It’s the end of 2015 and with that revelation, I’ve decided to go through and list some of my favorites of the year starting with music! For long time subscribers to the blog, you’ll know that I have done a weekly blog for music that is inspirational to writers. It’s most often music that I’ve found from video game soundtracks or ambient/instrumental composers. This year, I wanted to list my top five favorites that I’ve listened to while writing. (Note: these are my personal choices and they’ve all been released in 2015. If it wasn’t released this year, it doesn’t make the list!)
#10: Dying Light Original Soundtrack by Pawel Blaszczak
Why: As a big fan of Blaszczak’s soundtracks for “Dead Island” and its sequel, I was extremely excited to hear what he’d be doing with “Dying Light”. The soundtrack for “Dying Light” is a perfect mixture of thoughtful isolation, of tension and terror. It differs from the Dead Island soundtracks by incorporating a bit more synthesizer into it, making it feel a bit more technical and almost CSI-like. Several of the tracks were very similar which doesn’t lead to much variety. Thing is: that consistency makes it a PERFECT soundtrack to listen to while working on any police procedural, detective story, or crime drama. It’s also great for any urban paranormal stories you might be working on. Track picks: Horizon, Invitation, Demolition, Now They Are Coming, Praise the Sunlight, Breakdown
#9: King’s Quest Chapter 1: A Knight to Remember Soundtrack by Ben and David Stanton
Why: Call it magical and fun and sometimes, downright goofy. It’s heartwarming, and uplifting and probably one of my favorite soundtracks just because it puts me in the mood to write about fun adventures. Most of all, I love the fact that each track feels unexpected and unique. Granted, it fits the scenes in the game very specifically and might be difficult to adapt to a scene you’re writing. But, maybe it could inspire you, too, if you don’t know what to write next! Track picks: The Adventure Begins, Graham’s Theme, Boy in the Flower, A Watercolored Forest, The Snarling Bush
#8: Life is Strange Soundtrack by Various Artists
Why: This is the only entry on my top 10 list that isn’t entirely comprised of instrumental music. The Life Is Strange Soundtrack is responsible for introducing me (or re-introducing) me to two of my favorite musicians now; Jose Gonzales (who provides the song “Crosses” for the soundtrack) and Alt-J (who sing “Something Good”). Life Is Strange was an endearing and charming game, with a soundtrack that I really enjoyed. Most of the songs are indie, starting off slow and building in intensity. I’ve listened to these songs a lot while brainstorming the sequel to my travel comedy “Night Time, Dotted Line”. That book requires a softer soundtrack, something obviously not as dark and nerve-wracking as my usual choice of music for The Monstrum Chronicles. Track picks: Crosses by Jose Gonzales, Something Good by alt-J, Mt. Washington by Local Natives, Mountains by Message to Bears, The Sense of Me by Mudflow
#7: Until Dawn Soundtrack by Jason Graves and Jeff Grace
Why: This game surprised me with how scary it actually was. It actually made me sleep with the lights on one night. Jason Graves (who is the mastermind behind the soundtrack for the reboot of “Tomb Raider”) won me over with the creepy soundtrack for “Until Dawn”. It’s very chilling, the kind that puts you on the edge of your seat when you listen to it. There’s a feeling like there’s always something around the next corner, something that you dread to see or hear, that keeps the hairs on your arms standing. While the majority of the music makes one feel unsettled and nervous, there are several tracks that stand alone. My personal favorite is “Mike and Jessica” which implies a romanticism and delicacy that existed with each character separately in the game (together, they were a typical horror film teen cliche). I enjoy the overall tension and mood that the soundtrack evokes, fantastic for writing your own horror stories. Track picks: What Could Possibly Go Wrong; You Go, Girl; Run or Hide; Mike and Jessica; The Intemprence of Youth
#6: Undertale Soundtrack by Toby “Radiation” Fox
Why: Some of the most addictive songs I’ve listened to this year are from the Undertale Soundtrack. The other two are from games that were released in 2014 (but would be on here if not for the rules!). There were a staggering number of songs on the Undertale Soundtrack and all of them were pretty perfect. The lighthearted indie game that took many by surprise gave me not only some fun and funky songs to listen to while working on marketing things, but also some beautiful lonely tracks that worked wonderfully with story ideas I wanted to flesh out. While Undertale isn’t something I always listen to while writing, it is a FANTASTIC soundtrack to groove to while doing other writerly things. You feel like you can focus and the energy that each song gives off can carry you through even the most difficult of tasks (even the dreaded formatting…) Track picks: Fallen, Ruins, Uwa!! So Temperate, Home, HEARTACHE, Bonetrousle, Premonition, Waterfall, Temmie Village, NGAHHH!!, Metal Crusher, Another Medium
#5: Bloodborne Soundtrack by Yuka Kitamura, Tsukasa Saitoh, and Nobuyoshi Suzuki
Why: This is easily a perfect fit to write “Monstrum Chronicles” to. Bloodborne has an impressive collection of pieces ranging from the grandiose orchestral to the melancholic choral, and the terrifying oppressive bass pieces that make you feel as though you’ve been truly transported to another world. When I want to write about the Erebus (the dark realm where the lilitu rule in The Monstrum Chronicles), the Bloodborne soundtrack is often the first place I’ll go to listen and get into the scene. It’s easy to believe that the music is born from a place where anything is possible, where darkness manifests the most abhorrent things. Track picks: The Hunter’s Dream, Hail the Nightmare, Moonlit Melody, Ebrietas Daughter of the Cosmos, Lullaby for Mergo, The First Hunter, Menu Theme
#4: Tormentum Soundtrack by Various Artists
Why: This is really the most mysterious of the bunch because I don’t know who composed the soundtrack. What I do know is that it’s a collection of stock music which means that an official soundtrack for the game will likely be out of the question. But no matter. This has easily been one of my most listened to soundtracks this year. Tormentum’s gritty and depressing story is complimented by the dark undertones of the music, the haunting and contemplative pieces, and what sometimes sounds like eerie choral music in the background. I have no inhibitions stating that this is one of my favorite ambient soundtracks to date. I’ve listened to a number of these pieces while working on my apocalyptic ghost book “The Wild Dark”. If you want to hear the entire unofficial soundtrack, you can find it here on youtube! Track picks: ALL OF THEM!
