Posts Tagged 'New'

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

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~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

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[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:

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~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] GReeeeN – BE FREE / Namidazora

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~Track Listing~
01. BE FREE
02. Namidazora

~Single Review~
GReeeeN released their fifth single on January 16, 2007. The lead A-side, “BE FREE” experienced great download success before the physical release of the single, topping Chaku-Uta downloads easily. Building off of the success of their hit, “Ai Uta,” and their previous song, “Hito,” “BE FREE / Namidazora” focused on GReeeeN’s unique sound.

“BE FREE” is the stronger of the two tracks on the single. Even though the vocals aren’t strong (GReeeeN is not a vocal powerhouse, so if you are looking for an amazing vocal performance look elsewhere) the production and composition on the song is topnotch. The combination of keyboards with the melody during the intro that persist throughout the whole song create a memorable tune. And despite weak vocals, the hook, “BE FREE” is suprisingly strong because of synthetic editing of voices. Because of these factors, “BE FREE” has amazing moments that allow it to become a great ringtone, but as a full song, some moments weigh done the brilliant ones. The vocals are stylistic at best. The good thing is, that’s all that I can say is bad about “BE FREE.” It’s well-done, it’s just a pity to see the weakness be the group itself.

While “BE FREE” was mid-tempo, “Namidazora” is a slow ballad. The chorus sounds much more strained because of the poor vocals, and the verses deteriorate to rapping. Despite excellent composition, the production on this track isn’t as good as “BE FREE’s;” without vocal editing and with rapping, “Namidazora” isn’t a memorable, emotive ballad even if it has great composition and keyboards. The extro is nice, but not enough to make “Namidazora” sound great or better than “BE FREE.”

With GReeeeN, the only glaring flaw to find is their vocals. They aren’t as strong as say FUNKY MONKEY BABYS’, but GReeeeN’s composition is better. What can GReeeeN do to resolve that problem? They’ve done about all they can here on this single: rapping and vocal editing. Because of the way the music industry works, GReeeeN makes more money singing their own songs than hiring other people to sing them, so they’ve done all they can. If they can continue with vocal editing and hip vocals, they should be able to maintain popularity. “BE FREE” should atone to that, as it is a solid pop song that doesn’t rely on its vocals.


91% A-

[Album] MISIA – Ascension

~Tracklist~
01. Color of Life
02. FUTURU FUNK
03. Remember Lady
04. TYO
05. Taiyou ga Kureta PRESENT (太陽がくれたプレゼント) Present from the sun
06. Stay in my Heart
07. Tsuki (月)Moon
08. SHININ’~虹色のリズム~ (SHININ’ ~Niji Iro no Rhythm~) SHININ’~Rainbow-colored rhythm~
09. Sura no Shiro (砂の城)Sand Castle
10. Angel
11. LUV PARADE
12. We are the Music
13. SONG FOR YOU
14. Hoshi no Ginka (星の銀貨)Silver star coin
15. SEA OF DREAMS

~Album Review~
“Ascension” is MISIA’s seventh original album, and it was released about three years after her last studio effort on February 7, 2007. In total, it sold 127,768 copies which meant it was the 91st best selling album of 2007. That’s a far fall from the sales of her earlier albums, but considering her sporadic release schedule and how much time has elapsed since her earlier albums, R&B songstress MISIA is doing just fine with “Ascension.”

The album starts out with the mellow “Color of Life.” It’s a mellow mid-tempo pop track with an excellent ending and final bridge. The chorus can be annoying depending on your view, although the breathy “Color of Life” in the background accompanies MISIA’s powerful vocals quite well. Either it will be repetitive or catchy. There is also the stylistic use of of French, which is sleek way to enhance the song’s modern lounge feel. “Color of Life” is a good way to start the album.

We continue a mid-tempo run, but with a deeper R&B edge on the next track, “FUTURU FUNK.” The chorus is notably repetitive, but the production on the track is well done. The distortion of voices is top notch, and the instrumentals are a definite nod to MISIA’s past work. Although the flow of the song is worse than “Royal Chocolate Flush‘s”,hard R&B lovers will find this track both catchy and danceable. Once again, the ending is great at distinguishing this song.

The tempo of the album slows as “Remember Lady” flows onward; clapping accompanies the guitar as other instruments slowly come to the forefront of the song. This song is surprisingly good. Although it is a little on the slow side, it sounds very relaxed and lounge-esque, much like Color of Life. This means that song comes off extremely pleasant, sort of like a lullaby. The repetition of “remember lady” in the chorus contributes to that ambience quite well actually. Best described as a lullaby with a touch of R&B infused with MISIA, “Remember Lady” is a different type of ballad from MISIA.

“TYO” takes the tempo up another notch and the beat back into harder R&B territory. The distortion of MISIA’s vocals sound quite good, and the additional background vocals fit in well in the atmosphere of the song. The “la la la la” of the chorus and the “oh oh oh oh” are quite catchy alongside belting out “scream.” Over all, it’s all that MISIA should create on a strong R&B song. Although “TYO” is not as strong as some of MISIA’s singles, the track is great for an album track and quite distinct.

“Taiyou ga kureta” present is slightly slower tempo than the past track, and features much poppier (and maybe even tropical) instruments. Pretty much, the unobtrusive instruments give MISIA the opportunity to show off her voice on this track. I don’t think her voice really fits in here, but oh well. Most albums are bound to have a few duds. However, if you love MISIA’s voice (she can hit a whistle note quite well) or a smooth pop mood in a song, this may appeal to you. Considering the tempo an the mood, MISIA does fit into this song. This pacing is very her, as she can shine alongside it.

