A WEastFellow’s Best Music from 2012
This is a “Best of” list of music that I heard in the year 2012. This is a very subjective and personal list. Mostly driven by the amount of feels I felt when I listen to them. Things written about the tracks and albums are not detailed reviews or academic/critical analyses, but, all about the feels.
2012 was the year that I finally graduated and got a job. This was also the year that I found out how essential listening to music while working at office is. In addition to motivating me and giving me a “flow” as I try to think up of algorithms, much of the music I listened to was able to create that long lost feeling of “new nostalgia” a memory fragment that I know I will look back to and feel all nostalgic about. Something that is very rare to happen and only happens once a few years to me at least.
Instead of mostly relying on music that I come across randomly or from friend recommendations, I set out to discover more of the type of things that I really like. One thing I remember from years past is that I really loved video game music that had a feel of progressive rock to it. I also kind of like ye olde prog rock style of music. The long track length and change of pace always feel like they’re telling a story, sometimes allows me to pair a personal story to them. I started listening to a lot of Prog Rock radio in the mean time, and this was before I graduated this year.
Soon, so would happen that there was the Kickstarter boom with Double Fine and their adventure game. I happily joined Kickstarter and backed it up. This then started a flood of other kickstarters, one of which caught my attention. It was the Nubuwuo bundle. This introduced me to my first favorite artist of the year. Soon after that, the first Game Music Bundle launched, which was mainly managed by the same person who wrote the mobile game music I liked the most this year. This Game Music Bundle introduced me to BandCamp, which turned out to be the biggest source for my music this year. But then came the biggest source of joy. Through all these Game Music Bundles and stuff, I found Ubiktune. The best thing to happen to my music this year.
Ubiktune is an independently operated and maintained music label which showcases many Prog/Jazz/Funk SYNTH/Chiptune tracks and albums. Its like Prog Rock and all those things I love, and like the video game music that I love. Every reason to have my love So lets now get started the awards!
First Favourite Artist of the Year – Tomáš Dvořák AKA Floex
Thanks to the Nubwuo Debut bundle, I was introduced to a new artist whose music I instantly fell in love with. Never did I think that I would like Clarinet music so much. All those Spongebob Squarepants episodes made me think less of this instrument. But in good hands, any instrument can be great. Floex was featured in the Vocal Pack of the Nubwuo bundle, however, it is the instrumental stuff that really struck a chord with my musical tastes. It contains tracks from the albums Zorya, Pocustone and the single Casanova. It covers a variety of styles, some upbeat and little bit of progressive. The single Casanova really stands out as a great track, something to listen to get “started” with something. Various other good tracks like Pinky Pong, Pointilice, Phi_log, Ursa Major made me come back and listen to this album multiple times over the year.
Favourite Mobile Game Track – World -1, Wind-up Knight by Josh Whelchel
First heard about Wind-up Knight thanks to the 8-4 Play podcast. I wasn’t very interested in Mobile Games at this point, maybe only a few that I really liked till then. Wind-up Knight changed that, started trying more mobile games after experiencing how good it was. It had a really simple interface and was really addictive. It was one of those games that I really felt like S ranking every level of. A game like that needs to have a soundtrack that you can hear over and over again yet not feel irritated by it. Such was the case of this OST. The first World especially, had a really good track. It gives you that vibe of game music from years past. Check the game out, a very good before sleep, lying in bed game.
Honourable mention: Quell Reflect by Steven Cravis – This was my first love when it comes to modern mobile games. Quell was something I played in 2011 though. The music in the game and the very little back story, made the game feel more personal than most other games of the year. They had a new game Quell reflect this year and it too had really emotional and powerful music in it. A better choice for “post bed, pre sleep” gaming, it’ll give you nice dreams too, haha.
Best Label: Ubiktune
Just look at their releases page. They have been doing it for a while now and everything seems to be going on smoothly. Their style of music suites my tastes. The label has lots of free albums and most of the ones that cost money, are reasonably priced. The artists they have contributing to it are also wonderful. Everyone has this great aura of passion resonating from their album descriptions and tracks. Hang around at their website and twitter feeds and some of that passion will rub off on you too. Certainly makes me want to get
Most fun to follow on twitter: @surasshu
— surasshu (@surasshu) December 25, 2012
There is no easy way of saying why one would “follow” someone else on twitter. However, its fun to see what others have to share. Out of all the people who make the kind of music I like, I find it real fun to follow Surasshu. I’ve been introduced to many new artists thanks to the retweets surhassu does and the articles he shares are interesting to read too.
Most Rapid Artist: coda
It’s a given that every artist I mention in this blog post is an artist I really like. The fun about following artists, instead of genre (like I did till now) is that you get to see how they grow as an artist and in addition to their music, their work ethic etc also acts as a source of inspiration. It’s very interesting to follow coda (you can subscribe to the RSS feed as a podcast too), every small sample of music that comes out every week is great to listen to and is of varying style. coda also participates in many hackathons for games (ludumdare etc), contributing music to games. Rapidly creating things and fine tuning the music style seems to be the way to go for coda. Keep it up!
I haven’t played the game, but got the soundtrack as a part of the iGame Music Bundle. It was definitely one of the better albums of that bundle. Up until I heard this album, I was familiar with zircon’s style of music, and this collaboration with Jeff Ball felt like a nice fusion of two different styles. The electronic style of zircon paired with Jeff Ball’s instrumentals felt very refreshing. The soundtrack makes me want to return to it over and over again, tracks like Aurora Magnitude display the tactfulness of this collaboration. The whole soundtrack also has a very uniform feel to it even though there are tracks that are performed individually by each of the artist. A real blast to listen to.
