Monday, February 1, 2016

Soundtrack of the Month: February 2016

Remember Me is one of the few incredible games I actually discovered through discovering their soundtracks. I found it one day while browsing Amazon. I'd never heard of the game, but the soundtrack was composed by Alone in the Dark expert composer Olivier Derivière, so I knew that at least the music aspect had to be good. Several months later I acquired the game, played it, and absolutely loved it. I bought the soundtrack very soon thereafter.

I fell in love with Remember Me from the very beginning. I entered the game knowing next to nothing about it, which was intentional as the game begins with the protagonist losing all of her memory. The game takes place in the cyberpunk, dystopian future city of Neo Paris, and has a major emphasis on memory-related technology. The story is unique and highly thought-provoking, and the soundtrack is among the greatest I've heard, with a superb blend of orchestral and electronically altered score.

Derivière composed the entire soundtrack, which was then fully performed and recorded by the Philharmonia Orchestra. He then digitally processed and manipulated the music with multiple layers and effects to create a beautiful, half-orchestral, half-electronic sound which perfectly fits the world and story of the game. I love the amount of detail poured into the world, and the music was a major aspect of that.

Featured Tracks

Track 1: Nilan the Memory Hunter – The jaw-dropping main theme of Remember Me. Our protagonist is Nilan, who used to be the most skilled Memory Hunter in the world.

Track 3: Still Human – I consider this as one of the main themes of Neo Paris, even though a different track is specifically named after the city. Perhaps this is more a theme of the slums.

Track 6: The Enforcers – One of the combat themes for Remember Me, playing when you get into a hassle with the law enforcement, called Enforcers.

Track 10: Our Parents – While Nilan begins with no recollection of who she is or was, her proceeding quest does provide some answers. Which or how many, I will not say.

Purchase Remember Me (Original Soundtrack) on iTunes or Amazon MP3.
Or listen to it for free on Spotify or YouTube.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Orc Stain by James Stokoe

The world has been overrun by orckind for a million millennia. Kingdoms rise and fall in a matter of months—or days. The world is chaos, but chaos is all the world's ever known.

However, one day an orc rises to power—and doesn't fall back down. He manages to unite kingdoms never thought uniteable, and conquer lands never thought conquerable. Timeless borders are abolished; ancient lands are littered with the corpses of any who stand in the way of the southern world's new tyrant. Nothing can escape the wrath of the Orctzar.

Far up north lives our protagonist, a one-eyed orc nicknamed "One-Eye". (None of them have actual names, but the greatest are given numbers post-mortem.) One-Eye likes to stick to his own business—busting locks, and surviving. He lives in a part of the world that's mostly at peace—or as much at peace as a province filled with orcs ever could be—doing what he can to stay out of trouble.

Unbeknownst to One-Eye, the Orctzar has learned from an ancient prophetess that in order to find an object of great power that he seeks, he must find an unspecified one-eyed orc in the north. Eager to obtain this object, and be supreme ruler of the entire world, the Orctzar sends multitudes of troops to round up every one-eyed orc in the northern hemisphere of the planet. One-Eye obviously wants nothing to do with these goings-on, and hightails the hell out of there.

This is the premise to the first volume of Orc Stain by James Stokoe, a beautiful, crazy and vulgar graphic novel about a brilliant and insane world. Stokoe is the creator, writer, artist, colorist, and letterer. Seeing as this is a top-quality graphic novel with incredible art, hilarious writing, and an tremendous amount of worldbuilding, that is mightily impressive.

Stokoe takes us on a highly fantastical tale though incredibly intricate lands, full of strange creatures and odd whatnots. It's a very unique concept, and the amount of content packed into this book (168 full-color pages) is impressive. The fact that it was all created one man is awe-inspiring. If this seems like something you'd be interested in, definitely check it out.

Caution: Orc Stain contains adult content and is intended for mature readers.

Friday, January 1, 2016

Soundtrack of the Month: January 2016

Remember when I complained that Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. never got a soundtrack release? Remember when an Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. soundtrack released five days later? Remember when I didn't realize this for the next month? I blame Amazon and Spotify for neglecting to tell me when they should've. I'd be upset, except for the fact that I get to listen to the soundtrack now regardless.

Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is a television series that takes place in the Marvel Cinematic Universe about the story of Agent Phil Coulson, after his iconic death at the hands of the demigod Loki in The Avengers. Coulson, having "magically" recovered following the events of the film, puts together an unlikely task force to work various missions for the government organization S.H.I.E.L.D.

Wait, doesn't bringing the character back to life nullify the meaning and heaviness of his death in the first place? Well, if you watched the series for long enough you would know that is not necessarily the case. A lot of people quit watching in the first half season, for no logical reason I can think of, and so they missed out on some pretty powerful story developments.

S.H.I.E.L.D. is scored by Emmy-winning composer Bear McCreary, and performed by a full orchestra, which is a very rare occurrence for television soundtracks. The skill and dedication Bear brings to the series, along with the addition of the full orchestra, brings the quality of S.H.I.E.L.D.'s music up past numerous film scores in the Marvel Cinematic Universe—and believe me, those scores are some of the best soundtracks in the industry.

This single CD covers the first two seasons of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., and thus covers many different episodes and themes. As this is compilation of the finest pieces and moments drawn from all over 44 episodes, there is never a single dull moment, nor a single moment that isn't positively incredible.

Featured Tracks

Track 1: Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Overture – An outstanding rendition of S.H.I.E.L.D.'s main theme, a.k.a. Coulson's theme. It appears most often and prominently in the score of Season 1, and a version acts as the end credits theme of every episode. This is easily one of the greatest themes among all of Marvel Studios' film and television soundtracks.

Track 6: Aftermath of the Uprising – This is the track that plays at the end of the majorly game-changing Captain America: The Winter Soldier crossover episode, "Turn, Turn, Turn". This is one of Bear's personal favorite tracks, and I understand why.

Track 9: Cello Concerto – One of the most elaborately-composed pieces of score I'm aware of in existence. Bear talks about it extensively here. (Contains major spoilers for the series, up to and including the classic episode it's featured in, "The Only Light in the Darkness".)

Purchase Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. (Original Soundtrack Album) on Amazon or iTunes.
Or listen to it for free on Spotify or YouTube.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Dear Mayor

In April of 2015, I was bored and decided to draft a letter to the mayor of Ardenham, who totally exists. I figured I'd be stupid and share it for the world to see. This is somehow what my imagination comes up with these days.

Dear Mayor,
I regret to inform you that your cabbages have escaped their pen. We're not sure exactly how things went down, but we fear that the FFMA (Friendly Field Mice of America) may have had something to do with it. There are reports that their meetings have turned suspiciously dark as of late, with discussions about sloth, avocados, and the Council of Bad Children.
It is my recommendation that immediate action be taken to find the cabbages and put an end to the FFMA's potentially evil plans. To do this, we must enlist the help of Jared the Cabbage Slayer. If the cabbages don't want to be fenced in, then what right have they to exist in the first place? This discrimination against us will not stand.
Thank you, and may your coffee fields grow ever plentiful.
Pontius Smith
Ardenham Police Department
400 Splatter Rd
Crooked, QZ 43110

Thanks for your time.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Soundtrack of the Month: December 2015

Continuum has recently become one of my new favorite science fiction series. A unique concept, fantastic characters, and time travelling that actually isn't stupid. At the time of this article's release, I've only seen the majority of the first two seasons, and I'm not currently in the process of continuing, although I have every intention to proceed at a later time. The music of the series was composed by Jeff Danna, and until a handful of months ago the only soundtrack released had been that of Season 1.

The show tells the story of Kiera Cameron, a law enforcement officer (or "Protector") from the year 2077. In the future, she was assigned to stand witness at the execution of eight criminals—terrorists who considered themselves freedom fighters. An anomaly interrupted the execution, which sent the criminals—and Kiera—back in time to 2012, in an attempt on the terrorists' part to try to rewrite history. The story that follows is thrilling and inventive, and all the while supported by Danna's score.

The score of Continuum is fairly subtle, but distinct and an integral part of the narrative. It distinguishes itself from the average sci-fi television soundtrack without inducing a plethora of prominent themes being thrown every which-way like Doctor Who. As a result it's difficult to pick out specific tracks that stand out in comparison to each other, but the album as a whole is outstanding and beautiful. Danna focused on Kiera's theme in particular as a way to transcend both the story told in 2012 and the story told in 2077.

