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Author Topic: Slow Reviews Soundtracks: A NinSheetMusic Column  (Read 34319 times)

SlowPokemon

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Re: Slow Reviews Soundtracks: A NinSheetMusic Column
« Reply #195 on: September 06, 2013, 08:28:16 PM »

Soundtrack Review: From Up on Poppy Hill by Satoshi Takebe

The latest addition to the Studio Ghibli family is unlike most of the studio’s other works in that there are no elements of fantasy such as surreal creatures, walking castles, or talking goldfish. What Studio Ghibli provides instead is a simple love story in 1963 Japan, when the country is abuzz over the upcoming 1964 summer Olympics in Tokyo. There’s a sweet aura lingering over the film that leaves one nostalgic for a time they never experienced.

The score was written by Satoshi Takebe, who also arranged several of the film’s theme songs (sung by Aoi Teshima, of Tales from Earthsea fame). The score is appropriately lighthearted and impressively manages to be sweet without becoming syrupy or saccharine. Read on for more details.

The score covers a lot of ground in its relatively brief lifespan (about 45 minutes), providing cheery music, tango, smooth jazz, reflective piano solos—and this is just the first four tracks. For such a wide array of genres, the music flows surprisingly well, and when each composition is so lovely and pure, one can’t help but be pulled into the film’s world. “Sunrise – The Breakfast Song” stands out as a great example of what an album opener should be. Takebe’s arrangement relies heavily on ragtime-style piano, while Teshima’s voice is as lovely as it was in Earthsea. Her lilting voice works wonderfully this film’s songs. In addition to the aforementioned song, she also lends her voice to the sweet “First Love” and the accordion-led folk waltz “Summer of Farewells – From Up on Poppy Hill,” both great songs that don’t feel shoehorned into the score album. Each song feels natural mixed with the score, much like Akiko Yano’s vocals in My Neighbors the Yamadas, with the added benefit of Takebe’s arrangements.

The accordion adds a lot of character to “Off to School in the Morning,” a small jazz piece that is infinitely lovable in its catchy nature. The jazz continues in “A Big Commotion,” which introduces the Latin Quarter theme. Here the idea is heard played by the clarinet briefly, and later it is fully brought out in tracks like “The Latin Quarter” and “The Big Cleanup.” It is a slippery over-the-top melody that could serve as either comic relief or a guilty pleasure, depending on your love of jazz. Either way, it works quite well in the film. “The Latin Quarter” underscores one of the most charming scenes in a film I can recall, featuring Umi and her sister scaling the tower-like building, meeting all of its quirky inhabitants, and learning about their oddball clubs. Many of the other tracks take a lazy swing attitude, without the high-strung jazz of the clubhouse theme, and it gives a nice summertime atmosphere to the film.

Some of the tracks are laugh-out-loud in their flair for comedy, such as the tango in “Stand United” and the banjo-led “Fickle as the Weather.” However, the score is also notable for its tearjerking piano solo performances, heard in such highlights as “Reminiscence,” “Signal Flags,” “The Canal at Dusk,” and “Longing for Mother’s Return.” This last one especially conveys the situation of Umi being essentially an orphan, despite the large family she lives with. It’s enough to bring a tear to my eye, especially coupled with the beautiful scene it underscores. Umi’s parents being absent doesn’t feel cliché, and her emotion feels real thanks in no small part to her various piano themes.
 
There are a few things that the score lacks, however. The fact is, despite the music flowing nicely, there’s no real sense of continuity here. When the clubhouse theme plays at the end in “Welcome to the Latin Quarter,” it feels like a reprise of the exact same music, with no sense of theme development. And the piano themes are all nice and vaguely similar-sounding, but there is never an instance of an idea being used in more than one track, meaning that the work as a whole lacks a definitive main theme. I suppose one could argue that the ending song does a nice job of tying together the story threads, but it’s hardly possible to call it a main theme when the first time we hear it is the last track on the album. Gripes about that aside, though, it does make each track a unique experience (with a few exceptions), and there isn’t much to complain about when taking each track individually.

