Indefinite Hiatus

So…I’ve pretty much lost all interest in reviewing music lately. I’m not really good at it anyway, so that doesn’t help. I won’t say I’m completely finished, because I actually have a lot of finished drafts ready to post, but I don’t even feel like posting those.

Do As Infinity – Hiiragi

:: Single Review ::

Do As Infinity – Hiiragi
2003.11.06
avex-trax

1. Hiiragi
2. Treasure Pleasure
3. Hiiragi (Instrumental)
4. Treasure Pleasure (Instrumental)

“Hiiragi” is the seventeenth single released by Do As Infinity. The title track was used as the theme song for the drama “Koibumi”. The single peaked on the Oricon Charts at #7, and has sold approximately 149,300 copies in total.

1. Hiiragi
Ah, yes “Hiiragi” is quite the different ballad for the band, yet feels quite familiar nonetheless. With a solemn piano and strings beckoning the listener in, Van soon pops up with talk-like singing as she continues the melancholic sound through a message laced with doubts and uncertainty. Instrumentation is relatively bare for the first verse, but the second’s richer textures of strings give the song a slightly hopeful feel. There’s something about her forceful performance at the hooks, though, that really grabs me. They’re not angry, but the power and force Van puts into her voice really speaks to me. It’s not a folk song, yet “Hiiragi” has a sort of “soul-peering” quality to it.

2. Treasure Pleasure
On the other end of the spectrum, is the energetic and rocking “Treasure Pleasure”. Right from Van’s first line, she comes into this song peppy and happy. Now, this track is a little different that their usual verse-chorus pop/rock songs. Yes, we still have the verses leading up to the pre-chorus, but the actual choruses come and go in a matter of two lines and some “ah~” ad libbing. Strangely enough, though, the way almost every syllable is stressed by Van and similarly by the percussion and guitars is addictive. There’s also more instrumental sections than usual, and their mixing of rock, synths, and a shaker-like sound has me wanting more of them.

“Hiiragi” is a ballad all right, but it was a much more appealing take on a ballad than what you usually expect from pop artists. I won’t lie and say it was the best thing they’ve released, but it’s always been a track I’ve always been able to appreciate. “Treasure Pleasure” is also a nice little track to balance the single out. Another overall strong single from DAI.

Overall Score: B-

Tackey & Tsubasa – Two Tops Treasure

:: Album Review ::

Tackey & Tsubasa – Two Tops Treasure
2014.12.03
avex trax

1. Treasure Hunting
2. Giramera
3. Dakinatsu
4. Boogie 2night
5. Nee
6. Kokoro Uruoshiteku
7. Ame ga Niji ni Kawareba
8. Boku no Soba niwa Hoshi ga Aru
9. Koigokoro HUNTER
10. Shakunetsu no Ritsudou
11. Viva Viva More
12. Kaesenai Kasa wo Karita

“Two Tops Treasure” is the fifth album released by Tackey & Tsubasa. The album peaked on the Oricon Charts at #5, and has sold approximately 26,784 copies in total.

1. Treasure Hunting
It’s all glittering magic with the instrumental introduction track, “Treasure Hunting”. Triumphant also seems to be the theme, as an orchestrated sound of horns and strings with march-esque percussion work together to bring that image about. Then the track switches gears as pop beats and sounds enter the foray for a sound befitting of an adventure ranging from success to slight bursts of danger. This is the first introductory track they’ve done for an original album, but it’s damn good.

2. Giramera
Rumbling guitars and various other sounds start off this pop/rock track that’s bursting with their usual horns. “Giramera” falls into the category of “serious”/hard verses that transform into pop-friendly and bright choruses. Personally, the verses work quite well with the low rumbling guitars underneath the duo, and the assisting horns are pleasing just as expected. Now, the aforementioned key switch at the hooks gives the track the necessary catchy melodies, but the impact is nowhere near as bombastic as hoped, and the keyboard riffs most definitely should have been used more. Still, the music is purely in the duo’s signature style, and it’s still enjoyable at the end of the day.

3. Dakinatsu
The transition from the previous track to “Dakinatsu” seems a bit smoother than usual thanks to the two tracks’ similar use of guitars and brass. “Dakinatsu” was their second attempt at a summer song, though, aside from the lyrics, the track works well outside the summer season. As mentioned, guitars and squeaky brass sounds make for catchy music to keep one’s foot moving, and grow more infectious as the hooks make their appearance. The hooks are best described as “sparkling” and “party-inviting” as both singers invite the listener into festive sounds of squeaky brass and infectious melodies. It’s certainly difficult to not get captured into the song’s charm.

