Tomiko Van: Van.

Van., Tomiko Van

1. Flower

2. Utopia

3. manacles

4. Brave

5. Yumeji

6. carry out

7. Senkou

8. message.

9. Tokyo Biyori

10. Refrain

11. Van.

*****

This is a special review. It is likely that this will be the only album by this artist to be reviewed. Because it is a special review, no singles were reviewed before the writing of this review.

*****

Van. is Tomiko Van’s second album, but first to be preceded by singles. It was released on December 3rd, 2008.

Had I had to choose the opening track between the four singles of the Van. era, Flower would definitely been my first choice. It’s an optimistic and energetic track which just exhales freshness (in this sense, the title is perfectly appropriate) without end. It’s a catchy song with great vocals, great guitar work and it never drags.

We continue with the “fresh” of Flower, but this time Van added an island sound to it, creating one of many memorable tracks on this album, Utopia. It’s an upbeat song with an interesting mix of the electric guitar and the island sound. The chorus did make me cringe a little bit because of the completely non-Tomiko-DAI sound, but in the end, it creates a very lightweight track and a perfect follow-up for Flower.

Next comes the lounge song, manacles. It has a retro undertone, and reminds me of the soundtrack for movies from the 80s and early 90s. Her voice gives the song a resentful tone which is in stark contrast with the two previous tracks.

I’m glad she decided to add some B-Sides, and she even chose the good ones: Flower‘s coupling track, Brave, is one of those songs with a gentle verse and an energetic chorus. Like it’s A-Side, it has the DAI sound going for it, and that’s definitely a good thing.

Yumeji (road of dreams) is actually my least favorite single of the Van. era, but that’s not to say that it’s a bad song; it’s just pretty average. It’s major problem is that it drags toward the end, and there’s no real highlight to the song. The chorus sounds slightly off, which just put a great scratch all over the song. It’s a good song, it just could’ve been better.

The next track is the most unique track on this album: carry out opens with some Arabic tunes and a screeching electronic sound (which I really liked), but then it suddenly turns into… an Ayumi Hamasaki summer song! I couldn’t believe that after that beginning she would transform it into those huge blunders that Japan’s best-selling puts out every year. A real shame, even though the screeching electronic sound was really nice.

The screeching on carry out got us ready for the darkest song on the album, Senkou (flash), which is about being alone. I don’t find this song particularly catchy, but, for some odd reason, I still really like it, perhaps because of the piano drowned by the aggressive guitar riffs.

Tomiko’s latest B-Side, from Tokyo Biyori (Tokyo weather), message. follows the dark Senkou, and I have to say, before I praise this song, that it’s placement is bizarre. The previous track was dark, whereas message. is carefree and happy. That being said, I like the catchy electric guitar in the back and the little bells which make for the highlight of the chorus.

A-Side follows B-Side with Tokyo Biyori (Tokyo weather), and this time the transition is nice. She released this single a year and a half after Yumeji, and that’s the kind of stuff that makes me happy to not have known about her at the time. People say that this single was a disappointment after the long wait, and I have to agree on the last element, but I still think the gentle strings and vocal work and the guitar make for a pretty beautiful ballad.

The last full track is Refrain, which is like a mix of the two previous tracks (refrain, right?). The gentle acoustic guitar is there, but the vocals are more powerful than on Tokyo Biyori. It reminds me a lot of Ayaka’s Sky, on her latest album, in particular the part where she says are you ready to fly?

It’s too bad Van. doesn’t have vocals and isn’t even three minutes long, because it’s the best song on the album. It has some elements of manacles, but it’s a slowly accumulating song with some hints of R&B here and there. Just the accumulation and the slight eeriness of this song as well as the electronically manipulated strings and finally the Oriental flute make this song mesmerizingly beautiful.

This is quite the album. I haven’t listened to Farewell yet, but I’m quite sure it’s not as good as this. The mix of Do As Infinity’s rock and Tomiko’s personal touch creates a tasty mix of different genres with only slight problems of flow toward the middle. The singles for this album weren’t perfect, so I wasn’t expecting this level of excellence, but I am talking about Tomiko Van. I hope she continues to do solo work even after Do As Infinity has reformed (I didn’t think she was going to release an album after I heard that they’d be regrouping in late September), although that’s pretty unlikely.

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