Shimatani Hitomi – 白い蝶のサンバ and 長い間 [New Songs]

September 29, 2009 at 11:13 am (Shimatani Hitomi) ()

Shimatani Hitomi BEST & COVERS

In order to promote Hitomi’s latest BEST album, BEST & COVERS, released on 07.26.09, two new songs were added to the collection: 白い蝶のサンバ and 長い間.

白い蝶のサンバ is a fun upbeat song that suits Hitomi perfectly. The song begins with the smooth sounds of the guitar and then when the full instrumentation comes in, the listener is taken to another world. Hitomi sings rapidly and her vocals are just so sweet that they fit the music perfectly. The chorus is nice although it doesn’t stand out as strongly as one might expect from the strength of the verses. It’s a very nice song and a good addition to the COVERS disc.

長い間 is a soothing ballad that Hitomi brings to life with emotional vocals. It has a very romantic atmosphere about it that is hard to resist. It serves as a good way to close the compliation off.

Song Rankings: B +

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Shibasaki Kou – ラバソー -lover soul- [17th Single]

September 29, 2009 at 10:56 am (Shibasaki Kou) (, )

lover soul

Shibasaki Kou’s 17th single, entitled ラバソー -lover soul,- was released on 09.16.09. The title track was used as the theme song to the dorama Otomen.

ラバソー is a cool upbeat rock number. The song begins with a cool rock style that has an element of mystery to it, that intrigues the listener. Then Kou comes in on the first verse and her vocals are quite nice here, staying with the cool music perfectly while still carrying a certain levity in her tone. The beginning of the chorus could have been a little more striking but it does end quite nicely. The pure instrumental section really spotlights the sleekness of the music, making it one of the best parts of the song, if not the best. Kou delivers another catchy number that suits her style well and keeps the listener entertained throughout.

The first B-side is Sweet Dream. It follows the style from the first A-side but has a slightly lighter feel to it. It’s not a bad song but its similarity to the A-side makes it feel kind of like a cheap copy.

Nervous also takes cues from the A-side but does it so with a different sound so that it sounds different enough. This song has a darker feel to it that Kou adapts well to.

In order to promote the single, a PV for ラバソー was made. The video mainly features Kou rocking out with her band in a dark alley. Also included are scenes of Kou in black and a devil Kou.

Single Ranking: B +

Kou did a pretty good job with this single as the A-side is catchy and fun.  It has a mysterious feel to it that intrigues the listener. Although the B-sides aren’t as strong, the A-side makes up for it. Hopefully she will do at least one more single before the year is over.

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Hamasaki Ayumi – Sunrise / Sunset ~LOVE is ALL~ [46th Single]

September 14, 2009 at 4:18 pm (Hamasaki Ayumi) (, )

SunsetSunrise

Hamasaki Ayumi’s 46th single, entitled Sunrise / Sunset ~LOVE is ALL,~ was released on 08.12.09. While Sunrise ~LOVE is ALL~ was used as the theme song to the dorama Dandy Daddy?, Sunset ~LOVE is ALL~ was used as the Panasonic LUMIX Fx60 CM song. Both songs share the same melody with different tempos.

Sunrise ~LOVE is ALL~ is the upbeat version of the song with electronic influences to spice things up. The song begins with a relaxing and cool instrumental that has a summery feel to it and then Ayu begins singing. Her vocals are quite nice and the beat of the song is clearly aggressive, providing an interesting contrast. The energy comes out more strongly on the chorus in which Ayu chants happily. There’s just something missing from the song that keeps it being particularly memorable despite its difference from past summer songs.

Sunset ~LOVE is ALL~ slows things down for the ballad version of the song. Although the verses are nice, the chorus just feels a little awkward. It worked much better in Sunrise ~LOVE is ALL.~ Ayu’s vocals are good but the music just holds it back from being a great ballad.

In order to promote the single, two PVs were made: one for each A-side. They are set at the same setting and fit their respective song well. For Sunrise ~LOVE is ALL,~ Ayu and her dancers sing and cheer happily for the crowd but for Sunset ~LOVE is ALL,~ she sits down and sings as the audience listens. Honestly, both videos are pretty boring and a lot more could have been done with them.

Single Ranking: B –

Ayu has had some great summer songs (glitter, Greatful days) but this one just didn’t stand out. It didn’t go too well for Sunset ~LOVE is ALL~ either. Perhaps she shouldn’t have used the same melody because it’s hard to take it two different ways successfully (Koda Kumi nailed it with her single of a similar idea). Hopefully Ayu will bring something stellar for her next single because she definitely still has still got it!

