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OSVOSTOTY 2014 – Michael’s Picks

January 3, 2015 | | Comment? Share thison Facebook OSVOSTOTY 2014 – Michael’s Pickson Twitter

The year 2014 has come and gone. There were a lot of great soundtracks, arrange albums, and remix albums that came out this past year. Patrick and Brenna have already given their nods to some of the excellent music, composers, and artists of 2014, and now it’s my turn. As with the previous writer picks, the format is shortened for this year, with each category receiving a winner and a runner-up. As a reminder, here are the categories for the 2014 OSVOSTOTY (Original Sound Version Original Soundtrack of the Year):

Soundtrack Album of the Year:

Artist/Composer of the Year:

Arrangement Album of the Year:

Special Mention(s):

Soundtrack Album of the Year: Shovel Knight

Jake Kaufman’s soundtrack to Shovel Knight feels like a long lost album from the NES era. Complete with catchy melodies, great themes, and old-school chiptune sounds, it’s a perfect fit to the amazing retro-platformer that I just couldn’t stop listening to. Kaufman not only wrote some amazing tunes for the game, he even kept himself limited to the same sounds of the original NES and the Konami VRC6 chip. If that wasn’t enough, the soundtrack also features a handful of pieces by Mega Man composer Manami Matsumae. An amazing album that everyone should check out.

Runner Up: The Banner Saga

There were two albums that I kept coming back to for repeated listening sessions. The first was the Shovel Knight OST and the second was Austin Wintory’s soundtrack to The Banner Saga. Haunting melodies, beautiful orchestration, and great vocals had me coming make this a spectacular soundtrack. The live recordings from the Dallas Winds and the various soloists featured on this album really enhance the power of Wintory’s music and had me coming back for more. An absolutely beautiful collection of orchestral music.

Score of the Year: Super Smash Brothers (Wii U/3DS)

The number of composers and arrangers for the music of the new Super Smash Brothers games is staggering. While a handful of pieces are ripped straight from the original soundtracks of some of the games, most are remixes or arrangements by some of the biggest names in Japan’s game music scene. Matoi Sakuraba, Yuzo Koshiro, Yoko Shimomura, and Machiru Yamane are just a few of the artists that contribute to the Super Smash Brothers score. The official soundtrack is set to hit the US next year, so for now it’s one of my top game scores for this year.

Runner Up: Crypt of the NecroDancer

It felt a little weird putting the score for an early access game on here, but it’s just impossible to ignore Danny Baranowsky’s awesome dance beats for Crypt of the NecroDancer. Like the game, the soundtrack is still being developed, but it’s already shaped up to be an awesome set of tunes. As always, Baranowsky knows how to create some of the most energetic and fast paced game music out there. It matches the gameplay perfectly and I’m always ready to go another round on the game, just to listen to the excellent score again. You can actually download the current soundtrack from Steam and receive updates as more music is added.

Artist/Composer of the Year: Jake “Virt” Kaufman

2014 was a busy year for Jake Kaufman. This past year he’s written music for Shovel Knight, Shantae and the Pirate’s Curse, Vanguard V, Wonder Momo: Typhoon Booster, and Boot Hill Hero’s Part One. Not only has he been producing a lot of content, but it’s also all been high quality material. Towards the end of this year, he even began a Patreon page to help shift his focus onto other crazy music projects that wants to really get into. He’s planning on starting up educational projects as well as solo music projects in addition to all of the soundtrack projects that he’s working on. All and all, a very prolific artist with some great content to offer.

Runner Up: Jimmy Hinson

Jimmy “Big Giant Circles” Hinson is another composer who made some of my favorite music from 2014. Earlier that year saw the sequel to his original album Imposter Nostalgia in the form of The Glory Days. The Kickstarter backed album included a ton of extras, including loopable tracks and an eventual separate remix album of The Glory Days. He also wrote the soundtrack to Threes, one of my favorite mobile games, and mobile game soundtracks, this year. Both The Glory Days and the Threes OST didn’t make it into my other picks on the list for this year, but they are fantastic albums none the less. I’m really looking forward to hearing what he’ll come up with in 2015.

Arrange Albums of the Year: Prescription for Sleep: Game Music Lullabies

For full disclosure: Jayson Napolitano, an OSV founder, runs Scarlet Moon Records, the company behind this album. Prescription for Sleep surprised the hell out of me. I’m so accustomed to hearing arrange albums that focus on the more upbeat or dramatic selections from games that it was a genuinely refreshing to hear an album that focussed on calm and mellow game music. These saxophone and piano duets are some of the most beautiful arrangements I’ve heard of these game tunes. There are some familiar pieces like “Aquatic Ambiance” from Donkey Kong Country, but the album also highlights lesser known pieces like “Maiden in Black” from Demon’s Souls. There’s not one bad arrangement on this entire album and I’ve often enjoyed listening to these arrangements to help me unwind. Prescription for Sleep: Game Music Lullabies easily makes my number one pick for arrange album of 2014.

Runner Up: MMMMMM

Jules Conroy is someone to keep your eye on in the game music world. This year he finished up a long running series of metal videogame music arrangements on his Youtube channel, concluding it with a massive 17 minute long medley showcasing the history of game music. He then went on to release MMMMMM, a complete metal re-imagining of Magnus Pålsson’s soundtrack to VVVVVV. Conroy didn’t just cover a selection of pieces from the OST, he covered the ENTIRE soundtrack. There’s even a way to import the metal cover versions into your copy of the game. His metal arrangements work perfectly with the source material and it was an experience that really impressed the metal fan in me.

Special Mentions:

1. “A Composer’s Guide to Game Music” by Winifred Phillips.

Patrick already gave Winifred Phillips a mention in his Special Mentions list this year, but I figure I’d give my own mention as well. Particularly for her new book “A Composer’s Guide to Game Music,” which I had the pleasure of reviewing this past year. There have been other books on game audio, but none of them have gone this far in depth on the process of actually composing and constructing music for games. Even as someone who has a music composition background, I found a wealth of insightful and helpful information on writing music for games in this book. “The Composer’s Guide to Game Music” is a must read for anyone looking to create music for games.

2. Game Music Documentaries: Diggin in the Karts, Beep: A History of Video Game Sound, and The Player’s Score.

2014 seemed to be the year of videogame music and audio documentaries. Diggin in the Carts, a series from Red Bull Music Academy, took a look at the musicians and composers from Japan who helped create the early music that we all know and love. The multi-episode feature interviewed artists and discussed the impact of composers like Yuzo Koshiro, Yoko Shimomura, and of course Nobuo Uematsu.

Meanwhile two separate documentaries launched Kickstarters and succeeded in receiving funding. Beep: A History of Video Game Sound will interview a wide range of composers and sound designers from around the globe. The documentary will cover the information on music, sound effects, and the process of getting it all into games.

The second Kickstarter documentary The Player’s Score will take a closer look at the cover bands, conventions, and cultural impact of game music in addition to talking with many of the composer’s themselves. It was great to see so much interest and support given to game music and audio in 2014. We’ll have to wait for these two new documentaries to come out, but it’s still great to see so much enthusiasm for them from the gaming community.

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