Archive for the 'New Release' Category

[News] Namie Amuro – New Look / Rock Steady PVs

Head on over to and skip the first screen, then head to the video / collaboration section. Once you’re there, you’ll be able to choose which PV you wish to watch. Once rips have been created, I will post youtube links here.

These are great PVs with great style direction; highly recommended.

New Look

Rock Steady

[Single] Acid Black Cherry – Fuyu no Maboroshi

~Track Listing~
01. Fuyu no Maboroshi
02. Koi Ichiya

~Single Review~
Acid Black Cherry released their single, “Fuyu no Maboroshi” on January 16, 2008. Most likely, the song will snatch the group the envious number one ranking on the Oricon chart. Although the single’s sales were strong, they were quite low for a number one single; if the single had been released another week, it may not have gotten number one. That does not mean “Fuyu no Maboroshi” is not good, however.

Quite the opposite, actually: “Fuyu no Maboroshi” is hard rock expertly mixed with orchestrated strings. Although it starts slow, once the rock hits, the song does not let up. Once the rock enteres in, the result is an epic sounding piece that sounds reflective, dramatic, and emotional all at once. Despite the song being dominated by rock after the first verse and bridge, the melody shines through in the strings. The over all vocal effects and layering are quite excellent as well, fitting quite well in the discordant yet organized atmosphere. Although the production sounds older, it works well mainly because of the rock. The song may be hard rock, but it has unity, organization, vocal power, and a memorable melody. “Fuyu no Maboroshi” is exactly what J-rock should be: well-done rock that is accessible for the general public because of its pure musical strength.

“Koi Ichiya” begins with a futuristic intro that paradoxically, sounds like it has dated production. The use of keyboard and synthetic effects continue throughout the song, even when rock flows in, front and center. “Koi Ichiya” has a lot more energy than “Fuyu no Maboroshi” and while it a solid melody and decent production, the song does not have the same coherence as “Fuyu no Maboroshi.” Still, “Koi Ichiya” is quite impressive for a B-side because Acid Black Cherry mixes a variety of elements together to create good music.

As I reviewer, I must put a warning on this single; even if “Fuyu no Maboroshi” is great music, the fact remains it’s rock. If you can’t stand the thought of J-rock, you might as well pass it by. However, if you don’t mind rock, you’ll probably like “Fuyu no Maboroshi:” there’s enough to the single to make endearing besides the just plain rock.

93% A

[News] Namie Amuro – New Look/Rock Steady/What a Feelin’ CMs UPDATED

60s Themed CM – “New Look”

Watch a HQ version here.

70s Themed CM – “Rock Steady”

Watch a HQ version here.

~Single Information~
Teamed up with Vidal Sassoon hair products, Namie Amuro is releasing a triple A-side on March 12th featuring musical styles from various decades: the 60s, the 70s, and the 80s (source). “New Look” features 60s pop, sampling one the Supreme’s most memorable hits, “Baby Love,” which is also one of Namie Amuro’s personal favorites. The song was produced by T.Kura & michico and exemplifies the bubblegum pop of the 1960s with a message about following style trends (source).

The next A-side, “Rock Steady” features 70s dance music with samples from Aretha Franklin’s “Rock Steady.” The song is produced by Muro & michiko, known for their work on Namie Amuro’s own Suite Chic. According to sources, this song strove to emphasize not only the 1970s funky dance, but also the empowerment of women that occurred at that time(source).

The final A-side, “What a Feelin’,” has not had its CM released to the public, but is known to be 80s music sampling Irene Cara’s “What a Feeling” and produced by Osawa Shinichi and michico. This is Namie Amuro’s first time working with Osawa Shinichi, which has resulted in a sound that embodies what popular music in the 1980s were all about: electronic dance(source).

In each of these three songs, Namie Amuro is taking old hits and making them into new, relevant J-pop. Popular trends from these decades being modernized will also play into the fashion CMs, which borrow footage from each of the PVs for each of the songs.

The planning and execution of this campaign are enormous in scale; the shooting for the 60s’ “New Look” PV was confirmed to have occurred in June of 2007, which suggests this campaign has been in planning for over eight months (source). Additionally, early efforts by the Vissal Sassoon ad campaign are huge, with use of widespread commercials, billboards, and more. Considering the scope of this effort and the success of Amuro’s most recent album, “PLAY,” this single is poised to be a success.

~Track Listings~
CD only (3 songs)
3. What a feelin’
Price: 1,260 yen
Item #: AVCD-31394

DVD (From CD+DVD Version)

3. What a feelin’ (MUSIC VIDEO)
Price: 2,000 yen
Item #: AVCD-31393/B

Thanks to NATE for the info, and catslaughing for translating the news articles.

Namie Amuro’s Official Site
Vidal Sassoon’s Website

[Single] WaT – Yume no Tochuu / Tokimeki☆doobeedoo

「夢の途中」/e2「TOKIMEKI☆DooBeeDoo」- WaT
~Track Listing~
01. Yume no Tochuu (夢の途中)
02. Tokimeki☆doobeedoo by e2
03. Yume no Tochuu (夢の途中) (Instrument)
04 Tokimeki☆doobeedoo (Instrument)

~Single Review~
After releasing their own solo singles, the boys of WaT have gotten back together to release the rather unremarkable single, “Yume no Tochuu / Tokimeki☆doobeedoo.” The single has peaked at number two on the daily charts and should be able to make a top three position. But charting well doesn’t mean WaT’s latest is amazing.

