“Whoa. Look at this place!” Ellie says as you walk through the doorway, into an old record store. You’re on your way to Bill’s hideout and this abandoned town is the first place that lets you truly grasp Ellie’s alienation from our own world. It’s not that she just doesn’t listen to records. She’s not some teenager who doesn’t care or understand obsolete pieces of art work. To Ellie, a record is a foreign artifact—like a moon rock or ancient Egyptian scroll. It’s a difference in the age gap that no one from the world before the outbreak would’ve had to experience.
But vinyl wasn’t the worst thing the world lost, so you don’t respond. Instead you walk to the back where the wall’s been caved in. You find a piece of tape, some alcohol, and a single bullet. Satisfied, you turn to leave.
Ellie is there, paging through the records. “Man, this is kinda sad.”
“All this music that’s just sitting here. No one’s around to listen to it.”
The Last of Us is a game that understands nostalgia. After all, its very title implies an end to something long since corroded. Most of its aesthetic beauty and emotional core relies on that sense of what has been lost forever—something that somehow seems both the same and completely changed, and leaves behind that bittersweet taste of the tangible and impossible.
When I want a soundtrack to score my darkest moments of nostalgia, I reach for Gustavo Santaolalla’s twangy ode to “the times before.” Gustavo Santaolalla is a man also understands what it means to lose something forever, and have it still remain in the physical world, which is why he was a perfect fit as composer on The Last of Us. In his childhood, he watched his home country of Argentina descend into unrecognizable chaos during the period of a military dictatorship known as the Dirty War. After being jailed several times and blacklisted, he left for America.
On a thematic level, nothing could fit The Last of Us’s soundtrack better than vinyl—a medium that keeps at least one foot squarely in the past—so it’s great that the two will coalesce in an upcoming release. With gorgeous original artwork from Olly Moss and Jay Shaw, the LP also mirrors the physicality of the music (and game). Santaolalla was known for recording parts of the score in bathrooms and utilizing many unconventional instruments for their more tactile sounds. In his tracks for The Last of Us, such as “Vanishing Grace,” Santaolalla often lets the notes fray and reverberate, making the listener keenly aware of its acoustics, and the emptiness of the space it exists in.
The LP also marks the record company’s (Mondo) first dip into videogame music. There’s no word yet on how many copies will be sold, so you might want to get ready to jump when sales open tomorrow, on July 22nd. It’ll include all the music form the original game, as well as the beautifully executed Left Behind DLC.