That is, except for parts of the album’s presentation of the material. For some unknown reason, several of these score tracks include sound effects from the film, which adds exactly nothing to the experience and in fact makes these tracks less accessible. It’s only a little annoying when you hear the boats at the beginning of the ending song, or the rain at the end of “Walking Home in the Rain,” but the grating metal-on-metal noise at the beginning of “Confession” almost makes the piece unlistenable. I wish that they would have cleaned up the tracks a bit more for the album release. If I wanted to hear birds chirping or the rain falling, I would just watch the movie instead.

Overall, it’s a lovely piece of work from Studio Ghibli and Goro Miyazaki, and Takebe’s score enhances the experience in every way possible. This quaint little score is perfect for lovers of the movie and someone looking for a score thoroughly enjoyable from start to finish, if a bit lacking in substance.

Rating: ****

Track list (excellent tracks in red):
1. Sunrise – The Breakfast Song performed by Aoi Teshima
2. Off to School in the Morning
3. A Big Commotion
4. Reminiscence

5. Fickle as the Weather
6. The Latin Quarter
7. The Editing Room in Sunset

8. The Flags in the Painting
9. When the White Flower Blossomed (Choir) performed by Cast of From Up on Poppy Hill
10. First Love performed by Aoi Teshima
11. The Party
12. Red River Valley (Choir) performed by Cast of From Up on Poppy Hill
13. Signal Flags
14. The Canal at Dusk
15. The Big Cleanup
16. Looking Back

17. Walking Home in the Rain
18. A Dream
19. Stand United
20. The Escape
21. The Leaden Sea
22. A Confession
23. Longing for Mother’s Return
24. The Reunion
25. Welcome to the Latin Quarter
26. The Indigo Waves (Choir)
performed by Cast of From Up on Poppy Hill
27. Racing Towards a New Day
28. Summer of Farewells – From Up on Poppy Hill
performed by Aoi Teshima

Also guys, I have a new rating system. I'll be rating out of 5 stars (*****) rather than using the 1-10 scale, as it's much simpler for me. I will be switching all the old reviews to star ratings.
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Bubbles

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Re: Slow Reviews Soundtracks: A NinSheetMusic Column
« Reply #196 on: September 06, 2013, 09:21:10 PM »

I knew youd like it :D

But where did you listen to the soundtrack? I couldn't even find it on youtube
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SlowPokemon

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Re: Slow Reviews Soundtracks: A NinSheetMusic Column
« Reply #197 on: September 06, 2013, 09:47:40 PM »

I bought it on iTunes lol
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SlowPokemon

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Re: Slow Reviews Soundtracks: A NinSheetMusic Column
« Reply #198 on: January 24, 2014, 06:19:36 PM »

Soundtrack Review: Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney by Masakazu Sugimori and Akemi Kimura

When Capcom first released Gyakuten Saiban (lit. “Turnabout Trial”) for the Game Boy Advance in 2001, they didn’t see fit to bring the game overseas. The reason why is pretty simple: the game is basically an interactive manga about lawyers. Doesn’t sound too appealing to an American audience, does it? However, after the game and its two sequels were met with wild success in Japan, Capcom decided to port the series to Nintendo DS, this time with a limited release in American and European countries. The first game, rebranded internationally as Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney, was met with more than its fair share of critical success, and the first run sold out rather quickly once word started to spread. This was all that was needed to secure the sequels, as well as further entries in the series, a spot on shelves outside of Japan.

The game’s music was composed by Masakazu Sugimori, with tracks 28-34, which were introduced in the new episode produced for the sequel, being composed by Akemi Kimura. Kimura also composed the music for this game’s sequel, Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Justice For All.

The music of Phoenix Wright is a character in and of itself. The aesthetics are reminiscent of old-school PC games, with somewhat pixelly sprites and limited animation, and the music also goes along with that. The soundtrack beeps electronically beneath all of the courtroom drama, providing a fond nostalgic tone that will never be outdated. Form aside, let’s look at the music itself and give it some analysis.

The soundtrack begins ominously with “Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney・Prologue,” which starts with a very creepy pipe organ progression and moves to catchy percussive rhythms to represent the frantic anxiety of that particular cutscene. It is an interesting opener to an interesting album, and it’s honestly pretty effective at hyping up the player’s tension, but it just doesn’t work very well by itself.

