Empire’s Music Playlist Of 2011

The tracks that defined our year

Published on

It’s been a heck of year for music and the movies. There’s been terrific soundtracks (Drive, Hanna, Arrietty), earlobe-tickling TV scores (Game Of Thrones, Breaking Bad), and then, just when it couldn’t get a whole lot better, David Lynch weighed in with a debut studio album that turned the Empire office hi-fi into a deer. Happy times. To celebrate we shook our iPods until this playlist for 2011 fell out.


Track: ‘Nightcall’

Artist: Kavinsky

So good it appeared in not one, but two movies. Cliff Martinez was the common dominator as composer for both Drive and The Lincoln Lawyer, and for our money French synth-poppers Kavinsky’s track was the stand-out on both. Look out for the bit where they win bonus marks by getting the movie’s title into the lyrics. That’s Drive, not The Lincoln Lawyer.

Track: ‘A Real Hero’

Artist: College feat. Electric Youth

Another stand-out on 2011’s stand-out soundtrack, this pulsing electro track meshed together the menace and tenderness that flickered throughout Nicolas Winding Refn’s noir-thriller in four minutes of neon loveliness.

Track: 'Get That Snitch’

Artists: Mikis Michaelides, Jumayn Hunter & Doc Brown

Unlikely to appear on your parents’ Christmas playlist – unless your dad is Ice T. – and about as agreeable as a snowball in the chops, this Attack The Block gem was more O.G. than E.T.. Rapper-turned-comedian Doc Brown provided the lyrics and Jumayn Hunter, Hi-Hatz in the film, popped up to prove that his talents reached beyond the screen. Another reason why aliens will never venture south of the river again. Blap, blap, blap!

Track: ‘Container Park’

Artist: The Chemical Brothers

Brothers Chemical met Brothers Grimm in the soundtrack to Joe Wright’s alt.thriller with ear-singeing effect. With Daft Punk also turning their gloved hands to soundtrack work, all this fusion between movieland and dance music’s biggest names needed was for, say, Underworld to partner up with Danny Boyle and we’d have had an actual trend on our hands. Oh.

Track: ‘Hold On’

Artist: Wilson Phillips

It’d couldn’t be more sugary if it were covered in toffee and arrived on a stick, but this early ‘90s throwback is still a shoo-in on our playlist for a) turning up repeatedly in one of our movies of the year, and b) reaching dangerous levels of reach-for-the-sky-pull-to-the-chest hands. Warning: repeated listenings may cause diabetes.

Track: ‘They’re Calling My Flight’

Composer: Cliff Martinez

Aka ‘Music To Get Really Sick To’, Cliff Martinez’s electronic opener was a fittingly jittery note to kick off Steven Soderbergh’s sniffle horror. The director’s long-time scorer spread his wings to do terrific work on Drive and The Lincoln Lawyer this year but still found time to turn in his best Soderbergh collaboration this side of Traffic.

Track: ‘Star Spangled Man’

Composer: Alan Menken

Legendary Disney man Alan Menken has eight Oscars adorning his mantlepiece. He may need to clear to clear space for one more. His thrilling homage to the showtunes of George M. Cohan centrepieced Cap’s Busby Berkeley moment and made us want to go out and hang a noose around our own goose-stepping goon from Berlin. Note to lawyers: we didn’t.

Track: ‘When The Levee Breaks’

Artist: Led Zeppelin

Amazing trailer, amazing Led Zeppelin moment, unamazing film.

Track: ‘Immigrant Song’

Artists: Trent Reznor & Karen O

Another blast of Led Zep, this time chunked up by Nine Inch Nailer Trent Reznor and belted out with extra urgency by the Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ Karen O over TGWDT’s officially awesome opening credits sequence. Trust us, this will actually blow your mind.

Track: ‘The Wicked Flee’

Composer: Carter Burwell

It seems an age ago that Carter Burwell’s sparse piano motif heralded the Coen brothers’ arrival in the Old West, but its elegance and emotion are still bringing joy to our eardrums.

