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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Goto Maki – SWEET BLACK [Mini Album]

October 4, 2009 at 11:00 pm (Goto Maki) (, )

Goto Maki SWEET BLACK

Goto Maki’s first mini album since her departure from Hello Project and entry into avex, entitled SWEET BLACK, was released on 09.16.09. The SWEET BLACK project was started for Maki as a way to get her back into the game through a radio program and digitally released singles: Fly away, Lady-Rise and with. Plastic Lover was included on a HOUSE NATION compilation CD.

The album kicks off with the dancehall styles of Queen Bee. The song opens up with BIGGA RAJJI shouting and introduing himself, Maki and Aili and immediately the song’s one flaw pops up: his voice. It’s just grating and annoying that it really does take away from the strength of the song but once the listener can get past it, the song is smooth sailing. Maki sings part of the chorus, which consists of a repeated “boom” and “Queen Bee” at the end. On the first verse, Maki provides smooth and sleek vocals that suit the instrumentation perfectly. There is an underlying element of sexuality that comfortably comes through her vocals and spices up the song. The hook that follows the chorus features a slightly softer sound but it still fits with the rest of the song so it stands out quite nicely. If this snogwas sung just by Maki, the song would have been a lot better. Nonetheless, Queen Bee serves as a good album opener and shows Maki’s true energy.

Maki Sweet Black PromoThe second song was the second digitally released single, Lady-Rise. Opening up the song is a hot upbeat instrumental and instantly, the listener knows something great is about to come up. On the first verse, Maki’s vocals continue to carry a tone of sexuality and coolness to them that really makes the song come alive. Right before the chorus, the music builds up a little and Maki gives slightly stronger vocals and although the changes might only be small, they are really effective at introducing the chorus. The chorus features more catchy energy that will keep the listener dancing and one moment that stands out is when Maki calls out the title of the song. The third verse is a nice break-down moment and re-introduces the chorus with a bang. Maki even cutely shouts “Ow!” to really punctuate the coolness of the song. It’s a fantastic song that hasn’t lost any of its magic since its release.

Maki enters the world of the dark disco with the next track, Candy. The song starts off with a cool and mysterious upbeat instrumental that kind of channels Maki’s old sound before avex. She sings “”am I greedy?” and the sexuality comes running out from that moment as it continues to run through the whole song. The verses sound quite nice and set up the atmosphere of the song very well but the chorus does lose a little bit of that strong energy. It’s just lacking that sort of magic that the verses have to really draw in the listener. She sings “are you a man?” and “are you the man?” It’s a nice song but it’s still missing that spark that the other songs have.

Maki teams up with KG for one of the album’s two ballads, TEAR DROPS. The song begins with a beautiful piano opening which really reflects the sorrow of the song and immediately brings out the emotional atmosphere for the listener to feel. Maki sounds fantastic on the first verse, her vocals really portraying fragility and sadness that suit the song. KG also gives some great vocals that compliment Maki’s and keep the emotions rolling from the heart. The chorus features the piano slightly more prominently and there is a sparkling atmosphere that runs through the music that really stands out. On the third verse, Maki sings “sweet, sweet, my tear drops” and “sweet, sweet, your tear drops” before KG  belts out a powerful vocal. TEAR DROPS is easily one of the album’s best songs and the better of the two ballads.

Back at a-nation ’08, Maki debuted a song entitled hear me. Well the beat was kept and with some rewording of the Maki SWEET BLACK Promo 2lyrics and a guest appearance from KEN THE 390, Mine was born. The song takes off with a hot instrumental and KEN THE 390 introducing the song in a combination of English and Japanese for Maki to follow. She sounds great on the first verse, her vocals suiting the sleek atmosphere of the song perfectly. The chorus is catchy as expected although it doesn’t flow as well as the chorus of hear me. KEN THE 390 never has verses that last very long so the focus stays on Maki, which is good but he might as well not have been there at all. To finish off the song with a little extra sweetness, Maki giggles. Although Mine is certainly a catchy song, it just doesn’t flow as well as hear me and it lacks the magic in certain spots.

Maki’s first avex digital single, Fly away, is up next. An orchestral instrumentation starts things off to really begin with a bang before the hot dance instrumental comes booming in. Maki’s vocals here are superb, really staying sleek and cool to fit the atmosphere of the song. The English parts “imgination” and “get alive” stand out and the background vocals provide a slightly haunting feel to the song. The chorus features lines that begin with “fly away” and Maki aces every single one, keeping the listener’s interest without fail. The third verse really stands out as it feels like the build-up to the climax, the instrumentation becoming slightly quieter and more mysterious. Maki follows with some cool vocalizations that really do add a lot of flavor to the song. Like Lady-Rise, Fly away maintains its special magic and remains a strong number to enjoy.

Plastic Lover serves as the album’s semifinale. Starting the song off is a light electronic instrumental that takes the listener into a new world. Then the beat comes thumping in and the edgy electronic side comes out to play, grabbing the listener’s interest immediately. Maki smoothly sings “so what” as the start of the first verse and from there, the sleekness really comes through perfectly. Throughout the verse, the coolness keeps streaming and sets up the listener for an enjoyable chorus. The instrumentation is more energetic and Maki gives some great vocals, particularly at the end when she holds the higher one. During the second verse, there is an angelic part that makes the listener feel like he/she is flying as there is such a levity in both the music and Maki’s vocals. The pure instrumental section sounds great and re-introduces the chorus fantastically. The music during those last few vocal moments really catches the ear and Maki’s final line features some great vocal strength. Plastic Lover was abolutely amazing when it was released on the HOUSE NATION compilation and it shines just as bright on SWEET BLACK.

