Last month's Note Worthy featured some of the best music I've heard this year. It's interesting then, that this month, we have a lot of shorter releases, including several free-to-download albums, which is good if you broke the bank buying everything last month.
Top honors to go Nobuo Uematsu's first e-book and accompanying soundtrack, Blik-0, although we also touch on the surprising Rockman Xover, the atmospheric Remember Me, and the nostalgic Halo: Spartan Assault and Shadowrun Returns, among others.
We have a lot of samples from the Destructoid SoundCloud this month, so dig in, enjoy, and let us know which ones are your favorites.
Blik-0 1946 Soundtrack
Release Date: July 28, 2013
Artist(s): Nobuo Uematsu
We spoke with Uematsu about this e-book at Comic-Con last month, and now that we’ve had the chance to read the book and listen to the music, we wanted to tell you that it’s lots of fun. The book is a children’s story about unconditional parental love, the confusion of childhood, and sacrifice. It’s short and sweet.
The music is spread across three tracks at just 12 minutes in length. The main theme, “Blik-0 1946” covers ominous electronics to highlight the story of a robot, but turns to whimsical and upbeat towards the end. My favorite track, “Ah, But Why?” sports digitized singing and an incredibly catchy melody that sounds like classic Uematsu (it’s so good!). Finally, “So Close” goes all-out vocaloid ballad, nicely wrapping up the story.
Check out the book and music if you’re a fan of Uematsu. You won’t be disappointed.
Indie B-Side, Vol. 1
Release Date: June 29, 2013
Price: Name Your Own Price
Artist(s): Joshua Morse
Joshua Morse is a fantastic composer and arranger, tackling a variety of funk-infused electronic genres, and this release is no different. What this release does, however, is bring attention to a number of unsung heroes, and some great Korean game music tunes.
There’s “Adventure” from Fez, one of my favorite tracks for the game, which gets a more invigorating mix, the incredibly smooth “Oasis Epsilon” from Globulous (with live sax), the groovin’ “Dive Into Volcano” from PangYa Portable, the soothing “Elias Palace” from La Tale, a track from Cryamore, and my favorite of the bunch, a super sleek and sexy arrangement from Cardboard Box Assembler.
Name that price and download it, now!
Remember Me Original Soundtrack
Release Date: June 3, 2013
Artist(s): Olivier Deriviere
I was impressed with what I was hearing when we had our preview of the Remember Me soundtrack with composer Olivier Deriviere, and the rest of the soundtrack is just as good. What’s here is a glitchy blend of orchestral and electronics that is at times beautiful, at others spooky, but always “cool.”
I love the pitch-bending synth work featured throughout lending that “spooky” vibe. Particular favorites are the stop-and-go “Fragments” with its chopped up digitized vocals and the tasty drum ‘n’ bass found in powerful “Memorize” and the ominous “The Ego Room.”
I recommend giving this one a listen.
Disgaea D2 Arrange Soundtrack
Release Date: June 12, 2013
Price: 3,000 Yen ($30)
Availability: CD Japan
Artist(s): Tenpei Sato
Looking forward to Disgaea D2? Well, composer Tenpei Sato wanted to take his usual eclectic and quirky soundtrack to the next level with this arrange album. It’s heavy on vocal themes, a couple of which are great, and others which are grating with their shrill female vocals. There’s plenty of Sato rock to enjoy (the upbeat and explosive “Moving Express” is my favorite track on the album), a few darker and broodier tunes (“Whisper Of Hell～Darkness” comes to mind), and of course your epic fantasy RPG stuff as well.
It’s a solid collection that Sato fans will want to check out, although I’d say the casual Sato fan might not find as many memorable melodies here.
Halo: Spartan Assault
Release Date: July 18, 2013
Artist(s): Tom Salta
This one takes an interesting approach. Halo: Spartan Assault takes the series in a different direction, but it’s obvious from the first piano and choir notes of “Legacy” that composer Tom Salta was asked to emulate the classic Halo sound, and he does so very convincingly.
While tracks tend to be short (one to two minutes, a few over the three-minute mark), there’s everything Halo here from electronic-infused orchestra to explosive bass and percussion-heavy rock. To call out a few of my favorites, I love the desperate “Bridge Too Far” with its deep bass and floating bell tones, the piano and choral ballad, “Prelude,” the ominous and slow “Quiet Giant,” and the appropriately dreamy “Night Dreams.”
Halo fans will want to check out the soundtrack even if they’re not into the game.
