Archive for the ‘Music’ Category

“Best” Soundtracks?

March 16, 2016

So, on my recent post on my favourite soundtracks, Malcolm the Cynic left a comment linking to the “To the Moon” soundtrack, calling it “the very best”. Now, I’m pretty certain that he didn’t mean this as a real qualitative comparison, but it got me thinking about what it would mean for a soundtrack to be “the very best”.

The thing about soundtracks for video games, specifically, that’s different than regular music is that it’s difficult to evaluate them independently of the games in which they appear, because their primary purpose is always to supplement the game and gameplay. They are there to make the cutscenes more memorable — which they share with soundtracks of all sorts — but also to play in the background and enhance the gameplay experience. They thus not only provide background moods for the narrative, but provide background moods for the gameplay, and as such have to encourage the player to play the game according to the gameplay: cautious when necessary, aggressive when necessary. It has to enhance panic when you need to move quickly … or, in fact, even and perhaps especially when you don’t. It has to provide the background to scare you and make you tense if the game is supposed to be doing that, without distracting you or clashing with the gameplay that you’re supposed to be experiencing at the moment. Which can, as an aside, lead to the odd case like I had in Mass Effect 2, where I had a foolproof way to determine when to take cover because combat was happening: listen for when the music change to the battle theme [grin].

Anyway, given this, video game soundtracks can pretty much only be evaluated based on how well they support the game they’re in. Yes, we can enjoy them musically, but ultimately their qualitative value can’t be judged separately from the work they were created to support. For example, I’ve listened to the “To the Moon” soundtrack, and musically I enjoy it but find it a bit repetitive, as it is mostly just repetitions on the same theme. But while I haven’t played that game, I can easily imagine that, given its subject matter, that’s precisely what you want there. On the other hand, Suikoden III has a much wider variety of musical styles because it’s meant to convey themes for a wide variety of locations and cultures. Should we argue that “To the Moon” is inferior because it doesn’t have more variety, or that Suikoden III is inferior because its soundtrack is less consistent? The truth is that both fit their games well, and so that shouldn’t be what determines their quality.

I’ve commented before about Persona 3 and Persona 4 with regards to their soundtracks, in that Persona 3 is better musically but with Persona 4 when you listen to it you associate the themes with specific people. Given that Persona 4’s dungeons were definitely more character associated than Persona 3’s, this makes sense, as without any other reason to care about the dungeon one wants that music that you’re going to be listening to for hours — a major difference between movie soundtracks and video game soundtracks — you want it to be entertaining and definitely not boring, while in Persona 4 you want it to remind you of why you’re here to drive you forward. Again, the different soundtracks drive different experiences in the game, and thus fulfill their purpose, I’d say, roughly equally well.

Ultimately, being the “best” soundtrack is less important as being one that properly enhances the gaming experience. So while it’s not completely subjective, it’s not really objective either. Perhaps it’s best if we just enjoy them, and not argue over them or rate them beyond “I really like this one”.

My favourite soundtracks …

March 9, 2016

So, after mentioning on a few occasions that soundtracks are my life, today I’d like to list a few of my favourites.

While I’ve listened to game soundtracks since high school — a friend of mine actually taped a number of them and gave me a copy, which was reasonable since some of the ones he taped were, well, from my games [grin] — what rekindled my love for soundtracks was probably Suikoden III, although that was mostly only due to the very effective intro. I never did manage to get an actual CD for the soundtrack of this game

One of the first — if not the first — actual full CDs that I got was for Persona 3, and by Persona 4 I was pre-ordering games just to get the soundtracks.

Silent Hill Shattered Memories is one of the first games that I bought mostly to get the soundtrack, and that I’ve never really played (although it does sound like an interesting game). Mostly, though, the title track and the creepy version of “You Were Always On My Mind” are what keeps me listening to the soundtrack (while continuing to ignore the game).

Of the more recent games (kinda, I guess), I’ve just recently discovered and listened to the Mass Effect soundtrack, inspired by a time when listening to soundtracks on youtube was my best bet and by a Twitter comment by Shamus Young praising the soundtrack. I’m not as impressed with the soundtracks of the other two games, though.

The same can pretty much be said for the Dragon Age soundtrack, although it’s a completely different style than Mass Effect, which should be kinda obvious.

And finally, I should make some mention of Conception II, if for no other reason than the fact that I’ve played the game and listened to the soundtrack … and would much rather listen to the soundtrack, which is the only thing that makes getting the collector’s version worth it.

