Hirahara Ayaka – ミオ・アモーレ! [20th Single]

October 18, 2009 at 5:07 pm (Hirahara Ayaka) (, )

Hirahara Ayaka - Mio Amore!

Hirahara Ayaka’s 20th single, entitled ミオ・アモーレ!, was released on 08.26.09.

ミオ・アモーレ! is a beautiful song that suits Ayaka’s style well. The song begins with a nice classical instrumental and then Ayaka comes in for the first verse. As usual, her vocals are beautiful and carry a fragility to them that suits the sounds of the piano perfectly. As the song moves on, more instruments come in to bring a slightly more hopeful and upbeat feel to the song. The chorus sounds quite nice as the emotions come out from Ayaka’s voice fluidly. The pure instrumental section highlights the guitars and they really sound great, taking the listener into a choir. It’s a great song that keeps the listener’s interest from start to end.

The B-side is Moldau. It carries a similar sound to the A-side but has a more sorrowful and fragile atmosphere that Ayaka brings to life. It’s very nice as the emotions also are poured out from Ayaka’s heart.

Single Ranking: B +

Ayaka did a great job with this single, both songs standing out in their own way. They both use classical music and it really suits Ayaka’s vocal style so the choice was certainly a wise one. Hopefully she’ll be delivering more material as great as this in the future.

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Hirahara Ayaka – 新世界 [18th Single]

June 13, 2009 at 4:34 pm (Hirahara Ayaka) (, )

shinsekai

Hirahara Ayaka’s 18th single, entitled 新世界, was released on 05.27.09.

新世界 is a beautiful encouraging song driven by the piano. The song begins with Ayaka singing “find your way no matter how hard it is” in these angelic vocals and it sounds like she’s the listener’s guardian angel, giving them encouragement to move forward. It’s very pretty and it’s definitely the way to start things off. On the first verse, she continues to sound strong with those gorgeous vocals complimenting the simple piano instrumental perfectly. It’s almost like a lullaby because of her soothing vocals and the listener can really get into the sound of the song. Soon the instrumentation changes to be more upbeat and happy, matching the lyrical message of the song. At this part, you can hear the happiness in her voice and it strikes the listener very strongly. Then the song goes into a kind of jazzy mode, making yet another interesting twist. The song is actually pretty long, clocking in at over six minutes but because of all the twists and turns that are made in the instrumentation, the listener’s attention is grabbed throughout. This is an excellent song and one that is definitely worth the listen.

AVE MARIA is a realy good song for Ayaka because her vocal style suits this song so well. She has those gentle and soothing vocals that really bring out the atmosphere for the listener to hear, thus making it a good match.

In order to promote the single, a PV for 新世界 was made. The video is extremely simple, just featuring Ayaka sitting down while the background changes colors to reflect the atmosphere of the song. The camera turns to see different angles so it’s not just one constant shot. The simplicity fits with the song quite well.

Single Ranking: A –

This single from Ayaka was surprisingly solid. 新世界 is a wonderful song that moves through a ballad section, an upbeat section and even a jazzy section all in one song. AVE MARIA was a nice addition and a song that suited her vocal stylings quite well. Hopefully she’ll be back with more music like this in the future.

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Hirahara Ayaka – 朱音 [17th Single]

February 22, 2009 at 5:01 pm (Hirahara Ayaka) (, )

akane

Hirahara Ayaka’s 17th single, entitled 朱音, was released on 02.25.09. The single comes as a recut single from her latest album, Path of Independence. The title track was used as the theme song for the dorama Nippon Junrei Kokoro ni Hibiku 100 no Basho.

朱音 is a beautiful song with a story to tell. The song opens with a very pretty instrumentation that is so natural that the listener can appreciate it. Then she enters strongly on the first verse as her vocals are extremely smooth and gentle, somehow carrying a story-like element. Through the combination of the music and her voice, you can really hear a story in the song. It’s a bit hard to notice when the chorus comes in and it feels a bit sudden but it’s definitely an enjoyable part of the song. Each section of pure instrumentation is wonderful just because that prettiness comes through strongly and allows the listener to really feel it. 朱音 was a great choice for a recut single since it’s a beautiful song and Ayaka gives it such life.

