Kanjani∞ – Puzzle [3rd Studio Album]

June 1, 2009 at 9:33 pm (Kanjani∞) (, )

Puzzle

Kanjani∞’s 3rd studio album, entitled PUZZLE, was released on 04.15.09. The singles released before the album were イッツ マイ ソウル, ワッハッハー and 無責任ヒーロー.

The album opens up with the fun upbeat number, 一秒 KISS. The song opens up with an impressive rock guitar solo before the full instrumentation comes in with the chorus. It’s very upbeat and energetic, giving the atmosphere of a fun party. The saxophones are a nice touch in making the music stand apart from the usual sound. Their vocals actually sound really good and compliment the overall style of the song very well. This continues onto the verses and the English phrases like “I need you” and “I kiss you” stand out nicely.The guitar sounds great on the pure instrumental section and it makes the listener appreciate just how cool the music really is. This is a really nice way to begin the album since it keeps the energy up.

Up next is アカイシンキロウ. Beginning the song is a sweet and pretty instrumental that is so uplifting and happy, that it will make you smile. The first verse comes in and the vocals sound very good, having a certain whimsical element to them that is freeing much like the music. Even though the chorus does sound a little expected, that’s not a bad thing. The music continues to be engaging and the vocals still sound very good. The pure instrumental section is nice because it kind of takes a decent and then rises back, taking the listener on a little journey before the third verse. This is a fantastic song that is extremely catchy, keeping up the strength of the last track, even amplifying it.

パズル, the title track, is also the third track. The song opens up with a mellow instrumental that has a feeling of sadness and isolation, really catching the ear of the listener. There’s almost an orchestral sound to the music and it comes as very unexpected but very enjoyable. On the first verse, the vocals carry a lot of emotion and thus suit the music perfectly. For the chorus, it really feels like the boys are saying goodbye to someone. It was a good idea to have a simple instrumental so that the focus comes on the wonderful vocals. The pure instrumental is absolutely gorgeous and those vocalizations just make everything even better since they sound somewhat haunting but fit with the whole atmosphere of deparature. Kanjani∞ keeps it up with this song, extremely worthy of being the title track of this album.

渇いた花 is the fourth song. The song starts off very quickly with the chorus. The vocals are nice and the “let me cry” and “I wanna cry” lines stand out nicely over the jazzy instrumentation. On the verses, things feel very relaxed and smooth from the vocals to the music. The highlight of the pure instrumental section is the saxophone, which is very nice and kind of spices things up. Overall, it’s a nice track but it doesn’t actually command the listener’s attention like the last few tracks did.

The boys pick up the energy with a rock sound on ゴリゴリ. An upbeat rock instrumental starts the song off and the vocalizations show off some personality even though they sound a little annoying. On the first verse, it sounds like one of the guys is singing really strangely and thus it sounds very strange. When they all come together on the chorus, the music becomes slightly more aggressive and the vocals become a lot better. Honestly, the pure instrumental section doesn’t sound particularly special and it comes as completely expected judging from the previous parts. The song is okay but it doesn’t sound like anything that will wow the listener, just kind of another rock track. Perhaps if the instrumentation had been more aggressive, it would have left a more lasting impression.

イッツ マイ ソウル is the first song that was released as a single. The song begins with a happy jazzy instrumental that will pick up anyone feeling down. There is this sound that persists in the music and it’s actually pretty distracting and it takes away from the boys’ vocals, which aren’t exactly the strongest but show off their personality nicely. They sound much better on the chorus though, all together, giving the listener the sensation of happiness. There’s nothing very strong or different about the pure instrumental section but that’s still okay. Nonetheless, the song is enjoyable even if it kind of sounds like a watered down version of アカイシンキロウ.

ローリング・コースター is a slightly dark rock number. The song starts with a kind of soft rock instrumental that definitely has this slowly building energy. It comes out a little bit later when the music becomes more diverse although not much more capturing. On the verses, the vocals are nice and the music sounds the exact same so it doesn’t exactly stand out very well. The chorus has the same problem of a lack of diversity so the listener just loses interest over time. It’s not a great song but it’s okay for what it is.

My Last Train is the eigth song on the album. Opening the song is a twinkling instrumental that actually carries a sadness to it so the combination is a strong one. From the very beginning, the listener gets engaged in the story of the song. The vocals on the first verse are strong with emotion at some point, it feels like some of the members might start crying. It does feel like there’s something a little off on the chorus and it’s hard to really point out what exactly it is. The pure instrumental section sounds great and very pretty, highlighted by elements of sorrow. Nonetheless, My Last Train is a very good song for bringing out all those emotions to the forefront.

The ninth song, 無責任ヒーロー, was released before the album. The song starts off with an exciting rock instrumental and then things kind of fall flat when the chorus comes in and there’s a cute element to it. The music goes more to a jazzy and hyper sound so that sleek coolness is lost. However on the verses, they embrace that jazzy sound much more strongly and it feels like a party. The chorus is a little flat although the noises are very amusing. Having them scream things in the background is actually pretty annoying and they should have been left out. The pure instrumental section revists the more rock oriented sound that began the song, which is always nice. It’s a nice catchy song that fits well on the album.

