Kurayami Monogatari

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Koda Kumi – W FACE ~outside~ April 19, 2017

Filed under: Koda Kumi — solarblade @ 3:42 am

wfaceoutside

Track Listing

  1. W FACE
  2. Ultraviolet
  3. insane
  4. Damn real
  5. Heartless
  6. Bassline
  7. Shhh!
  8. Bangerang
  9. Wicked Girls
  10. Cupcake feat. AKLO

1. W FACE

~Yes bitch, yes bitch, yes bitch, SLAY!~…Really now?  Hey, I could commend Kuu for opening this album on a kick.  I was thinking the song was going to be harder just from the intro, but W FACE is a little more mellow than I expected, but it does have its moments like the deep bass runs and trap rolls in the hook.  The verses though are smooth and cool.  It’s not a song that’s going to really hit the spot like older intros, but I appreciated the change overall!  Cool track!

2. Ultraviolet

After the cool first track, we enter Ultraviolet and one of the four songs chosen to promote the album from this disc solely.  Continuing from Kuu’s normal edgy and sassy songs, Ultraviolet feels like a K-pop song for some reason, but I kind of enjoy the music and the attitude is once again at the forefront (including some humorous machine gun impressions).  Interesting song overall!

3. insane

For a song titled as such, I was ready for something wild, but insane is a bit slower than “Ultraviolet” was.  A lot of Kuu’s urban pop tendencies make their appearance and I was quite interested in every turn the song took.  There are some points where Kuu seems to try a little to hard vocally (like the straining and nasal high tones, she pulls).  Still, the song is powerful and in your face mixed in with some desperation.  This is a song that will definitely grow on me in the long run even with its discrepancies and the PV helped too!.

4. Damn real

Ahhhh, I like that low bass that opens up our next track.  I even appreciated the low energy vibe of this song as it gives off this chill, yet uneasy setting with that track.  Though I was hoping the song would keep this sound for the whole way through, but the chorus (beat drops) happens and it’s like a very odd trappish mess.  Plus the repetition of ~do, do, do~ just gives me a headache from an otherwise cool ass track.

5. Heartless

Like with “inside” I wasn’t expecting ballads on this album, but there’s one here and Heartless is that track.  Funny enough, it has a REALLY simple arrangement of just piano and Kuu’s emotion-drenched vocals which funny enough worked better than it did on 90% of the other album which says a lot here.  There’s one point where I felt that Kuu’s emotions got the better of her and she cried a little bit.  This is probably her best ballad in quite a while IMHO.

6. Bassline

So drifting away from that emotional bomb, we move back into more upbeat tracks starting with Bassline.  Right from the start, the song feels a bit like a mix of “Ultraviolet” and “Damn real” with the mellower groove, but some interesting throws of sax in there.  There’s just something that’s so cool and clubbish (but muted).  Funky track overall and a good choice to get a PV

7. Shhh!

As the only A-side to really represent the album, Shhh! was a nice refreshing jump back to upbeat Kuu and on the album, it really pops out of nowhere thanks to its boom-clap arrangement and her epic first line!  I feel like of all the songs on this album, this track feels like something she would’ve popped out around the “Kingdom” era and I love the kind of throwback feel it has.  I enjoyed this song a lot and has grown a lot more since the single’s release!!

8. Bangerang

It feels like Kuu is loving saxes on this album, but I’m not complaining because it’s an awesome instrument to include in songs.  Bangerang I thought was going to be upbeat but after the introduction, the song drops and because a slower, sexier track that has a bit more punch.  I do think it could’ve been a smidge faster, but the crawling arrangement and lead-up to the chorus is nice (if not a bit mechanical).  Nice track overall though!

9. Wicked Girls

The 4th and final track to get a PV, Wicked Girls caught me attention early with the groovy arrangement, but after going through the album, I feel like this song could’ve had some worked done with it, but the chorus really is sassy and Kuu just always knows how to give it the right amount of punch.  Though I do find it funny once again that Kuu’s Engrish has slightly gotten better, but not enough because it feels like she’s saying ~weakened girls~ or ~weekend girls~.  Still a fun club song to really lose yourself to.

