A Little Perspective From Tom Church

Posts tagged ‘movies’

My Favorite Ghibli Movies

Hey all! As usual, I’m keeping up with the entertainment realm of life and lately that’s meant watching every Ghibli movie ever produced. It started with Spirited Away when I was seven or so, and hell, I was scared of that movie. It’s not exactly the most kid-friendly Ghibli movie, and the scene where Chihiro runs back to her parents to find they’ve turned into pigs scared me shitless. It’s like losing your parents in the grocery store. Except they’re pigs now. Non-sentient, unpredictable pigs.

So my first impression wasn’t the best. That scene nagged me so badly that the rest of the movie was difficult to appreciate. I was a crummy little kid though, unable to watch the basilisk scene of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets; hiding around the corner drinking milk during a family viewing of King Kong; being brought to see X-Men 2 only to cover my eyes through the entire movie. The only scene I saw was the one where the cat licks Wolverine’s claws.

But through some miracle of a trend in overly violent movies that keep upping the ante and pushing the boundary of what viewers are willing to sit through, I am now mostly numb to these kinds of things. Pig parents? Those would be like regular parents except you’d have to clean up after them instead of it being the other way around.

So I’ve watched all of the movies Studio Ghibli has to offer. I haven’t watched all of their short films, music videos, commercials, or collaborative works, but I can at least say I’ve seen all of their theatrical releases (of which there are sixteen currently in American circulation). They’re captivating in every sense of the word, and while some are better than others, I have no clear-cut favorite. I can’t make a “top ten list” of these films. I cherish them all for different reasons and would want to watch one the most under certain circumstances. I’ll do my best to explain my admiration for each of the films I list here.

[Reminder: these films are not listed in order of favorites; they are simply a group that I consider my favorite.]

1) My Neighbor Totoro

This movie is held as one of the most fantastic adventures that Studio Ghibli has ever produced, and I don’t think it could be summed up in clearer terms than with this quote from Roger Ebert: “[Totoro] is based on experience, situation, and exploration–not on conflict and threat.” He also called it “one of the lovingly hand-crafted works of Hayao Miyazaki,” who is the director, animator, writer, and/or producer of many Studio Ghibli feature films. Totoro is the story of two young girls, Satsuki and Mei, who discover creatures of varying size in the forests near their new home. These creatures are dubbed “totoro” by young Mei, who is the first one to actually see them. Her father calls them keepers of the forest who will reveal themselves again when they wish.

totoro

These creatures reveal themselves to be benevolent, fun-loving, and magically gifted. The movie focuses on their experiences with them, and while the movie does in fact have an apparent conflict, the magic in this movie comes from the innocence, imagination, and excitement of the two girls and the totoro (which, by the way, is plural in this case). It transcends the kids’ genre and I encourage anybody to watch it if they ever want to feel like a kid again.

2) Spirited Away

Let’s go ahead and tackle this one. Here’s the movie I said frightened me. Frankly, it still does, but perhaps in different ways. No, I’m not scared my parents will turn into pigs anymore, but this movie is centered around a plot in which a young girl, Chihiro, stumbles into a world of spirits. She feels out of place, lost, and lonely, and everyone she meets treats her harshly. There are some genuinely scary characters along the way, and a big-headed old woman running the show.

This movie works to alienate Chihiro, and in the process makes the viewer uncomfortable. The movie is unpredictable and surreal, and that’s part of its beauty. It’s wonderfully animated and full of suspense, as well as happy moments, paced to keep you waiting. One of my favorite parts about this movie is its soundtrack (not uncommon, as you’ll see from entries further down this list). Joe Hisaishi is a composer who often collaborates with Hayao Miyazaki in adding musical emphasis and power to Studio Ghibli films. A movie with Hisaishi as its composer is one worth watching. Notable tracks from this film are “One Summer’s Day,” “The Sixth Station,” and “The Dragon Boy.”

spirited awayThis movie is dreamlike. It may have been hard to watch and appreciate when I was younger, but it was also the first Ghibli movie I saw, and when I was older I searched for it and watched it again and found it to be beautiful. It’s absolutely worth watching.