ふたたび is the single’s B-side. Supported by an orchestral instrumentation, Ayaka shows us her vocal talents on this song. There’s almost a slight opera feel as she hits those higher notes wonderfully and effortlessly. Overall, it’s a very pretty song that is a good compliment to the A-side.

Single Ranking: B +

朱音 was clearly the right choice of song for a recut single. Ayaka’s vocals are great and the instrumentation is gorgeous, which make for one heck of a combination. The B-side was enjoyable too although not nearly as much as the A-side.

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[Part Four] Oricon Year Top Singles

December 9, 2008 at 5:10 pm (AAA, Aira Mitsuki, alan, Amuro Namie, Angela Aki, Aoyama Thelma, Arashi, ayaka, Berryz Koubou, BoA, BONNIE PINK, Buono!, C-ute, Crystal Kay, Fukui Mai, GIRL NEXT DOOR, Hamasaki Ayumi, Hey! Say! JUMP, Hirahara Ayaka, Ishida Yuko, Ito Yuna, Jyongri, KAT-TUN, Kawashima Ai, KinKi Kids, Kitahara Aiko, Kobukuro, Koda Kumi, Kuraki Mai, Leah Dizon, MEG, MilkyWay, Misia, Morning Musume, Nakashima Mika, NEWS, Otsuka Ai, Perfume, Shibasaki Kou, Shiraishi Kikyo, SMAP, Suzuki Ami, Tackey & Tsubasa, Takasugi Satomi, Tanimura Nana, Tegomasu, Tohoshinki, TOKIO, Utada Hikaru, V6) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

mnsb2

Well there have been a lot of singles out this year. Some of them have been amazing and have made me fall in love with certain artists while others made me feel very disappointed. Which single took the number one spot? How many Johnny’s singles and H!P singles made the countdown? You’ll have to continue to find out.

mnsb1Hey! Say! JUMP has definitely impressed me this year, much more than I thought they would. I can’t even describe just how great their music has been but I’ll try anyway. The group’s fourth single, 真夜中のシャドーボーイ, wins title of “Single of Oricon Year 2008.” If there is one thing that these guys know how to do it, it’s make an upbeat single that makes the listener take notice. 真夜中のシャドーボーイ uses Spanish and Arabian themes to push their instrumentation over everyone elses. Except for Kei, Keito and Ryutaro, everybody has a real turn to shine. Yamada, Daiki, Nakajima and Chinen all have this center role (Yamada having the actual center role) since this song was used to promote their new drama Scrap Teacher so it was nice to see different people getting the time to shine. Everything about the song was perfect. With the constant repetition of the word “チェリー,” the listener is taken to another world. These boys really pull off the mature sound strongly and Chinen’s voice sounds different on this song than the others ones. Daiki, Nakajima, Yabu and Takaki all sound great too. With the multitude of live performances the song has gotten, the guys have looked hot and they sing the song with such confidence. It’s an amazing single that reigns above all the others so they should be very proud to have “Single of the Year.”

It was very hard to choose a first place winner and this single was so close to taking the top spot. Second place though kumitaboocddvdis something to be proud of too though and the runner up for “Single of the Year” goes to Koda Kumi with TABOO. After the controversy, Kumi went for a more conservative approach with MOON. However there’s something magical about Kumi when she does the sexy thing. She exutes confidence and it really makes for an enjoyable time when you can get up and move with Kuu. TABOO is the sexy anthem of 2008 as Kumi provides smooth vocals that lay over the hot instrumental. The verses are what make this song so addictive, particularly the last lines when she sings “drive away.” Kumi uses a certain cleverness with these lyrics using various metaphors to describe secret love and they come across to the listener perfectly. Plus I’m sure this single has given many others faith that Kumi will always have that sexiness in her because people have been worried that it’s been declining. Always is a nice compliment to the A-side even though it’s pretty forgettable. TABOO is the hot dance track that Kumi delivered and is just too good to pass up. Even the PV for the song was perfect. They really made sure this would be a strong single from all angles. This song single-handedly has me assured that TRICK will not be an album to forget.

