Music of the Year 2019 ~ Overall Best of 2019 | RPGFan Feature
Music of the Year 2019 ~ Overall Best of 2019
Albums 1-10

Welcome back to the second year of our new Music of the Year format! Last year, we decided to bring readers a general, site-wide list of the year's top music as well as individual editors' choices. It's an absolute pleasure to present 2019's general list, which is the result of deliberation, staff voting, and the combined effort of several staff members. There was a strong showing of official arrangement albums for high-profile RPGs in 2019, but you'll also find some quality commentary on original soundtrack releases as well as a few indie projects. While the nature of music is such that it speaks to the listener on a personal level, it's always a lot of fun to read collective opinions and comments on what makes this past year's work special. We hope you enjoy!

Intro by Hilary Andreff


AI: THE SOMNIUM FILES Complete Soundtrack -RaiNBOW AFFaiR-
Composed by Keisuke Ito

The music for AI: The Somnium Files is exactly what you should expect from a Kotaro Uchikoshi game: twisted, nerve-wracking and more than a little bit unusual. Keisuke Ito has done a fantastic job of conveying Uchikoshi's weird and wonderful world through the music. As you make your way through the album, you're shifted from the hardboiled world of the police and detectives, to an upbeat and peppy Idol agency, to hopping inside people's dreams while they're asleep — and anyone who's played this game knows just how unsettling those sections can be. And obviously, the album ends with a very catchy J-Pop song. Why wouldn't you want to end the soundtrack to a game where a serial killer removes an eye from their victims with a sugary, sweet J-Pop sing-a-long?

Writeup by Alana Hagues

Also Read:
Our Game Review

AI: THE SOMNIUM FILES Complete Soundtrack -RaiNBOW AFFaiR- Our Favorite Tracks:

問罪 -monzAI-

PSYNCIN' IN THE MaiN 1

告解 -kokkAI-


Atelier Ryza: Ever Darkness and the Secret Hideout Original Soundtrack
Composed by Kazuki Yanagawa, Shin-ichiro Nakamura, Kosuke Mizukami, Asami Mitake, Hayato Asano, nihachi-san

Atelier Ryza: Ever Darkness and the Secret Hideout's soundtrack shines with true song gemstones, all of which beautifully capture the various tones and feels of the game's world. Entrancing, mysterious themes are featured in areas not often traversed by people, while calm peacefulness envelopes everyday life in an island village. Ryza's wonder when it comes to alchemy is amazingly captured in musical form through several related tracks, and there is a strong sense of foreboding associated with the music that plays in a desolate, alien landscape. The vocal pieces are also quite lovely and memorable, making this soundtrack a true pleasure to listen to, both while playing Atelier Ryza and well afterwards.

Writeup by Audra Bowling

Also Read:
Our Game Review

Atelier Ryza: Ever Darkness and the Secret Hideout Original Soundtrack Favorite Tracks:

Geo Frontier

Look inside yourself. You are more than what you have become.

Crocus


Chrono Cross Orchestral Arrangement
Composed by Yasunori Mitsuda, arr. Kosuke Yamashita, Mariam Abounnasr et al

Though it exists as part of a box set, Chrono Cross Orchestral Arrangement was also released separately as a retail CD. And for those of us who have felt overwhelmed by the celebration of Chrono Trigger's music and underwhelmed by the relative lack of Chrono Cross music publication from Square Enix, this orchestral album is overdue and much appreciated. Though the total length may feel unsatisfactory, it is important to remember that almost all of the eight tracks on this album are two-part medleys. Nonetheless, there is plenty of untapped potential, so much so that a follow-up album utilizing additional source compositions in 2020 would be celebrated by many.

Writeup by Patrick Gann

Also Read:
Our Album Review

Chrono Cross Orchestral Arrangement Our Favorite Tracks:

Chrono Cross -Scars of Time-

The Girl Who Stole the Stars / Dreams of the Ages

Bound by Fate


Chrono Cross Original Soundtrack Revival Disc
Composed by Yasunori Mitsuda

This is Chrono Cross' Original Soundtrack; do we need to say anything more? 20 years later, Yasunori Mitsuda's masterpiece is still widely regarded as one of the best video game soundtracks of all time, and 2019's Revival Disc is here to remind us of this once again. Chrono Cross' music is so good because it perfectly captures both the Homeland and Another World versions of the El Nido Archipelago. It's a mysterious land, full of tropical landscapes, vast oceans, and unusual phenomena. This rerelease is another of Square Enix's Blu-ray soundtracks that allow you to relive the game visually while you experience the music, and it's an absolute treat. We could shower praise on this album all day, so we'll just let the music do the talking.

Writeup by Alana Hagues

Chrono Cross Original Soundtrack Revival Disc Our Favorite Tracks:

Guldove (Home World)

Bound by Fate

The Girl Who Stole the Stars


Chrono Orchestra Arrangement Box
Composed by Yasunori Mitsuda, arr. Kosuke Yamashita, Mariam Abounnasr et al

Okay, so if each respective Chrono Orchestra disc is also on this list, then why is the box set here? Not simply because it wraps everything up in a nice package (though it does that too). The set as a whole earns its place here for a few different reasons, in fact. The box set highlights the extreme high quality throughout the Trigger and Cross orchestral discs in performance, mastering, and largely in arrangement as well. Having the box set also intensifies some of the more subtle connections between the music from these two games that are found throughout each individual album. The part that really sells it, though, is the extra piano duo disc. These are breathtakingly vibrant arrangements of some of the most beloved Chono music, and no one should pass up the opportunity to hear Kumi Tanioka (composer for Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles) play an arrangement of "The Girl Who Stole the Stars."

