When I first took a look at the songs in The String Arcade, I was a bit perplexed. Normally an album of game music covers the same typical stuff - some Final Fantasy, some Zelda, maybe a little Mega Man or Duck Tales or Contra and possibly a lesser-known game here or there just to mix things up. The String Arcade, on the other hand, has more eclectic pieces of music from games even I've never heard of than ones I have, and I've been playing games since before the days of the NES! There are some classics (a TRON Arcade Medley and the Legend of Zelda Title Theme, for example) that are really fantastic, but I was even more amazed that even the songs from games I'd never even heard before were really amazing. Typically unknown game themes lack the heart that come with actually playing the games, so no matter how good the music may be it's dull and not worth listening to. That's certainly not the case here!
On the other end of the album sits The Legend of Zelda Title Theme. It was the first one I played, as it's very often covered by people and gives a great idea of what to expect out of a cover artist... Will it be a simple, uncreative-yet-skillful copy of the theme but with a string quartet, or will it be something unique, something new? Luckily, it was the latter... In fact, the song is the best kind of temptress, luring you in with the idea of something familiar, then weaving around those notes and many others before really bringing it home, giving you the theme you came to hear but so much more as well! It's always wonderful to find a group with as much skill composing as actually playing the music.
The 13 tracks between (15 if you're willing to spend the extra $2 to get the physical CD that comes with the Altered Beast theme and TRON Arcade Medley - SO worth it, but I'll go into that more later) are great as well. I'm sure some of you will recognize some of the games better than I did, but like I said, even though I didn't recognize the music (or even half of the game titles), the music is fantastic. It bounces from playful to peaceful to dramatic like a great platformer keeps your hands JUST the right amount sweaty. Of those Particularly of note is Dance of the Space Bugs from Galaga, which even after several listens reminds me of getting my butt kicked but loving every moment of it at the arcade as a child.
Ah yes, and then there's the TRON Arcade Medley for those who buy the physical CD... Yes, I remember promising to come back to that. That one alone easily makes up the $2 price difference. Heck, aside from the fact that 100% of the sales from this recording go to the Alameda Music Project (AMP - alamedamusicproject.org) and that the rest of the CD is great too, between it, the Legend of Zelda theme and Grasswalk, it sells the CD! TRON had a beautiful enough soundtrack, putting it into these talented musicians' hands is almost too much awesomeness, if such a thing were possible.
Price: $10 for Digital, $11.99 for physical CD (plus two bonus songs, ONE OF WHICH IS THE TRON MEDLEY!!!! DO IT!)