The album then dives headfirst into its courtroom suite, however, which contains some of the most enjoyable and downright catchy themes in the series. “Courtroom Lobby ~ Beginning Prelude” feels only slightly inspired from a musical standpoint, using some strong rhythm and scattered sixteenth-note runs over just two chords to provide a sense of nervousness, tension and foreboding. However, the two chords continue into “Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney・Trial,” this time with a sense of purpose that gets things going. It’s the climax, though, with loud brass, that really develops the idea and makes the track a highlight.

The next feature is “Cross-Examination ~ Moderato 2001,” which is enjoyable despite its inherently repetitive nature. “Cross-Examination ~ Allegro 2001” vamps things up considerably with a faster tempo and a bit more going on musically, but it’s “Tell the Truth 2001” that ends up being the best variation on the idea. Pipe organ and harpsichord makes for about the most dramatic instrument combination I can think of, and the music really says “this is do or die” as a result.

But of course it’s Phoenix’s theme music that will be the major highlight here, that theme that plays when he gets to shout every lawyer’s favorite word: “Objection!” Indeed, “Phoenix Wright ~ Objection! 2001” remains to be one of the most iconic pieces of music from the series, enough to lead all future Ace Attorney games to incorporate its style into their respective objection themes for Phoenix. The piece comes across as very “in-your-face” and intense, with the bass rhythm especially quite heavy and effective. Not long afterward, the listener is treated to “Pursuit ~ Cornered,” a frenetic whirlwind of music that will completely exhilarate the listener with its pure energy and intensity. It doesn’t get much more exciting than pinning down a culprit in the first Ace Attorney game while this theme blares spiritedly in the background. That is, until the player is hit with “Pursuit ~ Cornered / Variation,” which is nearly identical to the former, except with some exciting orchestral hits added every so often. The “Pursuit ~ Cornered” and “Objection” themes basically sum up why Ace Attorney is such a worthwhile experience, and why a game about lawyers can be incredibly entertaining if it’s presented in the right way.

It’s also worth mentioning “Logic and Trick,” a very mellow piece which plays when Phoenix is using logic to deduce what might have happened at a crime scene; as well as “Suspense” which is actually a pretty frightening piece that just exudes foreboding. Three notes are all it takes to hype up the tension, I guess. As a small bridge between the trial and investigation parts of the soundtrack, you get the four-second saving fanfare, “Jingle ~ It Can’t End Here,” which is only worth mentioning because it would be a fantastic ringtone.

Next up, the investigation scoring. “Investigation ~ Opening 2001” is one of those pieces of background music that often gets overlooked because of its mundane atmosphere, but in truth it’s perfect for Ace Attorney. It has a sort of cool, mellow vibe due to its choppy, electronic feel, and it sets the stage for all the excitement to come in the investigation. “Investigation ~ Core 2001” serves to drive forth the story as Phoenix gets into the heart of things. It lacks a certain something that would otherwise make it a highlight to listen to outside of game, but it works fine for what it is. “Detention Center ~ Elegy of the Guards” is a very successful representation of the Detention Center—the music is pitiful and almost pathetic, and there’s no question that the person Phoenix is defending has hit rock bottom. It would be pretty if it wasn’t so heartbreaking.

The investigation sequences also feature “recollection” themes that are typically rather sorrowful and highlight the emotional drama present in the game’s cases. However, they also fall victim to the trap of being too bland to stand well on their own, as exemplified in “Recollection ~ Heartbroken Maya,” “Recollection ~ The Bright and Dark Sides of the Studio,” and “Recollection ~ Elementary School Trial” (the latter being particularly offensive due to its ridiculous lack of musical substance). Two of them, however, are noteworthy if still not quite up to par with the rest of the soundtrack: “Recollection ~ The DL-6 Incident” provides a great tragic theme for Edgeworth, relying heavily on depressing and dark tones to convey the sense of loss Edgeworth experienced as a young child. “Recollection ~ SL-9 Incident,” in comparison, does the same thing for Lana Skye; it sounds almost emotionally drained, and the hopeless tones therein effectively convey the utter tragedy that took place two years prior to Phoenix’s meeting the Skye sisters.

