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OSVOSTOTY 2014 – Patrick’s Picks

December 31, 2014 | | Comment? Share thison Facebook OSVOSTOTY 2014 – Patrick’s Pickson Twitter
It’s almost the end of 2014, and that means it’s time for OSVOSTOTY (Original Sound Version Original Soundtrack of the Year, for those uninitiated) This year saw a lot of fantastic work come out, and since 2015 is right around the corner, we’ll shorten the usual format and have each writer list their picks of 2014 in the following categories:

Soundtrack Album of the Year:

Score of the Year:

Artist/Composer of the Year:

Arrangement Album of the Year:

Special Mention(s):

Soundtrack Album of the Year: Winner: The Banner Saga
At the time of its release, I thought to myself, “well, it’s not Journey, but it’s still pretty good.” Over time, it hasn’t so much grown on me, it’s more that I awoke to just how powerful the music was. And this, strangely (and sadly), all without having even played the game. It’s a soundtrack I keep turning to over and over, which is the hallmark of a great soundtrack. Cheers to Austin Wintory and the Dallas Winds!

Runner-up: Drag-on Dragoon 3 OST
While not quite as memorable as NieR’s soundtrack, Keiichi Okabe and the rest of MoNACA made some technically complex music, and it’s music that I come back to again and again. If this album had made more use of Emi Evans (only two songs, seriously?), it would’ve been the obvious winner.

Score of the Year: Winner: LittleBIGPlanet 3
Released in the tail end of the year, it seems that (like its predecessor) LBP3 won’t be getting an official soundtrack release. I pray I’m wrong. But even if I’m right, I can safely say that the enormous and varied score (including an award-winning track from Winifred Phillips and a solid new arrangement of the “Secret Garden” title theme) has quickly captured my imagination.

Runner-up: The Walking Dead: Season Two
The first season had a soundtrack release, so it’s possible a season two OST will still come about. Even if it does, though, it’s unlikely to contain every cue used in this powerful, interactive score. It would also be unlikely to include all of the incredible licensed music used for each episode’s end credits … namely, “The Salty Seas” by Devics (from episode four), which might be the single greatest song you’ve never heard.

Artist/Composer of the Year: Winner: Jeff Ball
While no one soundtrack made it in “favorite” territory for me this year (nor did the runner-up in my list), Jeff Ball did the following in the realm of VGM for 2014:- Composed the entire soundtracks for two fun indie games (Tiny Barbarian DX: Ruins of Xanadu, and Sneaky Sneaky)
– Performed violin for multiple tracks for the game Pixel Piracy
– Recorded the song “Grand Finale” for the indie game “Dungeonmans” alongside Laura Intravia and XPRTNovice
– Arranged track 3 on the excellent “Strike the Earth! Shovel Knight Arranged” album
– Arranged a wildly enjoyable track for the free album Super VG Christmas Party! He took the entirely-overlooked song “Phantoms” from Final Fantasy X, by Junya Nakano, and reworked it into his own song now entitled “Snow on Fallen Leaves.”
This guy has been putting out great contributions for years, but I’ve been especially pleased with his work in 2014. Thus, he gets the nod.

Runner-up: Atsushi Kitajoh
This man has really become a powerful force in the world of Shin Megami Tensei. This year he scored the entire soundtrack for the Persona/fighter crossover Persona 4: Arena Ultimax, and he wrote the majority of the music for the Etrian Odyssey style dungeon crawler for 3DS, Persona Q. For the amount of material alone he deserves SOME recognition. Listen to the music for yourself and I think you’ll agree he deserves this recognition all the more.

Arrangement Album of the Year: Winner: Re:Birth II -Sen- / “SaGa” BATTLE ARRANGE

Okay, that title is a mouthful. A surprise follow-up to the *other* Re:Birth II expanded from the Romancing SaGa trilogy to also include music from the Game Boy classic SaGa 2 Hihou Densetsu, as well as the PlayStation game SaGa Frontier (whose music has been woefully under-arranged by Square Enix, until now). Like the previous album, this is basically Kenji Ito working with Falcom’s JDK Band, so it shouldn’t come as any surprise that I adore it. I hope you do too, and if you haven’t heard it yet, go find a way, and then buy it!

Runner-up: Prescription for Sleep: Game Music Lullabies
Full/obvious disclosure: OSV founder Jayson Napolitano runs Scarlet Moon Records, and this is one of their albums. With that out of the way, let’s consider, what makes this album special? Well, it’s a gloriously soft arranged album, piano/sax duo (with composer Norihiko Hibino on sax!). The tracklist has NieR, Suikoden, Mario 64, Symphony of the Night, DKC, Oblivion, Secret of Mana, and more. The recording is raw, touched up just enough to enjoy the listen, but still allowing the key presses on the sax to go through, as though you were sitting on a couch between the two instrumentalists as they played their hearts out. This album is fantastic, a perfect “prescription” for insomniac gamers the world over.

Special Mention(s):

1. Shota Nakama, The Video Game Orchestra, and SoundtRec Boston
The Boston VGM scene went from nothing to almost everything for the east coast in the past five years, and it’s almost entirely due to the tireless efforts of Nakama-san and his VGO group. They’ve put on over a dozen incredible shows, many of which we’ve covered on this site. Now, they’ve gained recognition for what their orchestra can do, and for what they can do in a recording studio with both small and large instrumental groups. Lately, Square Enix has been taking advantage of their services, as we’ve heard in the Kingdom Hearts 2.5 HD Remix arrangements, as well as both of the recent Final Fantasy XV trailers that hit the Internet in the last three months. Whether that’s primarily the choice of Square Enix or Yoko Shimomura herself, I do not know, but I’m damned pleased about it in any case. It’ll be exciting to see just how much of the full FFXV score comes out of Boston!

2. Winifred Phillips & “A Composer’s Guide To Game Music
I just wrote at length about Ms. Phillips on our “Matron Maestras” series, but I have to emphasize this point. This accomplished composer wrote not just a book, but as it stands, THE book on composition for interactive electronic entertainment. The book covers such issues as looping, dynamic layering (especially with in-game cues), instrumentation, and a little bit on how a composer can navigate the complex and ever-changing landscape of the games industry. I don’t know if a Japanese equivalent to Ms. Phillips’ book exists, but if it does, no one bothered to translate it to English. So as far as I’m concerned, this is the definitive guide. You want to get started in writing music for games? This book might become your best friend.

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