“Yume no Tochuu” features violins, piano, guitar and a mild beat. WaT’s voices are high and sweet as ever in this mid-tempo song, but that only makes the verses drag. Their voices, along with the background music of the verses, is very insubstantial. The choruses easily solve this problem, using a wider variety of instruments besides piano and guitar, as well as through the accompaniment by background vocals. The song also features a good, endearing crescendo, but that doesn’t hide the fact that “Yume no Tochuu” sounds like mid-tempo pop all the way through that lacks real feeling.

“TOKIMEKI☆DooBeeDoo” starts out with a distinct 90s J-pop sound because of the questionable use of synthetic beat. This feeling persists through the verses, but is eliminated in the bridges and in the choruses, which add-in better effects to improve the song’s sound. “TOKIMEKI☆DooBeeDoo” is catchy, but over the top at times with its cute hooks and the use of “I love you.” Even poppier than “Yume no Tochuu,” “TOKIMEKI☆DooBeeDoo” is fast, juvenile pop with decent hooks, nothing else; considering WaT has done this style better in “Ready Go!,” “TOKIMEKI☆DooBeeDoo” cannot be recommended.

WaT is a capable duo, and perhaps both Eiji Wentz and Teppei Koike and are capable soloists as well. Here, however, they have not done well as they have creating a single that lacks their usual flair. Of course, the usual WaT sound and vocals are there, but “Yume no Tochuu / Tokimeki☆doobeedoo” lacks WaT’s usual polish. If this single is meant to foreshadow their next few singles, I’m quite afraid.

74% C

[Single] Kana Nishino – I Don’t Wanna Know

~Track List~
01. I Don’t Wanna Know

~Single Review~
Kana Nishino, a new Sony artist will be releasing her debut single, “I” on February 20, 2008. However, preceding that release, Kana Nishino released “I Don’t Wanna Know,” an English download exclusive to iTunes US. The song is essentially the English version to “I.”

“I Don’t Wanna Know” is an interesting song that borders on discordant at times. The vocals and lyrics aren’t especially strong; Kana Nishino is hard to understand as her pronunciation is Engrish at best. This means that you can’t understand much other than the chorus and the bridge. And her vocals don’t exactly soar above the rest of the rock track, letting the words mix into the music too much at times. Those problems are not present in the Japanese version of the song, so it is the superior version. Still, the hook “I don’t wanna know” is catchy and memorable, and the instrumental’s rock guitar riff base is great. The track is synthetic, rock, and dark all at once. Over all, “I Don’t Wanna Know” is probably regular J-pop single filler, but displays a nice new sound from a debut artist.

82% B

[News / New Artist Spotlight] Kana Nishino – I (PV)

『I』西野 カナ (Nishino Kana)

The PV is particularly strong for a debut artist, with excellent effects and a dark, underwater setting. Despite a lack of choreography or dancing, the PV features a great wardrobe, great imagery and good direction: nary a moment is boring. When you mix captivating visuals with well produced sound, you come out with a a well rounded PV. “I” is a great debut, probably one of the best since JYONGRI’s “Possession.” Although Kana Nishino’s vocals aren’t particularly strong, the rock riffs and synthetic instrumentation work well with the layering to create a good song. “I” may be difficult to love first listen as it features harder, somewhat discordant rock, but the production and arrangement work well in the end.

Kana Nishino is an artist to look out for. Her debut single, “I,” will be released February 20, 2008. I’ll be sure to review the single around it’s release.

The Single Information / Cover:

~Track Listing~
01. I
02. In Stereo
03. Just a friend

You can visit her official website here.

A big thanks to moviebuffwwc for the tracklisting and Lemonlime for the news.

[News] Stephanie – Friends PV

Stephanie certainly has rocked it up in her latest song, “Friends.” Much like her B-sides, this song depends on guitar riffs and ignores Stephanie’s whistle notes in favor of a fast paced song. Although the PV isn’t amazing, the differentiation of shots and the motion does help mix things up a bit (it is shot all in one room). Over all, not too bad at all.

Sorry about the video getting taken down. In the future, please comment if that happens.

[Single] AAA – MIRAGE

~Track Listing~
02. Love Candle
03. SUNSHINE (Live in Budokan 2007.09.22)
04. MIRAGE (Instrumental)
05. Love Candle (Instrumental)

~Single Review~
AAA released their 17th single “Mirage” on January 9, 2008. The single debuted at number one on the Oricon charts and sold around 25,000 copies its first week on sale. That makes “MIRAGE” AAA’s highest charting single, but it also makes it one of the lowest number one debuts ever.

