Few composers have gotten as much attention with only a few minutes of music as Harry Escott, the British composer whose moody, throbbing score to Steve McQueen's "Shame" put him on the map after years of somewhat under-the-radar work. The London-born Escott was a chorister as a child at Westminster Cathedral, before going on to study at the Royal College of Music and Oxford University, where he decided to go into composition for film. To begin with, Escott worked alongside Molly Nyman, the daughter of the legendary Michael Nyman ("The Piano"), their first collaboration being a fairly high-profile one; the terrific, lyrical fairy-tale score for David Slade's debut "Hard Candy." This brought them to the attention of Michael Winterbottom, who hired them for his docu-dramas "The Road To Guantanamo" and "A Mighty Heart," with the documentary "Deep Water" also following. And one of their most important works came in 2008, with "Shifty," the directorial debut of Eran Creevy. The excellent British drama (not seen much in the U.S., sadly), starring Riz Ahmed and Daniel Mays, sees a real shift of mood, with an almost folktronica feel. Capable of being both light-hearted and menacing, and performed by Escott's ensemble The Samphire Band, it's one of the more delicate and undervalued scores of recent years. That led to further strong work with "I Am Slave" and "The Arbor," before Escott went solo to work on "Shame," his bookending pieces (while reminiscent of Hans Zimmer's "The Thin Red Line" score in places) for that picture were among the most memorable bits of film music of that year. Next up is a reteam with Creevy on the actioner "Welcome To The Punch," with James McAvoy and Mark Strong -- a terrific, propulsive collection of music picking up all the best bits of recent action scores (Zimmer's again a touchstone) and blending it with Vangelis-y synths. It should put Escott even further on the map than he was before.
If you’ve been paying attention, you know we’ve been championing Fall On Your Sword for several months now; they've become the go-to indie film composers of late and it’s easy to see why. The duo are made up of multi-media composer Will Bates, and Phil Mossman, who worked with David Holmes on the "Out Of Sight" and "Ocean's Eleven" soundtracks before going on to be the founding guitarist in LCD Soundsystem (he also plays with Primal Scream on occasion). Based out of a studio in Williamsburg, their moody and often effervescent scores got early exposure in indies like "Another Earth" and Ry Russo-Young's "You Won't Miss Me." In 2012, they had a banner year writing awesome pieces for Russo-Young’s "Nobody Walks,” “Lola Versus” and “28 Hotel Rooms” that are all distinctively theirs, but also show some range. Twinged with an electronic-hum, but never quite electronic-music per se, "Lola Versus" has a sweet ebullient vibe, “Nobody Walks” is alternatively dreamy, pulsating and atmospherically romantic like a night swim, and “28 Hotels” is propulsive, heavier and dramatic (which fits the subject matter of two adults weighing the pros and cons of their affair). Perhaps more importantly, the composers seems to have terrific range – one can imagine them jumping from any genre back and forth effortlessly, but they do seem to thrive in moody indie pictures where introspection and the inner-life are king. In fact, they are often giving the expression of this manifesting emotion to characters and we can’t wait to hear what they do next -- on the way is "An Unkindness Of Ravens," while Bates scored Alex Gibney's Sundance Wikileaks doc "We Steal Secrets" solo. The pair also play occasional live shows with a full band.
You might well recognize the name (even if you probably can't spell it) at this point. The 40-year-old Korzeniowski has been bubbling under for the last few years, but a recent Sundance flick has brought him to back to the attention of many. Born in Krakow in 1972, Korzeniowski (who comes from a family of musicians), trained at the Academy of Music in Krakow, under the great Krzysztof Penderecki, whose music has been used famously in "The Exorcist," "The Shining" and "Shutter Island," among others. Korzeniowski went into film composing at home after graduating, with his first notable work being "Big Animal," the 2000 film directed by Jerzy Stuhr, based on an unmade script by Krzysztof Kieslowski. Further work in Poland followed, including "An Angel In Krakow" and "Tomorrow's Weather," as well as a new score for Fritz Lang's "Metropolis" in 2004. But it was "Contagion" and "Side Effects" writer Scott Z Burns who brought him to the attention of the U.S., picking Korzeniowski to score his hugely underrated directorial debut, the HBO movie "Pu-239," starring Paddy Considine, Radha Mitchell and Oscar Isaac (as well as his follow-up, the short "What We Take From Each Other"). Lower profile work followed, in indies "Tickling Leo" and "Confessions Of A Go-Go Girl," before his demo reel made it into the hands of fashion designer Tom Ford, who was looking for a composer for his directorial debut "A Single Man." The outstanding film, starring Colin Firth, immediately marked Korzeniowski as someone to watch; its lush, deeply romantic orchestral score is a perfect fit for the subject matter. Since then, Korzeniowski's been selective about taking on work (he was at one point going to score John Cameron Mitchell's "Rabbit Hole," but it never came to pass), with only one major film released in the meantime, Madonna's "W.E." Still, his music there is one of the few highlights of a borderline unwatchable film, showing he could elevate the material if necessary. Another year or so passed, but Korzeniowski resurfaced at Sundance last month, with the score to "Escape From Tomorrow." One of the buzz films of the festival, it tells the story of a family man losing his grip on sanity during an annual trip to Disneyland, and Korzeniowski's score (which you can already listen to on Spotify or iTunes) nods cannily to classic Disney scores of the past. Strangely enough, he told First Showing recently that it came about because his wife was the nanny to director Randy Moore's kids when they first moved to L.A. As far as we know, he's doesn't have anything lined up, but hopefully "Escape From Tomorrow" will serve as a reminder of his immense talents.
Honorable Mentions: We've also enjoyed recent work by Jonathan Goldsmith, who did an undervalued job on Sarah Polley's "Take This Waltz" and "Stories We Tell," and Jeff Grace, whose credits include "Meek's Cutoff" and "The Innkeepers." We're also excited to hear more music from Dan Romer & Benh Zeitlin, whose score to "Beasts of the Southern Wild" was one of last year's musical highlights, though we suspect that it won't come until Zeitlin directs again. We're also looking forward to another score from the Chemical Brothers after their superb work on "Hanna" -- the British dance legends were set to score Louis Letterier's "Now You See Me," but it's not happening in the end. The same goes for Austin post-rockers Explosions In The Sky. They're no newcomers to scores -- they soundtracked a lot of the music in the original "Friday Night Lights" movie, but we haven't heard from them on the soundtrack front since then until "Prince Avalanche" at Sundance this year along with composer David Wingo. As those who heard it firsthand, you can almost guarantee that's going to be on our list of the best scores of 2013 at the end of the year. While he's younger than any on this list -- he's only 31 -- we thought that prodigy Nico Muhly, who worked on "The Reader," "Margaret" and Sundance flick "Kill Your Darlings," among others, might be too established to crop up here. And we're expecting big things from Rob Simonsen, who's been working with Mychael Danna in recent years, and made a bit splash at Sundance this year with his scores to "The Spectacular Now" and "The Way Way Back." And our most anticipated score of 2013, sound unheard, might be M83's work on the Tom Cruise sci-fi flick "Oblivion," which will arrive in April.