Kurayami Monogatari

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Ayumi Hamasaki – Memorial address June 1, 2019

Filed under: Ayumi Hamasaki — solarblade @ 4:57 am

memorialaddress

Track Listing

  1. ANGEL’S SONG
  2. Greatful days
  3. Because of You
  4. ourselves
  5. HANABI ~episode II~
  6. No way to say
  7. forgiveness
  8. Memorial address (take 2 version) (bonus track)

1. ANGEL’S SONG

Opening the mini-album is our first of 3 new songs here with ANGEL’S SONG!  Right from the start, I loved the grand intro that turns into an upbeat song that has a bit of that avex flair and catchiness.  The dance beats mixed with the guitarwork is pretty neat and Ayu’s staccato-like singing is quick yet cool.  Though I think what I remember the most is the PV with the werewolf/superhero angle and it just was such a bizarre juxtaposition with the song itself LOL.  What a way to kick this mini-album off!

2. Greatful days

It seems that all the leading songs did make the cut here so the first is Greatful days which was the 2nd lead track off of “&” and like I’ve said on the review, the poppy upbeat nature of the song just feels really nice and works after “ANGEL’S SONG” too!  It’s just a fun lively song and has it place here!

3. Because of You

The other main new song (the two that got PVs), I was curious to see this song because it was the other new song but boy was I not ready for this blowout of a song to come through my headphones back then.  I’m not sure what it is, but Ayu somehow always get dark songs right and Because of You is the hardest hitting song off the mini-album with its rockin’ arrangement and badass performance from her as well.  There’s just something about this dark atmosphere that gets me and this is the best of the mini-album hands down!!!

4. ourselves

I guess this song could be the first song from “&” and I guess giving it another shot, I do think the PV helped it slightly.  It’s like a toned down and slightly dark take of “ANGEL’S SONG”, but I don’t know, the song felt kind of generic to me with the arrangement, but the only thing that keeps it slightly above is Ayu’s vocals.  Still, just kind of eh to me.

5. HANABI ~episode II~

HANABI comes next and likewise, I wasn’t too into the song when I first listened to it because it really doesn’t quite live it to the first one at all.  Though after watching the PV, I think HANABI has a dark undertone to it that may help it out (though the original did too >.>).  I think it works a little better hearing it again, but I’m still not entirely into the song.

6. No way to say

Interesting, but obvious to me that they’d switch this and “forgiveness” so the ballad could end the album, sorta.  No way to say here still feels very in the middle for me since it’s not a bad song, but I feel like it has a hard time standing out compared to the other tracks as well.  Like I said, maybe a less memorable “Greatful days” is the best I can come up with.

7. forgiveness

Of course they had to end it off with forgiveness which is the ballad A-side of the era!   I thought it was wonderful that Ayu had this close the album out since it’s really beautiful and gorgeous of a ballad which I mean to be fair at this point, Ayu has a chockful of really good ballads!  Plus it got that PV it did and it’s just worked all-around!

8. Memorial address (take 2 version)

Though the album comes with a bonus track which is the title song for the mini-album (odd).  Though what’s interesting is that the melody comes from another song, the producer’s own band.  Though I was surprised the song started with some studio recording and then Ayu and piano enter in.  At first, I thought it was just going to be a piano ballad but it does grow into a rock track that has that same grit that “Because of You” had.   Total surprise for te bonus track and I think I dug this too!

 

 

Wow, jumping back to Memorial address was a nice trip, it’s no wonder why a LOT of people tend to like this one because while it was only 8 songs long, each song did bring something different to the table and the 3 new tracks were amazing in their own right too!  I kind of miss Ayu in these days and would love to see this effort return!

 

Ayumi Hamasaki – No way to say

Filed under: Ayumi Hamasaki — solarblade @ 3:26 am

nowaytosay

Track Listing

  1. No way to say
  2. No way to say “Acoustic Version”
  3. SEASONS “Acoustic Version”
  4. Dearest “Acoustic Orchestra Version”
  5. Voyage “Acoustic Orchestra Version”
  6. No way to say “Vandalize/Realize Mix”
  7. No way to say -Instrumental-

1. No way to say

I’m guessing from the cover art that No way to say is going to be a winter song just because it very much so looks the part, though I wasn’t expecting No way to say to kind of have that 00’s avex sound to it and not a ballad like what “forgiveness” turned out to be.  If anything it kind of gives me a sound that was from “LOVEppears” or even “RAINBOW”.  Not bad though, but I think of the era’s songs, No way to say is smack dab in the middle.