I’ll start this review on a personal note, because I think it’ll help give my review better context. I’ve followed AAA since 2006 right after their debut, and I’ve been impressed with their music many times over. Then 2007 hit, and I became disenchanted with their songs. Although their earlier songs were catchy, poppy, and dancy, I’ve felt their more recent releases have failed to capture that magic. Blame it on their rushed release schedule (17 singles since 2006? That’s obscene). However, that said, “MIRAGE” does remind me why I still like AAA, even if it isn’t as superb as the energetic “BLOOD ON FIRE” or the powerful “Let It Beat!”

The intro to “MIRAGE” is prolonged, but works well preparing the listener for the instrumental stylings of the song that border on trance. Sadly, the intro isn’t anything amazing after the first few seconds of Middle Eastern sounds. The verses aren’t that special either, featuring bare solos from the members. The bridges do up the temp noticeably, which carries over to a fuller, catchy chorus. The song may have a good chorus, but even that doesn’t sound as good as many of AAA’s past releases. The song is pop, but AAA’s done better.

“Love Candle” is a ballad that works off of the voices of the guys of AAA juxtaposed against the girls in the background. AAA specializes in dance music, and when they release songs like “Chewing Gum” and “Love Candle” they mystify me. They definitely don’t have depth to their voices, or believable emotion, which really undercuts the ballad. The nice element of the song that does make it sound nice and sweet is the depth achieved through use of background vocals. Because of those background vocals, courtesy of AAA’s girls, the bridges and the chorus sound surprisingly good.

This particular Budokan live of “SUNSHINE” is good; AAA can sing live. Of course, the studio track is superior, but the live recording has energy and a responsive crowd. As such, the live of “SUNSHINE” is a must have for the die-hard AAA fans, but passable for everyone else.

Over all, “MIRAGE” feels like just another single from AAA. I sincerely wish they’d slow their release pace down and take time on production. If this single was further polished and practiced, I believe it could have been better. And yes, had it been better, it may have been able to sell even more, making it more than the lowest number one debut in Oricon’s history. One can only hop they’ll slow their release rate after the release of their best album, “ATTACK ALL AROUND.”

78% C


~Track Listing~
01. Ishindenshin
03. Royal Chocolate Flush
04. November -Interlude-
06. To Be In Love
07. Hadashi no Kisetsu
08. Chandelier
09. Hybrid Breaks -Interlude-
10. Dance Dance
11. Taiyou no Chizu
12. Soba ni Ite…
13. Kimi wa Sougen ni Nekoronde
14. Taiyou no Malaika

~BONUS Second Disk Track Listing~
01. MEGA MISIA MIX 10 10th Anniversary EDITION

~Album Review~
MISIA released her eighth original studio album, “EIGHTH WORLD” on January 9, 2007, and the album debuted at number on on the Oricon daily chart, although it most likely won’t hold that lead for the whole week.

The first track, “Ishindenshin” leads the album well as it is a mid-tempo R&B track with a great instrumental backing. The synthetic introduction to the song is great and memorable. With synthetic vocal-like recordings inserted in, as well, the intro sounds dark, something that continues to come into play throughout the song. Although the verses pretty much use only a beat, the still maintain that dark feeling that the choruses and extros only strengthen. Over all, vocals aren’t amazing, but the song is quite good, especially for a MISIA album track.

The next song, “ANY LOVE” is a slower song that feels somewhat faster paced than a pure ballad. “ANY LOVE” features R&B sounds, a catchy chorus, and a bridge which features some of MISIA’s higher notes. That combination makes “ANY LOVE” both catchy as an R&B track and pretty as a slower one. The PV for ANY LOVE, shot in Africa with children, probably best represents that duality of the mid-tempo R&B track, “ANY LOVE.” “ANY LOVE” sounded like one of her better single tracks, and it is one of the best songs on the album.

The next song, “Royal Chocolate Flush” raises the energy on the album another notch. “Royal Chocolate Flush” is pretty much a pure dance song that abandons cohesion and melody at times in favor of getting the listener into the beat and dancing. As a dance song, that’s no necessarily a bad thing, but it makes “Royal Chocolate Flush” a bit of a tough listen, especially in the verses and bridges. Even with the cohesive energy of the song, “Royal Chocolate Flush” feels a bit disparate at times without an easy to find melody throughout. For dance lovers, “Royal Chocolate Flush” should be an easy favorite, but it might baffle some others.

The next song is an interlude to ease the change in pace the album takes, which is an excellent decision considering the hard beat nature of the songs preceding “November -Interlude-.” The best way to describe “November -Interlude-” is as an low quality recording of MISIA in the studio with a live band. The effect is very interesting, but the important part is there is a beat here, but it’s not as large as “Royal Chocolate Flush”‘s was. As a transition “November -Interlude-” works well.

With the pace change introduced by the interlude, “MISSING AUTUMN” fits in well. The song has a softer beat, but edges closer towards a ballad with soft guitar rifts in the background coupled with piano and violins. Adding in the repetition of “missing” helps make the song sounds nice, however MISIA doesn’t fully live up to her huge vocals here and instead only makes it halfway there. Even if “MISSING AUTUMN” sounds nice, it doesn’t distinguish itself enough.