Closing the album is the spring ballad, with…Opening the song is a very calming and soothing instrumental that catches the ear of the listener and evokes a feeling of true love. Then Maki sings the first verse and her vocals are quite pacifying, suiting the atmosphere of the song very well. There is just something very sweet and natural about the chorus that just can’t be ignored as it works its way into the listener’s heart. The repeating words also stand out and catch the ear of the listener nicely. with… is a very good way to end SWEET BLACK, giving the listener a smile to finish with.

Album Ranking: A

The image of SWEET BLACK is to reflect the duality of a girl’s heart, featuring both a sweet and mature side and that is what Maki has perfectly captured with this album. Although TEAR DROPS and with… are the album’s only ballads, they both shine in their own right with the former being the sorrowful one and the latter being the hopeful one. There is a host of dance numbers, which is where Maki shines. From the playful sexiness of Lady-Rise to the cool and sleek Fly away to the fun and energetic Plastic Lover, Maki really does give it her all. Perhaps the only mis-step on the album was Candy, which was just lacking a little something to really make it stand out. Also BIGGA RAJJI was annoying and Mine didn’t live up to the amazingess of hear me but both of the songs still managed to catch attention. Hopefully SWEET BLACK is an indication of the high quality music we can expect from Maki in the time to come.

Top 5 Most Memorable Tracks: Lady-Rise / TEAR DROPS / Mine / Fly away / Plastic Lover

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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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SAWA – I Can Fly [Debut Mini Album]

July 23, 2009 at 4:08 am (SAWA) (, )

SAWA_-_I_Can_Fly_RE

SAWA’s debut major mini album, was released on 07.22.09.

The album starts with I Can Fly. The instrumentation of the track is mellow and pretty nice but SAWA’s vocals sound pretty grating and take away that mellow feeling from the song.

Sing It Back follows. The song starts off with a very pretty and calming instrumental that catches the listener’s ear before SAWA comes in for the first verse. Her vocals are pretty good here, suiting the music quite nicely. The atmosphere of the song continues to get to the listener and then it’s the chorus. Admittedly, it’s a little flat with such similar phrases being repeated often but it’s still manageable. It’s a pretty nice track and shows SAWA’s colors.

Night Desert is the third album track. The song begins with a mysterious and interesting instrumental that has a peaceful quality while also having a haunting feel. Then SAWA sings the first verse and her vocals don’t really bring out anything amazing and the instrumentation doesn’t really continue to shine. The chorus is nice in that there’s a little more energy to it, which is a good change from the verses but it’s nothing that really catches the ear as nicely as other tracks. It’s an okay song but it definitely could have been better.

Up next is I Love You Always Forever. The song starts off with SAWA singing acapella and there’s a really cheerful feeling that comes out, which is nice. Then when she sings the first verse, her vocals sound really weird and the instrumentation sounds so empty so it’s a bad combination. I Love You Always Forever follows the same suit as the last track and it doesn’t stand out at all.

My Sunny Days is the fifth song. Like the last two tracks, the interest just isn’t there, mostly due to SAWA’s vocals. The one positive thing is that the instrumentation of this song is fuller and fits the vocals a little better.

Album Ranking: C

If SAWA’s vocals were stronger and the instrumentation was fuller and more diverse, the overall product might have been more enjoyable. Sing It Back is the only song on the album that actually is manageable.

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Aira Mitsuki – PLASTIC [2nd Studio Album]

July 22, 2009 at 7:58 pm (Aira Mitsuki) (, )

PLASTIC

Aira Mitsuki’s 2nd studio album, entitled PLASTIC, was released on 07.22.09. The singles released before the album are as follows: ロボットハニー, サヨナラ TECHNOPLOIS and BARBiE BARBiE.

ロボットハニー is the album’s opening track. The song begins with an intersting instrumental that feels like the listener is being taken into an alternate world. Over time, the aggression comes and makes it shine even more. On the verses, there is a more calming atmosphere although the music retains its coolness. Aira’s vocals sound great here, really suiting the music very well. There’s just a happiness that comes through the chorus, which makes it really stand out. It’s sweet and it’s fun, which makes it a good opener for PLASTIC.

Aira teams up with AYUZE KOZUE for Summeeeeeeeer Set. Opening the song is a fun and upbeat instrumental that is insantly ear-catching. Then Aira comes in and there’s such a sweetness in her vocals that bring out the atmosphere more strongly. AYUZE also sounds good at her parts, supporting Aira very well. On the chorus, both girls sound great and each add to the overall strength of the song. It’s a very enjoyable song and one that works very well with the season.

ニーハイガール, a B-side released before the album, is up next. The song starts off with a really cool twinkling instrumental that is very ear-catching and then Aira’s distorted vocals come in and it’s pretty hard to undestand what she is saying. The whispered vocals in the background is a nice touch and add a sort of creepiness to the song. It’s a pretty repetitive song so it gets to be old rather quickly.

