Welcome to Morning Music, Kotaku’s ongoing hangout for folks who love video games and the cool-ass sounds they make. Today, let’s tune into Celeste, one of the literally coolest (get it? because frozen...mountain?) game soundtracks of all time.
Please don’t steal my Gamer® card, but I stumbled upon Celeste (playlist / VGMdb / longplay) by accident. One of the game’s songs, “Resurrections,” by Lena Raine, popped up during some chill-out mix radio station Spotify cued up for me. I was floored, and immediately thought, Man, I need to play this game. And then I proceeded to not play the game.
Late last year, after Celeste was added to the Xbox Game Pass library, I finally picked it up. Turns out, it’s amazing! Why did none of you tell me? What gives?
But the thing that’s cinched Celeste as a personal all-timer isn’t the platforming (which is tight AF) or the storyline (which is poignant AF, at least what I’ve seen so far). Rather, it’s the music. Celeste is a story about summiting a mountain, both literally and metaphorically. The soundtrack—with its sweeping crescendos, with its peaks and valleys—is too. But I don’t really care about that. It’s just really nice to put on in the background.
You heard that main melody in “Resurrections,” right? (It kicks off around 0:27.) That lick shows up again and again throughout the Celeste soundtrack, but often with some permutations. You’ll recognize it, for instance, in “Reflection,” albeit significantly slowed down and with some minor key changes throughout.
But the brilliance of Celeste’s soundtrack extends beyond one (very, very excellent) melody. The track “Anxiety” isn’t exactly great for background music—I’ll skip it during stressful days—but auditorily captures the body-crunching feeling of true anxiety. That immediately moves in “Quiet and Falling,” a piano-heavy overture that could lower the cortisol levels of anyone. The lo-fi “Checking In” is more rooted in electronic instrumentation, but has the same effect.
And then there’s “Starjump,” the brilliance of which you might not have picked up if you played Celeste on the big screen. Put some headphones on and listen to this:
You’ll notice that the music fades between earbuds, from your left ear to your right and back again. While that’s happening, the song builds, slowly but surely, in volume and intensity, kind of like the instrumental work from M83’s earlier albums. Both are time-tested tricks of seasoned music producers. Doesn’t make them any less awesome. It’s like getting rocked to sleep in a hammock.
We recently experienced a blizzard in New York. And I don’t mean “blizzard” in the sense some delicate city-dwellers like to toss around when it snows an inch or two, sending everyone to the bodega where they summarily buy up all the emergency toilet paper and cigarettes. I’m talking about a real blizzard—knee-deep powder snow, roads free of cars, the soothing tones of plastic shovels on concrete cutting through the night. On a real snow day like that, I love nothing more than a soundtrack that prompts relaxation, maybe even kindles some introspection. I’ll give you one guess as to what I listened to.
That’s a wrap for today’s Morning Music! How are you doing today, and what’s your go-to background music? How about for a snow day? We all want more winter storms, right? Hello? Anyone still there?