1. Jonny Greenwood - The Master
Jonny Greenwood's second collaboration with Paul Thomas Anderson may be a less piercingly intense experience than its predecessor, but it's no less broody or brilliant. Feeling like a free jazz exploration of the loose-limbed but tightly coiled tensions that hold Joaquin Phoenix's Freddie Quell together, Greenwood's score is a restrained, integral part of Anderson's enigmatic film.
2. Dan Romer & Benh Zeitlin - Beasts of the Southern Wild
The perfect score for a film of incredible creativity and poetry. Writer / director / composer Benh Zeitlin's creative ambition alone is hard to resist, but this is one of the year's very best scores in its own right. There are probably more interesting tracks to post than this - which any avid watcher of the trailer will recognise - but try to resist Once There was a Hushpuppy. Try. You can't.
3. Alexandre Desplat - Zero Dark ThirtyAlexandre Desplat scored no less than nine films, including two Best Picture nominees, in 2012 and it's massively to his credit that he managed two distinct scores for middle eastern CIA thrillers in the same year. He was nominated for the more upbeat, at times sentimental, Argo which is effective, but not nearly as mesmerising as his sparse, eerie score for Zero Dark Thirty; a key element to the measured pacing of Kathryn Bigelow's slow, tense procedural thriller. Maya on Plane is the emotional climax of the score, beautifully bringing together its themes.
4. Alexandre Desplat - Moonrise Kingdom
Desplat's other best work of the year lies in his second collaboration with cult indie aesthetist Wes Anderson. Miles from his playful work on Fantastic Mr Fox, his full-bodied orchestral score provides the climatic catharsis that sets Moonrise Kingdom's emotional impact apart from previous, subtler Anderson outings.
5. Thomas Newman - SkyfallThomas Newman is an eternal innovator; always digging up new textures, new angles and new instruments with which to deliver his unique, layered scores. With legendary scores for Shawshank Redemption, American Beauty, American Beauty, American Beauty, WallE & American Beauty to his name, it's a shame he's the most nominated composer at the Academy Awards never to take home the prize (the spiritual cousin of Cinematographer Roger Deakins, also Oscarless for Shawshank Redemption & Skyfall). Skyfall charts fresh electronic ground for Newman and is, obviously, already one of the classiest action scores around.
6. John Williams - LincolnI'm frankly surprised just how much I liked John Williams' Lincoln score. Alternating restrained, simple dignity that makes me feel like President Bartlett is about to something awesome on The West Wing with bouncy banjo & violin ditties that bring to mind old-timey hayrides and line dancing. It's authentic-feeling stuff that just makes you want to hug Daniel Day-Lewis.
7. Dario Marianelli - Anna Karenina
I love everything Marianelli has done with Joe Wright, and his sumptuous, inventive work here is no exception. With the first half of Anna Karenina playing like a casual ballet of sorts, Marianelli's score does much of the heavy lifting to create the momentum that draws us into Anna Karenina's eccentric stylings.
8. Mychael Danna - Life of Pi
Something inside me just rebels against recognising the Oscar winner (which is just ridiculously contrary of me), but Mychael Danna's Life of Pi is in all fairness a lovely score of Parisian Indian whimsy & epic, soul searching magic.
9. Reinhold Heil, Johnny Klimek & Tom Twykwer - Cloud AtlasThe Cloud Atlas Sextet is written into the script and is a key piece of the puzzle that connects "everything"; plenty of pressure on the composers, then, to deliver a suitably striking piece of music that could believably haunt the minds of the film's characters. The film itself covers a vast, ambitious array of landscapes and emotions, which the score gamely and effectively follows.
10. Ryan Miller - Safety not Guaranteed
This sweet indie charmer has a solid indie rock score from Ryan Miller, but this song, which is an original composition for the film, just kills me. Both the version Mark Duplass performs in the film and the fully produced version over the credits. Mild spoiler alert.