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C-ute – EVERYDAY 絶好調!! [10th Single]

September 14, 2009 at 4:00 pm (C-ute) (, )

EVERDAY

C-ute’s 10th single, entitled EVERDAY 絶好調!!, was released on 09.16.09. It will be C-ute’s final release with Umeda Erika as she will go to study to be a fashion model.

EVERDAY 絶好調!! is a fun end of the summer relaxing track. The song begins with a fun groovy instrumental that carries a summery feel to it, catching the listener’s ear quite nicely. Then comes the first verse and the vocals support the breezy atmosphere perfectly, establishing a strong and natural sound. The chorus is sweet and fun, following the verse smoothly and keeping the listener interested. The pure instrumental section has kind of different style, which makes it really stand out before moving back into the chorus. After their last single, C-ute bounces back with a fun and sweet number that shows their true colors.

The girls bring the heat even more with the B-side, 甘い罠. Beginning the song is an aggressive poppy rock instrumental that definitely demands attention at the first moment. On the verses, the girls provide strong vocals that portray attitude and suit the music very strongly. The chorus keeps the coolness going as they come together with Maimi and Airi standing out as they usually do. The sound at the end is always fun and gives the song a slightly breezy feel. The pure instrumental section stands out nicely before moving into the chorus. This is definitely stronger than the A-side and should have been promoted as such.

In order to promote the single, a PV for EVERYDAY 絶好調!! was made. The video is quite simple, featuring the girls dancing on a rooftop. The dance sequence actually fits the sweet atmosphere of the song well so nothing intricate or too flashy is needed although it’s always nice to see.

Single Ranking: A

After a disappointing last single, C-ute steps it up for Erika’s last one. EVERDAY 絶好調!! is a fun breezy track that captures the feelings of the end of summer quite well while 甘い罠 features a more aggressive song that one can dance to. It’ll be interesting to see how the girls take things with only five members.

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Aoyama Thelma – Emotions [2nd Studio Album]

September 10, 2009 at 7:00 pm (Aoyama Thelma) (, )

Emotions

Aoyama Thelma’s 2nd studio album, entitled Emotions, was released on 09.09.09. The singles included on the album are 届けたい… and 忘れないよ.

The album’s introduction is pretty pointless, just featuring Thelma walking along sidewalk with the sound of heels filling most of the track. Then some music comes in and she does some vocalizations. It really wasn’t necessary and did not need to be put on the album.

The second track on the album is 忘れないよ. The song begins with a soft midtempo instrumental that gives a very calming feeling to the listener and establishes the atmosphere of the song quite nicely. She sings “yet I still belive in you” and there’s such emotion in her that really catches the ear and starts things off perfectly. She continues to sing with smooth vocals and emotion, making the song a good listen until the chorus. There’s a magical feeling in the instrumentation that shines, bringing the feeling of distance to life. It’s a very pretty song and is a very strong first full track.

Following is the cute and happy song, Happiness. The song starts off with part of the chorus and there’s a sparking sweetness that comes frmo the instrumentation. Again, it’s a midtempo number but it stands out from the last one as there’s a real feeling of true happiness that comes out. During the verses, there are points where her voice sounds too high and awkward but she stays pretty well throughout, vocally. It may be a little cheesy but it’s cute and it’s nice to see her give a different side to a slow song.

二人の約束の日 is the fourth song on the album. It’s yet another midtempo number and this time a sorrowful feeling arises with the beautiful sounds of the piano. There’s nothing really about this track that makes it super memorable or stand out from her other slow songs. As usual, the music is pretty and so are her vocals but it’s not enough to really wow the listener.

The next track, I’m Sorry, picks up the pace a little bit. The song opens up with the piano and this time, the beat is much more clear. There is almost a coldness in her voice as she sings in the first verse, really standing out to the listener. The chorus is much more upbeat and actually a good moment to dance to. Yet the emotions still are rushing through like a flood, making for an interesting combination. She ends it perfectly with her deep and smooth vocals as she sings “I’m sorry…” The pure instrumental section sounds really cool and is definitely one of the song’s standout points. I’m Sorry may not be the most groundbreaking song but it shines on Emotions.

