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Music Monday: ‘Tis the season November 28, 2016

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Now that (American) Thanksgiving is done and gone, I thought I would share some holiday-themed music for this week’s post.

 

The OneUps – Super Mario’s Sleigh Ride

This song is a classic, and for years, it was pretty much the Christmas video game arrangement, at least in my collection. It’s a masterfully performed and seemingly effortlessly blended arrangement of songs from Super Mario World together with “Sleigh Ride”, “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas”, and “Jingle Bells”. Sometimes the tunes trade off having the spotlight, sometimes the Mario music makes a pleasant backdrop to the classic carol, and sometimes both songs are played at the same time on different instruments. The effect is flawless and catchy and delightful.

ROCKtendo – Vanilla Lake

There were a number of great tracks on 2014’s Super VG Christmas Party, but this one was an absolute gem. The source material is from the original Super Mario Kart from 1992. The artist here took the original 30-second bossa nova tune and turned it into a fantastic 3:21 crooner ballad with lyrics about Mario Kart. And also Christmas.

I’ll be chasing that checkered flag
No more gifts to bag
For me
You can keep all your jingle bells
I’ll take turtle shells
Of red and green

Jay Epperhart – Carol of the Final Fantasy Belles

A lovely piano medley arrangement of several themes from various Final Fantasy games and Parasite Eve woven together with the classic “Carol of the Bells”.

Dale North – Christmas in the Village (Silver Bells)

Dale North, also of OneUps fame, has made a few Christmas-themed video game arrangements over the years, though I think this one, mixing a theme from Lufia II with “Silver Bells”, is my favourite.

Goomin Nam – Fisherman’s Horizon (Christmas ver.)

A lot of Christmas VGM is more like this – it doesn’t have any actual Christmas music and is just an arrangement of the original track from Final Fantasy VIII, but the instrumentation and tone have a Christmas-y feel to them, and it’s just a lovely song.

Happy holidays! I hope you enjoyed these songs. Do you know of any other holiday video game music/arrangements? Feel free to tell me in the comments, I always love discovering new music!

Music Monday: Smile! November 7, 2016

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Because everybody could use an extra smile on a Monday, right?

My “feel better” playlist has a few different types of songs on it to help combat a bad day. There are some with uplifting lyrics, some sweet or bouncy tunes that always bring a smile, and some that are just silly for various reasons that make me laugh. After a very lengthy hiatus from my so-called weekly feature, I thought I’d share some of these favourites in case it makes anyone else feel a little better about their day.

 

Owl City – When Can I See You Again?

It’s no secret, and probably no surprise, that Disney’s Wreck-It Ralph is one of my favourite movies. While my enjoyment of this song, the ending theme, is probably increased by my love of the movie, it has great energy and inspiring lyrics and tends to make things feel a little better.

The Big Band of Rogues – Super Mario 64 Opening Theme

While we’re on the topic of energy, check out this delightful jazz ensemble arrangement from Super Mario 64 (going all the way back to the Nintendo 64, 20 years old now). This rendition of the track couldn’t be better in my opinion, and it never fails to cheer me up.

Mirai – Open Up Your Mind

For a more traditional feel better song, here’s a track from the soundtrack to the anime Saiyuki. It’s a sweet and hopeful song with a lovely sound.

Helen Trevillion – Ode to My Cake OH CAKE

A lot of Helen Trevillion‘s music belongs in my feel better list – such as “Waiting For the Snow”, which has sad lyrics but a lovely melody, or “Stepping Stones” which has hopeful lyrics but a sad tune – but one of my absolute favourites of hers is this track, which also helps bridge the gap between the happy and silly music. It’s adorable, it’s catchy, it’s got a sweet bouncy melody, and it’s about cake. What more could you want?