There are character themes abound in the Ace Attorney series, and the first game has several winners. Sugimori’s “Maya Fey ~ Turnabout Sisters’ Theme 2001” is one of the more popular tracks from Phoenix Wright due to its inherent sweet and catchy nature. “Turnabout Sisters’ Ballad,” however, is the more emotionally rewarding variation, representing the Fey sisters and the impact that both Mia and Maya have on Phoenix’s life. For 2005’s “Rise from the Ashes,” Kimura provides a variation that doesn’t really borrow from the main melody, instead sticking to a similar style for a new set of turnabout sisters. “Ema Skye ~ Turnabout Sisters’ Theme 2005” sounds fittingly bubbly and slightly off-kilter in a very good representation of the scientifically savvy Ema.

Sugimori’s themes kick off with “Dick Gumshoe ~ Detective Gumshoe,” which is an excellent accompaniment to the somewhat bumbling detective. Although the piece (like the character) originally comes across as harsh, it develops into an almost sweet melody, hinting at Gumshoe’s childish and innocent nature. “Marvin Grossberg ~ Age, Regret, Reward” is another highlight in this category, providing sleazy jazz to accompany various eccentric or unusual characters, notably Grossberg himself and the excitable yet incompetent Officer Meekins. For what it is, this track shouldn’t be nearly as enjoyable as it is. “Happy People” is short and sweet-borderline-saccharine, always associated with the self-proclaimed investigative photographer Lotta Hart and playing in each of the first three games for some other select characters. It’s noteworthy if for no other reason that it somehow never overstays its welcome despite its repetitive, chirpy nature. “Steel Samurai” is the theme song for Episode 3, “Turnabout Samurai,” and is one of the best songs from any Ace Attorney game. It’s modeled in the style of popular superhero shows, and even though it’s a parody it manages to be well-written and incredibly catchy, which is why it remains one of the most well-known pieces of music from Ace Attorney.

Kimura writes a few character themes for “Rise from the Ashes,” including the aforementioned theme for Ema Skye. “Blue Badger ~ I Want to Protect You” is absolutely hilarious, written (just as the character was) as a parody of popular mascots from young childrens’ shows. The simple song sounds something like a seven-year-old would come up with playing on a toy piano. “Jake Marshall ~ Wandering Detective from the Wild West” is equally hilarious, serving as a callback to old Western films to accompany the detective who thinks he’s a cowboy. The mysterious and catchy melody, performed dramatically on panpipes, is something that again is a lot more enjoyable than it should be. Finally, “Damon Gant ~ Swimming, Anyone?” is enjoyable purely because of how unorthodox it is. The two dramatic chords at the beginning are really the best part of the entire piece, introducing the strange chief of police with a fanfare-like phrase and soon moving into a thoroughly odd bit of game scoring. Fragmented pizzicato strings back up a pipe organ that, instead of being menacing, almost sounds pompous and important.

The ending tracks are really a bit too standard to capture major interest, but they aren’t offensively bad either. “Victory! ~ The First Victory” is the exception; it really manages to capture the sense of triumph and happiness that Phoenix experiences after winning a case. “Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney・End” uses the two chords from the trial theme to create a rather fitting ending theme, albeit one that has almost no change in tone throughout. It’s a nice clean little piece of work, but doesn’t really invoke any strong emotions or have any sort of impact. “Rise from the Ashes・End” is somewhat catchy in its jazz style, but isn’t really catchy enough to merit its almost five-minute run time.

Sugimori’s score for the original Gyakuten Saiban is iconic and almost legendary at this point, and it’s not hard to see why. He set the groundwork for the entire series, and all of the other games’ music borrow heavily from his style. The music is complemented rather nicely by Kimura’s “Rise from the Ashes” suite, which is noticeably different from the rest of the album yet somehow blends well with its style. Fans of the first game will no doubt love this soundtrack and eagerly return to their favorites time and time again, but anyone unfamiliar with the series might find it difficult to see what’s so special about this retro-style music beyond the courtroom tracks. Despite that, it’s still an excellent piece of work, and any video game music lover would to well to check it out regardless of whether they’re familiar with Phoenix Wright and company.

