís done so far.

> 5. Masters of the Universe: Revelation - Bear McCreary
> Bear McCreary goes all-out again! I was going to write more about it, but
> given how much love it has received already, I donít want to be redundant.

> Quick shout-out to The Temptation of Evil-Lyn. This and The
> Dream of Cleon the First
from Foundation are probably my very
> favorite things McCreary wrote last year. The MOTU track is just great,
> taking the Evil-Lyn theme on a journey through several emotional settings
> (much like the character themselves during this sequence).

> 4. Dune - Hans Zimmer
> And the award for the most exhausting score discourse of the year goes toÖ
> not Dune!

> I was fully expecting this score to blow up, hyperbolic rants ensue and
> end up absolutely hating to see people talk about Dune after a couple of
> weeks. Thatís how divisive Zimmer tends to be (and Iím just talking about
> his music here). Instead, The Matrix Resurrections burst out like a
> brick wall and knocked me out for a solid two months. I was exhausted
> before I even got to hear the music or watch the film.

> Which means that I got to fully enjoy and pick apart (and read others pick
> apart) Dune without all the hyperbolic noise surrounding it. I
> found so much that I love about it, some things Iím okay with, and only a
> couple I donít really like.

> I think when all is said and done, Dune is a pretty traditionally
> structured score. Youíve got plenty of thematic ideas for the various
> concepts in the story (by thematic I donít necessarily mean melodic) and
> they play off each other as the narrative requires. But itís Zimmer and
> his teamís execution of this structure that makes the score shine as well
> as it does.

> I was probably most surprised at how heavily vocal this score is (and
> hereís where my ignorance about the source material shows the most). At
> first, I thought it was an instrumental choice to represent this universe,
> but the more I thought about it, the more it convinced me that this is
> Zimmerís way of representing the Bene Gesseritís influence over many
> things in the story, from influencing the Fremen into believing the tale
> of the Lisan al-Gaib to Paulís own existence as the son of a Bene
> Gesserit and part of the larger prophecy of the Kwisatz Haderach.

> The Bene Gesseritís music itself is already heavily vocal, with Zimmer
> expanding upon those heavily-processed vocal experiments he was already
> doing for Dark Phoenix. More than any other use of voices in the
> score, the Bene Gesserit stand starkly apart from everything else with the
> cold, alienating, almost mechanical nature of their soundscape (although
> the Sardaukar throat-singing comes very close to this).

> Nearly every other use of voices throughout the film can be traced back to
> the Bene Gesserit in some way. For example, while the Fremen theme is most
> noticeably heard on Loire Cotlerís soaring vocals whenever Paulís
> relationship with them is brought up, such as in Gom Jabbar, its
> standard rendition is actually on duduk or soft synths. Chaniís motif is
> not overtly vocal, but notice the subtle layering of voices from hissings
> and hummings to actual whispering that pop up during tracks like
> Visions of Chani, which scores one of Paulís many visions of the
> girl. Paulís motif (the one that explodes in Leaving Caladan), is
> performed by a myriad of instruments, but whenever his messianic role is
> touched upon, vocals pick up the arpeggiated figure (in Ripples in the
> Sand
, for example).

> And itís not just with voices. You can find many examples of smart
> instrumental storytelling throughout; another example of this is Paulís
> motif being played by the duduk as he watches documentaries about the
> Fremen. Iím a huge fan of instrumental storytelling, so I was very
> satisfied with how much this score says with the subtlest changes to the
> instrumental palette.

> Unsurprisingly, the most accessible material in the score relates to House
> Atreides, from Paulís motif to the actual Atreides anthem, to a motif that
> seems to relate to Paulís destiny, and which seems to share strong
> connections with Chaniís motif (listen to the elegiac melody that opens
> Holy War).

> The latter theme is one I instantly picked up on when watching the film
> but wasnít as obvious on the album. It appears for the first time when
> Leto talks with him about their role in Arrakis and Paulís future. Itís
> both regal and mysterious (putting it through a standard choir was a
> perfect touch), and does a great job of selling the weight of Paulís
> importance within the story.

> Itís, once again, a fully realized world that stunningly complements and
> elevates the film experience. Thereís so much to love here and so much
> still left to uncover for me.

