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Sound Decision
Move it!

by Jonathan Mays,
I have nothing against the atmosphere of a den or dorm room, but listening to your favorite Masami Okui or Shiro Sagisu just isn't the same when you're hunkered in a dark corner with a CD player and your dog's barking, the phone won't stop ringing, and everyone's giving you funny looks for singing with headphones. Wouldn't it be cool if you could hear some of your favorite artists live and in person? Of course it would.

Guess what? You can. Those who attended Anime Expo a few weeks ago already got a taste of this year's convention performance lineup from Ms. Yuki Kajiura. But if you haven't made any 2003 con plans yet, it's not too late to enjoy some live music! Two weeks from today, Takanori Nishikawa and his awesome gothic voice will be appearing at Otakon in Baltimore. He'll be performing the Gundam SEED theme along with some other favorites.

But that's not all. You've heard of Initial D, right? You know, the anime series with the music that Tokyopop's changing? (Bad move, guys.) Fortunately for us, the group that performed the original music will be appearing—fully unedited—at this year's AnimeFEST in Dallas. If you like Move, go South on Labor Day weekend to rock along with Yuri, Motsu, and T-Kimura. It'll be well worth the trip.

In the meantime, I guess you'll have to settle with a stereo or CD player. Let's check out this week's anime soundtrack options:

(See those nifty new blue links? Click on 'em for track listings and other fun!)

JPOP CD —Tofu Records

I thought to myself, 'I wonder how it's gonna sound?' I didn't really know...

Tomoko Kawase's description of her experimental Tommy february6 music is a fitting summary of the CD that includes her performance. Few CDs fit the "something for everyone" label as well as Tofu Records' debut release. With seven anime themes and eight more tracks from JPOP idols, the collection is an experiment in itself, covering almost every major music genre in Japan. Jump to a random track, and you could be greeted by heavy 80s rock, R&B, 70s disco, dance pop, classic blues, or something else entirely. It's a roll of the dice. Fortunately, almost all of the tracks are among the best of their genres. Chemistry's fangirl-melting "Floatin'" is second to none, and if Judy And Mary's "Sobakasu" doesn't get stuck in your head, nothing will. Alas, the CD plays more like a sampler than an album, so you're not likely to listen from start to finish. And if you do, you'll probably find a track or two that don't jive with your tastes. Still, introductory CDs don't come any better, and JPOP CD is a rare opportunity to acquaint yourself with the full spectrum of JPOP and anime music. Don't pass it up.

Best used as: hors d'oeuvres.

Yoko Ishida: Sweets —Pioneer

Sweets is a lot like JPOP CD, except there's only one artist on this one. Yoko Ishida's anime themes (Ai Yori Aoshi, Sugar, Pretear) and pop music are perfect for any occasion, but her sweet, pure voice is especially useful for lifting oneself out of a sour mood. Whether simply a bad hair day or a depression of SaiKano proportions, Ishida's soothing voice can do wonders when you're down on your luck. From a technical standpoint, the music is nothing special—just stock rock and ballad fare—and it's not very unique or imaginative. Sweets will not be the second coming of Ishida's Para-Para dance craze; the toe-taping pop is just too derivative this time around. But there's something so charming about Ishida's vocals that you simply can't pass up this CD. I promise you'll be singing (or at least humming) long after you finish listening. “Eien wo, eien wo... ”

Best used as: anti-depressant.

Serial Experiments Lain —Pioneer

Well, that wasn't very nice. The opening theme of Lain, Duvet, is not included on this soundtrack. In other words, if you want the anime OP, look elsewhere. Like here. -Sigh-

With that painful note out of the way, I'm free to say this soundtrack has plenty to satisfy even the most demanding music enthusiast. Mood is the key in Lain, and this soundtrack definitely delivers. From jazz and R&B to soft rock and westerns, Lain defies genre, while an overarching mood of melancholy links the album's diverse tracks. The alternative-rock Lain's Theme and Kazoku no Shouzou's lonely guitar are among the most distinguished tracks, but don't limit yourself to those. There are fourteen tracks on this CD, each and every one worth a listen. And even if instrumentals aren't your thing, Pioneer does toss in a pair of vocal tracks, including the subdued closing theme, to make up for the Duvet void. This is raw, unadulterated Lain, and it's powerful music.

Best used as: depressant.

Slayers: The Motion Picture —ADV Music

Blah. Megumi Hayashibara's Midnight Blue is pretty cool, but you probably won't make it through the first eighteen tracks to get there. The Slayers movie music suffers from the classic “good with the show, bad on its own” syndrome that plagues so many soundtracks. And it's all because most of the music is woefully underdeveloped. Sure, the whole “epic” mood is great, but you can't ride pure mood for 52 minutes; some creative support is essential, and Slayers just doesn't get it. Much of the classical-leaning music is boring, stuck in neutral the whole time. For a soundtrack that tries to explore a wide range of emotions, it's sorely lacking in musical depth. The three vocals on the CD are decent (and unoriginal), but since there's just so much Hayashibara out there, you're better off with one of her other Slayers albums, like the one for the TV series.

Best used as: frisbee.

Have fun this weekend, and don't forget to make those con reservations!

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