[Album] BoA – LOVE & HONESTY

LOVE & HONESTY is the third album released by BoA. The album was another hit for the young singer as it peaked at #1. It only sold half of what her last album sold though with 650,000 copies. The four singles were moderately successful this time around with all, except the re-cut single, reaching the top five, although the sales were considerably lower.

love&honesty
Released: January 15, 2004
1. Rock With You
2. Shine We Are!
3. SOME DAY ONE DAY
4. LOVE & HONESTY
5. Midnight Parade
6. Be the one
7. EXPECT
8. OVER ~across the time~
9. Kokoro no Tegami (心の手紙; My Heart’s Letter)
10. DOUBLE
11. Easy to be Hard
12. Song With No Name ~Namae no Nai Uta~ (~名前のない歌~; Song With No Name)
13. Milky Way ~Kimi no Uta~ (Bonus Track) (~君の歌~; Your Song)

Opening on a strong note, the album starts with Rock With You. The album’s third single, it does what its name says, which is add some rock flair into a dance/pop tune. There are some times where I do feel the music could be flushed out a bit more, but it does have punch and the melody works really well here. My favourite part of the song is actually the pre-chorus as it goes a bit more pop before swinging right into the heavy percussion and guitars of the chorus. A fun start! Back in the day, I never liked Shine We Are! Despite being the album’s first single, it was such a departure from BoA’s usual harder hitting dance/pop style with its bubbly sound and sweeter vocal delivery. Nowadays, I really love it. It’s a catchy song and BoA still makes it work. I do wish the music wasn’t so programmed sounding at times, but everything else seems to go nicely with the bright melody. It’s a good predecessor to some similar sounding songs later on. SOME DAY ONE DAY is the album’s first album track and its a change with its more midtempo R&B execution. It also features VERBAL from m-flo. I love that she doesn’t really make it that sexy, but there is some sensuality in the vocal delivery of the verses and her nasally voice really does well here. It’s not the most exciting song, but it has a cooler vibe to it that works nicely with the simple hooks. I like the atmosphere the whole song brings. The title track, LOVE & HONESTY, is one of my favourite songs on the album. It is a midtempo pop song that has a really bright and almost bubblegum arrangement, although the vocal arrangement is definitely more straightforward. It’s not a very flashy song, but I really enjoy how well put-together it seems. The simple beat with the fullness of the synths really work beautifully with the catchy and charming melody of the chorus. It’s great. Midnight Parade sounds like SOME DAY ONE DAY’s upbeat sister. It has a lot more energy and has a funky beat to go along with it. It starts off with a lot of promise and the verses are attitude-filled. The pre-chorus is nice, but it does sort of break the flow of the song and by the chorus, there music just goes a weird route where it doesn’t push hard enough to elevate the song. I think it might have to do with how continuous the arrangement feels. Decent tune, just something missing. I used to LOVE Be the one and though I still do love it, it has sort of lost a bit of its spunk since the old days. It’s probably the most aggressive song on the album since Rock With You, but it does things in a more streamlined dance/pop way. I do enjoy the attitude it brings and I think that’s what really carries the song. The hooks aren’t as strong as some of the other songs and I do feel like the music doesn’t quite fit with the vocal arrangement as it feels a bit messy. With that said, it is still a really solid song and it is no surprise why it was a re-cut single. EXPECT comes rolling in and sort of feels like a continuation of the last song, although it has less attitude and catchier hooks. With that said, I do love this song and it is one of my favourites on the album. The music different and the use of synths really give it a dreamier quality that helps it stand out. It’s a bit more pop, but it still delivers. OVER ~across the time~ heightens with dreamy quality and delivers the strongest song on the album. There is something absolutely stunning about this song with its touches of Spanish guitar and splashes of synths. Each part of the song is so strong, from the gentle verses, to the passionate chorus and memorable hooks. It is like VALENTI’s dreamier sister and it just blows everything else out of the water. Kokoro no Tegami is one of the weaker album tracks on the album track just because it doesn’t push anything and comes off a bit bland. I do like the song and it does have a catchy chorus, but it feels like the kind of song that BoA did before, but weaker. I do wish the arrangement had a bigger punch to it and the melody had some stronger hooks because it sort of comes off a bit forgettable when compared to the last song. The album’s second single, DOUBLE, is an intense dance/pop tune that is sort of in-line with Be the one. I would say this one is even more aggressive and darker. Unfortunately, I think I have the same sort of feeling for this one that I have of that one. It’s catchy and it has some great attitude, but it just lacks the thing that has hooked me on other songs over 14 years later. It feels like the music has a weird disconnect with its consistent beat and flying synths. That’s not to say it is a bad song though but it just needs a little more to push it to the next level for me. Easy To Be Hard is a bright pop song, similar to Shine We Are! This one feels like it takes some inspiration from 90’s pop/R&B and I do like that quality about the music. With that said, there is something off with the melody. I feel like it goes all over the place. It starts off promising, but then adds these weird notes that cut the flow of its catchiness. It’s not terrible, just my least favourite on the album. Song With No Name ~Namae no Nai Uta~ is the album’s only full-fledged ballad tune. I’m actually quite surprised there aren’t more, but I’m glad if it had to be one, it was this one. It’s an absolutely stunning and simple song that relies largely on the guitar and some synths. It’s simplicity and gorgeous melody really make the song and BoA sounds great singing. Her restrained performance really matches the song well. Milky Way ~Kimi no Uta~ surprisingly finds it way on here. Originally showing up on the singer’s third Korean album, this one is a bright and catchy pop song and I love it. It works perfectly on this album. However, for some reason, I feel like the production isn’t as strong as the original version and it loses a bit of the punch the original has. It’s still a solid tune and a great ending tune that leaves the album off on an inspiring note.

