I’m starting up a miniseries of posts here on The Lifecast. There’s no doubt been an influx of video game soundtracks released on vinyl lately. Cuphead sees its soundtrack onto the format, which is pretty fitting. Bandai announced that Dark Souls would be getting the same treatment. But there have been others, ones that might not necessarily fit the stereotype of music coming from a gramophone, that I personally own and love. That’s where this comes in: a four-part series highlighting my video game vinyl collection, and a brief look into others I have stashed away.
My vinyl collection started a short while ago. My family has always been into records, and we’ve had a record player somewhere around the house for as long as I can remember. I quickly found myself looking for something unique. I’m still fascinated by the juxtaposition of EDM music on records. Something about two different eras of music meshing is entertaining in its own right.
Sound, Design, and Art
The sound of Hotline Miami is entirely unique. It’s not an atmospheric, underlying track like many games have. Hotline Miami’s soundtrack is aggressive, brooding, and in-your-face. From its first level, it features heavy bass lines, whining synths, and 80s nostalgia. Its more subdued tracks still carry the levels they’re assigned to. Flatline, a track from Scattle, made the hospital level entirely bearable. The music isn’t quite EDM, since none of it really falls into the dance category. It’s not quite dubstep, either, but has a heavy focus on bass. Given the game’s undertone, setting, and place in time, it’s reminiscent of the era where musicians started experimenting with synthesizers.
One of the many reasons people collect video game vinyl is for its cover art. That extends to other vinyl as well, but it feels different here. Like with game cases, the choice to include certain imagery is a deliberate choice. El Huervo, one of the artists featured on the vinyl, provided the art for the sleeve. Yes, all of it. (And if you like what you see, he has an art blog here.) Not only does the cover represent the depersonalization that Jacket goes through over the course of the game, but the inside features three of the most prominent characters in the game: Rasmus, the girl, and you. In addition to the art, the colors on the individual records are a great tie-in. Thematically, it’s an amazing set.
Bonus Tracks and Final Thoughts
Since the release of Hotline Miami in 2012, each artist featured on the game’s vinyl has gone on to make more music. Laced Records added, in my opinion, a pretty nice touch and curated some of those to include with the release. Other details include UV “watermarks” denoting which pressing the vinyl is and whether or not it is a Kickstarter edition. Finally, a last detail is that Laced Records put as much detail into the design of the spine as they did everywhere else. Instead of a static typeface, it matches the overall design of the jacket.
There’s a part of me that, while I don’t quite fall into audiophile territory, really appreciates the warmth that playing a vinyl has. It makes everything seem a little softer, a little more rosy, and oddly enough I associate it with cool, fall evenings and a cup of hot chocolate. Maybe the crackling of a record player’s needle is just enough to spark the thought of a fireplace. Maybe it’s a static that resonates in me, filling an otherwise cold and mechanical silence. Kicking off this miniseries with my favorite video game vinyl is a double edged sword. On the one hand, I don’t have much to build up to in terms of feeling. This is the big punch. On the other, it’s a strong introduction to the one organized collection I own. I’m excited to share others I have, since I can guarantee the next one is going to be a hard one to guess. But we’ll cover that in a few days.
Cover image via Laced With Wax.