Ravenmark: Mercenaries Original Soundtrack
Release Date: May 2013
Artist(s): Xiao'an Li
I admit my interest in this soundtrack stemmed from Joshua Whelchel’s score to the Ravenmark: The Scourge of Estellion soundtrack. I quickly discovered, however, that composer Xiao’an Li took over composition duties for this title, and that the soundtrack length clocked in at just about 15 minutes as opposed to the former’s 75 minutes.
Still, it’s free to download, and what’s here is great. There’s an epic overworld theme, a beautiful and contemplative piece to accompany the codex, and a series of tense battle themes. Again, there’s not much, but fans will want to check it out.
ROCKMAN Xover ORIGINAL SOUNDTRACK
Release Date: June 10, 2013
Availability: Capcom Japan
Artist(s): Masahiro Aoki
Surprise! Masahiro Aoki of the Mega Man band, the ROCK-MEN, appear to have been responsible for Xover’s soundtrack, and while short (six tracks, 12 minutes), they serve up some very convincing metal. It’s short, but sweet, with an energetic main theme, an explosive boss theme, a decisive “Battle Arena” (my favorite track), a percussion-heavy “Arcade Man,” and even a piano remix of the main theme. There’s plenty of guitar shredding and even solos, so dig in if that’s your kind of thing.
I will say that it doesn’t sound a whole lot like classic Mega Man (it has a more commercial slant), but I do like what I’m hearing. And hey, they could have charged $5 for this, but are instead offering it for free, so good for them.
Shadowrun Returns Official Soundtrack
Release Date: July 25, 2013
Availability: Comes with various versions of the game
Artist(s): Marshall Parker, Gavin Parker, Sam Powell
I love Shadowrun. Maybe I’m not an authority on it, but I did play the tabletop RPG (I had a shark shaman named Sharky) and loved the hell out of the Super Nintendo game. So it came as a huge surprise when I found many of my favorite tracks from the SNES title remixed in Shadowrun Returns.
Honestly, the album’s a bit rough around the edges, but I think it’s meant to sound like something out of a different time, and the gritty nature of the recording along with the strong sense of atmosphere and the throwback to classic tunes is all I could have asked for. I love the moody “Shoot Straight” that gets just the smallest reference to the main exploration theme from the SNES game (more heavily featured in the awesome “Double Cross”), the slower and more grungy take on the battle theme, “Null Sheen,” and other references as well. The original tracks are interesting as well, making me want to dig into the game myself and find their context.
Ultimately, this one’s all about fan service. And I’m all for that!
Shinji Hosoe Works Vol.2 ~ORDYNE~
Release Date: April 12, 2013
Price: 2,940 Yen ($30)
Availability: Limited (SuperSweep Store)
Artist(s): Shinji Hosoe
Shinji Hosoe is back, this time with another collection of old and rare soundtracks from his past. The main feature is for the shooter, ORDYNE, which admittedly falls a bit flat with its overly upbeat tunes that don’t really have a hook to draw you in, but the surprisingly somber ending theme, electronic-infused special stage themes, and exclusive remix are quite nice.
Disc two offers the soundtracks to Metal Hawk and Dirt Fox, which are more in line with what you’d expect from Hosoe. Metal Hawk serves up some fantastic shooter tracks (the bumpin’“BGM3” is super rad), while Dirt Fox gets more playful and funky with its arcade racing action, even though it’s essentially the same song over and over.
I’d say this one is for hardcore Hosoe fans. The exclusives and rare soundtracks are a nice addition,but ORDYNE itself is somewhat disappointing.
SOCOM 4: U.S. Navy SEALs Original Video Game Soundtrack
Release Date: May 10, 20122
Price: $19.98 (physical) / $9.99 (digital)
Availability: La La Land Records (physical) / iTunes (digital)
Artist(s): Bear McCreary
Reviewing Bear McCreary’s amazing soundtrack for Defiance last month made me remember that I had wanted to take a look at his SOCOM 4 soundtrack. I had been excited about the idea of it featuring a slew of ethnic Asian instruments, including a gamelan ensemble, but never got around to reviewing it.
McCreary has a knack for writing catchy themes, which he weaves throughout his scores, and SOCOM 4 is no different, although it admittedly feels a bit cliché with its woodwind melody that reminds me of Kung Fu Panda. Thankfully the tribal percussion and gamelan ensemble help differentiate the theme and most of the score. “Naga Formation” is a perfect example, and is one of the best tracks on the album, but other sounds are also worked in, including the hip-hoppish “Confrontation,” the heavy electronic-infused “Clawhammer,” electronic guitar-ridden rock in “Onslaught on the Bridge,” and in the album’s epic climax, “Battle for Control.”
The two-disc soundtrack features a lot of high-energy atmosphere which may make for a strained listening, but if you liked McCreary’s work on Defiance and want to hear more, there’s this.