Soundtrack Central The best of VGM and other great soundtracks

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Adam Corn Jul 5, 2013

So I was at my parents' house and had Last Ranker Piano Trio Arrange on the stereo when my mother asked me what it was.  I told her it was a Last Ranker arrangement and that she had a few tracks from the OST that I'd given her a couple years back on her iTunes .  After which she says, "You know what I'd like to hear next is Kingdom Hearts".  This without explicitly knowing that they were by the same composer.  Go Mom.

We never had much discussion of these soundtracks when they came out but are there any fans out there?  Given Ms. Shimomura's popularity I know there must be.

The sequenced tracks that make up the bulk of Last Ranker OST are too typical JRPG for my own tastes but there are a half-dozen or so tracks on the first disc, particularly the acoustic ones featuring violin, that are VERY nice.  Especially "The Flower Blooms on That Shore" which is so serene and oh so pretty.  Easily still one of my favorite tracks of 2010.  A couple of tracks combining orchestra and chorus with rave-like electronica are interesting as well (though they could have been better developed).  And though I complain about the soundtrack being too typical JRPG, "The Town with an Exotic Fragrance" is a quirky and catchy JRPG town theme in all the best ways. big_smile

Last Ranker came out the same year as Xenoblade and that game and OST got more attention but if it came down to one OST or the other I would definitely take Last Ranker.  I tend to prefer acoustic soundtracks over sequenced ones and moderate-length OSTs over really long ones so no surprise there.  I can see how fans of lengthy, traditional JRPG OSTs would go for Xenoblade though.

As for Last Ranker Piano Trio Arrange I haven't listened enough to judge it too strongly... the three-instrument ensemble (piano, violin, cello) and arrangements are nice but don't compare to the best acoustic tracks on the OST in my opinion.  Quite a short album as well of course.  I consider it a nice companion disc to have but not worth going out of the way for.

TerraEpon Jul 5, 2013

Last Ranker has very annoying sound quality and a track that's in mono. I ended up selling it.

Shame too as it's great music.

Wanderer Jul 5, 2013

I like Last Ranker quite a bit. As far as Shimomura soundtracks go, I think it's one of my favorites from her. The first half of the first disc in particular is just really solid.

(I like Xenoblade too but that's more of a "pick your favorites" soundtrack because of its size.)

Qui-Gon Joe Jul 5, 2013

I like a lot of Shimomura's stuff in Xenoblade, but she barely did any of it (and it's VERY front-ended in the game - you hear almost all of her contributions in the first couple hours and then it's pretty much just that regular battle theme past that).  Last Ranker is one of my absolute favorite OSTs of hers.  In my opinion, between that and the also excellent Radiant Historia, she's really the one left from the old Squaresoft days still putting out work as good or better than her 16 bit era material.

LiquidAcid Jul 5, 2013

While the music itself is beautiful (well, anything by Shimomura is *g*), the album really suffers from the mastering. The clipping and compression kills a lot of the enjoyment, making it tiresome to listen to.

Adam Corn Jul 5, 2013

I had forgotten actually that Shimomura made some contributions to Xenoblade.  I was just comparing the two scores in general.  I should really give Radiant Historia a listen for comparison as well, especially since it's only a single disc.

Those of you with complaints about the mastering, do they apply to the acoustic pieces as well?  They sound nothing but beautiful to me.

LiquidAcid Jul 5, 2013 (edited Jul 5, 2013)

I'm just going to provide some stats here (just disc 1).

Peaks:

01 Main Theme of 'LAST RANKER': 1.043370
02 Wanderers, Look Up at the Sky: 1.005403
03 Ghandoar, a Gorgeous Capital: 1.005256
04 During the Oath: 1.065219
05 A Breeze Blowing Towards Tomorrow: 0.987981
06 Stand on The Earth: 1.016662
07 What Awaits in the Deep Forest: 0.999327
08 Beyond This World of Woe: 0.994591
09 Born to Survive: 1.106255
10 The Order of Bazalta: 1.000230
11 An Uncertain Destination: 0.988509
12 What Draws Near: 1.025872
13 The Evinos: 1.107098
14 A Round Table Conference: 0.987977
15 The Town with an Exotic Fragrance: 0.988930
16 The Flower Blooms on That Shore: 0.995518
17 La Valse Noire: 0.992277
18 The Bloom of Passion: 1.063281
19 Sleeping in Deep Sorrow: 0.906850
20 Only One Goes: 0.885620
21 This Journey without End: 1.026143
22 Glorious Fights We Call 'Life': 1.069610