cantstopthediscocddvdThird place was also really close to nabbing that top spot. The moment I heard the title track, I was instantly addicted and I knew the album that would soon follow would be amazing. That is why third place goes to Suzuki Ami with can’t stop the DISCO. It’s no secret that Ami and Nakata make a dream team because every single they release together just shines. I loved ONE but the moment I heard can’t stop the DISCO, I fell in love with the team. I first heard the chorus when it was used for the Mister Donuts CM and couldn’t get enough of it. But then when I heard the verses…I was blown away.  Ami really pulls off the cool vibe here and she’s given me one of the most addictive lines of 2008: me to me no kakehiki (love tactics). I can’t get enough of this song and it’s definitely one of the highlights of Supreme Show. Even the B-sides were amazing: climb up to the top and SUPER MUSIC MAKER (SA’08S/A Mix) were extremely strong numbers that helpe make this one cohesive single from start to finish (and that includes having each song have perfect transition into the next).

In case it wasn’t clear already, Hey! Say! JUMP has put out some fantastic music this year. So does it really come as a yssurprise that they have two singles in the top 5 best singles of 2008? I didn’t think so. Hey! Say! JUMP takes fourth place as well for their 3rd single, Your Seed / 冒険ライダー. It was with this single that I officially became a fan of these guys. Your Seed is the first time they really brought a mature song and the difference from Dreams come true shocked me. Everyone sounded great on this song and the rap section is absolutely infectious. I still haven’t found out who is doing that but the first person that came to mind was Nakajima. Was it actually him? Probably not but ya never know. It’s hard to really put my love for this song into words so let’s just say everything about this song was perfect. Not one thing could have made it any better. 冒険ライダー also had a kind of mature sound while having that fun-loving breezy atmosphere that just makes you wanna smile. I particularly like the chorus when all the boys come together and harmonize so perfectly. Also Yabu shines on his few solo lines before the final chorus so good job to him. So it’s the single that made me a Hey! Say! JUMP fan and one of the best releases of the entire year! The boys are on fire!!!

singles5Johnny’s Entertainment was definitely on a roll at the beginning of the year. NEWS’s first single of the year, 太陽のナミダ, comes in fifth place of Single of the Year. The title track uses Spanish and Arabian influences to really make the instrumentation addictive. Everybody sounded great on the song and personally, Massu’s voice stood out a little more than everyone else’s. Nonetheless, everyone sounded fantastic and their vocals really were smooth over the instrumental. バンビーナ and Lady Spider were also amazing, really catching my ear. It was actually Lady Spider that made me a real fan of NEWS because it just really sparkled in my eyes. It’s so catchy and one that could have been an A-side. バンビーナ really shows the sexy side of the boys. The lyrics have that dirty edge to them and they might even make you blush. Tegoshi can friggin sing and if you had any doubts about it, listen to バンビーナ. They did a magnificent job on this single and it’s certainly not one to pass up. As an overall package, it’s their strongest single to date so give it a listen if you haven’t already and fall in love with these boys like I did.

Suzuki Ami and Nakata really are the dream team. can’t stop the DISCO was amazing as was this year’s 6th best single, amisuzukionecddvdONE. The moment I heard ONE, I was addicted and I began following Ami thereafter. The song features a more aggressive instrumental with some perfect vocals from Ami to give it that extra flavor. When the song first opens, we are treated to the best part of the entire song: キラキラの the one. This one line makes the song fantastic but the rest of the song nicely follows this section. The chorus also stands out with the English phrases like “I love music and this world” and “I love your smile.” It’s absolutely perfect in every way so it’s the perfect way to introduce the formal come together of Ami and Nakata. Originally the B-side, A token of love, did not really impress me but after giving it some time, I fell in love with it. A token of love also features that aggressive sound that supports Ami so perfectly. I really like that last line of the chorus, the title of the song, because she says it with such edge and sleekness that it sticks in your head. Plus that ending instrumental sequence is fantastic, really standing out to the listener. Overall, this is definitely one of the strongest singles of the year, without question. It shows Ami’s cool side and is the perfect product of the dream team.

singles7alan has had a smash year with her Element Project. Each single repesented one of the 5 Godai elements and the best one to emerge of the five: 空唄. The title track is a beautiful upbeat song in which alan claims she can fly away. I think because this is the real upbeat number chosen to be an A-side, it stands out from all the other singles she has released. It really portrays the element of the sky well and lets the listener believe what she is singing. If you want even more amazingness, then turn to the B-side, My Stage. This is definitely alan’s most cheery and infectious song because the instrumentation is so light and heavenly, prompting the listener to just smile while listening. Honestly, I think I would have preferred My Stage to be the A-side since it’s a real standout in alan’s discography. I hope that she’ll be doing a similar song to this on her album…whenever that will be coming out. It shows the versatility of alan as an artist and proves that she can do music closer to mainstream music while still having that special touch that only alan can bring.

