NEWS – color [3rd Studio Album]

November 30, 2008 at 6:34 pm (NEWS) (, )

color

NEWS’ 3rd studio album, entitled color, was released on 11.19.08. The singles released prior to the album are as follows: weeeeek, 太陽のナミダ, SUMMER TIME and Happy Birthday. Much like their previous albums, there are some solos, the trio songs as well as one KoyaShige duo.

The album starts off with the boys’ first single off this era, weeeeek. With its fun and light-spirited sound, it’s the perfect album opener. The guitar brings the song to a strong beginning and the boys come in singing the chorus with that fun atmosphere coming through powerfully. On the verses, some of the boys doing some rapping and it works well with the overall feeling and everyone’s voices sound nice. The hook is a little cleaner as the boys with the softer voices sing their way through smoothly. That pure instrumental section definitely stands out as there is a very grand feeling to it and following is Tegoshi, who tends to give the best vocal performances. The song finishes with more exciting and upbeat music to bring this song to a close. weeeeek is one of the album’s strongest songs and a very memorable way to begin the album.

Following is STARDUST, a midtempo rock number. The song starts off with a calming rock instrumental that gets a little more aggressive as times goes on before the first verse. On the verses, the vocals are okay and they fit with the music well but they’re nothing very special. The chorus picks it up a little more as the instrumetnation becomes more interesting and the boys’ vocals are a little stronger. When they sing “stardust,” that is a pivotal moment in the song and it gives it a little more flavor. The pure instrumental section is all right and is nice because the guitar gets the spotlight but it’s nothing that great. Overall STARDUST is a nice track to listen to when you’re in the mood but they could have (and should have) done a lot better than this.

SUMMER TIME, which was the second single of the color era, is the third track on the album. A very pretty and twinkling instrumental starts the song off before the chorus arrives strongly. Everyone sounds great and they perfectly capture that summer light-hearted atmosphere with the combination of the vocals and instrumetnation. English phrases such as “I want you to know my sweet emotion” and “beautiful days” really pop and make the chorus all the more enjoyable. There is a more relaxing feeling on the verses and everyone sounds good with Massu’s vocals being the real standout. The rap section allows Koyama and Shige to shine a little more and it gives the song even more of that fun flavor. SUMMER TIME is another one of the album’s best tracks and one to look for.

The next track is SNOW EXPRESS, which was recorded previously and even appeared on the boys’ latest tour DVD. Now the song has a physical release on color. The song starts off with a very pretty instrumental that touches the listener’s heart. Surprisingly, the boys’ vocals are a little stronger than usual on the verses (notably Massu’s) as they smoothly move with the music. The chorus is what makes this song so addictive as everyone sounds good together and when they sing “snow express,” it’s heaven. It also stands out because the guitar is spotlighted there for a moment, which sounds fantastic. Yamapi then delivers his rap sequence and it’s a little surprising to hear but it has that Yamapi sexiness which just works so well for him. SNOW EXPRESS is a fantastic song, one that definitely deserved a physical release.

The next song is the sweet ballad track, Forever. From the moment the instrumentation opens, the listener should know that the boys are going to pour on the emotions. The first part of the chorus where they sing quickly is what stands out particularly because of Tegoshi’s vocals but then it doesn’t sound as good. The English is also a nice touch On the verses, the vocals aren’t bad but the instrumentation gets very old very quickly so the listener can’t really get hooked on it. Massu actually provides some strong moments during his part of the verse as does Tegoshi but overall the verses aren’t very impressive. What saves this song is the chorus with Tegoshi being the real star as there is a certain cuteness about this song that really stands out. It could have been much stronger though.

Up next is MOLA, which is Yamapi’s usual solo number. This track sounds so much like an American song that it’s a little strange to hear Yamapi doing something like this. To connect back to the American idea, the song is entirely sung in English and his pronounciation is actually pretty good despite the music interfering to the point when he is somewhat inaudible at points. The song opens up with “lady” and it sounds so much like T-Pain and his vocoder that it’s ridiculous. The lyrics show off the dirty flare as he sings “everybody feelin’ kinda naughty.” Much like his previous song, ゴメンネ ジュリエット (on the pacific album), there is a girl who sings a couple lines and although she provided some pretty vocals on the first song, she is too present here. Luckily for this song, the pure instrumental section is addictive and really shines. Overall, Yamapi’s vocals are so distorted that it doesn’t even sound like him and the sound is so American, it just comes off as annoying. This solo track doesn’t even come close to ゴメンネ ジュリエット.

Luckily, there is one new track that shines above all the other new ones and is even on par with the single songs and that is ケセナイ, sung by the trio of Tegoshi, Ryo and Shige. From the moment the instrumentation starts, there is such a beautiful and peaceful feeling that is instilled with the listener. Tegoshi then comes in on the first verse and provides smooth and calming vocals that match the music perfectly. There is a moment right before the chorus where the instrumentation goes a little higher and even though it’s only for one moment, it has that sparkling feeling that just hits the listener’s heart. Tegoshi then provides powerful and beautiful vocals on the chorus, showing off just how fantastic a singer he really is. On the second verse, Ryo and Shige have their moments to sing (although Tegoshi still is the leading singer here) and both boys sound great too. There is something about the overall feel of the song that just evokes memories of the one you love so the emotions definitely come to the forefront. Although this is a trio song, Tegoshi is the clear star (much like 愛なんて from pacific) and this is easily the best new track for providing the listener with a gorgeous and calming song to listen to.

