From chip-tunes, EPs, and a comeback record, to instrumentals and a Grammy nod; this year’s best music came from very odd places.
1. Austin Wintory – “Journey [OST]“
Whether you have had the opportunity to experience thatgamecompany’s “Journey” (IGN’s Playstation 3 Game of the Year 2012) or not, it is hard not to appreciate the depth of this album. Heavily focused around strings and woodwinds, this album will sweep you away.
The album’s clear and bold themes span from the warm and light “Threshold” and “The Road of Trials” to the dark and brooding “Descent” and “Nadir.” This allows the listener to bear the weight and perseverance of the game’s robed protagonist, only to transcend during the album’s climax and highlight “Apotheosis.”
What is more, this is the first video game soundtrack to be nominated for a Grammy. Up against the likes of John Williams (The Adventures of Tintin), Howard Shore (Hugo), Ludovic Bource (The Artist), Hans Zimmer (The Dark Knight Rises), and Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo); Austin Wintory is the clear underdog for the the Best Score Soundtrack for Visual Media Grammy.
It is extremely difficult to express the effect this soundtrack has had on my being. Hands down, this is the most gorgeous piece of music I have been graced with in 2012.
Stand-out Track: “Apotheosis”
For Fans Of: Clint Mansell’s “The Fountain” score, enlightenment, love
2. Infinity Shred – “EP 001 (Gnar Dream)“
Not to stray away to terribly far from video game soundtracks, Infinity Shred (formerly Starscream) challenged what we know of the post-hardcore genre.
Overlaying driving guitars and drums with layers and layers of spacey, delay soaked electronic blips and beeps, Infinity Shred have defined a new standard for post-hardcore-chip-tunes.
The obvious standout track and single “Wayfinder” showcases all of Infinity Shred’s best offerings, included a chugging double-kick-drum climax.
This album is surely the music of epic space battles to come.
Stand-out Track: “Wayfinder”
For Fans Of: Sci-Fi, Anamanaguchi, TRON
3. Andrew Bird – “Hands of Glory EP“
From landing a spot on Muppets: The Green Album to utilizing his incredible whistling chops during The Muppets “Whistling Caruso” to releasing the brand new full-length album “Break It Yourself” to contributing the album closer “Auld Lang Syne” to 2012’s Holidays Rule compilation, the past two years have been amazing for Andrew Bird.
However, his greatest gift comes in the smallest of packages; an EP.
Unlike the seemingly improvised “Break It Yourself” full-length, the “Hands of Glory EP” shared a more roots-centric, alt-country, and accessible experience. At just 8 tracks, this EP is all anyone could want from Andrew’s whimsical whistling and striking violin.
Even with all of his recent success, after listening to this EP, you will wonder why Andrew isn’t even bigger!
Stand-out Track: “Three White Horses”
4. Knife City – “Knife City EP“
“… loud dance music using game boys…”
Feeling like I had just been sucked into the video game Contra, this chip-tune EP served as my primary jogging album of 2012. knife city weaves in and out of heavy dance to jarring dub-step (as showcased with one of the greatest drops of all time in “slam dunk lifestyle“) with ease, providing more energy than any other album this year.
Stand-out Track: “slam dunk lifestyle”
5. The Shins – “Port of Marrow“
The Shins, now featuring James Mercer as the only original member backed by an indie super-group, have stormed back onto the scene with “Port of Marrow.” While a little more polished than previous Shins records, “Port of Morrow” blends all that we love of The Shins with more of a straight-forward pop approach.
The inclusion of indie producer and multi-instrumentalist Richard Swift, Modest Mouse drummer Joe Plummer, and super-shredder Jessica Dobson provide a range of sweeping sounds behind Mercer’s slick and innocent vocals.
With production value at an all-time high, slew of new players, a plethora of guitar flurries, bouncing bass-lines, and quirky electronics, it is far from The Shins that Natalie Portman introduced us too. At first glance, that will frighten most. However, like most things, change is good. This is a fresh start for The Shins and a fresh sound for our ears!
Stand-out Tracks: “Bait And Switch” / “40 Mark Strasse”