The smoke has finally cleared, and we can finally announce our winners and runners-up for our 3rd annual Original Sound Version Original Soundtrack of the Year 2011 Awards. As always, there are a few surprises, and while I know some editors are still passionately clinging to their given favorite, I think that points to the amazing quality and variety of music that was released in 2011. This year in particular saw a number of new franchises and sequels that went in radically different directions, and I think the music accurately reflects this fresh and exploratory direction.
While nearly all of our winners and runners-up are included after the jump, we’re reserving our Composer of the Year award for an individual post that will come at a later date, as we did last year. So don’t freak out when you don’t see the winner of that category announced. Aside from that, enjoy, and please feel free to comment with your top picks for the year, including those that didn’t make our list of nominees.
On that note, I just want to say congratulations to all of our winners and nominees. We had a lot of debate among the staff, even about the list of nominees themselves, again pointing to the caliber of music released this year.
Best Handheld Soundtrack
|Winner:||MIGHTY SWITCH FORCE!|
|1st Runner-Up:||UnchainBlades ReXX|
|2nd Runner-Up:||Valkyria Chronicles 3 -Unrecorded Chronicles-|
This was actually a very challenging category to judge this year! I was certain after reviewing Tsutomu Narita’s score for UnchainBlades ReXX that it would be my soundtrack of the year, but then came along Jake Kaufman with his last-minute surprise, MIGHTY SWITCH FORCE!. Both are fantastic soundtracks, with the former coming as a charming JRPG soundtrack akin to the old Nobuo Uematsu days while the latter blasts you in the face with all sorts of genres and fun.
I also want to mention Valkyria Chronicles 3, which will likely never see the light of day outside of Japan. I really enjoyed Sakimoto’s mature approach to the score, incorporating several main themes and working some killer guitar work into the title’s main theme. There were a lot of great main themes this year too… maybe we need a category for that next year!
Best Fan Arrange Album (Western)
|Winner:||Metroid Arrange 25th Anniversary Album (Bad Dudes)|
|1st Runner-Up:||Intergalactic Redux (The OneUps)|
|2nd Runner-Up:||brass 2: mouth (the minibosses)|
Mustin and his merry men in tights had a magnificent year, starting 2011 with the funky Intergalactic Redux from the One-Ups and ending it with the Bad Dudes’ Metroid Arrange 25th Anniversary Album. While other outlets now have near monthly album and project releases, Bad Dudes only needed one to truly blow away the competition and regain the throne with their absolutely incredible Metroid tribute album. 2011 also marked the return of the minibosses with their stellar brass 2, featuring the long awaited Batman and Kid Icarus medleys.
Harmony of a Hunter (V.A.)
Made of Metal (VikingGuitar)
No NES For The Wicked (Vomitron)
Best Fan Arrange Album (Eastern)
|Winner:||UMEMOTO ~He Lives Here~ (WOODSOFT)|
|1st Runner-Up:||FF VIOLIN II -FINAL FANTASTIC VIOLIN 2- (TAMUSIC)|
|2nd Runner-Up:||Kinoko Sanmai!! (Mackerel Sky)|
While 2011 was a fantastic year for videogame music, the industry also suffered one of its greatest losses with the passing of Ryu Umemoto, the man who revolutionized the way music was used and presented in the visual novel genre. WOODSOFT’s Umemoto ~He Lives Here~ is not only the winner because of being a tribute to a great friend, but because it is a great retrofitted arrangement album that uses incredible source material and arranges it with care and attention, making it one of the year’s most enjoyable releases. Tight on its heels is TAMusic’s follow up to FF Violin, using his string mastery in cooperation with Zephyr Cradle amongst others to create a fresh take on very familiar tunes from the Final Fantasy series, and Kinoko Sanmai!! which is a fun and cheerful tribute to Hudson legend Takeaki Kunimoto and his works.
CHRONO TRIGGER ~Saihate no Kanade~ (earth Japan SOFT)
North Wind (Magical Trick Society)
Best Official Arrange Album
|Winner:||NieR Tribute Album -echo-|
|1st Runner-Up:||SQ Chips|
|2nd Runner-Up:||Hideki Sakamoto Orchestral Works|
This was hands-down the most difficult category to vote on this year, which is hard to believe given the competition in the Soundtrack of the Year category. There were so many great arrange albums, but NieR Tribute Album -echo- definitely got a lot of attention from fans and the editors here at OSV. Although the Muramasa arrange album was my personal number one pick, the NieR album showed up on everyone’s list, which rarely ever happens given the eclectic tastes of the staff. That just goes to show that the album had something for everyone.
