Chip Music, Featured, Indie Music, Reviews

The Glory Days (Review)

February 24, 2014 | | Comment? Share thison Facebook The Glory Days (Review)on Twitter

With the help of Kickstarter, another chiptune album has been brought into existence. Most people probably know Jimmy Hinson (a.k.a Big Giant Circles) and his music from games like Mass Effect 2 and Call of Duty Black Ops 2. It might surprise some people that in addition to the game music he writes, he also composes chiptunes. This latest album, The Glory Days, is a new collection of original pieces written by Hinson. The Glory Days was funded through a very successful Kickstarter campaign that far exceeded its original goal. Not only did the Kickstarter hit the goal of $5,000, but every single stretch goal was met as well. The Kickstarter receiving over $60,000 in pledges, allowing Big Giant Circles to hire several remixers and fellow game composers to help construct an extra remix album for release at a later date.

The Glory Days is a sequel to Hinson’s first album of original music, Impostor Nostalgia. This original album was a collection of music written by Hinson and featured several music remixers and composers. The concept behind Impostor Nostalgia was that while the music mimicked the sound and energy of chiptunes from older videogames, the music itself was original work that was never featured in any game, past or present. It was a cool experiment and generated some excellent new tunes. This time around, Hinson is flying solo with this sequel album, The Glory Days. Like the first album, this one aims to celebrate the sound of older game tunes while enhancing it with modern synth and electronic sounds that weren’t available years ago. Does Big Giant Circles pull this off on this second solo album? Read more to find out.

True to the original premise, The Glory Days nails a sweet spot of that nostalgic chiptune sound blended with modern electronic music. Throughout a majority of the album, the music maintains a steady upbeat dance pulse. Some have a more modern electronic dance vibe to them, like “No Party Like a Mojang Party,” while others go for a more old-school sound, like “Biceps Blaster.” There are a handful of pieces that have a more relaxed and mellow quality to them, like “A Rose in a Field.” There’s even a piece that uses a number of acoustic instruments. The track “Artifact Hunter,” for example, features tribal drums and guitar mixed with the synthesizer elements. Part of what makes the album interesting is that it could really pass as a soundtrack from an unknown videogame. The music stays true to its videogame roots while still being able to stand alone on its own merits.

Several, if not all, tracks on The Glory Days are dedicated or associated with someone that Hinson knows. For instance, “Sevcon” is a nod to Twitch TV caster Sevadus and music artist Zircon. Likewise, “The Trials of MAN” is a reference to another Twitch TV broadcaster and avid videogame music fan MANvsGAME. A number of other tracks are associated with game music artists including “Chip Zeal” (Chipzel), “Wintory Fresh” (Austin Wintory), and “Viceroy Danny Von B” (Danny Baranowsky). You can hear in the “Chip Zeal” and “Viceroy Danny Von B” tracks that Hinson is imitating the writing styles of the referenced artists. “Chip Zeal” has a heavier use of older chiptune sounds, including noise channel percussion, and “Viceroy Danny Von B” contains a hint of Danny Baranowsky’s dramatic flair, complete with choir and rock drum beats. If there’s any reference to Austin Wintory that Hinson is making in the “Wintory Fresh” track I haven’t discovered it yet. Perhaps that will require more digging. There are plenty of other easter eggs in the album and it’s fun spending time trying to find them all.

Another interesting feature on The Glory Days album is the inclusion of loopable bonus tracks. Hinson chose 11 of the tracks from the album and adjusted them so you could set them on loop as if they were tracks from the stages of an old-school videogame. The tracks work well for their intended purpose, although it can be a little jarring if you leave the tracks to play one after the other un-looped. It’s a good selection of tracks and they are a nice feature to include on the album.

If there’s any weakness in the album, it’s that some of the tracks start to blur into each other after awhile. Because a lot of the tracks maintain that upbeat chiptune sound throughout the album’s run, the music eventually started to lose my attention. I found my mind wandering during some of the listening sessions, but I was always drawn back in by the entrance of the next track or a sudden change in the music. I don’t necessarily think this is an issue with a lack of variety. As I mentioned, there are a number of tracks that change up the pacing a little and each of the tracks does have its own unique vibe. It might be that the album just runs a little too long for my listening tastes. I found this to be less of a problem on repeat listens, so if anything it’s a minor issue on an overall excellent listening experience.

The Glory Days is an album that accomplishes what it sets out to do. Jimmy Hinson has once again created a collection of music that harkens back to the game music of our childhoods while simultaneously elevating the chiptune genre with newer electronic sounds. It’s a worthy sequel to Impostor Nostalgia and continues to carry on the first album’s legacy. A great work from beginning to end. Any fan of game music or chiptunes will thoroughly enjoy this album. Jimmy Hinson’s The Glory Days can be purchased on Bandcamp and iTunes. If you haven’t already, be sure to check out the first Impostor Nostalgia album, which is also available on Bandcamp, and iTunes.

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