Upbeat smooth jazz is the best way I can describe the music in the Heart Session 2 soundtrack, which is a collection of arranged versions of songs from various digital novel games such as Comic Party and Magical Antique to name two. A wide variety of instrumentation from saxophones to guitars to even flutes and trumpets can be found here. The music is generally very pleasant and relaxing to listen to, and would not be out of place on smooth jazz radio stations like the New York City based radio station CD101.9. One thing about this style of music is that there really isn't a clearly defined melody or hook to hang your hat on. Normally when music is freeform like that, it can collapse but never in good jazz because of the musicians' skill. The composers and musicians here are quite skillful in that they are able to create a mood and atmosphere in the music while also making it very listenable. No one instrument overpowers any other and the arrangements breathe very nicely.
My only caveat is that some of the instruments sound a bit thin. The saxophone, for example, sounds a bit tinny, like a synthesized saxophone without the richness and resonance of a real sax. The guitars could be a bit thicker and richer too; it's nothing a Gibson Les Paul through a Mesa/Boogie amp couldn't cure. Or maybe the mastering in the production stage was too overpolished. Not to say it sounds bad. In fact, it's sonically quite appealing. I guess I just prefer some of the organic rawness of live instrumentation.
My favorites are easily the last two tracks: Falling Waterdrops and Sunshine Forever. Those two tracks had a rock feel that really jumped out at me, since they weren't as smooth jazzy as the other pieces. Falling Waterdrops is slower and more melancholy while Sunshine Forever is quite bouncy. After Sunshine Forever is a wonderful surprise. A hidden track that blends smooth jazz and ska! You read right folks, SKA! I've never heard ska type music in a Japanese game soundtrack before and while it certainly cannot compete with bands like The Aquabats, it's certainly a good effort.
Heart Session 2 is a very good arranged soundtrack and would be a welcome addition in many gamers' music collections. Smooth jazz and ska are two genres of music that aren't represented all that often in video game music and it was a pleasant surprise to hear them represented as well as they were. In addition, all the tracks were instrumental, which is something I have a definite bias towards. All in all, this is a great soundtrack and I am glad I had the opportunity to listen to it.
Reviewed by: Neal Chandran