[Album] Every Little Thing – Time to Destination

Time to Destination is the second album released by Every Little Thing. The album proved to be their most successful to date, peaking at number one and over 3.5 million copies sold, with it still being among the top 20 best selling albums in Japan. The five singles were all incredibly successful as each peaked within the top three and sold over 500,000. The most successful, Time goes by, became the group’s biggest hit to date and sold over one million copies.

timetodestination
Released: April 15, 1998
1. For the moment
2. Ima Demo… Anata ga Suki Dakara (今でも・・・あなたが好きだから)
3. Face the change (Album Mix)
4. Old Dreams
5. Monochrome (モノクローム)
6. All Along
7. Hometown
8. Deatta Koro no You ni (出逢った頃のように)
9. Shapes Of Love
10. True colors
11. Time goes by (Orchestra Version)

First single, For the moment, starts us off. It follows closely in sound to the group’s synthpop style that was prominent on their first album. I initially wasn’t into this song as much as the energy isn’t as high as their other songs, but I do like the slightly darker tone it has now. My only issue with the song is that the transition into the chorus isn’t as explosive as I would like and sort of just glides on in. It would be more exciting with a bit of punch. Luckily, the music is pretty heavy with the guitar, synths and percussion. Ima Demo… Anata ga Suki Dakara is still upbeat, but changes things up slightly. It still has the heavy guitar and percussion that is synonymous with old-school ELT, but the midtempo take on the sound makes it come off a bit like a country song with synths. Not quite sure if I like this song because the verses just sort of drag on and while the buildup into the chorus is nice, it lacks a big punch to take it to the next level. I quite like the chorus melody though and it is a decent album track. Face the change (Album Mix) is most like the material from the group’s first album and I love it. I was unsure of the song at first as well, but the fourth single has the most exciting verses that really help bring things up for that soaring chorus. Mochida’s voice does get drowned out a bit by the overload of music, but her sweet tone is still able to pierce through this heaviness. It’s classic Every Little Thing. The next track, Old Dreams, is just an interlude and features a nice music box. I was expecting a ballad next, but Monochrome is yet another flashy synth-pop/rock tune. Unfortunately, I think while the music is exciting, the melody just isn’t hitting the spot. It’s still a solid song, but it feels a bit redundant and doesn’t quite have the hooks that keep me as satisfied as the other upbeat songs. It does have some variation in music but bringing a bit of an electronic edge to the instruments. The album’s first ballad, All Along, is a welcomed change. I love the group’s upbeat music, but it can get a bit repetitive and Mochida has the capabilities to pull off a nice ballad. This one is quite pretty, although I do feel like the melody doesn’t quite flow as well as I want it to. It feels like it jumps around too much. With that said, I do love how it sounds with the music as the arrangement just feels to full. Not bad. Hometown is a return to the upbeat music, but it does change things a bit. The music includes a few different kinds of synths, while the chorus is a bit slower and ties nicely into the heavier music. I quite enjoy the chorus and while it isn’t as explosive as some of the other songs, the transitions feel better done. Strong album track. The album’s second single, Deatta Koro no You ni, is a bit brighter than some of the other upbeat songs on here. It actually reminds me a bit of something that ZARD would have done and feels very much like mid-90’s J-Pop. I quite like this nostalgic feeling it gives though and the song pulls everything off really well. It’s a sweet tune and matches Mochida’s vocals really well, while still providing a catchy and memorable melody. Shapes of Love was original released as the album’s third single with another song (that wasn’t included) and is yet another high quality song. It is a bit like heavier in its rock influence as the electric guitar takes front and center stage. It can be a bit odd with the chorus though as the melody is definitely sweeter so the transition from the edgier verses into that takes some time to get used. I just wish the music had some more energy at times because it can get a little bare. True colors is my favourite of the album tracks just because it is so dark. It has the heavier rock sound like the last song, but elevates things by bringing some haunting synths and cool guitar riffs. The chorus is pretty sweet though. The music is pushed more to the forefront and covers over Mochida’s voice, but it gives a pretty cool effect and makes things sound a bit more robotic. This is just an interesting twist to the group’s usual material. Time goes by (Orchestra Version) is the album’s final single and most successful. It is also the album’s second ballad and easily the album’s best song. At first, I never saw the appeal of this song, but now I think it is absolutely stunning. The structure of the song is a bit different and it takes some time to get to the chorus, but everything feels necessary and I actually love the verses more than the chorus. The lyrics are also very beautiful and focus on a relationship turning sour but with a sense of hope for the future. I think the orchestra version just helps to elevate things as well.

