Some of my co-workers and I have been sharing some of our favorite music, rating them, reviewing them and sharing those reviews with one another. I thought I’d share my thoughts on their suggestions (and their thoughts on mine) with you here.
Here’s how I rate things. If I give something one star, it means I don’t think it qualifies as music. Five stars mean I wish I wrote the thing. Most music for me is a three.
Aerosmith – Toys in the Attic (1975)
I guarantee everyone has heard Walk this Way and Sweet Emotion, even if they didn’t know they were by Aerosmith. This is another one of those albums I could listen to on vinyl. I don’t think I purchased this myself. I think this was a find in my uncle’s basement sometime when I was helping him move. And I kept it based on name recognition of those two songs alone.
One of the reasons I’ve never really liked Aerosmith is because it seems like all of their lyrics, when you actually look at them, are uncreatively about sex. All of them. Ok, maybe not all of them, but all of their hits and most of the rest, too.
Musically, I really like Adam’s Apple. It’s definitely blues-based hard rock. I’d usually say Aerosmith is the American version of The Rolling Stones, but not as good (which is saying something, because I’m not a huge fan of the Stones, either). But this song is really good. Musically. I’m still pretty sure the lyrics are about sex. I was really thrown off the first time I heard Big Ten Inch Record, because they stay really close to the original version of the song. Now, though, I think it’s great. Still full of double entendres, but it’s refreshingly different musically.
I had a really hard time with You See Me Crying. First, other than the backing orchestra they added in production, the song is boring. Well, the guitar solo’s okay, but I think it’s because the orchestra really helps it build. Next, when he’s singing the most sexual part of the song, he sounds like someone doing a Gollum impression before Andy Serkis taught us how to do it right. Which is all kinds of creepy.
Also, what’s the line in the chorus? “Honey what did ya done to your hair”? This is the
weakest link I mean worst song on the album. Others may have been forgettable, but at least they weren’t bad.
The highlight of the record is easily Sweet Emotion. I don’t know if they meant to, but the chorus makes me feel like I’m flying. I remember hearing this blaring in the speakers of the Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster at Disney World and thinking it was perfect. Apparently there are other songs that play, but I don’t remember them.
And I take back what I said earlier. I’m not sure Sweet Emotion song is about sex. I actually have no idea what that song’s about. I’ve never been a huge Aerosmith fan, but as a whole I do enjoy most of this record. As long as I’m not thinking too hard about the lyrics. 3/5
This week Chris went to a show and instead of sharing an album from the group, he thought he’d just share one song from each of the last three albums from the band.
The band is Little Dragon. They’re Swedish, but their singer is Japanese. Gratefully she sings in English. Not that I have a problem with other languages, but I prefer English.
Feather off 2009’s Machine Dreams
This is too bouncy for the sound they’re getting out of their keys and bass. I don’t really know what she’s singing about, but I like it. I’m not sure what I was supposed to expect from Little Dragon, but this was exactly not it. I probably wouldn’t buy this, but I’ll look into their other stuff. And I probably won’t skip past it if it comes up on a radio feed. 3/5
Shuffle a Dream off 2011’s Ritual Union
As much as the synths in Feather were ’80s-ish, this has something especially late ’80s about it. Very new wave synthpop. Even the vocal style is that kind of industrial sound you got out of the late ’80s. It’s relatively new, but it already feels dated. It’s a good tribute to the late ’80s. So good, it feels kinda unoriginal. Feather did a better job of not crossing that line. 2/5
Paris off 2014’s Nabuma Rubberband
If Shuffle a Dream was late ’80s, this is early ’90s. I’m not sure if it’s the synths or what, but it’s much dreamier than Shuffle a Dream, too. Yukimi Nagano, the singer for Little Dragon, said a lot of this album was influenced by Janet Jackson’s slower stuff, which Yukimi said made her feel like she was floating. Without hearing any specific Janet song, I totally see that influence on Paris.
I liked Feather, but I like this just a little more. 3/5
That earns Little Dragon a total of 8/15, or just better than 50% — except with only three songs, it’s hard to say that’ll hold true for their whole library of music.
Metroid soundtrack (1986)
Last week I shared a soundtrack which really helps me get in the mood for Halloween. Here is another soundtrack which helps me get in the mood. I wrote a couple of blog posts on the two NES Legend of Zelda games two-and-a-half years ago. I didn’t mean for this to be a continuation of those posts, but it kind of is. Welcome back to the bleeps and bloops of the 8-bit Nintendo Entertainment System.
