alan – my life [2nd Studio Album]

February 24, 2010 at 12:39 am (alan) (, )

alan’s 2nd studio album, entitled my life, was released on 11.25.09. The singles preceding the album are as follows: 久遠の河, BALLAD ~名もなき恋のうた~ and Swear.

The album opens up with reflection ~overture,~ an amazing introductory track as strong as the one of her first album. It begins with the soft sounds of the harp accompanied by an atmosphere that feels very spacey, slowly drawing the listener into a whole new world before the vocals come in. Here, the instrumentation takes a slight change and suits the vocals quite well. It’s kind of hard to understand what she is singing but the combination of the music and her voice makes it irrelevant. In the last fifteen seconds, the song takes on a very cool dance feel that is really intriuging. It’s a fantastic way to start things off and this could have made an amazing full song.

The first full song on the album is Swear, the last single released beforehand. It features a tiny difference in terms of beginning from the single version before part of the chorus comes in. alan’s voice sounds heavenly and the instrumentation features a beauty that only enhances it. Then comes the first verse and there is a very natural atmosphere that comes through alongside a certain cuteness that fits alan very well. This positive vibe of the music matches the lyrics perfectly, instilling something special inside of the listener. The pure instrumental sequence features probably the most grabbing part of the entire song. There is just someting almost magical about the way the music sounds at this point that the listener can’t help but fall in love. Swear hasn’t lost even a touch of its twinkle since its single release and it keeps the strength of the album rolling.

Up next is One. Beginning the song is a nice and calming instrumental that gives the atmosphere of a relaxing night. After a few vocalizations, alan comes in on the first verse. There is something particularly capturing about her voice on this song that really draws the listener in. She sort of whispers some of the words, giving a more intimate feel that really suits the atmosphere and ties the whole song together. The chorus smoothly continues the flow from the verses and the vocals here a little more prominent to make sure it stands out. The pure instrumental section is absolutely beautiful and the sounds of the guitar really instill a strong change for the listener to enjoy. One definitely has the intimate sort of atmosphere that alan works well with and keeps the flow of the album as a whole.

The sounds of the piano compliment the gracefulness of the next song, 見つめていたい. That opening instrumental is probably the strongest part of the song as whole. There is just a delicate beauty that comes through and captures the essence of the song. Following is the first verse and immediately alan’s vocals communicate a deep sorrow for the listener to feel and empathize with. It would have been nice to have a little more variety in the chorus because it comes off as a little repetitive with her repeating the song’s title so much. Nonetheless, it still holds that soothing element that the listener can enjoy. The pure instrumental sequence is nice just for the slight change in the music and we are treated to some very beautiful and high notes from alan. This then follows through on the last chorus and that slight change in tone makes a world of difference. Just as the song began with beautiful instrumentation, it also closes the song for a perfect finish. It may be simplistic but that is part in why the song is so charming.

涙, a B-side of the first album’s era, was remixed and given the name 涙 (Smooth Jam Mix). It begins a nice and soft instrumental that feels very relaxing, much like the previous track. Then comes the first verse and as usual, alan’s vocals are wonderful although it suffers from a lack of power behind the instrumentation. It’s nice but it’s missing that extra “oomph” to really draw in the listener. On the chorus, there is more of an upbeat feeling than the one from the single release. Unfortunately, the song sounds better as a straight ballad so it feels like this new mix is somewhat “off.” The choice to include this song on the album seems strange and they would have been better off including a new song in its place. It’s not bad but it’s really not album material.

Lost Child appears as the sixth song on the album. There is such a pretty refreshing instrumental in the beginning that it feels like taking a deep breath of the calm wind. It stands out with the beat that comes through, continuously catching the listener’s attention. On the verses, alan’s vocals are fantastic and it feels like she’s telling a story, lulling the listener into the world of the song. The chorus keeps up the song’s strength, particularly with the English phrases “so crazy” and “crazy for you.” Lost Child doesn’t seem like the song alan would come with coming from her first album but she pulls off the style perfectly and definitely should try more songs like this in the future.

Butterflies follows with a very pretty uplifting sound. The song starts off with the sounds of the harp before other instruments are added, all working together to form a cohesive and natural sound. Soft music like this really compliments alan’s voice, highlighting the heavenly traits that make her so amazing. The backing vocals in the hook actually add something to the song, giving it just that extra bit of magic. Overall, the chorus is nice but it’s nothing spectacular and this can be saidof the song as a whole. it’s a very pretty song but it would have been nice to push the song a little more past “just pretty.”

