Archive | July 2014

Key Signature: The Glory Days

It’s not often that I feel like a discussion of a musical album belongs here. But upon listening to Jimmy “Big Giant Circles” Hinson’s newest chiptune masterpiece “The Glory Days,” I couldn’t help but put together some thoughts here on why I think this album really connects with me on a personal level.

The Key Signature feature idea was to go to different game soundtracks of the past and present and take a look at what tracks really stood out and why. In this case, “The Glory Days” isn’t a game soundtrack per se, but it includes samples and derivative works of many of gaming’s most treasured soundtracks, and so I believe this album, as much as any, belongs here. In this instance of the feature, I’ll be looking at my favorite tracks from “The Glory Days,” and why they really hit a personal note with me.

Go For Distance

This is an energetic, upbeat track that leads off the album like a perfect first level. There’s a looping, bouncing repetition to “Go For Distance” that really makes it sound like classic BGM for side-scrolling platformer from days of yore, and the loopable version on the album reinforces this as it flawlessly repeats back into itself.

“Go For Distance” reminds me of the excitement of starting an SNES game for the first time and figuring out what the hell I was doing while I dashed through the opening act. Most of the side-scrollers of that era started in a sunny, optimistic way, with a first level managing to be a tutorial without handholding, a proving ground that didn’t punish.

This song is the same way. It pulls you into the album and tells you what you can expect, but it doesn’t give too much away and it doesn’t ask too much of you in return. It’s a track that generates excitement every time I hear it, and it’s a fantastic start to the album.

Sevcon

A wavy, dreamlike track that swirls around in your head, reminding me of treks through moonlit fields, underground caverns, and sparkling forests. There’s definitely an element of dubstep wubbyness here at parts; like a lot of game music from the time that the album invokes, there has to be some kind of “action” to the music and the wild electronic sections of “Sevcon” harken to that.

Beyond that though, the song floats in my consciousness like a river. It feels like something that would pop up in the middle of the game, when levels start to get more mysterious as the mechanics start to get more familiar. “Sevcon” feels like falling asleep, and falling back into the kind of games I played when I was more carefree.

The Trials of a MAN

This track kicks things into high gear and feels like something out of Mega Man or Sonic the Hedgehog. It’s a frantic, kinetic song with a feeling of constant forward motion to it, and I can practically see a screen filling with enemies or lasers or something as I listen to it.

Frankly, the track sounds like something I’d hear playing while I was dying a lot. As the time implies, this thing sounds like something you’d hear during a “trial”, and it takes me back to the times when I was pretty goddamn awful at the whole video games thing. Seriously, a lot of people tell me they were way better at this as kids, but I can say with almost complete certainty that I was an utter trainwreck at this hobby as a kid. Bless.

This track soars and dips along with the highs and lows of a real action game experience, and I love it for that. I may have sucked at this when I was younger, but dammit, I loved doing it, and this track reminds me of that.

The Glory Days

This song is a culminating gut punch of warm feelings. It’s a trip back in time, both in music and mind, and the running homage to Super Mario World in the middle of the song drives in an end run that makes me think of, to paraphrase Field of Dreams, “all that was once good, and could be again.”

This is the track that sold me on the album. It’s a masterful, resonating strike at the heart of the longtime gamer, and it ends in what feels like a joyful sprint into the sunset. I can’t recommend this track (and this entire album) enough to anyone who loves games, chiptune, and remembering things were can still be. Excellent work, Mr. Hinson!

You can (and should) listen to and buy The Glory Days over at http://music.biggiantcircles.com/album/the-glory-days . It’s a name your price kind of thing, with the minimum set at $10.

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