KEEP ON is the next song. It starts off with a funky instrumental that makes the listener want to dance along and then Thelma starts singing the first verse. As usual, her vocals are smooth and carry over the music strongly. There is this attitude in her voice that is reminiscent of Don’t Stop. The problem with the song is that the instrumentation pretty much stays the same throughout, making it a little tiring for the listener. Overall the song would have been much better if the music got spiced up here and there.

素直になれなくて is the following song and it brings the atmosphere back down. Beginning the song is part of the chorus and there is a lot of vulnerability in her vocals, which makes the listener want to keep going. On the first verse, her vocals are very pretty and portray a lot of emotion. Her voice is perfectly complimented by the mellow atmosphere of the music. It’s a great song and definitely one of the more memorable songs on Emotions.

KEN THE 390 joins Thelma for 届けたい…Back when it was released as a single, it wasn’t very memorable and it still doesn’t have that magic that warrants many listens. It’s just another one of Thelma’s ballads that are nice but nothing special.

Baby, I Love You continues the string of dull numbers as it’s yet another slow song that fits the Thelma formula. Much like the last track, there’s just no spark to make it pop and stay in the listener’s head.

Up next is the upbeat and cool LOOK. Finally she goes for something upbeat and there’s just something entrancing about the instrumentation. It actually shines over her vocals and just draws the listener into the world of the song. Although there are some strange cartoon noises that pop out quite frequently. Despite being a pretty repetitive song, it’s nice since it’s different and provides the album with a little balance.

Thelma joins VERBAL for the semifinale, WANNA COME AGAIN. It follows the coolness of the previous track and has an aggressiveness in the instrumentation that isn’t very common in her songs. As usual, VERBAL delivers his coolness with his great voice and spices things up. The chorus is a little disappointing since it feels like she’s almost out of breath. Overall though, the song is definitely one of the gems of the album and is worth a listen.

Of course the album ends on a slow note with Cinderella Story. It’s another generic track that isn’t even worth a listen.

Album Ranking: C +

Although it’s true that Thelma can deliver some great ballads, she needs to experiment more with her music. She has done some great upbeat songs in the past (MADONNA and Don’t Stop) and it’s baffling as to why they’re never A-sides. Since all of the singles are pretty much ballads, the album tracks need to create a balance and that’s not what happened here. Also, the flow is pretty bad, distracting the listener from the overall package.

5 Most Memorable Tracks: WANNA COME AGAIN (featuring VERBAL) / I’m Sorry / LOOK / 忘れないよ / 素直になれなくて

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MEG – Journey [2nd Mini Album]

September 7, 2009 at 3:43 pm (MEG) (, )

MEG_Journey_Regular

MEG’s 2nd mini album, entitled journey, was released on 08.26.09. The album was centered around the theme of going on a journey and was produced by The Shanghai Restoration Project.

Droplets serves as the mini album’s opening track. The song begins with a relaxing instrumental with hints of traditional isntruments to make it sound even cooler. Then the first verse comes as there is a very mellow mood with almost a sorrowful tone as MEG sings. The chorus features MEG singing “we see it coming down” and “We’ll watch it disappear and vanish in the air.” Lyrically, there is a transient atmosphere that comes to the listener’s ears and it fits with the overall mellow vibe of the song perfectly. It’s a very nice way to start things off, really showing the very calm atmosphere of the album as a whole.

Questions follows, keeping the same laid-back sound but also bringing its unique coolness. The song starts off with a sort of funky instrumentation that also carries a softness. On the first verse, she delivers lyrics such as “You’re a stranger, could be danger” and she goes through various thoughts, really suiting the song’s title. On the chorus, she repeats the word “why,” effectively being a soothing tool for the listener’s ears and she ends it quite slickly by singing “Got me feeling like a spy, no hello or goodbye, and then it keeps me wondering why.” However one of the best lyrics of the song comes as the beginning of the second verse as she sings “all the mind tricks make my mind sick.” Questions is the most memorable track on the mini album and really should have been chosen as the promotional track.

Following the cool energy from the last track is Rush. Opening the song is MEG listing different cities in a very cool voice that is different from the usual calm voice that she had been using. There’s so much more spunk and energy, which makes the listener want to hear more. The lyrics of this song perfectly suit the theme of journey as MEG sings “One day to go and so much to do, I could use a helping hand / Maybe I should make a list, there is no more room to pack.” She sounds very cute when she repeats the names of cities in Japan and then says “I’ll see you there.” Rush is the second best track and gets points for mixing the cool atmosphere with her spunkiness.