3) Grave of the Fireflies

Grave of the Fireflies offers a largely different experience, you will find, than its Ghibli counterparts. The two main reasons are its premise and its director. The movie’s foundation rests on the air raids on Japan during WWII. Seita and his young and naive sister Setsuko are two children left to fend for themselves when their living situation falls apart. They are surrounded by harsh circumstances in a community that is becoming increasingly stingy with its food and money. Seita feels it’s his responsibility to look after Setsuko, who is just old enough to talk and who has a much harder time adapting than he does.

The movie’s director is Isao Takahata. Takahata is the director of only four Studio Ghibli films of the eighteen that are currently available in Japan (two of these films, Only Yesterday and The Wind Rises, haven’t been released in America). That said, Takahata is second in directorial involvement to Miyazaki, and does not often receive as much praise. I personally prefer Miyazaki movies to those Takahata produces, and their difference is only in style and interest. Takahata’s career has consisted of movies that are more “slice-of-life,” and perhaps more relevant to real-life situations. Movies like Only Yesterday and My Neighbors the Yamadas support this assertion, whereas Takahata’s Pom Poko (a movie about talking raccoons who face habitat destruction) would contradict it. In any case, I generally prefer the films Miyazaki writes and/or directs.

grave of the fireflies

Grave of the Fireflies is the exception. This movie is heartbreakingly real, and is even based on a Japanese man’s autobiography. The events described in the movie are recreations of true occurrences. The outcome of this movie, I will warn you, is harsh. But there is a magic to the movie that sticks with you long after you watch it, as well as an appreciation for life.

4) From Up On Poppy Hill

I only needed to watch this one once to declare it one of my instant favorites. From Up On Poppy Hill is actually the second film directed by Hayao Miyazaki’s son, Goro Miyazaki. The first film, Tales From Earthsea, was good, but From Up On Poppy Hill, in my opinion, is a more worthy film and received better critical attention. Another film that falls into the category of realism, Poppy Hill details the story of Umi, who raises marina flags every morning in order to signal ships. The ship she is signalling is her father’s, who she has not seen in years.

A boy in town notices and writes a poem about it that makes it into the school paper. They end up meeting and bonding over extracurricular activities that take place in a clubhouse called the Latin Quartier. The movie is a love story, and a really good one. It was funny and endearing, and most of all it was pretty.

from up on poppy hill

Also notable about this movie was its ability to make me laugh. Studio Ghibli movies are always pretty, but a sense of humor always helps. This movie was all-around fantastic, and a definite must-see for fans. It also gave me confidence in Goro Miyazaki’s ability to succeed his father, who recently retired!

5) Kiki’s Delivery Service

This movie is one of the most inherently goodhearted and beautiful films I’ve ever watched. Everyone in this movie works to do good for each other, to be helpful and kind human beings. It’s all about a young witch, Kiki, who moves to the waterside town of Koriko in order to learn how to learn how the human world operates. The people she meets along the way become close friends and help her at every opportunity.

This movie is not conflictless, and yet it has no clear villain. You cannot even label something intangible as the enemy, such as “human greed” or “environmental pollution.” There is simply no evil afoot. This movie, like Totoro, is about the situation, and about the experience. It’s a lesson in aesthetics, and in how to treat people. Kiki and Tombo are fantastic characters, because of their inclination to optimism and their profound childlike wonder (and I may be a little biased).

This gorgeous movie was written, directed, and produced by Hayao Miyazaki, with music by Joe Hisaishi.

kiki's delivery serviceA fantastic movie and a great choice for anybody! It’s certainly something I’ll be showing my children someday. And you know the old C. S. Lewis quote: “A children’s story that can only be enjoyed by children is not a good children’s story in the slightest.” I will never stop enjoying Kiki.

6) Howl’s Moving Castle

Erin’s personal favorite, Howl’s Moving Castle is directed and written by Hayao Miyazaki, with music by Joe Hisaishi–right in my comfort zone. Originally, Mamoru Hosoda, the director of two Digimon movies, The Girl Who Leapt Through Time, and Summer Wars was to direct.  However, he left the production, and Miyazaki came out of what everyone thought was his retirement to direct the movie (keep in mind, this was in the early 2000s).

This movie never disappointed me. It’s a magical tale, and a more surreal one as well, comparable to Spirited Away in the sense that not everything that happens makes sense. The rules are never spelled out, but that’s something you end up understanding and enjoying. Howl is a love story between the mysterious owner of a moving castle and a young girl named Sophie who has trouble believing she’s pretty at all. It makes it all the more difficult for her to believe Howl loves her, and has been looking for her.

howl's moving castleThis movie is touching, and you end up loving the characters for their ability to protect their friends and convert their enemies. It’s a movie that’s stuck with me as being one of the most beautiful in terms of art and its story. “Now, straighten your legs, and start walking!”