> 3. Aliens: Fireteam Elite - Austin Wintory
> Thoughts are on the article.

> 2. The Green Knight - Daniel Hart
> This was one of those very late additions to the list. Iíve been wanting
> to watch The Green Knight for a long time, but unfortunately I
> missed its theatrical window (thanks COVID!) and it only just recently was
> made available on VOD over here.

> I donít think thereís any more of substance I can add to the praise that
> hasnít already been said by both Jon and Vikram. This is a breathtaking
> score, one so carefully constructed and researched, which marries both
> synths and period-accurate music. More than evoking a specific time
> period, the score evokes the world of this specific film, one that
> effortlessly blurs the line between reality and fantasy.

> I adore the sense of history that the score adds beyond the dramatic
> accompaniment. One of my favorite aspects of genre worldbuilding is
> getting the sense that the world of the story has already been lived in,
> with its own microstories hidden beneath the surface. By writing songs in
> period-accurate musical styles and even long-forgotten languages Hart
> manages to do just that.

> Itís great. Itís just so great. I love hearing a composer as comfortable
> doing such avant-garde scoring as he is writing accessible, traditional
> orchestral scores.

> 1. Chicory: A Colorful Tale - Lena Raine
> I wasnít going to write anything for Chicory, given that Iíve
> already written quite a bit during my write-up for Game Music Hub. If you
> want a lighter read, you can read that one and skip this one.

> The reason for talking even more now is because I purposefully restricted
> myself to giving no spoilers over there, and a lot of my feelings towards
> Chicory came from not knowing anything but the music beforehand.

> And apparently this score flew under the radar around here. Thatís the way
> it goes, I guess.

> So letís get spoiler-y here. Chicory: A Colorful Tale is a story
> about a talking dog called Pizza (because apparently Lentejas con
> Cebollita, Salchichas y Tocino was too long to fit in the naming bar).
> They work cleaning the Wielderís Tower, where Chicory, wielder of the
> legendary Magical Brush, resides. One day, the world is rendered
> colorless, Chicory disappears and the Brush is left behind, leaving it to
> Pizza to find Chicory and restore the color of the world.

> Thematically, the game is about the relationship between art and the
> artist, touching upon subjects like mental health, self-esteem, impostorís
> syndrome, burnout, outsider expectations, or the meaning of individuality
> in a world that sometimes demands your art to be stripped of it in order
> to please someone else.

> These themes are explored through two perspectives. The first is Chicory,
> a prodigious wielder of the Brush who crumbled under the weight of her
> responsibility as the only person capable of giving color to the world,
> failed by a mentor who comes from a line of past wielders carrying the
> same trauma as her. The second is Pizza, a janitor thrusted into the
> duties of the Wielder who, though secretly yearning to be a Wielder
> themselves, constantly doubts whether they've truly earned it or if they
> were just lucky to be at the right place at the right time.

> So I love doing creative writing when Iím not working or writing for Game
> Music Hub. Itís been my very favorite thing to do since I know how to do
> it. On the surface, I love the craftsmanship of it. I love thinking about
> characters, about narrative arcs, about plotlines interweaving with one
> another, about carefully constructing a narrative development that hits at
> exactly the right moment to create the most powerful impact.

> On a deeper level than that, I find very few things in this world as
> fulfilling as finding ways to say something meaningful to me through a
> story, having an indirect conversation with someone else through that
> story. Ty Franck (one half of James S.A. Corey) recently tweeted that
> stories are a conversation where the response is someone else resonating
> with something from the story and going to write their own where they
> expand on it. And yeah, the entirety of art history is a continuum of
> interlocking, simultaneous conversations where one piece couldnít exist
> without the other.

> If things turn out alright with me, and my many gambles somehow pay off,
> Iíd love to write for a living, whether itís literature, film, games or
> TV. Iím honestly too fascinated by the idea of storytelling to want to be
> limited to just being ďa screenwriter,Ē or ďa TV writer,Ē or ďa novelist.Ē

> So Chicory strongly resonated with me. What does this have to do
> with the score? Well, nothing and everything. I listened to the score when
> the game launched in June, but it wouldnít be until December that I
> actually played the game, so I spent nearly six months with the music and
> no context. I fell in love with the scoreís sense of wonder, fun, and
> emotion. Itís been a while since Iíve heard a score filled with this much
> life, color and vibrancy.