2. No way to say “Acoustic Version”

Though I’m not sure if giving the song just an acoustic guitar was a good idea, but I do think Ayu’s vocals manage to stand out moreso which is a plus.  It’s just that this stripped down version is what it is and that really doesn’t help much.  At least the chorus sounds a bit more fuller?

3. SEASONS “Acoustic Version”

I do like the harmonica (maybe?) that was added to the acoustic cut of SEASONS, but that’s rather shortlived once Ayu starts to sing and the tune strips to acoustic guitar & piano, but I don’t know why but I feel like SEASONS sounds much better in this setting than “No way to say” could pull off.

4. Dearest “Acoustic Orchestra Version”

Adding one more word to what version is sounds strange to me, but here we are with Dearest which begins with a nice piano intro and then Ayu’s light vocals starting in the verses.  I suppose the orchestra makes sense because strings are present and there isn’t any acoustic guitar.  Dearest though sounds prettier though and more meaningful so I definitely enjoyed this version!

5. Voyage “Acoustic Orchestra Version”

As for Voyage, the song is more dramatic with its movement and I really enjoyed the focus on a stronger arrangement and Ayu once again sounds really nice.  I mean there really isn’t much need to be said here, basically the same thoughts I shared with “Dearest”.

6. No way to say “Vandalize/Realize Mix”

Ending the single off, I was a bit surprised there’d be an upbeat remix on here considering the previous 4 tracks were definitely not that!  The remix though does feel like it takes its time to get to the singing but even then I think the track feels somewhat stale because the remix doesn’t really go anywhere and keeps to the same sound.

 

 

As the final single for the “Memorial address” era, No way to say is kind of a middle-of-the-boat for me.  No way to say is fine, but after the last couple of single, it just doesn’t really stick out and the track feels like something 2 albums ago.  The remainder of the single was mostly light, giving us stripped down versions of older songs which is fine, but nothing too mind-blowing (maybe cept Dearest & Voyage).  That last remix though was just odd here, had no place here.  Yeah, lets get to that mini shall we?

 

Ayumi Hamasaki – forgiveness

Filed under: Ayumi Hamasaki — solarblade @ 2:49 am

forgiveness

Track Listing

  1. forgiveness
  2. ourselves “Kentaro Takizawa Remix”
  3. HANABI ~episode II~ “HAL’S MIX 2003”
  4. forgiveness (Instrumental)

1. forgiveness

I have to say, I have said many times that Ayu’s ballads are usually kind of bland and rather forgetful in the grand scheme of things, forgiveness is one of those rare exceptions to the rule, but I think you could already assume that this wasn’t a normal piano/strings ballad just from its cover art (or the PV).  Not sure how she ended up here, but forgiveness is rather majestic and Ayu’s light and pinchy vocals actually sound good here which normally isn’t for ballads (though I do think this was her peak).  What a beautiful song and just surprised me overall with its grandiose sound…definitely one of her bests!

2. ourselves “Kentaro Takizawa Remix”

Back to remixes huh?  Yeah, we get some remixes of songs off her previous single, “&” and ourselves is the first one up!  This remix right from the start sounds a bit more bass-heavy and funky in comparison to the original, but after a bit, the weird percussion timings get to me and the repetition is a little more than annoying to me.  I do like how chilled out it is, but yeah no…

3. HANABI ~episode II~ “HAL’S MIX 2003”

Of course we have HAL coming back to remix HANABI II and instead of the pop/rock angst of the original mix, HAL takes the song into a more relaxed, jungle-like setting and I’m finding myself happier with this track than I did with the original since it gave Ayu a bit more room for her vocals to flourish in the arrangement…pretty neat remix here…much better than the one for “ourselves”.

 

 

2nd single of the “Memorial address” era and I’m pretty happy with the single, a bit more than I was with “&” since forgiveness was a really great ballad for Ayu to get and really shows that she’s just on top of the world in 2003!  As for the remixes, I would listen to the HANABI one more than the ourselves one because the former just changes the song in a way that sounds different than the original.  The latter just seems like many of her previous remixes, a bit too repetitive for my tastes.

