Erich Wolfgang Korngold once said that “music is music whether it’s for the movie theater or the concert hall or a video game.” We might have paraphrased a little at the end, but he’s right. Moreover, it’s long been understood that a good video game score can help make any game memorable. It can also have a wondrous life outside the pixelated adventure as well.
Today’s music review focuses on Mondo and Hollywood Records’ vinyl release of the soundtrack to Spider-Man: Miles Morales. However, before we dig in, here’s sliver of transparency: this review was done as a stand-alone listening experience. I’ve not played a Spider-Man game since the PS1 days (which was an awesome game btw!) and we’re not gonna count the Spider-Man Unlimited free-run game. But if the music is this good, then the game must be sensational, right?
From the very first cue, composer John Paesano gives us something that is in 100% the same vein as the Marvel movies. We’ve come to expect this level of sound from properties carrying the famous logo, and there’s a real competency to the entire album. In places, it channels that heroic free-falling energy that Danny Elfman gave Sam Raimi’s films, then it taps into what Daniel Pemberton did with his score to Into the Spider-Verse (even the last three tracks are songs are derivative of DJ Khalil’s amazing ‘Elevate’ track).
Further, and more importantly, Paesano flies into territory occupied by one of the very best Marvel composers: Tyler Bates. This score has echoes of Guardians of the Galaxy (in terms of grandeur) but the music – replete with plenty of deep drum and bass beats – keeps this adventurous and triumphant soundtrack grounded to the streets of Harlem…and beneath it.
If you feel your spider-sense tingling whilst listening, it’s because Paesano’s music can give you chills. He is intimately versed in this world having composed the music to the previous and massively popular game as well as Netflix’s television series Marvel’s Daredevil and Marvel’s The Defenders. So it’s no surprise this sister score works well in the same universe, especially when this entry picks up where the previous game left off. Then again, it’s just good music. So whether you have a controller in hand, or DJ headphones over your ears, this is a thrilling listening experience.
Mondo continues their tasteful art direction and package layout which is again overseen by Mo Shafeek. The album features artwork by Chun Lo and the vinyl variant colorway is stunningly sharp. Disc 1 is black with a red stripe, but if you hold it up to the light, it’s actually a brilliant deep blue that is somewhat translucent. It’s gorgeous. Disc 2 is green with a purple strip, and that green is so vivid it’s almost day glow.
You can’t really say that a game score is full-bodied because it’s supplemented by the visuals. It’s easy to speculate that the composers of NES games like Duck Tales and Silver Surfer or PS1 classics like Chrono Cross and Tenchu: Stealth Assassins and plenty other games truly composed music for a landscape larger than 8-bit graphics and polygon render hardware could manage. Those games had incredible scores that were massively influential and integral to the game. Paesano’s music is just as memorable.
There’s a reason the VGM resonates on a much deeper level than the gameplay, even if the pixels lack any realism. Well, based on gameplay videos we’ve seen, the PS5 doesn’t lack in any way. Done right, the music works autonomously, but together they make for such memorable experiences. This is exactly that.
The standout tracks are strewn across this entire release, and each side of the boldly colored vinyl are exceptional in their own way. ‘Don’t Give Up‘ is a great track to open with on D1A. It starts off simple and unassuming, but then opens wide to showcase web-slinging flourishes before closing as quaintly as it started.
D1A also has ‘New York’s Only Spider-Man‘ which takes bits from the previous score and expands on it, while D2A has ‘All In‘ which adds trap beats and drum machine to give the symphonic score a hip-hop rhythm section. The D1B track ‘Confession‘ has tense hi-tech detective vibes while the D2A track ‘Worst Enemies‘ and the D2B track ‘Won’t Give Up‘ have a densely heroic sound (the brass work really pluses the latter cue) and they inject this album with some real life. Headphones are a must.
Check out the tracklist below…
1. Don’t Give Up
2. Rhino Rampage
3. New York’s Only Spider-Man
5. Best Friends
1. Be Yourself
3. The Underground
4. Thicker Than Water
1. On the Case
2. All In
3. Trying to Protect You
4. We’re Here for You
5. Worst Enemies
1. Make It Right
2. Won’t Give Up
3. I’m Ready – Performed by Jaden
4. Where We Come From – Performed by Lecrae
5. This Is My Time – Performed by Lecrae
MARVEL’S SPIDER-MAN: MILES MORALES Original Video Game Soundtrack 2XLP. Music composed by John Paesano and featuring songs by Jaden and Lecrae is pressed on 2X 180 gram colored vinyl as well as 2X 180 gram black vinyl.
Click this link to check out the album from the Mondo product page.