While Square Enix has ended its SQ arrangement album series, I always kind of felt that the BRA BRA Final Fantasy Brass de Bravo album fit within that space. While the same wind ensemble performed the entire album, the eclectic styles perhaps accounted for this perception. I loved the first album, but didn’t expect more, so I was surprised when the follow-up was announced.

BRA★BRA FINAL FANTASY BRASS de BRAVO 2 presents 12 new arrangements, once again in varying styles. There are straightforward orchestral presentations of the fan-favorite “Battle at the Big Bridge” and a medley of overworld themes from the first three Final Fantasy games, but also a epic and triumphant spin on the Final Fantasy IV overworld, a somber and somewhat glorious take on “Cosmo Canyon” with staccato woodwind additions that brought Spirited Away to mind, the flamenco-tigned “Something to Protect,” and a sleazy swingin’ jazz version of “Kefka” that is a real treat. There are sweet woodwinds in what’s probably my favorite version of Final Fantasy VII’s “Gold Saucer,” a big band with bumpin’ bass version of “The Man With the Machine Gun,” the grand and epic “Fight With Seymour,” the gentle sway of “Fragments of Memories,” and a live rendition of “Mambo de Chocobo.”

Final Fantasy fans will enjoy the varied approaches taken with this album, so pick it up at CD Japan if you’re interested.

Muramasa Rebirth Genroku Legends Original Soundtrack (BSPE-1054~5)

Do you love Muramasa? The game is gorgeous, and the soundtrack by Basiscape has also received high praise. Muramasa has seen several album releases with a soundtrack and arrange album to date, but this latest collection from Basiscape Records brings together new music created for the PlayStation Vita port Muramasa Rebirth DLC packs, composed by the Basiscape team.

Fans of the original score should feel right at home. Lots of beautifully-layered Japanese instruments abounds, complete with rock and orchestral backings as appropriate. The opener, “Strike the Four Strings,” features studio head Hitoshi Sakimoto’s memorable theme and other standouts include the contemplative and sweeping “Mountains and Rivers,” the decisive orchestral piece “Perseverance,” and healing “High-Rise Buildings,” the lovely vocal theme with piano accompaniment titled “Rice Flower,” the gorgeously flowing strings of “Astonishing Sight,” the cool jazz fusion of “Solid Fortress,” the super serious espionage-esque “Pursuit,” the pop-tinged “External Traveller,” and the mischievous “Extraordinary Talent.”

While the physical two-disc set is available in Japan and is covered in artwork by Vanillaware, the album is available on the iTunes US store if you’re interested.

Review: Heavensward: FINAL FANTASY XIV Original Soundtrack

Final Fantasy XIV has enjoyed several soundtrack releases up to this point (A Realm Reborn, From Astral to Umbral, Before the Fall), but I’ve been hearing for months that the music from Heavensward is the best yet. While Square Enix has trickled out digital EPs over the past year, they’ve released all 60 new tracks on Blu-ray disc. Masayoshi Soken again handles most of the composition, and I’d agree that the music is pretty fantastic.

Immediately out of the gate is “Heavensward,” a subdued vocal theme, followed by a chilling version of the series prelude theme titled “A Cold Wind.” One of my favorite tracks on the album follows, the epic 13:22-long “Solid,” which acts as a defiant anthem for the entire score and is weaved throughout. A defiant and extremely catchy melody is followed by ominous organ and brass stabs that then venture into uncertainty and majestic portions of the song. It’s a masterpiece as used here.

The entire score is great, but other standouts include deep and mysterious “Descent” with its ethereal bell tones, two slowed down and sleepier versions of the “Solid” theme titled “Nobility Sleeps” (probably my favorite track) and “Nobility Obliges,” the exotic “Coming Home” by Yukiko Takada with various woodwinds and even a bagpipe, the very strange gurgling English Western vocal track, “Unbending Steel” Uematsu’s emotional “Contention,” a world music-meets-DNB version of the “Solid” theme titled “Woe that is Madness,” the decisive “Order Yet Undeciphered” with organ, timpani, and a killer bass pad that lends a cool electronic edge to the track, the explosive rock-electronic “Unbreakable” with some awesome rock organ, and finally Uematsu’s closing vocal theme, “Dragonsong,” featuring the ever-lovely Susan Calloway on vocals and coming as a shorter and more emotional theme compared to “Answers.”

You can pick up the album on CD Japan, and I highly recommend doing so! I’d agree with many others in saying this may be some of the best Final Fantasy XIV music yet, particularly with the incredibly strong theme featured throughout.