Wednesday, 9 July 2014

Robert Johnson had it right

There comes a time, I guess, when every music fan reaches a crossroads.

It happens at a certain age, and there creeps upon you a change. Suddenly, new music starts to sound like old music, or, worse, new music starts to sound alien, incomprehensible somehow. The themes are changing, the language is changing with them, and there's just not the same connection as there used to be.

The alternative is far worse, though. Let me illustrate this with an example.


 

The above wandered onto the shuffle on my iPod while out this week, and suddenly I realised just how dangerous old music can be - much more dangerous than any fear of a new planet. 

You see, as soon as the above song came on, I was temporarily temporally displaced. I can track that song to a complex cluster of engrams - memory connections from between ten to fifteen years ago - that reach out with wispy tendrils and suddenly boom the past is all up in your face and wasn't it better? 

No. 

It wasn't. 

Nostalgia is never what it used to be. 

I can track the above song first to a tiny, whitewashed room in a student halls of residence - a tower block in London, the summer of 2000. A tiny tv-video combi, lucky to have that in halls (bear in mind this was resolutely analogue, trying to convince the TV to find the five channels available by making sure the aerial was connected and pointing in the right direction. I was so taken by the program that I roped a friend into watching it as pre-exit Saturday night TV - although, to be fair, he was probably being polite in marking the time off until alcohol. 

[Side note: I had to google how to spell 'aerial', it being so long since I've had to use it in a sentence.]

The program the theme above comes from was bizarre - an update of a 1960s/1970s detective show that turned it into a Reeves and Mortimer comedy - but it was, in my defence, funny. (The second season wasn't all that, but hey, what can you do.) But it had this theme - the one above, yes - that stuck in your head. And then there was CD single release, where they had Nina Persson singing over the top. The third song on the single was - and this is just strange - Vic Reeves singing (and I use the term loosely) Ain't that a kick in the head

Then there was the soundtrack album. Which is a weird enough concept in itself - a soundtrack album to the first series of a six-part BBC comedy-drama (which I almost wrote as comedrama, which is just wrong.) This concept is a bit less alien these days - soundtrack albums to TV series are probably a dime a dozen - but at the time, it was interesting to me. 

On the soundtrack is a song the internet says doesn't exist, called Jus' Tonite, by Basement Jaxx. At least, it's not on YouTube - and let's let that sink in for a moment, IT'S NOT ON YouTube, EVERYONE, PANIC ON THE STREETS OF LONDON - and an internet search shows it was released as Track Eleven on a promo single for Bingo Bango, after eleven mixes of... Well... Bingo Bango

This is where the second memory jump comes in; Jus' Tonite takes me to a summer party, at the mansion (and there's really no other way of describing it) of someone I knew at the time, lighting cigarettes (when I was still young enough to think it was cool) from garden flares, and everyone getting drunk and getting into the swimming pool at the end of the night. (And, as always, there was a girl involved.) 

You have to laugh, really. Not because it's fun, but because it's so clichéd, in a way; times were better when you were younger - hot summer nights and drinking and cigarettes and women and song and and and... 

Seriously. 

Confession time; for all my complaints about the rise of access being a defining factor in modern music, I don't actually know that much about how to find the new new stuff. Equally, there's the old new stuff, as in things I never got the time, chance or money together to listen to back in the day, and that's a whole ocean of old new that I don't know quite how to get to - at least, legally. 

And this is in itself dangerous, because the seductive siren's song of the older music is calling, calling, calling. 

But. There's the alternate problem that comes with being an old bastard; explaining things to younger people. Because you come up against the basic problem of trying to explain why something that happened a long time ago actually mattered - and this is tricksy, quicksand-esque ground, because all you're really doing is reminiscing and trying to conjure up something for someone who wasn't there to join in on. 

It's risky. Because you either manage to successfully conjure something up, or you come off as a deranged fool. The balance of probabilities is, in my case, more the latter rather than the former. This is the primary contradiction at the heart of music, for me; it's always changing, but there are still nodal points - personal and worldwide, in terms of historical turning points, and it's up to you which matters more. 

In some ways, it's also what has made trying to write for this blog difficult - other than work commitments and, yes, basic laziness on my part. Because there's this constant internal conflict, which I can try to sum up like this; 

Posit One:   
New music is interesting

Posit Two:   
New music makes me think of old music

Posit Three: 
Old music drags me back into the musty halls of previous lives, from which it is difficult to escape. 