10. Cupcake feat. AKLO

Kind of funny that it begins with a cat meowing, but the final track, Cupcake feels very trappy and more urban than other songs on the album.  Not sure how to feel about this one, but she can pull off this darker vibe of this song.  AKLO doesn’t sound half bad in his rap either, so I feel happy that I can enjoy this more.  Although, its funny as hell as this song is called Cupcake and just feels anything but sugary xD.  Though I’m more surprised it’s a little over 2 minutes…Short huh?

Tracks Recommended

  • Heartless
  • Shhh!
  • W FACE
  • insane
  • Wicked Girls

Song of Avoidance

  • Damn real

Not surprised that I was more impressed by outside!  I mean already from the fact that it was going to be mostly upbeat and cool songs from Kuu helped me into this one.  I mean all of the tracks were good (Damn real, was only on the bottom because its chorus was terrible…).  Honestly, this is a pretty cool album overall and Kuu has finally found something to latch on to. *RECOMMENDED*

As a dual release, was it necessary?  I mean altogether 20 tracks is nothing unheard of in Kuu land so I was surprised she’d pull a Beyoncé “I Am…Sasha Fierce” situation.  Like both albums though, this concept fell flat when half the album was amazing and the other was just a snoozefest.  I would actually recommend W FACE ~inside~ just for the more stronger output.

 

Koda Kumi – W FACE ~inside~

Filed under: Koda Kumi — solarblade @ 2:01 am

wfaceinside

Track Listing

  1. BRIDGET SONG
  2. Bring It On
  3. Yorokobi no Kakera
  4. Stand By You
  5. Sukideshite
  6. Kimi Omoi
  7. On My Way
  8. What’s Up
  9. Promise you
  10. My Fun

1. BRIDGET SONG

Opening the album up, Kuu brings us BRIDGET SONG (which was used as promotional material, for this half of this album).  Considering that Kuu loves to open with a banger on majority of her albums, it’s a surprise that BRIDGET SONG is anything but.  Instead of a booty popper, we have something that’s akin to her more poppier and softer songs that seem to be more album fodder.  I do enjoy the bright atmosphere of the song and the more acoustic/piano-laced arrangement is pleasant on the ears.  Still getting used to this being the opening, but it’s a nice introduction.

2. Bring It On

I was kind of expecting that Kuu do have split the albums between light pop songs and ballads and her more badass songs on “outside”, but it seems I was heavily wrong because Bring It On is quite the edgy rock track for Kuu to release.  It’s been a while since I’ve heard Kuu release something that has this much power and fierce attitude to it.  Makes me think of “FREAKY” and “Ningyo-hime” to “Can We Go Back”.  I thought this song was a surprise and strange coming after “BRIDGET SONG” to say the least.

3. Yorokobi no Kakera

Which is made even weirder that Yorokobi no Kakera , a ballad, would come right after.  Kuu’s 3rd track on the album really saps the energy from what was made from the previous track to give us a straight up piano/strings/a. guitar ballad.  Sadly, with an artist that has such a back catalog filled with many, many ballads it does feel like she’s just going for the flow here.  Sadly, this feels like a song she’s done MANY times before and it just doesn’t really stick out to me.

4. Stand By You

Yup, it gets even more quieter with our next track, Stand By You.  While it feels mostly the same instruments in its arrangement, the song feels more quieter and slow-driven in comparison to “Yorokobi no Kakera”.  A near 6 minute affair, Stand By You unlike the previous track feels like Kuu put a little more effort in her performance and I have to say she still sounds pristine and wonderful as a balladeer when she’s given a track that actually works in her favor.  I liked it quite a bit and the background vocals were a nice inclusion too…a much better-handled ballad!

5. Sukideshite

At least things don’t get into a crawl as we enter our next track, Sukideshite.  I do like the slight urban/jazzy feel of the song and it kind of retains the same light and fluffiness that “BRIDGET SONG” had funny enough.  I think whenever Kuu does cuter songs, they’re quite hit or miss a lot of the times.  Sukideshite is a case where it’s not an offensive track to listen to and makes for a nice easy listen.  Though I feel it runs in the middle between the greats and the not-so-greats cute songs Kuu has done.

6. Kimi Omoi

As the oldest track in the dual release, Kimi Omoi originally came from the “FEVER” limited release before “WALK OF MY LIFE” released.  Then it was a B-side off the “Shhh!” single where it was slightly updated for the single.  Not sure if I would’ve added it, but it’s technically the lone B-side released in the era, so it makes sense.  The song itself never caught on though and it’s apparent on this album that it’s just fluff for the album.  Kind of there, but not really allotting to much in the overall.

