Kurayami Monogatari

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Mai Kuraki – Smile February 23, 2017

Filed under: Mai Kuraki — solarblade @ 6:21 am

smilemai

Track Listing

  1. YESTERDAY LOVE
  2. Mystery Hero
  3. Garasu no Bishou
  4. OPEN L♡VE
  5. SAWAGE☆LIFE
  6. I Like It
  7. MY VICTORY
  8. Serendipity
  9. Make that change
  10. Tell me why
  11. My way
  12. Kimi e no Uta

CD2

  1. I Like It (Remix)

1. YESTERDAY LOVE

Opening the album is the only kind of actual single released (even if it was a DVD single).  I do appreciate that it does sound like an opening track just from the intro too!  Now getting past that, I wasn’t surprised that YESTERDAY LOVE is more on the fringes of delving into EDM as Mai-K has been kind of toying around the genre for quite some time now.  I always love Mai’s lower range as it’s more wispy and just soft to listen to and then adding the sort Eurodance flow is just an interesting combination.  Definitely a good way to kick the album off.

2. Mystery Hero

Kind of surprised that after the first track, we’d immediately go into a ballad with Mystery Hero and boy it starts off slow with just Mai’s light vocals with some piano melody.  I was wondering throughout the song’s length if there was going to be any changes or additions to the arrangement, but no, Mystery Hero is entirely what I described above…a VERY simple ballad.  We just went from cool opening track to sheer boredom the next, I’m kind of worried now lol…

3. Garasu no Bishou

Luckily, things pickup a bit with our next track and acoustic guitar is added to the piano in its intro before the beats kick in.  Now, this song actually feels like something from her pre-“DIAMOND WAVE” days in which Mai was focused more on R&B and the soulful side of things.  For as softspoken the song comes off as, it feels ultimately short, but has a nice fade-out ending (which is rare for me to enjoy songs that close out that way to begin with).  Still, kind of generic, but also not entirely without merit as it’s soothing and Mai normally suits this style perfectly.

4. OPEN L♡VE

Oh?  We’re using heart symbols now?  Talk about random right?  The tune kicks off with plucked strings and turns into a little more urban R&B, but only a smidge more than it was in “Garasu no Bishou”.  I feel like this was a song that was left of something like “FAIRY TALE” that focused on more of mixing her R&B elements into something a bit more funkier.  I do like how cute it’s coming off and once again, something Mai has done before, but at least here it’s a somewhat decent track!

5. SAWAGELIFE

Then comes the 2nd Digital single she released (July 2016) and another Meitantei Conan theme, SAWAGELIFE is a pretty different direction for the album to take by heading more for a rock n’ roll type of track (something I haven’t really heard since “Ichibyou Goto ni Love for you”) and it’s a welcoming change of pace and trying to push away from the norms this album has churned out already.  I do feel like her voice had been uplifted to actually stand out from the arrangement (because normally her voice isn’t quite loud enough to handle guitars and drums and all that).  I do like the catchiness of the track and she’s having a blast, but some of the notes in the chorus are rough and the spelling in the bridge is a bit campy for my tastes lol.

6. I Like It

I’m going to assume that this was promoted (since there’s a whole 2nd disc surrounding its remix).  I do enjoy the kind of latin vibe I got from it, mixed with some saxophone thrown in for kicks.  There’s something about the song is screaming fun and Mai is definitely in her space and she’s throwing a little more spice (especially how she tackles the chorus).  I dug this track quite a bit and has a lot of passion and fire to it!

7. MY VICTORY

Oh hey, we’re going back to EDM-ish tracks now?  Well, MY VICTORY might not have the flow as “YESTERDAY LOVE” did, but it does have a nice beat and Mai is once again showing a bit more fire in her delivery of the lyrics (even some small rap).  It is a little formulaic, but I found the song to be decent enough to stick out on the album.