Ryo’s solo, ordinary, is the next song to arrive. Much like code (on pacific), this song takes on a midtempo rock sound. After some pure instrumentation, the first verse comes in and Ryo provides some nice vocals although the music quickly gets old. The chorus is nothing special as the music doesn’t paricularly change and neither do Ryo’s vocals. One part of the song that does shine though is the pure instrumental section, in which the guitar is put on display for the listener. Overall, this isn’t a bad song and it is a step up from code as it gives us the opportunity to hear Ryo sing instead of scream but it’s not a very memorable one. I think they should give Ryo some different sounds next time instead of the same old rock number (that or give the solo to someone else…).

みんながいる世界をひとつに愛をもっと Give & Take しましょう features Massu as the lead with Koyama and Shige as the backups. The opening instrumentation actually sounds pretty cool like there is going to be a cool and dark rock following but then the chorus comes in full of happiness and cuteness and it’s a little disappointing. The boys’ vocals are good here and the repeating words stand out but not exactly strongly. On the verses, the instrumentation calms down so the focus can be on the vocals. Again, the vocals aren’t bad but the instrumentation and overall feeling of the song isn’t particularly interesting. That pure instrumental section is nice as the music gets that pretty spotlight and there are some elements reminiscent of TEPPEN (from their last album). Overall this song is just nice, nothing spectacular but nothing horrible.

KoyaShige team up again for ムラリスト and this track sounds so identical to their last duet チラリズム (from pacific) that it’s absolutely ridiculous. In fact, the title of that song is even mentioned in this one. The moment the song opens, the chorus comes in and there is such a fun beach feeling to it. Then the verse comes in and Koyama sounds pretty good here since his voice has a certain lightness to it. Shige has a little more trouble since his voice is deeper and when he reaches really deeper, it just doesn’t sound good (Koyama also does this too at points at the song). This song is one of those that you can’t take seriously to enjoy. Unfortunately it loses major points for basically being a carbon copy (and a worse one at that) of チラリズム. If anything, they should have tried to a song more similar to their other duet, アリバイ.

太陽のナミダ is another song released before the album and yet again, one of the album’s strongest numbers. The opening instrumentation features Arabian and Spanish influences to push for an absolutely perfect instrumentation. Following is the first verse and everyone provides the song with that dark coolness that suits the music perfectly. Massu and Koyama stand out since their voices are lighter compared to the rest of the members. The chorus is absolutely fantastic as they come together and harmonize fantastically, with the last word being held with strength. Overall this song is amazing and is one of the best (if not the best) on the album.

Smile Maker is up next and honestly, it sounds like a watered down version of Happy Birthday then tweaked to be a little more upbeat. It’s not that the song is bad but it’s just not interesting. Vocals are okay throughout but the music is just not there. Truthfully, this song’s one grabbing point is the ending when the instrumentation sounds fantastic. Had the song taken on this sound the whole way through, it would have been far more enjoyable.

The next song and semifinale is Happy Birthday. This relaxing pop number is pretty nice although it’s pretty weak compared to the other singles. One thing that stands out from this song is during the chorus when they sing “happy birthday.” It’s a very sweet song and worth the listen and surprisingly, it fits with the overall feeling of the album (and that can be argued as being a good thing or bad thing).

Closing the album is FLY AGAIN. It definitely was not the way to finish the album since it’s just so boring. It’s mostly due to the instrumentation being so simplistic and it just feels like it’s already been done before. This is possibly the worst song on the album so having it be the last one was not a smart idea.

Album Ranking: B –

The thing that makes this album so disappointing for me is that their last album, pacific, was fantastic. The album had upbeat numbers you can dance to (a la 愛のマタドール or サヤエンドウ), the sweet ballads (i.e. 思う夜 and 星をめざして), Yamapi did a wonderful job on his solo and the album tracks were on par with the single ones. On color, the solos were an absolute mess; the single tracks were extremely better than the album tracks; the KoyaShige was a rip-off of their last one and overall the album tracks were not that memorable. The new jewel of this album, ケセナイ, is absolutely fantastic though and is the perfect example of why Tegoshi belongs in this group. The album was definitely lacking in dance songs so I sincerely hope they pick it up on the next album to make up for this one.

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capsule – More! More! More! [11th Studio Album]

November 30, 2008 at 1:40 am (capsule) (, )

more

capsule’s 11th studio album, entitled More! More! More!, was released on 11.19.08.

The album begins with the introductory track, runway. A robotic voice introduces us to the song by saying “one, two, three, four” and soon the interesting instrumentation comes in. There are certain moments which are quite aggressive and others which are soft and it makes for good variety. However the robotic voice (I’m assuming it’s Nakata) that continues gets really annoying because it sounds like he is just groaning and making noises. It’s not a very good track but it does introduce the listener to Nakata’s style.

More! More! More!, the album’s title track, is the second song. A cool and very catchy instrumental begins the song and the synth is very pretty. Next, Toshiko comes in and sings various English phrases, most notably the title of the song. Her voice is pretty distorted so it’s a little hard to understand what she is singing but just going with the overall spacey feeling of the song, it works. There is a clear focus on the music here as the same lyrics are repeated throughout the course of the song but the music is so addictive that it doesn’t make the song any less strong. More! More! More! is a very good title track and nicely shows off the group’s power.

