Kurayami Monogatari

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Ayumi Hamasaki – NEXT LEVEL March 21, 2009

Filed under: Ayumi Hamasaki — solarblade @ 5:32 pm
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next-level

Track Listing

  1. Bridge to the sky
  2. NEXT LEVEL
  3. Disco-munication
  4. EnergizE
  5. Sparkle
  6. rollin’
  7. GREEN
  8. Load of the SHUGYO
  9. identity
  10. Rule
  11. LOVE n’ HATE
  12. Pieces of SEVEN
  13. Days
  14. Curtain call

1. Bridge to the sky

Bridge to the sky opens up the album in a pretty synth driven way.  It’s kind of got a pretty soothing feel to it and the whole ad-libbing from Ayu sounds heavenly, it might not be a fan-worthy for it’s own track like “Mirror” was, but this really showed off the whole synth side of things which is nice.

2. NEXT LEVEL

Our first new track is also the title track and it actually got a PV to promote the album.  To me this also feels similar to the previous track with it’s breezy dance beats and lively sound.  Some points I thought she over accented the words, which was a bit of a turnoff, but I have to say this is one of her best title tracks in her career.

3. Disco-munication

It was very disappointing to figure out that this was an interlude.  I really like the synthetic beats and rushing.  Though I’m not exactly fond of what they did with Ayu here because it was a cut n’ paste kind of sound and it just didn’t fit the mood at all.  I do like the 8-bit stuff though, that was pretty cool.

4. EnergizE

EnergizE continues this whole synth thing and oddly the clapping thing and weird 80’s new wave synth sound was interesting at the least.  When Ayu first came in, her voice reminded me of Kuu’s for some reason.  Then things from there just go downhill from there because the chorus was so lifeless and not full of pep.  I don’t know why the song is called EnergizE is she herself isn’t hyped up…whatever Ayu, just whatever…

5. Sparkle

I’m still flabbergasted at Sparkle.  I mean if the song wasn’t already fierce enough as it was, the PV just 1-upped that thought and this song is one of her best tracks she’s had in the last few years.  If, you want me to be exact, this is the “Marionette” of the album and it was actually an A-side as well.  As I’m listening to this song, I’m getting a feeling that this album is heavy on the synth this time around.  GREAT SONG!

6. rollin’

rollin’ is the albums longest track (one second over “Days”).  Anyway, rollin’ also reminding me of “Sparkle” becuase once again the song uses a more darker electronica style as well which surprises me because the initial thought is that, did she work with Nakata?  Like I hear the similarities because she’s under vocoder and the whole sound just seemed cool.  I don’t know but this song is really good too.

7. GREEN

Then things start to get strange when “GREEN” pops up.  Like the whole album so far has been synth-driven and then BAM!!! we get Chinese Ayu…Now representing 1/2 of the first single of the era, GREEN came off as a surprise to many of her fans because of the whole Chinese sound implemented.  I really like how epic it sounds with the arrangement given, but that chorus still bugs me.  Weird rhythm of sound IMO.

8. Load of the SHUGYO

Oh the naughty things that you can really think of the title.  Now doesn’t “GREEN” seem to stick out in the worst way?  Anyways it starts out like the other tracks beforehand and then it stops and it turns out into a mix of electronica and hard rock which surprised me because I love the guitar wailing here and it translated easily to our next track.

9. identity

identity starts the rocker phase of the album.  I don’t think I’ve heard a raw rock song from Ayu in a while so I’m quite happy with this.  It seems if I took “(don’t) leave me alone” and focused more on the rock side, this is what I would closely get.  What’s with the breakdown in the middle of the track though?  Lulz for the squeaky synth part.

10. Rule

Rule still kicks ass being here.  I think she let loose more out of this track than the last which kind of means she paid more attention to the singles rather than album tracks.  Everytime I hear the chorus it just makes go wild, it’s so feral and just awesome.  Definitly when paired with Sparkle makes a really epic single (just forget the remixes).

11. LOVE n’ HATE

First off this song is really different for being a rock sound.  I mean there’s a little bit of that Timbaland sound that’s usual, but I can clearly see she’s trying to calm the rock sound because it works in this case.  I love the way she’s counting to different parts.  It’s wild, but not in the way “Rule” was a fun kind of wild perhaps and I like it.  The ending was random though after she says ~Zero~ this loud synth line plays in the random of times…why is it there, who knows?  LOL

12. Pieces of SEVEN

Our last interlude shifts gears for us to the last two tracks off the album.  You hear even more synths appear to play along with a woodwind instrument and then a keyboarded synth plays a melody and the tracks gets more ethereal which made things so nice.  Then things get weird when it goes into a dance sound which throws the listener off at first listen…really random…She should’ve put some lyrics to this though, I quite like it.

13. Days

Though they should’ve ended it through the ethereal part because it just doesn’t sound good going into Days, the wintry A-side that began the era.  Now since the single, I’ve grown to somewhat like it more because it’s been a while since, well “Together When…” so it’s nice to see a new winter track.  Seriously though, I think the YMCK remix back on “Rule/Sparkle” would’ve fitted more after the interlude.

14. Curtain call

I think she ended off every album she’s had with a ballad and Curtain call is of course a ballad and it also got a PV to go along as well.  Though I think this was a little too boring for me because she’s had way better ballads *cough* untitled ~for her~, fated, HEAVEN *cough*.  Anyways the chorale group was a nice addition and to me this was like a gospel song, but it felt too short to end the album like this…

Tracks Recommended

  •  Sparkle
  • rollin’
  • Rule
  • LOVE n’ HATE
  • NEXT LEVEL

Song of Avoidance

  • EnergizE

NEXT LEVEL showed a pretty new side to Ayu with all of these new synths and hard sound.  Though I feel a little disappointed that half the songs aren’t really that memorable, but the album as a whole flowed so much better than GUILTY did, but then again…GUILTY had better tracks to begin with.  It’s alright, though c’mon Sparkle and Rule just owned this album like it was nothing.