So most of these are either above 1.0 and the rest is very close to it. That's the aforementioned clipping, which obviously affects all but two (19 and 20) tracks. Adam, you mentioned the acoustic pieces -- I'd classify track 02 as such -- and you see that even that one has clipping. Which is kind of sad to see, since it isn't necessary at all.

Let's check track ranges:

01 Main Theme of 'LAST RANKER': 10.57 LU
02 Wanderers, Look Up at the Sky: 8.60 LU
03 Ghandoar, a Gorgeous Capital: 5.66 LU
04 During the Oath: 10.63 LU
05 A Breeze Blowing Towards Tomorrow: 12.57 LU
06 Stand on The Earth: 3.48 LU
07 What Awaits in the Deep Forest: 6.58 LU
08 Beyond This World of Woe: 3.97 LU
09 Born to Survive: 8.88 LU
10 The Order of Bazalta: 4.91 LU
11 An Uncertain Destination: 4.60 LU
12 What Draws Near: 11.82 LU
13 The Evinos: 6.14 LU
14 A Round Table Conference: 7.41 LU
15 The Town with an Exotic Fragrance: 5.45 LU
16 The Flower Blooms on That Shore: 6.24 LU
17 La Valse Noire: 12.08 LU
18 The Bloom of Passion: 12.06 LU
19 Sleeping in Deep Sorrow: 8.76 LU
20 Only One Goes: 6.05 LU
21 This Journey without End: 9.57 LU
22 Glorious Fights We Call 'Life': 6.49 LU

So these are actually not so bad, see especially 05, 12 and 17. What's terribly compressed is Stand on The Earth and Beyond This World of Woe, reducing the different instruments to a homogeneous pulp, with only the solo violin standing out. IMHO this could've been much better. These are the worst examples, but the other tracks with <10 LU aren't so much better.

Dear mastering engineers, please give the music some space to breath!

EDIT: For completeness, here are the gain correction values:
nopaste

LiquidAcid Jul 5, 2013

To compare this, the same stats for Radiant Historia:

01 RADIANT HISTORIA (0.991587 | 6.83 LU)
02 Mechanical Kingdom (0.977658 | 7.57 LU)
03 To the Battlefield (0.975562 | 3.55 LU)
04 Blue Radiance (0.978027 | 10.51 LU)
05 Forever Proud (0.966959 | 12.25 LU)
06 To the Future that Awaits Ahead (0.981431 | 3.39 LU)
07 Beyond the Wilderness (0.905328 | 3.40 LU)
08 The Edge of Green (0.980675 | 11.88 LU)
09 Victory! (0.966072 | 11.19 LU)
10 Dreams Showed by a Cloud of Dust (0.974515 | 10.78 LU)
11 The Garden Where the Celestite Lies (0.966427 | 11.22 LU)
12 The Melody Connecting the World (0.866169 | 11.64 LU)
13 Unending Clear Blue Sky (0.897999 | 6.05 LU)
14 Shadows Dance in the Darkness (0.976031 | 7.27 LU)
15 The Red Locus (0.975948 | 8.17 LU)
16 Wildness and Toughness (0.983053 | 4.84 LU)
17 Rebellion (1.076600 | 3.98 LU)
18 Where the Wind and Feathers Return (0.935812 | 7.02 LU)
19 Impending Crisis (0.989816 | 6.11 LU)
20 Interrupted Moment (0.948363 | 6.37 LU)
21 Memories of the World (0.976393 | 8.83 LU)
22 An Earnest Desire of Grey (0.977024 | 9.15 LU)
23 Affectionate Moment (0.924366 | 4.16 LU)
24 -HISTORIA- (0.999189 | 8.18 LU)
25 -HISTORIA- (instrumental ver.) (0.981289 | 7.78 LU)

First value is peak, second is dynamic range. So this obviously fares much better in the clipping department. Range is again so so.

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