Make way for a new year and make way for yet another seasonal playlist. These playlists, I found, have provided me with incentives in discovering and learning new music that I otherwise would not have, or at the very least, listen for music where I normally do not. A similar effect occurred after having taken my Music and Computers course this fall semester; I had consequently become more aware and sensitive to the sounds in my daily life. It is both strange and wondrous to have your world opened in such a vast way with only a small paradigm shift. Now, while the music I will present here is not eye-opening at all (perhaps for another time), hopefully the melodies and styles will evoke certain feelings and emotions within your gut.
Mobile Suit Gundam SEED[audio:http://www.christopherhsing.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/01/02-Yuukouda-Geki-.mp3|titles=Yuukouda Geki – Gundam SEED – Sahashi Toshihiko] [audio:http://www.christopherhsing.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/01/06-Senkou-no-Hate-ni-.mp3|titles=Senkou no Hate ni – Gundam SEED – Sahashi Toshihiko] [audio:http://www.christopherhsing.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/01/01-INVOKE.mp3|titles=INVOKE – Gundam SEED – T.M. Revolution]
Inspiration comes from many things. This small set of pieces all originate from the series Mobile Suit Gundam SEED, which I ended up marathoning 50 episodes in 2 days. It was quite a fun watch. The music presented here are all backdrop music that supports the numerous battles that main character Kira Yamato has. Composed by Sahashi Toshihiko, the Gundam SEED soundtrack nearly perfectly captures the continual struggle Kira has with fighting his long lost friend, Athrun Zala (weird names, I know). Their battles are both exciting, yet sad…intense, yet philisophical to a point. The jumps of fifths and fourths in the soundtrack pieces provide the inpirational interval, much like Superman’s Theme. Though most of the music is synthesized on the computer (like most anime soundtracks, due to budgets), the pseudo-instruments do not detract too much from the essence of Toshihiko’s compositions. T.M. Revolution’s INVOKE is used as one of the opening themes and is more electronic-anime-dance music, if anything, but it still resides as my personal favorite opening for series, though that may be due to the fact that it was the only track I had and listened to prior to starting the actual series.
Kirby’s Epic Yarn[audio:http://www.christopherhsing.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/01/Big-Bean-Vine.mp3|titles=Big Bean Vine – Kirby’s Epic Yarn – Tomoya Tomita and Jun Ishikawa] [audio:http://www.christopherhsing.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/01/Fountain-Gardens.mp3|titles=Fountain Gardens – Kirby’s Epic Yarn – Tomoya Tomita and Jun Ishikawa]
The Kirby franchise has been well known, not only for it’s adorable mascot, but for many of its instantly recognizable and memorable music tracks. One particular track, Race (sometimes called Noisy Race or Gourmet Race), is possibly the most well-known, as it is used in numerous games outside of the Kirby franchise and is probably the most in-your-face. With so many installments of Kirby games on numerous generations of Nintendo systems, many of Kirby’s music tracks have been beaten to death with over usage, after all, how can you really improve on the original work of Jun Ishikawa? The answer came with Kirby’s Epic Yarn, a sincerely charming and original game on the Nintendo Wii. With this version of Kirby’s music, Tomita and Ishikawa step away from the normal synth sound from which Kirby’s music originated, and treat the notes with a kinder acoustic instrumentation such as pianos, solo percussion, and cute chimes. Though the actual music may be digital, the step away from digital sounding instruments brings a soundtrack that is nicer on the ears, more laid back, and child-ish (in a positive way). Even Epic Yarn’s Gourmet Race track is fun and not obnoxious to listen to (though, I totally enjoy listening to the Crystal Shards version, regardless).
Ska[audio:http://www.christopherhsing.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/01/04-Ore-Ska-Band-Yeah-Ska-Dance.mp3|titles=Yeah! Ska Dance – Ore Ska Band] [audio:http://www.christopherhsing.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/01/11.-Pride-of-Lions.mp3|titles=Pride of Lions – Tokyo Ska Paradise Orchestra]
Ska is a particular genre that not everyone knows. The grandfather of punk and origins of reggae, ska sits in a soft place in my heart since I am totally a sucker for the “get-up-and-dance-for-no-reason” music. I first discovered Ore Ska Band through the anime series Naruto, where one of their Ska pieces were used for an ending theme in one of the many seasons (it’s impossible to remember which one). Afterwards, several of Ore Ska Band’s pieces were used for subsequent OP/ED tracks, the most recent one in mind being Jitensha (aka, bicycle in Japanese). While Ore Ska Band is entirely female and full of youthful energy, being the high school students they are, Tokyo Ska Paradise Orchestra consists of men. Paradise Orchestra’s version of Ska is considerably more classy and mature (if you can call dancing about senselessly mature), but still maintains the necessary offbeat pulse that Ska requires. Paradise Orchestra’s members’ technical proficiency at their respective instruments far outstrip that of Ore Ska Band, but for my every listening though, where I require a certain amount of senseless happiness, I would defer to Ore Ska Band and their endless resevoir of teen youth. Their music video is also quite fun to watch, especially the pink trombone, purple trumpet, and dancing old man.