Aira and Terukado come together again, this time for BAD trip. The song begins with a really cool and aggressive instrumental that definitely piques the interest of the listener. Having the background vocals by Aira spices things up a little and then the first verse comes in. Much like Beep Count Fantastic from the last album, the focus is on the instrumentation and what an amazing team the two of them make with tracks like these. It may not be as catchy as Beep Count Fantastic but it has the same instant addictive quality.

CHANGE MY WILL gets the energy up in a fantastic way. The song starts off with such a cool and almost sloppy instrumental except it’s done so perfectly that it doesn’t sound bad. Aira’s vocals perfectly fit the music when she comes in and makes things even better. Following, the instrumentation becomes truly aggressive and keeps the listeners on their their toes. The chorus sounds awesome when she sings the title of the song and the higher pitch of her voice in contrast to the low and aggressive instrumental is a dangerous combination. The pure instrumental section is awesome because it takes things in such an interesting and slightly different direction. For its purely aggressive instrumentation and overall cool feel, CHANGE MY WILL is definitely a gem on this album.

The sixth track on the album is the interesting and sleek HIGH SD スニーカー.  A soft and cool instrumental, giving the listener a dreamy and spacey feeling. Here, Aika’s vocals sound great and catch the ear very easily. Then a twist arrives and the instrumentation becomes aggressive and addictive, really having a different feel from the opening instrumental. Then Aira’s vocals are heavily distorted so that it’s near impossible to decipher what she is saying. This stood out proudly on the サヨナラ TECHNOPOLIS single and it shines here as well.

Another B-side from the same single, distant STARS, follows. The song begins with a very soft and pretty instrumental with Aira’s vocals filled with emotion and strength. The choice to center on the piano was a nice one since it changes things up from the usual instrumentation. It’s nice to see Aira slow things down and with this song, she did quite a good job.

プラスティックドール was the song used to promote the album as it got a PV and from the moment the song opens, it’s easy to see why. A really dreamy and spacey instrumental opens the song, taking the listener to another world and then the aggressive nature works its way in. On the first verse, Aira’s vocals sound so smooth and perfectly matching the instrumentation that the listener can’t help but fall in love. The chorus sounds great as the instrumentation becomes just the slightest more aggressive and Aira’s vocals become stronger. It’s insanely catchy and leaves a fantastic impression. The pure instrumental section features some very distorted words from Aira in the background before transitioning back into the dreamy chorus. It’s one of Aira’s best songs and definitely is one of the most memorable songs on the album.

Now comes the addictive song, サプリ. The song begins with a fantastic instrumental that has kind of an old school feel to it. Then comes the first verse and Aira’s vocals sound great, really fitting with the cool and catchy music. One small part that really stands out is that key change before the chorus. Somehow it makes all the difference and leaves the listener wanting more. There is a kind of cuteness on the chorus, which actually works really well and leaves the listener wanting more. It’s also to hear a key change in the last chorus, which makes it all the more memorable. It’s definitely one of the strongest songs on the album.

Kuchiroro joins Aira for 夏飴. A jazzy sort of instrumental starts things off and it’s definitely surpsising since it differs frmo the usual instrumentation. Aira sounds good here and her vocals really suit the music. Then the instrumentation takes on a more familiar dreamy style that sounds great. Kuchiroro sounds okay although he isn’t the strongest addition to the song. His rap section is also pretty weak in addition to being cheesy. It’s not the best song since the instrumentation is a little dull and Kuchiroro does nothing for the song.

The final collaboration of the album is with Shigeo on Time is. Really cool sounds begin the song and give the image of lights turning on one by one in the darkness. The song goes on the instrumentation becomes present as well as the beat, gradually gaining more attention from the listener as the anticipation builds up. Over after a minute of pure instrumentation, Aira comes in and her vocals really suit the atmosphere of the song. It sounds really cool when she sings “time is up.”  It’s definitely one of the coolest songs on the album and is a good balance between focusing on the music and on the vocals.

The twelfth track on the album is the impressively catchy サヨナラ TECHNOPOLIS, centering around the theme of the end of the world. The song kicks off with part of the chorus, in which Aira sings English phrases like “plastic babe” and “the end dance,” which really catch the ear. However the catchiest part of the song are the songs. Aira’s vocals have such a coolness that cannot be ignored and melt over the instrumentation addictively. Then Aira repeats the title of the song, making for a good entrance to the chorus. Overall, this is one of the strongest songs on the album and leaves the listener wanting more.

BARBiE BARBiE is the album’s semifinale. Starting off the song is a cool summery sort of instrumental which actually sounds pretty cool. Then comes part of the chorus and Aira’s vocals sound very nice here over the cheerful instrumental. Overall, the structure and sound of the song is similar to that of ロボットハニー. The vocals feature lyrics delivered with rapidity which is nice although the interest isn’t as high as it could be. While it’s a nice song, it’s similarities to its predecesor prove to be a little annoying.

Re:† serves as the album closer. That opening instrumental is aggressive and almost scary, really grabbing the listener’s attention at first listen. The background vocals add to the creepiness of the song and keep things going at a good pace. As the song goes, it makes instrumental twists and turns, which keeps the listener’s interest perfectly. The only problem with the song is that it’s too long. Otherwise, it’s a very enjoyable song and a good way to finish off PLASTIC.