Track: ‘Symphony No. 7’

Composer: Ludwig van Beethoven

With due respect to Alexandre Desplat, even the King’s Speech gifted scorer would defer to Ludwig van Beethoven as the man behind *the *royal-rousing musical cue in the film. As Bertie prepares for that climactic mic battle, the stirring sounds of Symphony No. 7 stiffen upper lips for several miles around. We're saying that this is the greatest Beethoven movie moment since Bill & Ted’s.

Track: ‘Pennies From Heaven - Kevin’s Tunnel Mix’

Artist: Inner City

If this acid-house origin story fell a little flat, at least it came with a five-star record box. A medley of early Madchester favs from the likes of Marshall Jefferson, Gat Décor, Leftfield and Frankie Knuckles had ageing clubbers rooting around for their rave whistles. The standout, though, is this gem by Detroit 4/4 gods Inner City.

Track: ‘The Second Best Secret Agent In The Whole Wide World’

Artist: Sammy Davis Jr.

Proof that while MI6 may have been coming second in the Cold War, they bally well won at Christmas parties. And heck, who needs to prevail in that whole clash-of-ideologies thing when you’ve got the mellow magic of Sammy Davis Jr. and this tongue-in-check soundtrack choice to fall back on. Special mention, too, to Julio Iglesias’s fromage-filled version of ‘La Mer’ over Tinker Tailor's end credits.

Track: ‘Festival’

Artist: Sigur Ros

There’s never a bad time to get some Sigur Ros into your life, least of all when you’ve just freed yourself from certain death and feel like celebrating with some ethereal Icelandic loveliness. Step forward, then, Aron Ralston and this spine-tingling musical coda to Danny Boyle’s canyon drama.

Track: ‘Don’t Bring Me Down’

Artist: E.L.O.

When ‘70s orchestral pop monster met ‘70s actual monster there could only be one winner: EVERYONE. If Michel Gondry tapped the eternal sunshine of E.L.O. in his 2004 sci-fi, here was JJ Abrams uncaging their inner rock beast.

Track: ‘A New Swan Queen’

Composer: Clint Mansell

Using Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake as his jumping-off point, Clint Mansell burnished his reputation as one of the film world’s most talented musicians with his Black Swan score. He also made arguably the worst hangover album ever. Tracks to avoid when you’re on the Alka-Seltzer include ‘Lose Yourself’, and this, a symphony’s worth of unease squeezed in three-and-a-half ever-darkening minutes.

Track: ‘Intro’

Artist: Ramin Djawadi

Like everything else about the HBO fantasy miniseries, Ramin Djawadi was right on the groats with his stirring orchestral score. If you’re a fan of the show, you’ll have heard his suitably lusty intro a few times by now, but it’s still the closest anyone’s come to out-Howard Shoreing Howard Shore. Beautiful.

Track: ‘Break My Stride’

Artist: Matthew Wilder

If the movie wasn’t *quite *as funny as we’d hoped, it wasn’t without inspired moments, especially when Isiah Whitlock was making meta-Wire references and Ed Helm’s naif insurer Tim Lippe was doing his best Dan Aykroyd. Special props to director Miguel Arteta for cramming some cod-’80s reggae into the small-town carnage.

Track: ‘George Valentin’

Composer: Ludovic Bource

Once you’ve seen the film, a few bars of this is all you’ll need for instant mood-lift. Like a cross between a classic Chaplin ditty and a big ‘ole box of Prozac, it’s guaranteed to put a skip back in your step.

Track: ‘The Adventures Of Tintin’

Composer: John Williams

Tintin was the first of two scores John Williams crafted for Steven Spielberg this year and it’s one of his best. This jazzy cue led things off with Gallic (okay, um, Belgic) aplomb, proving that harpsichord wasn’t necessarily just a good excuse for owning earplugs.

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