Overall: This album is an excellent follow-up to the group’s amazing debut album. I don’t think the album is as strong because there were fewer high notes, but I also felt this album had less consistency issues and each of the songs is at least at a solid level. I feel like I can’t give any songs on this album a low score because they all had things I enjoyed. With that said, while I did like the singles, they were definitely weaker this time around (except Time goes by and Face the change).

A

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[Mini-Album] April – Spring

Spring is the second mini-album released by April. Tinkerbell was used as the promotional song.

spring
Released: April 27, 2016
1. Wake Up
2. Tinkerbell (팅커벨)
3. M.F.B.F (내 미래의 남자친구에게)
4. Open Your Eyes (눈을 뜨면)
5. Jelly
6. Tinkerbell (Instrumental)

Wake Up opens the album on a blissful pop note and reminds me of the material from the group’s first mini, specifically Dreaming Candy. It’s a pretty great song and I felt like it has potential to be the promotional song. The verses start pretty bare but gain more instruments and power as things go on. The chorus isn’t explosive, but the melody is catchy and has a nice combination of being melodic while including repetitive hooks. It’s a solid starter. Tinkerbell was used as the promo song and it isn’t difficult to see why considering it has way more energy than the last song. I love the excitement of the music and the pre-chorus really helps to build this feeling up for the chorus. The chorus isn’t as a melodic as the last song, but it is certainly catchy. I also love the use of strings to emphasize the melody. Another strong tune. M.F.B.F, which is an acronym for My Future Boyfriend, is a little slower, but keeps up that brighter pop sound. This song isn’t as memorable for me just because the melody isn’t as catchy nor is the music as interesting. It reminds me a bit of something KARA would do (there are parts of the melody that remind me of the group’s Pretty Girl song). Not horrible, but just an average song. I was expecting Open Your Eyes to be a ballad, but instead we are given another upbeat tune. This time, the song has a really heavy beat that stays throughout its entirety, but I don’t think it really fits in this instance. Also, the transition into the chorus is a bit jarring and doesn’t really lend itself in helping the song. The chorus itself isn’t particularly memorable either, but I do quite like the gentler section that follows it. Jelly is a bit of a change because it doesn’t follow that innocent pop sound, but instead does something a bit similar to f(x) or Red Velvet with its crazier music. It’s a great example of showing that the group can branch outside of their usual material and deliver. This song is so catchy and one of the group’s more memorable tunes. The chorus is a bit repetitive, but there are some stellar moments. Great!

Overall: This was a pretty good mini and a stronger offering than their first one. There were three really strong songs. They aren’t songs I have totally fell in love with, but they are definitely ones I would repeat over. I do like that the mini has a pretty consistent sound until Jelly, although I do wish there was a ballad to balance things a bit as Open Your Eyes felt a bit unneeded in the sense that it followed a similar formula to other songs and wasn’t as strong.

A

[Mini-Album] HELLO VENUS – What Are You Doing Today?

What Are You Doing Today? is the second mini-album is the second mini-album released by HELLO VENUS. The title track was used as the promo song.

whatareyoudoingtoday
Released: December 12, 2012
1. What Are You Doing Today? (오늘 뭐해?)
2. Romantic Love
3. First Love
4. The Same (똑같아)
5. Winter Fantasy

