Note Worthy 020: Soundtracks you should be listening to!
Okay, so we’ve featured a lot of Final Fantasy in Note Worthy lately, in part thanks to the recent remaster soundtracks. Looking at Final Fantasy VI this month, however, finally brought me around to accepting that this is truly Nobuo Uematsu’s best work.
We also delve into the soundtrack to BEYOND: Two Souls, Spectrum of Mana, and the new Final Fantasy XI band, Nanaa Mihgo’s. Plus we check outDisgaea D2, Square Enix’s annual Tokyo Game Show sampler disc that lets us know what all is in the works from their label, and more!
FINAL FANTASY VI Original Soundtrack Remaster VersionRelease Date: September 4, 2013Price: 3,300 Yen ($34)Availability: CD Japan Artist(s): Nobuo Uematsu
What can I say about this other than re-listening to it for this review made me come to terms that this is Uematsu’s best work. I gushed about the job OverClocked ReMix did with Balance & Ruin, but there’s nothing quite like the original. Spot-on character themes packed with emotion, a perfect expression of good and evil that isn’t too cheesy one way or the other … it’s pretty much perfect.
Everyone has their favorite tracks, and they tend to be the same, so I want to call out some underappreciated gems: “Kids Run Through the Corner,” which I think is one of Uematsu’s most soothing town themes, “Grand Finale?,” the comical battle with Ultros at the Opera House that unfortunately never makes it into live performances, the insanely terrifying battle theme, “The Fierce Battle,” and the mischievous “The Magic House” are among my favorites.
Buy this now if you don’t already own it. There’s not much difference I could detect from the original version, although if I had to make one gripe, it’d be that their official English track listing breaks a lot of conventions and ignores localization efforts (“The Snake Path” and “Searching Friends” are particularly bad).
BEYOND: Two Souls SoundtrackRelease Date: October 8, 2013Price: Not for SaleAvailability: Pre-Order Bonus Artist(s): Lorne Balfe
Okay, maybe we didn’t like the game, but I love the soundtrack. Lorne Balfe, who recently did Assassin’s Creed III, is quickly becoming one of my favorite composers, and he’s only recently made his way from film to games.
This score, while short, is a blend of beautiful and distraught orchestral cues. While that probably sounds boring, I really love the ambiance Balfe creates with the score. The unassuming main theme, “Jodie’s Suite,” features haunting female humming/singing, while “Beyond,” my favorite piece, is dark and tumultuous. Some tracks bring in heavier rock-style percussion to highlight the game’s action, but for the most part, I enjoy the textures that Balfe weaves over the course of nearly 45 minutes.
Spectrum of ManaRelease Date: September 28, 2013Price: Free (digital) / $15 (physical)Availability: Spectrum of Mana website Artist(s): Various Artists
Here’s an impressive album that covers all of the themes from the legendary Secret of Mana soundtrack. Get ready for tons of rock of all flavors, including riveting metal, some mellow acoustic material, and more. The entire album is gold (in part thanks to the source material, and also due to the artists’ apparent love for it). My favorites? There are a lot, and they tended to be my favorites from the original score: Ailsean’s chip-meets-rock “Leave Time for Love,” Norg’s explosive “Like a Boss,” stemage’s dreamy yet rockin’ “Holy Intruder,” Dr. Manhattan’s spunky “Steampunk Fun,” and my two favorites, the alternative-esque “Forest Lesson” by Tim Yarbrough and “A Wish” by VikingGuitar and Larua Liebowitz. Oh, and “Girl, You Got a Nice Beard” (town of dwarves) wins for best song title.
Download. NOW. And then think about buying the awesome elemental shirts and art book.
Stolen Hearts / Nanaa Mihgo’sRelease Date: September 11, 2013Price: 2,667 ($27)Availability: CD Japan Artist(s): Nanaa Mihgo’s
Here’s the Final Fantasy XI live arrange album you never knew you wanted. After most of the members of the Star Onions left Square Enix, this trio got together and brings a much heavier jazz flavor to the mix. The album’s eight tracks are really meaty, coming in at close to an hour, and I think fans will dig the jazz/funk and ballad elements.
While “Bustle of the Capital” takes a lighter tone, “Fighters of the Crystal” is quite epic at 11 minutes in length. “Distant Worlds” takes a more ballad-oriented approach, while fan-favorite “Ronfaure” is super funky!
Grab this album. It also comes with some codes for in-game stuff.