4. Boogie 2night
The fourth song on the album comes with the idea of two guys trying to impress a single woman, with both of them subtly taking jabs at one another. Honestly, I love the premise of the lyrics, but I absolutely adore the boogie/disco style of this song. This is a true dance/party song, and the shining horns and various synth sounds coupled with the hooks’ irresistible melodies are as close to perfection as this duo could ask for. It’s easy to pinpoint the track’s strongest part: the hooks. They’ve got everything going to get you wanting to boogie with the music and then some. “Boogie 2night” is simply fun in all the right ways, and the ending of the duo losing out to another man is quite amusing.

5. Nee
“Nee” is the first ballad of sorts for the album. Well, ballad isn’t exactly correct, as it’s actually a midtempo feel good track with lyrics that attempt to perk up those feeling down. The instruments are pretty much what one would expect from this sort of track: strings, an acoustic guitar, and a fairly heavy beat. For what it’s worth, though, the arrangement comes together nicely. “Nee” does have an absolutely great transition from verses to choruses, making use of “whoa” ad libs as the duo sing various lines starting with “nee” rapidly before heading off into heartfelt pleading. Honestly, the way the duo work off one another to not sound sappy makes all the difference.

6. Kokoro Uruoshiteku
Generally speaking, Tackey & Tsubasa seem to always have one track on their album that deals with moral/ethical problems of the world. “Kokoro Uruoshiteku” is this album’s version of that theme. So, to go along with that theme, the singing and music both take on a mature and serious atmosphere. Musically speaking, this is a boy band-ified rock song, so synths and pop melodies are used to make sure the track doesn’t go too far into rock territory. It’s a shame, actually. The arrangement seems like it has some potential, but the impact the choruses’s should have brought feels rather weak. Sure, the duo are great with their added tones of irritation, but this is in need of harder guitars.

7. Ame ga Niji ni Kawareba
Now we enter the album’s first true ballad that’s ushered in by a piano and accenting strings. Worries were high that this would be an over-the-top attempt to be sad, but the duo managed to dash those worries by keeping their performance soft and reigned in. The heavy use of percussion and added acoustic guitar helped to do that, as well. This is another song with a theme that really appeals to me: It’s all about hesitating in life; trying to believe even when what lies in wait is unknown. A truly accessible message, and one that’s made better by the dramatics of the music and use of crescendos in the choruses. It also gets prop for a nice guitar solo. A strong song that could have easily been an a-side.

8. Boku no Soba niwa Hoshi ga Aru
Their first a-side of this era makes complete sense coming after the album’s first ballad, being as this is a mid-tempo ballad of sorts. It’s a pleasant and sweet tune with lightly strummed guitars, subtle sparkles, and synths mimicking strings. It’s a great way to ease the listener in, and the piano and guitar that replace those instruments for the verses keep things going smooth. All this slowly leads up to the hooks, where an additional guitar and the reappearance of strings provide for a more grand approach. The two do sound somewhat strained in their higher registers, but the pleasant music and melodies give the song all it really needs. A nice enough song, I’d say.

9. Koigokoro HUNTER
Another boogie-esque dance track? Yes, please. The party vibe is back on as the horns get the excitement going, and the inclusion of a piano differs it from “Boogie 2night”. This definitely has a faster beat to it than everything else so far, yet it’s not nearly as enticing as the aforementioned track. Well, that is until the hooks come in at full force. That’s when the horns make their resurgence, the image of a party taking place grows its strongest, and the vocal melodies get as catchy as can be. That celebratory and fun mood is exactly what makes this a memorable track. And I think it’s also safe to say the sax solo at the bridge won me over quickly.

10. Shakunetsu no Ritsudou
The acoustic opening for the album’s tenth track has a relaxing vibe to it, which goes in the direction of a slow Latin flavored section. Contrary to expectations, though, the music suddenly takes the route of a Latin dance track. They’ve done quite a number of Latin tracks in the past, but this one manages to distinguish itself from the rest. Thumping beats pounding, horns here and there, and just a general rush of sounds make an otherwise typical Latin love song into a lively fiesta of sorts. It doesn’t quite hold the same awe that some of the other pop numbers have, but “Shakunetsu no Ritsudou” sports fun enough hooks with enough fun to allow the song to keep its integrity.

11. Viva Viva More
A sort of sleeper hit, as another Latin-inspired party track, “Viva Viva More” was well placed on the album after the last Latin track. After so many Latin songs, this one stands out quite a bit. What strikes my fancy the most is the way the two singers sometimes add some Spanish accents to their singing, along with how they’ll quickly switch from singing to what sounds a bit like talking at the choruses. Those two things, coupled with a moderate dance beat, feelings of sparkling, and brass instruments make the party vibe complete. This song is likable all around. Hooks are infectious as nothing else, and the sparkling and fun music make one want to live it up.