Overall: This was the first BoA album I bought and so it is special for me. Maybe because I’ve listened to this album in its entirety for the last 14 year, I’ve found the quirks of many of the songs, but I still believe this is one of BoA’s strongest, if not her strongest Japanese albums. It feels like the whole album has a theme and while it does try different avenues, it has some connection. Every song is solid and there aren’t any terrible songs, just a few weaker ones at the end. It is also one of the few albums where none of the singles rank in my top three songs on the album. The only thing I would change would be to add some more ballads to replace the more forgettable pop songs.

A

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[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

[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

[Mini-Album] aiko – GIRLIE

GIRLIE is the second indie mini-album released by aiko.

girlie
Released: May 30, 1998
1. Sasenaide (させないで)
2. Ijiwaru na Tenshi yo Sekai wo Warae! (イジワルな天使よ 世界を笑え!)
3. Hachimitsu (ハチミツ)
4. Inu ni Naru (犬になる)
5. Rosie (ロージー)
6. Hachimitsu (instrumental)
7. Rengebatake (れんげ畑)

The mini opens with Sasenaide, which is a bit different from some of aiko’s later material as the music has a more unorthodox sound. The music feels really raw and the instruments stick out a lot more than usual. I think what keeps it sounding like an aiko song is the melody and her voice. I quite like this song because the melody is memorable and catchy. Definitely one of the better songs of her indie days. Ijiwaru na Tenshi yo Sekai wo Warae! is a more upbeat and bright tune with some explosive brass instruments. It is definitely a predecessor to some of her future fun upbeat songs. I quite like the build-up into the chorus and the chorus itself has a lot of energy to it. I don’t think it is that catchy as the melody because the hooks aren’t that memorable, but I do like the energy it brings. There is also a cute little rap that comes up later on in the song as well. Hachimitsu is the mini-album’s only single and was released right before this mini’s release. It’s a bit more of a slower song, but has a sweeter side to it. It’s not particularly catchy, but there is something about the combination of the music and melody that really works nicely together. It’s a really nice song. Inu ni Naru is a midtempo pop song with a bouncy beat. I quite like the cuter quality of this song because it helps to differentiate itself from the other tracks. It’s a bit catchier than some of the other songs, but it just doesn’t push things enough for me and ends up the weakest track at this point. Rosie was later released as aiko’s eighth single, but it made its debut here. This is easily the album’s most memorable track because the chorus is really catchy. I love the melody and that burst of energy it gets really helps it stand out. It’s no wonder it was a single. I think one of my favourite parts is in the verse where things get a bit silly and aiko sings funnily. Strong tune. Rengebatake is actually an outro that has aiko’s voice through a weird distortion. It’s a nice change and would’ve been nice as a full song. It also has a bit of English, which is something that isn’t common in aiko’s music.

Overall: This mini-album is quite surprising just because it has some quality tracks on it. It is certainly stronger than the material on her first mini, in large part because the music and melodies work together in better harmony and the melodies were more memorable. I also think the inclusion of three stronger songs helped this one. Like the first one, this one feels like a predecessor to a lot of material from her later albums. I would especially recommend tracks 1 and 5.

A-

[Album] Koda Kumi – feel my mind

feel my mind is the third album released by Koda Kumi. While the three singles weren’t as successful as her big hit from her last album, they still did moderately and were all top 20 hits. The album itself peaked at #7 and sold around 150,000 copies.

feelmymind
Released: February 18, 2004
1. Break it down
2. Crazy 4 U
3. Rock Your Body
4. Rain
5. Without Your Love
6. Talk to you
7. Hana (華; Flower)
8. Get Out The Way
9. Sweet love…
10. Gentle Words
11. magic
12. COME WITH ME