SQ Chips was also very impressive, and is most of our favorite SQ albums to date. Many wondered by Cafe SQ didn’t make the cut, but SQ Chips was just so much better and cohesive than any other SQ album to date. As far as Hideki Sakamoto Orchestral Works is concerned, everything this man write’s is gold, and my only regret is that I couldn’t see the live concert in person that this album commemorates. His work from echochrome is phenomenal, and Sakamoto and orchestral music fans need to check this easily overlooked album out.
Oboromuramasa Ongakushuu Hensou no Maku
The Legend of Zelda 25th Anniversary Special Orchestra CD
Best Live Concert
|Winner:||Symphonic Odysseys (Team Merregnon)|
|1st Runner-Up:||The Legend of Zelda 25th Anniversary Symphony (JMP Productions)|
|2nd Runner-Up:||Back to the Future: Two Generations of Film and Video Game Composers (VGO)|
I’ve already heaped tons of praise of the Symphonic concert series in my review of the album. I don’t think this one winning in this category is any surprise given just how amazing the performance was, not to mention that it was available for live feed around the world. I was a bit wary of an entire concert dedicated to Nobuo Uematsu given that it had already been done with concerts like Dear Friends and the like, but Symphonic Odysseys was the real deal, creating a truly symphonic experience with Uematsu’s classic scores.
The Legend of Zelda 25th Anniversary Symphony concerts were also something I’ll always remember. JMP Productions really stepped up and did some great work on this one with everything from the classics to new interpretative symphonic movements, offering something to please everyone who attended. Plus, it was stunning to see Nintendo’s support of such an event given their track record on game music.
While the Video Game Orchestra (VGO) is our own Shota Nakama’s baby, we all had to recognize his hard work and dedication to the group who are rapidly gaining momentum. In fact, they’ll be the orchestra responsible for an upcoming Distant Worlds performance, which is huge news. The group has really taken the whole variety show format and taken it to an all new level with clever arrangements and a group of passionate performers.
Best “Other” Release
|Winner:||Tree of Knowledge (yogurtbox)|
|1st Runner-Up:||IMERUAT (IMERUAT)|
|2nd Runner-Up:||Songs for the Cure ’11: Remedy (V.A.)|
This is always another difficult category in that it encompasses so much music that is so different in style. We had a lot of great nominees this year, but it Tree of Knowledge was at the top of everyone’s list. Yogurtbox impressed everyone with their original eroge title soundtrack for an eroge title that never actually existed! A clever idea, and I can’t wait to hear more from yogurtbox in the future.
IMERUAT, despite being a very short release (three tracks), blew everyone away as a collaboration between Masashi Hamauzu and his MONOMUSIK partner, Mina. Since the release of the EP, the duo have taken to the stage, performing in multiple locations, and I can’t wait to hear a full-length album from the group. Songs for the Cure ’11 was also very impressive this year, breaking out into three separate albums, with Remedy being the real highlight for us. It featured most of the “game people” as Joshua Whelchel put it, and I still can’t get over Battlecake’s “Rainbow Road to the Moon” track.
Best Chip Music Release
|Winner:||Beautiful Lifestyle (George & Jonathan)|
|1st Runner-Up:||Roots (Danimal Cannon)|
|2nd Runner-Up:||Equilibrium (V.A.)|
Like the indie game soundtracks below, the number and quality of chip music releases seems to grow at an increasingly accelerated rate as the years go on. 2011 was especially riddled with great selections, but in the end we simply couldn’t resist the newest .mod tracker-style party jams from lo-fi funk duo George & Jonathan. Beautiful Lifestyle is a deliciously fun and goofy curve-ball amid a trend of darker, moodier music that has been coming from the chip scene as of late, and it’s not hard to see why so many from within and without the scene have been equally smitten with their quirky, unique style.