Album Ranking: A –

PLASTIC is a very solid collection of songs that show how Aira has grown from her last album. From the aggressiveness of BAD trip and CHANGE MY WILL to the dreaminess of プラスティックドール to the fun dance feel of サプリ, Terukado and Aira definitely make a dream team. It’s a bit strange to not have COSMiC CHOP on the album with the other two B-sides from the same single making appearances, especially since it’s one of her strongest songs to date. Nonetheless, PLASTIC does a great job of bringing together strong album tracks and memorable single ones for a cohesive collection of songs.

5 Most Memorable Songs: プラスティックドール / サプリ / BAD trip / CHANGE MY WILL / サヨナラ TECHNOPOLIS

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Tegomasu – テゴマスのうた [Debut Studio Album]

July 22, 2009 at 3:01 am (Tegomasu) (, )

Tegomass_no_Uta_limited

Tegomasu’s debut studio album, entitled テゴマスのうた, was released on 07.15.09. The singles released before the album are as follows: ミソスープ, キッス~帰り道のラブソング~, アイアイ傘 and 七夕祭り (not included in the album).

The album opens up with the sweet song, ミソスープ. Opening the song is a very pretty and romantic instrumental that will instantly attract the listener. It carries a nostalgic and somewhat sorrowful feel to it before the first verse comes in. Both Tegoshi and Massu provide vocals that perfectly suit the atmosphere of the music, helping establishing the story of the song more strongly. When they come together on the chorus, it sounds great and is really catching, particularly with those last few lines. The pure instrumental section is a very good fit since it perfectly captures the romantic nature of the song and makes a great introduction to the third verse. There’s something very hopeful and freeing about the third verse that comes rom the slightly changed instrumental. The boys’ first single makes for a very strong opening track for the album by giving such a cute story with sweet music.

The duo’s second single, キッス~帰り道のラブソング~, is also the second track on the album. The song immediately begins with the first verse and Tegoshi’s vocals really compliment the instrumentation, which feels almost like a gentle lullaby, bringing the listener into a dream. Massu also sounds great for his part of the verse and his vocals really catch the ear of the listener. The chorus has a twinkling sound to it that sounds great, further amplifying the beauty of the song. One part that particularly stands out in the chorus is Massu singing “I Love You.” The third verse brings the sweetness and beauty even more to the forefront which such a dreamy instrumentation and more strong vocals from the duo. Lyrically, the song is strong in that it has a naturalness anyone in love can relate to. It’s such a pretty song and it definitely keeps the strength from the last song and continues it.

The first new track is the sweet summery track, たったひとつだけ. Starting things off is a nice upbeat insrumental that gives the image of a summer day. Then Massu comes in and his vocals really exute a happiness that perfectly matches the instrumentation. Tegoshi also sounds good on his section, giving his usual strong vocals. The chorus sounds nice although it would have been nicer if Tegoshi didn’t sing in such a high pitch because it’s somewhat distracting. With the guitar spicing up the pure instrumental section, it sounds great and really captures the ear of the listener. Ending the song is a really weird sound that actually sounds pretty cool. The lyrics speak of a boyfriend of a strong-willed girlfriend and how he’ll be by her side forever so it’s an interesting contrast to the summery happy feeling of the song. It’s a great way to pick up the pace and keep the listener interested.

夏への扉 is a jazzy catchy number. The song starts off with a cool jazzy instrumental that immediately catches the ear. The boys do some smooth vocalizations before moving into the first verse. Tegoshi’s vocals really suit the music and bring the sweet story of the lyrics to life. When Massu gets his chance, his vocals sound great as well and are particularly ear-grabbing. The chorus is nice although the instrumentation doesn’t stray that much from its state during the verses. Near the end is when it really gets good as their vocals become slightly stronger and there’s a new instrument that makes a cute feeling come out even more. Like the other songs, the lyrics feel very natural and somewhat personal feel to them, which makes the song all the more special. It’s a very nice change of pace and one that definitely shines on tihs album.

What’s going on? is a fun track that will get the listener up and dancing. Starting things off is a nice pretty pop instrumental that actually kind of has a disco feel to it. That atmosphere comes out even more strongly with those background vocals before the first verse. On the first verse, both boys sound great, giving that special magic touch to the music. The chorus is easily the strongest part of the song just because it’s so catchy. They sound great whey they sing “oh, what’s going on?” and they just have that spark that makes the song shine. The pure instrumental section sounds very cool and even kinda jazzy, which makes a good connection from the last track. Although the lyrics are a bit weird but the nonsensical nature of them makes the song all the more charming. It’s fun and cool, definitely worth the listen.

くしゃみ is one of two short songs on the album. The song starts off with a pretty and soft instrumental, consisting of primarily stringed instruments that sound quite nice. The verses are pretty short but sweet and filled with emotion for the listener to really feel. The chorus features the repetition of the word “love,” which gets to be a little annoying over a while. Overall, it’s short and sweet although quite repetitive and it begins to annoy the listener.

