Archive for the 'L’Arc-en-Ciel' Category

L’Arc-en-Ciel: Nexus 4/Shine

Nexus 4/Shine, L'Arc-en-Ciel

1. Nexus 4

2. Shine

Nexus 4/Shine is L’Arc-en-Ciel’s 35th single as well as their second double A-Side, released on August 27th, 2008. It reached #2 on Oricon and has sold 133 856 copies.

Nexus 4 has a very adventurous spirit to it, something which the music video depicted very well (they attached the band to cords and had them stand on the edge of a building, which parts of the video show). The first verse wasn’t too great, but the chorus was just plain awesome. This kind of a single right after Drink it Down came as a surprise to me, as long as they don’t put Nexus 4 or Shine right after/before Drink it Down.

The second single, Shine, is much better in my view. Compared to Nexus 4, it’s similar but different, if you see what I mean. Whereas Shine is more of a romantic song, the theme for Nexus 4 is adventure; Shine sounds more progressive, and Nexus 4 is more on-off. The first verse was just plain cheesy (I want to shine on you, and always like the dazzling sun, I will defend you from all the darkness, this is the truth from my heart; there is nothing worse for me than this kind of lyrics), but the rest of the song was pretty nice. These two singles are unlike anything L’Arc-en-Ciel has ever done before, and I hope they go back, even though I liked both songs, to more mature-sounding songs, because these two sounded more like L’Arc-en-Ciel if you sent them back to their teen years.

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L’Arc-en-Ciel: Drink it Down

Drink it Down, L'Arc-en-Ciel1. Drink it Down

2. Dune 2008 (P’unk-en-Ciel version of Dune)

Drink it Down is L’Arc-en-Ciel’s 34th single, released on April 2nd, 2008. It reached #1 on Oricon and has sold 125 728 copies.

Drink it Down is a soft metal tune, the title making allusion to vampires (the cover does as well, and the PV shows female vampires, so the whole idea of vampire is probably an allusion to someone who exploits you). It opens with a horror-movie type piano/organ piece, to which are attached techno beats and finally the entire ensemble, drums and guitars. Hyde sings the song in an appropriately deep tone, and he has always been great for doing exactly that. The bridge was awesome, and far better than the rest of the song, which kind of approaches the mindless crap heavy-metal bands play, but not too much as to make it absolutely horrible.

Dune 2008 is a P’unk-en-Ciel remake of the title track on their debut album of the same name. As with all P’unk-en-Ciel songs, Tetsu sings, Hyde takes the guitar, Ken the drums and Yukihiro the bass, giving all their songs a fresh, punk feeling. I haven’t heard the original yet, so I won’t judge it based on the original. I’ve never really liked Tetsu’s voice, although it isn’t bad (he’s the backup singer). The actual song is kind of bizarre, but I liked the feel of it.

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…

L’Arc-en-Ciel: Awake

Awake, L'Arc-en-Ciel

New World

Lost Heaven

Jyojyoushi

Trust

Killing Me

As One

My Dear

Existence

Jiyuu e no Shoutai

Ophelia

Hoshizora

Twinkle, Twinkle

*****

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.

*****

Awake is L’Arc-en-Ciel’s tenth album, released on June 22nd, 2005. It reached #1 on Oricon and has sold 358 703 copies.

The opening track is the energetic New World (single originally released on April 6th, 2005), which is less mature than the rest of their songs, with the feel of a soft punk song. Although I could state many reasons why this song isn’t really so good, it’s kind of grown on me, especially the vocals.

Lost Heaven is the track that got me interested in them, as it was featured as the ending theme of Fullmetal Alchemist: the Conqueror of Shamballa. The song is fresh, but retains a feel of desperation, which fits with the song’s title. The English refrain was nice (I appreciate Japanese artists who have little of an accent, “Engrish”), and the guitars were great. By far the best album song they’ve ever produced, other than Alone in La Vida from Kiss.

Jyojyoushi (lyrical poem—single originally released on May 18th, 2005) struck me immediately. The title of the song is appropriate, but what I loved about it was Hyde’s amazingly deep voice in the refrain. Jyojyoushi is the best single on this album, although it kind of destroys the arrangement…

Jumping right back into punk, Trust opens with a very The Police-like, soft, repetitive tune (I’m thinking of Every Little Thing She Does). The opening lines are sung in a low tone and coldly by Hyde, and seemed kind of blind, but the rest of the song was a lot better.

Next is their most immature single ever: Killing Me (single originally released on January 13th, 2005) opens with an extremely pop-rock approach, but the song seems to completely change later on, losing the fast, sort of addictive tune it had maintained up to then, with bits of that coming back for the chorus.

As One was too much. The beginning was absolutely horrible, approaching Metallica, and what came after was only a tiny bit better. A very disappointing song.

The next song, My Dear, is totally different. It has a Renaissance-type string instrument playing in the back, and the song seems very bland for the first minute, but it’s actually a beautiful, almost heartbreaking ballad which is almost completely vocal. Great vocal work by Hyde, but this song should’ve come before or after Jyojyoushi.

Existence opens with a guitar being plucked very quickly before it introduces an element of soft metal. Better than As One, but still a poor song.

Jiyuu e no Shoutai (an invitation to freedom—single originally released on June 2nd, 2004) opens with a very nice guitar solo, but kind of disintegrates after such a good song. And Hyde singing very high isn’t that nice. All in all, however, not too bad a song. At least it was enjoyable, not like As One or Existence.

The next track, Ophelia, opens with a piano, adding a saxophone and finally an entire jazz ensemble which seemed kind of weird since jazzy stuff isn’t very L’Arc-en-Ciel, but they executed the song pretty well for a rock group. The band remains very good at slow songs.

Hoshizora (starry night) is a slow song, but very bland compared to My Dear and Ophelia. The song becomes more involved with the beginning of the chorus, but it wasn’t too much of a savior in the end.

The final song on the album finishes things off with an obviously Sting/The Police-inspired song, Twinkle, Twinkle. Frankly, the title turned me off from the beginning, but it wasn’t a bad song. It wasn’t a very inspiring or catchy song, but the chorus was relaxing.

Awake is an eclectic album, no matter what way you look at it. It has a lot of different facets, and that kind of destroyed the very idea that this album would have an arrangement. Well, I suppose they had not many options with singles so very different. The album songs were, for the most part, enjoyable, especially Lost Heaven and My Dear. I don’t really know whether I love or hate this album: the pros are that the songs are really good, but the cons would be that the arrangement really doesn’t inspire anything. Oh well…