Note Worthy 016: Soundtracks you should be listening to!
Our top pick for this month's issue of Note Worthy is the NES-flavored soundtrack for Tiny Barbarian DX, composed by Jeff Ball. There's a variety of styles presented, but all of it is super catchy and melodic, and fans of retro game music need to check this one out. Top honors also go out to the new IMERUAT DVD and A_Rival's TRUTHCANNON.
We also dig into a number of other popular franchises, from Gears of War to Kingdom Hearts. We even have some The World Ends With You love to share this month along with some great music out of Korea. All of this and more in our latest installment of Note Worthy!
Tiny Barbarian DX: The Serpent Lord OST
Release Date: June 6, 2013
Price: Pay what you want
Artist(s): Jeff Ball
This is a soundtrack that you absolutely must have. It’s written with limitations similar to the NES with a few additional channels which is entirely okay because it kicks some serious ass!
Right out of the gate with the title screen you get chugging chip bass and a triumphant and catchy melody. You’ve likely heard the trailer music, “Workout Montage,” as well, which is as fun as it is cool. Delving into the game, “Break Down the Walls” (my favorite track) had me thinking of Mega Man with its groovy bass while the explosive and awesome “Bomb n’ Bass,” the desperate “Rebirth,” the unsettling “Kinda Creepy,” and the beautiful pop ballad “Muscular Sunsets” all show off Ball’s skill at crafting a lot with a little.
Seriously, this soundtrack is fantastic, and if you claim to be a fan of chiptunes, the NES, or retro game music, you need to own this. Hands down, one of the best things I’ve heard this year, and the price is right.
Release Date: April 24, 2013
Price: 2,500 Yen ($25)
The formation of IMERUAT has easily been one of the most exciting developments I’ve seen over the past couple years. The group is comprised of Final Fantasy XIII composer Masashi Hamauzu and vocalist Mina, and we covered their first full-length album in Note Worthy some time ago.
Now that they’ve been recording music videos, they’re finally releasing a compilation. There are a total of seven tracks featured on the DVD, including several of my favorites, such as the electrifying “IMERUAT” and “Black Ocean” and the dreamy “Haru No Kasumi” and “Cirotto.” The videos are pretty varied in style, but mostly feature Mina. “IMERUAT” displays a series of photographs in rapid succession, while “Left” and “Black Ocean” get interesting animated videos. “Giant” is one of the highlights with an impressive dance routine by Mina, and the included behind-the-scenes footage goes into more depth as to what went into this performance.
While this collection is widely available in Japan, it may be hard to get a hold of outside. Hopefully the group will make it more widely available, as they did for their first album, but you can check out many of their music videos on the official website.
Release Date: May 21, 2013
Okay, we love A_Rival. His tasty blend of hip-hop and electronic music are unstoppable, and it’s only a matter of time before this guy makes it big. His latest and greatest, TRUTHCANNON, furthers this notion, bringing pumping beats, strong melodies, and impressive vocals into the fold.
The opener, “TRUTHCANNON,” opens with some beautifully harmonized vocals before going dubstep, while my favorite track on the album, “Wandering” combines retro 8-bit sounds with beautiful female vocals and a melody that will be stuck in your head for weeks. The sinister “Venus,” 80s synth pop-flavored “OMF” (think Shatter), the guttural “OMF2,” the reflective “DEAD,” and the closer, “Ready,” which features A_Rival’s own voice, are all stellar.
This is a fantastic album. Period. And it’s only $5. Support an amazing artist, get some amazing music. Do it now!
Gears of War: Judgment The Soundtrack
Release Date: March 19, 2013
Availability: Sumthing Else Music Works
Artist(s): Steve Jablonsky, Jacob Shea
I’ve generally been a fan of Gears of War music, even before Steve Jablonsky took over the reins. As such, Gears of War: Judgment offers more of the same: action cues with distorted electric guitar chugging and heavy percussion and string stabs to drive tension on one half, and gritty ambiance on the other. Tracks here tend to be short (most under two minutes), but I liked what was here, even if the offerings aren’t that diverse. The twangy Western-style guitar work in the main theme, “Judgment,” the powerful “High Surge,” and foreboding “Vantage Point” are among my favorites.
Pick this up if you’re a fan of the franchise. But don’t expect anything Earth shattering.