8. Serendipity

Then we have what technically kicked the era off with the 2015 digital single, Serendipity.  Considering it’s about 2 years old, this song is kind of chintzy just like “OPEN♡LOVE” and it tries to come off as light and breezy of a song and while I give props to Mai’s adorable syncopation of saying ~serendipity~, the tune otherwise kind of feels bland to me.  Meh…

9. Make that change

Oh?  Two rock songs on the album this time?  Yup, unlike “SAWAGELIFE”, Make that change sounds a bit more like garage rock and a LOT more like “Ichibyou Goto ni Love for you”, but a smidge anison and also a bit more powerful.  I REALLY enjoyed this performance though and Mai let her hair loose and just having a fun time with this song and I ended up rockin’ out to it.  Great song!

10. Tell me why

Next up is Tell me why and just like “Garusu no Bishou”, it’s a bit of a nostalgic kind of song for her fans as it goes back to her earlier days as a full-time R&B artist.  Going from the amount of layering going on in her vocals to the simplistic arrangement.  Not a bad song persay, but nothing I would really come back to for another listen.

11. My way

As we’re getting towards the end of the album, I wonder why My way wasn’t chosen as the end song because it’s another ballad from Mai.  Luckily unlike the boredom I had with “Mystery Hero”, My way at least has strings to try to alleviate some of my first impressions.  Though midway through the song, it adds some R&B beats and then it kind of jumps back to being a snoozefest…not quite as much as the aforementioned track but still boring nonetheless.

12. Kimi e no Uta

Yeah, chosen as the ending of the first disc, I suppose Kimi e no Uta suited being the last track, but not quite as fitting as “My way” does.  Unlike the other mid-tempo/ballads of this album, Kimi e no Uta has a nice boom-clap-boom kind of sound going on and a positive feel going on.  I do love the addition of the guitar present and Mai’s wispy vocals are nice to hear here.  Nice ending though, a bit better than what I was expecting.

CD2

1. I Like It (Remix)

I really hate that Mai is doing it again with the 2nd disc being only 1 TRACK!  Waste of plastic if you ask me.  So taking a song that I really liked on the main disc, the remix of I Like It takes the latin-fusion and replaces it with some beats and a bit more like something Koda Kumi would appreciate.  It’s OK, but didn’t really deserve its own disc (couldn’t fit that on the main album???).

Tracks Recommended

  • Make that change
  • I Like It
  • YESTERDAY LOVE
  • Kimi e no Uta
  • MY VICTORY

Song of Avoidance

  • Mystery Hero

Wow, has it really been over 5 years since her last studio album, “OVER THE RAINBOW” was released?  It definitely didn’t feel that long ago (then again, she did have a best album between the space of the two albums).  Smile is her return to the scene and I’m kind of in the middle here.  It surely didn’t have the magic that her last couple of studio albums had, but there were some gems.  It kind of feels like how I felt with some of her albums after “delicious way”…kind of there, but it’s listenable…also just not sure to put a bland ballad as your 2nd track…a little goofy decision.

 

Mai Kuraki – Muteki na Heart/STAND BY YOU August 23, 2014

Filed under: Mai Kuraki — solarblade @ 1:46 am

mutekinaheart

Track Listing

  1. Muteki na Heart
  2. STAND BY YOU
  3. STAND BY YOU ~Chinese Version~ (feat. A-fu Teng)
  4. Muteki na Heart ~Instrumental~
  5. STAND BY YOU ~Instrumental~

1. Muteki na Heart

I love how Muteki na Heart opens with the electro beat going…that really made me excited for the song!  Like I’ve said in recent times Mai-K’s voice has been starting to take on a different tone and I’m enjoying it!  The feel of the song is definitely in the realm of recent as well and all together made for a pretty strong dance even as far as to throw in a rapping section (which we haven’t seen for a while).  Honestly, its definitely one of her best A-sides in a while!

2. STAND BY YOU

Though the other A-side is kind of more of the pattern we’ve been getting from her last couple of singles.  STAND BY YOU is a pretty simple ballad here and I quite like it surprisingly enough.  I usually might be tire of this because Mai has plenty of these kind of tracks in her discography so it’s rather hard to differentiate them all from each other.  Being a piano/acoustic guitar affair, STAND BY YOU is nice overall…a bit expected but it’s alright.

3. STAND BY YOU ~Chinese Version~ (feat. A-fu Teng)

While I don’t know which edition it comes off of, we get a Chinese Version of the ballad that included another voice from the C-pop singler, A-fu Teng.  The music does sound slightly different (almost more lenient of acoustic guitar) but it could just be me.  The Chinese is pretty nice to listen to, especially from A-fu Teng, but that’s a given.  Overall, it’s a nice bonus and funny that this got the PV over the original.