Following is the very long number, the Time is now. From the moment the instrumentation begins, the listener knows they are going to be taken on a wild ride. After a section of aggressive instrumentation, a rapper comes in with a rap section and it’s very surprising and unexpected. She actually sounds pretty good because she delivers the lyrics with such rapidity that it becomes infectious. Unfortunately, Toshiko does nothing for this song and her section just sounds awkward. Although it’s interesting at the beginning, the song gets pretty old pretty quickly.

JUMPER, which was released as a single before the album, is the next track. Overall this song is nice although it isn’t that strong. Toshiko’s vocals are spotlighted with each syllable and the moments of aggressive instrumentation really shine. It could have been stronger if Toshiko’s vocals had been stronger but it’s nice for what it is.

Phantom is home to one of the best instrumentals on the entire album. With a kind of dark and mysterious atmosphere around it, the song begins on a strong note. Once again, the focus really seems to be on the music and that was a fantastic choice. As for the vocals, there is some extreme distortion going on so anything that is said comes across as unintelligible. However, the good thing about them is that they do enhance that mysterious feel. The instrumentation is absolutely fantastic here and it even has a kind of Suzuki Ami feel to it, which makes it even better (truthfully, this track should have been given to her since I think she would add her special magic to it to make it even better than it is. It kind of sounds like Mysterious off of her latest album Supreme Show).

Following this mysterious track is the creepy ominous interlude, gateway. It’s very simple and it follows the last track extremely well. It also connects to the next track since they share a very similar sound. Truthfully, this interlude was pointless since it sounds like this same instrumentation appears as the front of the next track.

The seventh track is pleasure ground. The song begins with that same ominous feeling as gateway and then Toshiko comes in as the vocalist. One notable thing about this instrumental is that it has a kind of sound like other Nakata produced acts and that works well here. Toshiko’s vocals here are actually really strong and suit the music perfectly, keeping the listener hooked from beginning to end. This is another strong track coming from the duo and one of the album’s crown jewels.

With a title like the mutations of life, one would think that the song would be aggressive and cool. Unfortunately, that’s almost the opposite. This track is very laid-back, to the point where it sounds a little boring. Toshiko’s vocals are actually pretty good here but the instrumentation remains so monotone and uninteresting that the listener quickly forgets it.

Now we arrive at e.d.i.t., the aggressive electropop dance number. The song begins with a very interesting and cool instrumental that sounds sort of weird at first but after Toshiko says “edit,” the listener becomes wrapped up in another world. When Toshiko comes in to sing, her vocals are extremely distorted and it honestly sounds a little strange but the focus can really put to the instrumentation and she can be ignored. This song may be simple but it’s actually really addictive, proving to be one of the best on the entire album. Each time Toshiko says “edit,” it’s absolute gold and the instrumentation remains perfect throughout.

We close with Adventure, which actually stands apart from the rest of the album for its different sound. There is something very light-hearted and sweet about the song from the relaxing instrumental as well as Toshiko’s vocals. It’s a little slow so it does feel a little longer than usual but it’s by no means a bad track. It also gets bonus points for having a different sound.

Album Ranking: B

Well the king of electropop himself brings some enjoyable beats to this album so that tracks like Phantom and e.d.i.t. really shine through brightly. These two tracks are perfect examples of capsule power and should not be forgotten. The other tracks are nice and so is the album as a whole but it’s not as memorable as those of Suzuki Ami or Perfume. Perhaps it’s Toshiko’s vocals that are holding the songs back at times since Nakata tends to give the more strong aggressive beats to this group.

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SAWA – Colors [Debut Mini Album]

November 28, 2008 at 11:50 pm (SAWA) (, )

sawa

SAWA’s debut mini album, entitled Colors, was released on 06.18.08. Many Colors was promoted before the album.

The album begins with Many Colors. The song begins with a sleek electropop instrumental that has a lighter feeling than many of the other current electropop masterpieces before coming into the first verse. SAWA’s vocals are enjoyable although there seems to be a little consistency problem as she hits certain notes higher when it would have sounded much better if she just kept one note. It’s also a bit hard to distinguish when the chorus begins as the music remains the same and there is no vocal change. Although it has its strange moments, Many Colors is actually pretty enjoyable. It’s primarily the music that is the grabbing point but SAWA’s vocals provide some nice moments.

We come to the nice and calming track, blue, next. Opening the song is a sweet and twinkling instrumental that has some electronic flavors to it but it doesn’t really sound all that electropop. SAWA’s vocals sound much more controlled here than on the last track, which is seen on the first verse as she provides smooth and enjoyable vocals. She reaches high and shows off her range at points but it doesn’t sound as random and comes across to the listener as much more enjoyable. Here, the chorus is much more distinguishable as SAWA generally stays in the higher range while the music just stands by and compliments her (even taking a slightly different sound at the end). blue is a very enjoyable track and shows an enjoyable relaxing atmosphere.

yellow is the slowest song on the album with a very simplistic instrumental and clapping to assist the beat. After a nice head-bopping instrumental, the clapping comes in and after a while, it gets to be really annoying. Those opening vocalizations sound a bit piercing but after that, the music gets to a little bit more enjoyable. This song suffers the same problem as Many Colors: the vocals are a bit messy. SAWA reaches too high and it just doesn’t go with the music very nicely. The problem is that unlike in Many Colors, there are so many high vocals that the whole song comes across as awkward. It doesn’t have the same appeal as Many Colors but maybe it would have been catchier had the vocals been taken down a notch.

