L’Arc-en-Ciel: Kiss

Seventh Heaven

Pretty Girl

My Heart Draws a Dream

Sunadokei

Spiral

Alone in La Vida

Daybreak’s Bell

Umibe

The Black Rose

Link (Kiss Mix)

Yuki no Ashiato

Hurry Xmas

*****

Songs in bold are previously released singles. Songs in blue (with a link) have already been reviewed. Those songs will, however, be reviewed in context of the album once more.

*****

Kiss is L’Arc-en-Ciel’s 11th studio album, released on November 21th, 2007. It reached #1 on the Oricon charts and has sold 327 496 copies in Japan.

Seventh Heaven is a perfect album opener. It sounds a lot warmer and merrier than most of L’Arc-en-Ciel’s previous stuff, and Hyde’s vocals are really great. The inclusion of synth in the back gave this song a special touch of edginess, making this another great L’Arc-en-Ciel track.

Pretty Girl is different, in part because Ken, and nor Hyde or Tetsu, wrote the score for this. It doesn’t introduce itself too well, but in the end it’s a really nice song between L’Arc-en-Ciel and 70s and 80s rock. Here’s another direction I don’t want L’Arc to go into, but it’s a pretty nice song.

When I first heard it, My Heart Draws a Dream struck me not only as a gorgeous rock ballad but also as one of L’Arc’s best songs. I cannot stress enough how much Hyde’s voice is quintessential to L’Arc-en-Ciel’s music, because it’s versatile in both pitch and emotion. And although the song itself maintains this “the world is horrible but beautiful” throughout its entirety, the ending almost made me cry it was so gorgeous. Even if you don’t like rock, this is a definite must-listen.

Sunadokei (sand clock) sounds a bit like My Heart Draws a Dream, but it’s a lot grittier. At this point, the album has already established a general feel of bittersweetness, and this song is the very definition of that word. The verse-chorus structure is little less than typical L’Arc-en-Ciel, with a low verse and a completely different chorus which surprises.

Spiral is one of the album’s minor flaws. Would first impressions (i.e. the first minute) determine my level of liking of a song, I would’ve pressed “next” in about twenty seconds, because it was really boring. But the chorus more or less redeems the verses and makes this song into an interesting track.

Now we get to the album’s best new track, Alone in La Vida. As the title insinuates, the song features Hispanic twists, although the overall tone of this song easily makes one forget this. Although it’s another pretty typical L’Arc song, the Hispanic influence and the particular use of the strings make it different.

I thought Daybreak’s Bell‘s placement after Alone in La Vida was genial. You might say they have little in common, but I just really like the transition between the two. It’s more like two lovers who have complete opposite tastes. It’s by far the coldest, most aggressive single of this era, despite the fact that it sounds a lot like a doped ballad. That being said, I adore this song, and it really display’s Hyde’s vocal ability.

Umibe (beach) is definitely the saddest track on the album. It’s similar to Spiral in the way that it has a very low verse and then a tremendously powerful chorus; whereas the verses have pretty much only a piano, the verses border on metal.

The Black Rose opens the final chapter of this album, and I have to say, this song belongs onto their previous album, right after, or before, Killing Me, because both share immense similarities. It doesn’t sound bad after Umibe, but it’s definitely Awake material.

Link (Kiss Mix) definitely belongs on Awake, with those joyful strings and the over-happy chorus. It’s not a bad, don’t get me wrong; in fact, it was one of my favorite songs for half a year, which is a record length, but it’s placement is horrible.

Yuki no Ashiato (footprints on the snow) brings us very close to the worst part of the album. Once again, the placement is pretty bad, although it sounds better than the transition from The Black Rose to Link. Besides that, the vocals on this song are gorgeous, even better than on My Heart Draws a Dream. Because the next track is a Christmas-like song, this song does share some features with the sub-genre, although it’s far more bittersweet than your typical Let it Snow-type song.

I wasn’t quite sure in which direction Hurry Xmas was going when I heard it: first a “ladies and gentlemen, we are proud to present…” kind of violin piece, then a Cinderella ball-room song and finally a Frank Sinatra show background tune, all in under 15 seconds… and then there’s a Parisian soundtrack added to it in the back. And then you want to tell me this is a single? Utada Hikaru’s Boku wa Kuma is a lot better than this. Hurry Xmas may fit in the “closing theme” department, but in the “musical”, not “album”, building.

For a group I thought I was going to hate for the rest of my life after I lost my interest in Link and Lost Heaven, this is a great album. I’m really glad I gave them another try. For those who like pop, this might not really be the best of albums to try, but for those rock fans out there, this is your kind of album! I liked most of the songs, leaving out Hurry Xmas. The arrangement was excellent, but perhaps a little bit of variation in theme would have been better, and the three last songs just completely destroyed a perfect arrangement. Without those tracks at the end, this album would’ve gotten five starts, but there’s always something…

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