Writeup by Hilary Andreff

Also Read:
Our Album Review

Chrono Orchestra Arrangement Box Our Favorite Tracks:

Schala's Theme (Piano Duo ver)

Epilogue ~ To Good Friends

The Girl Who Stole the Stars (Piano Duo ver)


Chrono Trigger Orchestral Arrangement
Composed by Yasunori Mitsuda, arr. by Kosuke Yamashita, Mariam Abounnasr, Daisuke Shinoda, Tomomichi Takeoka, Yui Morishita, Takuro Iga

Bringing some of the most beloved pieces from Chrono Trigger's soundtrack to the Tokyo Philharmonic Orchestra makes for a delightful collection to just sit and listen to. The game, and its soundtrack, holds a special place in the hearts of many, and while there is no shortage of arrangements and remixes to enjoy, this short album sits high on the list with its fresh orchestrations and brilliant performances. Hearing a fleshed out version of "Gato's Song" is such a pleasant surprise, and the rendition of "Robo's Theme" featuring some "chonky" robot music love could easily compel listeners to just stop and dance. Even if you're feeling a bit of "Chrono fatigue" with the aforementioned glut of musical reimaginings, don't pass on this one; it's filled with a true passion for the material that brings the music to life as never before.

Writeup by Greg Delmage

Also Read:
Our Album Review

Chrono Trigger Orchestral Arrangement Our Favorite Tracks:

Morning Sunlight / Guardia Millennial Fair / Gato's Song

The Day the World Revived / Robo's Theme

Magus' Castle / Confusing Melody / Battle with Magus


EPOCH: A Tribute to Chrono Trigger
Composed by Yasunori Mitsuda, Arranged by Various Artists

Apparently, there is no limit to the amount of Chrono arrangement albums with dozens of contributors. 2016's Chronicles of Time seemed to be the definitive version of such a project, and then 2019 brought us Materia Collective's EPOCH. Similar in collaborative concept but wholly unique in its execution, EPOCH gives Yasunori Mitsuda's legendary score a new feel, with arrangements that are dramatic, sometimes amusing, orchestral, and more. Like many of our favorite mega-collaborations, a multitude of genres are featured here, and the creativity with which the artists on EPOCH have adapted these songs is nothing short of wonderful.

Writeup by Mike Salbato

EPOCH: A Tribute to Chrono Trigger Our Favorite Tracks:

Memories of Green

Yearnings of the Wind

Robo's Theme


Runner-Up: Face My Fears / Hikaru Utada
Composed by Hikaru Utada, Skrillex, Poo Bear

Hikaru Utada's name is synonymous with Kingdom Hearts given how memorable her vocal themes for the series are, and her work on the themes for Kingdom Hearts III continues to bolster that tradition in harmonious ways. Both the English and Japanese versions of "Face My Fears" are wonderful pieces with a distinctive electronic flair thanks to Utada's masterful collaboration with artist Skrillex. "Don't Think Twice" and its Japanese version "Chikai" are also melodious and gorgeous-sounding songs that evoke strong emotions when listened to. Though this EP album only contains these four tracks, they stand strongly together and help illustrate just how phenomenal Utada's music and collaborations with other artists can be.

Writeup by Audra Bowling

Also Read:
Our Album Review

Face My Fears / Hikaru Utada Favorite Tracks:

Face My Fears (English Version)

Chikai

Don't Think Twice


Piano Collections Final Fantasy XIV
Composed by Masayoshi Soken, Yukiko Takada, arr. by Keiko

Masayoshi Soken needs more recognition for his musical contributions to Final Fantasy. Full stop. Not only has he done an amazing job arranging some FF favorites and fitting them seamlessly into Eorzea, but his original compositions always help FFXIV's game world feel alive. This is no small feat when you are composing for an MMO that is ongoing. This particular piano collection really stands out because it's a good sampling of Eorzea's soundscape but also highlights the dynamic contrast in Soken's work (between day/night versions of songs and even within the songs themselves). The piano is also an excellent instrument for capturing the many musical moods here, and Keiko expertly does that with the arrangements on this album. The addition of the Japanese bamboo flute on "Crimson Sunset" also makes for a beautiful duet.

Writeup by Hilary Andreff

Also Read:
Our Game Review

Piano Collections Final Fantasy XIV Our Favorite Tracks:

Heroes

Crimson Sunset

Old Wounds


Indivisible Original Game Soundtrack
Composed by Hiroki Kikuta

It's wonderful that Hiroki Kikuta is willing to lend his talents so readily to indie games in progress, and boy does Indivisible fit with his musical style. The effect is compelling when his music is combined with the visuals and story of the game. This is Kikuta at his finest, with mysterious environmental themes, frantic yet melodious battle music, and outside-the-box instrumentation. Vocal tracks that show Kikuta varying his approach in order to integrate Jillian Aversa's powerful voice are also greatly appreciated. The whole thing sounds like some sort of mystical mad dance that we can't get enough of.

Writeup by Hilary Andreff

Also Read:
Our Album Review
Our Game Review

Indivisible Original Game Soundtrack Our Favorite Tracks:

Esoterica

You Are the One

Walk a Labyrinth


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