This week, I’m supposed to come up with a (mostly) self-imposed task of choosing the five best video game soundtracks of 2014.
My current count is nine, and I’ve already narrowed it down.
To clarify, this is not 2013. There was no BioShock: Infinite in 2014. Not even Garry Schyman could top himself with his own Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor soundtrack, as fabulous as that music is.
If I’m brutally honest with myself, there are four that will stay on the list, and only one slot is up for grabs. I’m going to get a load of grief for quite possibly leaving one of the most popular soundtracks of the year off the list.
One of the soundtracks that already made that list has received very little recognition. I hope to change that a bit, because it’s mildly disheartening to me that no one seems to remember it (it came out earlier this year).
Critics and bloggers seem to be glossing over another fine soundtrack from 2014: Jesper Kyd’s Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel.
Purchase Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel Soundtrack
If you read my words on occasion, you’re aware of my admiration of Jesper and his music. I feel like Jesper is a true magician with sound and melody. He creates the most incredible musical experiences while gaming. Here are some examples:
This track is called “Persistent Impulse”. Jesper is so good at “the groove”, amirite?? There’s a spot where it sounds like voices come in, although knowing Jesper’s music, that sound could be anything. And I love how the 8-bit, Mario-esque noise drops in as the track winds down. It’s perfect.
The track right after “Persistent Impulse” demonstrates what I consider to be a trademark of Jesper’s (I hope calling it that doesn’t discourage him from using the technique). The track is called “Beyond the Biodome”. It starts with a winding, 16th-note motive that echoes and twists around until he flips where it starts and ends. Jesper does it so subtly that, unless you’re really paying attention, you could miss it. I love that trickery.
Gearbox, the developer of the Borderlands series, tends to have difficulty creating games independent of lengthy swaths of repetition. Thankfully, these moments go by quickly thanks to a couple of the things they do well: great one-liners and Jesper Kyd.
Take a listen today, and let me know what you think. I think this deserves a spot on the list for sure.
Emily Reese is an on-air host for Classical Minnesota Public Radio. She is also the host and producer for Top Score, Classical MPR’s podcast about video game soundtracks, and created MPR’s Listening to Learn series. She earned an undergrad certificate in music education and jazz studies from the University of Colorado — Boulder, and a Master’s degree in music theory from the University of Nebraska, Lincoln. Emily lives in Twin Cities with her cat June Bug and loves gaming, with or without friends.