So the problem - for me, at least - is that I want to go and find new ways to seek new music, but a lot of the time when I do, I end up trapped in speculation and circular thinking. Plus, I'm too old to credibly "gig" anymore, so actually leaving the house, well... But if I don't seek it out, then, basically: 

Don't you remember that time when...




Wednesday, 19 February 2014

Help (I need somebody)

Seriously.

I've had this in my head all day: 





There is, however, a reason for this.


There's two things at play here; firstly, soundtrack dissonance (science fiction superhero film / Swedish 1970s cover band song). There's a very good reason for this in the context of the film, but, hey, probably spoilers. 

It's been a while since a song grabbed me so immediately from a film trailer, though - I could probably trace previous times it's happened to, say, Lose Yourself from the 8 Mile trailer or, hey, Evanescence making their debut (kind of) with the Daredevil trailer (and film).


Secondly, there's my professional interest in Marvel films, but that's not for this blog.

Trailer music is obviously a big thing - it can make or break a trailer, especially if it's In the house In a Heartbeat, or John Murphy's Adagio in G Minor from Sunshine, which, well... see for yourself.

I just didn't expect to be so impressed by Blue Swede, that's all. 

Tuesday, 24 December 2013

Just Exactly What You Need

I was going to write a column - well, an article, but since this is semi-regular, I like to think of it as a column, even if putting the words "semi" and "column" in the same sentence is a bit Carry On - about Christmas.

At least, I'd been threatening Somik with the prospect of doing so for a week or so.

I was going to write about christmas songs, and how Stop the Cavalry and Fairytale of New York are the only real christmas songs I can stomach. I was thinking of throwing in some of the conventional wisdom that christmas is really all about children, and it's much better when you either are one or have one, because that's what everyone I talk to seems to say.

I was going to talk about how I hate christmas.

Some of it was even tangentially going to relate to music. I promise. 

Well, maybe.


I had this whole thing about how I fucking hate christmas. Even the fact that the spell checker here is angrily underlining the word in red because I'm steadfastly refusing to capitalise it after the first time. I wish this were a political statement, but I really, just, can't, be, bothered.

I get the idea of a seasonal holiday. It's the middle of winter - bleak, you might say. It's cold and dark - the darkest time of year - and the weather is horrible. So at the end of the calendar year, why not have this big schmancy holiday? Why not have a time when everyone gets together and celebrates another year done with (almost)? Lots of food, seasonal television, and then everyone can go their separate ways happy in the knowledge that they don't have to do it for another year.

The problem is... Well, the problem can be distilled down to a single example, and then built back up.

The problem is Chris Rea's Driving Home For Christmas.

(See? I said music would eventually come back into this.)

Music gives us unrealistic expectations of how christmas should work. There are many christmas songs about love, and about family, and about celebrating, well, generalised stuff.

Yay.

Except having a successful christmas song seems to be the ultimate in good news / bad news situations. Let's take the classic examples, in this instance being Wizzard (I wish it could be christmas every day) and Slade (Merry Xmas Everybody). And, in due deference to Noddy Holder, I'll refer to it as xmas from now on.

Because why not.

But in all seriousness, before clicking Wikipedia open, I tried to think of a single record I could name by either band that wasn't their xmas hits. And I couldn't; I don't know if this was just seasonal blindness, or something like that, but as far as I can tell, after 1973 both bands kind of just... Wandered on.

(Sidebar, though, in that Wizzard waited twenty-six years after their second album to apparently record a "jazz-rock, uncommercial album" in 2000, according to Wikipedia.)

Oh, I wish [...] troubled the charts ten more times across the four decades since it was released -

- And my life but I've just realised the song is forty years old -

- But still. After the successful christmas song which has an unlimited shelf life in the territory it was released in, why do you even need to go on, except to release the jazz-rock album you've been waiting two and a half decades to release? Every year, like clockwork (and if you had a good agent and rock-solid recording contracts) then the royalties will keep coming in. Xmas songs destroy bands, which is, I would say, probably the conventional wisdom, and probably has been for a while now.

This morning, though, I was out driving, errands to run, things to do, you know how it is, etcetera. On the way to a final errand, I had to pull over and stop, because in the middle of all the xmas fandango - or, more accurately, fandangos - I'd had 6 Music on the car radio, and they'd managed to completely surprise me, to the point where I pulled over and stopped to listen to the track that had been selected.

