[Mini-Album] aiko – astral box

aiko is my favourite Japanese singer. Her music is often regarded as one-dimensional as she has released very similar sounding tracks from the start of her career to present. However, I really enjoy her music. She has remained consistently popular in Japan throughout the last two decades and while her release schedule has slowed down, she still pumps out an album every few years. astral box is her debut mini-album and was an indie release.

astralbox
Released: December 20, 1997
1. DO YOU THINK ABOUT ME?
2. Kiss de Okoshite (キスでおこして)
3. HOW TO LOVE
4. POWER OF LOVE
5. Hikari no Sasu Ashimoto (光のさすあしもと)

DO YOU THINK ABOUT ME? is a bit of a laidback midtempo pop song. I do like it has a bit of a more programmed sound with its keyboard and funky synths. It really does sound the start of aiko’s general style of music, especially when the vocals get rolling. It’s quite charming, although I do find that the song drags on a bit with it being over six minutes. The buildup to the chorus takes a while and the chorus itself doesn’t particularly stand out. It’s a decent tune with nice music, but could be worked on.

I think Kiss de Okoshite is a bit more interesting with its slight electronic elements in the music. The song itself is also far more uplifting and upbeat. The chorus is explosive and really hits with a bang while the melody is still rather catchy. I do find this one does drag on a bit around the end because it heads over six minutes again, but it’s definitely more exciting than the last song.

HOW TO LOVE brings us to the slower sound again. I really enjoy aiko’s voice during the verses here and she doesn’t sound as nasally as usual. The buildup to the chorus is actually quite nice, but the chorus is a bit of a letdown. It just isn’t catchy or memorable at all. I do quite enjoy the music though.

POWER OF LOVE is definitely the most aggressive song on the mini with its heavy guitar and percussion. With that said, it still has quite a bit of a positive sound to it due to aiko’s sweet vocals. The chorus isn’t too bad and the melody is definitely more memorable than the last song’s. However, I don’t think I can totally fall in love with this one. It feels like the music and the vocals don’t entirely mesh at times.

Hikari no Sasu Ashimoto ends the album with a ballad. I really enjoy the music here because it’s quite calming a bit mystical sounding with the odd synths that replicate an Eastern flute. The verses are a tad dull, but the chorus is just weird because I really can’t pinpoint where it is. Everything seems to blend together and while there are some breaks, the song does bring a more unpredictable approach to things. Interesting, but not my favourite.


Overall: This was a good predecessor to aiko’s music, but there is definitely something missing in the melodies of some of the songs. They are missing that moment that really shines that many of her other songs have. With that said, I did find the music of these songs to be quite interesting a bit more adventurous than some of her later music.

B-

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[Mini-Album] Jun Hyo Seong – Colored

Colored is the second mini-album released by Jun Hyo Seong. Please Find Me was used as the promotional song.

colored
Released: March 28, 2016
1. Follow Me
2. Please Find Me (나를 찾아줘) [MV]
3. Busted (딱 걸렸어)
4. So Good
5. Dear Moon
6. Hello

Follow Me reminds me a bit of the material from her last album, but in a more bombastic way. The song has a marching band kind of sound with percussion and blast of brass. This is all mixed in with some rock elements as well. The verses are quite good at bringing up the energy, but I sort of wish the chorus had a bit more power. I feel like it needs to be even more explosive but it sort of leaves it at the same level. It’s quite catchy, but just could be stronger.

Please Find Me brings us the synth pop sound that Hyo Seong has brought with her last two promo songs. This time, we are given the most upbeat version, but it is in my opinion, the weakest of her promo songs. It’s still quite nice with its dance beat and blast of synths. This type of song fits her voice very well. My only gripe is that I think the melody could be stronger. The melody just sort of floats above the music and doesn’t really make much impact. It’s still a solid song though.

Busted gives a bit more attitude, but it still has that synth pop sound to it. It has some really interesting features to it like the second half of the chorus being computerized in an odd way. I really like the electropop aspects to this song, which give it a bit of edge. The melody is also very catchy. Pretty good song!

So Good is a lighthearted dance/pop tune. I quite like how the beat is a bit heavy, but works well with the lighter aspects of the rest of the music. The vocal arrangement is decent and has some nice hooks to it, but the first half does lack that really strong and catchy one and the second half is just too repetitive. It’s still a decent pop song, but one of her weaker songs.