 

Ayumi Hamasaki – &

Filed under: Ayumi Hamasaki — solarblade @ 2:22 am

andayumi

Track Listing

  1. ourselves
  2. Greatful days
  3. HANABI ~episode II~
  4. theme of a-nation ’03
  5. ourselves (Instrumental)
  6. Greatful days (Instrumental)
  7. HANABI ~episode II~ (Instrumental)

1. ourselves

Opening the single off in a mysterious and foreboding way is ourselves and the low bass and just overall low chaotic tone of the intro is interesting, but I wasn’t expecting the tune to go 180 and turn into an R&B track that does sound like early 2000’s pop.  Honestly, the verses are kind of deadpan to me and Ayu’s performance just doesn’t quite stick out to me.  The chorus almost fails in the same way, but she does some good high notes on occasion too.  Interesting song overall, but maybe not one of her bests.  Let’s be honest though, we remember the PV better right?

2. Greatful days

The next track also kind of opens in a mysterious to a poppy way (but not quite as drawn out in “ourselves”), but it seems this is considered a Summer song from Ayu.  I think the song is a bit more memorable to me with a more bright and active performance from her and the chorus is just hopeful and upbeat too!  I think I remember this the most from this single honestly!

3. HANABI ~episode II~

Seeing the title, it definitely made me think it was supposed to be a continuation from “HANABI” from her “RAINBOW” album.  It might just be tied to it by lyrics, but episode II is definitely its own beast by being a bit more rock-centric and has background singers to add a bit more triumph and power.  There’s something about it that doesn’t quite work in this song to me, but I suppose she needed that cold, pop/rock emotional track I guess.

4. theme of a-nation ’03

Considering that a-nation was pretty huge back then and giving Ayu the song used as the main theme for the concert, I was surprised more that it was given a studio version as well!  Unlike the previous 3 tracks, theme of a-nation ’03 starts off with a really nice Japanese-like intro with shakuhachis and taiko drums before cooling out and leaving and ethereal arrangement with Ayu’s light vocals.  It’s a nice track overall and I think it manages to make good on what it was supposed to do!

 

 

Kicking off the “Memorial address” era, & was an interesting single since it didn’t have a specific main song (I think it was the first 3 tracks while theme of a-nation ’03 was the B-side since it’s the only song that doesn’t make the cut to the mini-album).  I would say it’s a little bit of a sleeper single for me because I tend to forget these songs happened (although Greatful days was the best of the 4).  Curious to what’s next!

 

Ayumi Hamasaki – TROUBLE August 14, 2018

Filed under: Ayumi Hamasaki — solarblade @ 4:16 am

trouble

Track Listing

  1. We are the QUEENS
  2. æternal
  3. WORDS
  4. W
  5. The way I am

1. We are the QUEENS

Not quite sure why Ayu decided to wait for this song over a year (almost 2) to release this song on a physical disc.  Opening the mini-album on an ominous note, We are the QUEENS definitely gives me so grandiose vibes that I haven’t heard since at least “BRILLANTE” happened.  For a 2016 song, We are the QUEENS does give me vibes.  I will say that I wasn’t expecting the tune to move from its grand intro to something electronic and heavy.  The chorus though is a bit too preachy to me, but the song is really exciting regardless and kicks things off on a good note despite being the oldest track here!

2. æternal

First of three new tracks, æternal kind of reminds me of slower songs off of earlier albums like “Duty” and “LOVEppears”.  Not quite sure why it’s giving me that oddly familiar feeling, but the song does sound somewhat from the early 2000s.  I will say that Ayu’s vocals have somewhat found its pacing again and shes sounding like what I’ve listened to for so long.  Not a bad song though and has that kind of nostalgic feel to it.

3. WORDS

Released as a concert only single back in 2017, I was also surprised to see WORDS make the cut!  As a ballad, WORDS is kind of more of a lively ballad than others she’s released previously in her career.  Though I was surprised it would widen out once she hits the chorus and it turns into a rock ballad and once again I’m getting early album vibes out of this song (back to even her first album sound), it’s kind of shocking Ayu is diving this far back for the sound of this song (and “æternal” for that matter).  Not bad though!

4. W

As the remaining two tracks are brand new, I was wondering what she’d bring for both and W was a song I wasn’t expecting to hear as it’s more aggressive and heavy sounding (even more than “We are the QUEENS” and Ayu sounds really cool and fits the style just as she did when she tackled rock songs in the past.  Does remind me of “Microphone” but honestly, this was the best off the mini-album.