To follow up “MISSING AUTUMN,” MISIA introduces another soft ballad that contains verses based off of piano: “To be in Love.” The bridge of the song is especially poignant, where the violins momentarily stop. The first chorus, however, is not as good as the final few; closer to the end, MISIA gives up her vocals to put on a great display. Because of this, “To be in Love” isn’t perfect, but by the end, it shows what MISIA’s ballads are all about. She can sing, and “To be in Love” shows that.

“Hadashi no Kisetsu” is another slower song hat doesn’t really distinguish itself as well as “To be in Love.” The keyboards are a nice touch to the song that give the song a very new age lounge feeling, but the song isn’t relaxing with control of the listener’s attention. MISIA sings well, but she doesn’t captivate, which makes “Hadashi no Kisetsu” one of the albums worst songs despite somewhat pleasant instrumentals.

“Chandelier” is a jazzy track that leads in with the drums and keyboard. As more and more instrumentation comes in, the song becomes more MISIA-esque with its violins. After the bridge, the song hits its first chorus a bit anticlimactically. If “Chandelier” is anything, it’s pleasant and does well at continuing the different lounge feeling of “Hadashi no Kisetsu.” This exploration in MISIA’s music is welcome; considering the length of her discography, she needs to innovate in order to keep her listener purchasing her music. Although “Chandelier” is far from innovation, it does take MISIA a step in the right direction. The end of the song is more emotive than the rest of the of the song, and probably a lot stronger because of it. But the extro just drags out as MISIA ad-libs weakly.

Because the album changes its tone again, “Hybrid Breaks -Interlude-” was placed next. It works well at building up from the slower, softer feeling of the past tracks to the powerful, up-tempo upcoming tracks. Starting with guitar riffs, and adding in synth and keyboards, the song is excellent preparation for “Dance Dance.”

The intro of “Dance Dance” sounds like the 80s with its synthetic nature. That intro is a motif throughout the song, that spices up what may prove to be a fairly ordinary song. Without that feeling, “Dance Dance” feels too mid-tempo and too powerless for its own good. “Dance Dance” relies on the recurring intro sample throughout the song to inspire dancing, which sucks because had the song been fully tweaked, “Dance Dance” could easily be a powerful dance track.

“Taiyou no Chizu (太陽の地図)” is a soft upbeat song with a present guitar and string melody that works well with MISIA and her background vocals. The only really problem with the song? It feels a little laid back in some respects, which doesn’t really make the track stand out. The more glaring problem, then, is the Engrish throughout the song, and then when the English isn’t Engrish, it’s still not the best hook MISIA could have used. It’s a decent pop track and a decent B-side that will find its way into some listeners’ hearts.

“Soba Niite…” was originally used as the B-side for the “ANY LOVE” single. Surprisingly, the song stands up very well on its own. With power, “Soba Niite…” is one of the more memorable ballads on the song, despite being one of the barest. A pure ballad, “Soba Niite…” is a nice rest from the R&B of “EIGHTH WORLD.”

If “Soba Niite…” was a rest from R&B, then “Kimi wa Sougen ni Nekoronde” reintroduces R&B to the album (but not too harshly). The song features a soft beat that sounds like it could have bongo based, as well as piano and keyboard. Although the verses and the bridges feel very run of the mill, the choruses of “Kimi wa Sougen ni Nekoronde” are splendid because MISIA uses her light, airy high notes to give off a relaxing feel. With background vocals that help embellish the rest of the song, “Kimi wa Sougen ni Nekoronde” is able to make itself fun and catchy.

“Taiyou no Malaika” begins with a piano intro, which transitions fairly well from the past track. As MISIA’s vocals emerge, so does an organ and eventually drums and past the first chorus, strings. “Taiyou no Malaika” uses the same sounding violins as the rest of MISIA’s recent music, which really undermines the most touching points in the song. That, and the hook of the song, “Endless love” is hard to make out because of MISIA’s pronunciation. Despite those detriments, “Taiyou no Malaika” is the best ending track to the album as it sounds pretty.

The megamix of MISIA’s career could be more expertly remixed (it doesn’t begin until over a minute in) and does not feature music from all of MISIA’s career (it’s heavily weighted towards recently). Easy to dance to because it features songs in the vein of “BACK BLOCKS” and “Royal Chocolate Flush,” the megamix does have cohesion. The ending is also thematically and temporally appropriate, stating “she’s discovered a new world.” Well MISIA, since your musical debut, you have been evolving as an artist, so yes, you’ve discovered a new world of music.

“EIGHTH WORLD” is not a step up from “Ascension,” MISIA’s last album, but it doesn’t feel like a step down, either. Over all, this album is consistent, with few songs really missing the concept but also with no tracks that are pure ecstasy. The biggest source of this consistency would probably be the violins MISIA use, which oddly always sound too similar considering how often they’re used. She could easily differentiate by exploring different orchestrated sounds, different instruments, and different genres. Although part of “EIGHTH WOLRD” retreated to MISIA’s dance era of her music, she does experiment with lounge-like sounds on part of her album. Because of that, “EIGHTH WORLD” feels different from many of MISIA’s other works. It is also worth mentioning there are less new tracks than usual on “EIGHTH WORLD,” with “Royal Chocolate Flush” acting as the main problem, releasing four of this album’s songs on a single. Still, “EIGHTH WORLD” feels new and R&B. MISIA does well, but not quite well enough. If she improve her production and gives her sound a new style with an her own feeling, she should be fine.

