2018 is a mere ten days away and with that realization, we at Sumthing.com have eagerly compiled our choices for our favorite records of the last twelve months. It’s a difficult task to place one score over the other as we feel so very strongly about each of these entries and artists that we’ve decided that for this year at least, they all represent the number one spot in some way, shape or form. At Sumthing.com, we love this genre of music above all else and are eternally grateful that our sentiments are shared by such a vibrant and wonderful community. From all of us at Sumthing.com, have a safe and wonderful holiday and we will see you in the new year. Now…onto that list.

P.S.

Rather than Geno attempting to take on this task alone, we’ve asked Bernard to collaborate closely with him. Generally, they hate each other, but they’ve decided to call a truce for the length of this feature. Neither seems to know if the truce will hold.

The Music Of Persona 5

Composer Shoji Meguro

Written summary by Geno

Geno 1

Listen: Wake Up, Get Up, Get Out There

On July 3rd, 1973, a frail and visibly exhausted David Bowie stood before an audience to declare his time as Ziggy Stardust had run its course and that in fact, this would be his last show. It wasn’t of course, but Bowie, sensing the atrophy and general fatigue of his own creation sought an exit that would allow him ample space to cultivate in directions beyond zones that were both familiar and habitually referenced. Bowie realized, that the termination point of the Ziggy Stardust character was necessary to reframe and extend his legacy beyond what some might have seen as nothing more than gimmicks or sleight of hand. The answer was simple to Bowie: walk away.

In this very same manner, longtime Persona series composer Shoji Meguro, had for many years accepted the congratulations lavished upon and afforded him by his work. Rightly so, 2008’s Persona 4 solidified him as a brand, a name considered for permanent, multiple effigies found dotted across parts of his native homeland. Meguro’s sound was his very own, his signature absolutely identifiable, and his ticket sales…assured. So…his band played and played and played. This went on for years. Then, suddenly, Meguro disappeared. His output seemingly stalled mid-ascension. In this interim,his likeness became attached to music largely remixed or rearranged for projects already long in gestation. Meguro, like Bowie, had walked away. Rather than placate an expectant audience with another serviceable rubber-stamped setlist, Meguro instead gnashed his teeth, toiling alone for years and out came Persona 5.

Absenteeism has done well for Meguro, however, as complacency is replaced indiscriminately with a slovenly rabidness that Meguro,eyes open, mouth agape, sees fit to saturate these proceedings with. Persona 5 maintains some of Meguro’s autographed whistle tests, but the time spent tinkering within 5’s pupa shell is a fascinating process of anarchic rebranding. Persona 5 is Meguro delivering phrases in neither Kanji or full English, but rather some hypnotic hybrid language, that while largely untranslatable, remains utterly gripping. Meguro is also increasingly insistent that his way is the only way forward…with good reason. Beyond neon, beyond tilted angles, and  beyond logotype, this is a man in full.

The Music Of Nier Automata

Composer Keiichi Okabe

 Written summary by Bernard

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     Listen: The Weight Of The World

“Once in a generation”, would probably be the most succinct and cliched way of describing NieR: Automata, but that kind of small-mouthed praise falls short when we talk about Automata’s music. “Once in an era” maybe, or “Once in a lifetime”. Keiichi Okabe had the nearly impossible task that was following up his previous masterpiece, the NieR: Gestalt & Replicant soundtrack from 2010. This behemoth of a burden was made even more difficult by the fact that Yoko Taro is a notoriously hard man to work with.The inherent lunacy present in the themes of Automata would’ve made it easy to create a disjointed, foul mess of a score that had no coherence and destroyed engagement from the player.

Okabe work was a resounding success; we received sorrowful punches from pieces like “Mourning”, we felt the bleakness on asking the question on what it means to be human by listening to “A Beautiful Song” and “Emil: Despair”, we soared above the carnage of the battlefield and inundated our souls with hope and defiance with the game’s final theme “The Weight of the World / The End of YoRHa”. The deep emotional resonance felt during the game’s conclusion is enough to make a grown man tear up, an expressive and beautiful parable that will stay with you long after the controller has been put down.

The Music Of The Legend Of Zelda: Breath Of The Wild

Composer Manaka Kataoka

Written summary by Geno

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Listen: The Legend Of Zelda: Breath Of The Wild: Main Theme

The Legend Of Zelda has for years, as a series, labored inexplicably and to its detriment with an inability to alter its musical typeset. Its painted corner is one in which shade and texture are oils and base waiting for reapplication. Discussions to darken or lighten are muted affairs with the same roundtable vote that errs on the side of silencing dissenters. The Legend Of Zelda: Breath Of The Wild and its divisive cleavage is the furthest stray from its days as a pre-fabricated edge. Lead composer Manaka Kataoka’s choices are ones that finally place adage and nostalgia in the furthest rearview. In many ways, Kataoka seems intent to score beyond the soundstage for which he was first employed, as The Legend Of Zelda: Breath Of The Wild is very much a personal statement from Kataoka, as it is the assigned backdrop to a series now approaching 40. Kataoka’s touch is one that judiciously mutes the franchise’s stubbornly repetitive call-outs, its overplayed bombast, and its typically indelicate handling of moments of introspection. Kataoka’s removal of Zelda’s more inherently theme park elements reveals and restores a deftness and subtlety seemingly long trampled underfoot.