7. On My Way

Now I feel like majority of the album is ballads now and now makes a little more sense with the split dual release.  On My Way is at a weird middle where it’s a ballad, but it has a driving beat to push it along without it feeling dead.  I do like Kuu’s vocals in the song, but the track is a bit of a snoozefest sadly.

8. What’s Up

At least there’s another track that works to wake me up from the monotony and I wasn’t expecting a punk/pop sog ala Avril Lavigne-esque arrangement with gritty guitars and a heavy push of the drums involved.  Kuu actually sounds like she was having with this track and I approve as there wasn’t a lot on this disc.  It’s definitely a summer track and honestly it’s one of the better ones in her collection (much better than “Hashire!” that’s for sure).  What a fun song to come across!

9. Promise you

The only other song that was given a PV from this disc, Promise you was definitely chosen to represent the ballad of the 6 chosen to be given a PV.  It’s another simple ballad initially, but there’s a bit of a Kuu-esque groove to it to kind of give it more life.  At least the chorus is a bit more lively with more instrumentation giving it flow and color.  I can easily imagine this used in an encore in one of her tours for sure and I like the chants in it, maybe my favorite of the ballads on this album.

10. My Fun

The album ends off with My Fun and while I thought it was going to be more poppy and cute, My Fun is another light track, but funny enough has children involved (at least that’s what I think that is XD, but they’re WAY OFF the marker xD).  The song itself does get better the longer it goes on, but I feel My Fun is lacking a certain spark IMO, but I’m not sure how to make the song better either so, it’s a strange juxtaposition.

Tracks Recommended

  • What’s Up
  • Bring It On
  • Stand By You

Song of Avoidance

  • On My Way

Starting with the first half of the album, W FACE ~inside~ is a little bit weak on its own merits.  Despite having a couple upbeat songs to prevent it from being entirely a snoozefest, it wasn’t enough to completely rid of the z’s that it was creating on me.  I knew that it would be split this way, but I was happily surprised to see the top 2 tracks appear.  Overall, I wasn’t too impressed here, but let’s see how “outside” will fare!

 

°C-ute – To Tomorrow/Final Squall/The Curtain Rises March 20, 2017

Filed under: C-ute — solarblade @ 3:46 pm

totomorrow

Track Listing

  1. To Tomorrow
  2. Final Squall
  3. The Curtain Rises
  4. To Tomorrow (Instrumental)
  5. Final Squall (Instrumental)
  6. The Curtain Rises (Instrumental)

1. To Tomorrow

Opening the single up is To Tomorrow and I assumed this song would’ve been a ballad, but it’s actually not so much, but more of a sentimental upbeat poppy track for the group in a similar vein as to a mix of “EVERYDAY Zekkouchou!!” and “Ai wa Maru de Seidenki”.  Though I feel like I’m a little disappointed in the use of synth horns and the track comes off a bit cheesy sounding, especially in the chorus.  It’s really not my favorite A-side here…

2. Final Squall

The first track to be revealed for the single, Final Squall is basically “Tsugi no Kado wo Magare” from the mix of rock and flowing strings to the tempo and beat.  While I’ll always like the aforementioned song, Final Squall seems to really only pickup in its chorus which is actually kind of cool to listen to.  I think it’ll grow on me with more listens, but I can say it’s at least a stronger song than “To Tomorrow” was.

3. The Curtain Rises

At least we have an upbeat dance track to close the single out with The Curtain Rises and just like all of their other synth-driven tracks, this one is quite cool and the members really stick out and they just have a lot of power in their performance in this track (I could’ve lived without the rap break though).  Overall, the best track the single has to offer here!

Coming into this single knowing it’s °C-ute’s final single is quite sad since I’ve been following them for quite a long time and like Berryz before, this group has always seemed to surprise me with their power in both vocals & dance so it’s sad that they’re disbanding in the wake of all the other new H!P acts starting to find their niche.

The single itself to me (disregarding that it’s their final) is actually kind of subpar to slightly mediocre to me.  I feel like we were spoiled with the previous two singles (though their last one “Mugen Climax/Ai wa Maru de Seidenki/Singing ~Ano Koro no You ni~” was only really epic due to just Mugen Climax) I feel like this single is rather safe.  To Tomorrow was cheesy as hell and bored me, Final Squall is essentially “Tsugi no Kado wo Magare part deux, and The Curtain Rises while good on its own, seems to be slightly out of place and doesn’t really come close to the group’s best work…so overall…it’s a meh single for me…but with the rumor of a best album (like what Berryz did for their final release), I’m hoping for something truly interesting.

