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Pirate music

March 10, 2018

What up, fellow cool kids! With home renovation work continuing, I’m stuck with plenty of newly painted miniatures that I haven’t been able to photo properly. For once, plenty of painting mojo and I’m unable to share it! What this means is another tangential post, this time on music I use to inspire myself. Instead of just plonking down a playlist, I figured I’d share some of my thoughts that went into this list. It’s not a full play-by-play, but close to one. You can find the playlist on Spotify by following this link.

Now, the list is vaguely named “Pirate & historical”. This means both genre and mood. I don’t want the list to sound too modern, hence the lack of pop/rock songs that match the theme. There are a couple of Mark Knopfler songs on there, and they’re sort of borderline. Then again, Privateering fits theme-wise, as does Sailing to Philadelphia.

A lot of “pirate music” that you find on Spotify is…well, let’s just say I don’t like it. It’s often average pirate-themed punk rock, usually sung in a raspy Hollywood “yarrrrr”-voice. Fun for the first 15 seconds, and then it starts grating on my nerves. That brings me to another important point: listenability. While I want the list to be somewhat theme-appropriate, it also needs to be something that I’ll actually listen to. What this means is that I’ve dropped the dramatic combat music from movie and game soundtracks. I’ve also avoided excessive use of any given album or artist, as it will make the playlist boring to me.

So what’s on this list then and why? The categories listed below aren’t exact so there’s plenty of overlap, I’ve just listed the songs under different headings to make my logic easier to follow.

Soundtracks from period films and games

The list features a lot of pieces from a variety of Assassin’s Creed games: Assassin’s Creed 3 (set during the American War of Independence), Assassin’s Creed 4: Black Flag (set in the Golden Age of Piracy) and it’s slavery-themed Freedom Cry DLC, Assassin’s Creed Rogue (set in the late 18th century), Assassin’s Creed Unity (set during the French Revolution) with its Dead Kings supplement. These provide plenty of interesting themes and they’re often designed to be evocative background music, so they’re perfect for my needs. As mentioned above, I’ve left out the more dramatic pieces – they’re stressful to listen to.

There are pieces from Outlander and Poldark soundtracks. Both are set in the 18th century, so it’s no surprise they feature here as well. There are only a couple of Poldark pieces though, as a lot of the series’ soundtrack prominently features a common theme, and I don’t want the playlist to sound like a Poldark soundtrack.

Obviously there are Pirates of the Caribbean pieces, but I think surprisingly few. In all honesty, a lot of the PotC soundtrack stuff is really generic Klaus Badelt/Hans Zimmer orchestral soundtrack stuff. A refreshing exception to this is the soundtrack to On Stranger Tides, which features some excellent flamenco guitar work by Rodrigo y Gabriela.

There’s one track from Vangelis’ Conquest of Paradise soundtrack, that I found fitting, too. Sure, it’s late 15th century but who’s counting?

Oh, and there’s the Curse of Monkey Island theme. I contemplated putting it in for a long time (playlist building is serious business) but I guess it deserves its place.

Fantasy music

Couple of these tracks in there as well. There’s one track from the Of Orcs and Men game soundtrack as well as a piece from League of LegendsSpotify has tons of generic fantasy music, but a lot of it is uninspired, generic and sounds cheap. Needless to say, I left those out.

Modern music with a historical theme

The Knopfler pieces mentioned above are good examples. Privateering is obviously about privateering, while Sailing to Philadelphia chronicles events set in the 1760s. Then there are a couple of thematic pieces, Loreena McKennitt’s unashamedly cheesy The Highwayman and Hanging Tree by Blackmore’s Night. It’s a fine line with this stuff, as sometimes the cheese dial goes to eleven.

Dance music

Some of these in there as well. There’s an instrumental jig version of the Elizabethan Drive the Winter Away carol and a hurdy-gurdy piece, Three Sharks by Nigel Eaton. The Devil’s Churn/Tamlin piece by The Pyrettes also goes in this category, as does Rose on the Mountain by Kaia Kater.

Sea shanties and maritime songs

It’s fairly obvious that these feature on the list. There’s Randy Dandy Oh by the Pyrettes that steers close to overt yarrrrr territory but barely clears it. The lovely Sheringham Shantymen rendition of The Good Ship Ragamuffin is one of my favourites on the whole list, as is Sarah Blasko’s beautiful take on Spanish LadiesThe Dreadnought is a song about a 19th century clipper, yet quite suitable for the list.

Ballads

Ballads were a favoured pastime in the 18th century, recounting all sorts of interesting goings-on. Ballads on the list are Turpin Hero (about the 18th century highwayman), The Rising of the Moon (about the Irish Rebellion of 1798), Back Home in Derry (recounting the forced deportation of the Irish to Australia in the turn of the 19th century), and Matty Groves (a tale of love and death from the 17th century).

There you have it, all sorts of fun music to fuel your life, whether you’re working on pirates or just enjoy some good tunes.

 

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7 comments

  1. Cool.
    I put together a few mix CDs for a pirate game my group almost ran, mostly shanties and similar. I couldn’t resist putting a bunch of modern stuff in the mix though, and stuff that that was not particularly sea-themed but fun.
    Off the top of my head the main ingredients were:
    A lot of Oscar Brand (Bawdy sea shanties and other bits of “Bawdy” series)
    Stuff from the Rogues Gallery I &II compilation albums (modern performers doing their takes on traditional sea songs and pirate ballads)
    some “anthropological” recordings of sea shanties from I think the 1960s
    A couple of tracks from Ween’s The Mollusk
    and some other traditional ballads and drinking songs like “Whiskey in the jar”
    It was fine for listening to while painting minis or gearing up for the game but more instrumental/orchestral music would be better as background for actual play. Lyrics are distracting…especially stuff like the Oscar Brand songs, which are however pretty funny.


    • Thanks for the comment and the tips, I’ll look into these!


  2. Thanks for the hints, almost all of it is new to me.
    There are some songs by the Pogues which might fit into your lists… that’s what we usually listen to when we play a pirate game!


    • Hope you find something you like! I’ve listened to the Pogues a fair bit, they are just a bit too modern in feel for this list – as are bands like The Dropkick Murphys and Flogging Molly. I listen to those too though, just not in this context 😀


  3. Thank you for compiling the list. I will give it a listen at work as I like a bit of evocative background music. Andrian von Ziegler may have something that also fits the bill, but not sure if he is on Spotify.


    • I actually have one of his songs, Black Sam on the list!


  4. Hey there! I’ve nominated you for The Sunshine Blogger Award. It helps bloggers expand their audience and get to know each other better within their community. No worries if you’re too busy to respond or participate, I just wanted to help promote your post/blog to my readers. Also, I have a Pirate themed episode that you might want to take a look at, it seems to be right up your alley! – NickFMF http://feelmeflow.blog/2018/03/30/the-sunshine-blogger-award/



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