It felt almost criminal to not be able to include more from the seemingly endless list of solid chip releases this year. Fortunately, we were also able to give honors to artists like the inimitable Danimal Cannon, whose debut album Roots totally floored everyone with its intense and varied prog-metal stylings, as well as the crew responsible for Ubiktune’s Equilibrium chiptune collab album. Definitely make sure to give all of this year’s nominations a good listen!
Cheap Dinosaurs (Cheap Dinosaurs)
SOUNDSHOCK: FM FUNK MADDNESS!! (V.A.)
The Octagon (Jonathan Baken)
Best Indie Game Soundtrack
|2nd Runner-Up:||Sword & Sworcery|
The indie game movement continues to grow, to a point where it’s likely reached market saturation. Among the OSV staff, we had dozens of personal favorite games and soundtracks that fit comfortably in the “indie category.” At the end of the day, though, Darren Korb’s soundtrack for Bastion simply had to have top honors. The gritty blues-guitar and powerful vocal themes enriched our 2011 listening experiences, no question. Jamestown comes in a close second for its epic, sweeping synth orchestra tracks that somehow manage to rival its more electronic shmup peers (see: all CAVE soundtracks). In third place (and I know some people are going to punch us in the mouth for not giving it a better spot) is Jim Guthrie’s amazing music for the art/adventure game Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery EP. Congrats to the winners and the nominees in this category: it was tough competition in 2011, no doubt about it!
Cthulhu Saves The World
Ravenmark: Scourge of Estellion
Best Sound Design
|1st Runner-Up:||Batman: Arkham City|
|2nd Runner-Up:||Dead Space 2|
Featuring two of the best voice-acting performances of all-time in GlaDOS and Wheatley, Portal 2 did the impossible: it created a wonderful sequel to a perfect experience. The mystery created by the ambient noise of the bowels of a near-abandoned facility propelled us through an intriguing, scary, and hilarious story. From large radiating fans to gliding over new kinds of surfaces created by an enhanced portal device, Portal 2‘s sound design and voice acting became a believable and – most importantly – integral part of the problem-solving nature of the experience. In doing so, Portal 2 turned an adorable puzzle mechanic into a fully realized game that could stand shoulder to shoulder with its immortal predecessor.
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
Best In-Game Soundtrack
|Winner:||Deus Ex: Human Revolution|
|1st Runner-Up:||Dark Souls|
|2nd Runner-Up:||Child of Eden|
Deus Ex: Human Revolution combined Phillip K. Dick-inspired philosophical questions related to genetic enhancement in humans in a backdrop of military and corporate intrigue. The soundtrack thunders along with your rifle as it needs to and remains subdued when you choose to sabotage your targets in a more inconspicuous way. In my review, I made comparisons to the recent Daft Punk contribution on the newer TRON release. There is no doubt there are similar attitudes and instrumentation, but more of a good thing is more than often welcome, and Deus Ex: Human Revolution puts its own spin on the electronic offering to make it shine on its own. A fantastic score highlighted by different moods and ambiance depending on your situation, this soundtrack succeeds mightily and faced very stiff competition. Perhaps we have proven that a little genetic enhancement can go a long way…
Soundtrack of the Year
|Winner:||Final Fantasy XIII-2|
|1st Runner-Up:||Deus Ex: Human Revolution|
|2nd Runner-Up:||Rayman Origins|
The big surprise story from 2011 isn’t that the Final Fantasy XIII-2 soundtrack was amazing. It was that much of that amazing music came from Naoshi Mizuta, who (until now) was thought of as the Square Enix Music underdog. But his work, alongside Masashi Hamauzu and Mitsuto Suzuki, etched out a special place in our hearts. The recurring use of Noel’s Theme throughout the soundtrack (especially “Run” on the first disc) pushed this OST to overall top spot in 2011.
Right behind that, easily the top Western soundtrack in the last year, is Michael McCann’s Deus Ex: Human Revolution soundtrack. The game itself exceeded many expectations; the soundtrack, even moreso. Just listen to that opening theme, and you’ll be sucked in for the span of the entire soundtrack.
As for third place, we had to give props to the bountiful, bubbly soundtrack from Christophe Héral and Billy Martin. Rayman Origins has the kind of soundtrack that reminds you to smile. Don’t believe us? Just listen to this. If it doesn’t cheer you up, you might want to see a doctor.Features, OSVOSTOTY, OSVOSTOTY 2011, Site News