7) Whisper Of The Heart

This love story was actually adapted by Hayao Miyazaki from a manga comic series. While I can’t compare the two (having never read the latter), I can honestly say that Whisper is a beautifully touching story of young romance and coming of age. It’s a story that I believe many can identify with, because it’s all about balancing responsibilities and becoming something you can respect. One of my favorite quotes from the movie is spoken by the main character’s scarcely-seen father: “Why don’t we let Shizuku do what she thinks is best? Not everyone has to follow the same path? … Go ahead and do what your heart tells you. But it’s never easy when you do things differently from everyone else. If things don’t go well, you’ll only have yourself to blame.”

Whisper has a powerful story and a wonderful message. It may feel at first as if this story is realistic fiction, like From Up On Poppy Hill or Only Yesterday, but this is a movie that creates its own magic and showcases such imaginative ideas and themes.

whisper of the heartOne of my favorites, absolutely. It also has one of my favorite scenes–the one pictured in the .gif above–of any Ghibli movie!

8) Princess Mononoke

Mononoke means ‘spirit’ or ‘monster,’ so the translation for this movie’s title is closer to “The Spirit Princess.” It’s described as a historical epic fantasy (try wrapping your mind around that one) that illustrates mankind’s effect on nature. It’s actually one of a few Studio Ghibli movies that notably delve into that subject, the others being Nausicaa of the Valley of the WindPom Poko, and Laputa: Castle in the Sky. Other films go into less detail, but convey the same message through mankind’s harmful interactions with magical presences.

Mononoke is a masterful movie. It’s a fan favorite because it’s a bit more violent than other movies, and also a bit more fantastic. The characters are ambitious and aggressive, and the art is beautiful. This movie was calculated to have approximately 144,000 individual celluloid images used in the final production, the Studio’s last cel-shaded film up until Ponyo was made. Ponyo topped Mononoke’s cel-shade count at 170,000 separate images.

princess mononoke

This is a spectacular movie, and it features one of my favorite Hisaishi songs: “Ashitaka and San.”  It’s a bit more action-oriented than other Studio Ghibli films, for all of us who appreciate that kind of thing!

9) Arrietty

This movie was really fantastic. It was actually directed by Hiromasa Yonebayashi, notable for the fact that he was the youngest director of a theatrical Studio Ghibli movie. It was written by Hayao Miyazaki and Keiko Niwa, with music by Cecile Corbel. The change in musical style was actually quite welcome, and suited the movie superbly. I paid attention to the music in this movie and ended up really loving it.

Arrietty had a cry-worthy premise. It’s about a boy named Sho who moves into a house inhabited by a tiny race of people called Borrowers. They borrow things from the humans’ residences because the difference in size is extremely helpful to them. For example, a sugar cube in the human world that would last us one cup of coffee would last the Borrowers several weeks. Arrietty is a young Borrower whose father wants to teach her how to explore human houses discreetly.

But Sho finds out about her when she is careless, and tries his best to help her. Sho reveals to Arrietty later on that he has a heart condition, and he is sick almost beyond conceivable medical help. It appears that Sho does not have much longer to live, and he says that he is helping them because, unlike himself, the Borrowers have a chance at not “dying out.”

arriettyEverything about this movie is pretty. The whole thing is wonderful, and the way that Arrietty and Sho give meaning to each others’ lives is what makes this movie really special.

10) Ponyo

I will never grow tired of this movie, not in two or three or ten lifetimes. Ponyo was brilliant in every sense of the word. From the killer cast to the breathtaking art style, from the Hisaishi soundtrack to the goofy main characters, this movie had it all. It is the epitome of cuteness and fun. I think what made this movie great was its ability to make me happy. The kids in the movie are always jovial, brave, and silly with each other, especially Ponyo who is ridiculously oblivious and always jumping for joy. When she’s not screaming, she’s sleepy. She was the most enjoyable and adorable character.

