I think we can all agree that 2008 has been an excellent year for film scores... Ok, so maybe not. It's actually been quite terrible in some respects. The music coming out of mainstream Hollywood seems to be deteriorating bit by bit, year by year. 2008 has been no different with only a handful of mildly interesting soundtracks. This is one of the reasons I've been trying much harder to look for scores outside of Hollywood -- foreign films, video games, television, documentaries, etc. And you know what, there is still a wealth of good music being written out there. So what has stood out this year -- both in Hollywood and elsewhere? Alone in the Dark composed by Olivier DeRiviere. Although I've read the game ambitious yet abysmal, the same can't be said of DeRiviere's score. Heavily utilizing a Bulgarian choir, the music is both eerie and epic. The strait orchestral writing is also quite accomplished (I only wish the drumming was cut back a bit). It's too bad the game didn't have a budget to hire an actual orchestra to perform the score, as the midi instruments diminishes the sound somewhat -- the choir however is real. The Happening composed by James Newton Howard. I think this is one of the weaker JNH scores for Shyamalan, but considering the quality of their other collaborations, that doesn't mean too much. Howard's music is still excellent. It's dark, brooding, and at times unnerving. The suite at the end of the album is my favorite piece of music this yet this year. Gake no Ue no Ponyo composed by Joe Hisaishi. As far as I'm concerned, this is easily the best thing written so far this year. While the score and film are not as dramatic as the last three offered up by animator Miyazaki and composer Hisaishi, the music is still nothing short of top notch. There are 6-7 themes and motifs all used is throughout in several permutations. There's even some Korngoldian swashbuckling music presented here. Most of the score however is lighter and concentrates on flowing strings and woodwinds. This is the one album that I recommend everyone pick up. As far as I can find, it can only be imported from Japan at this time, so someplace like Amazon.co.jp would be a good place to look for it. Speedracer composed by Michael Giacchino. This is album is fun. Plain and simple. It sounds like Giacchino wrote it on a sugar rush. Standard Operating Procedure composed by Danny Elfman. "Wanted" and "Hellboy II" both contain their share of good music, but overall they don't do much for me. This delicate score to Errol Morris's documentary about Abu Ghraib Prison is interesting and hypnotic. Stargate: The Ark of Truth and Stargate Continuum composed by Joel Goldsmith. The music that Goldsmith has written for these two direct to video releases is great orchestral fare. This is the kind of action adventure music that movies like Iron Man should be getting. Star Wars: The Force Unleashed composed by Mark Griskey. Griskey did an excellent job of sounding like Williams but brought some of his own ideas to the table as well. I can't wait to hear the entire score when the game comes out next month. And yes, I did intentionally leave off Indiana Jones. After the initial excitement of a new John Williams score wore off, I realized that there isn't much there outside a few tracks. Technically is probably better written than all the scores above (save for Ponyo), but there is so little for me to enjoy anymore. Some of the scores I'm looking forward to: Marianelli's The Soloist, Desplat's The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, James Newton Howard's Definace, Doyle's Igor, and I'm sure there are many more than I'm forgetting. So what has everyone else enjoyed from this year so far and what are you most looking forward to?