Rating: ****

Track list (excellent tracks in red):
1. Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney・Prologue
2. Courtroom Lobby ~ Beginning Prelude
3. Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney・Trial
4. Cross-Examination ~ Moderato 2001
5. Logic and Trick
6. Phoenix Wright ~ Objection! 2001
7. Cross-Examination ~ Allegro 2001
8. Pursuit ~ Cornered
9. Tell the Truth 2001
10. Suspense
11. Pursuit ~ Cornered / Variation
12. Jingle ~ It Can’t End Here
13. Investigation ~ Opening 2001
14. Maya Fey ~ Turnabout Sisters’ Theme 2001
15. Detention Center ~ Elegy of the Guards
16. Dick Gumshoe ~ Detective Gumshoe
17. Recollection ~ Heartbroken Maya
18. Marvin Grossberg ~ Age, Regret, Reward
19. Happy People
20. Recollection ~ The Bright and Dark Sides of the Studio
21. Steel Samurai
22. Recollection ~ The DL-6 Incident
23. Investigation ~ Core 2001
24. Recollection ~ Elementary School Trial
25. Victory! ~ The First Victory
26. Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney・End
27. Turnbout Sisters’ Ballad
28. Rise from the Ashes・Prologue
29. Recollection ~ The SL-9 Incident
30. Ema Skye ~ Turnabout Sisters’ Theme 2005
31. Blue Badger ~ I Want to Protect You
32. Jake Marshall ~ Wandering Detective from the Wild West
33. Damon Gant ~ Swimming, Anyone?
34. Rise from the Ashes・End
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Re: Slow Reviews Soundtracks: A NinSheetMusic Column
« Reply #199 on: January 24, 2014, 06:52:10 PM »

10/10 Would bang
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SlowPokemon

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Re: Slow Reviews Soundtracks: A NinSheetMusic Column
« Reply #200 on: January 31, 2017, 11:27:23 PM »

Three years later bitches

Soundtrack Review: Pokémon Sun & Pokémon Moon Super Music Collection
Composed & Arranged by: Minako Adachi, Go Ichinose, Hideaki Kuroda, Jun’ichi Masuda, Tomoaki Oga, & Hitomi Sato

The new Pokémon games are all kinds of revolutionary. After the series’ migration to 3DS in its sixth generation left many fans feeling like only the aesthetic of the game had changed without much attention to the key game mechanics and creature catalogue, Game Freak has reinvented many of the common elements that had previously been staples of the franchise. But for this reviewer, it wasn’t the absence of HMs, the unabashedly quirky new monster designs, or the shift to a more sophisticated graphics style that left the biggest impression. What was most exciting for me, as a musician, was the totally overhauled sound design work.

While it’s true that the previous games in the franchise, Pokémon X & Y, allowed for a technically higher quality sound and variety of timbres thanks to the shift to a higher-capability system, the actual compositions themselves were often lacking. Shota Kageyama, who joined the composition team starting with Pokémon HeartGold & SoulSilver doing mainly arrangements and has composed for the series ever since, was the lead composer for X & Y, and while his music certainly has some degree of charm, his composition style is frankly quite boring. He uses almost offensively bland textures, has a focus on “crowd-pleasing” chord progressions that come across as cheesy and displays in his work a general lack of interest in dissonance that makes his tracks a complete snoozefest for listeners with musical backgrounds. Not every piece Kageyama has written is boring, of course, and a more romantic and simplistic style is often necessary for that classic Pokémon sound. But there are ways of being catchy and appealing without resorting to the unremarkable style that Kageyama so often utilizes, and it can be a bit frustrating when he relies on the same timbres and styles for piece after piece while his contemporaries produce more interesting work.

Kageyama, however, left Game Freak following his work on Pokémon Omega Ruby & Alpha Sapphire to form his own company, and so Sun & Moon contains none of his work other than a few tracks that are reused from the previous two games. Stepping up as lead composer this time is Minako Adachi, who is the first female composer to hold such a position in a Pokémon game--she and co-composer Hitomi Sato have both worked on previous games in the series, but neither have served as head of the team. In addition to those two women, we also have Pokémon head honcho Jun’ichi Masuda composing several of the battle tracks (as per standard) and veteran composer Go Ichinose returning after a strange absence in the franchise’s sixth generation. Ichinose has been a staple of the sound team since the Pokémon Gold & Silver days, so naturally it’s great to have his signature sound back. These four composers’ work makes up the bulk of this score, with newcomer Tomoaki Oga composing mainly for the cutscenes of the game and Hideaki Kuroda once again performing instruments in a few tracks and doing a bit of arranging.

