Music Review: Ode to the Lovers (Video Game+Folk Music)

Gaming's Great Love Themes Performed Live With Ode to the Lovers - shidou.ishama

by Jason Parker (Ragachak)

Or, “Yet another wonderful Suteki da Ne iteration”

I started my day with a bottle of water, and as I wait on my tea to be at a drinkable temperature, I played Paladins, to get a feel for the new Tank, Terminus, the Fallen. While I played this monstrosity of stone and destruction, I listened to “Ode to the Lovers” from The Materia Collective (Specifically, The Travelers VGM) which is a series of more romantic, loving songs from video games done in a European Folk style. I love this idea more than I can possibly express. I love the calm, uplifting feeling of folk music, and it’s another way to listen to Suteki da Ne! Of course, it’s on there. This is actually a shorter album than the last few, only ten tracks, but every single one is expertly done in this Eastern European style while also maintaining the original feel of the initial track. It’s very Undertale/Final Fantasy centered (7 out of 10 tracks, specifically) but that’s totally fine with me. Fun fact, this album actually has one of my absolute favorite Final Fantasy tracks of all time (Final Fantasy IV’s “Troian Beauty”, with vocals to boot!) as well as a selection of other favorites from Final Fantasy IV, VI, Kingdom Hearts and Threads of Fate. I did not expect to hear a folk rendition of “Simple and Clean”, but here we are.

Folk Music is a very varied art, and there’s no real one way to perform or tie it down. The music feels like it wanders, it’s very relaxed. From songs that you can dance to more moody, melodic songs that beg for a pipe and a fire to reflect in front of, this has it all. This is a very relaxing, calming album. It was definitely the right thing to listen to as I woke up. Only one or two songs I had no idea what they were in reference to, but that in no way changed how I felt about them. But it seems like The Travelers plucked some of my absolute favorite Final Fantasy tracks and redid them in this delightful style. I’ve also never heard an Opera done in folk, so that was also a first. From audible clapping instead of drums, violins, flutes and I’m reasonably sure was the lyre, everything fit perfectly on this album. Nothing to me sounded out of place. But let’s talk about a few tracks, yeah? I can’t really do honorable mentions on a ten album track, but this is my piece so I will anyway. Troian Beauty (Vocal Version) was magical, and it’s one of my favorite Final Fantasy songs of all time, so it gets an honorable mention, as does Song of Time The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time.

Aria di Mezzo Carattere – McKenna’s Ceilidh – Trip to Casmalia (Final Fantasy VI, Track 5): That title’s a mouthful! Specifically, this is Cele’s solo (“I’m the darkness, you’re the starlight, et cetera) and transitions into a lovely duet with Draco (the flute transition specifically was fantastic). This was a song of loneliness, a woman captured by the enemy, but still despite being on the arm of Prince Ralse, she longed for Draco. I can see the dance in my head while listening to it. After the singing is done, it moves to a more fast-paced, folk dance rhythm, which fits neatly with what occurs in the game (except that’s ballroom dancing. It is an opera, after all).

Simple and Clean (Kingdom Hearts, Track 8): This does not have lyrics, so do not go into it thinking it might! Besides, who else but Utada HIkaru could do it justice?  But the sounds of the viola/cello (I feel so mad that I couldn’t tell, but as someone who played the Viola for like eight years, that’s what I’m leaning towards) in conjunction with an acoustic guitar, they managed to capture the lyrics just fine. The lyrics are captured in string format easily. The occasional pizzicato, that light, brief plucking before returning to the song made me happy. This is a slow, somber version of Simple and Clean and one I did not realize I needed until I heard it. I’m not the biggest Kingdom Hearts fan, but I absolutely love Utada Hikaru. This rendition of Simple and Clean does not disappoint. Despite not being a by KH fan, it’s one of my favorite songs on this entire album.

Theme of Love – Winnie Hayes – The Legend of Liselway (Final Fantasy IV, Track 7): Out of every track on this album, this is the one I’ve heard the most. It’s the love theme from Final Fantasy IV, and is used in so many pivotal moments in the game. It’s the love between Cecil and Rosa primarily, a man torn between wielding the Sword of Darkness for a King that is walking a path no man should travel, and being true to himself. When I listen, I hear Rosa Farrell retort to Cecil’s complaints with “Cecil of the Red Wings is many things… but he is no coward. Not the Cecil that I love…” and the beginning slow, deliberate pace that evolves into an upbeat dancing song really captures how their relationship grow and blossomed over the course of the game. They were in love from the start, but Cecil walks over hell and high water to rescue Rosa from the clutches of Golbez. The second half of the song feels like an adventuring song, like a trek that must be undertaken.

I absolutely cannot recommend this album enough. I could talk about every single track on here, but my job isn’t to describe them all! Gotta give you a taste of it (first one’s free, that’s what they say)! I highly recommend you head over to Spotify and Bandcamp to listen to some amazing video game music done in a rich, authentic folk style. You won’t regret it.

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