KINGDOM HEARTS 10th Anniversary FAN SELECTION -Melodies & Memories-
Release Date: September 19, 2012
Price: 3,500 Yen ($35)
Availability: CD Japan
Artist(s): Yoko Shimomura
What better way to celebrate the announcement of Kingdom Hearts III than with a compilation album containing the best tracks from across the series? Really though, this two-disc album was released last year to commemorate ten years of the franchise, and the tracks included were selected by a fan vote in Japan. As such, many of the most prominent tracks from across the series are featured.
The packaging here is quite nice, and for those who haven’t already purchased the individual Kingdom Hearts soundtracks, this might be worth picking up, although the price tag is a bit steep.
La Tale Soundtrack
Release Date: 2008
Availability: Install Directory / Official Website (Korean)
Artist(s): DINY, ESTi, various artists
La Tale is a beautiful Korean-developed action-oriented 2D sidescrolling MMORPG that came to North America in 2008. The music, contained within the game’s installation directory, quickly spread across the Internet with its tasty blend of electronic music and Asian-flavored pop, and the developers have taken notice, and will be offering it online as a free download in English territories.
With the release of STORM, the latest and biggest content update for the game, I wanted to catch up from a review I'd written previously. Lead composer DINY is joined by other Korean composers to bring more pop, fantasy, and electronic tunes that, while different in flavor, still offer up catchy melodies that will have you coming back for more. This is fantastic stuff, so check it out.
Monarch Original Soundtrack
Release Date: TBA
Here’s some more great music out of Korea, also for a fantasy MMORPG. You may remember Nauts from his work on the jazzy Bar Oasis, but this is a fully-fledged RPG affair. I was surprised by the big orchestral sound that touches on what we’re hearing in a lot of Western MMORPG titles, but it’s the strong melodies and more measured songs that really blew me away.
The theme song is incredible, working in swaying strings and acoustic guitar, while the lullaby-esque “Quiet Village,” the somber “Tomb,” ominous “Orc,” joyous “Capital” (featuring harpsichord!), the amazing piano concerto “Forgotten Princess,” and the dark and foreboding “Die in Hell” all stand out.
While the soundtrack isn’t yet available, you can preview many of these tracks on Nauts’s SoundCloud. I recommend doing so, and if you’re like me, you’ll be heading back there for more.
The World Ends With You 5th Anniversary Live -Crossover-
Release Date: TBA
Price: 1,200 Yen ($12)
Artist(s): Takeharu Ishimoto
This is a live recording from a recent live concert held in Japan. There’s nearly 50 minutes of music covering mainly the new Crossover material, including my favorite The World Ends With You track, “Run Away.” While it’s great that they’ve took the time to release this for fans of the music, and they’re asking for a very fair price, I’d say this is only for the most hardcore fan. Several of the tracks have been featured on other CDs, and some of the out-of-tune vocals are painful.
Still, bravo to Square Enix for releasing it. Now if we could only get their other live events on CD!
The World Ends With You Crossover ~Tribute
Release Date: June 19, 2013
Price: 2,100 Yen ($21)
Availability: CD Japan
Artist(s): Takeharu Ishimoto
This is another album celebrating The World Ends with You, featuring some new tracks, a series of tribute remixes, and some live tracks from the 5th anniversary live concert. I’ve already discussed the live concert material, so I’ll say that the new tracks, “March On” and “Revelation” are great additions to The World Ends with You, coming as cohesive and catchy.
The remixes generally stay true to their original sources, with a nice dubstep-flavored remix of “Twister,” a nice bossa nova-esque take on “Make or Break,” and pumping electronic versions of “Satisfy,” “Calling,” and “Twister.” They’re quite nice, and fans of The World Ends with You will want to check them out.
Release Date: February 26, 2013
Price: 1,050 Yen ($10)
Artist(s): Hisayoshi Ogura
I’ll say right out that this album is a service to hardcore Ogura fans. For those who don’t know him, he’s the legendary ZUNTATA composer responsible for a ton of stuff from Taito over the years. This soundtrack offers 13 minutes of music he wrote for a recent iOS title featuring ambient and sometimes maddening electronic sounds along with three remixes by the SuperSweep team. Even these, however, didn’t leave much of a lasting impression outside of Shinji Hosoe’s icy electronic soundscapes in “SociAl ErRors MegA Mix.”
Still, it’s priced appropriately given the short play time and specialized nature. Check it out only if you’re a big Ogura fan.