To be honest, and despite the fact that there have been some pretty good albums in 2015, my year in music was shaped mostly by playlists from Mixcloud (I even made my own selection, you can hear it here), old stuff, and soundtracks. Besides the time I spend reading books, I like to watch films (a lot of films) and some TV series. Luckily, this year, I found myself watching some very good TV shows with strong characters and well-written scripts. I didn’t have the same luck with movies but there’s a few that made the list. So, to honour those movies and shows, I’ve decided to choose my Top 5 soundtracks of 2015.
Master of None Season 1
Master of None tells the story of Dev (Aziz Ansari), a 32-year old actor “who attempts to make his way through life in New York City” (Wikipedia). This show is cute and funny. I fell in love with Dev during the first episode when he has to take his date Rachel to the pharmacy to buy a “day after pill” due a little accident with his condom. Because this is what life’s all about: normal people dealing with normal – and sometimes awkward and chaotic – situations. The whole cast is brilliant together, showing a natural chemistry (Aziz’s real parents even appear in the show) but what makes it even more special is the music. Every episode has a very prolific and distinctive soundtrack, curated by Zach Cowie, a.k.a Turquoise Wisdom (LA-based former record label producer turned DJ & Music supervisor. He also shares a music project with Elijah Wood called Wooden Wisdom).
Transparent – Seasons 1 & 2
The strength of Transparent is not only Maura’s story (Jeffrey Tambor), a retired college professor who finally opens up to her family about always identifying as a woman; it’s the story of her family, and the good, the bad, and the ugliness of being part of one – even one as particular as the Pfeffermans. In this season, Ali (Gaby Hoffman) calls her dad “Mopa” now that he is transitioning to become a woman. “Mopa” means “mom” and “pap” and I think this is a clever way to show the struggles of living with a transgender person. The musical moments of the show are always sublime and powerful, starting with its theme song, written by Dustin O’Halloran, and including artists like Bob Dylan, Jim Croce, The Kills, Leonard Cohen, Nina Simone, Perfume Genius or The Psychedelic Furs, to mention a few.
Playlist – Season 1
Playlist – Season 2
The Knick – Season 1 & 2
Take a show with Steven Soderbergh as director and Clive Owen as its main character; now, choose a fervent era full of novelties, and one of the most important cities of the 20th century… This is The Knick, a TV show about the professional and personal lives of Dr. John Tackery (Owen) and the staff of the Knickerboxer Hospital in New York City in 1900. The austere and ascetic scenery of the story and the darkness within every character is the perfect state for the magic spell of music producer Cliff Martinez (Drive, Only God Forgives). The minimalistic, mechanic and characteristic sound of Martinez, with this glimpse of the Industrial Revolution, is a brilliant frame for this TV drama.
Me and Earl and the Dying Girl – Alfonso Gómez Rejón
This movie was one of the best surprises of 2015 for me. It’s based on the book of the same title written by Jesse Andrews and is the second feature film by the director Alfonso Gómez Rejón. The formula is not new but it works very well: two dorky and awkward teenagers, Greg and Earl, who spend time making home movies with puppets and stop motion, start spending time with Rachel, “the dying girl”, due the express petition of Greg’s mom. What seems like a forced relationship with a dramatic ending evolves into the sweetest story about friendship, love and loyalty. The soundtrack is itself a tribute to classic films (all the films that Greg and Earl recreate during the movie). My favorite scene, and the most painful, is accompanied with one of my personal faves by the master, Brian Eno: The Big Ship.
Youth (La Giovinezza) – Paolo Sorrentino
The second “English speaking” drama by Italian director Paolo Sorrentino tells the story of the best friends Fred Ballinger (Michael Caine) and Mick Boyle (Harvey Keitel), who spend their vacation at a luxury resort in the Swiss Alps. At first sight, it sounds boring and pretentious – and it might be for some viewers – but the secret behind these two septuagenarian friends is something we’ve all feared at some point in our lives: the presence of death; the passing of time; youth versus old age. Besides the breathtaking landscapes and the masterful handling of cameras and art direction, there’s a sensitive way to explore feelings and fears through the music in the movie. The soundtrack includes artists like Mark Kozelec, Bill Callahan, David Byrne, and Sun Kil Moon, among others.