Archive for December 20th, 2007

[Single] YUKI – Wonder Line

01. Wonder Line
02. Wonder Line (Night Swimming Mix)
03. Biscuit (2007.10.06 Live@Osaka-Jo Hall)

~Single Review~
YUKI released, “Wonder Line” on December 12, 2007. Both “Wonder Line” and “Wonder Line (Night Swimming Mix) were used in FOMA N905i CMs. Upon release, “Wonder Line” peaked at number four on the Oricon weekly chart, selling 23,147 in its first week on the charts.

“Wonder Line” is an interesting song with variety. YUKI’s vocals are very different, even when compared to her J-pop peers. Her voice is high and particularly nasal. Nevertheless, she controls that nasality fairly well in this song, which makes a world of difference in the chorus. It’s catchy and upbeat, with the hook “wonder line.” The surreal instrumentation, orchestrated backing, and strong beat really create an excellent J-pop in the end. YUKI’s experience shines through on this track. The only downside to the song would be that YUKI’s voice is a bit high, and the extro is a bit long. But if you can take those “bits,” “Wonder Line” is a good song.

The “Night Swimming Mix” of “Wonder Line” is much more real in it’s instrumentation, opting for mainly strings and piano and a soft bongo beat. The song sounds very pretty, but doesn’t have the power of the original mix of the “Wonder Line.”

“Biscuit” is more of rock song mixed with piano and violins here. Live, YUKI’s voice gains a welcome bit of depth, and the music feels as if it fills the room. YUKI is a musician and that shines through on “Biscuit” as she performs wonderfully. A nice way to round out a wonder of a single.

Considering YUKI’s music can be too stylistic and nasal to listen to, “Wonder Line” is a welcome step towards the mainstream for YUKI.

89% B+


[Single] The Brilliant Green – Enemy


01. Enemy
02. angel song ~Eve no Hitomi~ (acoustic version)
03. Enemy (original instrumental)

~Single Review~
The Brilliant Green released “Enemy” on December 12, 2007. The single peaked at number 21 on the Oricon weekly chart, selling 5,804 copies its first week on sale.

“Enemy’s” best trait is the haunting quality it has throughout the song. The song does well mixing rock with other elements, including an organ in the final bridge. However, that good production does not cover up the vocal weakness in the song. The song may feel haunting, but the vocals sound weak, and at times, strained.

If the vocals were better, the acoustic version of “angel song” may have sounded better. As is, it’s certainly a decent track, but without the haunting rock of “Enemy,” the song is easily forgettable.

79% C+

[Single] Makihara Noriyuki – Akai Mafura/Ogenki de!


01. Akai Mafura (赤いマフラー)
02. Ogenki de! (お元気で!)
03. Akai Mafura (Backing Track)
04. Ogenki de! (Backing Track)

~Single Review~
Makihara Noriyuki closes out his seventeenth year in the Japanese music industry with the single, “Akai Mafura/Ogenki de!,” released December 12, 2007. This single did not match the success of “GREEN DAYS,” only reaching 33 on the Oricon weekly chart when it was released.

“Akai Mufler” is an excellent wintry song with a great variety of instrumentation, from violins to interesting sampled percussion. The track has a nice sound, which makes the song a very pleasant listen.

“Ogenki de!” uses more synth to create a positive song that just sounds happy. The song dings and uses keyboards, but works well mainly because of the mellow vocals. A fun song that isn’t too cutesy by any means. Nary a moment is bland due to the variety in synthetic editing throughout the song.

This single is not as strong as “GREEN DAYS,” but it’s still surprisingly good and well done. If you’re looking for songs that just sound positive, this is the stuff for you. The plus is that Makihara Noriyuki sounds happy without singing in falsetto.