Frozen Ghost

January 15, 2016

Well, let me return to talking a little bit about music again, as I was just reminded of the band Frozen Ghost, a Canadian band that put out three albums, of which I have one. But it’s a really good one, being an album that I can pretty much listen to all the way through without finding a song that I don’t like. But some of them stand out.

The first song of theirs I ever heard — and the only one I had heard before buying the “Frozen Ghost” CD — was Should I See, which was popular when I was younger and a song that I had really liked. It was my memories of this song that made me buy the CD — used — in the first place.

However, it’s not the best song on the CD. Promises is my favourite song on the entire CD, as it’s a very powerful song, although it can be a bit depressing. The end question and answer part, though, is brilliant and moving.

I also prefer Love Without Lies, which is a great romantic song, in my opinion. I find the person described in the song fairly appealing, less for the purported childish aspects, but more for the simple honesty of her.

Ultimately, though, pretty much any song on that CD is good, although it’s at this point that it would be hard for me to choose between them and Should I See. The band did three CDs and then broke up. I might have to look at some of the other CDs sometime, if I get a chance.

A non-traditional Christmas Carol …

December 14, 2015

… although it might be an Amber. Who can say?

LAN of confusion …

February 9, 2015

I tend to like reworking the lyrics of existing songs in slightly humourous ways (at least to me) and this one has been stuck in my head recently, so I’m going to give it a try. This is based on the Genesis song “Land of Confusion”:

I must’ve launched a thousand apps
Been haunted by a million users
But I can hear the grinding drives
They’re running at their peak

Now did you read the groups today
They say the printer’s gone away
But I can see the status’s still alight
There burning, there on the right

There’s too many apps, too many users
Making too many problems
And not much mem to go round
Can’t you see this is a LAN of confusion?

Well this is the LAN we live in
And these are the hosts we’re given
Use them and let’s start trying
To make it a place worth logging in

Ooh, superuser where are you now
When everything’s gone wrong somehow?
We’ve lost the ‘Net, we’ve lost the power
We’re losing control by the hour

What is the time, what is the pace
Do we look for the cable
But there’s not much mem to go round
Tell me why, this is a LAN of confusion

This is the LAN we live in
And these are the hosts we’re given
Use them and let’s start trying
To make it a place worth blogging in

I remember long ago when the app was flying
Yes, and the statuses were bright all through the night
And the sound of your laughter as we played Quake right, so long ago

I won’t be coming home tonight
My IT section will put it right
Hope we’re not making promises
That you know, we just can’t keep

Too many apps, there’s too many users
Making too many problems
And not much mem to go round
Can’t you see, this is a LAN of confusion?

Now this is the LAN we live in
And these are the hosts we’re given
Use them and let’s start trying
To make it a place worth paying for

These are the hosts we live in
And these are the names they’re given
Stand up and let’s start showing
Just where our lives are going to

(Without the Internet …)

More of my favourites: one shots and one hit wonders

January 13, 2015

As part of a BSG board game that I’m playing, I got “It Must Have Been Love” stuck in my head, which reminded me of more of my favourite songs. Roxette’s not really a one-hit wonder for me, as I’ve liked a number of their song and albums in the past … but it did remind me of songs that would indeed count.

Like “Take My Breath Away” by Berlin. Which is actually an odd case because the Top Gun soundtrack is, in general, amazing, and even for me Berlin had an I think much less famous song that I also really liked “No More Words”.

This really ought to have been a candidate for the Top 10, because I’ve liked it for a long time: “She Blinded Me With Science” by Thomas Dolby. Interestingly, I once ran into someone on City of Heroes who based his character on Thomas Dolby, and we did the “Science!” part in passing.

I also do like “Rock Me Amadeus” by Falco, but that’s mostly for the chorus.

I also like “One Night in Bangkok” by Murray Head, which has a nice mix of chorus and … whatever it is you call the thing in-between the choruses (stanzas).

I like the original “Land of Confusion” by Genesis, and the Spitting Image video has good nostalgia value, but in a rare case for me I think I like the harder Disturbed version better. It fits the lyrics better.

I’ve only ever heard two songs by Ah-ha, I think: “Take On Me” and “The Living Daylights”, and I’ve liked them both.

There’s also, oddly, Ace of Base. The song I heard first and liked was of course “The Sign”, but I have to mention “Waiting for Magic”, which was the inspiration for this short story.

And finally, another song that maybe should have made the top 10: “Major Tom” by Peter Schilling (not the David Bowie song).

A couple of Christmas albums …

December 25, 2013

For the past couple of days, I’ve listed some Christmas songs. Today I’d like to highlight two of my favourite Christmas albums.

Loreena McKennit, “A Midwinter Night’s Dream”

Celtic Woman, “A Christmas Celebration” (which is playing right now).

