April game soundtrack roundup

Dance music! Demon trucks! Vikings! Disasterpeace! April's best tunes, delivered right to your ears.

Welcome back, friends! I’ve missed you these long weeks since we last gathered to sample the finest tunes the world of games has recently laid at our feet. Won’t you don your headphones and join me in sampling the newest, shiniest, toe-tappin’est melodies from April’s game soundtracks?

Firstly, if you heeded my advice at the end of last month’s roundup, then you’ve already availed yourself of the score to Hyper Light Drifter, the latest from electronic maestro Rich Vreeland, aka Disasterpeace, whose ambient soundscapes you may remember from Fez. If you haven’t already listened to HLD’s soundtrack, then man, are you in for a treat. Vreeland’s understated, often minimalist style makes for some ethereal, haunting tunes. Occasionally these give way to bursts of intensity that are all the more potent for their rarity. It’s the perfect complement to the game’s distinct visual style and environmental world-building. Here, have a listen to “The Last General”:

You can pick up the whole album for one-fourth of a Tubman over at Disasterpeace’s Bandcamp.

Though it flew under my radar because the game was released back in January, the soundtrack to That Dragon, Cancer also came out last month. Jon Hillman’s piano-and-strings score serves as accompaniment to the intensely personal journey of the Green family’s struggle and loss of their young son to cancer. Some select vocal tracks help underscore the game’s themes of faith and perseverance. My own infant son is playing at my feet as I’m typing this, and is it getting awful dusty in here? Feels like it’s a little hard to breathe.

If you’re a little less sensitive than I, perhaps you can get through the whole album at Hillman’s Bandcamp without choking up. 

With the advent of commercial VR, it seems like there’s a whole new category of game soundtracks to keep track of, and developers are wrangling with the tricky matter of how to implement scores to virtual reality experiences. This month, one of my favorite game composers released the soundtrack to a VR game: the composer is Ben Prunty, whose FTL: Faster Than Light and Gravity Ghost soundtracks are both mellow masterpieces, and the game is Dead Secret, a VR murder mystery. Here’s the title track:

The entire album is, of course, at Prunty’s Bandcamp.

I’ve seen a lot of people on my Twitter feed this month who are deep in thrall to Enter the Gungeon, a game whose pun-based title I admire but which I haven’t yet had the opportunity to sample myself. I guess guns are involved? I’ve heard people compare it to Nuclear Throne, which is pretty high praise in my book. Whatever the case, the quality of the soundtrack is undeniable, produced as it is by rapper Doseone, who previously provided his talents to Samurai Gunn and 0rbitalis. It’s packed with tracks in all caps, intense electronic beats with titles like “THE HOLLOW NEVER SLEEPS” and “BULLET HELL WILL EAT YOU ALL.” If you really want to know if Doseone’s sound is your bag, though, you’d best have a listen to the game’s title track:

If you’ve been following along, you know what comes next: yada yada whole album yada yada Doseone’s Bandcamp.

The first big AAA release of the month was Remedy’s Quantum Break, the game/TV hybrid that our own Raph Bennett thought was goofy, delightful fun. As someone who likes Alan Wake about thrice as much as he probably should, I’m looking forward to playing Remedy’s time-travel action-adventure when I have the, uh, time. In the meanwhile, I’ve been listening with enthusiasm to Petri Alanko’s soundtrack, which Microsoft went ahead and put up on Spotify right when the game was released. (Publishers: More of this, please.) Because Remedy tends to favor condensed, film-like storytelling, Alenko’s score feels very much like the score to an action movie--and it’s weighty enough to belie some of the game’s inherent goofiness. It’s definitely worth your… time. Here’s “Suite for Time and Machines”:

You can find the album for purchase at Amazon and iTunes, and there’s a very stylish vinyl over at the iam8bit store.

Here’s a game I didn’t know was a thing: Demon Truck, an “action packed shoot ‘em up from the 16-bit era that never was.” Did this game pass by you unnoticed, like a silent semi in the dead of night? Yeah, me too. Whatever you do, though, do not sleep on this wicked Sega Genesis-inspired main theme from OC ReMix legend Andrew Aversa, aka Zircon:

If you like that, consider hopping over to Zircon’s Bandcamp and picking up an album or twelve (seriously, the dude is so prolific). You’ll be glad you did.

