Archive for the 'alan' Category

alan: Gunjou no Tani

Gunjou no Tani, alan1. Gunjou no Tani

2. Gunjou no Tani Acoustic Version

Gunjou no Tani is alan’s eighth single, released on February 4th, 2009. Like Shiawase no Kane (bells of happiness), it is a tribute single to the victims of the Sichuan Earthquake last year, although this single is a major, physical release, while the previous tribute single had been a digital download.

I was relieved enough when we got to the end of the five elemental singles series, but I’m even more relieved that we’ve finally gotten to the last single of the Voice of EARTH era. And it’s about time. Gunjou no Tani (ultramarine valley) is quite a departure from anything alan has ever done, but it’s pretty close to Kaze no Tegami. What I found remarkable about this single were the combination of the lyrics and almost jig-like song pattern. The idea that the alan we’ve seen in her previous songs is not as stern as she may have let off with her string of powerful ballads; the fact that she in fact a free spirit, and that she does, to a certain extent, regret going to Japan and wishes to go back to her homeland, which is what this song is all about. It’s a fun, honest song, and her vocals during the chorus really bring up this feeling of wanting to return home. As for a comparison to her previous songs; you may find this weird, and some (many?) will disagree on this subject with me, but I think Gunjou no Tani is on the same level as Ashita e no Sanka and RED CLIFF – Shin, Sen –, and when I first heard this song, I thought it was even better.

Much like the orchestral version of her debut single found on RED CLIFF – Shin, Sen –, the Acoustic Version of Gunjou no Tani is disappointing, if only a bit. My main qualm with this song would be that the vocals don’t sound quite as good as they did in the original and the feeling of yearning for home is almost completely gone. But the biggest delight for me was that we finally get to hear alan playing the er-hu in more elaborate and, most importantly, longer parts. It’s interesting, though, how much stronger the folk element is. Not exactly what I was expecting, but it will do to give this single five stars.

alan: Megumi no Ame

Megumi no Ame, alan1. Megumi no Ame

2. Namida

Megumi no Ame is alan’s seventh single, released on November 12th, 2008. It reached #22 on Oricon. In her five singles based on the elements of the Japanese Godai and the Tibetan Bön, it is the last, representing water.

I have to say that Megumi no Ame (blessed rain) is a disappointment since I was actually expecting something even better than RED CLIFF, but it will do. As for the song, it’s another slow burner, but more low-key than the previous single, more Western, even though it features alan (finally) playing the er-hu, the Chinese two-stringed fiddle. I have to say, though, after a few listens, I actually really like this song. It’s only default is that, unlike her four previous singles, I can’t hear “water”. Better than Kaze no Tegami, but a step down from RED CLIFF.

Namida (tears) fits the water theme better, and much like Sakura Modern on Ashita e no Sanka, it features more powerful beats and is more pronounced, yet has its common points with the A-Side. Some may say that the B-Side is better than the A-Side, but I find the B-Side to be not as good, at the limit on the same level. Her vocals on this song are the best asset, and she does sounds like she’s crying at certain points.

alan: RED CLIFF – Shin, Sen –

1. RED CLIFF – Shin, Sen –

2. Xin Zhan – RED CLIFF –

3. Ashita e no Sanka – Orchestra Version –

RED CLIFF – Shin, Sen – is alan’s sixth single, released on October 15th, 2008. It reached #15 on Oricon and has sold 5 260 copies. It is the fourth of her five singles based on the five elements of the Tibetan Bön and the Japanese Godai, this one representing fire. It was chosen as the theme for the Chinese historical blockbuster Red Cliff (“Chibi” in Chinese).

RED CLIFF – Shin, Sen – (Red Cliff – Heart, War -) is a gorgeous, powerful and dramatic ballad with a focus on the strings. Once you listen to the instrumental, you realize that it depends heavily on alan’s vocal work to give it a more well-defined and polished melody, because alone, the instrumental is actually quite low-key and unvarying, which is where the Chinese element comes in, because it’s endless repetition of the same two-three notes creates a mesmerizing melody. Then again, this song is the proof that alan’s vocals are absolutely fantastic. The verses are far less dramatic than the overwhelming chorus, but they provide for a period of calm after the powerful chorus. By the time alan begins to reach the high mountain notes, toward the end, you feel that it couldn’t get better, but at that moment, the cherry hadn’t been put on the perfect cake quite yet. No; the part that made this song perfect was the sublime ending, just like the beginning, with the gently weeping violins and the soft vocals. This song isn’t catchy; it’s extremely beautiful, and it’s exactly six minutes long of high-quality pleasure.

The Chinese version, RED CLIFF – Shin, Sen -, Xin Zhan – RED CLIFF – (Heart, War – RED CLIFF -) is not much different, except for two obvious differences: the language and the lyrics. I’ve heard that the original version, so this one, is much more touching in its lyrics, but, whether its just because I’m not used to Chinese music, the Chinese seems not to fit quite as well as the Japanese.

