Sound Decision
Rock 'n Roll

by Jonathan Mays,
Three stellar discs this time around. Geneon's on a roll.

His and Her Circumstances Original Soundtrack —Geneon (2004-01-20)

If you liked Evangelion's music, you're sure to fall in love with the Kare Kano soundtrack. With all the angst, string passages and quirky brass of its predecessor, Kare Kano throws in a heavier dose of piano and a distinct 60s flavor. Quite simply, this soundtrack could've been made decades ago and sounded exactly the same. But that's part of what makes it so much fun; you just don't hear this kind of music too often in anime these days.

Shiro Sagisu's film and TV music career spans over twenty years, so he's had plenty of time to perfect his style, which usually features piano with a small chamber orchestra. To see how he's tweaked the Eva sound, check out "Souichiro Arima I," which sounds a lot like one of Rei's themes. Even better is "Yukino Miyazawa V," a wonderful piano nocturne. The best instrumental track is Kare Kano's version of the Eva synchronized fight music, "Yukino Miyazawa I."

Even the vocal themes get in on the 60s action, with guitar-heavy songs from the likes of Atsuko Enomoto, Chihiro Susuki, and Mai Fukuda. For Eva fans and folks looking for a piece of the past, this one's a must-buy.

Best used as: Eva 1.5.

Last Exile Original Soundtrack #1 —Geneon

Don't be turned off by the bizarre opening theme. Last Exile's music is some of the year's best, matching Celtic/colonial dance themes with regal processionals and otherworldly chanting. Like most soundtracks, this one has the requisite piano and strings, but Dolce Triade's arsenal also includes some rarer solo moments with the piccolo—and even the saxophone.

Singling out a best track is almost impossible here. The haunting chants of "Prayer for Love" are mesmerizing. "Naval Affair"'s adventurous drive is worthy of Master and Commander. And how can you not love a sax solo in "Cover Stories?" I think the only real disappointment lies in the opening and closing themes, as both are dull and forgettable. But they're easy to overlook when the other seventeen tracks are so evocative.

Dolce Triade is a newcomer to the anime music scene, and I hope they'll stick around for a while. Authentic swashbuckling music is at a premium; we really need more of this stuff.

Best used as: Pirates of the Cloud Age.

FLCL Original Soundtrack: Addict —Geneon (2004-01-20)

FLCL isn't really anime music—at least, not in the typical sense. When Gainax started producing the series, FLCL's director decided to go outside the usual circle of anime music composers. He hunted down a little-known Japanese rock trio called the Pillows and asked if they could provide some songs for the six-episode OVA. The band agreed, and gave Gainax a collection of pieces from their 1998 and 1999 albums. So when you listen to the FLCL soundtrack, you're really getting a sampling of some great modern rock from an underground Japanese band.

It's a cool story, but is the music any good? Yes, yes it is. Loud, simple, and addictive, the Pillows' music bottles the alternative rock scene and throws it into an entirely new realm in anime. Wild guitar riffs and overblown drum beats are par for the course, and if you can survive the initial blow to the head, you'll be in for a thrilling ride.

I can't make one bit of sense out of the lyrics of "Ride on Shooting Star" or "Little Busters," but I don't think we're supposed to care what they're saying. Forget the analysis. Just pick up that electric guitar and play along.

Best used as: Good, cheap J-rock.

This week we close with another hint of things to come. See ya next time!

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