Coming a little closer to the real taste of electropop is the fourth track, pink. The opening instrumentation is a twinkling electric paradise, pushed by the sweet sounds of the piano. SAWA comes up for the first verse, singing in all English and her vocals sound pretty controlled here, nicely moving with the music. The chorus stands out as her vocals become loud again but they work here and don’t sound so random and thrown around. There is a real cuteness about this song that just works and the instrumentation of this song is easily one of the best (if not the best) of the album. pink is a very good track, showcasing a pretty instrumental and great vocals from SAWA.

The closing song is green, which features a different sound from the rest of the album. Although the opening sounds very abrupt and strange with the vocalizations, the instrumentation really does sound good with a pretty upbeat jazzy flavor that is a welcome change from the preceding songs. SAWA then has a cuteness in her voice on the first verse and her lower vocals really work here although the higher vocals aren’t as welcome here. Had they been saved for certain moments rather than being spread out, it would have been much better. However the instrumentation is so addictive that the listener just falls for SAWA while listening.

Album Ranking: B

SAWA’s debut album definitely has its strong points. The instrumentals for green and pink, for example, are very strong and provide the listener with a constant point to return to. There is something very likeable about Many Colors, despite a little sloppiness of the vocals. The album’s biggest problem is that the vocals tend to be a little too high a little too often. Hopefully her next mini album will feature more strong instrumentals with a little more vocal control.

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Morning Musume – Cover You [9th Studio Album]

November 28, 2008 at 8:46 pm (Morning Musume) (, )

coveryou

Morning Musume’s 9th studio album, entitled Cover You, was released on 11.26.08. The entire album features covers of Pink Lady songs, written by Aku Yuu. Only one single, ペッパー警部, was released before the album.

The album opens up on a fantastic note with the fun summery number, 渚のシンドバッド. After some quirky sounds, the instrumental comes in full force with the girls doing some great and catchy vocalizations. Soon the first verse comes and the girls’ voices perfectly capture that fun beach sound that the song is all about. The chorus is easily the song’s standout point, particularly when the girls sing “sekushii, anata wa sekushii” as the vocals here do portray that mature sound that makes Morning Musume’s music so addictive. This song is pretty short but it’s definitely a fabulous one and a wonderful way to open up the album.

mm1Continuing with the catchiness is the second song, どうにもとまらない. The opening instrumental sounds great and gives off a fun in the jungle vibe that stands out strongly. The first verse then follows and Ai sounds wonderful here as that deepness in her voice smoothly moves with the music. On the chorus, everyone comes together to keep up the energy and unfortunately, Ai doesn’t sound as strong here on her solo line. Following is a small pure instrumetnal section and because the music is so strong, it stands apart as an addictive section. More insrumentation brings the song to a close, perfectly rounding the song as strong from beginning to end. Although it’s another short song, once again clocking in at under three minutes, it’s definitely one of the album gems.

Takahashi Ai teams up with Itsuki Hiroshi for the third track, 居酒屋, a sweet slow song. The moment that instrumentation takes off, the listener is taken to a fantasy world where these two singers are right in front of them. Hiroshi takes the lead on the first and his vocals have a true deepness to them that just are the essence of a romance story and then Ai comes in and her vocals are surprisingly lighter than usual. Both singers do well on their individual parts and the atmosphere really comes alive from hearing these two. When they come together to sing, the vocals sound wonderful and suit the other’s perfectly. For its perfect romantic instrumental and the vocals that tell a story, this song is another great one from the album and shows the power of Ai.

ペッパー警部 (Album Version) is the fourth track. A nice and relaxing lounge instrumental begins the song and soon the upbeat and sleek music comes in, prompting the listener to want more. The girls then split into pairs to bring the chorus to the listener’s ears, strongly standing out. On the verses, they continue the pairs and although some are stronger than others, the vocals remain interesting. Reina has the solo line in the hook and she sounds great so it was a strong choice to give her that part. One standout part of the song is the pure instrumental section, which provides the opportunity for a nice dance break. Closing the song is Sayumi who sings with a certain cuteness that makes it all the better. There is a slight change from the single version of this song. On the album version, there is an added instrumental section at the end with the same lounge sound that opened the song. It’s not really necessary but it was nice.

The girls take it down a notch with 白い蝶のサンバ. The song begins with a nice instrumental that sounds a mm2bit old and soon the beat really comes. Then the first verse begins and the words are sung with a certain rapidity that actually works with the song and gives it a bit more flavor. On the chorus, the music becomes more diverse and the vocals are stronger, which make it stand out. However it’s really the verses that make this song catchy. The pure instrumental section is heavenly as that element of sweetness comes full force and sparkles in the listener’s eyes. 白い蝶のサンバ makes another great song on the album and continues the string of interesting numbers.

The next song is 青春時代, which continues the slower sound. If there is one thing to say about this song, it’s that the moments of pure instrumentation are very catchy. Vocally, this song could have been stronger since at times it feels like the music is taking over the girls’ voices. Nonetheless, the verses manage to be sleek and enjoyable while the chorus is a little dry. It would have been nice to see that sleekness continue but this is by no means a bad song.

林檎殺人事件 is the fun relaxing song that also has a beach vibe. This song is sung by Takahashi Ai and Niigaki Reina. The song begins with a very sweet and comforting instrumental that feels like the sun is caressing the listener’s face. Next is the first verse and both girls’ vocals sound great here, really pushing that atmosphere strongly and managing to entice the listener. The beginning of the chorus can be a bit annoying with the repeated word sung in a overly cute voice but the rest of it is enjoyable and makes the listener feel at paradise. The pure instrumetnal section at the end actually is really nice and brings the song to a strong finish. Ai and Reina really bring the fire here to make one heck of a memorable song.

