After following a multitude of albums that were all very highly rated, you’d think it would be hard for Taylor Davis to impress me. Already under her musical belt are such geek-gasms as a full Legend of Zelda cover album, a collection of popular movie themes, and a multitude of geeky songs from games and anime to make one’s inner nerd glow. However, with another album out on July 10th, 2014, devoted to game and anime music, Davis has even more opportunities to pander to our inner geeks.
Of course this album starts with the legendary “Dr. Wily’s Castle” from Megaman – one of perhaps the best and coolest songs from the 8-bit gaming era. The booming percussion in the background is great, as well as the gentle string build-up. The main line is extremely well done on the violin, as well as the trade-off where the backing parts take over the main line and the violin does its own thing. This is easily one of my all-time favorite Taylor Davis cover songs!
It wasn’t until I started re-listening through these albums that I realized the Naruto soundtrack had songs called both “Sadness and Sorrow” and “Grief and Sorrow.” This song is not quite as depressing as the former, with a lot more dynamics and a nice breakdown added at about 01:15. The violin in the climax around 02:20 is also really lively and the song builds up really well from there. The theme from Last of Us follows, with the slides and plucking helping to set a nice atmosphere. I don’t know this song well, but I always enjoy it when it comes on, as it has a very pleasant ambience.
The “Attack on Titan” theme is actually another one of my favorites from Davis. Not only was that show so fucking cool, but it had a great intro song. However, the way a lot of anime intro songs mix English and Japanese and other languages can be really annoying. As such, this version benefits from keeping everything cool about the original – the energy, the catchy riff, the epic backing – but drops the slightly annoying lyrics. This goes on my list of her versions that I like better than the original!
“Lilium” was an unfamiliar song for me, as I haven’t seen nor heard of Elfen Lied, though this is a nice enough slower song. The piano in the beginning is very strong and the song’s slow build-up is quite lovely. The backing symphonics suit it very nicely. This song feels like something from a movie score that involves perhaps 18th century England. The “Fairy Tale Theme” then makes another appearance. I’ve likely said everything I had to say on it when it last appeared, though this version is different and I have a hard time deciding which one I like better. This version certainly benefits from the backing orchestrations and I enjoy the mellow introduction. In fact, this may largely depend on my mood – sometimes I prefer this gentle, drawn-out, slower song with the backing epics, though perhaps at other times the quicker, more to-the-point piano/violin version has its place.
As much as I love Howl’s Moving Castle, “Merry-Go-Round of Life” takes a little while to get going, though I love the addition of the bass and piano around 01:20, creating a bit of a jazzy effect; violin isn’t the first instrument that comes to mind when you think about jazz music, but it works well. As well, the “haunted house” piano at 02:20ish is great touch.
I’ve spent a great deal of my life in Skyrim, so pretty much any song from that soundtrack is guaranteed to make me and other Elder Scrolls nerds squeal, though “From Past to Present” was a particularly good choice as the violin suits it especially well – the original did have a lot of strings, after all. As such, the power of this song is never diminished. I can still close my eyes and get taken back to that world when I listen to this version, and hearing it makes me want to take that game out of retirement. Plus, she kept the tinkling plucking sounds that make this song so magical. Very well done!
I consider myself pretty well-versed in anime, but I haven’t heard of Angel Beats either. However, the theme is a nice song and sounds great on the violin, especially combined with the piano and backing beats. I particularly like the ending when it fades into the violin (almost) unaccompanied. “Cosmo Canyon” is probably the most fun I have on this album with a song that I’m not familiar with, though really, Nobuo Uematsu has always set the bar pretty high with his Final Fantasy themes. I love the backing drums on this – they really help create the “canyon” feel, while the lightness of the violin makes it fun. Very catchy tune – I really like it.
“The Path of Wind” is from another Miyazaki classic, My Neighbor Totoro. This song sort of takes me back to that childhood adventure, with all the magic and mystery of cat-buses and rainy bus stops. I think this track’s strength lies in its dynamics and Davis isn’t afraid to go as high as the violin allows her. “Bink’s Sake” is another personal favorite from this album, particularly because I love One Piece but I have struggled to like this song – the anime played it too much when Brook joined the Straw Hats and the “yo-ho-ho-ho” part got annoying rather quickly. So this is what I think “Bink’s Sake” should sound like – a violin shanty accompanied by a piano (and no lyrics). Plus I love when this track kicks it into overdrive a little bit. Davis adds perfect embellishments to the music to make it sound just a little bit cooler. In fact, one of the things I like best about this take is that, other than the piano, there is only violin backing up the violin.
The “Halo 2 Theme” doesn’t start out very excitingly, but the dynamics work in its favor and in this case, the song needs the backing parts to make it sound like something other than a rejected song from the Skyrim soundtrack. This is definitely not my favorite song originally, but Davis‘ adaptation of it works fairly well to save it. The album then ends on yet another take on the theme from Fairy Tale. This gets much the same comments as the last one, though I do enjoy how the beginning is prolonged even further and the ending is sped up even more. It’s a nice way to close out the album.
At this point, after reviewing about five of these albums, I’m going to admit that it is really hard to comment on this many cover songs. First of all, if I don’t like the original, there wasn’t much Davis could do about that (though actually, she did make some mediocre songs much better throughout the course of these albums). As well, she’s adapting the songs, so I can only comment so much on the backing music or the violin take on the main themes without sounding like a broken record. Nevertheless, this album is a truly excellent best-of collection of some geek classics, with Davis improving on a few of the originals. This might be her best release to date!
Written by Bear Wiseman
- Dr. Wily’s Castle
- Grief and Sorrow
- The Last of Us Theme
- Attack on Titan Theme
- Fair Tale Theme
- Merry-Go-Round of Life
- From Past to Present
- Angel Beats! Theme
- Cosmo Canyon
- The Path of Wind
- Bink’s Sake
- Halo 2 Theme
- Fairy Tale Theme remix
Taylor Davis – violin