Like Venus, What Are You Doing Today? is a spunky pop tune with a heavy beat and light percussion. It’s a bit of an odd song because half the song goes for something a bit edgier whereas the verses and first half of the chorus are more bubblegum pop in the melody. While the brighter parts are definitely catchy, I do find that the hook and rap where the edgier stuff happens are the more exciting parts of the song. It’s still a fun song, but I also feel like the music is missing something. Romantic Love is a midtempo pop tune, but I’m not sure if I like it that much. The music is pretty nice and I do like the showcasing of the vocals, but I feel like the overall song is just a bit forgettable. Maybe it has to do with the fact that the melody isn’t that catchy. However, there are some really nice parts where the girls belt it out nicely. First Love is another song that helps show the girls’ voices off. Unfortunately, this ballad is just a bit too boring. The opening chorus line is actually quite nice, but then it just gets forgettable. The music and melody just don’t really go anywhere and it ends up a little flat. The Same is a bit better because it has a larger beat and nice piano line that keeps the song flowing. The chorus is unfortunately really flat though. While the music is more interesting, the melody doesn’t do anything and just trudges through with very little energy. It’s like it just doesn’t want to sound exciting. Has potential, but could be a lot better. Winter Fantasy is the second best song on the mini just because it has a lot of energy and it is catchy. The music is bright and fits the timing this mini was released. The Christmas style of the song is a bit generic, but there are some charming points like the fun beat and electronic touches.

Overall: I am quite disappointed in this mini. The group’s first one was a solid debut effort, but this just felt boring and uninspired for the large majority of it. The title track was fun, but the three of the B-sides just didn’t hit the mark and came off uninteresting and lacking much energy.

C+

[Album] Morning Musume – Second Morning

Second Morning is the second album released by Morning Musume and the last to feature first generation member, Fukuda Asuka. The album proved to be more successful than their first due to the rising popularity of the group’s singles. All four of the singles were top five hits, with one peaking at number one. The album sold over 425,000 copies and peaked at #3.

secondmorning
Released: July 28, 1999
1. NIGHT OF TOKYO CITY
2. Manatsu no Kounen (真夏の光線 (Vacation Mix); A Ray of Light in Midsummer)
3. Memory Seishun no Hikari (Memory青春の光; Memory The Light of Youth)
4. Suki x5 (好きで×5; I Love You ×5)
5. Furusato (ふるさと; Hometown)
6. Daite HOLD ON ME! (N.Y. Mix) (抱いてHOLD ON ME!; Hold Me, Hold On Me!)
7. Papa ni Niteiru Kare (パパに似ている彼; He Who Looks Like Papa)
8. Senkou Hanabi (せんこう花火; Sparklers)
9. Koi no Shihatsu Ressha (Album Version) (恋の始発列車; Love’s First Train)
10. Otome no Shinrigaku (乙女の心理学; A Girl’s Psychology)
11. Never Forget (Large Vocal Mix)
12. Da Di Du De Do Da Di! (ダディドゥデドダディ!)