 

Morning Musume ’17 – BRAND NEW MORNING/Jealousy Jealousy February 27, 2017

Filed under: Morning Musume — solarblade @ 4:41 pm

brandnewmorning

Track Listing

  1. BRAND NEW MORNING
  2. Jealousy Jealousy
  3. Morning Misoshiru (SP Edition only)
  4. Get you! (SP Edition only)
  5. BRAND NEW MORNING (Instrumental)
  6. Jealousy Jealousy (Instrumental)

1. BRAND NEW MORNING

As the debut song for 13th Gen, BRAND NEW MORNING seems like it signifies that this is a shift for a new era since half of the 9th left.  As another EDM song to put in their discography, I feel like this one is a little bit different and a bit more aggressive than I thought it would be.  I also love the kind of powerful march-like atmosphere to the kind of Arabian-esque verses which was something unexpected from the group.  As for lines, you have the usual suspects like Duu, Sakura, and Fukuchan, but there’s also a good line for Eripon and of course solos for the 2 new girls; Kaede and Reina.  What I can say is that Yokoyan oddly reminds me of Zukki’s voice (deep and a smidge hoarse) and Kaedii well…a powerhouse.  It’s definitely a favorite of mine and a great debut for our new generation.  If you’re curious, Maachan is actually absent in the A-side (she’s on a break due to a herniated disc in her back).

2. Jealousy Jealousy

The other A-side is a bit more funk-laced with brass elements and strings!  I definitely wasn’t expecting this to be the other A-side, but it’s a nice break from the usual.  There’s still some EDM elements present, but not quite at the level of “BRAND NEW MORNING”.  Also it seems that 13th Gen are not quite as up front as the other track, but I’m fine with that!  I do like that it’s Ayumi, Miki, Sakura, and Mizuki at the front of the song and even better is that the track has some rapping sections (focusing most on Miki & Ayumi).  It’s a fun song and brings back so spice to the group!

3. Morning Misoshiru

So a little backstory, this was a song initially created to promote Miso soup in Japan (with all the members having a specific flavor, including Maachan who is actually in both B-sides of the single!).  Morning Misoshiru is essentially a remake of Momusu’s major debut, “Morning Coffee” but with one lyric changed in the choruses (which to me screams lazy).  The arrangement was also updated, but not very much.  To be fair, I do prefer the original over this one, but it’s mostly the vocals that kind of did it for me.  Still, it’s nice to hear Masaki’s voice after missing it in the A-sides.  Overall, it may be the beginning to celebrate the group’s 20th anniversary!

4. Get you!

Last but not least, we have the 2nd B-side and this one is pretty out of the blue.  Announced back on Christmas last year, the group was going to collaborate with Rino Sashihara from AKB48 for a song on their upcoming album, “Thumbnail”.  That said, the song is arranged by Akimoto which means the song might not be quite as exciting as it should be.  Though what’s interesting is that this is a “single version” so to speak as this one focuses more on the Morning Musume members.  I do think the group sounds decent, but at the same time I felt like because of the arrangement and overall feel, it almost feels a smidge generic.  Not all can be winners I guess…

Their first single of the year, Momusu did a pretty good job ushering in our new generation of girls Kaede Kaga & Reina Yokoyama.  BRAND NEW MORNING is more EDM, but it did focus on the new girls quite a bit and it’s just an interesting song all-around while Jealousy Jealousy is something different and focuses more on our existing members and pushes Miki quite a bit (like how “Sou Janai” did for Maria).  The lack of Masaki in the A-sides is a bit disappointing, but it’s for her to get healthy again and return!  As for the B-sides, it feels like they were kind of thrown in just to make the SP edition a thing to get.  Morning Misoshiru is just a smidge lazy and Get you! feels like a forgettable AKB song (doesn’t help that Akimoto had arranged it…).  I’m sure it feels like the group may release a best album due to the 20th anniversary going on…and BOY ARE THEY DUE FOR AN ALBUM of sorts…

 