12. Kaesenai Kasa wo Karita
Sending off the album with a ballad – something that seems quite typical for them – “Kaesenai Kasa wo Karita” has all the makings of a ballad with its pretty piano opening. All is quite what you’d expect, and then a nice addition of an accordion shows up to switch things up. And, as if to go along with that, the lyrics take a different approach: Here, the lyricist composed a piece about hope and future meetings through a borrow umbrella that the speaker someday hopes they can lend to someone else. Aside from the accordion, the arrangement doesn’t do anything out of the ordinary, yet it really doesn’t need to. For the album’s final track, it does the job.

Interest for “Two Tops Treasure” wasn’t at all high when the duo announced their fifth album. Despite some good a-sides before hand, said a-sides took longer than usual to appeal to me. And, to be perfectly honest, this album didn’t immediately click with me, either. In fact, I sort of wrote it off after listening to it once, and didn’t think too much about it afterwards. Upon further listen, though, it’s hard to deny that the pop songs here feel much more connected and in tune with one another than their previous effort, “TEN”. Not to say the two are winning any awards for originality, but they’ve offered everything they’ve needed to with this album: Fun pop. It’s easy to write off boy groups because they’re seen as corporate puppets with pop tunes that quickly lose their appeal, but this was enjoyable for what it is. The duo should consider doing an entire album with disco and boogie type dance songs.

Overall Score: C+

:: My Favorite Tracks ::
Boogie 2night
Treasure Hunting
Viva Viva More
Koigokoro HUNTER
Ame ga Niji ni Kawareba
Dakinatsu

:: My Least Favorite Track ::
Kokoro Uruoshiteku

Amuro Namie – _genic

:: Album Review ::

Amuro Namie – _genic
2015.06.10
avex trax

1. Photogenic
2. Time Has Come
3. Golden Touch
4. Birthday
5. It
6. Scream
7. Fashionista
8. Fly
9. B Who I Want 2 B feat. HATSUNE MIKU
10. Stranger
11. Every Woman
12. Space Invader
13. Anything
14. What I Did For Love feat. Amuro Namie

“_genic” is the twelfth album released by Amuro Namie. The album peaked on the Oricon Charts at #1, and has sold approximately 213,580 copies in total.

1. Photogenic
Namie’s twelfth album opens up with this funky yet low key dance track. An immediate highlight for this track is the use of a guitar with wah-wah effects to give it the aforementioned funky sounds. Back to using only English, “Photogenic” is a sort of narcissistic ode to oneself: Namie sensually and confidentially sings lines like “freakin’ photogenic” and “everyone knows I’m beautiful”. She’s understandable for the most part, though there are a few instances where it’s hard to make out what she’s saying. Otherwise, this song has got one hell of a catchy hook, and, while its build up is nothing compared to “Alive”, it still manages to reach a satisfying crescendo. Yes, Namie, you are indeed photogenic.

2. Time Has Come
On the other hand, “Time Has Come” enters with some 8bit sounds and then grows more aggressive with guitars and Namie chanting, “Say what”. Interestingly enough, the track then slows down to a pleasant piano driven bit that utilizes Namie’s softer voice. But the track isn’t done there. Just as quickly as the piano bit came in, the chorus finds the return of the guitars for a rather rockish arrangement. Hooks are infectious, but the “say what” parts seem like they’d be good in a live setting. I also do quite like the track’s message: Namie sings about hitting the road to get out of this “sleeping town” with someone others don’t approve of. It more or less works on the whole.

3. Golden Touch
The third song is exactly what the doctor ordered. Using old school R&B beats and energetic bursts of synths, this is a vibrant and bright tune guaranteed to grab your attention. Indeed, the song is fluffy and sweet, and Namie’s vocals likewise take a similar route as she tackles the song with a much higher pitch than usual. Namie and the music together are pushing the limits of happiness, but doing so in an irresistible way. Seriously, I cannot get the hooks’ melodies out of my head, and don’t really want to, either. Oh, and we’re back to a mixture of Japanese and English, thank the stars. This track stands out in all the right ways, and will definitely please fans of her R&B days.

4. Birthday
“Birthday” has Katy Perry sounds written all over it, yet it sounds so much better – miles better than Katy Perry’s own “Birthday” song. Anyway, coming after the bubbly “Golden Touch” makes sense, as this is more along the lines of a celebratory, bubblegum pop track. Not to say Namie’s pulling out too much sugar-sweet tones, though. On the contrary, she actually talk-sings her lines in the verses with cooler tones before opting for fun and catchy melodies at the choruses. The music, while not the richest in sounds, has a great funky bass line and nice synths to it, and the bridge with horns and the sounds of people partying is a nice touch. “Birthday” is just good ol’ fun.

5. It
As the shortest track on the album, “It” isn’t too revolutionary, but makes use of a looped playful whistle sound to give it something to stand out. With this song, we have Namie liking love to a game of tag, where she wants to be “It” for once; not just the person running around waiting to be tagged. It’s relatively simple, yet somehow cute. In any case, I like the way Namie and the bouncy piano work together, though, while I do find her pronunciation to be good enough, there’s a choppy feel at times. However, I love the bombastic entrance of the hooks, the “yeah-yeah” ad libs, and how the piano keeps playing bouncy lines throughout. It’s quite fun, though too much nasal, Namie.