(Okay, I was actually at my destination. But I sat in the car and listened to the track until it was done. Which, given my attention span, is still an achievement.)

So sat sitting in my car, wind lashing on the windows and rain a-falling, I enjoyed... This:




Yes, the video has handy Spanish subtitles. No, I don't know why. Yes, it's six minutes long.

This completely changed my day. There's only so much xmas music you can take in every shop you visit and every place you go and even on 6 music, even if it's Summer Camp.

I Spy is what I like to think of as classic-sleaze Pulp. I don't claim to have been Pulp's biggest fan, but they occupy a privileged position in my musical memoria, in that I listened to Different Class more or less obsessively back in the mid-1990s, and devoured their back catalogue, such as was available at the time. (And no, Som, I'm not going to start going on about access and CDs etc.)

There are a couple of different Pulps - or, maybe more accurately, a few different Jarvises - out there, as far as I could understand it. There's the quasi-innocent social commentary aspect, which wanders from Babies through Common People to Bar Italia, where there is, like I say, some innocence there.

Then there's the sleaze. You could quite confidently start with Razzmatazz, and obviously include This is Hardcore. Pencil Skirt maybe qualifies, Underwear is on the line between the two states. F.E.E.L.I.N.G.C.A.L.L.E.D.L.O.V.E is also a maybe, and equally a bastard to type in a hurry.

I Spy is just sleaze incarnate, though. It's very simply, to paraphrase, I think I'm better than you and I've been having your girlfriend, although it's that sentiment stretched out to cover a block of resentment and anger and disappointment.

What I find most interesting, of course, is that I never actually paid much attention to I Spy on Different Class, sandwiched as it is between Common People and Disco 2000. I only really noticed it on - and before you ask, yes, really - the soundtrack to Mission: Impossible. Because the person who put that soundtrack - back when you could have the tagline 'songs from and inspired by' unironically - was perhaps taking the piss; you had Jarvis Cocker being as sleazy as you liked, followed by the Longpigs, Skunk Anansie, and, perhaps for the first and only time in music history, both The Cranberries (although if memory serves, that was actually in the film) and Nicolette, who, before you ask, was not a brand of gum created to help people stop smoking. (Brief research indicates that she actually had several albums, so there you go.) But if I ever meet the person who put the soundtrack together, I'll shake them by the hand, because it made me pay attention to a Pulp album track I'd previously used to skip over.

So...

6 Music kind of saved my xmas with sleaze.

Make of that what you will.

Anything and everything else aside, though, all the best for the festive holiday season from us here at Disparancies. I'm now off to check the fact that apparently in my music collection on this computer I have 86 Pulp tracks, which was news to me, and now, I guess, is news to you as well.

Tuesday, 15 October 2013

And Oh My Gosh Derrida Was Right

I am with Somik regarding International Cassette Store Day. Maybe not quite about the vinyl side of things, because it is - for me, at least - a sharp drop down a slippery slope between enjoying the physicality of an object and fetishisation. But, as he says, there were no Cassette Stores.

Let's talk about physicality and access. To do this, let's use an example. An example by Stan Ridgway.

 

When I first heard this song - and I'm not defending it, but at the time I thought it was awesome - it was on a local radio station in the mid-1990s.

Because this was pre... Well, pre-everything we take for granted right now, it took some actual research to find out who it was. That is, if you class 'actual research' as calling the radio station on a landline telephone and asking the person there what the song was.

And that was that. Because to actually find and get a copy of the song - most likely on cassette tape - was technically unthinkable to my teenage self. Because it was - understandably, perhaps - relatively unlikely to be available at my local record emporium, and any shop it was likely to be available in was likely to be in London, which at the time may as well have been another planet.

Also, as bad as my taste in music was, I was able to recognise that actually travelling to buy a Stan Ridgway record was over and above any sane way of living.

Now it took all of five clicks to fetch you a link to Ol' Stan on Wikipedia and a couple more to get the embed HTML for the video above.

This is an example of the transitional period that I firmly believe we're in now, from what I'm going to call Repository Culture and onward to Lurching Culture.

Repository Culture, I would say, is something that sprung into existence with mass file-sharing networks - Napster, Limewire, and the like - but really started when the ability to convert/copy music from CDs to digital versions came about, so... maybe... Around 1999? That's the first time I remember anyone every actually borrowing a CD from me to make an MP3 copy.

