Archive for the '*SPECIAL REVIEWS' Category

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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Jun Shibata: Ai wo Suru Hito

Ai wo Suru Hito, Jun Shibata1. Ai wo Suru Hito – Orochi’s Version

2. Otou-san Yori

Ai wo Suru Hito is Jun Shibata’s seventeenth single, released on September 17th, 2008. It reached #6 on Oricon and has sold over 6 305 copies. This is a special review. It is likely that this will be the only single by this artist to be reviewed.

Ai wo Suru Hito – Orochi’s Version – (one who loves) is the recut version of a song featured on her previous album Shin’ai Naru Kimi e (to you who has become my loved one), released anew as the theme song to the movie Orochi. It draws heavily from the enka style, which I thought I’d hate forever, but this song has brought me nearer to. Jun Shibata’s voice has never ceased to amaze; her vocals are full of emotion even though they remain somewhat cold. It’s another slow burner, but sets itself apart from Te wo Tsunagou and Tegami – Haikei Jyuugo no Kimi e – with its moving ensemble of strings and its powerful piano. A really nice part was the tumbling piano and then the upswing of strings, as a sort of interlude between the two parts of the song.

Otou-san Yori (to Father) is a bit too much on the low-key side to be really good. It opens with a cute piano and then lets Jun’s voice take the lead. Here is another song where I keep waiting for the catchy part and it never comes. The chorus is only good because Jun’s voice is absolutely gorgeous and heartfelt.

Porno Graffitti: Love, too Death, too

Love, Too Death, Too, Pornograffitti

1. Love, too Death, too

2. Good News

3. Time or Distance

Love, too Death, too is Porno Graffitti’s twenty-sixth single, released on October 8th, 2008. It reached #1 on Oricon and has sold 60 155 copies so far. This is a special review. It is likely that this will be the only single by this artist to be reviewed.

Funky! Don’t let the cover make you think this is heavy metal, Love, too Death, too features a funky Motown-style guitar in the background before introducing a mind-blowing mixture of strings and trumpets. This song is by far Akihito’s best vocal performance ever, and Haruichi’s guitar work is really, really great. By far the most noteworthy of the many qualities this song has is the previously mentioned mix of strings, guitar and trumpets featured in the chorus, which is really stretched and fetches a few extra points for itself. It’s outgoing, incredibly catchy, and perfectly executed. It’s actually too bad that they don’t do more songs like this, because they’re certainly able too.

Good News is… a Christmas song! And it’s not bad at that, either. It’s a pretty happy song with bells, and all sorts of Christmas cliches thrown everywhere. Out of all the songs on this single, this is the weakest song, but it’s still not bad.

Time or Distance is better, featuring The Police-inspired guitar work in the background, and more modern-inspired vocals. The guitar solo was delicious, but too short-lived. Overall, this is the more worthy of the two B-Sides.

Yousei Teikoku: Weiss Flügel

Weiss Flügel, Yousei Teikoku

1. Weiss Flügel

2. Kikai Shoujo Gensou

Weiss Flügel is Yousei Teikoku’s (fairy empire) eighth single, released on September 10th, 2008. This is a special review. It is likely that this will be the only single by this artist to be reviewed.

Weiss Flügel (white wing in German) is somewhere between classical music and metal, but in a pleasant way. The genre reminds me very much of Shimatani Hitomi’s crossover, even though the two have little in common other than a blending of two genres. Yousei’s voice took me a while to get used to, but it seems to fit very well with the song. The aggressive riffs aren’t very pleasant, but the chorus and the verses, swinging between sublime and powerful, are beautiful. The transition between the chorus and verses is a little rough, and I suppose you could say unpleasant, but it’s a minor flaw that pretty much everyone does once in a while.

Unfortunately, Kikai Shoujo Gensou (illusion of a mechanic girl), is mindless heavy metal with the typical cut vocals and a very aggressive and powerful guitar as well as crazy drums. As usual, here’s another horrible B-Side that I don’t want to see added in an album.