6. Scream
The sound of a bustling city starts things off before we head back into full-fledged EDM territory. Honestly, I’m all about how heavy the beats are and how the synths have a beeping quality to them. Namie herself has all sorts of stuff going on: Her voice gets altered at some parts, there’s lots of layering, but, most importantly, she just sounds great. And that huge burst of energy after a short slowdown for the choruses – that’s exactly what you need to get the adrenaline pumping in all the right ways. Hell, from the bridge onward, it’s just nonstop momentum. You could easily argue that this isn’t anything different from your usual EDM, but it does its job so well, I don’t find that a problem.

7. Fashionista
“Fashionista” is like a revisit to her “PLAY” era in some ways, and, for that, I absolutely love it. Much like “Photogenic”, this track is all about feeling yourself, so you can bet that Namie pulls off the sassy and diva-like attitude with ease. As she says herself she’s “got the swag” and “I’m exceptional”. Musically there’s just a rush of sounds with brass, whistles, heavy bass drum, then some rapid drum machines, plus all the synths. It seems like a lot, but I feel like everything comes together to make such a sleek and fun sound. Namie’s use of her upper register is a bit nasally and hard to get used to, but I’m willing to forgive. I mean, those hooks are just outstanding, especially the key switch from the bridge to final chorus.

8. Fly
“Fly” has a sort of acapella opening to it, then transforms into more of the club banging stuff she’s been going for as of late. It does have ever so slight dubstep sounds to it, as well as quite a bit of rock here and there. Thematically, it’s about freedom, though you will need to actually read the lyrics to get that. Namie’s English is extremely difficult to understand here outside of a few words and sections. Otherwise, you’ll probably be too busy jamming along to the soaring hooks to really care too much, especially when the post-hook section pops up at the second and then final choruses. It’s a great song, and the image of driving a car with wind blowing through your hair really does manifest itself.

9. B Who I Want 2 B feat. HATSUNE MIKU
Track nine on the album comes off the most experimental so far musically speaking. It has an addictive beat going for it; one that is bound to be a hit club-wise, and one that grows all the more so as it leads into the chorus. Synths included, this has all the makings of a really great track. The problem? The vocals. For the life of me, I cannot fathom why Namie thought it necessary to collaborate with vocaloid artist, HATSUNE MIKU. It’s pointless. Especially since Namie’s vocals are already under heavy effects in the first place – she should have just sang the song solo. It also doesn’t help that MIKU often overpowers Namie. The music is great. The vocals, though, are a turnoff.

10. Stranger
Get ready for some noise. “Stranger” is all about being loud and as in your face as possible. There’s just so much going on in the arrangement, it can get to be overwhelming at times. But boy do I love it. This track is all about getting you up on the dance floor, as Namie herself says, and the heavy dance beat and tribal percussion do the job. The synthesizers, though, are where all the interesting sounds come from: there’s beeps, boops, swishes, and all sorts of sounds that leave the verses satisfying and the hooks bursting to the seams with infectiousness. If that weren’t enough, the outro brings in a much appreciated urban breakdown. I know some find it too noisy, but this is just what I need to get me going.

11. Every Woman
“Every Woman” has a more clap-happy pop opening going for, and serves as an anthem song for every woman. The biggest attraction, at least to me, is Namie’s vocal performance this time. She takes on a British accent of sorts, all while sounding confident and sassy, though her pronunciation problems are still ever apparent. Still, at least her singing more than makes up for that small problem. The song itself is still on the EDM side of things, but it comes off a little lighter after the sometimes overwhelming “Stranger”. The hooks are pretty playful, and they certainly do hook themselves into your brain. I’m also particularly fond of the breakdown of cowbell-like sounds and general 80’s-ness.

12. Space Invader
From the title, I had expected “Space Invader” to be along the lines of “Supernatural Love”, but the end result was infinite times better. “Space Invader” is literally about someone who just invades your space, and the way Namie is so obviously pissed off is everything this song needs. There’s even some sexual innuendo, though it’s obviously Namie does not want it. Surprisingly, the music is relatively reigned in, though it uses a mixture of dubstep and urban to bring some rather nifty bursts of synths and beats. Those bursts of sounds along with Namie just plain work. The song may not be an earworm like most of the previous songs, but it still finds its way into your head.