That brings us to the game that it’s definitely okay not to play if it’s not your thing, Dark Souls III. I’m still a Souls virgin myself, so I don’t know anything about Poise or Pyromancers or Pugs (the game has pugs, right?). What I do know is that Motoi Sakuraba is one of the all-time greats, and he’s ensured that a Souls soundtrack is always something to get excited about. This newest score (which Sakuraba composed along with Bloodborne alumna Yuka Kitamura) is full of the gothic choral work which is a hallmark of the series, as well as the swelling orchestra which makes boss fights so compelling (at least, if you can hear the music over your own stream of curses). Have a listen to “Iudex Gundyr”:

Unfortunately, it seems as though the official soundtrack is only available bundled with the special editions of the game, for the moment. A little clicking around on YouTube will find you some more samples, however.

Maybe Dark Souls is a little too grim for you, and you instead picked up the light-hearted adventures of a Lombax and his robot in the Ratchet & Clank reboot. I can’t say I blame you; our own Miguel Concepcion gave it the thumbs up in his review. Composer Michael Bross provides a mix of electronic and orchestral music that sits well in the background without clamoring for attention, which makes it excellent productivity fuel if you’re the sort who needs auditory stimulation to get motivated. Here’s “Planet Kerwan (Second Visit)” as an example:

No word on a digital release yet, but hey, here’s another album that iam8bit is giving the vinyl treatment! Here’s a YouTube playlist if you’d like to sample more tracks.

If you have read any of my previous music roundups, you may perhaps remember that there is nothing I love so much in this world as JRPG boss themes with wailing guitars. It seems as though every month brings at least one bounty of hard-rockin’ battle music from across the ocean, and this month that honor belongs to Bravely Second: End Layer, a follow-up to the much-beloved/much-maligned Final-Fantasy-that-wasn’t from 2014. Revo, the composer for Bravely Default, has passed the torch to Ryo, a member of the Japanese pop group Supercell. If you’d like a taste of what Bravely Second has in store, check out the new boss battle theme here:

Wailing guitars! Unfortunately, the guitars aren’t wailing quite as hard as they did last time around, but not every sequel can be an unequivocal improvement upon its predecessor. Still, Square Enix is doing the respectable business of giving the soundtrack an official release, so check out their store if you’d like to preorder (or cross your fingers that it comes to the iTunes store in the States, as it has in Japan).

Were we just talking about sequels? What a wonderful segue to The Banner Saga 2, which sees the return of the award-winning Austin Wintory, who’s produced yet another haunting, spiritual score. The Banner Saga is a story about a people clinging to hope at the end of their world, about difficult decision and loss. I know more than one player who sat, devastated, as the credits rolled on the first installment (weirdly, these folks have been a little hesitant to leap right into the second chapter?). Wintory’s scores are always worth listening to in their entirety if you’ve got patience, imagination, and a free evening--The Banner Saga 2 is no exception. Have a taste of “The World is Breaking”:

Here’s Wintory’s Bandcamp. Listen, and then buy. (Or do it in the reverse order; I’m not the boss of you.)

Last, but not least, Star Fox Zero was released this month. It seems like the latest entry in the vulpine space combat simulator series has gotten some mixed reviews, so allow me to add mine to the pile: The music is fine. It definitely has music. Here’s a YouTube playlist of the music from the game. Why don’t you click around on that playlist and see what you think? Now, the music in Star Fox Zero has a considerable learning curve, so perhaps listen to all of those videos in their entirety before dismissing the game’s soundtrack out of hand.

(Or don’t. I’m not the boss of you.)

If I was the boss of you, I’d command you to listen to this EXTREMELY DANCE MUSIC remix of “The Fierce Battle” from Final Fantasy VI off the Dissidia Final Fantasy Arcade soundtrack, which was inexplicably made available on the North American iTunes store a week ago despite the fact that the game will never, ever be released here:

And with that parting weirdness, I’m off for the month. I’ll see you again at the end of May, when we’ll have plenty more to listen to, including Uncharted 4, new Doom, and plenty of surprises. Thanks for listening along!