(Also, technically, we're talking about a process where a digital copy of a song was recorded, mastered, converted to an analogue format such as a CD, then re-converted to a digital format, because that was The Way Things Were Done back then.)

Digitisation was the first step on the path to where we are now, because it allowed people to create their own repositories without having a room full of physical storage media. It also meant that, yes, people could share their CDs around, freeing content in a way not yet available to other media - yes, you could technically photocopy books or run off VHS copies of films, but you couldn't, at the time, really do much with them in computer terms.

So the first step, I would argue, was the creation of personal repositories. Then file-sharing changed all that again, because you could throw your repository open to the world, and anyone anywhere anywhen anyhow could download whatever they were looking for with only the slight risk that it wasn't what they were after or, as occasionally happened - I'm reliably informed - was actually 'questionable content' uploaded for the laughs.

This was only effective for as long as mass file-sharing - of the questionably legal or outright illegal kind - wasn't policed, which was technically only a short space of time in which people made hay and then, like a veil being drawn in or a curtain being dropped, it was Illegal and wrong. I know this because of all the FACT adverts hammering it into me. Seriously. YOU WOULDN'T STEAL A CAR

Repository culture, when properly administrated - if it was ever properly administrated - was A Good Thing, by my marking, because it meant being able to consolidate all your music in one place. Then came the advent of mass, proper downloading, which meant you could add to your repository without having the physical media in the first place. I may be making too big a thing of this, but being able to carry my whole iTunes library round on a single iPod was, at the time, kind of crazy. (Especially because it was about fifteen years of music purchases, only about 10% of which I was actually not embarrassed by. Seriously; Giantkillaz. That's all I'm going to say.)

Now, in the current stage, Repository culture has created a system whereby musicians who were mostly long gone and forgotten - for better or worse - can access a worldwide market previously never available. This is leading us, I believe, merrily towards the Night Of The Living Dead Bands, because no band dies anymore.

You may think they're dead. You may think they'll never come back. But if one member of a band is still extant somewhere, somehow, eventually they'll work out there's a market for their work with their dedicated fans and now, because it's cheaper and easier than ever before to make marketable media, the basic thinkign is, well, why not?

One example, presented without comment on merit - because I actually sort of like them - would be Mazzy Star.

Mazzy Star, whose current album is available in all good record stores - irony - have just released Seasons of Your Day, a new album which has had fair reviews (with the Times, if memory serves, making it their album of the week).

Mazzy Star's previous album, Among My Swan, was released seventeen years ago.

I'm certain there are dedicated Mazzy Star fans out there who fervently prayed (even if they never truly believed in it) for the prospect of a re-union of the Star, as no-one else calls them.

But... Seventeen years?

One more year and children conceived in the late-nineties afterglow of their last album would legally be allowed to vote, get married, and do jury service.

There's simply no incentive for a band to bow out anymore, because there's always that last reunion tour or new album or tearful reconciliation, only now it comes with a Digital Deluxe edition.

A better writer than me could more eloquently make the argument that lurching culture means newer artists are getting elbowed out of the way by the previous generation, the generation before that, and the generation before that, all desperately addicted to getting the hit in people's ears that will give them a bit more a retromantic allure.  A smarter person than me could say how this might lead to fascinating collaborations between new and old and the potential for unification between the musical ages, providing examples such as the comeback of Chic in the wake of Daft Punk's recent successes (although given that Daft Punk have been going for approximately twenty-six years, make your own judgements).

The worse and dumber parts want to summarize this as Get off the stage, Dad, you're in the way of the new bands.

The thing is, though, that the transition from Repository Culture to Lurching Culture is not, in my humblest opinion, a problem exactly. It's definitely something worth keeping an eye on. The problem is going to be, I think, one of supply and demand; if you're out there at the edges looking for something new, you hipster, how are you going to distinguish between the new new, the new old, the old old dressed up to look new, and the old old making a resurgence?

A final example; when I was looking for writing music recently, I decided to browse the cheap racks on the Amazon MP3 store. Because I'd seen the film recently, I decided to invest in the soundtrack to To Live and Die in L.A., via Amazon, which is by Wang Chung. The film is from 1985; the band started releasing albums in 1978. Having invested in it, it turned out to be what you might politely call a mixed blessing, but it was easy to access, download and copy to the portable music device of your choice.


But I was curious, then. Obviously, you want to know too, or you wouldn't have read this far:

The first thing you find out about when you search for details of Wang Chung?

The reunion album.