Sir Jordanius – Interstellar Sasuke 5ever Space Funkadet (warning: includes NSFW lyrics)

Who wants some funk? Truth be told, when I first heard this song, I wasn’t sure if I hated it or loved it. It is so unlike most video game arrangements I’ve heard that only the weirdness struck me at first. But it grew on me fast. The production quality is great, the fact that it arranges the old 3D Pinball Space Cadet game from Windows XP never fails to amuse me, and I love the weirdness.

anterrior, Chimpazilla, timaeus222 – They See Me Rollin’ (includes NSFW lyrics)

Disclaimer: This song probably won’t be as enjoyable if you haven’t played The Legend of Zelda: The Ocarina of Time. But if you have, it’s pretty darn funny.

I think that’s enough for now. I hope you’ve enjoyed this glimpse into part of my music collection. Maybe if there’s interest, I’ll share some more tracks on this list at another time.

As a bonus, I’ll close with some more music that never fails to calm me down: the Secret of Mana original soundtrack. Yes, the 16-bit instruments are a bit dated at this point, but I love the sound of them in a way no real instruments can quite capture and the tracks themselves are beautiful.

Music Monday: Chronicles of Time March 7, 2016

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In 2013, a group of indie musicians got together to create Spectrum of Mana, a 3-disc album of arrangements from the Super Nintendo game Secret of Mana. I enjoyed that album; some of it was not to my taste, but largely I really liked the songs.

misc_clogocover_natehorsfallWhen I heard that the same group was putting together a new album called Chronicles of Time based on the SNES game Chrono Trigger, I figured it would be much the same. Well, it ended up being rather bigger, to the tune of 5 discs, almost 6 hours of music, and over 200 contributors (!). The album launched a few weeks ago, so it seemed fitting that it would make a good topic for one of my Music Monday posts, and I’ve spent the past several days listening intently to give, well, I suppose as proper a review as I can manage.

The album was set up in much the same way as Spectrum of Mana, with almost all instrumental arrangements covering a wide range of the source material, organised per disc by genre, with a lot of accompanying artwork. There’s a lot of live instruments, a lot of collaboration, and the production quality is very high.

The first disc largely consists of the type of standard rock arrangements you often hear from indie arrangers, particularly live ones. There’s a track or two in acoustic, a little bit of funk and jazz/fusion mixed in (as well as one R&B track that wasn’t to my taste), but generally, there’s a strong focus on electric guitars, bass, and drums, not too heavy – runs on a scale roughly from AC/DC to 90s alternative rock – and generally fairly upbeat. There’s a good variety in the sounds for as consistent as it is overall and I love the directions some tracks took the source material, particularly “Runnin’ in Circles” by Ivan Hakštok & streifig and “Critical Heat” by Grospixels.

The second disc has a lot of the same musical theme as the first, though it adds in a bit more variety to the typical rock model with some electronica and a touch more of the jazz/fusion and funk from the first disc. There’s also a three-part chiptune medley from Derris-Kharlan, who had a similar medley in one part on Spectrum of Mana. While I’m starting to get tired of chiptunes, Derris-Kharlan gives it a lot of depth and movement and after giving both a chance, I’ve ended up thoroughly enjoying both. Overall there’s a lot of depth of sound in both this disc and the entire album, and the arrangements here are solid. I’m always impressed when a musician can take a less than 10-second source and expand it into a full song, so one of my favourites was “Norstein Bekkler’s Song of Horrors” by, once again, Ivan Hakštok, as well as “Epoch ~ Wings of Time” by Kirby’s Dream Band and “First Tentacle of Mars” (a play on the original title “First Festival of Stars”) by the group of musicians known as DROIDEKKA.

The third disc moves away from the electric guitars and heads more into new age, with a bit of jazz, orchestral, and Latin mixed in, and even a wonderful string quartet arrangement that utilises the instruments to their fullest potential. I thoroughly loved this disc, and every track is staying in my collection. Once again, there’s both great variety and great arrangements, and it’s hard to pick just a couple favourites.