Things take a very interesting turn with the following song, Essence of me. The focus of the song is on the music, which carries a cool trance element to it that alan has never explored before. The vocals are mostly modified or altered in terms of pitch so they run secondary to the music and that’s actually an okay decision. The music here is just so addictive that it draws the listener into a whole new world. Plus, it’s one of alan’s more creative works so it really does stand out on the album.

Following in the same vein of Essence of me, Call my name keeps the energy going. The opening instrumental introduces an enjoyable dance atmosphere before alan comes in with the hook. She repeats “are you ready; across the border” before diving into the first verse. Her vocals are great on the first verse and are complimented by the music. English phrases like “all my love” and “fall my love” stand out near the ends of the verses, as does the last vocals, which echo in perfect introduction of the chorus. As expected, she sounds great on the chorus and provides vocals that continue to capture the listener. For showing that alan can handle this dance sound without problems, Call my name emerges as one of the strongest songs on the entire album.

Then things slow down with the next song, 白い翼. It begins with a calm instrumental with the sounds of the acoustic guitar as the focus, creating a nice natural sound. alan’s vocals on the first verse and very nice and fit perfectly with the music because there is a sort of whimsical element that comes through. The chorus stands out as the msuic builds a little more as does alan’s vocals but it would have been nice to put a little more power behind the instrumentation. If it was a little grander than the song would have really shined. This is where the pure instrumental section succeeded so well. The beauty really comes flowing forward to entice the listener. If the song had carried more of this atmosphere, then it would have been one of the stronger songs. Overall though, it’s a nice listen that fits with the calm atmosphere of alan’s heart.

That grand sound comes beautifully with Nobody knows but me. After a gorgeous piano instrumental that immediately introduces the sorrow, alan sings the first verse. her vocals fit with the music wonderfully, bringing that sorrow to life with every syllable. The English phrase “my love” adds a nice touch to things and those final vocals of the verse really stay on the listener’s mind. Strength continues on the chorus, especially when she goes lower for one note and then builds upward to finish. That range really catches the ear and prepares the listener for the hook, which is in all English. She sings “nobody knows but me that sometimes I cry” and while that sounds somewhat awkward, it does keep the sorrow in check. With wonderful vocals and an atmosphere that touches the listener, Nobody knows but me is one of the album’s diamonds.

BALLAD ~名もなき恋のうた~ comes up next. After a hauntingly beautiful opening of heavenly vocalizations, alan puts some more power behind them and the first verse starts. The verses are quite calming and feature a relaxing sound that is accentuated by the piano. But on the choruses, that haunting atmosphere comes back and demands attention. This effect is particularly achieved on the second chorus, when she sings the title of the song. Following is the pure instrumental section which higlights the beauty before diving into the chorus one final time. It’s a great song that finds home on the album.

The album’s semifinale is the grand number 久遠の河. The song begins with an amazing instrumental that has a fairy-tale tone to it that will grab the listener’s attention. This fits with the rest of the song because the rest of the song feels like a tale being brought to life by alan. Her vocals on the verses are calm but carry lots of emotion, particularly on the last ones whic are held so well. This introduces the chorus well and spotlights the first line, which is one of the standout members of the entire song. And alan brings back her wail on the third chorus, which is the only time it appears on the album. This song was dazzling when it was released as a single and it hasn’t lt any of its magic.

The album’s title track is the one that brings the package to a close. alan sings with such grace and beauty on the first verse, complimeted by the simplicity of  instrumentation. With the calm sweetness of the verses, they make the chorus stand out all the more. It’s on the choruses that alan is allowed to belt out her emotions and really capture the listener’s heart. The grand magic will leave an amazing impression. Overall the song is somewhat simple but it’s so beautiful that the listener will definitely feel chills.

Album Ranking: A +

There has been a lot of criticism of alan’s second album, particularly in relation to her first. But there is a lot on this album that makes it shine. alan experiments with new sounds on songs like Essence of me and Call my name, both songs two of the strongest numbers on the entire album. There are a lot of calming songs that really suit alan’s mood and there are grand ballads that are undeniably beautiful. Swear and Lost Child have a nice upbeat pace to them that alan should try more of.  Perhaps this album isn’t as strong as the first one, which had a greater variety but felt more cohesive in terms of style. But my life is certainly nothing to just write off as a sophomore slump. In my opinion, alan has yet to fail.

