I’ve been pulling hard at the oars these last weeks, working through Saturday and Sunday. A lawyer’s work is never done. Thank God, I now have a job that lets me sit down and work in peace without being harassed by moody partners, anxious clients, and support staff who are just trying to deal with said partners and clients. In other words, I get to put on some actual god damn music while I work, a fact that makes it worth not having medical benefits anymore.
And what better music is there to put on than some of my favorite video game tracks? Whether you’re an expendable white-collar grunt like me or a college student studying for finals so you can also become a white-collar grunt, the following music might help you get into the right kind of mindset to take on hours of tedious work. Just an aside before I get started – yes, six of the seven tracks here are from JRPGs, but that’s naturally how it turned out. Did you expect anything else from me? Finally, I’ve posted links to super-extended edits of these songs on Youtube for your convenience in case you think any of my recommendations are worth taking.
7) Digital Devil Saga – Muladhara
Is it any surprise that I’m starting this list with a Shoji Meguro piece? Probably not if you’ve read any of my other posts. Digital Devil Saga sits under the Megami Tensei umbrella of games and has an excellent score written by Meguro, who has done soundtrack duty on most of the Megaten games. A lot of the music in DDS and DDS2 is straightforward hard rock stuff, but the games also feature some mellow mood-setting tracks like “Muladhara”. This one reminds me of an overcast rainy day, which might be because that’s the weather in the area of town your main characters are camping out in where this music plays. But it also has that kind of “rainy” feel, where you just sit inside and don’t feel like going anywhere. That’s my favorite kind of weather if I don’t have to go out, and even if I do, I prefer overcast days to sunny ones, so maybe that’s why I like this song so much.
6) Final Fantasy VIII – Breezy
I know FF8 is a little controversial as far as Final Fantasy games go, what with its janky magic system and its nonsensical plot (though the latter is a standard for FF games.) And I’m really not a fan of sappy stuff like “Eyes On Me”. But aside from that wet fish of a love song, FF8 sure as hell has a great soundtrack. “Force Your Way” is my favorite FF battle song, and I love a lot of the other themes in the game. As far as relaxing, meditative pieces go, though, “Breezy” is probably the best. Nobuo Uematsu knows how to set a mood, whether that mood is lighthearted or tense or apocalyptic, and “Breezy” is one of his best mood-setting pieces. Very simple – just a guitar playing a nice melody. It’s good to relax to. Same goes for Balamb Garden from the same soundtrack.
5) Phantasy Star Online – Mother Earth of Dishonesty
This song might have more of a relaxing effect on you if you haven’t played Phantasy Star Online. If you have, it will conjure up images of a creepy forest full of monsters and alien chickens that play dead when you beat them up. If you haven’t, it might just sound slightly ominous. That might be just the kind of music you need if you’re running up against finals right now (and you are if you’re reading this at the time I’m posting it, around mid-April. Take heed if you’re a procrastination-loving college student like I used to be: open those books now, before it’s too late. Don’t let your anxiety get the better of you, but don’t put your studies off, either. That microeconomics textbook isn’t going to read itself.)
Sorry for the tangent. This is a good song, and PSO has a good soundtrack. If you end up failing some of your finals because you put off studying too long, I recommend giving it a play on an emulator – it might put things into perspective. At least you’re not a freelance hunter getting your face clawed off by an alien monster. Though I can’t blame you if you think that would be a better fate than suffering through finals. I felt that way too when I was a student.
4) Skies of Arcadia – Uninhabited Island
Imagine yourself on the deck of an old-fashioned sailing ship at night, and now imagine that it’s flying in the air, and that you’re the valiant captain of a crew of good-guy pirates. And then imagine that you wreck on an island, also drifting in the sky, and you’re stranded there alone for a while. That’s the feeling I get from this track from Skies of Arcadia. I guess that description won’t make any sense if you haven’t played the game, but even if you haven’t, “Uninhabited Island” is something nice to play in the background while you strain over your textbook or your screen. Theme of Reflection is another good choice from the Skies of Arcadia OST to help you reflect. Hell, “reflection” is right there in the title, and the title is apt.
3) NieR – Song of the Ancients/Devola
I can’t write a list of songs to relax to without including something from NieR. The soundtrack has a lot of mood-setting songs, but “Song of the Ancients” is one of the best. I really like the “Devola” version, which is the one I’ve linked to above, but there are a few other takes on this theme that are all good, including one in the semi-sequel NieR:Automata. This particular version is pretty simple, featuring the beautiful singing of Emi Evans and what I think might be a mandolin, but I could be wrong about the instrument.
2) NieR:Automata – Peaceful Sleep
Speaking of NieR:Automata, yeah, here’s a nice track from that game. “Peaceful Sleep” is the song that plays when you first discover the android resistance base in the ruined city near the beginning of the game. It’s a haven safe from the killer machines wandering the rest of the city, and this track really sets that tranquil mood well (I keep using the terms “sets the mood” and “mood-setting” in this post, but I can’t think of a better way to express the idea.) I don’t know if it’s lazy to include a song from each NieR title in this list, but Keiichi Okabe is a great composer too, so what the hell.
One nice bit of trivia about the android resistance base is that it contains a little makeshift alcove sort of thing with benches to lounge on and an old-fashioned jukebox that contains every song in the game, though you have to actually play through the game to unlock the entire soundtrack. It’s a nice place to visit on a new game plus.
1) Hyper Light Drifter – Cascades
Now here’s a game with a fantastic soundtrack from start to finish. Hyper Light Drifter is an indie top-down action game that was released a few years ago. Much to my shame, I haven’t beaten it (it’s still more or less in that backlog I keep going on about) but I’ve listened to the entire soundtrack a few times over. Very electronic and ambient, and I’d bet my life that Brian Eno was a big influence on the composer. Some of the less ominous pieces make for good background music as well, like “Cascades” linked above. I really like the ominous pieces as well, but I don’t know if I’d put on “The Midnight Wood” or “Cult of the Zealous” to relax to – you can tell from the titles alone that they’re not made for meditation, unless you feel like meditating yourself into the middle of a bloodthirsty mob of enemies. Well, maybe you do feel like doing that. Who am I to judge?
I’m no one to judge. Especially when I title a post “Seven super-extended video game tracks to work/study/meditate to” and I proceed to put nine songs in the post. I’m not very good at these list-style articles. Cracked isn’t exactly knocking down my door to put me on their team. Then again, Cracked effectively (and deservingly) went under several years ago. So much for those list articles of theirs.
What’s your favorite music to put on when you need to sit down to your work or studies, or when you want to shake off the stress of the day? Feel free to comment. I’m always looking for new music to hear.