The fourth disc is the jazz section. Where there’s been hints of it in the previous discs, it jumps to the fore in these tracks, ranging from lounge to swing to blues to salsa and beyond. This ended up being my favourite disc, which came as a bit of a surprise, since I’m all about the new age. There’s just so much movement, excellent arrangement of the source material into sometimes entirely different styles, great horn/sax solos, and such big sound that a lot of these tracks make me smile just to hear them. I absolutely loved “Primevil” by Eight Bit Disaster and “Cantina Automatica” by XPRTNovice (which I discovered last year from a different website, but I loved it so much I have no qualms at all with paying to have it again, and also contains some great humour for fans of the game).

The fifth disc got a bit heavier with more punk rock/heavy metal type arrangements. Several of these tracks were a bit too heavy for my taste, and I ended up not enjoying more of this disc than the others. I still liked more of this disc than not, particularly “Arena Rex” by Midee (featuring Ailsean, finbeard, norg, prozax & Snappleman).

Overall, it turned out to be a very strong album with a lot to like. I ended up keeping almost 80% of the tracks in my collection, and for almost five and a half hours of quality music? I’d say that’s worth $20. Fans of Chrono Trigger will most likely get a lot of enjoyment out of this album, and if you’re a fan of the Chrono Trigger soundtrack and jazz music, you should definitely check it out.

If you’d like more of an idea of what to expect, the group released a name-your-own-price preview disc over at Bandcamp. The full album is available via Loudr and iTunes, and you can get full information on the songs at the project website.

Music Monday: Time Circuits April 14, 2014

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Testing the waters with a regular feature in which I highlight/share some music I really enjoy. Mostly, this will involve indie re-arrangements of video game music, because that’s how I roll and because it’s generally pretty easy to link to free, legal downloads for it. I’ll admit my music theory is weak, so I might not be able to describe the songs I feature in technical terms, but I love what I love, and if one person gets to enjoy a new song out of it, I will consider it a success.

For my inaugural post, I’m going to feature one of my all-time favourite songs: “Time Circuits”/”Corridors of Time” from the SNES classic Chrono Trigger. Clearly, I’m not the only one to enjoy this track so much, as it has been done over and over again. The bonus to it being so popular is inevitably that means there are several very well-done arrangements out there. This week I’m featuring a selection of my favourite renditions of this well-loved theme.

mv – Time Chill

“Time Chill” is at least ten years old now, but it remains a favourite. As the title might suggest, mv turned the tune into a somewhat jazzy rendition. What I love about this version is that despite taking a slightly different approach to the source, it feels like this is exactly what the original track was meant to sound like.

Ashane – Zealous Entropy

In this version, Ashane took the original ~90 second melody and turned it into a 10:29 rock ballad, starting off gentle and building as it goes. The questionably voiced lines from the part of the game when the source music plays might not be to everyone’s taste, but to me, those have become as much a part of the music as the guitars, bass, and drums.

Featured on playlist: Road trip, because nothing makes the time and miles go by quicker than listening to 3-4 songs and finding an hour has passed.

Captain Literal – Passage to Zeal

This ambient rendition goes all the way back to 2002; I found an updated version from a few years later while searching for the download link, but I prefer this original posting to RPGamer. It’s long, smooth, and mellow, and I still recall the first time I played it on the radio show I was part of around that time, when I was a bit uncertain about playing video game remixes, and this one was warmly received by crew and listeners alike.

Joren de Bruin, Tweex – Corrupter of Time

I originally discovered this song on a different website where it was titled “Corroder of Time,” a pun on the original title that still amuses me. Unlike other rock arrangements of the tune, this one turns the source material into a heavier song, despite keeping at least close to the original beat, truly turning the track into a hard rock remix.

Bonus final track comes courtesy of the Japanese band MintJam. They recorded an amazing version of “Corridors of Time” which I can unfortunately only link to on YouTube, as it was commercially released and therefore not available as a free download. I adore their rendition for the instruments and the depth they gave the original song, including an engaging drum beat and smooth vocals.

I hope you enjoyed this brief foray into my music collection. If you have any suggestions for other tracks, artists, or albums for me to check out, please feel free to comment. I always love discovering new music. See you again next week with a new feature!