“Stay in my heart” is a bit slower and more traditional as a ballad. It starts out with some excellent English from MISIA. The lengthy piano introduction is drastically different from the rest of the song, as the poppier edge and fuller instrumentation come into play. Over all, it’s a fairly impressive track. It flows quite well throughout the song, the string section backing up MISIA sounds especally good. MISIA also ends it well on this song, getting some great emotion into her voice as this song winds down. This emotion is portrayed through a bit of a rasp in MISIA’s voice throughout the extro.

“Tsuki” is more of R&B ballad than anything we’ve yet seen on this album. MISIA does these quite well, and this song is no exception whatsoever. Of course, it would be nice to see MISIA travel to unseen territory on her seventh studio effort, but the notes MISIA hits are pretty impressive, the bridge and chorus are great, and the chorus is catchy to boot. Surprisingly, MISIA has more to show off as the song finished. The only complaint here is she’s done it before, and the climax is lacking, even if it is an R&B ballad.

“SHININ’~Nijiiro no rhythm~” is poppy and repetitive. Probably moreso than any of the other tracks. It sounds a bit like Color of Life, although MISIA’s voice is a lot more pronounced in this song, which is a great thing. It really propels this song to whole other level compared to Color of Life. When the background vocals support MISIA, she is able to really shine. Vocal layering is this song’s major component, and it really gives it its power.

“Suna no Shiro” is not very memorable, despite being a frenetically paced ballad. Perhaps the difference in between the speed of MISIA’s vocals and the instrumentals is the problem. The instrumentation sounds like it leaves her behind as she slowly sings. Nevertheless, the song sounds quite pleasant and urgent for a ballad. Again, great ending on this track.

“Angel” is a soft-spoken piano-based ballad. Here again we see MISIA playing to her strength, her ballads. The absence of Engrish in the song is a breath of fresh air, and the chorus is nice. Near the ending the real emotion enters into MISIA’s voice and she belts it out, hitting those high notes all the while. It’s pretty touching by that point of the song. Slow, but not lacking power, “Angel” is a great MISIA album track.

“LUV PARADE” is probably the best song on the album, alongside “SEA OF DREAMS.” It’s an upbeat pop/R&B track with orchestrated elements. It’s catchy, it’s fun, and just wonderful over all. Originally released in the summer, “LUV PARADE” is feels summery and upbeat; it has the pop combination of synth and more traditional violins typcal of MISIA, and a great catchy chorus. The only really negative aspect of the song is it sometimes feels as though it lacks a bit of polish. Still, the chorus is just so good with MISIA and the back-up vocals, and the keyboard… This song is a great summer track and the perfect opportunity to show off MISIA’s voice. If you were to choose any song to listen to on “Ascension,” this track would be the best choice. It has a distinct begginning, middle, and end, as well as vocal and instrumental strength. Plus “LUV PARADE” is good, fun J-pop.

“We are the Music” continues the same type of pop that “LUV PARADE” started, although this song sounds much more generic. Let’s take a second to examine the lyrics; yes, “life is a music” may fit the music motif of the song, but it should be “life is a musical.” Small flaws like this lyrically error cripple the song somewhat, although MISIA does a godly job covering it up with the violin supported pop instrumentation and background vocals. Besides a mismatch in MISIA and the music near the end, this song is a solid addition to the album that is sure to have some people loving it.

“SONG FOR YOU” is the last of the acoustic ballads on this album, a definite forte that MISIA plays to her benefit. Honestly, these ballads MISIA sings begin to meld into one and another, and “SONG FOR YOU” doesn’t feel very special in any way. Again, it just acts as the perfect opportunity for MISIA to show off her voice. At least the music in this song is different from all else we’ve seen on this album, but still, the track leaves something to be desired.

“Hoshi no ginka” is a funky mid-tempo R&B track with some brass action going on alongside the prominent beats and the keyboard. This song isn’t particularly catchy, although the ending is pretty strong, thankfully.

This album has to be evaluated with the bonus track, “SEA OF DREAMS” included, because frankly, it’s an excellent end to the album. It’s one of her strongest ballads on here, which is no surprise since it was the only one released as a single. That said, the song is probably worth a listen, especially if you like choral back-up. MISIA’s voice really shines here, although her English pronunciation does not. The background voices on “SEA OF DREAMS” sound different than usual too, which really make this song stand out. Add in a larger than life finale combining MISIA’s powerhouse vocals and a choir of voices, and you have an inspirational ballad that will have you “sailing free on a sea of dreams.”

Over all, there are a few duds on this album, but most of the album tracks are at least solid, if not great additions to the album. This album has wide variety of musical stylings, plays well, has excellent vocals, and expresses so many different emotions in a plethora of ways. Compared to contemporary J-pop star releases of early 2007, MISIA did well at surpassing her other J-pop peers in music quality on her album. Although her singles do not always live up to the pop powerhouses, her album has. With that in mind, this album is above average and worth a listen. If you have never heard MISIA before, this may not be the place for you to start.. It may not be her best, or the best J-pop has to offer, but it’s a great new release for 2007. If you’re looking for the best songs on the album, those would be “LUV PARADE” and “SEA OF DREAMS.”

85% B

[Single] The Brilliant Green – Enemy

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~Tracklist~
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] SMAP – Dangan Fighter

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~Tracklist~
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