The Music Of Touhou 16: Hidden Star in Four Seasons

Composer Jun’ya Ota, “ZUN”

Written summary by Bernard

 Geno 4 

Listen:The Concealed Four Seasons (Okina Matara’s Theme)

A dream is shared among millions around the world, the dream shapeshifts and morphs as it jumps from mind to mind. But somehow, it all comes back to its origin: Jun’ya Ota, “ZUN”, had done it yet again, painstakingly for the sixteenth time and counting. Touhou had always been sort of an oddball, a weird singularity on the already weird Japanese independent scene. But the music, the music was always right. Intoxicating and exuberant, much like the whole franchise, it constantly skirts the line between playfulness and seriousness. A fascinating and powerful dreamlike feeling is produced, that refuses to be pinned down as a self-serving exercise or an imitative, parodic recitation of Eastern mythology. ZUN is in top form in Hidden Star in Four Seasons, and the journey he takes us through spans every color in nature: from the beautiful pink cherry blossom of spring, to the serene white of snows in winter.

The Music Of Resident Evil 7

Composers Akiyuki Morimoto, Miwako Chinone, Satoshi Hori, Cris Velasco, and Brian D’Oliveira

Written summary by Geno

 Geno 5 

 Listen: Main Hall

It seems that composers in the modern day have forgotten that horror is an element largely devoid of sound. With this in mind, the artist’s application then becomes a route of brute force in an attempt to pull their audience along a desired line with smoke plumes and poorly costumed thrills, but this guidance, this hand holding, only deadens the delivery of cortisol to the brain ensuring a reaction that is subdued, easily manipulated and controlled. Not so with Resident Evil 7. More a cast than conclave, Resident Evil 7’s multiple composers are each actors playing to individual scenes under widely contrasting circumstances. Disparities aside, the core of their work is one that emphasizes silence almost to vertigo. It is unobtrusive and distant, but this detachment is merely in the service of heightening some measureless form of malevolent dissonance, an unsteady clanging…perpetual ambiguity. Presence, not companionship, is everything a horror record should aspire to be, and Resident Evil 7’s score is an omnipresent diary of observation; it watches but has no inclination of ever interceding.

The Music Of Ruiner

Composer Susumu Hirasawa

Written summary by Bernard

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 Listen: Sidewalks And Skeletons

RUINER was perhaps one of those games that slid under some people’s radar. As a game it wasn’t exceptional. One of many stick shooters that don’t really reinvent the wheel, but provide solid entertainment for those of us with twitchy fingers and masochistic streaks. The main driving forces behind the soundtrack are two young electronica prodigies, “Zamilska” and “Sidewalks and Skeletons”, and they do not disappoint. The game’s score seethes with a retro futurism straight from the 80s, an electro-pop mix of hyper alert bounciness, and gleaming tubes with cables that connect Kraftwerk and dreams to the far horizon. It’s brutal and unforgiving, while at the same time melancholy and retrospective. Deliciously crunchy, but painful in its loneliness and the realization that the future that the 80s envisioned is no place for a god-fearing man.

The Music Of -Middle Earth- Shadows Of War

Composers Garry Schyman, Nathan Grigg, and Kelli Schaefer. 

Written summary by Geno

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Listen: The Siege Of Minas Ithil

For composer Garry Schyman, the previous decade was one marked by laconic verse and agonizing degrees of modulation. His scrupulous moves within the world of the Bioshock  franchise were indeed wholesale victories of faultless pitch, though it seemed that Schyman’s  tenor was purposely held below the octave it was meant to scale, and that without much effort seemed easily attainable. This delivery of restraint has served his records well, as with each of his new pressings, the level of human voice is increased, colliding ever closer to the desired mark. This progression comes to full-throttle maturity with Middle Earth-Shadows Of War. It is obvious that Schyman is no stranger to projecting, as the ink on his scores from Bioshock to Dante’s Inferno, and  Front Mission Evolved, among others, are song cycles that attempt to challenge ever the grander set-piece. Still, what Middle Earth: Shadows Of War achieves is unfettered grandiloquence, and the end result is quite possibly one the most lavishly ornate and italicized action scores of the last two decades in gaming.

The Music Of Hollow Knight

Composer Christopher Larkin

Written summary by Bernard

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Listen: Greenpath

Darkness and desolation are such overdone concepts, that when a game comes around completely cemented on these two concepts one cannot help but to raise a skeptical eyebrow. It was a pleasant surprise then, when Hollow Knight shattered every preconception when it came to both its gameplay and its music. Composed by relative unknown Christopher Larkin, there is darkness in the game’s music with a bit of Zelda’s DNA injected into its genes , but there is also a touch of renewal, a touch of new age whimsicality backed by a full orchestra. Hollow Knight rings like a musical dream about faith and forgiveness. A fairy tale for the modern gamer, where optimism has yet to drown in a sea of cynicism.

The Music Of Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice

Composers Andy La Plegua and David García Díaz

Written summary by Bernard

 Geno 9 

 Listen: Passarella Death Squad – Just Like Sleep

Uncomfortable, unsettling, unnerving, unbalanced. It’s difficult to describe how Hellblade plays out without sounding a bit unhinged. But in the end what makes Hellblade so special is that it doesn’t try to separate violence from the mental wounds it creates. Senua doesn’t only physically fight the undead hordes of viking warriors, but she also fights the trauma of her past, tries to defeat the phantoms that inhabit her mind. Ninja Theory did a fantastic job with the sound direction, using binaural 3D to make the player feel like they’re Senua herself, wrestling with the demons of mental illness. It’s frightening and amazing at the same time, the music masterfully creates an atmosphere where fear is thick and permeates the air like a toxic gas. One must constantly remind oneself that this is only a game, brilliant and malevolent, but a game nonetheless.

Thanks for another great year with us here at Sumthing.com! We’ll see you all in 2018!