81% B-

[News] Utada Hikaru – Stay Gold -Radio Rip-

It’s nice to finally hear “Stay Gold” after waiting months. It’s premiere was originally in ASCIENCE hair-product commercials, but it was aired in an incomplete form.  Although this rip’s quality is low, you can hear the delicate layering, the piano, and Utada’s deep voice.  A nice soft A-side that sounds different from Utada’s other ballads, “Stay Gold” features a soft R&B edge throughout the verses.

[News] YUI – Namadairo Preview

YUI’s next single, “Namadairo” due out February 27, 2008, will be used in the drama 4 Shimai Tantei Dan. The youtube video above is our first look at the song. Right now, “Namadairo” sounds like something YUI’s released before, but still good. But before we post a full review, we’ll need to hear the whole song…

[News] HEART STATION / Stay Gold Cover Revealed


That’s right, this is the cover for her new single, “HEART STATION / Stay Gold,” due out February 20, 2008. You should notice firsrt that the cover only has the name of one A-side on it; considering that Utada usually includes both titles (if any at all), she might execute a single design similar to “For You / Time Limit,” where she created two covers, one for each A-side. As for now, this cover is another interesting addition to the mystery behind “HEART STATION.” Sources are scarce, but we do know it’s a pop song made to “wipes away the heart’s tears” (JOSHIN / UBLOG). Considering the thunderbolt on the cover and the over all brightness of the heart among darker blue, “HEART STATION” may be one Hikki’s rarer upbeat songs. Here’s to hoping.

Look out for “Stay Gold” to hit the radio on January 8th – there should be a full, albeit LQ, version available then. And let’s not forget that Hikki has yet to reveal the tie-in for “HEART STATION.”


『ファンキーモンキーベイビーズ2』FUNKY MONKEY BABYS

01. MOONINGU SHOTTO (モーニングショット)
02. Lovin’ Life
03. Chippoke na Yuuki (ちっぽけな勇気; Tiny Courage)
04. Daijoubu Da Yo (大丈夫だよ)
05. Mou Kimi ga Inai (もう君がいない; You’re Not Here Anymore)
07. Naitte Waratte Yume wo Miteta (泣いて笑って夢を見てた)
08. My Home
09. Yubikiri Gen Man (指きりげんまん)
10. Tenshi to Akuma (天使と悪魔; Angel And Devil)
11. Chou I Love You (超I Love You)

~Album Review~
“FUNKY MONKEY BABYS 2,” released on December 12, 2007, is FUNKY MONKEY BABYS second studio album and first major album. The album debuted at number five on the Oricon charts, selling 59,429 copies its first week. Without a pre-album digital hit, the album experienced only moderate sales, in contrast to the break-out success of two of their singles.

“MOONINGU SHOTTO” is a poppier take on FUNKY MONKEY BABYS, which is an appropriate way to begin their album. The listen gets to take in their distinctive vocals, beat, and over all sound in a more familiar pop environment. The energy on the track is explosive as usual, and the backing music is great.

“Lovin’ Life” is a softer take on FUNKY MONKEY BABYS; it’s their essence embodies in ballad form. A violin and occasional acoustic guitar do well with powerful layered lead vocals. The song is undeniably catchy, with good hooks throughout. “Lovin’ Life” will stick with the listener mainly because it’s so memorable on so many levels.

“Chippoke na Yuuki” is mid-tempo, and continues with strong choruses carrying the song. The verses are Spartan in comparison to the choruses, which sound much fuller, vocally and instrumentally. The strength of the song lies in the repetition of hooks throughout the song; even though the vocals change, from rap to singing, the song still sounds similar. One of the better tracks on the album.

“Daijoubu Da Yo” feels like a ballad that’s been turned more island sounding. That’s the best way to describe it; the background of the song is soft pop. The crescendo of the song is nothing to write home about – but the ending of the choruses are done well, with a string of “la la”’s backed by what sounds like children.

“Mou Kimi ga Inai” is a very strong ballad for FUNKY MONKEY BABYS. They play to their undeniable strength , their sheer numbers, to harmonize during the choruses. Juxtaposed against solo verses, this does well in the song. Also notable are very strong instrumentals that follow this trend quite well. The song ends well, too, making “Mou Kimi ga Inai” a very pleasant listen.

The tracks preceeding “LAST HUG” have all had a redeeming quality that made them strong. “LAST HUG” simply doesn’t have that, and fails to impress. The harmonies present in other songs become discordance, and the polished instrumentals turn into a poppy mess. It sounds like mid-tempo pop, but “LAST HUG” fails at sounding right for FUNKY MONKEY BABYS.