サヨナラ僕の街 brings the boys back to the jazzy sound. Beginning the song is a cool instrumental with a very jazzy and powerful feeling to it. Then comes the first verse and both boys sound great, their vocals supporting the gradually growing instrumenation perfectly. While the chorus could have been a little stronger, it sounds nice because the vocals are slightly stronger and the music keeps its enjoyable tempo. The pure instrumental section sounds very nice, really showcasing that catchy jazzy sound that keeps the listener’s interest. The lyrics of the song talk about leaving all the familiar things of town behind, which ignites a feeling of nostalgia in the listener. It’s a nice song even though the chorus could have had a little more punch to it.

Then they step things up with HIGHWAY. The song takes off with an upbeat instrumental that also has a jazzy feeling but this time it’s much stronger and in-your-face. The chorus sounds great with their vocals bringing even more life to the vivid instrumentation. Things don’t slow down on the verses and both Tegoshi and Massu really bring more energy that will catch the listener’s ear easily. Massu does a particularly strong job of ending the verses and making that transition into the chorus. The pure instrumental section has a slight change to it, making it sound fuller and the saxophone part sounds great. It’s a very strong upbeat number that will get the listener dancing.

Up next is the cool and inspirational song, POWER OF EARTH. Opening up the song is a cool pop-rock sort of instrumental that has more of an aggressive nature than the other songs, thus making it stand out. Tegoshi steps up first for the first verse and he sounds great here. Massu also does his thing, adding magic to the song before the chorus comes in. There are slight notes during the chorus that make it much more interesting and the little key change during the part when they sing “we are the power of earth” really makes for a nice finish. Tegoshi sounds perfect when he gives his solo version of the chorus and catches the ear nicely. Lyrically, the song speaks of making it through anything because of the inner power in everyone. POWER OF EARTH is a very strong track that will really speak to the listener.

四季彩 is the other short track on the album. A very pretty oriental styled instrumental begins the track, taking the listener back into a beautiful dreamy state. This song is sung by the two of them together at all times, suggesting the connection of spirits, which is reflected in the lyrics. The seasons are united and throughout all time, love will continue. It may be short but it’s very pretty, standing out much stronger than the other short track.

片想いの小さな恋 was the ending theme to the anime series Neo Angelique Abyss ~second age.~ The song starts off with a very pretty instrumental, drawn out by the erhu before the first verse arrives. Massu sounds amazing on the first verse as his vocals bring out the emotions of the music. Tegoshi also stands strongly when his part comes in. They sound amazing together on the chorus, the emotions coming out more strongly through more powerful vocals and the continuation of the erhu. It’s such a beautiful romantic song that definitely shines on this album.

The third single released before the album, アイアイ傘, is up next. The song begins with a very pretty and twinkling instrumental that immediately gets to the listener. Massu’s voice instantly stirs the emotions on the first verse and makes a good way for Tegoshi to come in. Tegoshi’s vocals are smooth and fit with the music perfectly. The chorus shines strongly as they sing together, letting the words really hit the listener’s heart. One part that really stands out is the pure instrumental section, which gives the image of the clouds dispersing and letting the sun shine through that rainy day. It’s an absolutely gorgeous song and one of the best Tegomasu’s offerings.

雨のち晴れ appears as the first track only available on the regular edition of the album. The song begins with an upbeat instrumental that has a cheery feeling. The repeating section of the instrumentation sounds a little annoying although Massu’s vocals sound very strong. As the song goes on, however, the music becomes more bearable and certain parts really sound pretty. The chorus is a little simple but enjoyable nonetheless as the boys come together and give it their all. It’s sweet and it’s pretty, really suiting the summer season.

チキンボーヤ is the second track only available on the regular edition. A dreamy and lulling instrumentation begins things perfectly and then it becomes slightly more upbeat and diverse, letting the listener fall further into the dream. On the first verse, the vocals are smooth and soothing, perfectly suiting the beauty of the music. They sound great on the chorus, particularly at the end of the chorus when Massu has those two solo lines. At that moment, the music takes on a slightly higher tone and shines strongly. The pure instrumental section is beautiful and really has an angelic feeling to it that will take the listener away. It’s a very strong song and carries some of the magic from アイアイ傘.

Miso Soup, the English version of their first single, also appears as the final bonus track on the regular edition. It’s kind of hard to understand what they’re saying a lot of the time but it’s kind of cute to hear them put all of their effort into it.

Album Ranking: A –

Tegomasu’s first album was surprisingly solid. One might expect a slew of slow songs but there were many upbeat numbers that showed off what the boys could do. From the cool jazzy numbers, to beautiful ballads and even one disco styled track, the album offers more variety than expected. Tegoshi and Massu certainly delivered a quality album.

5 Most Memorable Songs: アイアイ傘 / HIGHWAY / What’s going on? / たったひとつだけ / サヨナラ僕の街

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Kato Miliyah – Ring [4th Studio Album]

July 20, 2009 at 1:12 am (Kato Miliyah) (, )

Ring

Kato Miliyah’s 4th studio album, entitled Ring, was released on 07.08.09. The singles released before the album are as follows: SAYONARA ベイベー / 恋シテル, 20 -CRY- and Love Forever.

The album opens up with SAYONARA ベイベー, which was released before the album. The song starts off with a pretty instrumental that sparkles before becoming more upbeat and actually less interesting. On the first verse, her vocals sound a bit rushed at times and they sound slightly off. There’s also a repeating sound in the instrumentation which proves to be quite annoying. The chorus just sounds generic and and does not catch the listener’s ear at all. It’s really not the best way to open up the album and leaves the listener wondering what is to come.