 

 

Wow, I actually am starting to enjoy Mai’s music!  Muteki na Heart has to be one of my favorite A-sides she’s released in quite a while with the heavy beats and overall fun atmosphere.  STAND BY YOU is kind of the normal ballad experience that we’ve gotten so used to from Mai, but at least the Chinese version is new and different.  Overall not bad of a single!

 

Mai Kuraki – Wake me up February 25, 2014

Filed under: Mai Kuraki — solarblade @ 9:22 pm

wakemeup

Track Listing

  1. Wake me up
  2. always giving my heart
  3. Wake me up ~Instrumental~

1. Wake me up

When I first heard Wake me up, I was tilting my head in confusion because it didn’t sound like Mai-K singing…it’s like the voice was more rich and fuller in comparison to Mai’s typically thin vocals.  Alas, it was Mai and it took me by surprise!  There are traces of those thin areas but it seemed whoever she worked with focused on bringing her voice out.  Then the song became more of a bright dance song which is quite nice for Mai.  It’s a nice change and her voice is something I’d have to get used to, but it’s a good song overall.

2. always giving my heart

Seems like she gets such boring titles for her songs doesn’t it?  Of course with a title like that, it was screaming ballad and that’s what it is here.  Mai’s voice sounds like what I’m used to and she actually sounds real pretty in this song.  Then the song adds a beat and it just reminded me of songs from her first two eras.  It’s alright, but I’m just kind of zoned out from it XD.

 

 

It just seems Mai wants to try to get a more louder tone with her voice and her effort in Wake me up was a solid try, but she does sound a bit honky in areas, but the dance beats were nice…but “TRY AGAIN” did much better.  always giving my heart might be a nostalgic run to the past, but it didn’t leave much of an impression on me.  Be an interesting album when she announces one >.>

 

Mai Kuraki – TRY AGAIN February 6, 2013

Filed under: Mai Kuraki — solarblade @ 12:50 pm

tryagain

Track Listing

  1. TRY AGAIN
  2. Sakura Sakura…
  3. TRY AGAIN -Instrumental-
  4. Sakura Sakura… -Instrumental-

1. TRY AGAIN

This is a bit strange coming into, but it has been a while since I’ve heard something that had a lot of oomph to it like Mai’s TRY AGAIN.  Unlike her past Meitantei Conan themes, this has a lot of synths and Mai-K under autotune!  Since it is one of those odd times that Mai does an upbeat song, it was more than welcomed as it was catchy and Mai deep vocals suited the arrangement!  I was pleasantly surprised by this song.

2. Sakura Sakura…

I’m a bit surprised that Sakura Sakura… wasn’t the chosen A-side considering it’s almost that time of year in Japan.  Add in that it’s a ballad and it’s even more surprising.  I love Mai’s voice in this track as it’s so light and fluffy and she added a lot of emotion here.  Great ballad

After that rather disappointing single prior to this, TRY AGAIN definitely lifted my spirits up for sure.  TRY AGAIN was a great surprise because of not how it’s breaking the line of ballads, but how good it really is!  Sakura Sakura… is for the ballad fans and I actually found myself liking it and it’s just a B-side *gasp*.  Yeah this was a really good single *RECOMMENDS*

 

Mai Kuraki – Koi ni Koishite/Special morning day to you August 14, 2012

Filed under: Mai Kuraki — solarblade @ 3:03 am

Track Listing

  1. Koi ni Koishite
  2. Special morning day to you
  3. Koi ni Koishite (Instrumental)
  4. Special morning day to you (Instrumental)

1. Koi ni Koishite

Working with GIORGIO again, Koi ni Koishite sounds like it was going back to the olden days but then when the long string instrument solo…Koi ni Koishite continues to express the sound that was from her last album, “OVER THE RAINBOW”.  It’s no surprise the song didn’t really do much for me because it kind of sounds like the stuff from said album a bit too much.  The chorus is nice and Mai-K’s vocals are soothing (except for this squeaky high notes) but the song is just not hitting it for me.

