I listened through this album twice when I got it. The first time, I listened through the album exactly as it's presented upon purchase, with the three non-score tracks first, then the orchestral score following; I thoroughly enjoyed the vocal tracks "Touch the Sky" and "Learn Me Right"; the "Into the Open Air" is nice but didn't resonate with me personally as the others did - the "Touch the Sky" is especially outstanding, of the three - just pounding with energy and emotion. I found that the three vocal tracks at the beginning convey a rather different overall mood than the score - not necessarily a bad thing, but I was initially expecting the integration of some of the themes from the vocal tracks at the beginning during the orchestral score, as has been the case with Pixar movies in the past, such as "Up" and "Ratatouille" which had fun vocal tracks that utilized melodic content from the main score - these first three tracks don't do that, but they are very fun to listen to, and I find the "Touch the Sky" uplifting and inspiring; it leads me to want to go running through the woods and mountains, or something similar to that. On my second listen through I went and restructured the album so the three vocal tracks at the beginning were at the end of the album and the orchestral score was first. I enjoyed the score more the second time through with this play order, with the vocal tracks by Julie Fowlis and Birdy/Mumford and Sons as punctuation to the score, rather than introduction to it.
Patrick Doyle's score has some of everything you'd expect to be associated with a movie like this: there are the exciting Scottish reels and dance-like pieces, plenty of ethnic instruments throughout that help center the feel of the music geographically, slow sweeping melodies, powerfully energetic action tracks, and a few tracks where cast members from the film sing, which are all solid offerings - whether silly, in the rowdy "Song of Mor'du" or beautiful, in the gentle "Noble Maiden Fair (A Mhaighdean Bhan Uasal)".
Overall, the score has a lot more subtle moments than I expected before listening, but they play well with good melodic content and so on. There are a few tracks that seem to be the almost inevitable "background music" that probably plays under quiet scenes in the movie where there isn't much going on, but there are plenty of stirring moments to be found - both on the exciting and the impassioned side of things that keep the listening enjoyable throughout the album.
There are 15 out of the 20 tracks that are outstanding; four of the remaining five tracks are score tracks that seem to be mostly filler music, and the other track of the five non-outstanding tracks is the vocal piece "Into the Open Air" that doesn't resonate well with me. All in all, there is no reason why you shouldn't purchase this whole album, as there are enough outstanding tracks to justify paying for the whole album. I really enjoyed this recording, and it's been a while since a good-quality Celtic-flavored soundtrack was released.
I'm looking forward to seeing "Brave" to make associations of these lovely themes and the atmosphere of the album with the particular scenes they were designed to accompany; until then I'll be enjoying this lovely soundtrack album from Patrick Doyle and others.