by Jason Parker (Ragachak)
Okay, full disclosure: I could not figure out which of these to review because they’re both fantastic. Sleep Mode by SonikBuster is a shorter album (six tracks), but I absolutely had to talk about it today too. Sleep Mode is a selection of songs designed to well, help you sleep at night. Or whenever you sleep, I don’t judge. They are also peaceful songs, and while some of them (Salty Dog Waltz) feel pretty damn sad, the variation in tone between SonikBuster’s voice and the male accompaniment is absolutely mesmerizing. I have a fairly hard time sleeping some nights, and as I sat at my desk in my office listening to this again this morning, I did start to doze off a little. Right in my chair! So, I wanted to absolutely point out this album too, as something people should definitely hear. Two of the songs are originals, Salty Dog Waltz and Heroes & Healers and should be heard to be believed, but I think the biggest draw that will be familiar to people is Dearly Beloved (Kingdom Hearts), or Dovakhiir (Skyrim). This piano rendition of the main menu music for Kingdom Hearts is pure magic. Every song is played and sang and each style is different from the track before it. Heroes & Healers has a very southern folk style, while Salty Dog Waltz is more of a song you might, of course, hear from a sailor or down by the sea. Since I could not talk about just one of them, I decided that since, this is my column, you get two! That’s my Hanukkah present to you: The gift of beautiful music. If you need something to relax the brain and unwind to, this is the album you need in your life. So go get it here! SonikBuster is a vocalist/musician without peer. I cannot recommend this highly enough.
Then we move on to something completely different: Pluckhead, by StringPlayerGamer! So when I saw this one was just 11 tracks, I couldn’t figure out how you’d pair down such a god-tier album to such a short amount of songs, but he hit all the high notes if you’ll pardon the expression. I know my favorite song on this one though. Normally I have a very hard time deciding just what my favorite/what I think the best is, but without a doubt, I know after listening. Some honorable mentions though. Inkwell Isle Three (Track 8) is such a smooth jazz-feeling song. It’s mellow, relaxing, and soothing. Which is just what you need before you enter any of these hellish, unforgiving, bullet-hell battles. It’s perfect. I’d also like to point out Inkwell Hell (Track 10). Slow moving and calming as well, these “Map” songs are a nice transition between the pulse-pounding that happens in each and every stage of Cuphead. This song, in particular, is pretty damn ominous at the same time. Before I get into the nitty-gritty, a little about the album:
“Kris Maddigan’s Cuphead soundtrack is brilliantly written for brass and horns,” comments String Player Gamer. “It captures the sound of 1930s animation and is as authentic as it can get. But what if it was written for strings instead of brass, for a symphony orchestra rather than big band? This is the question that I attempt to answer in this 11-track album using a varied combination of string instrument configurations from chill jazz guitar, chamber strings, rock jazz, latin jazz, and full on string orchestra.”
Die House (All Bets Are Off) (Track 4): Far and away my favorite song in the entire game, the same goes for this album. I was going to be incredibly disappointed if Die House was not on this album, and his rendition does not disappoint. I could hear every word of the song, played out on StringPlayerGamer’s violin. Because he never plays nice; he’s the devil’s right-hand man, after all. The double-bass and violin instead of the big jazz band was an incredible change of pace, but it still has that same familiar, toe-tapping rhythm. Die House signified to me what the game was all about in the first place. Cuphead was playing with his life and soul, gambling and the Die House stage capitalizes on that notion. It still has that sinister sound that comes with Die House, and it in a very weird way reminded me of “The Devil Went Down to Georgia” with the sound of the violin. In many cases, I’d say a viola would sound better (because that’s what I played) but not in this case. The high-pitched wail of the violin was spot on. I could listen to this all day if I’m being honest with you.
Floral Fury (Track 5): God. Damn. That. Flower. Though the fight was not hard when you really learn it, like everything in Cuphead, Floral Fury gets you amped to go into battle. Is it just me, or does it have a Salsa/Cuban Pete sound to it? Why do I suddenly want to watch Beetlejuice? The accelerando of the violin about halfway through felt like it was time for the phase change of the boss fight, and I love that. The sounds blend together in such a perfect way in Floral Fury, it was almost my favorite song (if Die House weren’t so damn good). While I adore the Big Band feel of the original, this more salsa/latino sensation, transitioning from trumpets to violin (I mean, that damn flower practically looks like it’s dancing) is truly fitting. The original had that same feeling, but with brass band instead. It’s a solid interpretation for stringed instruments.
Don’t Deal with the Devil (Violin and Guitar versions) (Track 1 and 2): I couldn’t pick between the two versions, but the violin version is just a little better to me. It’s shorter by about ~30 seconds, but it has a more somber sound, despite being on a violin. The use of double stop (playing two notes on two strings at once) is a nice technique to apply to this song. This was the titular song of Cuphead, the one you hear every time the game boots up, and I could still easily hear the taunting, haunting lyrics about the plight of Cuphead and Mugman. The guitar version is acoustic and slower. It kind of reminded me of something I might hear on the Final Fantasy X OST down in one of the bars or beach-side areas. It’s a peaceful and soothing version of the intro track, where the violin version in my estimation, feels more like a warning, the guitar version makes me think that everything is going to be okay, where the violin is a more . . . condemning sound? Yeah, that’s how it feels.
You can learn more about it right here, and I highly recommend going there picking it up. If you’re a Cuphead fan (and why wouldn’t you be) and love stringed instruments, StringPlayerGamer knocks this clear out of the park.