13. Anything
After an album with nothing but pop/dance songs, “Anything” finally comes in to slow things down with an acoustic guitar and deep-sounding percussion. After the somewhat English train-wreck that was “Let Me Let You Go”, Namie pins down her English for the most part, so the listener is thankfully spared from any cringe-worthy moments. Honestly, the lyrics of “Anything” aren’t that special and are more generic than anything else. However, it’s the mood set by the music and the calming and inspiring tone Namie takes that make this something a little more special, even if it does resemble TLC’s “Unpretty”. I won’t say it impacts me that much, but “Anything” is a nice ballad.

14. What I Did For Love feat. Amuro Namie
It’s been a while since she’s released a bonus track, and apparently this song was done by Emeli Sandé. After listening to both versions, I think both girls did a great job, though, of course, I’m more drawn to Namie’s version. Namie’s English is somehow even better than before, making it easy to understand everything she’s singing. As far as the music goes, I love how this starts off piano driven in a ballad arrangement. I’m also particularly fond of the choir that joins her at the chorus to add a gospel-touch to the music. Oh, and true to David Guetta’s style, the second half of the song adds in the dance elements to give us a sort of dance-ballad sound.

“_genic” certainly brought hopes up high for ambitiously leaving out “BRIGHTER DAY” and “TSUKI”. It’s unfortunate, though, that it didn’t completely meet my expectations. Did I like the majority of the tracks of this album? Yes, after repeated listens, I grew to like more tracks than I did on my initial listen. The problem, for me, was that I was expecting a more 80’s and 90’s throwback along the lines of “Golden Touch” than what was actually given. I’m also convinced that it may be time to retire the all English songs, or at least tone down on them. For whatever reason, Namie’s English seems to have devolved with this release – strange since she improved so much from “Uncontrolled” to “FEEL”. Where I was more forgiving in the past, her choppy pronunciation has started to become more of a problem than anything else. In the long run, “_genic” is still full of those EDM songs that you either love or hate. Some may find quite a bit of songs generic, but there’s no denying that the album at least proves potent in a club setting.

Overall Score: B-

:: My Favorite Tracks ::
Fashionista
Golden Touch
Stranger
Photogenic
Space Invader
Scream
Anything
Fly
Birthday

:: My Least Favorite Track ::
B Who I Want 2 B feat. HATSUNE MIKU

Shimatani Hitomi – ANGELUS / Z!Z!Z! -Zip! Zap! Zipangu!-

:: Single Review ::

Shimatani Hitomi – ANGELUS / Z!Z!Z! -Zip! Zap! Zipangu!-
2004.08.11
avex-trax

1. ANGELUS
2. Z!Z!Z! -Zip! Zap! Zipangu!-
3. ANGELUS (Instrumental)
4. Z!Z!Z! -Zip! Zap! Zipangu!- (Instrumental)

“ANGELUS / Z!Z!Z! -Zip! Zap! Zipangu!-” is the sixteenth single released by Shimatani Hitomi. “ANGELUS” was used as the opening theme for the anime “InuYasha”, while “Z!Z!Z! -Zip! Zap! Zipangu!-” was used as the theme song for TV Tokyo’s coverage of the 2004 Olympics in Athens, Greece. The single peaked on the Oricon Charts at #8, and has sold approximately 52,687 copies in total.

1. ANGELUS
“ANGELUS” is a different type of dance track, and one that doesn’t exactly scream anime-song at first. Actually, for an anime song, it’s quite strange, though, looking at the lyrics, it’s quite apparent where the song is the most anime-like. Hitomi’s opted for a Latin-flavored dance track that’s not lacking in the energy department. Synthesized horns and other small touches of Latin instruments bring about a lively and fun atmosphere that Hitomi keeps in check with a deeper and mature vocal performance. It’s quite an infectious track throughout, and Hitomi’s soaring vocals shining as she breezes through the hooks. Its novelty’s waned over the years, but “ANGELUS” is still fun for some spins.

2. Z!Z!Z! -Zip! Zap! Zipangu!-
As strange as the track’s title is, “Z!Z!Z!” is all about trying to pump up the Japanese public for the Olympics. This track was released before her “crossover” concept album, yet I’ve always found this track to be her first try at said genre – the arrangement is brimming with piano, synths, strings, guitars, and a dance beat, and carries a worldly feel to it. The instruments all come together for a rather epic and empowering tune. However, that wouldn’t be possible without Hitomi’s vocals: The choruses allow her to really show off her pipes as she powerful and easily extends notes left and right in an almost operatic way. A nice song that’s sort of a precursor for what’s to come.

Hitomi has never shied away from releasing Latin tracks, yet “ANGELUS” was a lot different than Latin-flavored tracks she’s released up to this point. “Z!Z!Z! -Zip! Zap! Zipangu!-“, on the other hand, is unlike anything she’s ever released before. Both are respectably good songs; not her best, but with enough memorable qualities to stand out in her discography.