Ashita e no Sanka – Orchestra Version – (a hymn for tomorrow) is actually a disappointment for me. Alright, it’s beautiful, and the chorus is actually better than RED CLIFF’s, but the song’s structure is very confusing. The beginning, when she shouts “todoke, ashita e no sanka”, was an absolute turn-off for me, because it seemed to just drop the whole beauty of the original version. What then follows in an instrumental piece of no more than ten seconds which really reminds me of the soundtrack on Hayao Miyazaki’s movies. The verses aren’t all that nice, just too quiet when put beside the chorus, but then we get to exactly that, the mind-blowing chorus, which is introduced by a slowly accelerating melody but then still manages to seem like it comes out of nowhere. The contrast between verses and chorus is just too big.

alan: Kaze no Tegami

Kaze no Tegami (2), alan

1. Kaze no Tegami

2. Kagome

Kaze no Tegami is alan’s 5th single, released on September 10th, 2008. It reached #34 on Oricon and has sold 2 812. This is her third single in her string of five godai-based singles, this one representing the wind.

Kaze no Tegami (letter from the wind) is a powerful track with obvious inspiration from rock, but also borrows some elements from techno and electro-pop. The song opens with soft music and alan singing equally as softly, but the song becomes very powerful soon with the addition of synth in the back, drums and electric guitars. The verses return to the calm of the first two lines, but the chorus is very powerful. For a first venture into rock-inspired music, this is more than just a decent effort, and I absolutely love this song.

Kagome (woven bamboo) is just as powerful as the A-Side, but draws more from the alan’s trademark Tibetan element. He vocals are less Tibetan, though. It follows the same structure as Kaze no Tegami—soft beginning and verses, powerful chorus—and even retains the background synth element. This has got to be one of the best B-Sides I have ever heard.

alan: Sora Uta

Sora Uta, alan

1. Sora Uta

2. My Stage

Sora Uta is alan’s fourth single, released on August 13th, 2008. It reached #34 on the Oricon charts and has sold 3 633 copies. It is the second of her five singles based on the five Japanese elements, this one representing the sky.

Sora Uta (sky song) was better than Natsukashii Mirai – Longing Future -, definitely. The Tibetan element is a lot stronger than on her previous two singles, and her soft, more mainstream voice is enchanting. She’s progressing toward a more outgoing pop, as rendered obvious by the instrumentally powerful chorus. Frankly, I wasn’t very surprised by this single and the song was kind of boring at the beginning. The chorus is very nice, although kind of overblown, and certain lines are really catchy. Nonetheless, an improvement.

My Stage is a bizarre track, and I really wasn’t expecting this after Sora Uta. It’s almost like American R&B, Rap and Hip-Hop, and it definitely doesn’t suit alan, but it was a decent attempt. I hope that she releases better B-Sides in the future.

alan: Natsukashii Mirai – Longing Future –

Natsukashii Mirai - Longing Future -

1. Natsukashii Mirai – Longing Future – 

2. Seed of Green

3. Gasshou

Natsukashii Mirai – Longing Future – is alan’s third single, and the first in her series of five element-centered singles, this one representing the Earth. It was released on July 2nd, 2008, has sold 10 267 copies and reached #19 on Oricon.

To be frank, I never really liked Natsukashii Mirai – Longing Future – (nostalgic future). It just doesn’t feel like alan anymore. The whole Chinese/Tibetan element is almost completely gone; I can even compare this song to Shimatani Hitomi’s Nakitai Nara, yet another very bad ballad by her (don’t get me wrong, I like Shimatani Hitomi, but you have to admit that her ballads, when not crossover, are pretty lame). The song is just really bland, and alan doesn’t really use her vocal talents as much as I’d want her to. It had its good moments, but it’s not really what I was expecting.

The first of two B-Sides, Seed of Green is more outgoing than the single, but after a nice beginning, the vocals kind of destroy the whole atmosphere the intro had built up.

Gasshou (chorus) is the third of three seemingly identical songs (YUI syndrome already, alan?). Well, it took me a while to realize its the choral version of Natsukashii Mirai – Longing Future -, and it absolutely destroys a perfectly average song. All in all, a very disappointing single for me.

alan: Hitotsu

Hitotsu, alan1. Hitotsu

2. Kimi Omou Sora

3. Sign

4. Tokyo Mimei

Hitotsu is alan’s second single, released on March 5th, 2008. It reached #100 on the Oricon Charts and has  sold 1 486 copies.

Hitotsu (one) is a charming ballad with, if I heard correctly, Scottish or Celtic influences in the background at one point, toward the end of the chorus. I just thought the song was gorgeous charming… Sure, it’s not quite as good as Ashita e no Sanka, but it’s a fantastic ballad. As usual, these songs pick up a bit with the addition of more strings, and, as usual, it was great. The Tibetan influence is there, but not quite as predominant as in her first single

Kimi Omou Sora (the sky you’re thinking of) is a more upbeat song which, like Hitotsu, sounded like it had North-British/Celtic influences in the back. Kimi Omou Sora wasn’t really all as fantastic as the single, and I felt it didn’t succeed quite as well.

Sign‘s beginning reminded me of Joni Mitchell’s “Boho Dance”, but the obvious Tibetan influences mixed with techno beat (which I liked) changed that impression. It has a far more breezy yet heavy feel than the other songs on the single. I appreciated her step into the techno, and, although I have a finicky taste for the genre. Apparently she sung this song in Tibetan, if you’re wondering why you can make out absolutely none of the lyrics.

Tokyo Mimei (Tokyo dawn) is another calm ballad, with very urban beats mixed with classical elements. The verses go, for the most part, without the urban beats, leaving the main music to calm music and a violin in the background. The chorus makes use of alan’s beautiful voice, and I really liked it.