The fourth track on the album is Dreamscape. The song begins with a cool instrumental that instantly gets the listener’s interest. MEG does some vocalizing before going into the first verse. Admittedly, that excitement dies down as MEG sounds so lacking emotion. Unfortunately this doesn’t get much better as the song goes on as the song is so repetitive with the vocalizations. After two strong tracks, Dreamscape falls flat despite it’s amazing title.

Just Like That is the following track. Beginning the song is a very sleek and mysterious instrumental that intrigues the listener and then MEG comes in with some jazzy vocalizations, perfectly suiting the song’s atmosphere. MEG’s vocals sound quite different on the track for some lines as they are much deeper and sleeker than usual. It’s an interesting contrast to have her normal voice for when she sings “Just Like That” and the more hushed voice for lines like “Take a break for days” and “I could live here.” Despite its repetitiveness, it’s still a nice song and suits the theme of going on a journey very nicely.

Journey, the title track, is the last original song on the mini album. The song begins with a cool instrumental, giving the image of water flowing. This is the only track in Japanese so it’s an interesting way to close things off. Her vocals are great here, really sounding smooth and suiting that image of calmly flowing water. The vocals are even a little bit angelic, sounding as it they could appear from a lullaby. It’s a very nice way to end things with MEG’s peaceful vocals over the sweet instrumentation.

Album Ranking: A –

MEG followed BEAUTIFUL with a very nice mini album, going in a completely different direction. This package is tied together by soft and mellow sounds but certain tracks carry unique parts that make them shine. Questions and Rush both have their own coolness to them that sounds wonderful while Just Like That has a more jazzy sound. It’s a strong collection of songs perfect for lounging and relaxing.

Most Memorable Tracks: Questions / Rush / Journey / Droplets

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Guardians 4 – School Days [2nd Single]

September 4, 2009 at 11:00 pm (Guardians 4) (, )

School Days

Guardians 4’s 2nd single, entitled School Days, was released on 09.02.09. The title track was used as the 4th ending theme for Shugo Chara!! Doki.

School Days is a sunny and sweet song that continues the girls’ cute sound. The song begins with an upbeat and happy instrumental that will make the listener smile along with the girls. Aika sounds great as usual andher vocals stand out in particular alongside the magical fun instrumentation. The chorus is nice and energetic, keeping the flow from the verses. It’s a quite nice track mostly because of the instrumentation, which more than just the usual cute standard. It definitely highlights the girls’ voices and stands out.

いつかどこかで. is the single’s B-side. Even though it’s not the most stellar track and a pretty typical song, it’s a nice listen when the listener is in the mood. The vocals fit the music well and keeps the sunny atmosphere for the listener to hear.

In order to promote the single, a PV for School Days was made. The video features the girls wandering through a hedge maze as well as dancing in a library. There are guest appearances from the anime characters to promote the show even more. It’s nothing amazing but the girls look cute and it fits the song nicely.

Single Ranking: B

Guardians 4 did a nice job with their second single, continuing with another cute song. It would be nice to see them try something different for a single like Buono! did because the results could show a different side to these girls that would make them shine.

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Kuraki Mai – わたしの、しらない、わたし. [New Song]

September 4, 2009 at 9:51 pm (Kuraki Mai) ()

ALL_MY_BEST_-_2CD

Kuraki Mai’s new song, entitled わたしの、しらない、わたし., was included on her newest BEST album entitled ALL MY BEST. It served as the only new song on the album as well as a promotional song. The album was released on 09.09.09.

わたしの、しらない、わたし. is an elegant upbeat number. The song starts off with a part of the chorus and Mai’s vocals are quite pretty here, really standing out alongside the strong music. She sounds particularly good when she sings the title of the song and when she sings “preciously,” she sounds absolutely angelic. On the first verse, she gives more great vocals that support the music perfectly cand catch the listener’s ear easily. Theg uitar really accentuates the beauty of the music on the pure instrumental section and leaves the listener wanting even more. It’s a fantastic song and is a very strong incentive to buy this BEST album.

In order to promote the BEST album, a PV for わたしの、しらない、わたし was made. The video features two different Mais, one in front of a pink background and the other in front of a blue one. It seems as if two different sides of her are being represented, which is always a good concept.

Song Ranking: A

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Buono! – Take it Easy! [8th Single]

September 4, 2009 at 9:37 pm (Buono!) (, )

Buono! - Take it Easy

Buono!’s 8th single, entitled Take it Easy!, was released on 08.26.09.