Top 6 Memorable Tracks: Swear / Essence of me / Call my name / Nobody knows but me / 久遠の河 / my life

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Berryz Koubou – 私の未来のだんな様 / 流星ボーイ [21st Single]

February 13, 2010 at 12:35 am (Berryz Koubou) (, )

Berryz Koubou’s 21st single, entitled 私の未来のだんな様 / 流星ボーイ, was released on 11.11.09. 流星ボーイ was used as the ending theme song for the Nintendo DS game Inazuma Eleven 2 Kyoui no Shinryakusha Fire and as the ending theme for the anime Inazuma Eleven.

私の未来のだんな様 is a fun and cool number that will get stuck in the listener’s head on first listen. Beginning the song is a funky instrumental that is absolutely addictive. Then comes the first verse, divided into four parts for Risako, Miyabi, Momoko and Yurina. Risako’s vocals are particularly capturing, staying very smooth and sleek to suit the song’s cool atmosphere. Packed full of fun energy, the chorus really stands out and stays on the mind. Risako ends the chorus with more great vocals before more pure instrumentation is re-introduced. The pure instrumental section spotlights the funkiness of the song and Miyabi and Risako end things off on the right note. This is definitely one of Berryz Koubou’s best songs and really shows what these girls can do.

And the energy keeps on coming with the second A-side, the funky 流星ボーイ. The backing vocals open the song, repeatedly singing “Never give up” and they actually do a good job of catching the listener’s attention and preparing them for Berryz. The girls come in for the chorus. They sound particularly good when they sing the name of the song. On the verses, there is more of a relaxing atmosphere that makes for a nice change while still keeping a cohesiveness. The pure instrumental section features the very cool sounds of the guitar, really bringing the listener into the world of the song. It’s another great track that makes this single perfect froms start to finish.

In order to promote the single, two PVs were made: one for each A-side. The PV for 私の未来のだんな様 features dance sequences and the girls sitting in a chair while feathers lightly fall from the sky. There are also scenes of the girls looking at a TV screen in which various people are chosen. It’s a great video and the girls look great (particularly Risako). The 流星ボーイ is more fun and energetic, just like the song, featuring the girls in outer-space. It suits the theme of the song well and the outfits are really eye-catching.

Single Ranking: A +

Berryz Koubou are continuously nailing each of their singles, each A-side of their double A-sides catching the eye. Both songs this time around have a sort of funkiness to them that ties the single package together but each one stands out on its own. The first A-side is the stronger one but both songs are definitely memorable gems in the girls’ discography, making this a single to definitely look out for.

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C-ute – SHOCK! [11th Single]

February 12, 2010 at 11:54 pm (C-ute) (, )

C-ute’s 11th single, entitled SHOCK!, was released on 01.06.09. It is the group’s first single without Umeda Erika, who decided to pursue a modeling career.

While the last single was actually pretty catchy, SHOCK! fulfills the need for anything catchy in a hot dance track about a two-timer. The song starts off with a coool spy-like instrumental that then builds in some Russian sounds a la Morning Musume’s last single. Then Airi delivers the first chorus with powerful vocals that take the listener’s attention by force. Right before the instrumental break, she makes a cute little noise that each member gets to do once during the course of the song. Tsunku decided Airi would be the leader on this song and thus she is the only one to carry a solo line and nearly sings the entire song herself. Everyone does get a chance to sing together on the chorus and everyone gets their cute sound (in the order of Chisato, Mai, Saki and Maimi). The pure instrumental section continues the coolness before the chorus comes back in. Even though many have complained about Airi getting so much attention on the song, it is undeniably catchy and will hook you in on first listen.

The B-side of the single is the fun and funky number, 生きようぜ! The song begins with an addictive dance instrumental that will have the listener out of their seats in second before Airi comes in for the first verse. This song follows cues from the A-side seeing as only Airi and Maimai have solo lines, the other three girls only coming in for the chorus. The fact that there are so many sections of pure instrumentation really bring the song’s strengths out for all to hear. It may be a little simple but it’s so addictive that the listener won’t even notice.

In order to promote the single, a PV for SHOCK! was made. The video’s core is dancing, which was a smart move since these girls really know how to move. The choreography really fits the style of the song and always has the attention of the viewer. The close-up scenes don’t really do much for the video so the dance version is the best version to look for.

Single Ranking: A +

This is definitely C-ute’s best single in a while and it’s good to see them step it up. It would have been nice to see the other three girls have more of a presence in this single but Airi (and Maimi) definitely prove why their up front.

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Morning Musume – 女が目立って なぜイケナイ [42nd Single]

February 12, 2010 at 11:35 pm (Morning Musume) (, )

Morning Musume’s 42nd single, entitled 女が目立って なぜイケナイ, was released on 02.10.10. The title track was used as the February ending theme song to TBS’ News Zans. This is the group’s first single without 7th generation member Kusumi Koharu, who graduated December of last year.