Sun & Moon, despite being an effort of so many musicians, flows so well on an album that you might think it was the work of a single person. Indeed, there are multiple leitmotifs scattered throughout the score, and they tend to make certain tracks an amalgamation of styles; for instance, Adachi’s “Lillie’s Theme” is arranged several times by not only the composer herself (“Staff Credits”), but also by Sato (“Lively Lillie!”) and Oga (“Steely Lillie!”, “Mother and Daughter”). Likewise, Jun’ichi Masuda’s little rise-and-fall motive for the Tapu creatures which guard the islands shows up in all sorts of tracks. In this way, it maintains a consistent style, more so than maybe any of the other games’ scores.

Ichinose composes notably fewer tracks here than he did in previous games, but they’re unmistakably his style and inject the album with the sense of classic Pokémon that X & Y so sorely lacked. It’s the fun instrumentation and cheerful bounce of pieces like “A Captain’s Trial Begins!” that so effectively epitomize Pokémon’s musical heart--Ichinose later arranges the track into “Battle! (Island Kahuna),” which gives the otherwise tense track a highly playful edge, and ultimately makes it a truly fitting successor to the long-running Gym Leader tracks. Ichinose seems to take a particular joy in fondly channeling the days of Gold & Silver. He certainly recalls that game’s rival themes in his rhythmically intense tracks for Gladion, the sort-of rival Sun & Moon pits the player against several times. And the bizarre, distinctly Eastern percussive tendencies in “Konikoni City (Day)” and “Konikoni City (Night)” would certainly be right at home in Johto alongside “Violet City” and “Azalea Town.” Unlike the aforementioned Kageyama, Ichinose understands that a simple melody can be extraordinarily effective as long as it’s executed properly. If it sounds like I’m damning the man with faint praise, that’s certainly not my intention. After all, there’s nothing formulaic or predictable at all about his hilariously bizarre “Battle! (Ultra Beast)” track, which is so outrageously unconventional that I have to rethink my entire idea of the man’s character. And of course, it’s this most veteran composer who ultimately brings us home in “The Battle at the Summit!,” which again seems like both a new work and one that invokes a classic Pokémon style, its flighty strings contrasting quite nicely with its low brass.

Masuda’s tracks have been generally following a downward trend since the original games, which is quite disappointing, but somewhat understandable, since Masuda is a game designer first and a musician second. Still, this is the first game in the series where I actively got tired of his style. Both the “Battle! (Trainer)” and “Battle! (Wild Pokémon)” tracks feel like they’re just going through the motions, and, other than a really neat little screeching section in the former, don’t add any noteworthy new ideas to the canon. “Battle! (Solgaleo / Lunala)” is the only track that’s produced entirely by Masuda on this album, and it’s mostly disappointing. The little figure that begins the track is a surprising use of retro timbre, but it quickly wears out its welcome as the line is repeated again and again, with little to no development at all. It wouldn’t be so disappointing if this wasn’t the same guy who delivered incredibly catchy, nuanced compositions like the intense, rhythmically varying “Battle! (Dialga / Palkia)” or the incredibly unique “Battle! (Ghetsis)” which is, to my knowledge, the only video game music that consists only of timpanis playing tritones while a synth choir moans the villain’s name. The only one of his tracks that comes close to emulating those other, more exciting endeavors is “Battle! (Tapu)” thanks to its odd chanting and catchy motive mentioned above.

Meanwhile, Sato, whom I have to admit is a long-running favorite of mine among the various Pokémon composers, also delivers tracks in her style that has been so prevalent in the games since Pokémon Diamond & Pearl. Her signature style is bubbly, energetic, cheery, and slightly scattered; and a large portion of her music in Sun & Moon certainly fits that bill. It’s the nonstop attitude and surplus of grace notes demonstrated in “Vast Poni Canyon” and “Burnet’s Lab” that endear me to her style. She also has penchant for melodies which are improbably memorable, like the trumpet line in “Heahea City (Day),” and which bring a smile to my face. And I’m always struck by how much Sato surprises me in her compositional intricacies--just listen to “Ten Carat Hill,” whose initially mellow and pleasant chord progression devolves into a no-holds-barred B section with a really manic drums performance that loses the beat entirely for a while. Or take for instance the quirky “Malasada Shop” cue, where she uses a borderline Mariachi style combined with hilarious male vocals to produce quite a catchy and fun track. But really, Sato is such a great fit for this franchise because of her excellent sense of playfulness. The highlight of her tracks this time around are her sweet and smiling “Hau’s Theme” and Ichinose’s subsequent arrangement in “Battle! (Hau)” that just shouts “I want to be your friend!”

