The Academy moved beyond recognizing primarily orchestral work when voters rewarded Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross’ electronic score for The Social Network four years ago. A couple of this year’s choices tread even fresher ground: Hans Zimmer‘s largely pipe organ–based music for Interstellar, and Antonio Sanchez’s daringly all-drums Birdman score.
All outliers are not equal here. Brave as it is, Birdman will be doing well just to get a nod from a branch that likes to hear at least one melody per score, while Interstellar has been pegged as a clear frontrunner. (Zimmer hasn’t won an Oscar since The Lion King.) And when director Christopher Nolan admitted he deliberately mixed his dialogue lower than Zimmer’s thunder-chords in key scenes, he may have endeared Interstellar to every living composer.
The hardest-working man in score business, Alexandre Desplat, has five eligible soundtracks: The Grand Budapest Hotel, Godzilla, Monuments Men, Unbroken and The Imitation Game. Either of the latter two could land Desplat his belated first Oscar. But Imitation Game may face off against Johann Johannsson’s acclaimed work on this year’s other brainiac drama, The Theory of Everything, leaving voters puzzling over which magnificently emo-intellectual melange to pick.
Others getting talked up for nods include Reznor and Ross for Gone Girl‘s dread, Marco Beltrami for The Homesman’s Western melancholy, Steven Price (last season’s Gravity winner) for the militant emotionalism of Fury and John Powell as the designated animation-music fave with How to Train Your Dragon 2.
This article originally appeared in THR.com.