Aitai is up next. The song opens up again with a nice instrumental, consisting of the piano. This time the music continues its path when Miliyah sings the first verse and it’s a good choice since it keeps this natural feeling. Miliyah’s vocals work very well with the music here and portray such emotion even if her accent sounds strange at times. The repeating words in the chorus are a little annoying but overall this is an enjoyable section of the song that stands out. It’s a much stronger song with a pretty sound the listener can enjoy.

Miliyah’s collaboration with Shimizu Shota, Love Forever, is the following track. Both artists sound completely in control here and their vocals compliment each other very well as well as the music. The atmosphere of the song is supported throughout and keeps the listener’s ear for quite a while. It’s a good way to continue from the last song.

The energy is picked up with Breathe Again. Opening the song is a cool instrumental that stands out because it’s different from all those apart and then Miliyah’s breath is heard before moving into the chorus. There’s such a spirit behind the music and her vocals that it stands out nicely. On the verses, the energy dies down and looms, entrancing the listener’s ear. The problem with the instrumentation is that it doesn’t quite move into an aggression but not quite in a sweetness so it just kind of lies between. Nonetheless, for having a different sound and showing Miliyah’s more upbeat side, the song is catchy.

Up next is Love for you. The song starts off with a calm and sweet instrumental and slowly the energy is building before the beat comes in. Miliyah’s vocals sound very good here and suit the atmosphere perfectly. The chorus features a kind of funky instrumental, which makes it stand out proudly although Miliyah’s accent sounds slightly strange at parts. She sounds fantastic on the third verse when she sings with a rapidity that will definitely catch the listener’s ear. It’s one of the album’s strongest tracks and she really should have more like this.

ありがとう is the sixth track. Again, it’s a slow number which the listener doesn’t really fully get into. It’s just nice but it feels so done before that the interest fades away, particularly when the chorus arrives since it sounds so generic. It’s just not a strong track.

この街のどこかで keeps the same atmosphere from the last track and the listener doesn’t get into the vibe. As usual, the instrumentation is nice but it just feels so done before.

Finally Miliyah picks up things up with Dance tonight. Despite it being a dance track, it carries a mellow vibe that definitely connects it to the rest of the album. A more aggressive instrumental would have been nice but it’s better than yet another slow song.

20 -CRY- is an example of how to do a ballad right. That opening instrumental carries a real coolness to it that will leave the listener wondering what is to come. Then the first verse arrives and the emotions come out of Miliyah’s vocals perfectly. Although the chorus could have a little stronger, her vocals sound very good and compliment the music very well.

She really gets the energy going with Time Is Money, a sleek dance track that will get the listener moving. There’s such a coolness in her vocals and especially in the music, which really grabs the listener into the atmosphere of the song. It’s a cool song and one that shines on this album.

And then she slows things back down with あなたが欲しい. However this song is more interesting than just another slow song since the instrumentation has a slight edge to it, which catches the listener’s attention. It’s nice and slightly better than the others of the same genre.

Unfortunately the same can’t be said for Love me, hold me. What does make the song slightly different is the jazzy feel the song has although it’s still not particularly engaging.

Happy Celebration is cute and against all the slow numbers, that actually makes it stand out. However it’s definitely way too long and the listener’s interest dwindles over time.

This Is Love is yet another mellow number that leaves the listener wishing there was something better. It just doesn’t sound interesting and the listener needs more.

People is kind of a cute track that is nice although not the most interesting way to finish things off. It just doesn’t capture the interest very well and leaves the listener feeling disappointed.

Album Ranking: C

To be honest, Ring doesn’t have much spark to it. Although slow songs are nice, Miliyah overpacks them on the album when she seems to shine better with the upbeat tracks like Love for you. The album lacks variety and the listener just can’t fall into the overall atmosphere.

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Stephanie – Colors of my Voice [2nd Studio Album]

July 19, 2009 at 11:43 pm (Stephanie) (, )

Stephanie_-_Color_of_my_Voice_CD

Stephanie’s 2nd album, entitled Colors of my Voice, was released on 06.17.09. Two singles, Changin’ and PRIDE ~A Part of Me,~ were released before the album.

The album opens up with 言葉なんかいらないほどに. The song starts off with a very pretty piano instrumental that catches the listener’s ear and then comes part of the chorus. Stephanie’s vocals sound nice although a little thin at points instead of their usual powerful level. Then comes the first verse and the music stays very nice and enjoyable, complimenting her vocals quite nicely. The pure instrumental section shines brightly because of the beautiful guitar. This is a great way to open up the album since it catches the ear nicely and shows Stephanie’s style.

Up next is Changin’, released prior to the album. Opening up the song is a nice piano instrumental that is sweet although slightly dull. She sounds good on the first verse and the piano lets the emotional presence of the song stay presence. Roma sounds okay although his vocals are a little rough. It kind of falls into the sound of a predictable ballad, not particularly keeping the listener’s interest.

Another single arrives with FUTURE. The song begins with Stephanie immediately giving the chorus and the abruptness is somewhat startingly. It’s nice to hear her take on a more upbeat and fun instrumental since it’s a nice change from the usual ballad instrumental. Her vocals are good as always and the feeling of freedom is expressed perfectly through them. It’s a very nice song with a different style for the listener to enjoy.