Tuesday, 10 September 2013

Wind Up

Last weekend saw the inaugural Cassette Store Day. A shameless reappropriation of Record Store Day, it is, in the founders' words, a celebration of "the most romantic of music formats".

Far be it from me to rain on anyone’s parade but, really?

How can anyone still love cassettes?

I’m slowly beginning to understand the reverence in which vinyl is held. The record as an item itself is beautiful and iconic, plus you’ve got the accompanying large artwork and the physical delights of the ritual involved in actually playing the thing – delicately mantling the record, moving the arm over, dropping the needle, etc. The only thing I’m not sold on is the quality of the sound and the eye-watering cost.

But cassettes? It’s only right and proper that they’ve been phased out. They were tacky, disposable and sounded awful (unless you like your music to be entwined with the squeaking of turning wheels). Yes, they gave us the ability to record off radio and to create our own compilations, but as soon as rewritable CDs and then MP3s came along, the game was over.

Perhaps I’m slightly too young to be properly nostalgic about cassettes. They were at their height when I first got into music (I bought my first album, ‘Bad’, on cassette) but by the time I had money of my own to spend on music, it was CDs all the way.

I do have fond memories of passing home-made compilations around between friends, but I always preferred the quasi-professionalism of burning your own CD (including controlling the precise amount of time between each track and printing off a sleeve). And having had a Walkman from a young age, I always took portability for granted, unlike the generation before me who would have revelled in finally being able to listen to music on the go.

I wish the cassette geeks well, but it's not a club I'll be joining any time soon.

Tuesday, 3 September 2013

Money Up Front

My musical investments

What’s the most you’ve paid for an album? Earlier this year, I committed to spending £65 on an unfinished album by an unsigned act via PledgeMusic.

The album was Songs For Crow and the act was Red Kite, a new band led by Daniel Fisher. Dan was a key member of The Cooper Temple Clause, who as you may (nay, should) know are my favourite band of all time, so I was thoroughly excited when I found out he had decided to return to music. He released a clutch of demos a couple of years ago, and it was clear even then that something special was brewing. His new material is perhaps more conventional that the Coopers’ everything-plus-the-kitchen-sink approach, but it’s no less compelling or invigorating. The blistering Montreal with its rapid-fire lyrics is their most immediate track, but there’s also more expansive moments such as the stunning No Painter of Note which starts as an acoustic lament and blossoms into a Danny Elfman-style orchestral movement.

Anyway, this isn’t meant to be a review of the Red Kite album, but more a rumination on the nature of funding music, so let’s get back on topic. My £65 didn’t just get me a (signed) copy of the album, it also got me:

  • A bunch of extra songs that didn’t make it onto the album
  • A handwritten and personalised lyric sheet of the Red Kite song of my choice (I went for Montreal);
  • My name on the liner notes (the second time this has happened, but only the first time it’s been warranted – I’m credited on Elbow’s Cast of Thousands  despite not actually being in the audience for their show at Glastonbury that they sampled)
  • An iPhone acoustic performance of the Red Kite song of my choice (I went for The Good Ship Adventure, one of the extra songs that didn’t make the album, because I – perhaps incorrectly- believe it’s about Dan’s time in the Coopers);
  • A USB stick loaded with videos, photos, and the audio stems of Montreal for me to (never) remix

All in all, a reasonably fair return for my investment. There were lots of other investment options too (you can see them all here), including hiring members of the band to give you personal guitar and drum lessons, becoming an “executive producer” so you could witness the album being mastered, and even having the band write and perform a song for you.

Another Coopers alumnus Tom Bellamy is also using PledgeMusic to raise money for his band Losers’ second album And So We Shall Never Part. I’ve invested far less in this album – a mere £22 which will get me a copy of the album plus a copy of the remix album (something I’ll probably only listen to once, but hey). Losers are offering some particularly bizarre investment opportunities (again, you can see them all here) such as a cooking lesson and wine night at Eddy Temple-Morris’ house, a dinner and DJ set at your house, and the chance to have them remix one of your songs. Much as I’d like to send Tom one of my poorly recorded ‘songs’ from 2008 performed on an out-of-tune acoustic guitar and tell him to make it sound like Panzer Attack, I haven’t got a spare £600 to flutter away on such frivolities.

Part of me thinks this is an amazing way of letting fans access a band and be part of the experience of an album launch, whilst raising capital and generally avoiding the machinations of the record industry. But I’m also slightly concerned that it’s akin to whoring yourself out, complete with set rates for various 'favours'. It also erodes the mystique of the artist, but I guess social media is a far more abrasive agent in that respect.

