Monday, September 12, 2005

A New Look At Stand Alone Complex O. S. T. 2

I reviewed this album months ago, back when it first came out in Japan. Now that I have a legitimate domestic copy of it, I've decided to give it a fresh listen and write a new review...

Despite its name, Stand Alone Complex O. S. T. 2 is actually the third soundtrack release of the Ghost In The Shell: Stand Alone Complex anime series. The second soundtrack release, Be Human, with its combination of songs from the series and the short Tachikoma specials that accompanied the show, was released in between the two "proper" soundtracks. Regardless of the numbering, Stand Alone Complex O. S. T. 2 is a very good album that continues and expands the sounds found on Stand Alone Complex O .S. T. +.

The album gets off to a great start with the uplifting, epic pop of "Cyberbird." A pulsating beat accompanied by strings powers this song with lyrics sung in what is probably a fictional language. Fortunately, the CD booklet has both a Japanese and an English translation of the lyrics and we realize that the song deals with the blur between fantasy and reality. That's quite fitting for a real song sung in a made up language. The instrumentals "Ride On Technology" and "3tops" have Kanno returning to the jazzy sound of her music for Cowboy Bebop. In fact, the songs would've probably fit in very easily on that popular anime series. Despite the similarity to some of her earlier work, they are fast, fun bits of jazz/pop.

Italian singer Ilaria Graziano, who worked with Kanno on songs for Stand Alone Complex O. S. T. + and the anime Wolf's Rain, lends her vocals to two songs, "I Can't Be Cool" and "I Do." The songs, sung in Italian with no English translations, show that music transcends the language barrier. A haunting piano is the basis of "I Can't Be Cool." Bursts of hard guitar combined with Graziano's vocals project a sense of not being happy with one's self. "I Do," on the other hand, seems like the complete opposite of "I Can't Be Cool." A mellow piano is the core of this midtempo ballad. Also, this song also seems to showcase her vocals better.

"Psychedelic Soul" has an incredibly misleading title. Instead of the 70's style funk you might expect, you get a dark, acoustic song about someone on the verge of death: "Time can't be overcome/Time won't wait for anyone/The well is running dry/You know, and so am I." Then, there is "What's It For," a song that sounds a lot happier than it actually is. Over a relatively bright and happy background, Emily Curtis sings that "I can't really take the sun shining all around me/Why would it shine down on me?" However, the best vocal song on the album may be "Living Inside The Shell," an anthem of sorts that is almost a response to "I Can't Be Cool." The theme here is to be happy with who you are: "All the truth is all you need to make of your reality, it's right here/Look deep within your shell."

Overall, Stand Alone Complex O. S. T. 2 is a very good follow-up to Stand Alone Complex O. S. T. +. Instead of being content to stay within the sound established on the first soundtrack, Kanno decided to expand into more traditional pop and some of the jazz elements she's touched on earlier in her career. Not every song is a keeper ("GET9" is a silly attempt at rock/hip-hop that actually contains the phrase "hip-hopadelic delight."), but most of them are well-done and fit the themes of Ghost Of The Shell: Stand Alone Complex perfectly. Kudos to Bandai Entertainment for continuing to release the Stand Alone Complex soundtracks in the U. S. as they, in conjunction with Manga Entertainment, continue to release the TV series. Here's hoping they bring over Stand Alone Complex O. S. T. 3 which was released only a couple of months ago in Japan.

2 comments:

  1. With respect to Get9, I have to say that I did appreciate the bass work in it. Agreed, though that the lyrics are extremely silly.

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  2. Anonymous2:46 PM

    I can't be cool grows on you the longer you listen to it. I almost didn't find a translation for it, and till then the italian sounded so.. religious. i can't get Ilaria's voice out of my head now. Amazing song.

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