Perfume also had a strong year, releasing various singles that showed Perfume’s quirky and fun nature. However they singles8really stood out when they released Baby cruising love / マカロニ. They’re really the best examples of electrpop ballads as the instrumentation is strong and the girls’ voices suit them perfectly. Baby cruising love was nice because it still had traces of that unforgettable Nakata aggressiveness. However the real star of the single and the reason it placed so high on this chart was because of マカロニ. It is the prime example of how to slow down an electropop song and still maintain the quality. There is such a relaxing and natural atmosphere about this song that when I listen to it, I can just smile and drift off into another world. And having an emotional connection with a song just makes it all the better, which is why this is Perume’s best song to date. It was released at the end of the winter and I can see that there are some wintery traces hidden in the instrumentation. I’m hoping that the girls will bring another strong song like this for their next album, which looks to be strong looking at the singles released thus far. Good lucks girls and I hope the future brings you luck!

24If you want the best winter song released this year then you definitely have to look at 24 Xmas Time by Kuraki Mai. I was blown away when I first heard the song because there is something so natural and fun about this song that I can’t help but love. The song kind of goes back to her older style with songs like Love, Day After Tomorrow, which is always a good thing because I adore that song. Okay, let’s be truthful, the song isn’t that wintery or Christmas-like but that’s okay because it’s just a fantastic song. The verses are what make it so addictive and those moments where the instrumentation changes to set up Mai for a strong line (such as my favorite line in the whole song which translates to “kyou mo, watashi wa sekushii.” The B-side was nice, although a little generic but it compliments the whole wintery theme of the single nicely. I can’t believe Mai put out such a great single after a few that were questionable. I’m already anticipating her new album, touch Me!, because of this one song.

I love Tanimura Nana. She’s talented; she’s fun and she’s ready to go! Her 10th single, If I’m not the one / SEXY singles10SENORITA, featured two different songs that show off two different sides to her. If I’m not the one is a very beautiful ballad with Nana lamenting that she needs to know if she can’t be her admired’s one and only. She really portrays her emotions strongly and it keeps the listener focused and sympathetic towards her. However the star song on this single is SEXY SENORITA, a fun song that shows off Nana’s sexy and playful side. Her vocals here are strong and the chorus stands out proudly. She portrays attitude and sass, which is perfect for making the listener believe her. I really like the English phrases such as “call me, call me” and “crazy crazy.” I’m still waiting for an album to be released from her since I know I’m going to love it but she’s going to school (she’s attending one of the most prestigious law schools in Japan so go Nana!) so I can’t blame her. I just want any piece of news of a new release soon and it better be an album. Congratulations Nana for being such a threat with your fourth single, If I’m not the one / SEXY SENORITA, which rounds out our top 10.