Dear Moon is a bit different as it leaves behind the dance/pop elements and brings something a bit more organic in its music. Heavily reliant on the acoustic guitar, the song does add a bit of percussion half way through, but this is a pretty laidback song in general, especially from Hyo Seong. With that said, I don’t find her vocal performance that enchanting and the song ultimately ends up a bit dull.

Hello keeps up the more laidback sound, but with a loungey R&B/pop tune. It reminds me quite a bit of the kind of music popular in Korea at coffee shops. This type of music isn’t really my favourite type as I do find it comes off a bit boring and forgettable in the long run. It’s cute, but the melody just isn’t enticing and the vocals aren’t particularly outstanding.


Overall: This isn’t a bad mini at all, but it is the weakest among Hyo Seong’s releases. I just find that the songs are decent, but the melodies aren’t as strong as her last mini-album. And while her last mini had some slower tunes, they were much stronger. It’s a solid release, but nothing particularly standing out.

B

[Mini-Album] OH MY GIRL – OH MY GIRL

OH MY GIRL are WM Entertainment’s first girl group. They debuted along with an onslaught of more “innocent concept” girl groups. OH MY GIRL is OH MY GIRL’s debut mini-album. CUPID was used as the promotional song.

ohmygirl
Released: April 20, 2015
1. OH MY GIRL!
2. CUPID [MV]
3. HOT SUMMER NIGHTS
4. I Was Curious (궁금한걸요)

The mini opens with the title track, which is an intro. OH MY GIRL! is quite cute with the cheering and nanana’s. The sound combines some percussion and piano into something bouncy and it sort of reminds me of a J-Pop song. It’s a bit generic, but an interesting opener.

CUPID opens right after with an awesome beat. I love the percussion in this song tied with the synths that give it this choppy, but interesting sound. The verses are quite nice and memorable, but it’s the chorus that really shines. The first half is more anthemic, while the second half relies more heavily on a repetitive chant-like hook. They both work surprisingly well together. A really strong debut song.

HOT SUMMER NIGHTS is actually a bit more laid back with its midtempo pop sound. The beat is still quite strong, but the melody is definitely more calm. The chorus is actually a bit disappointing for me. It’s catchy, but considering the verse buildup, it ends up a bit flat and not as soaring as I would hope. It’s cute though.

I Was Curious continues the cheery pop sound. The song actually sounds a lot like the last song, but more gentle. I don’t think it is as catchy, but it does have quite a few interesting features like the whistling during the instrumental break. I just feel the song would have been better without such a strong beat. It doesn’t fit the melody, which would’ve benefited from something a little lighter. The hooks also aren’t very strong and it comes off a bit forgettable.


Overall: This is a pretty decent debut mini. I really like that all three songs have an uplifting pop sound and they were all decent listens. I do think CUPID stands out far more and feels much more put together. The B-sides were fun, but could be worked on a bit.

B+

[Album] f(x) – Red Light

Red Light is the third album released by f(x). The title track was used as the promotional song. This was the last release to feature Sulli.

redlight
Released: July 7, 2014
1. Red Light [MV]
2. MILK
3. Butterfly (나비)
4. Rainbow (무지개)
5. All Night
6. Vacance (바캉스)
7. Spit It Our (뱉어내)
8. Boom Bang Bang
9. Dracula
10. Summer Lover
11. Paper Heart (종이 심장)

The title track opens the album and what an experience it is. Red Light is definitely the most experimental on a promo song that f(x) has done with its verses using a lighter beat and some weird synth. I love its more electropop flair with an urban twist. The biggest surprise comes with the chorus where things go totally different than expected with a heavier beat and a blast of crazy synths and sounds. I was a big fan of the song when I first heard it, but it has grown on me a lot. It’s really cool.

MILK keeps up the electropop sound, but with something much lighter. I do like the prechorus buildup to the chorus, although I’m a bit disappointed with how weak the chorus ends up being. I wish the beat was a bit heavier, but it keeps things pretty constant throughout. It would’ve brought a better contrast and more excitement. I do like the song’s stronger Indian influence though.

Butterfly brings us to a darker sounding track, which is an interesting contrast to the name. The verses are decent, but the chorus is definitely the most interesting part. It has a bit of a weird transition as the melody is much more dragged out and features a wide variety of synth. I love how it sounds so mystical. My favourite part is the bridge that has this really cool piercing synth come in. Cool.

