I’ve only been with OSV for six months but it has unquestionably dragged me into a larger world of game music. Releases I might have tuned out, I dug into. Albums I’d have glanced over, I fixated on. Most of the news and reviews I wrote in 2015 exposed me to something new and I’m looking forward to seeing what other newness comes my way in 2016!
That said, some of my choices for OSVOSTOTY were foregone conclusions from the beginning of the year. But I promise the winners, runners up and special mentions inside probably aren’t (totally) what you’re expecting.
Game Soundtrack of the Year: Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain
By: Ludvig Forssell, Justin Burnett, Harry Gregson-Williams, Daniel James, Rina Yugi, Steve Henifin (Kojima Productions)
If you still love listening to a soundtrack after spending 200+ hours with it, you know it’s something special! While the storyline of MGSV may be all over the place, the music — from original score to mood-setting ambiance to licensed 80’s pop songs — holds true to the game’s themes of pain and revenge. Even the licensed tracks used only in trailers leading up to its release stick to the overall vibe of the game.
It’s dark, brooding stuff but there’s a stunning combination of emotions to be found in the grinding synthwave score. Both theme songs, “The Sins of the Father” and “V Has Come To”, feel agonizing and empowering at the same time. Though there are lighter songs to be found in the game’s collectible cassette tapes they, too, retain the same feel either through their design or lyrics. Even when I wasn’t playing the game I was still listening to this stuff while poring over crazy theories on reddit and researching characters on wikis. I even went to the trouble of recording some of the in-game music myself because it isn’t on the official soundtrack. It’s that good.
Runner Up: Minna de Spelunker Z/Spelunker World
By: Ken-ichiro Iwasaki, Maro Miyakawa
I don’t know how many hours I spent with Spelunker in 2015 but I kept up with the Japanese and U.S. versions almost every single day from April on. It’s a peculiar combo of punishing retro platforming and modern, free-to-play design that I can’t seem to get enough of. As such the infectiously catchy music has been in my head all year long and I love and hate and LOVE it!
Most tunes put a stylized spin on the classic NES Spelunker theme while monthly collaborations feature new musical tie-ins to Seiken Densetsu, Atlantis no Nazo and more. Here’s a quick look I did of the U.S. version of the game that features some of the music.
The firefighting roguelike, Flame Over, launched early in the year and it was the music that eased the frustrations of perma-death. It’s repetitive but oh-so-catchy and I love the way it evolves with each new stage. I still haven’t gotten to play much of Horizon Chase to hear more of Barry Leitch’s excellent soundtrack but it looks like it’ll be coming to a TV screen soon enough. Finally is Massive Chalice, driven largely by minimal string and piano melodies, the music is a somber companion for a game that spans lifetimes of turmoil. The game and it’s music were both a wonderful surprise.
Artist/Composer of the Year: Justin Burnett (Music By), Ludvig Forssell (Lead Composer), Harry Gregson-Williams (Music Producer)
For Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain
Is it ok to award this distinction to multiple people or even an entire music team? There are nearly a dozen names credited to the music in Metal Gear Solid V but Justin, Ludvig and Harry’s names appear nearly as often as Hideo Kojima’s so they get the honor. With so many individuals involved it’s even more impressive to hear Metal Gear Solid V’s cohesive sound. It was ultimately these three guys who designed, controlled and (most importantly) composed that sound.
Runner Up: Mike Ault for Rocket League
This music came along and saved my life during some pretty dark times and for that alone it earns my admiration. It’s also a fantastic bunch of pumpin’ EDM anthems perfect for driving rocket-powered battle-cars or your own unleaded-fueled mid-size sedan. Ault wrangled a handful of different vocalists and collaborators across the game’s 11 initial tracks and has added more to the game since launch.
I had to squeeze PONCHO in here somewhere! Jack Odell’s lo-fi soundtrack adds so much to PONCHO’s magic. From the powerful bitcrushed dirge of the final chapter to the lonely-yet-plucky synth themes of the wilderness stages, there’s a wonderful rhythmic vibe driving you through its post-apocalyptic machine world.
Arrangement Album of the Year: V-Jams by V-Jams
V-Jams’ style hit me so hard back in August that it made me feel like a video game music virgin; as if no one had ever rearranged a video game tune before. It’s not because V-Jams’ renditions are ultra-authentic to the source material, far from it. V-Jams pushes familiar themes to the edge of recognizability and then noodles over them with amazing jazzy style as the minutes unravel. There’s also a bit of mystery around the collective which I’m eager to see revealed in 2016 because it means more of this astounding music won’t be far behind!
Runner Up: DJ Cutman, Volume III
While I love the wildest deconstructions of music I also appreciate the simple art of adding fat beats. It really was that simple on Cutman’s earliest works but for 2015’s Volume III there’s a lot more going on. Chopped and looped with layers of fresh drums and beats, he’s reinvigorated some of my favorites and introduced me to so many new soundtracks. Volume III is simply his most polished and professional work yet and well worth checking out.
Tags: 2015, Arrangements, Awards, Featured, Features, OSVOSTOTY, Soundtrack of the Year, Soundtracks
Shiryu’s chiptune compilation to mark the 20th anniversary of the PlayStation, PSXX, was a fun surprise. I really liked hearing Ridge Racer, Tomb Raider, Tenchu and other flagship PlayStation themes reverted back to 8 and 16-bit styles given that they were at the forefront of video game music in the mid-90’s.