Even though Metroid came out in 1986, my brother didn’t get it until about 1992. At the time, nobody we knew had heard of it. I am only slightly older than this game, so the only pop culture things I really knew about were G.I.*Joe, Transformers and Winnie the Pooh. This game (and the series it started) is heralded as one of Nintendo’s signature franchises. Mario may be the defacto mascot, but before DK, Yoshi and Wario spun out of Mario games into their own, the two other series Nintendo would lead with were The Legend of Zelda and Metroid.
The game features the second or maybe third coolest sci-fi bounty hunter; Samus Aran. Based on how fast you completed the game, you’d get different endings. The game’s instruction manual referred to Samus as male, but if you could beat the game in under five hours, you’d be surprised to learn it was a chick in that suit. Under three hours and she’d be in a long-sleeve, pixel-tight body suit. Under an hour and she’d be in a bikini.
It took me until college to
create accurate maps in Microsoft Paint (without the aid of the internet) and beat this game in under an hour.
This is lauded for being one of the first video games to feature a female protagonist. She has since been in a dozen of her own games, was one of the handful of original fighters in Super Smash Bros., has had tons of cameos in other games, and has gone on to influence other sci-fi shooters like Halo.
If you want to learn about the history of the series, check this out:
Metroid owes some of its most tense moments to silence. Hirokazu Tanaka’s soundtrack (or sometimes, the lack thereof) is supposed to set up solitude and dread. It’s very atmospheric. Actually, it’s a great example of establishing a palpable atmosphere in a video game, something I don’t think many new games do very well. From the beginning, he doesn’t distinguish between music and sound effects. It is a true soundtrack. It’s not until the last 3 minutes or so of the game (and the almost 13 minute soundtrack) that you get typical melodic NES game music.
And then, as a bonus because the Metroid soundtrack was so short, I was going to include the soundtrack to Konami’s Castlevania because it’s almost Halloween and what would be more appropriate than fighting Dracula? For my coworker Tim’s sake, I wanted to include the actual .mp3’s, but I couldn’t find the soundtrack not on YouTube (although, of course it’s there). Castlevania’s music isn’t particularly scary, but it’s pretty freakin’ good. Especially from the Clock Tower to the end.
I think part of the reason I was drawn to Castlevania was because it was described to me as mix between Van Helsing and Metroid. And I loved Metroid. Considering Van Helsing didn’t come out until 2004, I don’t think I have to tell you I didn’t play Castlevania until college. Except I just did.
Anyway, I only ever played the first one. It was fun. And hard. I know there are more than 30 games in the series released across almost every major video game console, but it has a timeline more complicated than The Legend of Zelda and it was just a little overwhelming. So instead I shared this, almost the polar opposite of Metroid:
Super Mario Bros. 2 soundtrack (1988)
Super Mario Bros. 2 is filled with up-beat, melodic music. And some of the best NES music ever.
A little history. After the SMB game we all know and love became a hit, Nintendo made a sequel. They released it in Japan first, where people said it was too hard and too similar to the first one. But everyone was expecting a sequel. So they took a different Japanese game, Dream Factory: Heart-Pounding Panic, and changed the characters to Mario and friends.
Eventually, the original sequel was released worldwide as The Lost Levels and the new sequel was released in Japan as Super Mario USA. I have no idea if Dream Factory was ever released outside of Japan.
Aside from the addition of an arrangement of the main theme and the underwater music from Super Mario Bros., the 7 minute soundtrack is basically unchanged from the original game. The original SMB composer had scored Dream Factory, so it was similar enough to not feel totally off. The whole game, including the music, feels a little vaudeville-esque. The main theme you hear walking around is especially ragtimey. The underground music is especially telling of the original game, which was originally set in an Arabian storybook.
Here’s what my coworkers thought:
“Let me start by saying I have always felt video games have great potential for sound tracks. I remember being completely blown away by Final Fantasy III (I know it is really VI Paul), and that no one would take me seriously because it was a “video game.” Now, flash back to 1980-something, and you have video games without instrumental, that had to simulate that sound without instrumental music which just took up too much precious memory. I personally think Metroid has one of the best soundtracks, and is eerily similar to Zelda and Adventure of Link, which in my opinion are the best of that era. I love the tone that gets set for gameplay. And Super Mario 2 took it to a new level. So yeah, I give these both four stars, because honestly, this is something that hadn’t been done before, and they smashed it out of the park to the point that those basic notes have become orchestral masterpieces that most people recognize on the first note.” -Tim
What did you think? Did Metroid (or Castlevania) help you get in the Halloween mood at all?