AAA – WAY OF GLORY February 24, 2017

Filed under: AAA — solarblade @ 6:26 am

wayofglory

Track Listing

  1. WAY OF GLORY
  2. NEW
  3. S.O.L.
  4. Jewel
  5. OVER
  6. Interlude
  7. LEAP of FAITH
  8. Dangerous Gamble
  9. MAGIC
  10. Namida no nai Sekai
  11. Cocoa
  12. Yell
  13. Calling

1. WAY OF GLORY

Kicking the album off is the title track and boy it starts off in a pleasant and lifting kind of way with some strings and light various other instruments.  The song grows into a more upbeat track, but still containing the same motifs as the verses do which is nice and I’m liking the choruses a bit as its lively and just in a happy place for the group.  Like MANY of their other songs, Hidaka’s solo part is a bit out of place here since his rapping section sounds like a totally different piece of music.  I enjoyed it for the most part and sets up for the next track.

2. NEW

As the first single released for the album, NEW definitely picked my interest up a LOT after their disappointing last album, but it wasn’t without some disappointing factors.  Like “WAY OF GLORY” it’s upbeat and positive sounding and feels like a nice summer song.  What I hated most though was that most of the song is filtered so it sounds so much like it’s being played like how it would on a portable radio.  I wished they had omitted it and made an (album version) out of it, but sadly it never came.

3. S.O.L.

Moving to our next new song (that isn’t titled “NEW”), S.O.L., definitely is a throwback to some of their more carefree pop track from their first 3 albums and I appreciate the nostalgic vibes.  It has a vibe that really reminds me of “Friday Party!” and “Kirei na Sora” fused together.  It’s poppy and just has quite a fun vibe that made up for the mistake in “NEW”.  I also noticed a lot of Chiaki in the track as well!  Groovy track and one of the better ones the album had to offer.

4. Jewel

I’m surprised they included the B-sides on the album (even if there was only 3 singles and one didn’t even have a true B-side anyways).  Anywho, Jewel was the B-side from “Namida no nai Sekai” and was a duet track between Chiaki & Misako.  Unlike most of the album, Jewel is a bit more EDM-ish, but also a smidge like bubblegum pop.  Like I said back in the single review, I like the ladies singing in their lower range for the verses and then grow in the chorus.  I still have this pulling feeling that the song is missing something to make it great, but I did enjoy this!

5. OVER

Sung by Urata, Hidaka, and Shuta, OVER, I was kind of expecting a harder track between the trio, but OVER is poppy with some hip-hop elements.  I do think Hidaka works his magic in this song and he did a pretty good job at it and Shuta also has a LOT of presence here and it’s great to see how much he’s grown.  The tune itself feels messy in places, but the choruses and bridge have a solid melody and the beat is faster and up-front versus the rest of the track.  Not bad, but could’ve been better.

6. Interlude

I was wondering if this was going to be the same interlude that was somehow a thing back on the “NEW” single since that also came before our next track.  Luckily, despite having the same length, it is a different interlude here.  This interlude is very ethereal and flowing and had a beat to it before it drops to some quietness and then returning with a bigger glow.  Short track at a minute, but between the two, this kind of suits “LEAP of FAITH” better in the long run.

7. LEAP of FAITH

The B-side from “NEW” comes next and I was happy to be getting another dance track returning since the last good one was “PARTY IT UP” and that was a while ago.  It does begin quietly and slowly before it builds to its powerful chorus, but LEAP of FAITH showed that AAA wasn’t quite done with EDM tracks and I LOVED IT!  Add on that the track has a LOT of English here (a good portion at that!).  I also really liked that Shinji and Shuta took leads here.  Definitely a great track to have been included and funny enough my favorite on the album!

8. Dangerous Gamble

Maybe it’s me, but I wasn’t like the LQ sounding feel of Dangerous Gamble (a duet between Nissy and Shinji).  It has similar veins as “MAGIC” by including brass and a bit more of a classy Vegas-y vibe to it.  Throw in some weird surfer pop vibes and you get this track.  I’m not sure why, but this song doesn’t quite catch me as other songs on the album had.  Like “Jewel”, there’s just something missing…

9. MAGIC

Interesting that “Dangerous Gamble” came right before this track because the similarities are just so striking (though this features all 7 members).  As the last single released for the album, I haven’t had too much time with MAGIC, but it’s still my favorite of the A-sides released as it brought back that energy and fun side that AAA was somewhat lacking in their last album.  It’s a groovy and jazzy song and just was a nice addition to the album.

