1. Frontier 2059
2. Welcome To My FanClub’s Night! (Sheryl On Stage)
3. What ‘bout my star? (Sheryl On Stage)
4. Iteza – Gogo 9ji – Don’t be late (Sheryl On Stage)
5. Vital Force
7. Zero Hour
8. What ‘bout my star?@Formo
9. Innocent green
11. Big Boys
12. Private Army
13. SMS Shoutai no Uta ~ Ano Musume wa Alian
14. Ninji-n Loves you yeah!
15. “Chou Jikuu Hanten Nyan Nyan” CM Song (Ranka Version)
16. Alto’s Theme
17. TALLY HO!
18. The Target
20. Kira Kira
21. Aimo ~ Tori no Hito
22. Take Off
24. Diamond Crevasse
Overall impressions: This is one of the better soundtracks to come out this year. I’ve always been impressed with what Yoko Kanno is capable of doing, and this one is certainly no exception. While it’s not the strongest soundtrack ever put out, it effectively captures all of the music used so far in Macross Frontier, and puts it together in a nice package. For fans of the series, and maybe some who don’t even know it, this is an enjoyable listen. Heck, it even cracked the top 11 albums on Oricon, the Japanese best sellers list. That’s pretty amazing considering that hasn’t been done in 10 years or so (which, amusingly enough, was another Macross album). One question though:
What the heck is with the ‘Nyan Furo’? It really looks like Kanno made up some words again and used them…
For those of you who don’t know much about Yoko Kanno, she is the main composer of music in shows like Cowboy Bebop and Ghost in the Shell. Her style has quite a bit of jazz influence, and that’s something that makes her music so special. How well does she do with the Macross Frontier soundtrack? Here’s a short review of each of the tracks. I have a rudimentary scale from 1-10 to rate the songs from. Yes, they’re all purely subjective, so take them with a grain of salt. Or many grains of salt. I don’t care 😛
Frontier 2059: First time I heard this, I thought I was listening to a Star Trek OST. A ‘majestic piece’ with elements of strong percussion and trumpets to give a more militaristic feel to it, and the dark tones help portray the feeling of space. It’s a decent opening piece, but not one of my favorites. It also doesn’t seem to stick in my head as anything extraordinary. This is as background music as you get – you can’t go wrong with it, but afterwards you won’t be humming it either.
Welcome To My FanClub’s Night! (Sheryl On Stage): A short piece from May’n (May Nakabayashi), who provides the vocals for Sheryl. It really does sound like a typical piece used at the beginning of a concert, so it does fit. It is a large shift from Frontier 2059, though, so I have to wonder about the song progression a bit. Nevertheless, it is an enjoyable, if not typical, pop song. I do wish it was a little stronger lyrics-wise, though.
What ’bout my star? (Sheryl on Stage): This blends seamlessly with the previous song, and with the next song as well. To be honest, I like Nakajima Megumi‘s version better (we’ll see this one later). The amount of sound effects used makes this sound really hollow. I appreciate having the ‘concert’ effect and all, but it really does mask a bit of May’n’s voice. Then again, maybe that’s a small consolation…? In all, another pop song that feels a bit too fast paced for my liking.
Iteza – Gogo 9ji – Don’t be Late (Sheryl on Stage): The last song to sound like it was done in a huge concert hall, and I can’t be happier with the way they arranged things. Out of all of the songs, I like this one the most. It is definitely fast paced, but the feeling is perfect. May’n does an excellent job with this song as well. It’s nothing groundbreaking at all, but it’s a strong finish to the set of 3 Sheryl songs. Thankfully, they also turned down the crowd and concert hall effect, leaving most of the song unblemished (then there’s the last section, with everybody cheering…).
Vital Force: I don’t know what to say about this. I think it just took me a while to get used to it, but I’ve grown to like Vital Force. It has a ‘pulse’, something rare in today’s music. You can appreciate the shifts between wind and brass to the strong drumlines. Kanno manages to combine a military march-esque song with an almost majestic overtone. It’s overall successful, though it can still put off some listeners on first try.
Triangular: Oh god, what happened? After doing Kiseki no Umi for Record of Lodoss War, I haven’t liked a lot of Sakamoto Maaya’s work. The lyrics for Triangular are decent enough, but good heavens, what is wrong with the lead in and the refrain? It sounds like shrill whistling more than anything else. I skip this one every time I listen to the soundtrack. It doesn’t help the opening video looks like it’s an acid trip too.
Zero Hour: This song is incredibly good. It starts with a strong orchestra, but is joined with an easy drum beat and some electric guitar. It’s one of the most inventive songs I’ve heard this year, and sounds like it could fit in easily with something like Backdraft or any military movie (with the exception maybe of Black Hawk Down). Uplifting melodies are used at the end that instills a sense of hope or success in the listener.
What ’bout my star?@Formo: The soft introduction to this version endears itself much better to me than Sheryl’s concert version. It also helps that Nakajima Megumi‘s voice is just so much better than May’ns, so she can sound more natural on the CD because they don’t have to do much to filter her vocals. Because it’s much more natural, the background accompaniments don’t sound as forced as they were in the Sheryl on Stage versions. I think that this adds a much needed dimension to this song, and makes it so much better than the other versions. The song even lets you compare them almost immediately, with Nakajima’s voice being overlayed with May’ns towards the end. Hear the difference; songs really need to have emotion, and this one definitely delivers.
