On or Off? K-On! OST

Lionrampant (Editor) — July 3rd, 2011
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K-On! is a show about high school girls that join their school’s “light music” club and form a band. With such a premise, I thought that the Original Soundtrack album would contain some songs played by the band. I remember when I learned how to play guitar, and I thought that it would be interesting to hear that experience, filtered through the show’s soundtrack. Since this album was called the “soundtrack,” I figured that at least a few songs like that would be present on the album.

Unfortunately, that is not the case. As it turns out, this album's title is not fully accurate. It isn’t the soundtrack to the show, so much as it collects all of the background music. It should be called the “K-On! Background Music Collection,” or something like that. All of the band’s songs are missing from this album, the opening theme is missing, and the closing theme is missing as well, making this album a really incomplete music collection for the show. Everything else is on separate albums, so you have to buy at least four albums to get all of the songs from the show. Well played, Pony Canyon, but buyer beware on this one.

Now that I am done venting my frustration with the publisher, let’s look at what is actually on this album. Most of the songs here are synthesizer pieces, though a few tracks make use of electric guitars to get a different feel. Still, with common instrumentation across most of the songs, a lot of the songs sound quite similar. If I had to describe a general feeling to the songs on this album, I would say that the music is generally “sweet.” It is mostly laid back and gentle, with a few fast pieces thrown in to mix it up.

The music leaves the impression that this is one of those shows where the main characters sit around talking about nothing of substance for entire episodes, with the occasional madcap romp thrown in. As an example of this, consider track seven, Cotton Candy. This is a synth-only track that has a pretty easy-going pace to it, with some nice syncopation in the later parts as some percussion gets added. There is nothing technically wrong with the track, and I find it to be fairly catchy once the percussion comes in. It likely fits the show quite well, making a nice background for a scene or two. To listen to it on its own, however... this is the kind of song that blends into the background so well that I can forget I am even listening to it at all. The album is mostly composed of tracks like this — forgettable fluff that should offend nobody but just isn't that interesting.

There are a few occasions that break that mold, though. For an example of this, consider track fourteen, Dead Soldiers. This is more of a rock ballad, with wailing electric guitars and crunchy power chords. It is rather cool if you like your music with a harder “rock” edge, but this track sticks out from the rest, because it is so different. Another different track is 32, Hesitation, which is noticeably more melancholy than the rest. As with the previously-mentioned Dead Soldiers, it is a good track, but it just doesn’t seem to fit the rest of the album, when you are listening to it straight through.

In the end, I can’t really recommend this album to anybody but a rabid fan of the show. While the music here shows some good technical quality, as an independent listening experience there are better options to spend your money on.