ロマンス (Album Version) is the following song on the album. Not much has changed from it’s release as the B-side of the last single. It doesn’t stand out any stronger than before. It’s by no means a bad song but it’s just not that interesting or ear-catching.

mm3The album’s first real ballad is 街の灯り, which features the girls beautifully singing over a wintery instrumental. Everyone sounds great and definitely portray the emotions of the song well. The verses of the song are what make it stand out as the music stays nice and simple, complimenting the fragility in the girls’ voices. Overall the chorus is memorable, particularly because of the music but the girls manage to keep up. This is a great song and the perfect way to show that these girls can handle slow numbers as well as the upbeat fun ones.

恋のダイヤル 6700 is actually a really annoying song. Well the whole song isn’t really annoying but the chorus really does grind the listener’s ears. The constant “rings” get so old so quickly. On the other hand, the verses aren’t that bad but just having the chorus come over and over again just ruins the song. There is a very exciting and happy atmosphere of this song, which has a sort of traditional H!P sound and it just doesn’t work here.

ピンポンパン体操 is even less memorable than the last song. Keeping with that cuteness atmosphere, the girls really fall into that H!P sound. After having so many cool and sleek tracks, the album comes to the low point. This song is just not memorable at all and it would have been better if it was just left off all together. Ironically, this song is sung by everyone but Ai and Risa. Perhaps they bring that quality to the group that just makes the songs unforgettable.

It’s nice to come back to a good song with 私の青い鳥. With a very soft and relaxing sound, the girls make mm4themselves sound perfectly at home. It’s also a good example of how to be cute without going overboard as there are some cute elements hidden here and there, which sound great.

ジョニィへの伝言 is an absolutely pointless song that really shouldn’t have made the cut. There is just something so boring about this song and it definitely does not work well with the rest of the album. They tried but it just didn’t come through.

We finally finish with UFO, a perfect addictive number worth the listen. Opening the song is very catchy instrumental that has kind of a spacey theme. After Ai says “UFO,” the addictive instrumental comes back in stronger than ever. On the verses, the girls sound smooth and sleek while the music remains a force to be reckoned with. The chorus stands out as the girls give an even stronger vocal performance and the music comes in even stronger. Even though it’s another short number, it’s definitely one of the album’s best offerings that cannot be missed.

Album Ranking: A –

The album opens and closes with the best tracks (渚のシンドバッド and UFO) while other tracks (どうにもとまらない, 居酒屋 and ペッパー警部) show just how powerful these girls really are. The upbeat catchy numbers are definitely the most memorale and make this album worth the purchase. Although there are a few duds, it’s a pretty solid album with very strong flow.

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Ito Yuna – 恋は groovy x2 [12th Single]

November 26, 2008 at 6:16 pm (Ito Yuna) (, )

koiwagroovy

Ito Yuna’s 12th single, entitled 恋は groovy x2, was released on 11.26.08. The title track was used to promote GAP Japan’s 2008 Holiday Collection Winter Neutrals.

恋は groovy x2 is a fun uptempo number that makes the listener want to get up and move. After Yuna sings “na na na” over the addictive instrumentation, we come into the first verse. One thing that is notable about this song is that although the song is upbeat and fun, Yuna provides strong and powerful vocals that show off her range amazingly. After a few more “na na na”s, the chorus comes in full effect  and it’s amazingly catchy as she continues to give good vocals, even hitting some higher ones with ease. The title of the song and the following line are the most standout parts of the chorus. The song closes with some great adlibbing, followed by the line that runs through the back of the instrumentation “baby come with me tonight, baby come into the light.” One thing that might irk the listener is that last “groovy,” which feels a little out of place.

真冬の星座 is the B-side. The piano opens the song on a strong note, immediately drawing at the listener’s emotions. Yuna then comes in and sings the first verse and she sounds absolutely fantastic here as her vocals smoothly carress the beautiful music. Although the chorus is hard to find at first, once it becomes clear, the listener doesn’t want to let it go as Yuna really makes you believe her singing. This is a fantastic ballad worth checking out an a strong compliment to the uptempo A-side.

In order to promote the single, a PV for 恋は groovy x2 was made. The video generally features Yuna in GAP’s clothing and just showing off their products. Although it may not be particularly eventful, it does capture the fun spirit of the song well.

Single Ranking: A

Following the fantastic single miss you, Yuna comes back stronger than ever with 恋は groovy x2. The title track shows off Yuna’s vocals over an addictive instrumental while the B-side brings up the pretty and sweet emotions of the heart. It’s another solid from Yuna and certainly one to celebrate.

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Kuraki Mai – 24 Xmas Time [30th Single]

November 25, 2008 at 8:19 pm (Kuraki Mai) (, )

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Kuraki Mai’s 30th single, entitled 24 Xmas Time, was released on 11.26.08. Although a month away from Christmas, the single does a perfect job of bringing that wintertime feeling close to the listener’s heart. The title track was used as the theme song for the TV series Koisuru Hanakimi while the B-side was used as an insert song.

