Archive for the 'Ikimono Gakari' Category

Ikimono Gakari: My song Your song

My song, Your song, Ikimono Gakari

1. Planetarium

2. Kimagure Romantic

3. Blue Bird

4. SPICE MAGIC

5. Kage Boshi

6. Kaeritakunatta yo

7. message

8. Happy Smile Again

9. Kuchizuke

10. Boku wa Koko ni Iru

11. Pugi Ugi

12. Maboroshi

13. Kokoro no Hana wo Sakaseyou

14. Kaeritakunatta yo – acoustic version –

*****

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.

*****

My song Your song is Ikimono Gakari’s third album, released on December 24th, 2008. It reached #1 on Oricon, marking their first appearance at the head of the charts, and beating GIRL NEXT DOOR’s self-titled debut album, which had received a massive amount of promotion, by one rank. It is equally their seventh release of this year, and their second album of the year.

As much as I think Planetarium is Ikimono Gakari’s weakest A-Side ever, it makes for a gentle introduction to the album, and is probably the most fitting way to begin this album, considering all their other A-Sides are high-energy tracks, with the exception of Kaeritakunatta yo; but had that song been placed as the introductory track on this album, it would’ve made most of the other songs on this album boring. The song itself is a cross of a ballad and an Ikimono Gakari powerhouse track, which went wrong halfway, but, as I just said, is a perfect introduction to what you will hear on this album. And, as usual, A-Sides sound a lot better when they’re on an album.

A lot of artists decide to put a bunch of A-Sides together, and it’s not necessarily a bad thing; except when you put the gentle Planetarium beside Kimagure Romantic (capricious romantic), Ikimono Gakari’s most poppy and happy song so far. The transition is not awful, but I think the next song should have been put before this one. That way the transition from Planetarium to Kimagure Romantic would’ve been helped by a slight buffer space.

The transition from the previous track to Blue Bird is many times smoother, because Blue Bird shares a lot of common elements with Kimagure Romantic. I still love this song, although I just realized (yes, it’s sort of late) that the song is only three minutes and a half long. But nonetheless, it’s an excellent song.

Our first new song is called SPICY MAGIC, and it’s very similar to Planetarium. It has that sparkly, lullaby feel that Planetarium had, but it made it a lot better. It’s more of a ballad than it is a Ikimono Gakari powerhouse song, but it shares a few common things with the latter, and the end result is pretty spectacular, and very catchy.

Kage Boshi (silhouette) is an acoustic ballad with some elements of the pop songs they often do. I don’t think it’s quite as good as SPICY MAGIC because the verses are pretty boring, but the chorus is beautiful and catchy. Kiyoe’s vocals are particularly great on this song, and they really are the life of this song. Kage Boshi is definitely a pretty sad song, even though it may seem joyful at time, but Kiyoe really shapes the song with her vocal work.

Ah… Kaeritakunatta yo (I’ve come to want to go back home) is still my favorite single of this era, and I think the strings section is the biggest asset, even though Kiyoe’s voice is equally beautiful on this song. Everything about this song is just so beautiful, and it makes me feel both nostalgic and happy at the same time. And it’s placement is absolutely flawless.

Although it surprised me that Kaeritakunatta yo would be right before the poppy B-Side of Kimagure Romantic, message, I actually really like the transition. This song really makes me think of an anime scene where a teacher would be scolding avery young student (the tone, not the lyrics), and this song always makes me smile.

Happy Smile Again seems so many times better to me now. I liked it when it was the B-Side on Planetarium, but now I love this song. Especially the opening sequence. The funky guitar in the back, although it’s sort of suppressed during the verses, is a very nice addition and helps shape the attitude of the song.

Kuchizuke (kiss) is a pretty rock-based song for Ikimono Gakari, and may be the most surprising song. It definitely reminds me of some of the French Christmas songs that I’m hearing a lot now, here in Montreal, but although I hate those songs, this song is really good. Although it’s very similar to the previous track, the mood is completely different; Happy Smile Again is a really happy song, but Kuchizuke is obviously quite resentful and darker.

The next track, Boku wa Koko ni Iru (I’m right here), is a softer song shaped, once again, by Kiyoe’s powerful voice. It’s not a bad song, but it’s one of the weakest songs on this album. The flow from the previous track to this one does leave to desire, but it’ll pass.

Pugi Ugi is a pretty ridiculous song. It opens with drums and altered guitar riffs, and then Kiyoe’s voice make it really clear that this song is completely off. It’s poppy, but not like Kimagure Romantic; it’s happy to the point where it’s annoying. Weakest track on the album? I think so.

Maboroshi (ghost) takes us back to the ballads, and this one is a particularly gorgeous string-based song with slight bells. It’s very similar to Planetarium, but like SPICY MAGIC, it makes it a lot better. This particular song is pretty low-key, so the chorus isn’t necessarily catchy, but it’s gorgeous.

The last original song on this album is Kokoro no Hana wo Sakaseyou (let’s make the flower of our hearts bloom). The title made me think this would be another gorgeous ballad like Maboroshi, but although this is another Planetarium look-alike, it’s a lot more happy and has a lot more energy in it.

Closing this album is the Acoustic Version of Kaeritakunatta yo, which doesn’t quite sound as good as the original. It’s an appropriate ending to the song, but it still leaves to desire.

If there’s one thing I never liked about Ikimono Gakari, it’s their albums. I didn’t really like Sakura Saku Machi Monogatari of Life Album, but this album just blows everything away. Although the flow is sort of weird at the beginning, the rest of the album is almost perfect, and with the exception of Pugi Ugi, which really could’ve been removed from the album without further consequences, there wasn’t a single weak song. In addition to that, this album is way more mature than the two previous ones. There’s only one really silly song, and the rest of the material on this album is very straightforward and serious, with the touch of Ikimono Gakari’s joy. Had the flow been better and a few songs been ameliorated, I could easily envision giving this album the honorary six stars, but I’ll have to stick to five stars. Here’s to Ikimono Gakari and an absolutely great album that everyone should listen to!