The plot managed to be suspenseful, cute, and fulfilling all at once. What also makes Ponyo interesting is that it lacks a definite villain. It was much like Kiki’s Delivery Service in that way. Ponyo was extremely imaginative and visually stunning.

ponyo

If there’s one movie I can trust to liven me up and make me happy, it’s Ponyo. 

Thanks so much for reading, everyone, and I hope you enjoyed! If you learned anything or got some insight into what to watch next, that’s a bonus!

-Thom
aestheism, not atheism.

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Breaking Bad

Over the past week or week and a half, I’ve done something I never thought I could have: watched an entire show on Netflix. Many, many hours being watched in the space between homework and sleep (sometimes the three overlapped). But I did it.

I am all caught up in Breaking Bad.

I started last Thursday. Erin is a huge fan, my brother is a huge fan, and so naturally I knew I would be a huge fan. I am, and I am so glad I got into it before the series finale, which is tonight.

So for those of you who don’t know what it is, let me describe it.

For one thing, it’s like nothing I’ve ever watched. It’s about a high school chemistry teacher in Albuquerque, New Mexico who is diagnosed with cancer. Fearing he will have no money to leave to his family when he passes, he begins manufacturing methamphetamine and getting irrevocably involved with serious and dangerous criminals. The series mostly deals with his struggle to keep the details of his second life from his family, and simultaneously meet the right quotas and serve the right people.

What I like most about the show is that it’s clever. It has some of the biggest “holy shit” moments I’ve ever seen. It’s dirty, messy, and gritty. And above anything, it just seems real. It feels like the kinds of crazy and unexpected outcomes are what would occur in real life; nothing goes as planned, Walter (the main character) or his other partners always get hurt, and someone always suffers.

The show’s characters really shine as well. The cast went from relatively unknown men and women to celebrities in a matter of a couple of seasons. Walter White is played by Bryan Cranston, best known for his role in the decade-old sitcom “Malcolm in the Middle.” Anna Gunn is his wife, Skyler White, and his young street partner Jesse Pinkman is portrayed by Aaron Paul. These three actors are mostly the show’s focal point, and they are all fantastic; but the surrounding cast is awesome as well, particularly the villains that Walter is pitted against, and others like Walt’s brother-in-law Hank, the Drug Enforcement Administration Agent.

What most fans like to speculate on is the moral ambiguity seen in Walt and others. As the series progresses and the characters wade deeper into crime, it is difficult to tell what their true motives and beliefs are anymore. Walt always restates that his reasoning in doing anything anymore is for his family, but playing that card so often muddles its effect and makes it seem like he’s only trying to excuse himself from any blame. It is evident later on that Walt receives some sort of sick thrill from producing and dealing drugs. The kind of power he exercises over people is arbitrary and sickening in some cases, and it truly turns some fans off. Fans want so badly to root for him, but it is made impossible sometimes.

His partner Jesse is a bit less offputting. What is interesting about Jesse is that he is technically the definition of a hoodlum, and yet I always find myself rooting for him. The reason is because he is shown to have more heart and humanity than Walt has. Walt tends to use Jesse and manipulate him sometimes, while Jesse ends up losing interest in the money and clout that Walt strives for. Jesse tries establishing relationships with women and finding some modicum of normalcy, but is always torn away by the drug business. And while he is an addict and has many low points in the series, as a fan I only want him to renounce all of his misdeeds and remove himself from the show’s negative influences.

Those two main characters properly introduced, I will now go on to say that (I will not spoil a thing for you guys!) they get into some serious trouble together. That is, to me, the appeal of the show. Fans sometimes define Breaking Bad as

“that show that leaves you lying in a fetal position at the end of every episode”

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And it’s true. Astoundingly difficult-to-deal-with curveballs are thrown at the viewers all the time, assuming they understand what’s happening. The main characters are always facing down a problem, whether they know it or not. As soon as they let their guard down, something happens to bring them back to the forefront. Walt is always in danger, and understandably so is his family. Walt is the target of gang crimes, kingpins’ hitmen, and the DEA alike. The latter means that he is in conflict with his own brother-in-law.

So why watch this show? If it hasn’t been made apparent yet, I’ll restate it: there’s never been anything like it. I remember watching the premiere in 2008 and being completely enthralled (although I didn’t quite have the stamina back then to keep up with it). If shows in the future take pointers from this show, we can expect cleverly-written, well-acted, and insanely gripping masterpieces soon to come. And with the finale occurring tonight, I’m sure that I’ll be in the fetal position, wondering what to do now that it’s all over.