24 Xmas time is a nice chill midtempo number that immediately resonates with the listener. From the moment the instrumentation opens, the listener knows that they are going to be taken on a journey. Mai opens up with the chorus and the certain fragile element of the song really works here in keeping that gentleness present. It’s the verses, however, that make this song so addictive. Her vocals sound absolutely wonderful here and that gentleness works even better as the music takes on a lighter tone as well. She sings “I wanna take a chance,” which provides the chorus with a nice build-up. The third verse is a rap from KEN-RYW and he does a very nice job of keeping the flavor up. What’s interesting about this song is that from the sound alone, it’s not particularly wintery but rather a pop song with a winter bell that appears at times. It’s actually a good way to approach so that Mai’s style still can come through. 24 Xmas Time is definitely her best song post ONE LIFE and what a way to introduce the sounds of winter.

The B-side of this single is All I Want. This song definitely captures the wintery atmosphere as well as a longing for a loved one. Mai’s vocals really portray the emotions well and show off her range nicely. Right before the chorus, she sings “All I want for Christmas is you” and that line alone makes the listener feel the song’s meaning. It’s a great song and a good compliment to the A-side.

In order to promote the single, a PV for 24 Xmas Time was made. The video is pretty simple, centering around Mai singing into a microphone (on a microphone stand) with dancers behind her. One enjoyable part of this video is that Mai’s personality really comes out, such as when she is putting on a little blush and then she jokingly dabs some at the camera. She’s cute and fun here, which makes the video all the more enjoyable.

Single Ranking: A

After releasing various singles, Mai finally comes to one that is addictive on the first listen. 24 Xmas Time is a fabulous laid-back song that shows off Mai’s voice and goes back to her older sound. All I Want is a good compliment, taking the ballad route and getting the emotions out there strongly. This is easily her best single post ONE LIFE and worth checking out.

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Suzuki Ami – Supreme Show [7th Studio Album]

November 24, 2008 at 8:25 pm (Suzuki Ami) (, )

Suzuki Ami’s 7th studio album, entitled Supreme Show, was released on 11.12.08. In order to celebrate her 10th anniversary and her recent work with Nakata Yasutaka, Supreme Show was produced entirely by him. It also comes as her 2nd album of the year (as DOLCE was released in January). Both singles: ONE and can’t stop the DISCO (as well as their respective B-sides) as well as a new mix of previous song SUPER MUSIC MAKER were included on this album. The first track, TEN, was used in a Honda Cars CM.

TEN opens up the album on a strong note. The song is quite simple lyrically speaking but that simplicity in conjuction with the addictive instrumentation makes for a catchy opening number. Opening the song is a fun and cool electropop instrumental that takes the listener into a whole other world and soon the striking part of the music comes in, the piano. Having the piano run through really sets this song apart from various other Nakata songs and it makes this song a standout number on Supreme Show. Getting back to the lyrics, during the verses, it is generally a list of things that Ami can relate to such as “daydream,” “setback” and “lonely.” The chorus stands out as her vocals stand out and show that Ami edge as she sings “dream a happy dream, which way shall we take?” and the final line is so perfectly apt for this song as she chants “transcend the TEN.” TEN really introduces the listener to the genius production of Nakata and the unmistakable flavor of Ami. Although the vocals are heavily distorted, it works very nicely with the music to make TEN an electropop paradise.

supremeshow1The second song on the album, can’t stop the DISCO, is a maginificent sleek electropop wonderland. The song was perfect when it was released as a single and it sounds wonderful on Supreme Show. The song takes off with a mysterious and cool instrumental that takes the listener on a ride and straight into the first verse. The verses are the strongest part of the song as they give off that cool vibe that only Ami can bring. English phrases such as “feel my heart” and particularly “love tactics,” give the verses that special edge. Transitioning smoothly into the hook, the vocals become a little more strong as she holds her notes with flawless ease. The hook really does a good job of connecting the cool verses to the lighter chorus. Ami brings a fun atmosphere for the chorus as she sings primarily in English with phrases like “time trip, time slip” and “No! None of your tricks!” making the listener stand up and notice. The song finishes with more of that dreamy instrumentation that just sounds so great and makes a perfect transition into the next song. can’t stop the DISCO is a perfect Nakata and Ami match and it stands out strongly on the album.

Much like the transition on the single, cimb up to the top follows can’t stop the DISCO perfectly. This song is one of the funnest songs on the album as she sings in all English and it almost sounds like shouting but it works well in the context of the song. Opening the song is a cool instrumental with the sounds of a woman moaning here and there, fueling that sexual atmosphere that makes the song have a little more edge. The English phrases are a little nonsensical at times like “whoop it up, blow one’s top” “what is you up to? out of control!” but they only enhance the song’s fun atmosphere. Similar to some of Nakata produced B-sides (i.e. feel the beat or edge by Perfume), the emphasis is really on the music here since the actual singing is only of the chorus. Luckily the music is so addictive that the times just flies by. There are certain points when the music becomes dark and aggressive and others when the music is light and fun, which makes for a very strong song as the transition between them is flawless. climb up to the top is a great song, one definitely worth checking out.

Up next is SUPER MUSIC MAKER (SA’08S/A mix), which was also released on the previous single. climb up to supremeshow2the top perfectly flows into this song just like on the single. Since its release on the can’t stop the DISCO single, it hasn’t lost of any of its magic. That opening instrumental really grabs the listener in and prepares them for the amazingness to come. Soon Ami comes in cutely saying “yeah! hey you, yeah!” and then the first verse follows. Her vocals here really match the laid-back element of the music and keep the listener intrigued for what is to follow. The chorus is easily the most addictive part of the song as the music becomes more diverse and the “hey you!” line really pops and catches the listener’s ear. This new version of SUPER MUSIC MAKER definitely finds its home on Supreme Show and is another product of the perfect team of Ami and Nakata.