Bastion[audio:http://www.christopherhsing.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/01/A-Proper-Story-Darren-Korb.mp3|titles=A Proper Story – Bastion Original Soundtrack – Darren Korb] [audio:http://www.christopherhsing.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/01/Setting-Sail-Coming-Home-Darren-Korb.mp3|titles=Setting Sail Coming Home (End Theme) – Bastion Original Soundtrack – Dorren Korb]
Bastion, itself, is a great and stylish adventure game recently released on Xbox Live Arcade and Steam by Supergiant Games, and though I only played through the free demo available through Google Chrome, the jaw-dropping visuals are only icing on the cake when ti comes to the brilliant soundtrack as well. Darren Korb, composer of Bastion’s soundtrack, is the “one man band” from Supergiant Games and describes the soundtrack as being a “acoustic frontier trip-hop.”
Despite the overarching western themes, Darren Korb successfully utilizes a wide variety of synthesized exotic instruments, such as the berimbau and sitar (instruments I had zero knowledge about before looking them up), to paint the locales of Bastion. The sequence of tracks lay out a auditory journey that mimics the one you journey on in the game. The album itself is a story that like the Bastion, you want to keep revisiting.
The developers at Supergiant Games could have easily slapped on some generic fantasy fare, but they instead delivered on a completely eclectic but always surprisingly dead-on music to match the action on screen. There’s everything from blues to blends of trip-hop and foreign tones. Tracks like “Bynn the Breaker” & “Terminal March” have such heavy bass alone that turning up the stereo volume is a must.
Even if you’re not a gamer, or a game soundtrack fan, the music from Bastion can be treated as normal music. The game itself though, is definitely worth a look at; if not for the game, then for the experience of having nearly every action narrated by Logan Cunningham, whose voice is pretty beastly, if you ask me. It’s hard to see from any of the trailers, but gameplay demos only reveal part of the experience. It’s on a whole new level when you’re actually playing.
Final Fantasy[audio:http://www.christopherhsing.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/01/12-Swing-de-Chocobo.mp3|titles=Swing de Chocobo – Distant Worlds: Music from Final Fantasy – Uematsu Nobuo]
A variant of the ever so popular Chocobo Theme from Final Fantasy, Swing de Chocobo takes the electric high tempo swing of the game versions and turns it into an orchestral head-bobber with attitude and swag. Though the swing-feel may seem out of place with an orchestral sound initially, strange instrumentation is quickly forgotten once the piece enters its more multi-layered portions, a capability that orchestral pieces and arrangements benefit from. Perhaps it sounds a bit cheesy at times, but much like Kirby’s Epic Yarn music, the developed taste and class that Swing de Chocobo carries is one that might take time to acclimate to.
Tokyo Wankei[audio:http://www.christopherhsing.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/01/Our-Same-Word-Orchestra-Ver..mp3|titles=約束…Our Same Word (Orchestra Ver.) – Tokyo Wankei Soundtrack]
Tokyo Wankei’s “Our Same Word” wraps up our playlist for this season. With a much more calm and sentimental atmosphere, “Our Same Word” is a piece I listen to just as often as Departure’s “Memory,” Flower’s “Life as a Flower,” or Tenmon’s piano/orchestra compositions. Whether it’s to calm me down or just to help me study, Tokyo Wankei’s soundtrack is pretty successful on all fronts. It doesn’t hurt that the cello’s sound is pretty prominent (who cares about violins…).
I don’t really have anything intelligent to say (do I ever) about this piece, but it’s always been fascinating how a piano, though it functions as a percussion instrument, can create a multitude of colors and moods and sounds appropriate in so many genres such as Jazz, Rock, New Age, Classical, and whatnot. It’s really marvelous, and has left me somewhat sad that I cannot still play the piano (at least, very well). I luckily still play cello, but seeing just how versatile the piano is and how fragile and robust it can be definitely reveals just how the piano has been able to stand the test of time as one of the most popular (next to the guitar) and best instruments around. Kudos to you, pianists.