For those of you who haven’t seen a lick of this show (and now want to), happy watching; for those of you who are all caught up and will be watching the finale tonight–happy watching.

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-Thom
aestheism, not atheism.

Top Five Reasons You Should Watch Attack on Titan

Hey guys! Guess where Erin and I are now? You guessed it: college. And it has been quite a time for us both–since we’re both separate we’re keeping in touch as best we can, and with schoolwork in between we’re making do. We plan to see each other soon, and I dunno about you guys but I’m pretty good when it comes to sending Erin all things, all the time. God bless the internet.

Admittedly, I get a little bit down from time to time though, because I miss Erin and my friends and my family, and I’m sure that’s normal. And one of my methods of self-recuperation (besides talking to Erin of course) is to watch videos.

They’re sometimes funny, sometimes weird, but mostly they’re just distracting! And boy, do I like distracting. Long day of school? Watch some Netflix. Sick to your stomach? Watch this guy read you stuff. Feeling like a li’l shit?

Watch Attack on Titan.

You know why? Because the main character is the angstiest li’l shit I think I’ve ever seen. And you won’t feel like half the li’l shit you felt like after watching him yell this.

“Does he have character development?” you ask. “Is he a likable character?” “Does he grow on you?” “Is he romantically involved?”

Sort of. To all of those. He is sort of everything.

And sort of freaking batshit crazy.

Here ya go: the top five reasons you should watch Attack on Titan.

5) It’s Unique

“But lots of shows are unique!” you whine. “Every show is unique!” Well this one takes the cake. This show is not even your typical action-anime show, it’s pretty much in a realm of its own as far as I can tell. Between my brother and I, action-anime shows have been watched in my household, and none were like this.

Is it one of the bloodiest I’ve ever seen? Yes. Around 18,600 people believe that Attack on Titan (aka SNK which stands for Shingeki no Kyojin–the show’s Japanese name) uses blood like other anime shows use cherry blossoms, which is a nearly unbearable amount. But is it thrilling? Absolutely. Are you engaged and on the edge of your seat the entire time you watch? Pretty much. Do people die lots of devastating deaths? Let’s just say it’s not normal to go an entire episode without watching someone get killed.

That’s the other thing: characters that are introduced and characterized are literally shown being killed before your very eyes, and it’s hard deciding if you’re more physically appalled or emotionally detached now that they’re gone. But, points for originality. Right? Wouldn’t want the good guys to just kick ass all the time. That wouldn’t be fun. It’d be pointless.

Humanity gets whooped all the time in this show.

4) The Fans

Take this reason with a grain of salt: there is no show on the planet where all the fans are completely sane. Not even Jeopardy. And admittedly, I will often find tumblr posts about Attack on Titan that do not appeal to me at all, involving alternate universes and stranger-than-strange fan fiction, etc. I’m sure anyone with a computer knows what I’m talking about. There are always going to be the oddball fans.

But with that disclaimer, I must say that the *funny* Attack on Titan stuff is absolutely hilarious. Some people are creative and some people have lots of time on their hands–and some people have both of those things. And they spend it making beautiful, AoT art.

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This is the tip of the iceberg. And while you may think “huh, creative” or smile a little, ya gotta realize–watching the show opens up an entire world of jokes that I don’t want to spoil for you. NO SPOILERS. I promise.

Oh, and here is a site devoted to drawing one-minute depictions of the main character, Eren Jaeger.

3) The Characters

Action-anime shows (especially ones with this much blood) tend to have characters that place emphasis on being badass. That’s cool, I understand. But Attack on Titan is a strange offshoot–it is full of cowards.

There are funny cowards. There are funny idiots. There are heroic idiots. A lot of these people die. But when it comes to the way in which the characters combat the titans, it’s honestly incredibly realistic in the sense that they aren’t all hack-and-slash and awesome; the people are genuinely scared. Even the people in charge are scared. There are multiple points in the show where you’re thinking “are people going to rebel? Will people leave the fight to save their own skins?” I won’t tell you the outcome, but the people who are truly talented and badass warriors are few and far between.

I won’t tell you what kinds of backstory is offered on main characters and what their personalities are in general, but I can assure you that at least I am satisfied with what kinds of cool decisions they make and how they move the show along.