Overall Score: C+

HIGH and MIGHTY COLOR – BEEEEEEST

:: Best Album Review ::

HIGH and MIGHTY COLOR – BEEEEEEST
2008.11.26
Sony Music Japan

1. OVER ~LIVE@OKINAWA MUSIC TOWN~
2. Ichirin no Hana
3. DIVE into YOURSELF
4. PRIDE
5. energy
6. “Here I am”
7. Oxalis
8. Remember
9. Enrai ~Tooku ni Aru Akari~
10. NOTICE
11. Hummingbird
12. Amazing
13. for Dear…
14. Mirror
15. TOXIC

“BEEEEEEST” is the first best of album released by HIGH and MIGHTY COLOR. The album peaked on the Oricon Charts at #42, and has sold an unknown amount of copies in total.

It’s hard not to gush over a release when the songs chosen for said released were picked by the fans themselves. As the final release to send off Maakii, “BEEEEEEST” does a wonderful job of letting fans select the songs they felt represented the band’s time with Maakii the best. For the most part, the album soars off with the band’s signature rock sound of gritty guitar riffs, catchy hooks, and growling and screaming from resident “vox vocalist”, Yuusuke. There are little, if any, times this best feels like it’s trudging along unbearably, and it’s generally jam-packed with uptempo tracks to get the energy pumping in some way or another. And, since not limited to just single tracks, the best carries a short look at some of their greater songs throughout their three and a half year history.

“BEEEEEEST” is simply a great buy no matter how you look at it. In fact, it’s probably a better buy than their previously released “10 COLOR SINGLES” just the year before this. There’s not a feel of simply slapping something together for a quick buck (even though, in the end, I’m sure that’s what their management company was after). As mentioned before, the fact that this is a selection of fan-picked songs makes all the difference, giving an intimate touch to what would otherwise have been just random songs arranged in any which way. It’s a bitter-sweet release, but at least HIGH and MIGHTY COLOR attempted to make it worthwhile for their hardcore fans.

Overall Score: A

:: My Favorite Tracks ::
Ichirin no Hana
PRIDE
“Here I am”
Oxalis
Remember
Enrai ~Tooku ni Aru Akari~
Hummingbird
Amazing
Mirror

:: My Least Favorite Track ::
DIVE into YOURSELF

Tackey & Tsubasa – Dakinatsu

:: Single Review ::

Tackey & Tsubasa – Dakinatsu
2014.08.20
avex-trax

1. Dakinatsu
2. Seishun no Saki no Kibou
3. Kimi Shidai

“Dakinatsu” is the fifteenth single released by Tackey & Tsubasa. The title track was used as the commercial song for Ginza Stefany’s “PLACENTA100”. The single peaked on the Oricon Charts at #4, and has approximately sold 31,182 copies in total.

1. Dakinatsu
As another summer single, it’s hard not to compare this to “Ho! Summer”. The two are completely different in sound, though – “Dakinatsu” doesn’t have the surfer sound that screamed summer. Instead, this track takes on the typical aspects of the two’s music: Brass instruments, guitars, and catchy one liners to grab the listener’s attention. I won’t deny it either: It’s ridiculously easy to get caught up in the hooks. With those squeaky brass sounds and moderate drums keeping one’s foot moving, the hooks are probably best described as “sparkling” and “party-inviting”. There are some vocal strains, most notable at the pre-chrous, and I wouldn’t say it’s as memorable as other a-sides of theirs, but it’s still a fun tune.

2. Seishun no Saki no Kibou
The single’s first b-side reminds me greatly of some of the pop/rock music being released by Do As Infinity at the moment. That is, it’s a mid-tempo track with a sort of country-rock vibe to it. The opening “whoa~” ad libs are unexpectedly pleasant, and really help to set up the mood and direction this track will take. Yes, the verses have a reflective state to them with the duo singing appropriately for that feel, while the strumming of the guitar keeps up that country-esque vibe. The track comes alive, though, once the hopeful and inspiring hooks come sweeping in with powerful and feel good guitars. An unexpectedly good b-side, I’m quite liking this country pop/rock sound.

3. Kimi Shidai
“Kimi Shidai” quite frankly borders on the sickeningly cheesy side of things. The few short seconds of opening synths give promise, yet the squeaky sounds underneath “chuu” ad libs that follow signal the two dipping their toes into groan-worthy territory. From there, the track switches back and forth from too cheesy to bearable pop cheese. On one side, the two’s voices have a deeper tone to them for a touch of maturity at times, yet they also switch to those too cheery tones for the choruses. At the very least, the hooks are still full of infectious melodies that are guaranteed to get stuck in your head for a while, but this too-long song is the kind of Johnny’s song I dislike.

As mentioned above, “Dakinatsu” had a lot to prove as a summer track after their 2006 release, “Ho! Summer”. Unfortunately, it didn’t quite live up to the timeless fun of the earlier released song, but still had its own good qualities. There’s not much really going for the single as a whole, but fans will at least be satisfied with what has been offered.