11. Misia – Catch The Rainbow [Digital Release]

12. Morning Musume – ペッパー警部

13. Leah Dizon – Love Paradox

14. C-ute – 江戸の手毬唄 II

15. alan – 風の手紙

16. Perfume – Dream Fighter

17. Tohoshinki – 呪文  -Mirotic-

18. Arashi – One Love

19. Morning Musume – リゾナント ブルー

20. Ito Yuna – miss you

21. Koda Kumi – anytime

22. Perfume – love the world

23. Tanimura Nana – JUNGLE DANCE

24. V6 – 蝶

25. Kinki Kids – Secret Code

26. NEWS – SUMMER TIME

27. Leah Dizon – Vanilla

28. Aira Mitsuki – チャイナ・ディスコティカ

29. Berryz Koubou – 行け 行け モンキーダンス

30. alan – 懐かしい未来 ~longing future~

31. MEG – HEART

32. AAA – MIRAGE

33. Ishida Yuko – Changes

34. Hey! Say! JUMP – Dreams come true

35. Tohoshinki – Runaway / My Girlfriend

36. Tohoshinki – If…?! / Rainy Night

37. Tohoshinki – Purple Line

38. Utada Hikaru – HEART STATION / Stay Gold

39. Tegomass – アイアイ傘

40. Takasugi Satomi – ありがとう

41. Ito Yuna – 恋は groovy x2

42. BONNIE PINK – Ring A Bell

43. Shiraishi Kikyo – again

44. Shiraishi Kikyo – BLACK

45. Shimatani Hitomi – 泣きたいなら

46. Hamasaki Ayumi – Mirrorcle World

47. ayaka x Kobukuro – あなたと

48. alan – RED CLIFF ~心・戦~

49. Amuro Namie – 60s70s80s

50. Berryz Koubou – MADAYADE

51. Nakashima Mika – ORION

52. Crystal Kay – 涙のさきに

53. Jyongri – Winter Love Story

54. C-ute – 涙の色

55. Kuraki Mai – 夢が咲く春 / You and Music and Dream

56. Arashi – Step and Go

57. Arashi – Beautiful days

58. V6 – LIGHT IN YOUR HEART / Swing!

59. AAA – MUSIC!!! / ZERO

60. Aoyama Thelma – 守りたいもの

61. Koda Kumi – MOON

62. NEWS – Happy Birthday

63. Kitahara Aiko – その笑顔よ 永遠に

64. Shibasaki Kou – よくある話~喪服の女編~

65. Milky Way –  タンタンターン!

66. Kuraki Mai – 一秒ごとに Love for you

67. C-ute – FOREVER LOVE

68. Otsuka Ai – クラゲ, 流れ星

69. Aira Mitsuki – ロボットハニー

70. ayaka – おかえり

71. Utada Hikaru – Prisoner of Love

72. Shimatani Hitomi – WAKE YOU UP / 雨の日には 雨の中を 風の日には 風の中を / Marvelous

73. Hirahara Ayaka – 孤独の向こう

74. Milky Way – アナタボシ

75. alan – 恵みの雨

76. BoA – be with you.

77. BoA – VIVID

78. Fukui Mai – アイのうた

79. V6 – VIBES

80. Hirahara Ayaka – さよなら 私の夏

81. EXILE – LAST CHRISTMAS

82. Tohoshinki – Close to you / Crazy Life

83. Nishino Kana – Style

84. Arashi – truth / 風の向こうへ

85. KAT-TUN – White Xmas

86. GIRL NEXT DOOR – Drive away / 幸福の条件

87. GIRL NEXT DOOR – 偶然の確率

88. TOKIO – 雨傘 / あきれるくらい 僕らは願おう

89. Tohoshinki – Beautiful you / 千年恋歌

90. SMAP – そのまま / White Message

91. Angela Aki – 手紙 ~拝啓 十五の君へ

92.Tackey & Tsubasa – 恋詩-コイウタ / PROGRESS

93. AAA – BEYOND~カラダノカナタ

94. Kawashima Ai – カケラ / Flag

95. SMAP – この瞬間, きっと夢じゃない

96. EXILE – The Birthday ~Ti Amo~

97. Buono! – ガチンコでいこう!

98. Berryz Koubou – ジンギスカン

99. Buono! – Kiss! Kiss! Kiss!

100. Buono! – ロッタラ ロッタラ 

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Hirahara Ayaka – さよなら 私の夏 [15th Single]

July 23, 2008 at 3:49 am (Hirahara Ayaka) (, )

Hirahara Ayaka’s 15th single, entitled さよなら 私の夏, was released on 07.16.08.

さよなら 私の夏 is a sweet summer song with a pop beat. The song starts off with momentary slow sweet instrumentation before the chorus comes in with a more dance beat. Her vocals sound very nice here and she holds the final note very strongly. The first verse is softer and holds a certain sweetness that really appeals to the listener. The pure instrumental section sounds very pretty and the guitar is a perfect addition to the song that stands out strongly. The song is different from Ayaka’s latest singles so it’s definitely a nice change of pace that she brings to life.

The B-side of the single is 空に涙を返したら. The song is a great compliment to the A-side as it is another sweet song with a pop sound. Ayaka’s voice sounds great here and moves with the music perfectly. It also has somewhat of a summer vibe that goes with the overall summer atmosphere of the single.

In order to promote the single, a PV for さよなら 私の夏 was made. There is a certain personal element to the video that really works in capturing the song’s atmosphere. Scenes include Ayaka driving her car, blowing bubbles and typing on a typewriter among other things.

