For what seems like forever, I’ve been a hopeless follower of Yoko Kanno’s music. I adore almost every single one her soundtracks, from the jazzy Cowboy Bebop to the sweeping, epic sound of Vision of Escaflowne.
With a lot of anime composers, I tend to blow hot and cold – meaning I can love a soundtrack for a few weeks, but once the show has finished, my interest in the music gradually fades too; clearly an emotional attachment to the music, connecting it with certain dramatics, can cloud one’s objective judgment on the ultimate quality of sound. You could say I’ve picked up more glass shattering JPOP than I’d like to admit.
It’s different with Yoko Kanno though – I have songs from Macross Plus (“VOICES”, “MYUNG Theme”) stored on my portable MP3 player, I listen to these songs every day, and the last time I watched Macross Plus was three years ago. That’s the best tribute to her work I can offer – that it stands alone, divorced from anime, as simply great music, period.
Now I’m going to spotlight two of her songs. Since you’re reading this blog, I think it’s safe to assume you’ve already heard Yoko Kanno’s music in either Cowboy Bebop, Stand Alone Complex or Wolf’s Rain (if not, you are a broken person, go and get fixed). First up is “Kissing The Christmas Killer” from the “The Other Side of Midnight” soundtrack (a.k.a 23-ji no Ongaku: NHK Rensoku Dorama “Mayonaka wa Betsu no Kao”).
Kissing The Christmas Killer (4m 27secs) is an elegant, fragile ballad beautifully sung by one of Kanno’s long time vocalists Maaya Sakamoto (RahXephon OP, Vision of Escaflowne OP, Wolf’s Rain ED). Beginning with little but a sparsely played piano, Sakamoto’s angelic voice gradually ascends from the cold seasonal background; the song becomes a yearning, lyrical fairy tale perfectly at ease along side Kanno’s shimmering, magical sound.
Lyrics from “Kissing The Christmas Killer” (Anime Lyrics dot Com)
I was heaven sent
Traded for the words I swore that
Every piece of me would still belong
Forever and a day
To someone who cared
Whatever there may be
Ever there may beYou came along
Now I’m going all against the
Promises that I made, and here I am
Falling for your love
Or am I lost in heaven
I don’t know any more
Don’t know any moreJudgement will be made
On a Christmas day
Hiding in the snow, he’s prying me”Toys if you’ve been good
Knives if you have not”
Better steal a kiss ‘fore I’ll be gone
I’ll be gone
The intense “The man in the desert” (4m 15secs) is from her (1st and only) solo album “Song to fly” (1998). For this song Kanno worked with the world famous Warsaw Philharmonic Orchestra, fleshing out rising, grandiose themes with a sweeping, operatic sound. The result being a song that feels important and profound; at first rural, layered and confused by single instruments, yet driving ever onwards with a vital sense of hope, climaxing with the intense dueling of a choir and orchestra.
Rest assured, these two songs are but a small taste of Yoko Kanno’s rich back catalogue of diverse music. To sample it all is one of my missions in life!
MP3 & shop links