TRA for Track, apparently (thx Hikaru). Anyway, with an amazingly long list of songs, it was pretty obvious that Macross Frontier needed a second official soundtrack to cover the remainder of the series. I’ve been pretty eager to get my hands on this one for a long time now, especially for one particular track (more on that later). I’m really glad, though, that the second soundtrack maintains the high quality set by the first collection. This isn’t one for just Macross fans; anybody can listen to this and appreciate the thought and work that went into it. Song list, thoughts, and more booklet pictures after the break.
Prologue F: I really bet that you could take this song and stick it in Lord of the Rings somewhere, and it’d work. There’s a lot of strings and wind instruments at play here in the beginning, but it immediately moves forward to a much more militaristic theme, complete with trumpets and drums. It’s a rousing piece and worth a listen, but it’s too short for my tastes. It almost sounds like Yoko forgot to end the song properly.
Northern Cross: I never did post my thoughts about this, did I? I actually prefer ‘Northern Cross’ to ‘Iteza Gogo Kuji Don’t Be Late’. There is much less reliance on electronic support for May’n, and it allows her vocals to shine throughout the song. It’s still a very typical J-pop song at heart, but I really appreciate that her voice has weight (except for some of those straining high notes she still likes trying) as compared to other female singers in recent memory. ‘Northern Cross’ is fast paced, strong, and really sets a powerful opening tone for the album.
Triangler (fight on stage): It’s absolutely amazing how much a song can change just by changing singers. On the previous soundtrack, I could not stand Sakamoto Maaya’s vocals to this song; they were far too high pitched and shrill, and I could hear my ears ringing long after the song ended. Here, though, we’ve traded Sakamoto for both May’n and Nakajima Megumi, which makes quite an interesting duet piece. The more you listen to it, the more you realize how complementary their voices are. What I still don’t like about this song is how they changed the bridge in the middle. There’s a quick injection of hard rock and some repeated chanting by both singers that somehow felt forced and out of place. However, this is the clear winner against its predecessor.
High School Life: A short but fun little romp on the guitar and bongos. We hear a little of it during the episode previews, but I don’t think we ever got the entire thing. Now that all 1:19 is here, I can see why it was never fully incorporated. It’s a spunky and light-hearted piece that probably would’ve worked in the early part of the series, but has no place in the emotional rollercoaster of the series’ second half.
Transformation: Synthesizers, a bit of Rainbow Six and Max Payne theme borrowing, and a half-hearted guitar part makes this song seem riveting and fast paced, but it’s pretty much forgettable in the sea of other, better songs. The continued fast-paced ‘heartbeat’ in the background was a bit much for my tastes. Again, it’s also too short, ending abruptly on a set of trumpet blares.
Anata no Oto: ‘Your Sound’ in full! This is a cute song that really fit Ranka’s image very well, and you can’t help but smile when you listen to it. Megumi’s voice continues to astound me considering this is really her first big break, just like Ranka. The acoustic sense you get from the background instruments (piano!) in the beginning is a nice touch, but the song shifts into utilizing a wide variety of sounds that all work very well together. This is probably closer to the typical J-pop song than ‘Northern Cross’. However, it all comes together very well; I probably would have placed this somewhere else though. Coming after ‘Transformation’ is like night and day. Also, the last 45 seconds of having multiple airplane takeoff sounds is pretty much forgettable. That leaves you with…oh, 4 minutes of actual good music.
Test Flight Delight: Fast tempo, a repeated strings motif and some trumpets, and you have this song that tries to ‘carry you away’ to the skies, and for the most part succeeds. It’s a very sectionalized song, with the takeoff, flight, and landing sequences separated quite clearly with the lack of main instruments. Close your eyes and imagine yourself flying, and this song would fit in perfectly. In fact, I thought about this one ride in Disney’s California Adventure…’Soaring over California’, where this would work wonders for revitalizing the ride. Hey Disney! You listening??
Seikan Hikou (Interstellar Travel): This is now Ranka’s signature song. To be honest, after a few listens (okay, more than a few), it’s lost some of its luster on me. Megumi sings beautifully, but this song is very run of the mill, and I think that there’s a lot of songs like this. I don’t want to take away anything from it however; it’s still a good, fun-loving song that continues to reflect Ranka’s relative innocence. Besides, it spawned “Kira~”. It’s worth something, even if just for that.
Inumimi Ranka (Dog-Eared Ranka): Huh? I’m totally blanking on where this came into play, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it wasn’t used. The tuba just sounds strange in the midst of all this. It’s certainly emphasizing a kind of playfulness, but that’s about it. The motif just goes round and round in circles until it comes to an abrupt end. I wonder if you can loop this without anybody noticing, because I think you could stuff it in a video game and you’d never notice.
Yousei (Fairy): Might as well know this one as Sheryl’s “change of heart” song, as she comes to grips with reality and gives herself a softer, more personal image in the entertainment industry. Somewhere in the anime, someone said “I like this Sheryl better”, and I have to agree. However, I think that better background music could’ve been chosen. What was with that weird progression of organ noise? Sounded like the Halo Soundtrack gone horribly wrong. Without it and perhaps the last 40 seconds of repetitive Engrish, this song would’ve been amazing. If anything, though, I have a newfound respect for May’ns capabilities as a singer. I previously wrote how she was second to Megumi because her voice was always electronically distorted. With these songs, her true voice really shines, and it’s really something to listen to.
Tsuioku no Trumpet (Trumpet of Remembrance): Macross Frontier’s version of ‘Taps’. A single trumpet blasts away with a drumline and strings in support. It’s short, but it’s definitely one of my favorites, and thinking of how Michel died in this series with this song playing can be quite gut-wrenching.