Overall Score: C

NIGHTMARE – DIRTY

:: Single Review ::

NIGHTMARE – DIRTY
2007.11.07
Vap

1. DIRTY
2. Moebius no Yuuutsu

“DIRTY” is the twelfth single released by NIGHTMARE. The title track was used as the opening theme for the anime “Majin Tantei Nougami Neuro”. The single peaked on the Oricon Charts at #8, and has sold an unknown amount of copies in total.

1. DIRTY
Heavy in the percussion, “DIRTY” has a jazzy flavor to its faded out intro, but once RUKA begins pounding away on his drums their usual sinister and foreboding rock sound comes into play. From there, the sole verse reels the listener in with heavy bass playing and YOMI’s deeper vocals rolling R’s this way and that. Hitsugi comes in as well to add a short English line followed by a heavy and appealing growl. Then a clever switching of keys and time signature at the chorus unexpectedly slows the fury down. Now tinged with despair, YOMI operatic vocals flow effortlessly along with music as the percussion gradually gains momentum. Guitar solo included, “DIRTY” is a memorable and great addition to their discography.

2. Moebius no Yuuutsu
Is this the sister song of “Dasei Boogie”? It must be, because the track has a similar boogie vibe to the last track, one that makes you want to get up and strut along to the guitars and rapid percussion. Though, as expected of NIGHTMARE, despite the upbeat and dancey sound, the lyrics are laced with their usual melancholy and loss. Mixed together, though, the two just work. With the bass line keeping that jazzy flavor, YOMI’s pre-chorus singing stands out as he keeps up in time with the rapid drums. Meanwhile, the hooks add small touches of piano as the mood switches to a downtrodden sound, but maintains catchy melodies and rhythms. It’s a fun track with a NIGHTMARE twist to it.

Just one month after “Konoha”, NIGHTMARE’s “DIRTY” is another strong single for the band. NIGHTMARE has shown again that they’re still able to craft respectable tunes even when releasing continuously. “DIRTY”, the song, may not be as good as “Raison d’être”, but still holds its own among their releases. Likewise, “Moebius no Yuuutsu” is a clever and worthy follow up to the stellar “Dasei Boogie”.

Overall Score: B+

Hamasaki Ayumi – evolution

:: Single Review ::

Hamasaki Ayumi – evolution
2001.01.31
avex-trax

1. evolution “Original Mix”
2. evolution “Dub’s Floor Remix Transport 004”
3. evolution “DJ REMO-CON REMIX”
4. End of the World “Laugh & Peace MIX”
5. evolution “BOOM・BASS・Ayumix”
6. evolution “Oriental Hot SPA”
7. SURREAL “nicely nice electron’00 remix”
8. evolution “Huge terrestrial birth mix”
9. evolution “LAW IS Q mix”
10. evolution “Original Mix” (Instrumental)

“evolution” is the twentieth single released by Hamasaki Ayumi. The title track was used as the commercial song for KOSÉ’s “VISÉE” and as the theme song for the movie “Helter Skelter”. The single peaked on the Oricon Charts at #1, and has sold approximately 955,250 copies in total.

1. evolution “Original Mix”
Despite opening up with a pretty keyboard melody and “lalala” ad libbing, there’s nothing at all that screams “ballad”, and as soon as rumbling electric guitars get added, it’s quite obvious this is going to be upbeat. Percussion comes in furious and all out, while the guitars get a whole lot more oomph. Ayumi’s voice, on the other hand, is just plain odd at the verses: Her intonations are strange and pitchy, and just generally not very pleasant. Thankfully, the rapid-fire singing she gives at the hooks completely redeems her – it’s easy to get drawn into the addictive energy of them. “evolution” is strong, extremely so to the point that any live would be instantly pumped up by this.

2. evolution “Dub’s Floor Remix Transport 004”
Dub’s remix has got all the right things going for it for one of those underground rave scenes. There are some strange ad libs going on, yet the lengthy intro’s bouncy beat and varied synth arrangement makes listening much more fun than expected. Again, though, the vocals aren’t that good – they even sound quite worse at some points – and the choruses lose all impact with the newer sound. The sound does tend to get quite repetitive, and the beat outro is a bore to sit through. It works for rave/club scenes, but is a poor listen otherwise.

3. evolution “DJ REMO-CON REMIX”
If I had to describe this remix it’d be paranoid. Nearly clocking in at nine minutes in length, this trance inspired track does use the original’s opening segment, but then transforms into paranoid-sounding synths. Again, like the last track, I feel like the hooks completely lose their impact with this remix, though to a lesser extent at least. Had this been shorter, it perhaps would have been a better listen. Unfortunately, the version made is so long it’s hard to stay focused throughout its run.