Bells of Yggdrasil by Jeff Ball
Bells of YggdrasilRelease Date: October 1, 2013Price: $4Availability: Bandcamp Artist(s): Jeff Ball
This is a short but sweet solo piano album by Tiny Barbarian composer Jeff Ball. He cites the Piano Collections Final Fantasy CDs among its inspiration, which you can hear from time to time, especially in the ballad-esque “Girl with Platinum Hair.” My favorite, however, is the sleep-inducing “Aurora above Taiga,” which forms a nice contrast between high and low notes in an almost call-and-response manner. Lovely stuff, grab it if you like piano music.
DENJI MASHI-MASHI Original SoundtrackRelease Date: February 7, 2013Price: 2,000 Yen ($20)Availability: Limited Artist(s): Various Artists
I’m a huge fan of Nobuyoshi Sano, best known for Ridge Racer and Tekken, and I just recently found out he had his own record label with music distributed by SuperSweep. DENJI MASHI-MASHI is one such release that is admittedly mostly sound effects, but there are some bumping electronic tracks with some hip vocaloid vocals. The main theme in particular is rather infectious, while the electro “Parameters” is trip, and the retro “Dear Radio,” which will have you thinking of classic SEGA tunes, is probably my favorite track on the album.
Still, there are about seven real songs here, and even if you could find the CD (it’s been sold at events in Japan), $20 for seven tracks is a lot to ask. Still, interesting to know what Sano does in his free time!
Disgaea D2 Original SoundtrackRelease Date: October 8, 2013Price: Not for SaleAvailability: Limited Edition Bonus Artist(s): Tenpei Sato
We kind of did this one in reverse order! We recently reviewed the arrange album, and I was admittedly unimpressed. However, I think the original soundtrack offers a little more variety: classic fantasy tunes, Sato’s signature style of rock infused with wacky synths, and quirky vocal themes (one of which sounds like the Pokemon theme). I particularly dig the final battle theme “Dramatic Devil Story” and the sweet and comforting “Brown Leaf.”
The second disc includes tracks from previous Disgaea games, while the beautiful limited edition set (still available exclusively on the NISA shophouses figurines, an art book, collectible cards, and the game. Fans who are looking forward to the game will want to strongly consider springing for the limited edition set, as the contents, including the soundtrack, are great additions to any collection.
Sakura Flamingo Audiography –GREY– and –PINK–Release Date: July 26, 2013Price: 2,100 ($21) eachAvailability: Limited Artist(s): Various Artists
I, like you, had no idea what these albums were when I first saw them. They were distributed by SuperSweep, and contain tracks and remix from ChaosField, Radirgy, Ilmatic Envelope, and Karaos. You end up with two discs packed with club, house, and other various kinds of electronic music. When I say electronic music, I mean the real stuff, too, not game-y stuff. PINK didn’t do much form me outside of the icy “Timeline,” although GREY get a bit more into game-y melodic territory with tracks like the perfect schmup accompaniment, “Human Figure -Remix-“ and the upbeat “2 the Sky -Remix-.” Still, even if you can find these, you’re probably going to want to be a huge electronic music fan to care.
SQUARE ENIX COMPOSERS BEST/SELECTION BLACK DISKRelease Date: September 18, 2013Price: 2,100 Yen ($21)Availability: CD Japan Artist(s): Various Artists
This album draws attention to Square Enix’s current roster of composers, arrangers, and synthesizer operators. Each of nine artists gets a single track that acts as a medley that goes through their various works. While I can get behind Square Enix wanting to support its sound staff in this project, and while it will draw attention to some of the work some of their lesser-known team members have contributed to, I can’t help but think they could have done it in another, better way.
First, medleys shift from one track to the next without much transition in some cases, making it difficult to isolate a specific piece you may want to listen to on its own. And you’ll sometimes be left scratching you head, knowing that a different composer composed the piece you’re listening to, but that this guy arranged or operated the synthesizer. Decently priced by Japanese standards, but would have made a better $10 digital release.
SQUARE ENIX MUSiC SAMPLER CD Vol.8Release Date: September 21, 2013Price: Not for SaleAvailability: Tokyo Game Show 2013 Artist(s): Various Artists
An unassuming name, yes, but this disc is important. Square Enix hands these out every year at TGS, and they contain music previews of their upcoming release, often announcing many new CDs that we never knew were coming. This year’s disc is no different.
There are some Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII trailer tracks (a nice bonus) which sound nice, although don’t give us much indication of what we’re going to hear, an underwhelming preview of their second volume of Christmas music, an action-y track from Drag-On Dragoon 3 (I was hoping for some more emotional NieR-esque material), and a few tracks from their smaller mobile titles. What really caught my attention were Cure SQ and SQ Swing, however, with the former bringing playful woodwinds to “Battle on the Big Bridge” and the latter giving us a medley from Final Fantasy VI. I’m not looking forward to both.
A disappointing sampler for the most part, but there’s some interesting things that Square Enix will have for us this year!