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Ikimono Gakari: Kimagure Romantic

Kimagure Romantic, Ikimono Gakari1. Kimagure Romantic

2. message

Kimagure Romantic is Ikimono Gakari’s twelfth single, released on December 3rd, 2008. It reached #4 on Oricon, beating Gackt by three ranks, which is pretty impressive.

I’m quite sure I’m not the only one who thought that Ikimono Gakari’s previous single, Planetarium, was a pretty bad song when compared to some of the stuff they had released previously. But they’re already back with another single, when I thought they’d  be getting ready for a January release of their third album. Kimagure Romantic (capricious romantic) is probably one of their most eccentric and not-Ikimono Gakari songs with an overall feeling of joy and the hints of Christmas given by the bells in the back. I really like the slowly accelerating verses and finally the great chorus with that catchy darling, darling line. Not exactly quite as good as Kaeritakunatta yo (I’m a sucker for ballads like that one), but by far one of their best releases of 2008. Although all of them have been really good this year. Ikimono Gakari’s on fire this year!

Ikimono Gakari has a reputation with me of producing extremely good B-Sides, but this time they’ve outdone themselves. message is another really upbeat song, but features the trademark harmonica. It reminds me a lot of songs on their Life Album, like Chikoku Shichau yo (I’m gonna be late!), with its empathetic, happy, almost childish sound. Once again, they’ve made an insanely catchy chorus, and just an insanely good B-Side.

Ikimono Gakari: Planetarium

1. Planetarium

2. Happy Smile Again

3. Kaeritakunatta yo (Konnitsuaa!! 2008 Live Version)

Planetarium is Ikimono Gakari’s eleventh single, released on October 15th, 2008. It reached #6 on Oricon and has sold 20 017 copies. The title track was used as the theme for the drama Cat Street.

Although Planetarium has its charming points, it’s a step down from their two previous singles. It’s your typical Ikimono Gakari song, with a very outgoing chorus and relaxing verses, as well as a very nice ensemble of instruments, but it lacks that little extra something to make it catchy. It’s actually somewhat of a middle-man between Blue Bird and Kaeritakunatta yo, with the latter’s strings and ballad-esque qualities, and the former’s energy and Kiyoe’s beautiful vocal performance. By the way, is this like the tenth single by the name of Planetarium (Ai Otsuka has one such song, and apparently artists Baby Boo, BUMP OF CHICKEN, Plastic Tree and Toki Asako have songs/singles by the same name)?

Happy Smile Again is a more low-key piece, with a very cute chorus. I wouldn’t go as far as saying that it’s better than the A-Side, but this song does have that little extra something that I was looking for in Planetarium. Certain moments seemed off, and could’ve been done without, but in the overall this is a decent B-Side.

The Konnitsuaa!! 2008 Live Version of Kaeritakunatta yo provides the proof for the fact that Kiyoe’s voice is real, and doesn’t need to be edited on a computer to be on note, and that’s definitely a plus when it comes to how much I like this band.

Ikimono Gakari: Blue Bird

Blue Bird, Ikimono Gakari

1. Blue Bird

2. Natsuiro Wakusei

Blue Bird is Ikimono Gakari’s tenth single, released on July 9th, 2008. It reached #3 on Oricon and has sold 80 291 copies, making it their most successful single. It was used as the second opening theme for Naruto Shippuuden.

Blue Bird is an explosion of harmonica, guitar and drums, and a perfectly executed one at that. It’s actually somewhat of a Hanabi copycat, beginning with an almost a cappella Kiyoe, and then slowly elevating until the chorus. It also features a wonderful harmonica, the drums are relatively powerful, and the musical score sounds very similar. As usual, Kiyoe’s voice manages to astonish me with the high notes she reaches, and the music is very energetic. A step down from Kaeritakunatta yo, but with those two and Planetarium, their third album seems very promising.

The B-Side, Natsuiro Wakusei (summer-colored planet), is a really wild song when it opens. It sounds a lot like the B-Sides they’ve already done before, but it’s an enjoyable song. The vocals are sort of choppy at certain points, and the song could’ve been improved, but it’s a satisfying B-Side.

Ikimono Gakari: Kaeritakunatta yo

1. Kaeritakunatta yo

2. Nokori Kaze

Kaeritakunatta yo is Ikimono Gakari’s ninth single, released on April 16th, 2008. It reached #7 on Oricon and has sold 19 015 copies.

Kaeritakunatta yo (I’ve begun to want to go back home) is a beautiful ballad making fantastic use of strings. It begins with a piano and then come the swooshing violins and drums, a combination which I have and always will find beautiful. This is the kind of song Ikimono Gakari (which apparently is a task given at elementary schools consisting in taking care of any animals (“ikimono”) that the class has “adopted” and is raising as part of a project) excells at. The voice, the guitars, the strings, the drums… just everything about Kaeritakunatta yo makes it a charming ballad about, well, wanting to return to one’s land (or any other way you wish to interpret the song).

The B-Side, Nokori Kaze (remaining wind) drifts away from the ballad, and in a traditional B-Side manner, is the opposite of Kaeritakunatta yo. It begins with rapid acoustic guitars, introducing drums and finally a wonderful piano. Wow. Not as good, obviously, as the single, but another really good B-Side. I thought the verses were good, and then came the really great chorus. Hana wa Sakura Kimi wa Utsukushi was good; Kaeritakunatta yo and Nokori Kaze were twice as good.