Mysterious is home to a dark and almost creepy atmosphere that makes it one of the best songs on the album. That spooky instrumental begins the song and there is almost a video-game like element to it that really makes it extremely enticing. Ami comes in on the first verse with sleek vocals that support the music strongly, showing off that cool flare. Following each couplet is a couple English lines such as “dance dance dance dance follow me, back step next step give me a beat.” It appears many times throughout the song but it’s so catchy that the listener won’t mind. One line separates the verses and the chorus, beginning with “grab a chance” and it is at this moment that the instrumentation rises high to build up for what is next. The chorus is fantastic, primarily for the drawn-out “mysterious” that Ami sings, separated by that repeated “dance” line. Following the chorus is a small pure instrumental section that takes a listener on a ride through this mysterious world, perfectly representing the song’s meaning. Without a doubt, Mysterious is a knockout on Supreme Show and one of the best Ami and Nakata creations for its infectious instrumentation and cool sexy edge.

supremeshow3Picking up the energy and the mood is the next song, change my life. The instrumentation takes off and instantly the listener feels that lightness. On the verses, Ami gives a very good vocal performance as the distortion on her vocals perfectly fits with the music. The chorus actually is very memorable, primarily for the interesting twinkling world of the instrumentation. Ami’s vocals are pretty good here too, though they could have been a little stronger. English phrases such as “change my heart” and “up to date” do a nice job of popping and catching the listener’s ear. The pure instrumental section is great and has a certain warm feeling about it that just works within the context of this song. It’s a good song and although it may not be one of the most interesting offerings on the album, it’s worth a listen.

It wasn’t the smartest idea to place the next track, LOVE MAIL, right after change my life since they are a little too similar in sound to be next to each other. Similar instrumentation opens this song up but there is something unmistakably different about it, which is hard to describe. On the verses, Ami gives some good vocals again, nicely supported by the instrumentation. Generally it’s the music that makes this song a good listen and there are certain sections of the song (such as right before the chorus), which sparkle in the listener’s ear. The chorus is nice but having Ami constantly reach higher to sing becomes a little much for the song and doesn’t sound as strong as she did on the previous song. One interesting point about this song though is that on the first verse, she sings with a certain rapidity that sounds so fresh and gives the song a nice little edge.

Although A token of love didn’t strike me when it was released as a single on the ONE single, it has shined more considerably since then. The opening instrumentation catches the listener as it’s almost like they are entering another world as it shifts from being light to agressive to a cool. After some vocalizations from Ami, the first verse and there’s somewhat of a cute feeling to it as Ami sings along to the sleek instrumental. The chorus is what makes this song stand out with all English lyrics, she sings phrases such as “make a happy” and “you and me.” When she sings the title of the song, the music also has a momentary change that makes for one perfect split second that is still noticeable to the listener. Closing the song is a fantastic instrumental that takes on more aggressive qualities. A Token of love finds a nice niche on this album and actually sounds better here in the context of the album than its release as a B-side.

TRUE is definitely an album gem as Nakata takes a more relaxing approach with the synth leading Ami supremeshow4through the song. Ami effortlessly follows, showing off her vocal prowess and coolness. The opening instrumentation immediately makes the listener want to follow as it opens the doors to a new world. On the verses, Ami manages to slickly hold her notes and staying in the lower tone allows her to keep that cool edge that she is so good at keeping. The chorus stands out as Ami gives a little more vocally and the music doesn’t have to do anything but remain strong (which it manages to do no problem). This song is truly one to remember and it is a wonderful addition to Supreme Show.

Our last track is flower, an electropop ballad of sorts, which Ami brings to magical life. There is such an immediate draw to this song once the instrumentation begins the song so that the listener cannot escape. She holds her notes wonderfully and there is a layer of aggressive instrumentation that runs through the lighter and more fragile level, perfect for forming unforgettable music. On the chorus, Ami reaches higher but here it works so perfectly with the beauty of the music that the listener could just sleep into a dream while listening. She sings “come into flower,” enticing the listener to hear even more. flower is fantastic and it’s the perfect way to slow things down while still keeping the listener addicted.

Ironically ONE is the album’s last track. It was such a strong song when released as a single and it still maintains that perfect edge. The song begins with Ami singing the hook, probably the most addictive part of the entire song. She sings “number one” over an absolutely fantastic instrumental that catches the listener’s attention. The last line of the hook is the most memorable line of the entire song as she holds the last note with strength. On the verses, there is a very relaxing feeling as Ami’s vocals remain in the lower pitch and they really work with the certain dark spacey atmosphere about the instrumentation. If you listen closely, you can hear her saying “smile and music and this world” at certain moments of pure instrumentation and it’s a very nice touch that adds flavor to the song. Closing the song is addictive music, that makes for the perfect finish for this album. ONE is one of Ami’s best songs to date and certainly an album jewel.

Album Ranking: A

Supreme Show definitely shows the true power of the Ami and Nakata team. All the songs from the singles (ONE, A token of love, can’t stop the DISCO and climb up to the top) sound fantastic here, maintaning their strength from single release. As for the new tracks, Mysterious reigns top jewel with TEN, TRUE and flower closing following. The album provides many different sounds, all of which show Ami’s versatility and appeal, making Supreme Show an album to remember.