4. End of the World “Laugh & Peace MIX”
I quite like the futuristic beeps and boops that start this remix off. Hell, I even like the creepy robotic laughing. From there on, the remix doesn’t do a whole lot of interesting things, but maintains a robotic feel. The vocals for “End of the World” are still as squeaky as I remember them, and haven’t been improved by the new music. In fact, they sound a bit worse at the hooks’ part. It’s just a shame that this track loses its novelty quite quickly: Seven minutes of this ends up feeling like a lifetime.

5. evolution “BOOM・BASS・Ayumix”
The title had me expecting something more bombastic and in your face, yet this track couldn’t be any farther from that. It’s a low-key affair that stays pretty stagnant throughout its run. The choruses do get additional light synths for a little variety, but the percussion-driven remix doesn’t seem to go anywhere. It’s quite unmemorable in the long run, though not at all bad: It has its moments, and is short enough.

6. evolution “Oriental Hot SPA”
I’ll have to agree with fellow reviewers as far as this remix is concerned: It’s flat out boring and lifeless. Ayumi’s vocals have been faded out, so any of the energy she brought is lost in the exhausting beats and trippy albeit quiet synths. But god is this remix annoying. Plain as can be, it goes absolutely nowhere throughout it’s agonizing seven minute run. It’s not good for clubbing, not good for casual listening, it’s just not good at all.

7. SURREAL “nicely nice electron’00 remix”
I had my doubts coming into this, but the futuristic sounds and robotic voice, which sounds eerily similar to another future song of hers, get my seal of approval. Once the vocals pop up, the track takes a chilled out route, that’s surprisingly fitting with the vocal melody – another approval from me. Her squeaky vocals for the ending “choruses” do get to be just on the verge of annoying, but are rescued by the music. Not her best remix, but definitely the best this single’s offered so far.

8. evolution “Huge terrestrial birth mix”
The use of cow bells is a nice touch that helps to differentiate this from other remixes, and the “lalala” ad lib sections sound heavenly, but that’s where the good points stop. This remix is just downright boring. Weak beats, been-there-done-that synths, and vocals that get drowned out. It’s just not a good mix, and I’ll leave it at that.

9. evolution “LAW IS Q mix”
Finally, the last of the remixes. It’s long, that’s for sure, but the use of those heavenly “lalala” ad libbing helps the transition from opening to the main body go on smoothly. Trance-inspired, the music is probably the fastest of the remixes so far, and does a pretty good job of keeping the energy of the original track, so kudos for that. The heavy and fast beat definitely has the makings of a good underground club sound, and gets one in the mood for dancing all out. Again, trance and Ayumi seem to just go together perfectly. Best remix of “evolution” this single has to offer.

Yikes. I’m not the biggest fan of remixes, but even these were beyond redemption. “evolution”, the original song, is perhaps one her best upbeat songs of all time, yet the remixes for it were absolutely abysmal, leaving one to wonder, “Did the remixers even try?”. In all honestly, I wouldn’t even bother buying or downloading this release – one would be better off just buying the album instead.

Overall Score: D

Koda Kumi – flower

:: Single Review ::

Koda Kumi – flower
2005.08.10
Rhythm Zone

1. flower
2. flower ~acoustic version~
3. flower (Instrumental)
4. flower ~acoustic version~ (Instrumental)

“flower” is the seventeenth single released by Koda Kumi. The title track was used as the theme song and commercial song for the novel “Koibana”. The single peaked on the Oricon Charts at #4, and has sold approximately 106,099 copies in total.

1. flower
The first artist that came to mind when this track started was Shimatani Hitomi. Much like Shimatani’s earlier works, “flower” is a mix of R&B and ballad elements that come together for what sounds comfortably Koda Kumi. The music has a cuter side to it due to some strings and occasional bells, yet maintains a maturity to it throughout with that smooth R&B sound. Likewise, Kumi uses her signature emotional and dramatic vocals to drive home the impact. She generally does so without going overboard too much, though for some reason her nasally vocals are more distracting than usual. But, hey, the hooks are quite endearing with those aforementioned cute yet mature sounds.

2. flower ~acoustic version~
I had hoped this would be an acoustic guitar version, but this piano-driven version isn’t bad by any means. Actually, some percussion and a violin make their way into the arrangement later on, and the song takes a much more enjoyable route. There are even moments towards the end when I had wished this had gone into a jazz direction – it certainly felt like it was heading that way. It’s nothing special per se, yet the vocal melody flows so nicely with the newer arrangement that it’s hard to dislike it.

“flower” has always been an oddball single to me. Perhaps because of its lack of a music video, it usually gets out shined by “Butterfly” and the later released “Promise / Star”. That sentiment of mine still holds true for me today. “flower” and its remix aren’t bad – no, in fact they’re quite pleasant – but the a-side doesn’t fit my criteria for a suitable a-side. “flower” would’ve been better left as an album track or b-side.

Overall Score: C-