#3: SOMA Soundtrack by Mikko Tarmia
Why: This is the best parts of the “Tormentum” and “Bloodborne” soundtracks combined! There are thoughtful, poignant tracks mixed with the dark and desolate pieces. They make you feel as though you are scouring an empty ocean abyss, wrapped in darkness and unaware of the dangers that surround you. There are pieces that reminded me very much of Tarmia’s Amnesia: The Dark Descent soundtrack and instantly made me feel that same dread that I encountered while playing the game. There’s a game-long topic about what makes someone truly human and certain pieces of the soundtrack work into this theme very nicely. I’m often getting inside the heads of my lilitu characters in the Monstrum Chronicles, creatures who have left (in essence) their humanity behind them and are trying to deal with the monsters they’ve become. There’s a bit more ambiance and freedom in the SOMA soundtrack than in “Bloodborne”‘s very symphonic and gothic soundtrack, so I’m able to lose myself in it a bit easier. Track picks: Menu Music, In Subway, Inside Omicron, Going Down, Abyss, Ark, Canyon
#2: Ori and the Blind Forest Soundtrack by Gareth Coker
Why: In very much the same way I fell in love with the soundtrack to “Journey” years ago, so too did I fall in love with “Ori and the Blind Forest”. This is a touching and beautiful game and the music compliments its lightness and serenity and magic perfectly. “Ori” isn’t as much of a soundtrack for The Monstrum Chronicles, but here and there, there are tracks that fit into some of my eerie dark fiction. There are also certain tracks that compliment the sequel to “Night Time, Dotted Line” very well. There is a cohesiveness to this soundtrack that seems seamless to me. Each track blends into the next with very little differentiation. I like soundtracks where I can lose myself in them and enjoy the music without having to skip around too much to find the right mood. Track picks: Calling Out; Inspiriting; Kuro’s Tale I – Her Rage; Down the Moon Grotto; Restoring the Light, Facing the Dark; Escaping the Ruins; Riding the Wind; Mount Horu; Light of Nibel
#1: Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture Soundtrack by Jessica Curry
Why: I am one of those people that repeatedly goes back to the soundtrack for “Dear Esther” and listens to it no matter what I do. The brilliant Jessica Curry was responsible for scoring that game years ago and here she is again with another soundtrack that is brimming with beauty. As I’ve renewed working on “The Wild Dark” and begun work on “Phasma: Book 4 of the Monstrum Chronicles”, I’ve listened to “Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture” for both. There’s a quality about this soundtrack that makes it the most cinematic, and easily my favorite of this years’ soundtracks. It reminds me of some of my favorite film scores, from “The DaVinci Code” to “The Village”. There’s not one track from this soundtrack that I don’t love. It’s why I can’t pick any particular tracks as favorites; they’re ALL my favorites. I’m looking forward to many more months in the company of my word processor and Curry’s gorgeous soundtrack.
Sylvio Game Soundtrack by Trad
Why: “Sylvio” caught me by surprise. I found the concept of the game unique and interesting in that you have to find and interpret messages from the beyond as the main gameplay. It was genuinely haunting and one particular song from it stayed with me long after I’d finished with the game. It plays while Juliet is driving her car through the red mist in the park, following the crows to their destinations. I’m assuming the track title is “Crow Points”. I didn’t put Sylvio in my list of top 10 because there wasn’t enough music that really inspired me beyond that track. I am, however, going to urge you to check it out for yourselves. I think you’ll become enamored with it in the same way that I was. There’s also a sequel (Sylvio 2) currently in development that could still use some backing on Kickstarter! One of the rewards includes a soundtrack which I’m sure will be just as enigmatic and quirky as the first game’s. Click here to go check out the page and to donate!
With that, goodbye 2015…