85% B

[Album] BUMP OF CHICKEN – oribital period


01. voyager
02. Hoshi no Tori (星の鳥)
03. Mayday (メーデー)
04. Sainou Hito Ouenka (才悩人応援歌)
05. Planetarium (プラネタリウム)
06. supernova
07. Hammer Song to Itami no Tou (ハンマーソングと痛みの塔)
08. Jikuu Kakurenbo (時空かくれんぼ)
09. Kasabuta Butabu (かさぶたぶたぶ)
10. Hana no Na (花の名)
11. Hitorigoto (ひとりごと)
12. Amedama no Uta (飴玉の唄)
13. Hoshi no Tori reprise (星の鳥)
14. Karma (カルマ)
15. arrows
16. Namida no Furusato (涙のふるさと)
17. flyby

~Album Review~
BUMP OF CHICKEN released their fifth studio album, “oribital period,” on December 19, 2007. On the first day of sales, the album breezed past the competition attaining sales of around 130,000. Powered by the success of the singles “Namida no Furusato,” “Hana no Na,” “Mayday,” “Planetarium, and “supernova/Karma,” “orbital period” is looking to hit the elusive one million sales mark.

“orbital period” starts out with two short intro tracks. The first, “voyager,” features vocals, guitar and the synthetic sound of a “ding.” It’s a nice taste of BUMP OF CHICKEN that leads the listen into the fully instrumental “Hoshi no Tori,” which transitions to the rockier side of BUMP OF CHICKEN mixed with the soaring power of organs and the same celestial synthetic, “ding.” “Hoshi no Tori” does an amazing job of transitioning to “Mayday,” seamlessly flowing into the next song.

BUMP OF CHICKEN’s upbeat songs are quite impressive, and “Mayday” is no exception. If you enjoy upbeat rock, “Mayday” should be the best song on the album for you. The chorus is catchy and the melody is memorable. The vocals sound seasoned and strong, and the rock, despite being quite integral to the song, is never overpowering. The crescendo of the song is beautiful with vocals layered throughout the background creating a great song. The extro is a little prolonged, but then again, the listener does need a cooldown from that hot rock track.

“Sainou Hito Ouenka” is faster, rockier and less poppy. An interesting feature of this fast paced track is the chorus, which features full rock intermingled with a string instrument being played at a frenetic speed. The verse and bridge, while not as full, still feature rock, and move as quick in-betweens for the choruses. The crescendo is most certainly the high point of the song and the ending is nice. “Sainou Hito Ouenka” is a great way to follow up “Mayday” as it maintains momentum, preventing it from being overshadowed.

“Planetarium” is mid-tempo and less rock. Another well done track. The only thing wrong with “Planetarium” would be the feeling that it never quite does anything. The guitar and keyboards sound nice, the beats work, and the melodies memorable enough, but is that enough to make “Planetarium” worth a listen? For acoustic rock listeners, yes.

“supernova” is another slower track with acoustic guitar and drums. The verses are very soft and acoustic, but BUMP OF CHICKEN betrays its identity as a pop group during the choruses, where layered vocals with the backing of many voices enter the scene. The end result is a great song that takes the mid-tempo tracks to the next level.

“Hammer Song to Itami no Tou” is a strong rock track with excellent vocal layering. What sets it apart from the other songs on the album? The track uses interesting elements, such as sampled clapping, to give it a unique feeling. And unlike many of the other tracks, the extro is a strong part of the song, mainly because this track leads into the riffs of “Jikuu Kakurenbo.”

These riffs fade out of the verses and bridges until the chorus, where the song explodes into rock. The rock is overpowering to the vocals, but certainly a nice contrast to the acoustic guitar of the rest of “Jikuu Kakurenbo.” The song climaxes well, and the melody is both memorable and epic. Ending softly, the song transitions well into the next mid-tempo track.

“Kasabuta Butabu” is the first mid-tempo song on the album to use rock guitar riffs throughout the song, replacing the acoustic guitar. The other notable feature of “Kasabuta Butabu” is the singing of a group of voices and the answering by the lead vocalist of BUMP OF CHICKEN. The vocals in the song are notably softer throughout, until the crescendo, where all the vocals merge into one powerful voice.

“Hana no Na” banks off of its vocals and melody; the song feels like it could have been done before a million times. However, BUMP OF CHICKEN does a good job of creating a track that expands throughout its long time. By the time the rock arrives, the melody is in the listeners head, and it makes those final choruses all the sweeter. The ending, while soft, is a nice touch.