There is no doubt however that this is the way forward, or at least, one of the ways forward. Gone are the days when record companies would pay artists eye-watering advance fees to get coked up and record an album in a glitzy LA studio. My favourite anecdote/myth from this era is the one about how the major labels were fighting over themselves to sign a then up-and-coming Mansun. One company tried to get to the front of the queue by sending a prostitute and a crate of booze to singer Paul Draper’s house. He sent the lady back, but not before plucking a bottle of champagne from the crate.

Increasingly, artists are (voluntarily or otherwise) circumnavigating the traditional means of music finance and distribution. Amanda Palmer and Patrick Wolf have crowdfunded successful albums whilst Marillion have got their fans to stump up for a whole string of albums and tours. And then of course there’s John Otway. Because I’m too lazy to do my own research, I’m going to use James’ notes on him word for word:

"In an odd way, John Otway was a crowd-sourcing pioneer. He convinced 1,000 fans to pay - if memory serves - £5 each to sing on the B-Side to Bunsen Burner, his cover of House Of The Rising Sun. He explains this, seemingly, at the start of the video, because each fan that paid then went on to buy a copy of each version of the single (three in all) which then put it to - again, if memory serves - number 7 in the charts. 

So the fans pay for the recording of the single then pay for the single three times over. 

He kept trying to do this shit, as well, and almost got 150 fans to pay for the world tour which - I think - they would have travelled with him on. Basically, a chartered plane and such. 

Also, there's now Otway: The Movie. Funded by fans. I kid you not." 

I’m sure other models of financing new music will emerge in the years to come, and it may well be that there is no longer one definitive model to which the industry is bound. And that can only be a good thing, even if it means artists now have to start getting a little closer to their fans then they may like. They may have to endure giving a guitar lesson to a lunatic devotee, but at least they’re not selling their body parts. Not yet, anyway.

Saturday, 31 August 2013

Finding the right way around this map might be pretty hard because he's LIPS on crack

Before we begin, I'd like to make you aware that I'm too, too into soundtracks. 

Trust me, when you find yourself parking at the supermarket to the sound of Barbossa is Hungry at least once a week for a month, it's probably time to see someone about it. Then again, judge for yourself: 


If you get out of the car at exactly 0.07, it almost justifies this. 

Film soundtracks have always been a big draw for me. The reasoning is simple; they're evocative by design, because they simply have to be: they're made for an extremely specific task, i.e. to complement the visuals and draw the viewer in. Without music (as I've found in my own limited experience of filmmaking), movies simply don't work. This won't be the last time I discuss this particular example, but watch the video below: 


Seriously, I need to see someone about how often this comes up. 

Now go back and watch it - or at least just the final duel - with the sound turned off. It is, to my mind, hilariously awkward. This is the ultimate tribute to Ennio Morricone, outside of The Spaghetti Western Orchestra: 


Very long, but worth watching. Like Anaconda. Or an Anaconda.


Right here and right now, though, this is not about film soundtracks. Recently, in point of fact, I've found myself buying just about as many video game soundtracks as other albums. 

(Okay, so, recently, 'other albums' includes two film soundtracks. Bear with me on this. Addictions are difficult things.)

I am, for my sins, a committed gamer. I use Steam to do this, and it is a very fine service; so fine, in fact, that I haven't bought an actual, factual, physical copy of a game for at least half a decade, or thereabouts. (Also, if any console gamers want to take a moment to kick in with the usual 'lol PC gamer' commentary, etcetera, now's your chance. Done? Okay. Good.)

One option that's been popping up recently, which is of interest to me in my limited capacity as a music journalist, is that for an additional sum - often not too much, although the last time I checked the first example I'm about to raise costs as much for the soundtrack as for the game, but for a good reason - you can add the game's soundtrack to your purchase. 

That first example is most pertinent to you if you're a fan of a bit of the old ultraviolence; if you are, you might consider purchasing Hotline Miami. (Or, for instance, if you're nostalgic for the first GTA and top-down fast-paced action.)

The soundtrack to Hotline Miami is, however, amazing. So much so that I ended up taking a bundle of the tracks, spacing them out, and created a CD for the car with about ten of them on it. I can give you what I think are three of the best:







Your mileage may vary. I find them really addictive listening, and here's the main thing; I find them addictive listening outside of the game 'experience' itself. For me, they're the sound of a parallel 1980s universe discothéque, a world of music from a specific era but a different world. 

