Play It By Ear #4 – Lila’s Sky Ark

Hello all! Welcome back to Play It By Ear, a weekly column where every Friday I discuss my thoughts on a different video game’s soundtrack.

You can see the list of upcoming games and their corresponding playlists here. I will try to focus on lesser-known games or games whose soundtracks I feel can be a bit overlooked, but some of the bigger games may sneak their way in.

Today’s Game: Lila’s Sky Ark

Release Date: April 21, 2022

Composer: Gerrit Wolf

Other Works by Same Composer: Resolutiion OST (2020), Highrise City OST (2022)

Availability: YouTube, Apple Music, Spotify, Amazon Music

Playlist Link

Number of Songs: 21 + 4 bonus tracks

Approximate Total Time: 1 hour 30 minutes

Played the Game? No.

What Kind of Game Is This? Released on both Steam and the Nintendo Switch, Lila’s Sky Ark is a Zelda-like with an emphasis on picking up and throwing objects. (From what I can tell, this mechanic has proven to be quite controversial.) Intended to be heavily story-driven, the game focuses on a girl named Lila and her attempts to keep the psychedelic dreamworld in which she lives safe from the nefarious Conductor and its musical minions. According to the official description, the game’s themes include “loss, loneliness, grief, and depression”. It is meant to be a prequel to a game called Resolutiion (which I may cover in a future column), although from what I understand its story stands on its own.

Top Songs or Songs of Note (in Track Order):

Footrace Around the Farm Against a False God

A perfect example of this game’s fusion of musical styles, I love the way the more heavily rock-inflected sections complement the overall country feel of the song.

Up, Up Into the Mountain

The driving beat, the powerful bass, the lighter melody – they all combine to create a feeling that is simultaneously adventurous and lonely.

The Real Catslug God

This is perhaps one of the most overtly rock themes in the soundtrack and the use of the cat voices really serves to make is a very unique and special track.

The Quartett

The tune the strings play here is just wonderful and combined with the beat give the song quite a dramatic feel.

The Pianist

I mentioned my love of piano last week, and it is used to great effect here without managing to be drowned out by the synth or base.

The Ballad of the Rocking Robot

The progression of this one from chill to full-on rock guitar riff is perfectly timed and makes it my favorite song in the soundtrack.

The Conductor

Suitably dramatic for a final boss theme, the combination of choir, strings, drums, and electric guitar make this one truly feel like a culmination of everything that came before it.

Above the Waves, Below the Clouds

A very catchy and beautiful end credits theme, complete with vocals and instrumentals that complement each other perfectly.

Honorable Mentions: Welcome to the Rainbow Ark, Spirit of the Trees, The Drummer, Spirit of the Mountain, Spirit of the Sky, Battle Theme Dark Forest (Bonus), Battle Theme Mountain (Bonus)

Least Favorite Songs: I’m going to have to go with ‘Wake Up, Lila’ for this one. It’s calm and relaxing and a nice enough first entry in the soundtrack, but it feels a bit sparse compared to the later songs or even the similarly chill ‘Welcome to the Rainbow Ark’.

Overall Thoughts: I initially stumbled across this game while hunting down last-minute nominations for the 2021-2022 Best Video Game Music Tournament. I still had a lot of game soundtracks left to listen through at that point, but the visual design of this one intrigued me enough to bump it to the front of the line. I am so glad that I did so, because the music of this game hooked me harder than perhaps any game since Dustforce. It blew my mind how good it was. The fusion of rock elements with genres like classical or country, the heavy beats, the creative arrangements and use of sound effects like cats yowling, it all adds up to something amazing. The boss themes – The Drummer, The Quartett, The Real Catslug God, The Conductor – are particularly wonderful and energizing in the way that the best video game boss music is. The only weak spot, from my point of view, is that the first few tracks feel a bit lacking in comparison to the rest. Even so, their relaxing vibe serves as a nice prelude to the more bombastic songs later on. Overall, I really enjoy this soundtrack and definitely plan to dive into Wolf’s other work at some point (maybe even in another Play It By Ear column). I am very interested to hear your thoughts, positive or negative, about the music of this game!

Bonus Prompts:

  • Do you agree or disagree with my assessment of the soundtrack?
  • Are there any tracks, that I mentioned or didn’t mention, that you would like to further discuss?
  • What game soundtracks have you been listening to recently? What’s been grabbing your attention?
  • Are there any game soundtracks that you would like me to cover in the future?

And there we have it! Thanks so much for reading and for listening to this soundtrack with me.

Last Week: Baten Kaitos

Next Week: Hey Ice King! Why’d You Steal Our Garbage?!