“Hitorigoto” is another mid-tempo track that intermingles acoustic and harder rock. The rock choruses are notably better than the verses. Over all, the song is another fine addition to the album, just not great as many of the other tracks.
“Amedama no Uta” has no background vocal layering, and the instrumentation feels bare. This forces one towards the lead vocals, which are strong. Still, this song isn’t as powerful as the other mid-tempo song on the album.

“Hoshi no Tori reprise” is a nice, welcome breather from all of the powerful songs the album has thrown at the listener. But the respite is short-lived. Soon enough, rock riffs come back in with the rock track, “Karma.”

“Karma” is another strong upbeat rock song. The Japanese hook in the song is notably strong, and the melody of the chorus is memorable. The verses keep the pace of the chorus going, while taking a way a lot of the power. The bridges of the song perform well at bridging the gap between the very disparate choruses and verses. At risk of being repetitive, “Karma” ends quite quickly, leaving the listener wanting more.

“arrows” is a decent ballad. Out of all of the songs on the album, “arrows” probably feels the most different, because it is the most acoustic. The choruses sound familiar, however, mainly because they bring back a degree of the layering of the other songs on the “orbital period” album. This expression of diversity in their music is nice, especially since rock music can run the risk of sounding too repetitive, even with lyric and melodic changes. Nevertheless, the song could be stronger.

“Namida no Furusato” feels less pop and much more rock. The vocals edge on screechy rock at some points, but never scream (probably since BUMP OF CHICKEN is mainstream). The song is probably the most powerful mid-tempo rock song on the album and the most stylistic. It successfully keeps the momentum of the album going.

Another welcome interlude, “fly by,” uses acoustic guitar and that celestial “ding” of earlier interludes. It’s a nice lead-in to the final track, “BELIEVE,” if it can be called a track. It’s more of a statement of the album, of its character. There’s no music, and it begins with silence. “BELIEVE” can then be skipped, especially if you don’t understand Japanese.

It’s hard to find a fault with BUMP OF CHICKEN’s “orbital period” because its very well produced, well sung, and well-executed. The only complaint would be that the diversity of the tracks is minimal, which is mainly due to this groups constraint of rock. Considering their genre, they do well at changing things up, although the concentration of mid-tempo tracks is a bit much. This album contains many singles and well done album tracks; in the end, it succeeds at being a well-polished J-rock album that’s surprisingly mainstream.

93% A

[Single] SMAP – Dangan Fighter


1. Dangan Fighter
2. Christmas Night
3. Dangan Figter (Backing Track)
4. Christmas Night (Backing Track)

~Single Review~
This single was released on December 19, 2007 and peaked at number one on the Oricon daily charts. Unlike many other Johnny’s Entertainment releases, “Dangan Fighter” maintained consistent sales its second day, suggesting it may have a potentially long chart life.

“Dangan Fighter” is a very different song for SMAP to sing. The melody is very hard to find and not memorable at all, mainly because the instrumentals are very nontraditional and synth. There is always almost always a beat, but there is never a melody besides the tune that they’re singing. In the end, it doesn’t matter than “Dangan Fighter” has a catchy chorus with the hook “You’re got the power” or “Dangan Fighter-des.” The song ends up as average pop without a feeling a purpose, a definite sub-par A-side from SMAP, as their sales reflect.

“Christmas Night” feels much more traditional for a SMAP song, which is a definite plus. Download sales reflect this, as “Christmas Night” has almost equaled “Dangan Fighter” in download sales on Japan’s leading download store, Chaku-Uta. On the plus side, “Christmas Night” has a melody, even though it is not very memorable. The instrumentation is average, with a piano, guitar, and soft percussion. The bridge leads well into the chorus, which is the well-layered high-light of the song with vocals that push much harder than the rest of the song. Besides a nice, pleasant holiday tune, “Christmas Night” isn’t really much else.

After a stellar year in 2006, SMAP has released only one single in 2007, the lackluster “Dangan Fighter.” It should be noted that despite being well produced, the instrumentals are inadequate. Change is good, but not when it is detioration. SMAP can bank on their popularity carrying this single, but if they release more low-quality music, their sales may greatly suffer.

76% C

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