“Naitte Waratte Yume wo Miteta” is mid-tempo pop that FUNKY MONKEY BABYS does well. The group harmonizes well on the chorus and creates clear, catchy choruses. Sadly, the climax of the song isn’t very strong.

“My Home” works off of acoutisc guitar, harmonies, and all of that backed by the repetition of “My Home.” There’s not necessarily anything wrong, but the song doesn’t really soung good until the layering of the final chorus. At that pont, the power attained is too little, too late.

“Yubikiri Gen Man” lacks the vocal layering and harmonies of other FUNKY MONKEY BABY tracks. For the most part, it just doesn’t sound like a cohesive song. Over all, that’s the same problem with “Tenshi to Akuma.” Too much rapping and too many gimmicks equate to a really poor album track, that only really turns around late in the song.

“Chou I Love You “ is a great way to end the FUNKY MONKEY BABYS 2 album. The song is one of the most energetic and happiest, which definitely provides a jumping point for the rest of their music in the future. FUNKY MONKEY BABYS end with one of their strengths: an acoustic track tinged with their distinctive sound.

FUNKY MONKEY BABYS gained success because they sounded novel and different. No one in J-pop has that exact same feel as they do, and listeners hadn’t really seen it done before. Without good looks, the band worked solely off of musical quality, finding variety by changing tempos. However, after listening to the album, it becomes evident that this may not be enough to keep listeners coming back. If FUNKY MONKEY BABYS can bring more diverse sounds and more vocal power along with catchy beats, they can create a hit album. Right here they have the makings of one, they just need to polish their game.

89% B+

[Album] Kobukuro – 5296

01. Aoku Yasashiku (蒼く 優しく)
02. Coin (コイン)
03. Tsubomi (蕾)
04. Donna Sora Demo (どんな空でも)
05. Kimi to Iu Na no Tsubasa (君という名の翼)
07. Kimiiro (君色)
08. Suimen no Chou (水面の蝶)
09. Kaze no Naka wo (風の中を)
10. Gekkou (月光)
11. Kazamidori (風見鶏)
12. Diary
13. Fragile mind

~Album Review~
Kobukuro released their sixth major label album, “5296,” on December 19, 2007. The album debuted at number two, selling 100,000 copies in one day. This album’s chart trajectory may be worthy of keeping watch on; it should be interesting to see how this album’s chart life is. Already, first week sales suggest “5296” will be a staple of the top twenty for many weeks to come.

“Aoku Yasashiku” is an interesting start to the album; it sounds very Kobukuro through and through, but it fails to play to their strong points. What the listener hears in this song is acoustic guitar, violins, and vulnerable vocals that push Kobukuro to the limit. The song sounds emotive, but misses the powerful melodic power of some of their of their other ballads, including “Tsubomi.”

“Coin” sounds much happier than “Aoku Yasahiku.” “Coin Song” is mid-tempo acoustic pop. There is an organ backing the guitar throughout the song; the beauty lies in the simplicity of the song, which lacks background vocals. This song is music, essentially. The harmonica in the extro is a nice touch to this lounge-feeling track.

“Tsubomi” is one of the strongest tracks on the album. The intro alone is beautiful; it sounds like orgel. Most likely, it is keyboards introducing the melody to the song. When lead vocals enter, the song changes to only a guitar backing; the bridge changes into a duet alongside violins and simple beat. The chorus is particularly strong, and the melody of the intro returns, this time with the passion of Kobukoro singing along.

“Donna Sora Demo” is a pretty song that uses a background choir of ordinary voices in the ending portions of the song to set itself apart. As such, this song picks up momentum and energy as the song progresses, becoming a big song that doesn’t end with Kobukuro’s normal grace. Over all, the song has a nice hook, making it a strong album track.

“Kimi to Iu Na no Tsubasa” is another single track, featuring on “ALL SINGLES BEST.” The song is upbeat and passionate. It has some elements of pop to it, but barely. Over all, the piano and the violins sound fast-paced, and lead in to a powerhous chorus. “Kimi to Iu Na no Tsubasa” is a great upbeat song that still has that emotion Kobukuro is known for, but speeds up their music in a great way.

“WHITE DAYS” is another ballad; at this point, it’s starting to become overkill considering the strong tracks that the album has. Thankfully, this song is still strong and more piano based (as opposed to guitar) compared to the last few tracks, but musically it’s not terribly difference. Lyrically (an aspect I don’t have time to research) this song is probably much different.

“Kimiiro” begins with guitar riffs before switching back to more traditional Kobukuro fare. The song is mid-tempo acoustic; it features an interesting basis for its beat, as well as harder guitar. “Kimiiro” is a break from the onslaught of ballads, but not much else.

“Suimen no Chou” marks a power transition for Kobukuro; they finally leave behind acoustic pop rock and head into faster, harder rock (it’s by no means heavy). There’s guitar riffs, Kobukuro’s vocals, and a good drum beat. From “Suimen no Chou,” it looks like Kobukuro could put out some more faster rock – it’s good.

“Kaze no Naka wo” feels kind of country-tinged. It’s definitely giving the album variety with what sounds most like a banjo. Perhaps the best element of the song is the joy in it, something Kobukuro doesn’t often capitilize on. There’s also the English “Hey now!” throughout the song, along with harmonica. This song may have American country roots, but Kobukuro owns it.