ブリュレ is the following song. A very cool instrumental, highlighted by the acoustic guitar begins things off on a very natural note. Then more rock instruments come in and spice things up, really catching the listener’s attention. On the verses, the guitar continues to its rapid pace and the vocals compliment the music very well. Everything comes to the climax on the chorus with an aggressive instrumental and strong vocals from everyone. The softer note was a surprise but the unexpected kind of makes things a little more interesting. Of course the pure instrumental section is amazing although it feels a little shorter than it should have been. This is a very enjoyable song worth checking out.

Things stay interesting with the next song,  咲いて生きよ. Another pretty upbeat instrumental begins the song and the chorus quickly follows, making the listener want to dance along. There’s something magical about the verses. The vocals are fantastic and the music is so capturing so it’s truly a dangerous combination, proving to be very addictive. Once again, the chorus is a little expected from the music before but it’s still enjoyable. They definitely don’t drop the ball with the pure instrumental section since it sounds gorgeous and definitely attention grabbing. This is another great song from the boys of Kanjani∞ and one of the best songs on the album.

The twelfth track is ギガマジメ我ファイト. The song starts off with a cool instrumental that seems like things are going to be really sleek. However the chorus proves that to be wrong when the music is very upbeat and pretty. Even though some of the vocals are questionable, it’s still an enjoyable part of the song. The verses follow the same pattern with some nice vocals and some iffy vocals. But there is a more relaxed part on these parts so the chorus stands out from the rest of the song. Even though the pure instrumental section isn’t anything extremely new or creative, it’s nice and fits in with the rest of the song.

Song number thirteen is 情熱 Party. Opening the song is a cool instrumental with rock flare although it’s not very engaging. Overall, the song is just kind of boring and doesn’t have any high point when the listener can really get into the song.

ワッハッハー is the semifinale for the first disc. That opening laugh is definitely surprising and the following vocals sound really strange but their personalities really do come alive. Once the listener gets past that, the song is actually a nice and cool song that is perfect for summer. It’ll make you want to smile and laugh along with the boys or even pick you up when you’re in a bad mood.

The final song on the first disc of the album is どんなに離れてたって傍にいるから. A nice and natural instrumental begins the song and then the harmonica comes in, kind of killing things. It does fit with the overall atmosphere of the song but it still sounds weird. On the first verse, the vocals aren’t very good and the problem is mostly the music. It’s just not very engaging and leaves the listener wanting more. Unfortunately, that never comes to life, which makes things not so enjoyable.

CD 1: 5 Most Memorable Tracks: アカイシンキロウ / パズル / 咲いて生きよ / ブリュレ / ギガマジメ我ファイト

The second disc on the limited edition features an additional seven songs, solo tracks from each member of the group.

Shibutani Subaru is up first with his solo, words. The song begins with him counting off “1,2,3” and then the piano comes in as the sole instrument. The vocals are extremely weird and honestly annoying. When he goes a little higher, it’s a little grating. Basically the song’s shining quality is the pretty piano but that’s pretty much all there is. If the vocals were strong, this would have been a fantastic song.

The second solo comes from Okura Tadayoshi with no-no-no. The song begins with a really cool instrumental with some electronic hints, which really grabs the listener. On the first verse, his vocals really give a sexual atmosphere and it makes everyone fall deeper into the sound of the song. Although the chorus could have been stronger with a more aggressive instrumental, it’s still enjoyable and manages to keep the attention of the listener. It’s a very strong song and one worth listening to.

アイライロ isYasuda Shota’s solo track. It’s a calm pop-rock number that just doesn’t grab the attention of the listener. The vocals are okay but the music sounds so average, it detracts from the strength of the vocals.

Murakami Shingo’s solo song, One’s shadow, is next. Don’t be fooled by the title, the song is a sweet relaxing song that sounds like spring. The music is very calming and his vocals suit the music perfectly, managing to cast the listener into a dreamy state. Things pick up on the chorus as its more upbeat and fun but it stll maintains that sweet element that makes the song so memorable.

ワンシャン・ロンピン, Maruyama Ryuhei’s solo, is the fifth song. It’s a cheery and cute song which is nice but that’s about as far as it goes. Basically, the music isn’t very grabbing even though the vocals are okay. It’s just not very interesting to be honest.

Yokoyama You’s solo, 413man, is a nice calm rock kind of track. Unfortunately, like the majority of the solos, the instrumentation is the problem and doesn’t really grab the listener. The vocals are nice but it’s just not good enough to really make the song shine.

Nikishido Ryo’s solo track, Half Down, is the final solo. Truthfully, this song stands out more than his solo songs with NEWS. It’s slightly better than the last few tracks although it’s nothing that really is stellar.

The second CD of solo tracks was pretty disappointing. Only Tadayoshi and Shingo really delivered memorable songs while the rest kind of fell flat in one aspect or another.

Album Ranking: B +

Kanjani∞’s new album was a pleasant surprise since many of the tracks shined. アカイシンキロウ and パズル are definitely the highlights of the album. The album could have had a little more variety but overall it was a nice package and was more than what I expected coming from these guys.

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