2) It’s Artistically Original

The show itself is really interesting. If you compare it to other styles of animation, it just kinda has its own feel. The characters feel more outlined and defined, the colors are kind of dark most times for effect, and the expressions on their faces are versatile, but never typical. Some shows animate their characters in a non-realistic way sometimes to illustrate (in a usually funny way) the way that they’re feeling, but AoT never has to do that. It really helps bring you into the world of the characters a little bit more.

Also interesting is the realistic take on a by-gone age. The show takes place in a strange and undefinable era that can only be described by me as “the Middle Ages with a higher degree of technology”. The people eat bread in mess halls and wear tunics. There are cannons, but apparently guns do not exist. And yet they are able to travel via Maneuver Gear, which is basically like hip-mounted cables that act much like Spiderman’s webshots. They cling to nearby buildings and allow gravity and other factors to build up a certain momentum for the user to travel swiftly about their environment. It’s certainly a really cool concept. Also, they’ve got swords.

Pretty original, right?

Oh, and the titans are freaking horrifying.

1) The Premise

Alright, so you’ve gotten this far through my post and you’re probably like “why in the hell have you only given me vague hints as to the premise of this show?” The reason is because it’s the best part. It’s just a really, really cool idea. Honestly whoever conceptualized this show is a creative genius, because in my opinion, few shows come close to the level of awe that this show inspires merely by thinking about it.

It’s a show about a human population that exists within massive walls. A century or more ago, mankind was nearly eradicated by giant humanoid monsters, but they all mysteriously vanished, and mankind was left to repopulate some, and even prepare for the next unpredictable wave. The show begins right when the titans return, and wreak havoc upon the citizens within the outermost portion of wall. Within the wall are more walls, so that external towns kind of act as barriers and buffers against attacks on the interior.

Mankind knows almost nothing about how the titans; their anatomy (they have no genitalia and I’m pretty sure they’ve never seen a baby titan), their weaknesses, and their level of intelligence are all strange mysteries. But the main character Eren, after witnessing something particularly unforgettable, vows to learn to combat the titans, and to kill them all for the sake of humanity.

Sounds neat right? Well there have been more than a handful of twists along the way, and this show is definitely more than it seems on the surface. Add that level of depth, and you’ve got a show you probably can’t stop watching.

Enjoy.

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-Thom
aestheism, not atheism.

Instrumental Music for Homework

A lot of people ask me “how in the world do you manage to read and listen to music at the same time?” Then I yank off my headphones and say “HUH?” really loudly and everyone in the room turns to look at me.

I like my music loud. But in any case, my answer to that question is simple: typically I’m listening to soothing piano music, or goofy techno beats. This ‘atmospheric’ music is meant to serve a few purposes: to block out nearby conversations; to get me feeling relaxed (or excited, depending); and to also avert potential conversations. Sometimes, people are brave or impolite enough to interrupt others who are quite immersed in their book. It’s a fact of life: other people will talk even as you flip the pages, even as you make coughing noises, and even as you make only the softest of grunting noises to confirm (or deny) that you are listening intently.

Having headphones on makes it less likely that you will be interrupted.

But if I haven’t made it clear yet, I listen to instrumental music when I read, or when I do homework. It was certainly a leap to being with: I had no clue whether or not I’d like it at all. The only instrumental music I’d ever listened to up until maybe ninth grade was a small array of Rush jam sessions and Joe Satriani guitar solos. Honestly I was thrilled with neither. In fact, classic rock now bores me half to death. It was a phase, we all had them. Or maybe only I did, and I’m just compensating.

In any case, my musical taste now is pretty rad. I’ve always been told to be diverse, and I’d say I’ve stuck to that mantra pretty well. I can appreciate pretty much anything except harsh rock and metal. Also, sometimes new country songs peeve me. In spite of its popularity, I’ve found myself griping about “Hey Ho” by The Lumineers. I find it disagreeable for some reason.

But that still leaves me with a wide range of genres, doesn’t it (well, let’s exclude ska while we’re at it)? It sure does, and I listen to ’em all.

