Number Ten. The Lord Of The Rings soundtrack (2001-2003)
I read C. S. Lewis's Chronicles of Narnia multiple times throughout my childhood, but I was not introduced to his colleague J. R. R. Tolkien until my friend and namesake Josh Bauder gave a book report on The Fellowship Of The Ring in the sixth grade (Please correct me if the details are incorrect, Josh). My family moved shortly thereafter, but during that summer of 2000 I read through the entire trilogy. I'm not sure how my eleven-year-old self got through those twelve hundred pages and the introduction of all those names and places, but I do remember using tricks to keep some of the names straight (such as picturing Gandalf as Qui-Gon and Aragorn as Obi-Wan…. Episode 1 was still a big deal back then, OK?)
Reading used to be my chief pastime, and my favorite story element, above all else, was a good plot. I loved an epic fight for the fate of the world, with multiple subplots all weaving together with twists and surprises and everything working out in the end. Maybe it was a subconscious expression of my belief in God authoring his grand plan throughout the universe and humanity; maybe not. Regardless, Lord of the Rings was the epitome of a plot, and I loved it. (Uh… Josh… I thought this was your top *musical* releases of the decade. I know. Here we go.) Peter Jackson's films soon followed, and his dedication to portraying the visual complexity of Tolkien's universe was beautifully supported by Howard Shore's soundtrack.
My obsession with music over this decade has mainly involved bands and songwriters; I don't purchase many soundtracks for fear that they're not very memorable beyond the few seconds of exciting theme (film scores are just begging for "filler"). Some of my favorite themes and melodies come from Hans Zimmer (The Lion King, The Prince of Egypt, Gladiator, and the recent Batman films), but no one comes near the completeness of Howard Shore's Lord of the RIngs, which is every bit as fulfilling as Tolkien's story.
Every locale has a distinctive motif: the single violin of Edoras, the shrill melancholy strings of the elves, the ominous 5/4 pounding of the dark lord Sauron. And don't forget the hero's rousing horn sequence! Howard Shore managed to perfectly capture the epicness of the films, and it's only natural that my favorite soundtrack of all time is the one that accompanies my favorite film trilogy from my favorite literature series.
It's ridiculously long, of course, but never boring and always exceedingly versatile. Need a boost to your morning routine? Throw on "Concerning Hobbits." Need to improve your monotonous walk to class? Try "The Ride of the Rohirrim." Need a background to your crazy math homework? Just start playing the whole thing… (And let's not forget Billy Boyd's haunting performance as Pippin before Denethor.) The only thing that would be more exciting than owning the entire "soundtrack" would be owning the entire score (the former is an hour or so of prominent selections from each film; the latter is every single piece of music from each film, and they run for $60 or so apiece on Amazon…. something I can't quite justify)
Music has taken over as my chief pastime these days (It's easier to play albums than read novels while driving to work or compiling C++ code), but amidst my rock/pop/alternative/hardcore/indie obsessions, Howard Shore remains as an indomitable link to my first love.