best of 2013 – music

This section didn’t appear in my ‘Best of 2013‘ piece for the Forbidden Planet International blog. That’s because when I checked the original request (after I had written this up) I realised I had written way more than I’d been asked to supply.

But that’s what my blog is for: the extra features.

A caveat: music is a huge field, and I’m concentrating specifically (barring one album) on the category I attend to most often: soundtracks. They’re what I listen to when I write, so I’m always looking for new and evocative ones for inspiration. Not surprisingly, I find the soundtracks to genre movies the best ones for my interests.

Although, now that I have a subscription service to Google Play Music All Access, I can listen to pretty much any music whenever I want (which has revolutionised my listening habits). Next year I might have a bigger range of music to recommend.

Electric Lady

Janelle MonáeThe Electric Lady
Here’s my exception to my soundtrack fetish. Janelle Monáe released a cyberpunk concept album called The ArchAndroid in 2010, in which she sings from the point-of-view of an android called Cindi Mayweather. She continues with this conceit in her follow-up album, The Electric Lady, which is part of her seven-part Metropolis concept series. It’s a melodic, soulful album with a mixture of ballads and upbeat, boppy tracks, including vocals from a variety of artists including Prince and Erykah Badu. I’ve also seen this electric lady perform live, and she zaps the audience with her voice and boundless energy.

Man of Steel

Hans ZimmerMan of Steel
Zimmer is ubiquitous for a reason – he knows how to craft a memorable soundtrack – and he does so again with Man of Steel, which features a pounding percussive as the backbone of the tracks. I’d prefer to listen to this rather than watch the movie again. His The Lone Ranger soundtrack is also good listening, and is a suitable match to the time period and subject matter (his long re-composition of the William Tell Overture is fantastic).

Oblivion was a decent, if unoriginal, science fiction movie, but the wonderful soundtrack by French indie electronic band M83 elevates every scene by its presence. Listened to on its own it’s an elegiac and sweeping series of musical tracks, which impart the despair of the dystopia alongside the uplifting thread of optimism of the film. A word to the wise: there is a deluxe edition of the soundtrack available exclusively through iTunes which features an additional 13 tracks.

Upstream Color

Shane CarruthUpstream Color
Cementing my awe of Carruth’s multi-disciplinary talent is this delicate soundtrack he composed to accompany his original movie. Little beauties threaded through introspective moments. It’s a gossamer of light and dark.

Les Revenants

MogwaiLes Revenants (The Returned)
A wonderful soundtrack to the creepy French TV series, composed by Scottish indie band Mogwai. It’s a gorgeous dark lullaby, with charm and hints of menace.

Bear McCrearyDa Vinci’s Demons
A heady soundtrack reflecting the opulence and intrigue of Medici Italy. Its main theme is heavy on the violins which hint at Da Vinci’s own exuberance in the TV series.


  • K. A. Laity

    I would seldom think of soundtracks of films I had no interest in seeing, but it’s true the music can live well beyond its source. And yes, on Les Revs — looking forward to more this year.

    • Maura McHugh

      When I start paying attention more to the music than the film I know the film is in trouble. 😉 That’s if the music is any good, and not just a bunch of cues for when to ’emote’ of course.