The transition to the next song, “Gekkou,” is somewhat forced, but not horribly (the tempo is at least kept going). “Gekkou” is rock once more, but it sounds much more raw than “Suimen no Chou.” It’s not bad; it has a great crescendo and chorus, but it just doesn’t feel well-produced.

“Kazamidori” feels quite familiar, which really makes it fall into the background on an album filled with ballads. It’s nice, but the instrumentation, vocals and sound have been done before. Nevertheless, the extro of the song is beautiful.

“Diary” seems to encompass the rest of the album quite well. It has pop synthetic elements, more classical elements such as violin, and contemporary acoustic guitar. It’s mid-tempo and nice, over all.

“Fragile Mind” is probably the best album track of all. It combines the rock seen in mid-album tracks with the emotion of “Tsubomi,” creating a passionate, forward looking ending to a great album. What more is there to ask for?

Kobukuro has been at the height of their game ever since the release of “SAKURA.” More recently, their album, “ALL SINGLES BEST,” has become one of the best selling Japanese albums of the new millennia in Japan. With such success, it was imperative to maintain their momentum with “5296.” Not only did Kobukuro have to create a great album (expectations have been high), but they had to mix older feelings and elements found throughout their discography with something new. In the end, Kobukuro largely succeeded on this album. The album is very acoustic, maybe too acoustic. Essentially, if Kobukuro messed up on the album, they only did so minimally. The only other error would be not all tracks came all that close to greatness; some do, others don’t. Otherwise, “5296” is an album that is largely able to transcend its genre. In other words, it’s worth a listen.

94% A

[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

[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



01. a little prayer
02. Aishiteru no Sign ~Watashitachi no Mirai Yosouzu~ (ア・イ・シ・テ・ルのサイン ~わたしたちの未来予想図~)
04. Appeal (アピール)
05. Sayonara 59ers! -ALBUM EDITION- (さよなら59ers!)
06. CARNAVAL ~Subete no Tatakau Hitotachi he~ (CARNAVAL ~すべての戦う人たちへ~)
07. NOCTURNE 001
08. Kimi ni Shika Kikoenai (きみにしか聞こえない)
09. Kyou Dake wa -ALBUM EDITION- (今日だけは)
11. Mata ne -ALBUM EDITION- (またね)
12. Moshimo Yuki Nara (もしも雪なら)

~Album Review~
“AND I LOVE YOU,” DCT’s 14th original studio album, was released December 12, 2007. It reached number two on the Oricon charts, selling 374,000 copies its first week (source: NTV).

“a little prayer” begins the album on an irresistible note: the track uses well-layered vocals intermingled with soft R&B beats to create a great atmosphere. If the song were full length, the repetition of the of some phrases would be a problem, but instead, the song prepares the listener for the variety of the album. A well produced track with a variety of sounds, “a little prayer” is a paradigm of what introductions should be.

“Aishiteru no Sign ~Watashitachi no Mirai Yosouzu~” is a ballad, through and through. If you can’t stand the song being slow and repetitive, despite being very pretty and melodic, this might be a song to skip. True, the song sounds very typical of a ballad, but the chorus somehow makes the song worth a listen among all the powerhouse songs among DCT’s discography. The final chorus of the song is fabulous, working as a climax for the song. “Aishiteru no Sign ~Watashitachi no Mirai Yosouzu~” is never over the top vocally, but feels emotional nonetheless. Despite a prolonged extro that thinks too highly of itself, this song is good.

The transition into “Osaka LOVER -ALBUM EDITION-” is a bit forced because of the huge change in beat and rythym. Nevertheless, it works. “Osaka LOVER -ALBUM EDITION-” is just funky, with an infectious beat, interesting background music, and strong vocals. The memorable music of the chorus and the catchy hooks make this song special, as well. Perhaps the best part of the song is the final bridge and crescendo; the addition of more traditional Japanese sounds and fuller keyboards lead the song into its ending stretch with style. The extro, extended in this album version, is interesting clearly marking this as an album only version of the song.

“Appeal” maintains the funky beat of “Osaka LOVER” but tones the energy level down a few notches. That doesn’t mean the keyboards and vocals aren’t as sweet as ever, however. The choruses boom over the verses, and “Appeal” has one of the best final choruses of the album so far. Yoshida Miwa elevates her voice in noticeable manner, giving this track another special feel. Despite being mid-tempo, “Appeal” manages to maintain the listener’s interest through a variety of sounds. The ending monologue probably isn’t necessary, but it does exemplify the melody nicely.

“Sayonara 59ers! -ALBUM EDITION- (さよなら59ers!)” is a mid-tempo song with funk. Utilizing an acoustic guitar, clapping, and trademark beat, the song. For most of the song, “Sayonara 59ers! -ALBUM EDITION- (さよなら59ers!)” drags along, with very stable vocals and melody. It’s not until the ending, where vocal layering, the guitar, and Yoshida Miwa’s lead vocals all kick it up a notch. It’s too little, too late though – “Sayonara 59ers! -ALBUM EDITION- (さよなら59ers!)” feels like a B-side placed among stronger tracks (which it is). There’s no hiding it.

