aiko – 秘密 [8th Studio Album]

April 13, 2008 at 6:00 pm (aiko) (, )

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aiko’s eighth studio album, 秘密, was released on 04.02.08. The album’s theme is clear from the title and when interviewed, aiko stated that she felt as if she released a secret on each song, showing the personal conection she has this album. Three singles were released previous to the album release: シアワセ, 星のない世界/ 横顔 and 二人.

The album begins with You & Me both, an enjoyable spring-like track. The song begins with an uptempo piano introduction and soon the true instrumentation comes in. There is a blaring of sounds for a moment and then the first verse arrives with an instrumentation consisting of a guitar and piano, which mesh well with aiko’s voice. While the verse begins slow, the chorus brings in more instruments to make it pop and more exciting. aiko shows off her vocal prowess as she effortlessly holds the final note in one of the choruses. The song ends nicely with instrumentation to bring the song to a great close. You & Me both is truly a strong way to introduce the album.

二人, the third single released before the album, follows You & Me both. The song starts off with a soft sound with rock influences that slowly builds up to bring in more of a pop flavor. When the first verse starts, the instruments are pushed to the back to focus on aiko’s vocals and only the strumming of the guitar is heard when she finishes a line. The chorus is poppy and enjoyable as aiko’s vocals mesh well with the music. Overall the song is a nice poppish song with rock flavor that sounds great in accompaniment with aiko’s voice.

学校, a fun and jazzy song, is the third track. The song begins with a very poppy instrumental that is reminiscent of an older style of music that seems to call on a jazzy atmosphere and the modernization comes in with the introduction of other instruments. The first verse features some very relaxing and nice vocals and the hook continues these vocals but sound even better with the slightly different instruments. The chorus is really nice and it shows off aiko’s vocal abilities as she sustains the notes flawlessly. The pure instrumentation section really highlights the jazzy qualities of the song and it sounds great. 学校 is a nice fun song that has a summer feel to it and it finds its home on this album.

Next is キョウモハレ, a wonderful uptempo track. The song begins with a slow gorgeous instrumentation and slightly builds up by the first verse. aiko’s vocals work so well with the music that it comes across perfectly and the emotional presence is clear. She holds the note before the chorus very strongly and shows off her power as a vocalist. The chorus sounds great and although aiko delivers the lines somewhat rapidly, she still makes it sound personal and beautiful. The pure instrumental section highlights the relaxing beauty of the instrumentation. The song ends as strongly as it began, making this song a definite one to remember from this album.

横顔 was one of the two tracks released as a double A-side single before the album. The track begins with an uptempo sound filled with the imagery of hope. The first verse begins and aiko’s vocals blend well with the music and the combination of the two makes for a great summer sound. The chorus stands out for the slight change in the instrumentation and aiko’s vocals still sound great on the song. 横顔 is an enjoyable summer-filled song that captures the season’s essence well with a strong instrumental and great vocals from aiko.

The album’s title track, 秘密, was actually not planned for the original release of the album. However during the process, aiko decided it would be a good fit. The song begins with beautiful piano playing that slowly builds up until aiko’s vocals come in. Her vocals support the music well and keep in perfect harmony with the atmosphere. The new instruments introduced in the chorus and continued in the chorus, make both pop [especially the chorus] and aiko’s vocals sound great here. The decision to include the album was strong since it’s one of the album’s strongest tracks. 秘密 serves as a perfect title-track and it’s definitely a wonderful song to listen to.

ハルとアキ follows the title track as the seventh track. The beginning is so smooth and relaxing with the beat standing out through the instrumentation. aiko’s vocals come in and sound great with the overall feel firstly presented. Soon the instruments come to play a bigger role particularly in the chorus and aiko sounds so at home with the sound. Her vocals are strong but controlled and follow the arrangement of the song by emphasixing certain notes when the music comes to a climax. The pure instrumental section is genius as it spotlights all the instruments that are somewhat pushed to the background throughout the rest of the song. Her ending ad-libs sound great and work well within the context of the song. ハルとアキ is definitely a memorable track that stands out.

Following is 星電話, clearly one of the strongest songs on the entire album. The song opens up with a short but wonderful piano interlude before going into the first verse. The arrangement of the song is interesting is it begins with a soft and sweet sound and then from nowhere, an upbeat sound with slight rock influences is introduced. aiko’s vocals on this song sound great as always and support the music perfectly. The chorus easily stands out the most from this song and aiko’s vocals really show her range as she hits the higher notes with such ease. The section featuring pure instrumentation is such bliss on this song and it highlights the creativity of the track. 星電話 is very enjoyable and is one of aiko’s best efforts.

恋道 is the ninth song on the album. After nice and poppy instrumentation, which also seems to draw on some older music influences, the first verse comes. aiko sounds completely in her element as she sings alongside the music. The chorus is very nice and features some pretty good vocals as well as a cool instrumentation. Overall it’s a nice song although it isn’t as strong as some of the other tracks on the album.

The tenth song is 星のない世界, from the double A-side single released before the album. The song starts off strongly with the instrumentation and there is a very smooth transition into the first verse, which features some controlled but strong vocals from aiko. The first note of the chorus is held out well as are various other notes during the chorus. The song is definitely enjoyable and keeps a consistent sound that the album has.

The first song released as a single for this album’s era is the eleventh track シアワセ. Opening up with a light and springy instrumentation, a peaceful atmosphere is established from the very beginning. The first verse features some consistently great vocals from aiko that work with the music to make an enjoyable listen. The chorus is memorable for its slight change in instrumentation and the delivery of the lines, which are a bit rapid at points and her voice highlights certain notes that the instrumentation does as well. The song is definitely a great start for the album era and it hasn’t lost its touch on the album.

The penultimate song is ウミウサギ. The soft sounds of the piano open up the song and once aiko’s vocals begin the first verse, it sounds as if she’s slightly toning down the vocals to fit with the music. In this case, it was a good move since it supports the music well. However her vocal power is displayed yet again as she sings the chorus strongly and with emotion. In fact, there is even the sound of what appears to be her taking a slight breath after one of the vocals, which really brings home the personal touch. Following is a nice pure instrumental section that showcases the instrumentation. The final note that she holds truly is incredible as it shows she can really draw out certain notes for emphasis. The track is a good penultimate track and sets up the last track to really shine.

約束 is the finishing song of the album. The song opens up quickly with vocals as aiko effortlessly sings her way through. Soon the instrumentation is highlighted before going into the first verse. aiko sounds perfectly at home on the song with good vocals and a nice instrumentation. The song is nice but it may not have been the perfect song to end the album with. However, it does bring the album to a nice finish and maintains the atmosphere of the album.

Album Ranking: A

aiko’s eighth studio album, 秘密,  is definitely a personal and relaxing album. The album is cohesive in terms of its sound but is able to maintain a certain level of diversity. From the strong single tracks such as シアワセ,  星のない世界 and 横顔 to some powerful album tracks such as 星電話 and the title track, 秘密. All the work aiko put into this album definitely shines through crystal clear.

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