I wasn’t expecting to be blast into the album right away, but NIGHT OF TOKYO CITY is an exciting start. It’s a funky upbeat pop tune that opens with a barrage of synths and rapping. Once the song starts getting into the verses do things really start picking up though. The song has a more mature vibe to it and while I wish the chorus was a bit catchier, it’s a solid tune and easily encapsulates their sound at this time. I find the transition into Manatsu no Kounen (Vacation Mix) a little odd just because it is a summer-y pop tune that is very different from the last tune. I didn’t really like this song before, but it has grown on me a lot. I do find the melody to a bit dragged out and doesn’t equal the punch of the fuller instrumental. It’s still a surprisingly catchy song though and it isn’t a surprise that it was the album’s third single. I feel like Memory Seishun no Hikari should have been after the first song because it is darker. The album’s second single is a dark and seductive pop tune with some new jack swing and R&B influences. I love the underlying bass mixed with the piano and the girls’ harmonies easily make the song a gorgeous vocal display. The chorus is especially nice and the catchy melody ties nicely with these harmonies. This is also one of the last instances of Fukuda’s lead singing. I do like that Suki x5 tries to change things up as the jazzier vibe of the song really brings a switch that isn’t really heard by the group. Unfortunately, I just don’t find the melody to sit nicely with the music and it just awkwardly floats on top of the overpowering percussion. This is one of the weaker songs for me. Furusato is one of Morning Musume’s most well-known songs as it is the group’s first ballad single. It’s a really beautiful song that talks about living in a new city and the hardships of love and homesickness. My only problem with the song is that it is like an Abe Natsumi song. While I do like her and she has a nice voice, it would have been nice to get the other girls to sing as well to bring some contrast. I love the music though and the oldschool synth-line is a bit outdated sounding, but nostalgic. Daite HOLD ON ME! (N.Y. Mix) is the remix of the album’s first single, which just adds a faster dance beat underneath. It really helps the song keep up the energy and I think I like it more than the original. This song is easily the best one of the album. The chorus is more repetitive, but the hooks are really catchy and the contrast between the two parts really brings an urgency to the song. There is even a fun rap that comes in. All of this is on top of a pulsating beat and with an array of disco synths. I feel like this is where Manatsu no Kounen should have come in as Papa ni Niteiru Kare is an even brighter pop song. It has a funky guitar riff that carries throughout the song with a touch of brass here and there. I think the song isn’t bad, but the chorus is just a bit disappointing as the music is upbeat while the melody is darker. It’s an interesting difference, but it would have been better to really play up the music’s energy. Senkou Hanabi is a really nice change music wise as it has a pop/rock vibe to it. The guitar riff is really beautiful. Unfortunately, I find the singing parts to be a bit lackluster. The song is another instance of only Abe Natsumi singing and her voice just sounds weak throughout it. It would have been better to hear the other stronger vocalists get some parts to even out the weaker parts. Koi no Shihatsu Ressha (Album Version) was original released as the B-side from the album’s third single. It is a bit on the slower side of the things. The music sounds really outdated to me and it reminds me a lot of J-Pop from the 90’s. Unfortunately, the song itself is a bit forgettable as the melody isn’t that catchy. Otome no Shinrigaku is the album’s weird song with its beach-like vibe. I do like this old-school vibe to it and it does it in a way that doesn’t feel totally stuck in an era. I just wish the music was a little stronger as the chorus feels a bit weaker with how the vocals are edited. It’s a decent take and Yaguchi and Ichii do a good job taking the lead here. Never Forget (Large Vocal Mix) was originally released on the album’s second single as a graduation song for Fukuda Asuka. This song has a midtempo pop/rock sound going for it, which has been a bit of a theme with the last few tracks. I know the song is important, but I just don’t find the song that memorable. The chorus is nice, but it just needs a more powerful vocalist to get over the fullness of the music. Fukuda had great vocals, but they are a bit too sweet here. Da Di Du De Do Da Di! ends the album with something a bit more upbeat. It reminds me of 90’s music from female singer-songwriters in America as it has a stronger pop/rock vibe. Abe takes the lead here and she does a decent job. The song is pretty catchy, but the melody is a bit unpredictable. I’m not sure if I like it as much as I want to as it just doesn’t get stuck in my head and the song is just too long.

Overall: This album has some stellar singles and there are some of Morning Musume’s best singles on this, but I felt quite a few of the album tracks were just not that interesting. A lot of them were midtempo tunes that just didn’t have interesting melodies nor that strong of production. I feel like there was more inconsistency here compared to the group’s debut.

B

[Digital Single] Girls’ Generation – Into the New World (Remix)

Into the New World (Remix) is the first digital single released by Girls’ Generation.

intothenewworldremix
Released: September 13, 2007
1. Into the New World (Club Mix) (다시 만난 세계)

Into the New World (Club Mix) is a more “powerful” version of the original. The music is replaced with an electronic beat and a barrage of synths. It is an interesting twist on the original, but I think the main problem with this one is that it loses that inspirational touch that the original has. The melody just doesn’t quite fit this kind of music and while I love the electronic/rock edge of the chorus, it just feels overpowering and doesn’t quite let the melody breathe.

Overall: This is definitely different from the original and while it isn’t horrible, it just doesn’t match that feeling that the original gives. A large part of this songs longevity is the fact that it sounds inspiring and here, the melody just gets bogged down by synths. It loses its touch.