禁断の Knockout is the album’s fourth song. The song starts off with a midtempo guitar driven instrumental that has a very natural feeling to it. Stephanie’s vocals on the first verse support that atmosphere as there’s something sweet and natural about her voice here. It feels as if she’s telling a story. On the chorus, the emotions come spilling out as the instrumentation becomes more rock oriented and her vocals become powerful and emotionally charged. The final line features a slightly distorted vocal that definitely leaves a good impression. The pure instrumental section features a cool moment to focus on the slightly mystery of the instrumental before going back into more vocals. This is one of Stephanie’s strongest songs and definitely a gem on the album.

Together, a relaxing number follows. A very calming aand relaxing instrumental begins things off and it gives the image of a spring day. Then Stephanie comes in for the first verse and provides some great vocals tha have a sweet poppiness to them. It really suits the atmosphere of the song very well. The chorus features English lines like “I love you baby” and “it’s you and me together.” It’s just a nice song that is a good change from the last track.

Forever is an upbeat dance number in all English. The chorus starts things off and Stephanie’s vocals are absolutely beautiful. The following little section of pure instrumental is very interesting as it features a good dance beat some distorted vocals. On the first verse, her vocals sound good and her pronounciation is excellent. The chorus is awesome because you can tell Stephanie put her all into it, really wanting to make the listener dance along. It’s definitely one of the more interesting songs on the album and keeps the listener’s attention from start to finish.

Pride ~A Part Of Me~ is the album’s seventh song and goes back to the ballad style. The song’s opening is very pretty and definitely starts things off on the right foot. Basically the instrumentation stays pretty for the duration of the song but it’s just so long that it feels like it’s dragging on. It would have been more enjoyable if it was shortened.

KISSES is up next. It was a released as a B-side before the album and it’s very understandable why it wasn’t chosen to be an A-side. It’s just really not interesting because the instrumentation just doesn’t catch the listener’s ear.

A new track appears with キズナ. The song begins with a music box styled instrumental and then Stephanie sings the chorus. Her vocals are nice although they sound too strong for the instrumentation, overpowering the sweet softness of the music. Then the music becomes more diverse and louder so that it suits Stephanie’s vocals much better. There’s an unidentified man singing with her for some parts which is kind of strange. Nonetheless, the song is quite nice and sweet. If the vocals were softer and it stayed closer to the opening instrumental then it would have been even stronger.

The album’s semifinale is a song for you, an orchestral ballad. There is a mix of English and Japanese which switches things up nicely. It’s peaceful and relaxing sound really resonates with the listener and is one of the stronger songs on the album.

The album closes with 大好きなみんなへ。, featuring fans. It sounds very much like FUTURE although slightly less strong. It just doesn’t capture the attention particularly strongly, which makes it not the best way to close the album out.

Album Ranking: B

Stephanie’s album definitely has a few surprising curveballs that catch the listener’s attention such as 禁断の Knockout and Forever. Some of the tracks come off as a little predictable but overall it’s an enjoyable package. As usual, Stephanie’s vocals are enjoyable and portray emotion well. With more interesting instrumentals, her music will only benefit.

5 Most Memorable Tracks: 禁断の Knockout / Forever / 言葉なんかいらないほどに / キズナ / FUTURE

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Hello! Project – チャンプル①~ハッピーマリッジソングカバー集~ [Special Cover Album]

July 13, 2009 at 3:23 am (Berryz Koubou, Buono!, C-ute, Morning Musume) (, , , , , )

H!P Album 1

A special Hello! Project album, entitled チャンプル①~ハッピーマリッジソングカバー集,~ was released on 07.15.09. The album features various newly updated shuffle units from the various groups in Hello! Project: Morning Musume, C-ute, Berryz Koubou, Buono! and some eggs. All the songs on the album are covers.

The opening track of the album is ダイアモンド, sung by High King (Tanaka Reina, Takahashi Ai, Shimizu Saki, Yajima Maimi and Maeda Yuuka). The song begins with a cool sounding instrumental that soon quickens in pace and then the happy and sweet real sound of the song comes in, making the listener smile. There is kind of a wintery atmosphere to it which makes it all the more special. On the first verse, the vocals sound good with Reina really standing out. Everyone sounds good on the chorus with Reina and Ai shining the most although everyone definitely holds their own. It’s a great way to start things off with the leaders of the group along with front-girl and leader of High King, Reina as well as one of the stronger Hello Project Egg girls.

The girls of C-ute team up with Mano Erina for the second song, 愛は勝つ. Starting things off is a sweet instrumental driven by the piano. Everyone sounds so happy and cute when the first vocals come in and it really does fit the album’s theme. On the verses, the vocals are good although there are a little too many vocalizations that are held too long and the constant vocalizing in the background do grow to be annoying. Overall it’s sweet and cute although not as interesting as hoped.

Aa! is revitalized with a new line-up for the third song, YES-YES-YES! The new line-up features both Suzuki Airi and Natsuyaki Miyabe, who were in the original line-up. However Tanaka Reina was replaced with Akari Saho. The song starts off with a very pretty and simple instrumental that just feels very romantic. Those vocals are very smooth and suit the atmosphere of the song perfectly. The emotions just pour out on the chorus as they give stronger vocals and the music sounds more intense. The three girls did a great job on this one and it definitely is one the jewels of the album.