Merry Christmas.

More Christmas Songs …

December 24, 2013

If you haven’t noticed, I tend to like funny songs, even if outside of Christmas they don’t hit my top 10, and so here are some of the songs I really liked as a child but haven’t really heard for a while:

Be careful, ’cause Santa Claus is watching you.

And while my actual heritage isn’t Ukranian, I like this two Ukranian Christmas song: 11 Days of Christmas. There’s another one that’s a retelling of the Night Before Christmas which I think is by the same person, but I can’t find it.

And I couldn’t forgive myself if I didn’t include Bob and Doug MacKenzie’s 12 Days of Christmas.

Some of my favourite Christmas songs …

December 22, 2013

Well, t’is the season, and so this year I think I’ll post up some of my favourite Christmas songs. Today will be some of the more well-known ones, but I’ll try to dig up some of the songs from my youth over the next couple of days.

To start with my favourite, which is “Grandma Got Run Over By Reindeer”, the Irish Rovers version. I have a very hard time finding the version that I heard on the radio all the time in full, but I think a snippet is here. (EDIT:  the full version is here)

Then there’s this song from the Trans Siberian Orchestra. When I went to get Christmas CDs, this was one that I had to get, although I don’t like the rest of the CD as much as I like this song.

I also like the “Carol of the Bells”, vocal versions and the version done with actual bells, which I can’t find on youtube at the moment.

Still more of my favourites …

September 1, 2013

So continuing on from my post last week, this time I’ll do AC/DC, Ozzy Osbourne, and Alice Cooper.

Starting with Alice Cooper, I have less of his stuff than I do of the others, who almost literally fill my CD collection, but there are a number of songs that I listen to frequently. “Hell Is Living Without You” is probably my favourite song, but “He’s Back(The Man Behind the Mask)”, “Teenage Frankenstein”, “The Great American Success Story” and “Poison” are also favourtes. And you should also add to that list “House of Fire”, “Bed of Nails”, “Only My Heart Talkin'”, “This Maniac’s In Love With You”, “Life and Death of the Party”, and “The World Needs Guts”. Alice Cooper is, I think, the one performer that I like where I like the songs that I, well, really shouldn’t like due to the subject matter and even the musical style.

I have a lot more of Ozzy Osbourne, and one of my best buys was getting “The Essential Ozzy Osbourne”, which contains most of my favourites, like “Crazy Train”, “I Don’t Know”, “Goodbye to Romance”, “Diary of a Madman” (which I just used as a character piece for Boomer in my latest BSG game), “You’re No Different”, “Rock and Roll Rebel”, “Mama I’m Comin’ Home”, “No More Tears”, “Time After Time”, “Road to Nowhere”, “I Don’t Wanna Change the World”, “Perry Mason”, “I Just Want You” (which might have been the Ozzy candidate to make the top 10 list), and “See You on the Other Side”. There were some others that didn’t make the cut for the essential, like “Revelation (Mother Earth)”, which also might have made the top 10 cut, but my absolute favourite song of his did make the cut, and is “Fire in the Sky”, a great song that also speaks to me and my personality rather deeply.

Now, to AC/DC. Aside from the aforementioned “Ride On” and “Hell’s Bells”, we have: “For Those About To Rock”, “Evil Walks”, “C.O.D”, “Night of the Long Knives”, “Spellbound”, “Dirty Deeds (Done Dirt Cheap)”, “Big Balls” (mostly because it’s hilarious), “Ain’t No Fun (Waitin’ ‘Round To Be a Millionaire)”, “You Shook Me All Night Long” (which was THE party song when I was growing up), “Thunderstruck”, “Money Talks”, “The Razors Edge” (which I always thought would be an excellent song for a Wolverine movie), “Are You Ready?”, “Got You By the Balls”, and my favourite Christmas song, “Mistress for Christmas”.

After “Razor’s Edge” (Helena Cain’s favourite album), we have: “Hard as a Rock”, “Cover You In Oil”, “The Furor”, “Burnin’ Alive”, “Hail Caesar”, “Safe in New York City”, “Can’t Stop Rock and Roll”, “Rock and Roll Train”, “War Machine” (my favourite from “Black Ice”), “She Likes Rock and Roll”, and “Rock and Roll Dream”. Which doesn’t include songs that I don’t have the CDs for like: “Rock and Roll Ain’t Noise Pollution”, “Highway to Hell”, and “Back in Black”.

When I first heard, AC/DC, I didn’t like them. But my brother did, and since he could drive and I couldn’t, I heard it a lot, and eventually came to like them, so much that they’re one of my favourite bands.