But it’s Adachi who takes MVP this time around, producing a massive quantity of high quality music that’s almost unprecedented. What I hadn’t realized prior to this score was how distinct and unique her musical style is, and how deep her interest in composition is. I complained about Kageyama’s textures being occasionally bland or boring, and it’s precisely the opposite for Adachi. Her first major cue on the album, “Alola Region Theme,” features a large choir chanting in something resembling Hawaiian after an instantly memorable melody opens the piece. This idea goes on to serve as the basis for other tracks, notably “My Home” and “Staff Credits,” and it’s a truly heartfelt and adventurous melody without being trite or predictable. A theme for the first island, heard at its most basic in “Iki Town (Day)” and “Iki Town (Night),” is astoundingly infectious, especially when strummed on ukulele in “Hau’oli City (Day),” and though it bleeds into a large portion of the first quarter of the album (and game), it never really overstays its welcome. These two motives make for a really nice little introduction to the world of Alola.

It’s not until later that Adachi reveals her more musically unique tendencies, first heard perhaps in her music for the villainous Team Skull. Japanese rapper KYOtaro provides vocals (mostly the Japanese word for “skull”) for these tracks, and they’re all incredibly catchy and fun to hear. “Battle! (Team Skull)” is a great example of Adachi’s unique style, with its initial rap/hip-hop beat giving way to a more traditional Pokémon battle structure and idea. “Battle! (Team Skull Boss)” is probably the highlight of this bunch, though, with a beat so sick that you hardly even notice the repetition of the main idea. Again, Adachi shows great mastery in taking a simple musical idea and making it interesting and fun. Even better than the Team Skull music are the various themes for the Aether Foundation, represented mainly by a little lilting string figure heard first in “Aether Paradise.” The amount of mileage the composer gets out of this idea is astounding, and it is most effectively used in “Battle! (Aether Foundation).” Here, Adachi seems to take a wicked delight in using the motive on more accented strings, which are now highly dissonant and raw. Her textures here again are simply incredible, opening on an awesome piano and drums introduction and including harpsichord with the ensemble. “Battle! (Lusamine)” and “Showdown! (Lusamine)” are personal favorites, giving an effective impression of tension and, especially in the latter, chaos and insanity with the use of such techniques as an out-of-control piano glissando which bangs up and down the instrument’s range.

Adachi has so much more to offer than I could cover in this kind of space, though. The gleefully off-kilter “Acerola’s Trial” is worth a listen, with headphones, for its terrifyingly effective sound design alone, and more traditional and memorable melodies such as those found in the composer’s “Malie City” and “Seafolk Village” tracks ensure that she really does have something for any listener. Considering the amount of work produced here is nearly double the work she had for the previous entry, she shows a highly impressive body of compositions. The same can be said for the album as a whole, which I’d argue is the strongest the series has had since Pokémon Black & White, maybe even before that. It comes highly recommended from this reviewer and I hope Game Freak’s decision to release the soundtracks digitally pays off for them.

Ten Noteworthy Tracks:
18. Battle! (Hau)
45. Hau’oli City (Day)
58. Battle! (Team Skull)
68. Battle! (Island Kahuna)
72. Ten Carat Hill
107. Battle! (Team Skull Boss)
117. Battle! (Aether Foundation)
122. Battle! (Lusamine)
130. Vast Poni Canyon
138. Showdown! (Lusamine)

What are some of your favorite pieces from this game? Comment below!
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daj

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Re: Slow Reviews Soundtracks: A NinSheetMusic Column
« Reply #201 on: February 02, 2017, 02:15:27 PM »

You've seen my top ten list! ^^ And now I'm gonna bash yours bwahahaha

One part of your review that stood out to me was the part about Sato's style and writing - "playful" was not a word I would have thought of when i wrote my analysis, but you're absolutely right! :) We love her style for its energy and bounciness, even in calmer tracks like Eterna Forest and Route 209 (<3). Never would have put Malasada Shop on any list, but I do agree that it's very well constructed and just fun overall. So great pick there, I approve :)

I didn't fully agree with the Masuda bashing, but maybe that's because the basis of comparison is his generic battle themes spanning across all generations. Aside from the first two (and maybe the third) generation, I guess you could say that they're all...not that amazing. Especially when you compare them to games like Chrono Trigger (which scales in sound quality around the 3rd generation), all the Final Fantasy and Fire Emblem games, and the Earthbound/Mother series, the battle themes feel a little formulaic and overdone.