2. Special morning day to you

Beyond the terrible title for the song (seriously, can we word this any worse Yoda?), Special morning day to you doesn’t really change the mood much, but the instrumentation has changed from an R&B setting to more of a pop/rock ballad.  I like that it kind of has a certain “touch Me!” flaie to it, but it still doesn’t really catch my eye.

 

 

Starting a new set of singles up, I really wasn’t too phased by the single sadly.  I will say that Special morning day to you stood out more because it had a much stronger atmosphere and sounds rather unique to her style.  Koi ni Koishite kind of suffered from bland syndrome.  I wonder if she’ll bring something more exciting next time.

 

Mai Kuraki – OVER THE RAINBOW January 2, 2012

Filed under: Mai Kuraki — solarblade @ 4:41 pm

Track Listing

  1. Strong Heart
  2. another day * another world
  3. Sayonara wa Mada Iwanai de ~album ver.~
  4. Stay the same
  5. Your Best Friend
  6. Mou Ichido
  7. Brave your heart feat. Alex Lu
  8. Sun will shine on u
  9. Love one another
  10. step by step
  11. 1000 Mankai no Kiss
  12. La La La * La

1. Strong Heart

The album kicks things off with the 4th and final single (albeit DVD single) in the era with Strong Heart.  Seeing as GIORGIO13 produced the song, it does remind me of the bland stuff that I had to deal with on AYUSE KOZUE’s most recent album so coming back to this is surprising because it’s rather nice and fits Mai-K’s rather thin vocal abilities.  The usage of electric guitar also kind of makes it stand out amongst the amount of songs Mai has that are in this general area so it’s a good song overall and nice intro to the album.

2. another day * another world

The first new track on the album, another day * another world is kind of Mai-K’s usual dance track and I kind of like it here since the synths are rather deep and gritty.  I’m also hearing Mai singing a bit more louder and deeper than usual which is kind of new to my ears but that’s good to me.  I’m not sure if she’s trying to be sexy in this song but whatever she’s aiming for I kind of like it a lot.  Though I hear a little auto-tune used here >.>

3. Sayonara wa Mada Iwanai de ~album ver.~

All but one B-side made the album cut (“Kimi no Koe”).  Sayonara wa Mada Iwanai de was originally the B-side from “1000 Mankai no Kiss” and it’s the only song that’s been edited for the album and it’s definitely for the better.  It sounds a lot fuller and with the added background support for Mai in the chorus it actually feels like a completed version (even though I did like the original as well, but this is more cleaned up and made better). 

4. Stay the same

I’m not sure what she was trying to do with this song because it’s rather unorthodoxily cute for Mai-K here since she’s singing in a higher tone than she has been in the previous songs.  I mean it sounds like a mash of a Juliet and an AAA song which is yikes on a stick.  I give her props for trying this thought but it’s not my kind of song unfortunately.

5. Your Best Friend

Since the next few songs are ballads, I’m kind of not really interested in this part of the album.  The first one is Mai’s 3rd A-side released and longest track on the album, almost reaching 6 minutes.  Like I said on the single review, Mai’s vocals give me dejavu since it sounds like Kanayan’s vocals in many places of the song.  Doesn’t help that the song sounds like something Kana would have done as well.  Yeah, it’s a kind of meh song…and long one at that too.

6. Mou Ichido

I don’t know if it was a smart idea to place Mou Ichido right after “Your Best Friend” but it is what it is…  At least it lacks an R&B beat at the first minute and the song is a more depressing vibe even though it grows from that.  A little nostalgic ballad here and I liked it a lot more than the previous song at least!

7. Brave your heart feat. Alex Lu

I didn’t think she’d do a collaboration with Alex Lu (who if I’m correct is a C-pop singer) but as the third ballad in a row, I was kind of getting sleepy and this one at least made me pay attention since it’s a strong ballad from her.  It’s a simple tune with strings, acoustic guitar, and piano so that should tell you.  Both Mai and Alex sound really nice even though the broken English is kind of distracting eh? 😄  Nice tune!

8. Sun will shine on u

Kind of speeding a little but still basically a ballad, Sun will shine on u is like how I feel about “Mou Ichido” in the way that it’s kind of nostalgic to her older works but at the same I’m kind of not liking this as much because she hits some sour notes in the chorus…it really shows her weakness in her vocals which is not good in this case. 