This is interesting, because game soundtracks, like film soundtracks, can be quite difficult to listen to outside of actually playing the game itself, simply because they are contextually located experiences -

*TUNG*

Okay, so the pretentiousness alarm deserved to go off, then. But to put it in a better way; when you're watching a film or playing a game, you're taking on a whole package of experiences at once - the whole audio-visual option, because the soundtrack has to mesh with the visuals and, when it does, this is what creates something memorable. Listening to the same music outside of the whole experience relocates the music to another part of your life, and it may do so... less successfully.

Because I wanted to get into the right frame of mind for this article, I finally buckled under and bought the Monaco soundtrack. Monaco is kind of an exemplar of the way I play games now; very quick, very intense, then leave it for rediscovery at a later date. 

(I had similar experiences with FTL and Papers, Please among other examples; a few days to a week of sheer intense overplay, then a bit of burnout, then back to casual play. This is by contrast with, for example, the old-school strategy games and, premier example, Final Fantasy X, which I spent something like forty-plus hours playing and which I credit with maintaining my sanity as an undergraduate.) 

Monaco is charming. The visuals don't work as stills, though; it's one of the few games that I'd say you genuinely have to experience to see how it all works. This isn't the gaming blog, though - that's been neglected for even longer - so we'll knock game discussion the head, for now. The music, though, is such a big part of the experience; in part because every level has a theme, but also because of the way it works in context. Monaco is a game about thievery, albeit a fairly genteel - until the explosives come out - thievery - and so it needs two soundtracks which can arguably be separated into: 

(I) Nobody's noticed us
(II) RUN. 

In-game, the soundtrack switches between the two as soon as one of the up to four players is noticed or in trouble, so it's a clever way of both manipulating the adrenaline and informing other people on your team that someone's in trouble, somewhere, and that you might have to help. I'll be honest, Rififi this is not: 



There a moments of cleverness, and tunnel-digging / hacking / seducing, and there are moments of sheer blind panic where every guard on the level is chasing you and firing automatic weapons, and the soundtrack shifts seamlessly between the two. 

So does the soundtrack work outside of the game in the same way as, say, a film soundtrack can? Not exactly. This is not a bad thing, but the Monaco soundtrack fits very precisely into the experience of playing the game, and outside it is a fine soundtrack but not one that you'd put on at, say, a jazz party or a 1980s parallel universe dischothéque. It is, however, jaunty. It's a lot of fun to listen to while, say, writing. But because every game of Monaco is different depending on who you end up playing with, there's no real specific memory triggers in the same way that a film soundtrack has, or even the same way that Hotline Miami has (as each song on the HM soundtrack is tied to a specific level. I still bought the Monaco soundtrack, though. This is primarily because, well, jaunty, and there's also a really charming paragraph that's not noticeable at first on the website but that convinced me utterly that I was right in doing so: 

Special thanks to Holly Sedillos for letting me sample her amazingly ... uh, "colorful" upright piano before she had it serviced to make it actually sound good!

And it's true; the piano on the soundtrack is unique. The first obvious reference word would be 'jaunty', but it's a jazzy soundtrack (with digressions into more classical styles and slower numbers as required by the plot of the game). You can get it for the princely sum of $7 - which I'm reliably informed is precisely £4.70 - and even if you never play the game or even find out anything about the game or have an allergy to Unitary Constitutional Principalities or games about gentle thievery, at this price, it's more than worth it. 

There aren't many official videos about of the soundtrack, but I can give you this as a taster: 


Because of this, the scales have kind of fallen from my eyes about game soundtracks. This is because they're now fairly easy to get hold of; my next purchase, for instance, ended up being the Timesplitters 2 soundtrack&nbsp for five cheeky dollars. This is even more evocative, because TS2 was, in my humblest, kind of amazing. 

So in this way, the Timesplitters soundtrack is more of a novelty because of the nostalgia associated with it, whereas Monaco is different because it's a more recent proposition. (Plus, in order to play TS2 I'd have to shell out for a used console somewhere and a copy of the game, whereas the with the soundtrack I can remember each level wholesale.)

This is something I'd like to come back to, but for now; is there anyone out there who listens to video game soundtracks in their daily life, or do I need to seek some sort of therapy? 

CONTINUE? Y/N