Featured Tracks

Track 4: Kagame's Vision of the City – The scene this track accompanies contains no dialogue, which further emphasizes the music and its emotional impact.

Track 5: Kiera Gets Her Tech – One version of Kiera's theme, and one of the series' main recurring themes.

Track 17: A Working Time Machine – It's difficult to explain the importance of this track and the narrative it accompanies without explaining the context. Basically, watch the show.

For some reason the album's official tracklist is almost entirely out of order. If you wish to listen the tracks chronologically (with some alternate tracks as well), you can do that here.

Purchase Continuum (Original Television Soundtrack) on Amazon or iTunes.
Or listen to it for free on YouTube, or a sample of it on Spotify.

Read composer Jeff Danna's personal notes on the album here.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Five Love Songs That Are Actually Good

Love is something that tends to be underrated, and love songs tend to be shallow and cliché. Most of the time when I hear a love song over popular radio I do my best to ignore it, because the lyricist has no idea what they're doing, and the singer absolutely has no idea what they're doing. Popular music is filled with a lot of crap, and I honestly have no idea why most of it's popular.

Not all popular music is awful, for sure, and certainly not all love songs are awful; but a lot of them are. There is a good number of artists out there who, say, actually know what love is, but they're so often overshadowed by songs by ridiculous people about ridiculous things. I thought I'd bring to light some more or less known musicians and songs that really show some depth. So, here are five love songs that are actually good.

Click on the album covers to be taken to YouTube, or use the Spotify resources at the end.


Carnival of Rust by Poets of the Fall
A lot of the works of Poets of the Fall are rather difficult to understand. They really live up to their name, through their cryptically poetic lyrics. Many people have various theories for what "Carnival of Rust" could be about, but I choose to believe what I hear: a very deep and poetic love song.

Breathe On Me by Delain
This song, to put it simply, is about a girl who falls madly in love with a man. Plenty of pathetic love songs follow this very premise, but it's Charlotte Vessels' intellectual writing and beautiful vocals, along with the amazing sound the band brings, that sets this gem apart.

Forever by Jeff Willaims (feat. Casey Williams)
The tenth season of Red vs. Blue was a fairly dark and twisted story, and composer-songwriter Jeff Williams really translates that into the music and songs. "Forever", sung by his daughter, is about mourning the loss of a love. Very touching, and sad.

Sunday by Les Friction
Les Friction is a rock opera that tells a story involving the future and other dimensions. I don't understand at all how the story progresses, but each individual song is incredible, unique, and easy enough to follow on its own. "Sunday" is perhaps the most beloved piece by the group, telling the story of two ordinary people and how they hope to fall in love.

Resistance by Muse
"Resistance" tells a bit of a Romeo and Juliet sort of story. It tells of a forbidden love, and questions whether it's right or wrong, and whether or not they should just run away. It's one of the more deep Muse songs I've heard, and definitely one of my favorites.


I've compiled these five songs onto a Spotify playlist, for your convenience. Enjoy!

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Soundtrack of the Month: November 2015

Last month I went to see Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials, the second installment of the Maze Runner saga. I loved it, and it reminded me how much I loved the first film as well. The Maze Runner is a unique story with unique personality and music. The sounds of the world contributed well to the film, and the end result was impressive, to say the least.

The Maze Runner is not another cliché film adaptation of a young adult novel with a focus on appeasing pre-teen fanboys and fangirls. This film has depth and character, and is brilliantly pulled off. The score is composed by up-and-coming composer John Paesano, who also scored the newly-released sequel.

Paesano's score gives new personality and life to an already impressive story. Mysteries and confusion are beautifully and terrifyingly translated into incredible incidental music that fits perfectly with the film and its themes. The Maze Runner was one of the first majorly noteworthy projects Paesano has worked on, and he made sure his shot counted.

Featured Tracks

Track 1: The Maze Runner – The film's incredible main theme.

Track 2: What Is This Place? – Our protagonist wakes up in a strange place, with no memory of who he is or where he came from.

Track 7: Into the Maze – Let's get this adventure started.

Track 21: Finale – The epic conclusion to The Maze Runner. It's over, right? Or is it only beginning?

Purchase The Maze Runner (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack) from Amazon or iTunes.
Or listen to it for free on Spotify or YouTube.