Best “Various Artist” compilation : autumntunes at Ubiktune
I see a difference between what I call a Collaboration and a “Various Artist” album. Ubiktune has many albums with Various Artists on it. Every one of them has some really exceptional tracks, but this autumntunes stuck to me the most. The whole album feels like a well organized collection of tunes that actually set a very autumn like mood.
Best Long Track: solo – magnetis by Romain Gauthier
Just listen to the whole thing! It never gets old and for its whole 11 minute 52 seconds duration it never feels like it is repeating. If you are starting a small task and want to have a rhythm to it. Definitely turn this on and it will give a nice flow to whatever you are doing.
Best use of YouTube: posuyan
posuyan has a nice mix of pop-chip tunes going on in his channel and they are fun to follow, subscribe to the channel and every now and then you can see him cover some or the other song, just to improve his style and work on making more music. The videos he takes are quite fun to watch too, and there is nothing like a constant feel to perseverance.
Honoruable Mention: Aivi Tran.
She has a pretty prolific YouTube channel and SoundCloud profile too. You know which song she will try to cover next because she maintains a playlist of those and gets to them as soon as possible! She likes collaborating with others and it is real fun to listen to/watch the videos and playlists she creates.
Rarely is there an album that actually feels like it is meant to be played together one after the other. Most stuff I listen to, mostly OSTs, the tracks feel disjointed and they make just as much sense playing them out of context as when playing consecutively. But then there is tracer. The album comes paired with an interesting story of a stranded spaceship and data recovered from it. Its like the Black Box of an aeroplane. The whole album tells the story of the people inside that spaceship and I as a listener was able to create a very detailed and interesting story directed by the musical queues in the song.
Playing this album from start to finish is like being part of 25 minute movie and you are the lead, you can recreate a story as you work too. However, it can be counter productive if you get too involved in it Go listen to it, it will surely be a great experience.
Most Soothing Album Art: Equilibrium by junkboy
Album art has its own level of complexities, a very generic album art can totally ruin the first impression of an album. Then there are other which pique the interest of someone browsing and actually attract possible listeners to it. The whole album itself is a great “collaboration” of “Various Artists” each song transitions from one to the other in a smooth fashion, it all really feels like one joint album. The chip based seagull sounds and the oceanic waves, it all fits right into the album art and whenever you look at it, you are reminded of a relaxing day at the shore with wonderful ambient sounds all around.
Most Soothing Album: Fastfall by Lifeformed
I was mildly interested in the game Dustforce, but this is one of those extremely rare cases where I bought a game thanks to its OST. I got this OST thanks to another Game Music Bundle. the whole album is filled with tracks that will transport the listener to a peaceful place. Tracks like Elvish Piper Academy, reminded me of times when I would be exploring levels in games. The sense of exploration at a peaceful pace, like walking through some grasslands and discovering a water body nearby.
Phenomenal Album of the Year: Preschtale by C-jeff
I initially started out searching for a prog rock sounding album with a nostalgia for games, and in that search I found this album. This album is great in various levels, it feels reminiscent of the prog rock albums of yesteryear and isn’t shy to have some lengthy tracks and solos. The whole album is split into 7 parts. each track feels like a short story and is great to listen to all by itself. I call this a phenomenal album because, according to my version of whatever is happening in this world, this album feels like the phenomenon that’s bringing in a new wave of listeners and makers of prog synth tunes. If anyone wants an intro to the new and exciting things happening in the chiptune music scene, this would be a great primer. It helps in defeating the opinion that many have “all chiptune music sound the same”. Also, C-Jeff happens to be one of the founders of Ubiktune, another great phenomenon.
Go and listen to it now! Track 4 is my favourite.
Best track of the year – Yamaha Action by zinger & bacter
SOUNDSHOCK 2: FM FUNK TERRROR!! Is the name of the second funk album by various artists at Ubiktune, the whole album is available for free. Just so happens, most of the things that Ubiktune puts up line up with my tastes. This track, it is wonderful in every way I can imagine. It has the best set of instruments and best tempo. It is something I can hear at any point of time and get all psyched up. It is also the perfect tune to play when you are driving the highway at night. The title itself says “Yamaha Action”. If you are someone with as active an imagination as mine, you might feel like you’re riding a bike in those serpentine coast-side roads with the sun setting. Haha. To describe why it is so good is beyond me. Just have a listen. It will take you to an awesome place.
Best Album of the year : Tree of Knowledge – by yogurtbox
Imagine playing one of those PC-engine games, imagine tracks like those you heard in games like Snatcher and other old time text heavy visual novels. Imagine creating something that feels like that, but in modern times. This is a homage to artists like Ryu Umemoto. The album feels fresh no matter how many times I hear it. The album emanates playfulness. The whole album is a labor of love of the contributors. The website even has a pseudo game and characters drawn up for all that they imagined the tunes would be for. Definitely give it a listen there will be a track that will stick with you for a long time.
Well, now that covers the best of the music that I heard this year. There were other artists whose songs I was able to enjoy over the year, Shanbubula, PROTODOME, virt and many others, who all should be in my last.fm profile. A very big Thank You to all the artists and best wishes for everyone for the next year. Stay inspired and keep doing what you do.