Inspiration Through Music: The Last of Us Soundtrack

Once again, we find today’s subject of Inspiration Through Music is a story-driven, emotional, and beautifully designed game. The Last of Us, which debuted last year for Playstation 3 by Naughty Dog, is among one of my top favorites in video games. The story of a childless father and a parentless girl as they cross a post-apocalyptic America, hiding from people and frightening creatures is portrayed so realistically that it locks you into the gameplay and immediately makes you care about the characters and their journey. And of course, like every other game I’ve mentioned, the music adds an extra layer of immersion to this stunning game. They couldn’t have picked a better composer than Gustavo Santaolalla, who can pinpoint even the most difficult human emotion to emulate through music and make it dig right into you.

Having been introduced to him through his song “Iguazu” through the television show “Deadwood”, I immediately fell in love with his use of acoustic guitar to paint a picture of not just characters and setting but also provide an ominous foreshadow of events to come. That very same idea is used in “The Last of Us” a subtle combination of hope and hopelessness as the events of these two characters’ lives play out on screen. My favorite Youtube LPer, HarshlyCritical did a playthrough of this game which you can find here. Today, I’ve picked four songs from the official soundtrack to share with you and to write about what I see when I listen to them. Enjoy!

Quarantine Zone (20 years later): Raw guitar evokes a dusty and endless expanse, a place where history tastes like iron on the early morning air, a place that is unbound, unlawful, and ill-kept. It has existed for thousands of years, carved by wind and water, the sun beating relentlessly upon it’s dry back. In the night, it expands and fills the hearts and minds of all those lucky enough to live upon it. It is a place of chance and promise, of sorrow and of hate, beaded up like blood and soaked into the sand, never to be seen but always felt. It’s like a creeping tick-tick of small legs crawling up a bare arm. This place is just as alive as those desperate enough to have planted themselves here. It has eyes and teeth and its soft, almost relaxed call to lay down here is like the false heralding of a predator playing dead. It merely lies in wait, ready to strike when the time is right. (An excerpt from “Landed”, a short story.)

The Last of Us: Everything he knew he’d left behind. The purge frightened him as much as it gave him solace. Starting over would be a good thing. It was the right thing. The city had made him feel trapped, his wife feel isolated, and the air between them had turned cold. This place would amend it all. It would have to. He couldn’t imagine a life without her nor she without him. The sky opening up in a wide blue field overhead gave him comfort, while the climbing heat tried to snatch it away. Unless they ended up expiring from the temperature, he was sure this move would be the beginning of a whole new chapter in his life; a new adventure.

Forgotten Memories: Finger swirling on the wet rim of a glass. Darkness falls. Grass swishes in the breeze. The night sounds rise up from the silence: the chirping of crickets, the croaking of frogs. Tree leaves rising in chaos against the coming night. The sounds of peace and the sounds she’d longed to hear for so long. It had been hard to find the calm. It slipped between her fingers like a soft ribbon time and time again, and made the days longer and that much more unbearable. But finally, a moment all to herself. She rose a mug of tea to her lips and breathed in the bold orange spice. Evening was a beautiful lady, only admired when the world was willing to take the time to look and hold its breath for an instant.

All Gone: A withering hand, breath rushing and flowing and not seeming to slow or calm. He can’t catch it and doesn’t want to. He’s afraid if he does, everything will seem that much more real. It will soak in, he’ll feel heavier and unable to move. There’s no rhythm, and no will left. It is what it is and all that is left are the scrapes,  harsh and void of melody. (From “Landed”, a short story).

Several entries from this week’s Inspiration Through Music are from a short story that I’ve been working on for several years called “Landed”. It is a western genre, very much inspired by “Deadwood”, but with a hint of some horror. I’m still putting the finishing touches on it and hope to release it as an episodic series starting this summer. The story follows a middle aged newspaperman who moves to a small camp out west in order to start over with his wife. He gets more than he bargains for when he discovers himself in the middle of an age old war between two of the towns oldest members and soon realizes that there is more to be afraid of than meets the eye. It’s a very character driven story and I’m excited to get the first “episode” out.

Inspired by The Last of Us Soundtrack? Grab your download/physical copy from Amazon or iTunes. Interested in learning more about the composer, Gustavo Santaolalla? Here is his official Facebook fan page. Want to know more about my writing? Pop on over to my website and take a peek.

Next week, I’ll be examining the soundtrack for yet another brilliant and unique game called Year Walk and how it inspired me in my writing! Stay tuned!



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