女が目立って なぜイケナイ is a catchy upbeat number about women standing out. The song opens up with a nice little drum beat before the song’s true instrumentation comes in, giving a flashy and ear-catching sound that will immediately interest the listener. Ai and Reina take the first verse, giving some great vocals that suit the music well. One of the catchiest parts of the entire song is when everybody sings the title, breaking up the verses and choruses. The light and fun atmospere really comes through on the choruses and it comes to a climax at the end  when they brake up one particular word into four beats and end with “my face” or “my smile” (2nd chorus). The pure instrumental section takes things in a new direction by introducing the fiddle and taking the listener for surprise. It continues the fun atmosphere from the last single and keeps up the group’s streak of consistently solid singles.

While the A-side is fun and happy, B-side 泣き出すかもしれないよ features a sorrowful atmosphere sure to tug at the listener’s heartstrings. What makes this song so much more than the average sad love song is the sleek instrumentation, a combination of soft and sweet with aggressive and ear-catching. Ai and Risa give strong emotion on the first verse, Risa in particularly sound particularly lovelorn. The chorus has everyone singing together but it’s the solo lines that really stand out, such as Ai’s ending line of singing the title. Interestingly enough, the pure instrumental sequence has a moment when it sounds quite light and almost optimistic before returning to the chorus with some powerful vocals from JunJun. Overall, it’s the perfect compliment to the A-side and definitely a song that oozes emotion.

In order to promote the single, a PV for 女が目立って なぜイケナイ was made. The video is pretty simple, featuring the girls preparing for a runway show, which they then do. This little story is intercut with dance sequences as well. Although the girls do look nice, this PV was missing that oomph factor. Easily the weakest part of the video was the dancing, which could have (and should have) been much better. The other shots were nice but they weren’t anything stellar. And of course there was the very strange moment in the middle when the name of the song just appeared from nowhere. JunJun and Risa’s wave at the end was a particularly nice touch though.

Single Ranking: A +

Morning Musume has continuously delivered fantastic singles from start to end and this is no different. Both the A-side and B-side immediately grab the listener’s ears despite having very different atmospheres. It just shows that these girls can adopt to any style with ease. With all four singles from their upcoming 10th album being stellar, hopefully the quality of the album tracks will match up.

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alan – Swear [11th Single]

February 12, 2010 at 5:56 pm (alan) (, )

alan’s 11th single, entitled Swear, was released on 11.04.09. While the title track was used as the theme song for Bourbon’s Blanchul Mini Series CM, Beauty was used as the Yomeishu’s Nutrition Drink CM song.

Swear takes a lighter than the previous two singles and a softer uptempo beat to compliment it. The song begins with a twinkling sound before the chorus starts. alan’s vocals are very calm and pretty here, suiting the relaxing music perfectly. The verses feature more smooth vocals that give a sort of lullaby efffect. The combination with the music makes for a very nice and natural atmosphere, which brings out alan’s strengths. The choruses provide a little more energy and more vocal strength from alan to keep the song interesting the whole way through. What really makes the song so addictive is the pure instrumental section, leading the listener deep into the world of the song. The music is spotlighted with a few fantastic vocals from alan to make this part easily the best section of the entire song.  With its beautiful and mellow nature, Swear emerges as one of alan’s stronger singles and a very good lead-song for her second studio album.

The B-side, Beauty, maintains a sense of calmness but with a slower pace. The opening instrumental has a very calm sound that gives the image of water before alan comes in for the first verse. The piano really suits alan’s voice here and the two make an unforgettable combination. She sticks to a higher register for the chorus and with her heavenly vocals, this makes for a very enjoyable section. Right before the pure instrumental section, alan gives a few stand-out vocals and the music does change it up a little bit to keep the listener engaged. While it’s not as strong as the A-side, Beauty definitely compliments the single and adds to the cohesiveness of the package.

In order to promote the single, a PV for Swear was made. It features a refreshingly beautiful atmosphere that perfectly captures the essence of the song. Essentially, the PV consists of three different alans (all in different outfits). They each look into a glass apple before taking a walk around the garden and return to their spot. It may not be particularly eventful but everything about the video just fits together for the perfect result. alan looks beautiful a the scenery is absolutely breahtaking, making the Swear PV definitely one to watch.

Single Ranking: A +

With a string of amazing singles, Swear does not fall short of its predecessors. In fact, it comes out as one of the better singles in alan’s discography. It’s nice to see her try new things and Swear is a nice change from all the powerful ballads. Beauty also stands strongly to make this a truly star package worth buying.

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