Monaco -What’s Yours Is Mine-
Monaco -What’s Yours Is Mine-
April 24, 2013
Buy at Bandcamp
Monaco: What’s Yours is Mine is a stealth action game which has players pulling off heists with a variety of characters. The soundtrack is penned and performed by Austin Wintory, a rising composer who was Grammy-nominated for his work on Journey. Like his other well-known works, his score is very cohesive in style, and this time focuses heavily on a single theme and its variations. In a remarkable sidestep of his earlier work, Wintory’s score is almost entirely performed on an old, slightly-out-of-tune piano emulating early 1900s ragtime and jazz. Despite its vintage novelty, it may perhaps be a bit too uniform for many listeners, but anyone willing to put more time into this score will find a fun work brimming with personality and virtuosity.
The soundtrack opens furiously with “What’s Yours is Mine”, introducing the principle theme. The song dictates the stylings of most of the soundtrack. It may take some time to get used to the sound of the rusty piano, but in the end it really accentuates the style and adds to the character of the pieces. The theme itself is a short and pressing, with plenty of excitement and dynamics from Wintory’s skilled (and slightly assisted) playing. It feels like a piece that would accompany a silent film heist, giving the game a very interesting aural backdrop while helping it stand out from other video game score upon listens outside of the game.
The same can be said really for most of the rest of the score, which is all in the same style. Tracks like “Hijack at the Hairpin” and “Pearls Before Swine” are fun and dramatic, but after some time they can start to feel too similar when not listening too closely. Some tracks do better at standing out, like “Quartier Diamant” which starts slow but quickly explodes into a virtuosic display, complete with great shifts in atmosphere throughout that carry the listener on with ease. “Manoir Moucharder” is slow and seductive throughout, while “Casino de Monte Carlo” is perfect for a lounge (until hell breaks loose at the end). Near the end of the soundtrack “Hôtel De Monaco” brings back the main theme plainly but with some fun tempo and key shifts throughout the bombast. Despite any perceived homogeny in the soundtrack, Wintory plays with energy throughout and is great at bringing out different lines of music, while also emphasizing accents to give the music plenty of bounce to keep things entertaining enough. It’s interesting to note that the piano shifts its tone throughout, sounding much cleaner on tracks like the “Casino de Monte Carlo” and “Quartier Diamant” than it does on others.
The middle section of the soundtrack brings in some other instruments to play with the piano, and helps bring out other sounds and styles. “Turf War” is the first to bring in a new instrument with the harpsichord, which brings an interesting contrast to the powerful bass octaves of the piano. The harpsichord is also present in the frantic second half of “Le Port de la Condamine”, and the song is wonderfully disorienting when suddenly it shifts its beat. “Centre Hospitalier” has a neat distinctive noir feel with its light vibraphone, while “The Devil’s Trick” is brings in electric piano which subtly lies under the piano until the end when it comes out on its own with delicate and bubbly sounds in stark contrast to the sharp and accented piano. A soundtrack highlight is “False Teeth” with its dazzling runs and great use of dissonant seconds for tension, and the addition of the electric piano is great during the slower middle segment. “Discotheque Rouge” changes things up with the jazz organ, and the piano mostly shifts away from its rag to focus on rhythmic pulses and virtuosic improv. This section of the soundtrack is easily the most enjoyable, with the other instruments each bringing distinctive elements and contrasts to the piano.
As is perhaps expected now, Wintory closes the album with a vocal track, featuring Laura Hall. “Can’t Resist” is pretty well what one would expect from a vocal theme for this soundtrack. It’s easy to imagine a small early 20th century lounge with Wintory on the piano and the spotlight on Hall. Things are mostly subdued here, and Hall sings the sultry piece well enough. She doesn’t quite knock it out of the park with delivery, but particularly enchanting is her delivery of that crucial closing line, “everything that’s yours is mine.” It’s a short track, but certainly a fitting way to close the album.
Austin Wintory continues to entertain while branching out in Monaco: What’s Yours is Mine. He does a great job of taking the silent film ragtime and jazz style and applying it to the game’s context. Some sections may drag due to the similar stylings throughout, but Wintory keeps things mostly exciting with clear, dynamic playing, enormous amounts of energy, and plenty of style. The soundtrack does great when adding in other instruments, which add interesting elements and bring great moments of contrast. The emphasis on a single theme means that the soundtrack is more rewarding with consecutive listens as the listener finds it popping up in other places in various forms. It is certainly a unique entry among game soundtracks, but also a great display of artistry on Wintory’s part. Even if silent film ragtime isn’t your type of music, this soundtrack is worth checking out just to see a great musician at work.
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Posted on December 12, 2014 by Christopher Huynh. Last modified on December 26, 2014.