> Then I played the game, and another, deeper layer of understanding was
> unlocked for me. The music was saying a lot more that I didnít understand.
> I keep coming back to that devastating boss fight scored by Abandon
> Me
, where Chicory, consumed by crippling depression, manifests
> horrific monsters that attack Pizza. The fight alternates between stages
> of fighting and interludes of conversation as Pizza tries to talk Chicory
> out of her spiral. The interactive score waxes and wanes as the intensity
> of the battle shifts. Raine elegantly supports the conversations with that
> fragile piano figure and, as Chicory spirals into despair, wanting to be
> left alone and be forgotten, Iím hit with a very familiar feeling.

> I left college in 2019. After years of near-constant struggle, I burned
> out hard for reasons too long to explain. I wanted to be a doctor, but a
> mental illness plus a whole host of secondary things took that drive away
> from me, and it nearly did the same with my drive to write.

> When it was time for me to grapple with my feelings towards my creative
> side, or what was left of them, I asked the same questions that
> Chicory, the game, asks with its story. On one hand, I wanted to
> just give it up; I felt so defeated and exhausted and demoralized and
> empty that I didnít feel like writing another word for the rest of my
> life. On the other, who am I if I donít do that ever again? SoÖ what ifÖ I
> could still do it? Is it worth getting back to it? Will I still enjoy it?
> Do I still have something to say? If I do, am I saying something that has
> meaning? Do I need to make something that has meaning? Would anyone even
> care to read? And the question that took me the longest to answer: Where
> do I start? The question, it turned out, was ďjust sit down and write
> whatever, do the same tomorrow, then the day after that.Ē

> Even today, after Game Music Hub has enjoyed a small moment of exposure,
> with a handful of composers telling me how much theyíve enjoyed my
> articles on their scores and a number of readers giving positive feedback
> and somehow finding my ramblings interesting, I still ask some of the same
> questions.

> What does this have to do with the score? Still, nothing and everything.
> Even if the game presented the framework that allowed it to happen, it was
> that elegant piano figure from Abandon Me that made me flash all
> the way back to that dark period of my life. Lena Raine somehow managed to
> capture that horrific combination of emotions at the heart of both
> Chicoryís plight and my own.

> And as the game kept going, I was constantly stunned by the sincerity and
> profundity with which the game tackled its complicated subjects, and how
> much genuine emotion Lena Raine was imprinting onto this cutesy and quirky
> score. There is so much turmoil at the heart of her music.

> And sure, I can concede that maybe Iím projecting a lot of myself onto a
> piece of music and a game. But art is all about projecting, isnít it?
> Thatís how we connect to it.

> Well, this is how I connected to Chicory: A Colorful Tale and its
> score. I could keep writing about it for paragraphs on end (on top of what
> I already said in the article). I could get into the weeds of the
> intricate connections between the themes. I could talk about details like
> how the piano is recorded in such a way to purposefully include extraneous
> details like the pressing of the pedal, the clicking of the keys, and even
> sometimes the breathing of the player, which is a genius, though subtle,
> way of representing the central 'art and the artist' theme of the game. I
> could talk about the interactive details of the score, like how the attack
> patterns of certain bosses are timed to the music.

> But I figure itís about time I wrap this up. I actually did write a whole
> three paragraphs about me finding this score to say something really
> interesting about Lena Raine herself, but by this point itís too much.

> Chicory is Score of the Year, yíall. Nothing came even close to
> managing to move me this deeply in 2021. And Lena Raine just skyrocketed
> from a very high regard to one of my absolute favorite contemporary
> composers.

> Composer of the Year: Bear McCreary
> I was very tempted to shout out Lena Raine as CotY just based on how much
> I enjoyed Chicory and Moonglow Bay, but truly, Bear McCreary
> had a stellar year with solid scores all around.

> EDIT: Accidentally deleted the numbering when formatting the write-up.
> Whoops!

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