Shinku no Diamond Crevasse (Empty Diamond Crevasse): The hits come one after another. After getting a short but moving piece in ‘Tsuioku no Trumpet’, we get a really, really good acoustic rendition of Diamond Crevasse. There is a huge difference in tone when you replace the electronic-made voices with a simple guitar and only a few instruments. I should also note that it’s THIS song that made me realize May’n really can sing. Her voice easily travels above the noise of the background instruments, and she makes the most of her time, showcasing her ability to take her strong vocals and still produce an emotionally moving piece. While I would’ve loved a pure acoustic version, the transition to the more typical version in the middle is quite appropriate, as it practically wills itself to stand strong once more. Thankfully, May’n gave up hitting those high falsettos over the instrumentals as well. As much as I loved the original, this one just blows me away. You owe it to yourself to listen to this version.
Ai * Oboeteimasu Ka ~bless the little queen~ (Do you remember love?): Possessed Ranka’s song? It’s really weird to have the really low piano notes behind Megumi’s voice, but it worked really well in the series. It showed that the Ranka that appeared in front of Frontier was a darkness hiding under a gentle facade. This is really a situational piece; without the visuals, it seems like a really weird listen, so you really need to associate it with the series to get the symbolism of it all. The high notes give it an almost cosmic ambience, the low notes (as noted previously) a hidden evil, and somehow even Megumi has managed to make her voice seem hollow and emotionless, straining to hit the high notes in the chorus.
Aoi no Ether (Blue Ether): Out of all the main songs, this is closest to being a love ballad. There is still a hint of Ranka’s playfulness from some of the instruments, but this is a song dominated by Megumi’s voice and a single piano in the background. Unlike ‘Diamond Crevasse’, this one doesn’t really pull at my heart as much. I think that Megumi is much more suited for singing Ranka’s more upbeat songs more than these slow heartfelt ballads; she also keeps her voice unusually high for a large portion of the song; while she does a good job, it does make it feel sort of strange, and the entire thing is a little repetitive for my tastes.
is this LOVE?: No, it’s not. Really. Again, Yoko Kanno uses a very repetitive background, but mates it this time to a weak guitar and some strings. To me, there is nothing that stands out about this song, and it’s really the ‘background song’ of all ‘background songs’. I actually ended up skipping the last 30 seconds of it because it all sounded the same.
shadow of Michel: We got the trumpets before, but now we also have presumably Michel’s death song. However, I can’t really get to attached to this song. It certainly opens up with a very weak motif, which actually continues throughout the song. However, as it continues the song builds up energy, a sort of ‘final act of defiance’ that aptly characterizes Michel’s sacrifices. The warm notes of the wind instruments, mixed in with the softness of the strings, gives the entire thing a very relaxing feel. However, if this was intended to make people tear up at the thought of Michel’s death, it fails to make its point.
Aimo O.C.: What the heck does O.C. mean? Also, I think I wrote it in one of the episode reviews, but I really don’t like ‘Aimo’ as a battle theme. A lullaby should never, EVER be used as a rallying cry for the forces. The militaristic background and electronica clashes with the emotion in Megumi’s voice, and it all feels quite disjointed. To make matters worse, after the two minute mark when you might be getting used to it, Megumi seems to have two exaggerated deep breathes that just break all sense of rhythm. The second half actually sounds BETTER since it uses the bridge that has a little more energy than the verses. Still, if you still want to listen to Aimo – and as much as I liked it, after EVERY EPISODE, it got old – go find the soundtrack’s first volume and listen to those.
Battle Frontier: Battle of Yavin yet again! Fast paced, uses a lot of wind and strings again, and yet it lacks a sense of excitement or urgency. Rather, it makes me think of how Frontier got caught up in a battle they could not hope to win until a miracle occurred (i.e. Alto survives getting shot out of his fighter, and rescues Ranka). It accurately depicts the changes in the tide of battle, as it goes from having danger hanging above ones head (initial motif), to absolute darkness and despair (middle section), and then finally rising to the occasion as the winds rise in crescendo and fade to a military march theme. It’s actually all quite moving, but I don’t get a sense of uniqueness from it, as it follows a very formulaic musical blueprint. Unfortunately, like many other songs it ends abruptly (even for a 6:04 song), which is quite ridiculous. I get the feeling Yoko just didn’t put in the effort to close her songs properly this time around.
Nyan Nyan Service Medley: And here is the insanity that is the final episode’s medley. In order: Lion, Infinity, Watashi no Kare wa Pilot, Diamond Crevasse, Seikan Hikou, What ’bout my star?, Lion, Ai Oboete Imasu Ka, Lion, Aimo. I can completely understand why this was in the final episode; you gotta work in all the hits somehow. However, this was just insane. The transitions between songs were often forced and jarring at best, and some of the songs don’t even fit well next to each other (the movements into and out of Diamond Crevasse were godawful). To me, there is no reason to listen to this when you have all the other songs in standalone format. I guess it’s an interesting idea, though; I would’ve liked to see better execution, that’s all.
Protoculture: It’s a song that plays on the wistfulness of life, while incorporating space themes. And dolphins. Really, really strange ambient music that completely messes with my thoughts of Macross Frontier. If you ripped the CD, you’d be best served by deleting this one, because it’s just completely out there.
CONCLUSION: Like the series, the soundtrack has its ups and downs. However, May’n and Nakajima Megumi continue to shine in their respective roles. I’m eager to see what they can do when the movie comes out. Still, I can’t help but wonder why Yoko Kanno has been slipping as of late. All her work lately feels half-hearted; maybe she’s burnt out and needs a rest.
Subjective rating (out of 10): 7/10