Innocent green: Comforting piano opening, though I’m still convinced that Yuki Kajiura has shown better proficiency with simple piano pieces. This song backs up the piano with string and wind instruments, but to me they sound thrown together on a synthesizer or something. I think with the piano alone and a better melody, this would have been strong enough, but the use of random instruments here and there somehow derails me from enjoying it much. That isn’t to say it isn’t a good song, but it’s not one of my favorites.
Aimo: Here’s that weird song Ranka is always singing; nobody knows a lot of the lyrics since it’s a lot of gibberish and only a few lines of actual Japanese. Honestly the first time I thought this was sort of haunting, and it still sort of is. But I’ve grown to like the melody more, especially because Nakajima Megumi has an amazing voice in delivering it. Seriously, this is a rare moment for me; Kanno-gibberish worked! My one gripe: 1:33 is far too short for this. Where’s the extended version!?
Big Boys: Pirates of the Caribbean, anyone? Or maybe, any old march theme with some added string instruments? I’ve heard too many melodies like this, so it’s almost painful to hear yet another rendition of typical military march fanfare.
Private Army: It’s ‘Big Boys’ from south of the border. Seriously, I think I can salsa to this music. Or maybe dance the flamenco.
…What’s it doing in space? And why does it represent a ‘private army’ of people risking their lives for the world? Somehow I don’t think it fits, and from what I’ve seen, a lot of others agree.
SMS Shoutai no Uta ~ Ano Musume wa Alian: Oh god, skip. It sounded like it was in GERMAN for all I know. Or something that came out of the Ringling Bros Barnum and Bailey. I can’t stand this song, but maybe that’s my own opinion.
Ninji-n Loves you yeah!: It’s the crazy carrot song! How can you not like this? It’s short, incredibly dumb, but I laugh every time I listen to it, and Nakajima Megumi‘s voice is still fun to listen to. It’s cute. Really.
“Chou Jikuu Hanten Nyan Nyan” CM Song (Ranka Version): Nyan nyan, nyan nyan, ni hao, nyan. O_o;; Go watch it yourself: here
Hey, it’s like the last song. It’s funny, and it’s a good break in the middle of some soft, maybe even a bit dark, music.
Alto’s Theme: Alto clearly has a lot of things going on in the series, and his character changes quite a bit. If this is his theme, he should be a Buddhist monk. It’s almost serene in its execution, and leaves nothing to really show for the amount of uneasiness the character feels in the show. By itself, the song is nice and slow, and pretty relaxing to listen to, but I can’t figure out the connection.
TALLY HO!: Sharp, fast-paced, and certainly living up to a name like TALLY HO! It effectively symbolizes the quickness one needs in battle, especially with the amount of ordnance flying around in Macross Frontier. Short bursts of stringed instrument solos give the reader an almost visual impression of flying at a high rate of speed. Continued use of percussion heightens the sense of danger and really elevates the entire ‘feel’ this piece has. It reminds me of what John Williams has produced for some of his works.
The Target: If the last one sounded like John Williams, this one practically WAS John Williams. Just for fun, I tried listening to it while I had Star Wars IV’s Death Star battle on, and it worked quite well. Kanno shows off how well she works with an orchestra in this one. The majesty of the stringed instruments matches with the militaristic feel of the percussion, and the progression is just incredibly solid. There are frightful turns, destruction, chaos, and the eventual triumphs in the battle that are reflected in this piece. This one is really worth listening to.
Vajra: A bit overused in my opinion. Yes, dark tones go well with dark characters (i.e. villains), but I’m really looking for something a little more creative than this. On its own, it is a respectable song, but nothing worth noting.
Kira Kira (Twinkle): What’s with the wind elements running over the piano? Not wind instruments, just…wind. Lots of it. It’s a simplistic piano piece that, to me, was ruined by the idea of putting too many effects and distorting the natural sound of the piano.
Aimo ~ Tori no Hito: The version of ‘Aimo’ used in the ‘movie’ based on Macross Zero. It’s still Nakajima Megumi, but it doesn’t sound as nice because her voice has been digitally filtered and changed a little bit, removing some of the human emotion she usually has in her voice inflection. I like it, and it’s the extended version of Aimo I was looking forward to, but in the end I’d rather go back to the old version, even if it is 2 minutes shorter.
Take Off: For a short 1:49 track, this is really nice. The opening brass paints the early morning light that a fighter pilot could launch into. The quick use of percussion and cymbals symbolizes the ‘takeoff’, and the song immediately goes into a motif that accentuates the idea of flying in the farthest reaches of the sky. Short and powerful, one of Kanno’s best works on this soundtrack.
Infinity: By now, Sheryl’s songs aren’t anything new. Typical pop fair, but it’s still worth listening to in its own right. It’s also slower than some of her other songs, so it helps a little bit. I can’t really see how this was a good idea for in the middle of a battle. I guess the high strung refrains were what got it through…
Diamond Crevasse: My vote for the best ED of the year. Hands down. The change in pace is really refreshing, and the song is a perfect exit for the entire soundtrack. Otherwise, words fail me on how to describe this track, other than it’s been stuck on my playlist since I first heard it. Maybe you can think of what to say about it. (Note: No music files are hosted here.)
OVERALL ALBUM RATING: 6.33 (repeating!) / 10
Average quality overall, but there are three gems hidden in this album. I’d still put this on my ‘To Recommend’ list, even with a somewhat lackluster rating, especially given there are some songs that just really pull the entire album down to the depths with them.