I think one of the bigger disappointments for me was "Battle! (Totem Pokemon)". I was actually pretty happy with the Solgaleo/Lunala one, but that's mainly a judgment of sound design over musical construction. The Totem Battle theme begins with a brilliant flourish, daring hypermeter, fantastic sounds...and then the Wild Battle motif comes in and so do all the retro sounds. Sighpie. But I guess in general, Masuda's tracks don't sparkle as much as the other talented members of his team.

Honestly though, if you compare his works to that of some other...uninspired VGM collections (won't name them haha), he's pretty good. So I guess the other members of his cast just outshine him a little too much, derp.

Completely in agreement with your writeups on Ichinose (<3) and Adachi though. So well done on a fantastic review mate ^^

p.s. i'm disappointed at the lack of Lillie themes in your top ten list, haiz
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SlowPokemon

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Re: Slow Reviews Soundtracks: A NinSheetMusic Column
« Reply #202 on: February 02, 2017, 03:57:51 PM »

Oh yeah, totally agree about Masuda. I just wish we had overall higher quality from him. I do have to say, though, that his trainer themes for Diamond & Pearl, Black & White, and X & Y all added something new to the table for me and I found myself loving those tracks. Here...the point I was trying to make is that everything just feels like a rehash of things he's done before.
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BlackDragonSlayer

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Re: Slow Reviews Soundtracks: A NinSheetMusic Column
« Reply #203 on: February 12, 2017, 11:40:54 PM »

Having beaten the main story, I can say that I felt rather lukewarm toward most of the game's music; perhaps a little more positive than X/Y, but still not the same way as most of the older games in the series. One of the few town themes that really stood out to me, though, was Seafolk Village. Likewise, I wasn't really a fan of most of the battle themes (it says something when I like the kazoo version of Guzma's battle theme more than the original—it's a fine composition by itself, but the instruments used, IMO, don't do it much justice, as they don't bring out the parts that have the most "OOMPH" for what should be an intense battle? Or something like that), with the exception of the Elite Four battle theme and the Ultra Beast battle theme (Kahuna, Totem, and Tapu battles are second favorites, I'd say). I completely agree about the Solgaleo/Lunala battle theme though: it starts out with SO MUCH POTENTIAL, but past the 30 second mark, it just kinda fizzles and goes nowhere.
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Olimar12345

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Re: Slow Reviews Soundtracks: A NinSheetMusic Column
« Reply #204 on: February 12, 2017, 11:55:22 PM »

p.s. i'm disappointed at the lack of Lillie themes in your top ten list, haiz

It's here:

1. Lily’s Theme
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SlowPokemon

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Re: Slow Reviews Soundtracks: A NinSheetMusic Column
« Reply #205 on: March 04, 2017, 05:57:40 PM »

Having beaten the main story, I can say that I felt rather lukewarm toward most of the game's music; perhaps a little more positive than X/Y, but still not the same way as most of the older games in the series. One of the few town themes that really stood out to me, though, was Seafolk Village. Likewise, I wasn't really a fan of most of the battle themes (it says something when I like the kazoo version of Guzma's battle theme more than the original—it's a fine composition by itself, but the instruments used, IMO, don't do it much justice, as they don't bring out the parts that have the most "OOMPH" for what should be an intense battle? Or something like that), with the exception of the Elite Four battle theme and the Ultra Beast battle theme (Kahuna, Totem, and Tapu battles are second favorites, I'd say). I completely agree about the Solgaleo/Lunala battle theme though: it starts out with SO MUCH POTENTIAL, but past the 30 second mark, it just kinda fizzles and goes nowhere.

Fair, I do understand your opinions here. All of the music sounds a lot better with headphones in case you haven't been using any. Also I have to disagree, I really like the battle themes; the only problem is that you only hear the really good ones once or twice.

It's here:

I laughed.
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