B

[Mini-Album] PENTAGON – Five Senses

Five Senses is the second mini-album released by PENTAGON. Can You Feel It was used as the promo song and Pretty was later used to promote the album with a special MV.

fivesenses
Released: December 7, 2016
1. Can You Feel It (감이 오지)
2. Engine
3. Pretty (예쁨)
4. Lose Yourself (풀러)
5. Stay Crazy (정신 못 차려도 돼)

Can You Feel It is a big difference from the boy’s promo song on their debut mini, Gorilla. Instead of a catchy, hip-hop inspired upbeat tune, we have something a little more dance/pop. There are still some hip-hop aspects to it, especially in the areas with rap, but the chorus isn’t as repetitive and features a strong brass backing that helps give it a bit of different energy. I don’t think it is as catchy on the first listen, but is the type of song that needs a bit of time. I do love how the song has so many different pieces to it. Engine is definitely different with its more EDM. It’s a nice change, although I think the pre-chorus really helps to build the song up, but the delivery of the chorus is a bit flat. The “feel like engine” just comes off a bit odd despite the the more EDM/tropical house vibe of the song and it just doesn’t feel that catchy. The music itself isn’t bad, but it doesn’t really take the genre and push it far enough. Pretty is probably the most “pop” the group has done and it has the same energy that Gorilla has, which is what I love. It has a funky beat that works nicely with the touches of synths and brass that blast through the chorus. I really like how fun the melody is as well. The verses aren’t boring and the silly raps help to bring a great synergy to the song’s overall delivery. Lose Yourself is another upbeat tune and I love the underlying funk beat the song has going on. The energy is also really great and the more disco/funk inspired chorus is definitely a welcomed change and something that the guys pull off nicely. The song is catchy is while it does have some repetition, it also has a nice flushed out melody to contrast the hook. Even the rap blends in nicely here. Another stellar tune! Stay Crazy is the slowest song on the album, but it’s still a laid back R&B/pop tune. Not a big fan of these kinds of songs, but this one isn’t too bad. The guys have the skills to really bring the energy up with this one and the music in the chorus at least has a full backing so it certainly has the power to keep it from getting boring. The overall song feels more like what Big Bang would do though.

Overall: This is another great mini and while I like it a little less than their debut, it is still such a solid release. What I find lacking is in two of the songs, where one just isn’t my cup of tea and the other has potential but falters a bit on the delivery of the hook. The rest of the songs are great and they all are among some of the best of PENTAGON’s strongest tunes.

A

[Mini-Album] A-Lin – Love, May I Please Ask How to Go?

Love, May I Please Ask How to Go? is the first mini-album released by A-Lin.

lovemayiplease
Released: June 8, 2007
1. Love, May I Please Ask How to Go? (愛 請問怎麼走)
2. Absurd (荒唐)
3. Changing Seasons (換季)

The mini opens with the title track, Love, May I Please Ask How to Go?, which is of course I ballad. A-Lin does ballads best as her strong vocals really work well with slower music. The song is a pretty standard Mandopop ballad and while it isn’t as strong as the title track from her first album, it’s still a solid song. I think part of that is the relatively catchy melody and the production being crisp and clean. The bridge into the final chorus is probably my favourite part of the song. Absurd is yet another ballad (all three tracks are ballads) and it pretty much follows the same path of the last song, focusing on the piano and A-Lin’s vocals. At first, this one sounds like the last song, but it gets better at the chorus where the heavy percussion and strings come slamming in. It really brings the energy up and is a nice surprise that helps the song stay different from the other. I think I like this one more. Changing Seasons is a bit gentler of the trio. This lets it stand out in a way, but it also comes off a bit weaker than the others. The melody is nice and the mix of music with the melody makes me feel it has some more “traditional” aspects in its influence. A decent song, but it feels a bit outdone by the other two ballads.

Overall: This is a pretty strong mini and a nice follow-up from her first album. I do like the idea of using three ballads, but I just wish there was a bit more variety in the music. All three have slight differences but the general feel is pretty much the same and A-Lin has the vocal capabilities to take on something a bit more dramatic than the songs on here. I think a large part of what makes this mini so strong is the great production (must be Avex).

B+