5. The way I am

Ending off the mini-album, of course it’s not of without one slow ballad to close things out and since Ayu has a plethora of them in her discography, it’s becoming difficult to really tell these ballads apart.  That said, Ayu’s voice sounds the most nasal and unfamiliar to me here, but once again not totally her fault, but because she is slowly becoming deaf so keeping on note is harder.  Yeah this is the only meh song here…

 

 

Yes, this release is TROUBLE, that’s for sure.  I mean only 5 tracks (with 2 already previously released as digital/concert songs).  It’s a bit disappointing that Ayu would comeback after a two year break with something that EASILY could’ve just been a glorified single.  I mean other than The way I am, the mini is decent, but familiar territory….I’m just kind of unphased by the release besides We are the QUEENS and W.

 

Ayumi Hamasaki – M(A)DE IN JAPAN May 12, 2016

Filed under: Ayumi Hamasaki — solarblade @ 5:48 am

madeinjapan

Track Listing

  1. tasky
  2. FLOWER
  3. Mad World
  4. Breakdown
  5. Survivor
  6. You are the only one
  7. TODAY
  8. Mr. Darling
  9. Summer Love
  10. Many Classic Moments (bonus track)

1. tasky

Ayu kicks off her album with another in the line of the “task” series of intros/interludes with tasky.  It starts off slowly but grows with some ascending notes that sounds almost traditionally Japanese in style but then switches it up to more of a dance beat with heavier synth usage.  The intro does end a bit abruptly, but it does a nice job introducing the album.

2. FLOWER

The shimasen follows through into the first vocal track with FLOWER.  I liked the mysterious nature of it before it adds guitars and bass to switch further into more of a powerful rock track.  I’m sure it’s just me, but Ayu’s vocals are sounding a bit more harsh than I remember as it sounds a lot more throaty than past songs of hers.  Really though, it’s a bit more familiar if you were into Ayu during her “Secret” era.  Not bad for a first track to be honest.

3. Mad World

Moving onto Mad World, it also starts slow and yet quickly shifts to more of a pop/rock style.  Unlike the previous track though, Ayu sounds back to normal as her notes are in a more comfortable setting.  The track is a bit of a slow burner for me, but I really enjoyed the chorus and the growing of the song in general.  I’m sure this will end up being of the favorites from the album that’s for sure!

4. Breakdown

Why does this song open almost the same way like “Mad World” did?  I was seriously hoping for a ballad and I kind of got it with Breakdown which has this very cold and lonesome sound to it, similar to her past track, “Marionette”.  Actually, it also slightly reminds me of “SCAR” due to some familiar melody movements.  I do think the ending section with the guitar solo came out of nowhere from such an emotional rock ballad and to end with Ayu singing ~kono mama~ as if she was trying to start a thought was different.  Still it’s a pretty cool track overall!

5. Survivor

I’m not sure why, but when I listen to our next track, it has this epic experimental sound and yet sounds a lot like “INSPIRE”.  I do love the oldish J-pop feel mix with the chanting and background tribal kind-of-feeling I get.  It’s god such a wild kind of setting that the previous tracks kind of lacked so far, so I’m happy to see a track like this make the cut.  Definitely one of the standouts of the album for certain!

6. You are the only one

Is that bagpipe I hear in the intro of the song?  Well of course it sounds a bit like it came from a computer and not the actual instrument.  After the relaxing intro, the song fortunately doesn’t become a rock track and remains a full-on ballad this time around.  Ayu’s vocals sound really pleasant against the ethereal arrangement.  Strings do enter the fray later on and the track sounds a lot more majestic and flowing.  This is a pretty decent ballad!

7. TODAY

Another ballad comes next with TODAY and this one feels a little bit more safer and familiar sounding when compared to the other tracks on the album.  I’m not sure why, but there’s a myriad of songs I can think of thatit reminds me of just in Ayu’s discography.  If there was one track that had to be the filler song, I think TODAY would fit into that category.

8. Mr. Darling

Did “Life” reappear?  Yeah, this song might be  more upbeat than the previous two tracks, but Mr. Darling did nothing for me sadly.  I do enjoy the acoustic guitar in part of the track and the chorus is loud and all I could really remember is ~soba ni ite~ which is sung multiple times throughout the chorus.  Just a slight bit generic for me.

9. Summer Love

Why is this the album closer?  It feels a little bit strange on the album too because it’s the only track to really being under EDM and the only track that would’ve suited being after “tasky” if anything.  I have to say though, it’s an energetic track and while I was thinking it would’ve been a lot like “Sunrise ~Love is All~”, Summer Love is more towards “Feel the love” or “Terminal” or any of her old remixes actually.  It’s just a fun summery dance track and a total surprise for this album!

