Posts Tagged 'J-Rock'

[Single] Acid Black Cherry – Fuyu no Maboroshi

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~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

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[Album] BUMP OF CHICKEN – oribital period

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~Tracklist~
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

[Album] B’z – ACTION

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~Tracklist~
1. Junjou ACTION
2. Kuroi Seishun
3. SUPER LOVE SONG
4. Mangetsu yo Terase
5. Perfect Life
6. Isshunfuran
7. FRICTION -LAP 2-
8. ONE ON ONE
9. Boku ni wa Kimi ga Iru
10. Nan to I Shiawase
11. Warui Yume
12. HOMETOWN BOYS’ MARCH
13. Koubou
14. Traveling Man no Theme
15. Ore to Omae no Atarashii Kisetsu
16. Eien no Tsubasa
17. BUDDY

~Album Review~
Reluctantly, and with a time constraint, we review B’z’s newest album, “ACTION” which upon release on December 5, 2007, hit number one on the Oricon Chart.

“Jounjou ACTION” has a good hook and a good ending, over all, not a bad rock track. It flows well into the next track, “Kuroi Seishun,” which is a bit overwhelming; the song is emo and finishes with the lead vocalist yelling. “SUPER LOVE SONG” keeps the momentum going, rocking out with a poppy hook that’s sure to get a lot of listeners. The chorus and finale are the strength of the song, and make it a great listen for fans of J-rock. “Mangetsu yo Terase” is a bit slower and less memorable, feeling a bit bland, but still giving off some depth and emotion through the lead vocals. The next track, “Perfect Life,” is still ’emo’ sounding, but features a faster rythym. It crescendoes well, but the yelling sprinkled throughout the song might alienate a large number of listeners. “Isshunfuran” is probably the most pop-rock out of all of the songs and is very easy to get into because of it. Sadly, the track lacks the polish of, say, “SUPER LOVE SONG” and fades away, even after a few listens. “FRICTION -LAP 2-” is one of the faster paced tracks on the album so far and expresses desperation through the harder rock. The vocals are top notch (there is very little yelling present besides the extro) and the English pronunciation is good.

At this point, the album’s feel had a distinct shift with “ONE ON ONE,” where the electric guitar takes back seat to the piano. A slower paced track, that despite changing things up, feels a bit average. “Boku ni wa Kimi ga Iru” continues the slower pace of the album, with more guitar and stronger drums, leading to the feeling of more pure, unrefined emotion on the track, making it a great transition to the next track. “Nan to Iu Shiawase”‘s tempo is slow, but the song possesses a lot of power, with electric guitar and the organ giving the song a different passion then we’ve seen. The extro is a nice touch as well, making this song a notable change from earlier songs. The tempo of the album begins to pick back up with “Warui Yume,” which features good choruses and an extro based off of repetition; the final bridge is quite well arranged, too. The next track, “HOMETOWN BOYS’ MARCH” sounds silly, mainly because, well, it sounds like a marching band song. It’s different, but easily passable considering the depth many of the other songs have.

“Koubou” shifts the tone right back away from light to dark as we approach the end of the album. The song itself moves between power and soft instrumentation, well accompanied by changes in vocals. “Traveling Man no Theme” is a short song that feels light-hearted and poppy, which makes it feel really flimsy compared to other album tracks. “Ore to Omae no Atarashii Kisetsu” incorporates a poppy beat and guitar alongside rock elements, creating a song that can stand alongside earlier album tracks. “Eien no Tsubasa” is an orchestra backed song with plenty of emotion, but with vocals that I’m skeptical of (mainly because of the strain in them, when there should be none). Still, this arguably one of the better songs on the album, definitely worth a listen. “BUDDY” is a good upbeat end to the album, not much more. But is that a bad thing?

B’z’s latest album, “ACTION” is a respectable effort with many good J-rock songs. However, if you are more of a J-pop person, this album is not for you at all. Many of the songs edge towards hard rock, while others might be a bit laughable. Still, the album flows and has good production values, with many gems amongst the staggering seventeen -full- tracks. There’s no denying it’s a good listen, but B’z fans will be the people who enjoy this album the most – by far.

87 % B