Time we had a proper thread about this.
Those who have read my posts on the matter may have noticed that I have certain pet peeves when it comes to MegaTen soundtracks of the last few years. I miss the old classic composers of the series from the 1990s (especially from Atlus' golden age - Saturn / Playstation 1), and I think the current composer Shoji Meguro has gotten worse with age, no doubt thanks to the fact that he now seems to compose every soundtrack in the series in a great hurry (the next Devil Summoner game will be out 5 months after Persona 4 - a little tight, eh?). So I'll just say it once more: MegaTenmusicwasbetterbeforeandShojiMeguroisdefinitelyoverworkedandtheothercomposersshouldreturn.
I wanted to get that out of the way because I have to say that the Persona 4 OST is absolutely amazing. It seems like the soundtrack that Persona 3 OST should have been. I really love the game Persona 3, and the music partially grew on me after I played it, but there's no denying that the soundtrack was kind of weak on it's own. Meguro tried to convey a "cool" and "hip" atmosphere, but only succeeded halfway. Persona 4 OST is another story altogether, I was initially skeptical, but it quickly grew on me, and I love it now (needless to say, I haven't played the game yet).
The style is reminiscent of the P3 OST, but everything is just done so much better. There are even more vocals than in P3, but they're much better (and no rap this time!). Now, when I say "vocals", the average VGM listener will think "ah, ending themes and such, I guess". Wrong! Just like in the preceding game, the vocals are intertwined in many of the "normal" tracks, making the vocal addition to the soundtrack much less pretentious, forced, and out-of-place than most typical VGM vocals are. Really, I'm definitely no fan of vocals in my VGM, but in P4, Meguro has succeeded in blending them so seamlessly into the mix that they become like just another instrument, and I don't mind them in the least. Some of the lyrics are the typical dumb J-Engrish fare, but on the other hand, some of them are not so bad and sound great in context (Come on, let go of the remote; don't you know you're letting all the junk flood in?). The singer isn't very adept at English, but it doesn't bother me that much - it even sounds pleasant, in a way. Anyway, almost all of these themes are great, check out "Pursuing My True Self" (<- that title just screams Persona), "Your Affection", and "Heartbeat, Heartbreak", especially. One has to hear them to really understand.
Apart from the vocal themes, the rest is great as well. There is some trademark Meguro-rock in the battle themes, but most of the stuff is lighthearted, up-beat electronic music and jazz-sounding pop. There is just too much good stuff to mention: "SMILE", "specialist", and "muscle blues" is hummable and funky pop with a classy jazz-feel to it (and leagues and bounds over anything Meguro's previously produced in the genre), "Castle", "Sauna", and "Theater" is slick and wicked-sounding techno that harkens back to Meguro's Maken X days (I especially love the repeating vocal sample in "Theater", this track reminds me so much of Persona 2). All of these tracks are just so well-produced and plain fun to listen to even for someone who hasn't played the game - I can only assume that they work wonders within the game itself.
The entire soundtrack is solid, really. The only stinker I can think of is the very last track, the bonus "Electronica in Velvet Room", a really lame version of this composition, almost as bad as P3's "Blues in Velvet Room".
Meguro has managed to do with P4 OST what he tried so hard to do with P3 OST and Burn My Dread - Reincarnation but ultimately failed, namely to imbue the music with the right Persona atmosphere - youthful, cool, hip, modern, but dark, thoughtful, and challenging at the same time. Personally, I think its his best work since 2003's Shin Megami Tensei 3 - Nocturne, or possibly even since 1999's Maken X (I say this because I can already feel it knocking SMT3 down the ladder). So, while I still feel that its not quite as good as the Persona 1 & 2 soundtracks and I still hope we will see the return of veteran composers such as Toshiko Tasaki and Kenichi Tsuchiya (sorry, I couldn't resist), I have to tip my hat to Meguro-san for this accomplishment and say that this album is a serious contender for best VGM of 2008. If anything, listening to it has taught me to not be so quick in sharpening the obituary pencil.