Rainbow opens in such a weird way. It seems a fusion of pop with some hip-hop elements. Unlike their past hip-hop ventures, I do feel like this one is much stronger. The chorus is a bit cheesy and odd at times, but the music is quite fun with its cute dog barks and synths. I’m not a big fan of the opening hook with Amber, but the other parts are quite nice.

All Night slows things down with something a bit more groovy. It has some wicked funk influences to it and I love it. The beat is great and there are some funky synths going on that really give it a cooler vibe. The chorus is stellar. It’s a bit repetitive, but the mix of the music with the hook really gives way to a great combination. Great!

Vacance brings a bit of a rock vibe with its heavier use of the guitar, but still keeping the fun pop sound. I quite like the guitar riffs used and they fit really nicely with the interesting melody. I like how they layer the vocals in the chorus as it just slides right across the music. Luna’s belts are also really great.

Spit It Out is an upbeat electropop tune. I think the highlight of the song is just how crazy some of the synths are and how they mesh with the fast-paced melody. I especially enjoy the breakdown that comes along with its video game-like style. The chorus is quite catchy and I like how chant-like it is. It’s fun.

I feel like Boom Bang Boom continues that crazy upbeat style of the last song. I really like the verses as they have a lot of energy, but there is a breakdown that pops up in between and I’m not a huge fan of it. The chorus is quite good with its soaring quality and it’s quite catchy. It gets stuck in your head despite how short it is.

Dracula is quite cool as well. I feel like it also follows the style of the last two songs, but the great part of this one is that great buildup for the chorus. Luna rocks it with its slower and vocally challenging part. I do like the odd choices that fit the song title such as the screams and the darker vibe of the music.

Summer Lover fits the title really well, too. It’s quite bright with its vibrant guitars, synths and vocals. However, I do feel like it shares a lot of the qualities that the last few songs had, although this one seems more streamlined in its melody. It’s good.

Paper Heart ends the album on a more lighthearted and sentimental sound. It sounds like something that would be popular in the US with its cute ukulele touch and simple, but effective chorus. I’m not a huge fan of this style, but the song is produced really well and is a good way to end the album.


Overall: This is a really strong album. All the tracks were really good and they are all of high quality. My only issue would be that by the end of the album the songs began to sound quite similar. Even if they had a few differences, it just felt like the instruments and the structures were almost the same. I had hoped for a bit more variety like Pink Tape had, but this is also quite solid.

A-

[Special] Top 500 J-Pop Songs #346

Title: TAO
Artist: Do As Infinity
tao
Released: 2005
Genre: Pop / Rock
Listen

TAO is a gorgeous pop/rock ballad, which is definitely something Do As Infinity are great at. It’s quite similar to a few of their other rock tunes, but I do find there is a sentimentality about it. I love how it starts with the piano before slowly adding other instruments. By the time the chorus comes around, it really comes out with that familiar rock sound. The melody is gorgeous and has this soaring quality to it. Van Tomiko sounds great and her voice really adds the emotion needed for the song. This was the group’s 20th single and their second of four entries on the list.

[Special] Top 500 J-Pop Songs #347

Title: UZA
Artist: AKB48
uza
Released: 2012
Genre: Dance / Pop
Listen

From 2010 to 2013, there used to be a set formula for how many singles AKB48 released, when they were released, and what kind of singles they were. UZA fit into the fall upbeat dance tune category. Probably the group’s most aggressive song to date, UZA is a powerful electropop song. Relying heavily on the strong beat and constant, piercing synths, UZA is a total blast. It’s an exciting listen that really brings variety to the group’s discography and helps showcase a different kind of image. While I wish there were more solos, the blast of autotune and the sliding melody really help to give the song some energy. UZA was released as the group’s 30th single and is their second of seven entries.

[Special] Top 500 J-Pop Songs #348

Title: Glisten
Artist: Sowelu
glisten
Released: 2003
Genre: Pop
Listen

As expected from Sowelu, Glisten is an upbeat pop tune with sparkly synths and a fun dance beat. The verses are pretty nice, but the best part is that opening chorus line. The blast of synths and the gorgeous melody just work so nicely together. Sowelu also sounds really great singing here and she keeps everything within her own range. The song just has this great positive and uplifting feel to it. Glisten was released as Sowelu’s fifth single and is her second of five entries on the list.