Take it Easy! takes things down a notch from the last single for a calm summery tune. The song opens up with a nice midtempo instrumental that really gets into the atmosphere of the summer and then comes the first verse. Momoko begins things and there is a real cuteness in her voice, which stands out. Airi then comes in and the music is quite interesting during her part so it makes her shine even more. Miyabi’s part carries a slightly more cool instrumental part, highlighting her voice nicely. The chorus is nice and breezy, giving the listener a nice calming feeling. It also sounds very cute when they sing the title of the song. The pure instrumental section carries that fun-ness that is what the song is all about, continuing the song in a strong way. Overall, it isn’t as memorable as MY BOY but it’s still an enjoyable summer perfect for the end of summer.

キライスキダイキライ is the single’s B-side. The song starts off with a rock-filled instrumental and already the mood of the song is established. Then comes the first verse and although the vocals probably would have been better with some more emotion in them, they sound nice. Those parts right before the chorus sound quite nice and really catch the ear. The main problem with the chorus is that it sounds so disjointed from the verses, ruining the flow of the song. Other than that, it sounds nice and do stick quite well. It’s a nice B-side even though it’s not the best.

In order to promote the single, a PV for Take it Easy! was made. The video features the girls taking a bus ride to the beach to enjoy the summer sun and it fits the image of the song so wonderfully that the director really knew what he was doing. The dancing wasn’t really needed but it was a nice touch. All three girls looked great, adding to the strength of the video.

Single Ranking: B

This single was definitely a step down from the amazingness that is MY BOY. However, it was worth the listen and does fit the summer season well. Hopefully they’ll be doing more mature stuff because they really shined with their last single.

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V6 – GUILTY [36th Single]

September 4, 2009 at 9:23 pm (V6) (, )

GUILTY V6

V6’s 36th single, entitled GUILTY, was released on 09.02.09. The title track was used as the theme song to the dorama Shin Keishichou Sousa Ikka 9gakari.

GUILTY is a pretty dance song. The song starts off with a very pretty instrumental, highlighted by the sounds of the harp. Then the first veres comes in and the vocals are very smooth, staying with the atmosphere of the music perfectly. The chorus has more of energy to it and is actually quite catchy despite the way that the boys break apart the words. The rap section fits in perfectly with the vibe of the song, particularly when it’s Ken’s turn to step on. Of course the pure instrumental section has a cool feel to it that also highlights the beauty of the music. It’s a great song to dance to so V6 brings the fire yet again, this time alongside a very pretty instrumental.

逢いたくて is the B-side present on all three editions of the single. It opens with some magical sounds with a clear beat before the song’s true midtempo instrumentation comes in, opening up another world. The first verse starts and the vocals fit perfectly with the music, conveying emotion and sweetness that will definitely get to the listener. When everyone comes together on the chorus, the vocals sound amazing, particularly when they sing the title of the song. The pure instrumental section is very pretty and definitely leaves a good impression. This is a strong compliment to the A-side because it also keeps a pretty instrumental but slows down the tempo.

Available only on the regular edition is Medicine. It begins with a sort of video-game styled instrumentation and then the first verse starts. The vocals are nice as usual although the music is somewhat distracting. The second person’s vocals sound a bit off, which doesn’t leave the best impression for the chorus. And unfortunately the chorus does keep that same low energy, not really exciting the listener. The vocals are good but they’re not stellar and the music is the main problem, not really carrying anything memorable. The song isn’t one that is really strong and certainly not a great incentive to buy the regular edition of the single.

蜃気楼 is also available only on the regular edition of the single. It’s a rock flavored track, which makes it nice to see V6 switching things up but it doesn’t really grab the attention like it should. Perhaps it’s just not their style but the track isn’t really exciting so it’s not particularly worth the listen.

In order to promote the single, a PV for GUILTY was made. The video is quite simple, just featuring the boys dancing and singing in suits, looking quite sharp while doing so. The lady dancer was quite un-necessary but it did add a little more sexuality to the video, better fitting with the lyrics. Having it in black and white also suited the song nicely.

Single Ranking: B

Well V6 delivered another enjoyable A-side but the B-sides fell a little flat this time around. Usually the group has one amazing track per single but there wasn’t really a track that shined like those songs this time around. Hopefully they’ll be delivering an album soon with some great dance tracks since that’s what they do best.

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