10. Namida no nai Sekai

Then we move back to the 2nd A-side of the album and it’s the ballad, Namida no nai Sekai.  Coming back to this, I was surprised to hear that the song was sung mostly by the guys of the group (with the ladies joining in the bridge).  The song itself had potential to be quite nice, but I feel like it was ruined a bit by the lack of the ladies and Hidaka’s odd rap.  Though being the only ballad of the album, I suppose it’s does its job.

11. Cocoa

Interestingly chosen as the promotional song for the album, Cocoa is another Chiaki/Misako duet.  Unlike “Jewel”, Cocoa has a bit more of a natural sounding arrangement, but still feels like something us Westerners would have heard in the 2000s.  That said, this song also felt like it could’ve been so much more, but I ended up feeling a bit bored by it mostly because of the duo not sounding like they weren’t really interested in singing it.  Kind of meh overall…

12. Yell

The other B-side from “Namida no nai Sekai” made the cut and it was a pretty OK choice, but I was kind of almost right in the way that it’s more towards the end of the album.  I do like how this album just feels like many of the songs have this upbeat, hopeful kind of feel going for it.  Yell reminds me of like a synthier sounding “WAY OF GLORY” actually and it’s interesting that they are at separate points in the album.  I like it though and it has grown a little since the single review.

13. Calling

Finally, we have the final track which is also the last new album track here.  I swear when I saw the title that the group already had a song called this, but I found out I mixed “CALL” and “SAILING” together…  Anyways, about Calling, the song is another track that’s just in the same vein like “WAY OF GLORY” and “Yell” in the kind of poppy upbeat arrangement and positive lyrics.  I’m a bit surprised 3 similar sounding songs ended up on the album together and it just made Calling very bland and uneventful for a closing track, making me wish “Yell” was the final track.  At least the chorus is decent, but otherwise…something I’ve heard already earlier.

Tracks Recommended

  • LEAP of FAITH
  • S.O.L.
  • MAGIC
  • NEW
  • Yell

Song of Avoidance

  • Dangerous Gamble

Knowing that anything was going to top their last album, (the 3rd disc from their best album which was yes, credited as an original album) WAY OF GLORY didn’t have to do too much to at least make me notice it.  The album felt like an AAA album and the group sounded more together and interesting this time around even if there were some mediocre songs.  Sadly, this is Chiaki Ito’s last album with the group before her graduation (and pregnancy).  Curious to see what 6-nin AAA are going to do…but this is the last from a GREAT iteration of AAA.

 

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.

 

Ai Otsuka – Watashi February 22, 2017

Filed under: Ai Otsuka — solarblade @ 4:38 pm

watashiai

Track Listing

  1. Watashi
  2. Sakura Harahara
  3. Joshi Shelter
  4. Watashi (Instrumental)
  5. Sakura Harahara (Instrumental)
  6. Joshi Shelter (Instrumental)

1. Watashi

As the leading track of the single, Watashi is actually quite nice and something that just isn’t a total balad, but something more along the lines of an upbeat tune.  It’s been a while since I’ve heard Ai-chin sounding like something from her first three albums. I do think the best part of the song is its choruses where the beat takes over and the tune goes to an fun and upbeat area.  Maybe not her most striking A-side, but it’s pretty good!

2. Sakura Harahara

Our next track, I have to say was something I wasn’t expecting with a spacey arrangement and is that pan flute I hear in different places on top of small snippets of shimasen?  Yeah, the tune is a laidback kind of mid-tempo ballad that throws in some Japanese folk instruments to spice things up.  It’s a slick song and probably my favorite of the single!

3. Joshi Shelter

Though I feel like the other B-side of the single is more like leftovers from “LOVE TRiCKY” due to its dance-centric arrangement, but at the same time, it does feel a little different from her recent happening since it has chanting and it’s got a pretty cool arrangement to add to the dance beats.  Definitely another favorite of the single.

After taking another small break, Ai-chin returns with Watashi and she hasn’t missed a beat as the whole single is very enjoyable to listen to.  Watashi might not be the star of the single, but this is a decent A-side and really makes up for some of her past singles that I wasn’t quite into (plus it does remind me of old Ai-chin music).  Sakura Harahara & Joshi Shelter though were the surprises as both just are unique and really brought back the Ai-chin that takes risks in her music.  With an album coming next, I’m kind of excited to see where her sound rounds up to!