Kurayami Monogatari

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Utada Hikaru – Fantôme October 1, 2016

Filed under: Utada Hikaru — solarblade @ 5:50 am

fantome

Track Listing

  1. Michi
  2. Ore no Kanojo
  3. Hanataba wo Kimi ni
  4. Nijikan Dake no Vacance feat. Shiina Ringo
  5. Ningyo
  6. Tomodachi with Kobukuro Nariaki
  7. Manatsu no Toori Ame
  8. Kouya no Ookami
  9. Boukyaku feat. KOHH
  10. Jinsei Saikou no Hi
  11. Sakura Nagashi

1. Michi

Opening up Hikki’s album, we have Michi which many people did say was an upbeat song and I can tell that with the arrangement right from the start.  I really like the beat and hearing Hikki again after so long is really nice and it feels like her voice did recover a bit from the thin sounds she had back in “HEART STATION”.  She’s never really let us down with opening tracks and this is no different, a really bright and light-hearted song!

2. Ore no Kanojo

Unlike the happy “Michi”, Ore no Kanojo opens with some string bass to some kind of jazzy track.  I’ve always thought Hikki’s lower spectrum in her voice suited songs with this kind of lower and darker feel and while Ore no Kanojo doesn’t seem to be as sullen as should, I really like her timber for this one.  I also really like that it builds up to this conclusion and softly finds itself quiet (with synths of course) and then ends with a final verse.  It’s different and I quite like it!

3. Hanataba wo Kimi ni

While it has been quite a while for us Hikki fans to get this album due to her going on that 6 year hiatus, back in April she released two digital singles for fans to get excited for as she returned.  As the two digital singles were tie-ins for different things, I still was just happy to see Hikki releasing new songs.  Hanataba wo Kimi ni is the first ballad of the album and she stuck to the simple piano/strings style of work and while I say overall it’s OK, it really doesn’t compare to past songs like “FINAL DISTANCE”, “COLORS”, or even “Dareka Negai ga Kanau Koro”.  It’s just a vanilla ballad, but a sign that she was still around.

4. Nijikan Dake no Vacance feat. Shiina Ringo

Who knew that Hikki would collaborate with Shiina for song?  Either way, it’s exciting news as they are legends in the genre!  Also, it’s pretty great that this was chosen as the main song to promote the album!  Once again, Hikki’s lower vocals sounds so good with the simplistic arrangement of guitars before more instrumentation is presented.  At first, I was wondering where Shiina was but she enters the song in the 2nd verse.  While I normally can’t stand her vocals, she calmed it for this one and she gelled nicely with Hikki for the most part.  This was just a great song and one of the standouts here!

5. Ningyo

Opening with some pretty harp, Ningyo is another ballad for the album and once again sticks to the simpler routes.  While I feel like this would make a good pairing with “Kairo” for some reason, Ningyo has this mesmerizing arrangement that’s only slightly thrown off by the drums (which was a bit brash against the harp, especially towards the end).  Still, the song is nice, but it’s just there for me.

6. Tomodachi with Kobukuro Nariaki

Moving into our next track, Tomodachi picks things up with a cool beat and nice acoustic glow.  I do know just from reading around that this is kind of about crushing on someone of the same gender but the reciprocation is one-sided.  I really like when Hikki talks about these kind of things but fits them to a happier beat, something strange but whimsical about that.  While I’m not entirely sure where Nariaki is pertaining to the song (maybe guitar or trumpet?).  Cool song and a pretty catchy one at that too!

7. Manatsu no Toori Ame

The other digital single released back in April, surprise, surprise though that it’s another ballad.  Like my problem I had with “Hanataba wo Kimi ni”, the easy to go to arrangement is pretty basic as things go, but I feel like Hikki did a lot better with emoting and making the song her own and giving off this cold and sad atmosphere (even with the beats, it added some colors throughout).  It gets better in the 2nd half with strings and a push of volume and grandeur. It’s a good ballad that really can stand with the best of Hikki’s ballads!

8. Kouya no Ookami

After such a nice ballad, I wasn’t expecting some sexy breathing to pop up next.  Kouya no Ookami brings back up more of Hikki’s funk style and I approve of the notion since a lot of this album so far has been slow sailing.  I was kind of expecting more from the sog, but I’m not sure why because I love the horns and bass lines and then the break into the pre-chorus with added piano was interesting, but it led to an anticlimatic chorus IMO.  It’s OK, but there could’ve been a little more to it than what we ended up with.

9. Boukyaku feat. KOHH

It felt like a heartbeat starts off on Boukyaku and there’s just something radiant and soothing about this intro that caught my attention after “Kouya no Ookami”.  Maybe that it reminds me of something from Final Fantasy X.  Though this intro goes on for a while (about a minute and 35 seconds) before KOHH does a sort-of rap/spoken dialogue for another minute before Hikki finally makes her presence known.  Though at that point the song just kind of phases out of mind as the arrangement doesn’t excite me as much and KOHH for the same reason.  It just feels like an extended interlude to me.

10. Jinsei Saikou no Hi

As we near the end, we have the last new track of the album and Jinsei Saikou no Hi feels like a throwback to her earlier days with that tinge of R&B, but a mix of what she was throwing out in “HEART STATION” with the ethereal synths and lightheartedness.  While I’m surprised it’s the album’s shortest track, I felt like this had some nice character about it.  Weird that it reminds me of “Niji-iro Bus”?  Nice short track!

11. Sakura Nagashi

Ending the album, I was a little perplexed by the choice of including Sakura Nagashi (as it’s the oldest track on the album, released as a digital single back in 2012.  I still think it’s a really beautiful, thought-proving ballad she has here no doubt, it’s just the choice of including it as all the other tracks were done in 2016.  Beyond that, it’s a great emotional ending to the album that fans have been heavily waiting for.

Tracks Recommended

  • Sakura Nagashi
  • Michi
  • Manatsu no Toori Ame
  • Tomodachi with Kobukuro Nariaki
  • Nijikan Dake no Vacance feat. Shiina Ringo

Song of Avoidance

  • Boukyaku feat. KOHH

Wow has it really been almost 8 years since “HEART STATION”, her last studio album that wasn’t a best (or a tribute album)?  I feel like it hasn’t been too long since Hikki did throw out some songs during her hiatus.  Then it culminated into Fantôme and while I don’t think it’s her best album to date, it’s nice to see her return.  I feel like there’s something missing to the album that made her last couple such pieces of art that I’m maybe a little worried?  I mean her voice does sound better, but the songs just mostly didn’t resonate with me as much as her last 3 albums had.  I’m sure I’ll get used to it though with more listens!

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