10. Many Classic Moments

As a bonus, the album ends with a cover of a classic globe track (and also the album’s only old song as this was on the globe tribute album released last year).  I felt that it suited being after “Summer Love” due to the EDM upbringings here.  Although this was more eurobeat originally.  While Ayu did a good job, it didn’t have the depth or emotional drive that KEIKO had originally.  While the breakdown in the middle of the song is omitted (replaced by more of a musically fronted solo).  Still, it’s a decent cover and one of the more exciting tracks of the album.

Tracks Recommended

  • Summer Love
  • Breakdown
  • Survivor
  • Many Classic Moments
  • Mad World

Song of Avoidance

  • TODAY

Wow, that was REALLY unexpected that Ayu would release an album (well, technically just for streaming, the album will release at the end of June) out of the blue.  M(A)DE IN JAPAN is a really interesting to say the least.  Not sure if I was prepared for it, but I don’t think it was as strong as “sixxxxxx” was or a lot of “A ONE” to be honest though there are some decent surprises.  Not sure if there’ll be more to this album by the time its physical release comes around, but I kind of hope so.

 

Ayumi Hamasaki – sixxxxxx August 17, 2015

Filed under: Ayumi Hamasaki — solarblade @ 4:06 am

sixxxxxx

Track Listing

  1. Step by step
  2. Summer diary
  3. Sayonara feat. SpeXial
  4. Sorrows
  5. Shape of Love
  6. Sky high

1. Step by step

Opening up Ayu’s mini, we have the sort-of promotional track for it (it was released as a digital single back in July).  I wasn’t sure what to expect coming after “A ONE”, but the song sounds like a pretty lively summer tune for her and I kind of enjoyed the mix of strings with this pop/rock sound as well.  I overall thought it was a nice track to open things up with and it’s one of the better songs she’s done in recent.

2. Summer diary

Then we move into Summer diary which I initially thought it was going to be a ballad, but it’s more like a mid-tempo (that sort of harkens back to a more easier settting from “Duty”).  It’s still got the pop/rock accents mixed with the orchestral strings, but I don’t think it stuck as much as “Step by step” did because while it has a certain nostalgic kick to it, it’s really nothing much to gawk at.

3. Sayonara feat. SpeXial

What intrigued me the most was this track because not only it was a collaboration with a C-pop group (that I never heard of mind you) but it was produced by DAISHI DANCE and I wasn’t expecting the tune to be as electronically club-friendly as much as this!  Though I am enjoying this song quite a lot because it’s a change of pace for Ayu and SpeXial actually sounded cool as well!  I’m not sure why, but this song is just up Ayu’s alley (would’ve been cool on “Colours” honestly).  Easily my favorite of the release.

4. Sorrows

Then we get serious with Sorrows which like the title describes is a heartwrenching ballad!  Though I wasn’t expecting the song to open up with a powerful rock chorus which instantly reminded me of “Because of you” from her “Memorial Address” mini.  The tune has a cool buildup and Ayu’s voice suits the dramatic arrangement (though the transition is a bit off for me).  It’s still a pretty edgy song and one of her more powerful songs.

5. Shape of Love

Seems like we finally get our actual ballad in Shape of Love.  I really find myself loving the relaxing acoustic melody here and for some reason once the chorus kicks in, I feel like it reminds me a lot of “SCAR” which is not a bad thing because it was my favorite song off of “Duty”.  Ayu kind of sounds like she did from said song too which is just awesome to hear.  Good song overall!

6. Sky high

At first, I was like doesn’t she already have a song titled this, but I was mistaking this with “Fly high” XD.  Ending the mini-album off, I figured Sky high would be the song that would be obviously poppy and leaves the listener with finality.  I didn’t expect the song to sound a bit like something from 2000’s avex music.  It like a couple other songs from the mini sounds like it came from an older release and I have no problems with that.  Sky high though to me sounds slightly generic, but in the way that it sticks out nicely here to kind of stand out.  Decent song to close it off.

I was surprised when Ayu announced she was releasing sixxxxxx just 3 months after “A ONE” which was a pretty decent album overall.  Despite being just 6 songs, this mini-album was actually quite refreshing and in some respects better than the aforementioned album.  A lot of the tracks (like Sorrows, Sky high, and Summer diary) felt almost nostalgic to me and brought out the reasons why I fell in love with her music.  Even the other 3 tracks were good tunes in their own right too!  Not bad Ayu, not bad!