9. Love one another

Finally things move out of the ballad zone with Love one another.  I have to say I love the song since it has such a different atmosphere than any other song present on the album.  I mean the whole tribal/nature-esque feel of the song is so unique and Mai’s vocals really has this soothing tone that just made this song basically perfect.  It’s definitely the best song off the album, hands down!

10. step by step

I’m curious to why this wasn’t up more closer towards the beginning of the album since it sounds like it’d fit better there than in between “Love one another” and “1000 Mankai no Kiss”.  It’s prolly the heaviest of the songs here and that kind of surprises me (especially after the amount of them on “FUTURE KISS”).  I think it’s catchy and totally deserved its placement on the album.

11. 1000 Mankai no Kiss

As the first A-side released after “FUTURE KISS”, 1000 Mankai no Kiss is kind of oddly placed since it feels like it would’ve sound better being after “Brave your heart”.  Unlike the other ballad A-sides, this is a bit more dramatic on its presentation and I liked that about this tune despite everything afterwards was rather disappointing.  Funny that it’s actually my favorite A-side of the era.

12. La La La * La

I’m surprised Mai-K would end the album with a synth track…it kind of seems rather unusual since “1000 Mankai no Kiss” makes a better closing track than La La La * La.  Besides the odd placement, the song isn’t bad actually since it suits her light vocals quite well.  Kind of reminds me of the songs in her last album actually. 

Tracks Recommended

  • Love one another
  • Sayonara wa Mada Iwanai de ~album ver.~
  • La La La * La
  • 1000 Mankai no Kiss
  • step by step

Song of Avoidance

  • Sun will shine on u

Kicking 2012 releases (and because it leaked rather early!), OVER THE RAINBOW is definitely a disappointment after how much she was getting better since joining NORTHERN MUSIC.  “FUTURE KISS” remains her peak album on this label for me.  The problem with this was that this era was a bit full of weak songs (B-sides were stronger for some reason).  Add in that most of the ballads were smushed in the middle and that wasn’t a smart move in my opinion.  I don’t know, this album didn’t have as much spark to it than her last IMO.

 

Mai Kuraki – Strong Heart November 22, 2011

Filed under: Mai Kuraki — solarblade @ 8:29 am

Track Listing

  1. Strong Heart
  2. Kimi no Koe
  3. Strong Heart -Instrumental-
  4. Doushite Suki Nandarou ~winter ver.~ (Limited edition only)

1. Strong Heart

Starting this interesting release, we get the A-side in Strong Heart and I’m so happy that it’s not just a ballad like her previous singles of the era.  It does sound interesting with its usage of electric guitar mixed in with it’s R&B styling.  Mai-K sounds really pleasant like she always does but with an upbeat feel, it’s even moreso better here.  It’s catchy and really pretty.  Great A-side.

2. Kimi no Koe

Unfortunately, Kimi no Koe is a ballad and we’ve had quite enough of those in this era as it is so it’s pretty tough to choose where it stands.  I do think that the beat is trying to make due and try to have it sound good.  It’s pleasant in some places but she doesn’t do well on those high notes in the song IMO.  It’s passable, but damn I don’t think it ranks high on her crazy amounts of ballads she has already.

3. Doushite Suki Nandarou ~winter ver.~

Weird single has a second disc and it features a new version of Doushite Suki Nandarou, which was NERDHEAD’s second single.  Which means I have not heard the original.  Just by guessing from the tag, it’s a more jolly christmasy type song with jingle bells.  Mai-K sounds really pleasant in the song as she’s using her deeper tone here.  It’s a little weird hearing rapping in song like this but it’s whatever. 

 

 

A DVD single?  Really???  Well, I guess I can see the point (not really from looking at what’s on the release).  Strong Heart actually is a strong song and I hope it makes her album (which should be her next release).  Kimi no Koe is kind of boring and doesn’t really rank up there with her past ballads.  I can see why Doushite Suki Nandarou would be here since the producer of this single is 1/3 of NERDHEAD.  Overall, it’s a solid release…but I hope this is the last of the era.