 

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Let’s cover a big and modern category first: instrumental music by bands that normally sing. There are many, many typically vocal bands that release albums with a few instrumental songs thrown in:

“North” by Phoenix (great study song)
“F*ck This Shit” by Belle and Sebastian
“Oscillate Wildly” by The Smiths
“Jumbo Blimp Jumbo” by Kyuss
“Life in Technicolor (Instrumental)” by Coldplay

There’s a short list that I’ve downloaded and listen to–they’re really great, and sometimes if I’m really into a band I’ll search the web or iTunes to see if they’ve released any instrumental tracks. Sometimes they are instrumental versions of some of their other songs, and other times they’re completely standalone.

 

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The next category is completely instrumental bands. These actually pop up more than I’d have thought to begin with, but I’m glad they do. One time, I was in seventh grade or so, and I searched “;” in the iTunes search bar. I played the first song that came up, “;” by The Coma Lilies. It was nothing special at all. It was actually just random, discordant chiming. But the rest of the album that surrounded that song–the album was titled “Memento Mori” and was an obscure prog EP–was so brilliant that I couldn’t even begin to comprehend it with my 7th grade mind. I’d stumbled upon something that I would enjoy for an exceptionally long time. The EP itself has several gems: “What Do I Have To Do To Check My E-mail?” is one, a fast-paced and intense song, and “P*nis Envy,” my personal favorite, has astounding buildup, as well as a remarkable effect on my countenance while I listen. Here are some instrumental bands to give a listen:

The Coma Lilies
Explosions In The Sky
God Is An Astronaut
Helios
Emancipator

 

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And then we get to the classical stuff; the compositions and the symphonies and whathaveyou. I can appreciate a wider variety of classical music, it seems, the more I listen to it. I think my favorite so far is Brahms. His stuff is just so rad. But of course otherwise you’ve got the patriarchal, eternal composers like Bach and Beethoven and Mozart and Chopin and Liszt, etc. Here are some pieces I especially enjoy:

“Intermezzo” by Johannes Brahms
“Rhapsody In Blue” by George Gershwin
“Turkish March” by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
“Lux Aeterna” by Clint Mansell (LOTR: Twin Towers / 300 theme! read next category for more…)
“Andante” [part of Piano Concerto 2 in B-Flat Major] by Johannes Brahms (again)

 

*4*

If you’re like me, you like the buildup in an instrumental song, too. Here comes the movie/TV scores, the stuff that’s really blatantly designed to evoke some sort of feeling. Sometimes it gets your blood pumping, other times it stimulates your sadness, but whatever the case, there’s a certain quality that I like about this category: nostalgia. Every time I hear Joe Hisaishi’s “One Summer’s Day,” I can picture the car bouncing, the passengers jostling around at the beginning of “Spirited Away” (a fantastic movie, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again). There are so many feelings to be had with pieces from Original Soundtracks (OSTs) from your favorite movies. This category is really entirely up to you, because chances are you’ve seen some brilliant movies that I haven’t, and vice versa. But here are some of my favorites:

“The Sixth Station” by Joe Hisaishi (Spirited Away)
“Theme [from Jurassic Park]” by John Williams (Jurassic Park)
“Theme [from Braveheart]” by James Horner (Braveheart)
“Ashitaka and San” by Joe Hisaishi (Princess Mononoke)
“Elysium” by Hans Zimmer, Lisa Gerrard, Klaus Badelt (Gladiator)

 

*5*

And lastly, this category is all video game music. That’s right. Equally nostalgic as movie scores is old video game music that brings us back to certain points in our life. I highly recommend looking up covers by the London Philharmonic Orchestra; they’ve covered everything from The Legend of Zelda to Halo’s theme, and it’s all very impressive. You can also try looking online for certain Youtube playlists of the original music from the games. I found a playlist with over 100 tracks of old Pokemon Gameboy game music. It was crazy awesome and it really does the trick sometimes. Here are my favorites:

“Never Forget/Peril” from Halo 3
“Mice On Venus” from Minecraft (the artist, C418, does really great work)
“Title Theme” from The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time
“Far Horizons” from The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
“Orb of Dreamers (The Cosmic Imagisphere)” from Little Big Planet

***

I hope all of that helped, and I hope those categories help organize and refine your search for instrumental music. As a bit of a sample, I’ll post the links for five songs, one from each category, which I find especially awesome!

1. North – Phoenix

2. Shook – Emancipator

3.  Intermezzo – Johannes Brahms

4. Elysium – Gladiator

5. Never Forget/Peril – Halo 3

-Thom
aestheism, not atheism.

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