Mini Moni is given new life and a new line-up (Linlin [leader], Fukuda Kanon, Akari Takeuchi and Karin Miyamoto) for their song, てんとう虫のサンバ. The song opens up with a really cool upbeat instrumental that will make the listener want to dance along with everyone. On the first verse, the vocals carry such happiness and sweetness that will make the listener smile. It’s kind of hard to notice when the chorus comes in but once it does, it sounds quite nice although not as strong as the verses. It’s a shame that the song is so short because it’s definitely one of the strongest songs on the album. Plus it’s nice to have Linlin as leader of the group and get the attention she deserves.

Pucchimoni V (Nakajima Saki, Hagiawara Mai and Mano Erina) for the fifth song, 君がいるだけで. The song kicks off with a very pretty instrumental and then the chorus comes in, carrying the same sweetness like the other tracks. It does have a nice wedding feeling to it. On the first verse, there is a relaxing feeling to it that sounds nice. Basically it’s a nice track although it was just a little dull.

Tanaka Reina gets the chance to shine with her solo track, 部屋とYシャツと私. The song starts off with a really cool instrumental that has a sort of lulling effect to it. She sounds great on the first verse, her vocals supporting the beautiful sounds of the harp perfectly. The sound of water drops is also a nice touch and somehow gives the song a slightly more personal feeling. The chorus is so sweet and cute that the listener can’t help but love it. It’s a very pretty song and Reina brings it to life, giving something extra to make it feel more personal.

Niigaki Risa and Eri Kamei (of Morning Musume) team up for the next song, 守ってあげたい. Those opening vocals on the chorus sound angelic and really stand out to the listener. English phrases like “you don’t have to worry” and “cause I love you” really shine here. Then the instrumentation becomes slightly more diverse with the addition of a few new sounds and spices things up. Risa and Eri both sound very good here with the emotions definitely staying in their voices. It’s a very enjoyable song and only good have come with two of the strongest members of Morning Musume came together for a duet.

Takahashi Ai gets a solo song with 秋桜. A very enjoyable and pretty instrumental starts things off and there is a real connection to nature here that stands out nicely. Ai’s vocals carry a lot of emotion when she comes in on the first verse and it’s clear she understand the story of the song. She really sounds great on the chorus as she gives stronger vocals and the magic of the instrumentation meets her voice soothingly. She definitely brings her personal charm on the song and makes the listener want even more.

ZYX-a (Niigaki Risa [leader], Umeda Erika, Tsugunaga Momoko, Tokunaga Chinami, Maasa Sudou, Kusumi Koharu, Ayaka Wada and Saki Owagi) steps up to the plate with 未来予想図II. The song begins with a very pretty piano opening that easily catches the ear. Everyone sounds nice on the opening vocals although it would have been nice to have some solo parts. The chorus fits with the marriage theme very nicely and sounds very emotional, even somewhat sorrowful. Although there are a lot of girls in this unit, it would have been better if there were solo parts, mostly from Risa as leader.

ONLY YOU is delivered by Zoku Biyuuden (Michishige Sayumi, Junjun and Sugaya Risako). It’s one of the cooler songs with some rock influences to bring out the girls’ interesting and clever style. Although it’s not one of the stronger songs, it’s still a nice listen and it does get points for stepping away from the general sound of the album.

The fourth generation of Tanopopo (Eri Kamei, Mitsui Aika, Kumai Yurina and Okai Chisato) take on 赤いスイートピー.  Beginning the song is another sweet and calming instrumental that stands out nicely. All the girls of this unit sound great with their vocals suiting the sweetness of the music perfectly. It’s particularly cute when they sing “I will follow you” on the chorus and it really does fit the atmosphere of a wedding.

It was surprising to see Linlin get a solo but that’s exactly what she got with for you…The music is pretty and her vocals show a lot of vulnerability and emotion for the listener to hear. She really bring the song to its magical peak and with vocals like that, it’s a wonder why she doesn’t get more solo parts in Morning Musume songs.

Mano Erina teams up with another group, this time Berryz Koubou for 関白宣言. The instrumentation feels a little empty and the vocals aren’t anything particularly wow-worthy so the track just doesn’t stand as strongly as it should have.

Such a romantic song, 世界は二人のために, sung by Michishige Sayumi, Kusumi Koharu, Mitsui Aika and Junjun closes the album off nicely. It’s such a beautiful ballad and everyone brings their best to the table, letting the emotions of a wedding shine through. The title of the song fits it well since it feels like a song that was perfectly made to suit two people.

Album Ranking: B

Overall, this album was a nice package with the stars of Hello! Project coming together and switching up the usual groups to sing happily. It was nice to see the return of High King; Linlin got quite the attention she deserves, Reina and Ai shined on their solos and it was just an overall cute album. A little more variety in the songs they chose to cover would have been nice but still a good package.

Most Memorable Songs: ダイアモンド [High King] / てんとう虫のサンバ [Shin Mini Moni] / YES-YES-YES! [Aa!] / 秋桜 [Takahashi Ai] / 部屋とYシャツと私 [Tanaka Reina]

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