A varied and at times brilliant Yoko Kanno score, despite a smattering of mediocre Jpop.
Editor's review by Adam Corn (2008-11-04)
Far from being merely a supplemental album of leftover material, Macross Frontier OST2 boasts the same array of memorable themes, skilled arrangement and stylistic variety as the first soundtrack, on several occasions even surpassing its predecessor. It also suffers from the same flaw, a prevalence of mediocre J-pop tracks that dilute the overall experience.
A new arrangement of Macross Frontier's vocal theme "Aimo" was expected for OST2, but "Aimo O.C." is nonetheless a complete surprise, transforming the once delicate theme into an intense, apocalyptic arrangement of edgy synth, piercing electric guitar, deep resonating bell tones and wicked baritone choral accompaniment. All the movements from OST1's extended "Bird People" version are included, and they're arranged in an eminently climactic manner that makes one long to see the scene it accompanies. The other great surprise of the album is the original orchestral piece "shadow of Michael", which joins "Aimo" and even supersedes OST1's "Balto" as the most vital, memorable theme of the collection. Its heart-stirring melody is made all the more beautiful by Kanno's elegant arrangement of woodwinds and strings, which ushers in each successive variation of the theme dutifully but gracefully.
The remaining orchestral pieces are fewer in number compared to OST1 but higher in overall quality. "Prologue F" opens the soundtrack with a tender opening and a triumphant finale that sets the stage for a dramatic final act. "Test Flight" mimics OST1's "Vital Force" and Macross Plus's "Fly up in the air" and perfectly fits the series' aviation theme, while "Memorial Trumpet" is somber and dignified. "Battle Frontier" reprises several themes from the previous OST and provides a weighty, dramatic conclusion to the orchestral portion of Frontier
Just as Macross Plus's second volume showed the more eclectic side of that soundtrack, so Frontier OST2 offers a number of tracks with diverse instrumentation, albeit not with the same frequency. "High School Life" is an upbeat, bluesy guitar number slightly reminiscent of Macross Plus's "Jade". "Dog-eared Lanka" is quirky and uber-sweet but it's hard not to fall for its charm. It would fit right into place in an RPG as the theme for your prototypical comic-relief character. The one track to mimic the experimentalism found in some of Macross Plus's tracks is "Protoculture", which combines a minimalistic piano melody with ambient synth and an array of bizarre tweeps and chirps. It's creepy yet at the same time transcendental - a mysterious tease to end the album.
For all the excellence of OST2's instrumental pieces, it suffers from the same infestation of uninspired J-pop tracks as its predecessor, and in greater numbers. After listening to both OSTs it's quite clear that the producers have modeled the tracks for vocalist May Nakabayashi (aka May'n, aka Sheryl Nome) after Ayumi Hamasaki, one of the most popular but least talented media stars of the J-pop scene. Both Nakabayashi's nasal, high-pitched voice and her rapid but flat pseudo-rapping are similar to Hamasaki's and bring otherwise decent tracks like "Northern Frontier" to a screeching halt. Probably the most frustrating case is "Fairy", which would make for a nice electronic instrumental piece were it not for Nakabayashi's vocals superimposed over it. Only in the reprise of "Diamond Crevasse" are her vocals capable - just a bit soulful even.
This second soundtrack album more prominently features vocalist Megumi Nakajima, whose songs are far more tolerable than Nakabayashi's but arguable no better suited to the Macross series. The combination of Nakajima's smooth vocal timbre with mellow acoustic instrumentation and sugary lyrics in "Your Sound" and "Interstellar Flight" is good enough for radio play on Japanese airwaves, but it seems out of place in a story set in a high-tech future. "Blue Ether" has instrumentation along the lines of an 80s pop ballad, but with Nakajima's pleasant vocals and the quiet, serene chorus it's admittedly pretty. Nakajima's range is limited, however, and when she joins Nakabayashi for a squealing reprise of "Triangler" it conjures images of nights out at karaoke.
Closing out the song selection with a healthy dose of fan service is "Nyan-nyan Service Medley", in which the two vocalists move from one Macross vocal theme to another in a hyper-active medley. Though mostly more of the same, it concludes with some genuinely imaginative vocal arrangements and a fleeting glimpse of the series' main theme so strikingly ethereal that all the J-pop songs' previous transgressions are almost forgotten.
Ideally the instrumental themes (and "Aimo") from Macross Frontier would have been compiled in one album and the J-pop themes in another, and soundtrack fans of different persuasions would be able to choose between the two. Instead we have two separate releases that are both conflicted but still excellent. Soundtrack fans without an interest in J-pop should spring for OST1 first, if for no other reason than to hear "Aimo" and other themes in their original forms. Then those who like what they hear - which is likely - can move on to Macross Frontier Original Soundtrack 2, where some outstanding new themes and arrangements await.