Single Ranking: B +

Ayaka’s 15th single is a combination of the sweet summer songs さよなら 私の夏 and 空に涙を返したら. Both songs give off a summer vibe and show off a more pop sound and is a nice change of pace from her previous singles that feature ballads.

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Hirahara Ayaka – 孤独の向こう [14th Single]

May 4, 2008 at 11:51 am (Hirahara Ayaka) (, )

Hirahara Ayaka’s 14th single, entitled 孤独の向こう, was released on 04.16.08. Coming three months after her previous single, Ayaka has not lost any steam from her last release.

孤独の向こう, the title track is an enjoyable ballad. The song begins with a wonderful magical piano opening followed by Ayaka’s soft and slighly breathy vocals. The breathiness is good in the context of the song as it really supports the atmosphere created by the music. As the song goes on, the beat comes into play and in the chorus, it comes full force as other instruments make up the instrumentation. Ayaka’s vocals are great here and help make the chorus stand out so strongly. The pure instrumental section really focuses on the magical feeling instilled by the music and makes a smooth transition into the chorus. The song ends with a beautiful instrumentation to bring the song to a close.

一番星, the B-side, opens up slightly strangely. The beat is very simplistic so that Ayaka’s vocals are spotlighted. During this section, there are some background noises that create a “real” feeling. Soon the music arrives and Ayaka’s vocals make more sense in the context of the song. The chorus is nice but there is a slight feeling of weakness because it sounds like a watered down version of the A-side in terms of trying to approach that magical feeling. The pure instrumental section in conjunction with the third verse sounds amazing and stands apart from the song.

In order to promote the single, a PV for 孤独の向こう was made. Featuring the same theme as the single cover, the PV is very simplistic. The video consists of scenes both in black and white and ones in color and both portray a certain friendly and real atmosphere. There isn’t much to say about the video but it works with the song well.

Single Ranking: B

孤独の向こう features two tracks that compliment each other well. The title track is a magical ballad with an amazing chorus. Ayaka’s vocals, though soft, express the emotion of the song strongly and work to create a cohesive and enjoyable atmosphere. 一番星 is a nice track although it could have been stronger in terms of achieving a certain fantasy element to it. Although Ayaka’s latest singles have been nice, hopefully she’ll approach the next one without focusing so much on a magical feeling.

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Hirahara Ayaka – 星つむぎの歌 [13th Single]

February 16, 2008 at 7:48 pm (Hirahara Ayaka) (, )

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Hirahara Ayaka’s 13th single, entitled 星つむぎの歌, was released on 01.23.08. As her first single for the year, Ayaka certainly brought her A-game.

The title track of the single, 星つむぎの歌, is a soft relaxing ballad with a fantasy-like atmosphere. Her vocals have a breathy quality without sounding too quiet. The soft vocal approach perfectly compliments the instrumentation. During the verses, the mellow atmosphere comes strongly. The chorus stands out a little more due to the introduction through the instrumental. However with a little tweeking in the instrumental (by going to a higher pitch for a moment), it would have really made the song reach the next level. The pure instrumental section is really pretty and gives the song a perfect moment of relaxation. The only problem with the song is that the vocals maintain relatively similar throughout the song. Although they are nice, it would have been nice to see a little more power behind them. It’s a very nice listen and perfect for summer nights.

The B-side for the single, 今・ここ・私, ia a guitar driven poppish track. During the verses, a more mellow feeling is achieved. There is a very good flow into the chorus from the verses and with a simple guitar riff, the chorus sets itself apart from the verses. The chorus features some very nice vocals from Ayaka, which compliment the guitar perfectly. The pure instrumental section takes the instrumental in a nice and different direction by taking the focus away from the guitar and reaching a higher key. The song is very “nice” but doesn’t really stand out as being amazing or possessing that a drawing section.

Single Ranking: B

The arrangement for both singles is relatively simple and as a result, both produce a very mellow and relaxed vibe. Ayaka’s vocals in both songs compliment the music well but a little more vocal strength could have brought the songs to a new level. However both songs are enjoyable and the title track has a wonderful instrumental that makes the song the better of the two. This is a “nice” release from Ayaka but hopefully next time, she’ll bring an even stronger song and B-side.

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