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Kitahara Aiko – その笑顔よ 永遠に [17th Single]

November 23, 2008 at 10:19 pm (Kitahara Aiko) (, )

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Kitahara Aiko’s 17th single, entitled その笑顔よ 永遠に, was released on 11.05.08.

その笑顔よ 永遠に is a fabulous Spanish love song. The song opens with the Spanish guitar, taking the listener off into paradise. Aiko then comes in on the first verse and her smooth vocals wrap around the gorgeous music, only adding to the flavor of the song. The chorus really stands out particularly for the title of the song, which is the very first line. The way that the first few syllables are stressed is the chorus’ selling point and it definitely catches the listener’s ear. On the pure instrumental, the guitars come out and add even more flavor to the already brilliant instrumentation. This is a fantastic song and Aiko definitely brings it to life.

ラベンダー is the single’s B-side and a very nice one at that. There’s something so peaceful and pretty about this song that it strikes the listener’s heart so sweetly. Aiko’s vocals sound great here and they perfectly  support the music. It’s another great song from Aiko and a good compliment to the upbeat A-side.

In order to promote the single, a PV for その笑顔よ 永遠に was made. The video features some very nice scenes such as Aiko standing by some pink flowers as well a scene of her resting on a bed. However it’s the other scenes that make it look like it’s from a drama, complimenting the song all the more.

Single Ranking: A

その笑顔よ 永遠に is definitely a song to remember, effectively channeling the Spanish guitar to create a memorable upbeat instrumental. The B-side, on the other hand, is a sweet and touching song made sure to catch the listener’s ear. On both songs, Aiko’s vocals compliment the music in order to bring the songs to fruitful life. I look forward to what she’ll bring in the future after this single.

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Fukui Mai – Lucky [2nd Single]

November 23, 2008 at 7:19 pm (Fukui Mai) (, )

lucky

Fukui Mai’s 2nd single, entitled Lucky, was released on 11.19.08.

Lucky is a simple emotional number. The song begins with a very pretty instrumental that has a certain sorrowful feeling to it while still having a clear beat to it. It almost sounds like Mai is rapping because the way she delivers her words sounds just like the way a rapper would but on Mai, it comes across as sounding very awkward and almost mannish. She then brings more power on the chorus as she portrays the emotions really strongly. Overall, the song itself isn’t bad but Mai’s execution does not do it any favors. Her vocals are so strange here that it makes the listener lose interest really quickly. It’s definitely not the proper follow-up after her first single.

Rain-bow is a far superior song as her vocals sound normal and the music is so pretty. There is a soothing atmosphere that comes out on the verses, perfectly supporting her vocals. On the chorus, she gives more vocal strength but it would have been even nicer if she belted out a little more. Overall, it’s a good song and should’ve definitely been the A-side of this single.

In order to promote the single, a PV for Lucky was made. The video features Mai wandering around in a deserted area so it’s not very enjoyable. It matches the song’s interest level.

Single Ranking: C

This single is a huge step down from her first single. The A-side sounds so strange since it feels like there is something wrong with her vocals. It’s true she does somewhat sound like ayaka but here she sounds like a hybrid of ayaka and Avril Lavigne. It just doesn’t work and they should’ve fixed that before they released it.

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C-ute – FOREVER LOVE [7th Single]

November 23, 2008 at 6:57 pm (C-ute) (, )

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C-ute’s 7th single, entitled FOREVER LOVE, was released on 11.26.08. This single continues the girls’ string of more mature songs and this time they even take on some rock sounds.

FOREVER LOVE is a fun uptempo track that shows off the girls’ mature side yet again. The song begins with a hot instrumental, almost sounding like theme music to some sort of spy movie. Then the first verse comes in and the twinkling sounds provide the music with a little lightness as the girls’ vocals sound perfectly natural. When the hook comes in, Morning Musume’s recently covered version of ペッパー警部 comes to mind as the rapidity of the girls’ lyrics definitely gives off a vibe like that song. If there’s one weak point of this song, it’s the chorus. The song is pretty mature on the whole but the “my darling” and “I love you” parts come to that cuteness that kind of clashes with the mature atmosphere. Luckily the pure instrumental section is fantastic (as it tends to be in C-ute songs) as the rock tints come out strongly and the guitar is spotlighted. FOREVER LOVE is absolutely addictive (although not as addictive as the girls’ previous single) and it’s definitely another hit from the girls.

The B-side of the single is セブンティーンズ VOW. It’s always interesting (and somewhat frustrating) to see that C-ute tends to put their mature songs as the A-sides but then the single comes down on the B-sides when they go into cute mode. Luckily this song isn’t that bad and it doesn’t go too cute. It has that kind of nice summer day kind of feeling with some rock tints sprinkled around to make the instrumentation a little more interesting. It may not be great but it works.

In order to promote the single, a PV for FOREVER LOVE was made. The video is simple, featuring the girls dancing in a room with two different sets of outfits. One set consists of the suits from the cover while the other set features more casual clothes. If there is one thing these girls can always nail, it’s dancing. They bring energy and strength to their dance moves in order to match the excitement of the song. The one flaw of this video is that the close-up shots are not very flattering (save for one or two girls) and they definitely should’ve been done away with.

Single Ranking: A –

C-ute does it again with FOREVER LOVE, a fantastic upbeat song that treats us to the girls’ mature side. They could use some work on the B-sides but they are very smart for keeping the mature stuff as the A-sides and thus the ones that will make the album cut and leave the cute stuff for the singles. Since the release of their album, these girls have not slipped once and it makes the wait for their newest album all the more suspenseful.

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