Lucy in the Sky with Parasol
Rye Mugibatake de Choushoku wo/Sugar Cube
Garage (Album Mix)
Aozora, Naita (Album Mix)
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.
Nichika is Nichika’s debut album, released on June 18th, 2008. The name Nichika means “two thousand flowers”, and is formed of a vocalist, Miyamoto Issui, and a pianist/guitarist/composer Nomura Yoichiro.
Open the album is the band’s best single, and by far their most well-written one: Atarashii Mizu (new water—single originally released on May 21st, 2008). This song made me call this band the Japanese Coldplay; just remove the U2 inspiration and add a Japanese vocalist with a beautiful, mesmerizing voice, and voilà! you have Nichika. The combination of a relaxing yet fast piano in the back with a gentle beat, added to Issui’s beautiful voice make the verses very catchy, in a distinct way. When it comes to the chorus, it’s Coldplay full throttle. The almost psychedelic base guitar is very nice and the blurred strings section adds to the mesmerizing effect of this song. About the lyrics, I don’t really know what they mean, although I caught a few sentences. If the music video is true to the general content of the song, then this song presents a descriptive criticism of racism as well as a description of solitude and rejection through that description. The music video, if you get a chance to see it, may be boring, but is actually quite smart.
Continuing the greatness of Atarashii Mizu is somewhat of a continuation of the single, Cream Soda, the best album song. It opens with some very light synth beats in the back and a relaxing acoustic guitar. Then comes a series of canons which makes this song very Joni Mitchell-like. Cream Soda has the same effect on me as Atarashii Mizu: it’s mesmerizing. Cream Soda is a perfect example of a combination of regular instruments and synth.
Lucy in the Sky with Parasol, obviously a pun on the Beatles song, but without all the drug references. It does have that moderately gritty Beatles feel to it, and brings us back to the rock of the previous musical eras. The drum beats could’ve been lighter, but otherwise, this song is enjoyable, especially the catchy chorus, which sort of surprised me.
Genius Party (single originally released on August 4th, 2007) is Nichika’s venture into alternative rock with the habitual mesmerizing effect. The vocals in the chorus are too powerful, so that should have been worked on, but the general image of the song is nonetheless left unscarred, aided by the awesome guitar solo.
Next comes the rap-y Parallel, with rap-type ad-libbing in the back. It remains relatively un-evident that there’s rapping being done in the back for the verses, which is good, since I hate rap, and the chorus drops the entire thing and makes a perfectly-executed transition into alternative.
Painful reminds me of Atarashii Mizu with the predominant piano, the relaxing drum beats, and Issui’s nice vocals. It features elements of techno, notably synth at certain parts, altering of the instruments through a computer and heavy beats during the chorus, and such maintains what Nichika has been doing so far: experimenting mixing genres with piano rock.
Their first single, Edelweiss (single originally released on February 14th, 2008) is not as good as the two singles to come, but it’s still very good. This is a rock song in the jazzy style, with a slight infusion of very silent, comupter-manipulated orgels in the background for the verses.
Rye Mugibatake de Choushoku wo/Sugar Cube (breakfast in the rye wheat field/sugar cube) is another venture into alternative rock, with the addition of Yoichiro’s piano. It was featured as the B-Side on Atarashii Mizu. Although the verses seem to be boring, the chorus makes up for that and creates an enjoyable, catchy song.
Next is the B-Side on Genius Party, Garage. It’s more gritty rock, drawing from 90s rock during the verses, with a powerful guitar riff solo which the song could’ve well done without. The rest of the song is very nice; the vocals that Issui shows on Garage demonstrate her ability to adapt her voice.
The last prerecorded song on this album, the B-Side on Edelweiss, Aozora, Naita (the blue sky cried), also features more aggressive guitar riffs, and is actually better than the A-Side with a fast-paced, Nichika-flavored chorus with Issui’s trademark moving vocals, which never cease to amaze me, making every song many, many more times better.
Akichi (empty land) is a short, relaxing interlude of less than a minute and makes the album sound like it’s going to end now, but before that, they still have the catchy, wintery Snow Hug. The repetitive, powerful beat makes even the verses catchy, but Issui’s vocal work could’ve been better for the verses. The chorus draw from 80s and 90s pop and rock, and the extended notes at the end of the chorus serve as the cherry on the perfect cake.
Nichika is absolutely amazing. I don’t think there was a single weak track on this album. I particularly liked how every track experimented with different ways of adding one genre to piano rock. Issui’s vocals are always a pleasure to hear in compound with Yoichiro’s excellent instrumental work. It’s really a shame that their two most recent single didn’t chart, even though they were both a few steps up from Edelweiss. Nonetheless, and although I may think that Nichika will probably never make it to great fame, this band has huge, really, really huge talent and potential. This is one of the world’s best albums ever.