“CARNAVAL ~Subete no Tatakau Hitotachi he~” is in a similar vein as “Sayonara 59ers!” but has much more energy, perhaps because the theme is “CARNAVAL.” Nevertheless, the keyboards just beam on this track, and the omnipresent choir of everyday background voices really give the song personality. Whistles, and various other instruments don’t feel out of place here, mainly because this song is just a mid-temp party for your ears.

“NOCTURNE 001” starts out with futuristic sounds, before a more traditional piano takes center stage among these beats. This song has much less power than “Aishiteru no Sign ~Watashitachi no Mirai Yosouzu~,” but uses variety in sounds and building power in lead vocals to differentiate. “NOCTURE 001” is very different, and despite dragging at first, ends with the listener satisfied, mainly due to the complexity of the track. Despite a rough start, the ending vocals and melody are very pretty and memorable.

“Kimi ni Shika Kikoenai” is perhaps the most powerful ballad on the album so far. Vocally, Yoshida Miwa really strives for power. Without that power and corresponding increase in background vocals, this track may have sounding like the other two slower songs on this album. However, “Kimi ni Shika Kikoenai” feels different because of the power behind the whole song. An interesting harpsicord like sound (probably manipulated through the keyboard) adds flavor to this track through slow initial verses. The crescendo is well worth the wait, however. The final bridge leads into piano backed lead vocals before they begin to boom in the extro. “Kimi ni Shika Kikoenai” has one of the best extros on the whole album, hands down, mainly because it sounds so wonderful and is easy to sing along to. The piano fringe at the end is wonderful too – the melody will really stick with the listener.

The piano leads right into the next track, “Kyou Dake wa -ALBUM EDITION-” utilizes a melody during the chorus that sounds reminiscent of “Silver Bells.” There’s not much at fault with the song, although it feels a bit less-well rounded compared to some of the other tracks. “Kyou Dake wa -ALBUM EDITION-” has good tempo, and variety in instrumentation, with modern rythym, and traditional beats. The bridge’s tempo certainly mixes the song up a bit, spicing things up. The ending is also very good, although the choruses throughout the song are a bit slow (despite excellent transitions back to the verses). It’s very pretty song with some roughness, but plenty of goodness.

“UNPRETTY DAY!” starts out pretty well, with an orchestra, before a very 90s beat takes over, ruining the ambiance. Luckily, instrumentation comes back, but besides excellent vocals, this funky track is a little too funky at some points. A nice change of pace, but perhaps a little over the top for some.

“Mata ne -ALBUM EDITION-” is a welcome journey back to a comfort zone. Of course, the song uses the cliché of children, although their voices don’t sound as choir-like as we may be used to. Still, the song has power and rhythm. The choruses sound frenetic, but in a good way, upping the pace of the song and imbuing more energy to the song. Of course, “Mata ne” might get a little repetitive after a while, but it is kind of fun to sing along with. This repetition has duality, then, as it acts as both the strength and weakness of “Mata ne -ALBUM EDITION-.”

“Moshimo Yuki Nara” is another ballad, which banks on differentiating itself by sounding wintry. It’s pretty, but it’s not as good or memorable as the other ballads found on the album. It does, however, lead nicely, into the forward-looking “AND I LOVE YOU.” This final track on the album sounds heartfelt and leaves the listener feeling as through the whole album “AND I LOVE YOU” came from the heart. That’s a nice feeling.

“AND I LOVE YOU” is most clearly an album created by a pop group with great ability and capability tempered by experience. However, experience does not make DCT flawless. Often, long-time musical acts may rest on their laurels while still trying to create new music. DCT doesn’t quite do that here, however, the album does feel like the amalgamation of singles put together with some filler tracks. That’s not a bad thing necesarily, as most of these tracks are strong. However, “AND I LOVE YOU” has many tracks that drag on way past their due-date of stopping, seemingly just to fill the album and make it complete. This, along with an initial feeling of blandness, prevent “AND I LOVE YOU” from standing among their best works. However, some songs on their album do stack up well against classics. “AND I LOVE YOU” is a step in the right direction for DCT, but just a baby step. It’s one of the better pop albums out there, but that should be expected, and part of creating a great album is rising above expectations, which DCT doesn’t do to a certain extent.

88% B+

[News] Ayumi Hamasaki – Album Preview “GUILTY”

To be honest, my heart dropped when I heard these previews. There is one pop track on the album, besides “glitter,” and that’s “My All,” which doesn’t sound that good. I like Ayu’s rock, but I sincerely believe she needs to move away from it to get to the next level of her music, or her popularity will dwindle. I hope to see this album outsell “Secret,” but I wouldn’t be surprised if it didn’t. This album is rock and feels like “Secret” all over again, down to the glitter – My All vs. BLUE BIRD – Beautiful Fighters comparison. Then again, there’s some hope left; we haven’t heard the full album yet. I hope there’s more to these tracks then this. I really do.

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August 2020