Break it down opens the album on a heavy note with its stronger hip-hop/R&B elements. I think it’s an interesting way for Koda Kumi to go despite not really delving into this sound a lot on prior albums. I quite like the beat because it’s a bit unorthodox, but the rest of the music feels a bit too slow. The song just lingers between fast-paced and mid-tempo and I just want it to be a bit more hard hitting. It’s also not that catchy. Crazy 4 U should have opened the album. The album’s third single, this one is much more upbeat pop song that has some qualities to her older songs. The thing I like about this song though is that it is catchy and the disco-esque chorus is a surprising twist. It’s definitely not her most memorable upbeat song as the hooks could be a bit stronger, but it definitely brings some great energy. Rock Your Body brings back the more urban style, but with some pop flavour. I think the addition of the guitar in the music really brings a different, funky vibe to the song that helps the song feel like it’s progressing. The chorus switches things up by going really pop and bright in its melody. I’m not a fan of these kinds of songs and while it is catchy, it just doesn’t work feel like everything blends together as well as it should. Rain is the first ballad and brings the gentle 90’s R&B/soul style. I quite like how the song starts, but the verses are just dull. The chorus is definitely better, but the melody just isn’t something I would remember that well. It sort of teeters on being emotional, but doesn’t quite hit the mark. I wish it pushed it to the next level as it sort of lingers. Without Your Love was a B-side from the album’s second single. It’s another upbeat R&B tune and I think it is the strongest of the urban tracks up to this point. The melody is catchy and I quite like the horn-like synths in the back. It’s definitely something that emulates 00’s R&B. Talk to you is a bit more pop/R&B and lighthearted, which is a nice change. I like these kinds of songs and Koda works well in it as well. It has the potential to get boring, but I think the bright music and catchy melody helps to keep the energy up. I especially enjoy the title-repeated hook as it is done in a way that doesn’t get overbearing. Best album track up to this point. Hana is another pop/R&B ballad. Like Rain, it has a more laid back feel to it but I like this one more just because the music has some energy and power during the chorus that doesn’t make it from getting too boring, which is what my problem with the last ballad one. The melody isn’t that catchy either, but it is definitely more memorable. A decent ballad anyways. Get Out The Way is an upbeat R&B song and I quite like the beat to this one because it sounds a bit off, but still works nicely. The melody is what I expected as it does get a bit more pop, but I think it’s catchy and reminds me of some of the material from her first album that I liked. Sweet love… is a midtempo pop tune. Unfortunately, this song isn’t particularly catchy nor memorable. The music is nice, but I just feel the melody is boring and doesn’t really have the hooks to work with the exciting music. It’s not a bad song, but it isn’t something I would really listen to again. Gentle Words was the album’s second single and my favourite song off the album. This one is a laid back pop/R&B and I love so many different aspects to it. The music is dreamy and the synth-line is absolutely beautiful despite not being particularly in-your-face. The melody is quite memorable and Koda Kumi sounds stunning here as she has to control her voice way more. Just a beautiful track. magic is a nice follow-up to the last song as it continues the smooth R&B sound. The difference is that the melody is definitely more passionate, which is a nice change. I also like Koda Kumi’s vocal performance here because she uses her lower register in the first half, which is a nice surprise. She also sounds great and in a comfortable range during the chorus. The best album track in my opinion, although it is a bit long. COME WITH ME is the album’s first single and is best known for its risque single cover. It’s a pretty solid song though, especially on this album as it brings a stronger disco sound. My main gripe though is that the verses are really strong and then the chorus hooks are just not as memorable and it relies a lot on the fun and explosive music. The weakest single, but it does grow on you a bit.

Overall: This album isn’t as strong as her second one, but it’s still a solid release. I think this time the singles weren’t as strong, although they were all strong (especially Gentle Words). The album tracks were definitely more consistent, but there were as many really great moments in that area as well. I think the album does well in continuing the sound she had on her last album, but it doesn’t really change things up much, which isn’t bad, but it would be nice to hear her experiment a bit more.

B

[Album] Ito Yuna – WISH

WISH is the second album released by Ito Yuna. It wasn’t as big of a success as her debut as it only sold 103,000 copies. There were four singles released prior to the album with three being top 10 hits.

wish.jpg
Released: February 20, 2008
1. Power of Love
2. alone again
3. Anata ga Iru Kagiri ~A WORLD TO BELIEVE IN~ (あなたがいる限り)
4. Urban Mermaid
5. HEARTBEAT
6. Colorful
7. Unite As One
8. Mahaloha
9. A Long Walk
10. Moon Rabbit
11. I’m Here
12. Wish
13. Tokyo Days
14. MY HEART WILL GO ON (Bonus Track)

Beginning the album on an upbeat note, Power of Love has a bit of a 90’s vibe going for it. The start of the song builds everything up to be a powerful tune. While it does have some energy, the chorus just falls flat. It transitions to a brighter pop sound, which is a weird contrast to the edgier verses and I don’t like it. I think this would have been better as two separate songs, but together the song is just disjointed. Luckily alone again comes crawling in. Ito does best with ballads and this is another example of a stunning song. I do find the verses to be a bit dull, but it’s that chorus that really takes things to the next level. The opening chorus hook is just gorgeous and Ito sounds absolutely gorgeous singing this. Here sweeter tone definitely fits this song more than the power ballads she usually goes for. This is the best song on the album. Anata ga Iru Kagiri ~A WORLD TO BELIEVE IN~ is actually a duet with Celine Dion and brings a blend of English and Japanese. This totally sounds like the type of song Celine would do as it is a soaring power ballad. Both singers do well, although Celine does take the lead in the chorus. It’s a very inspiring song, although I do feel the verses are a bit dull. No surprise it was the album’s final single though. Urban Mermaid was the album’s third single and is my least favourite of the singles. It has grown on me a bit, but it is still a weird pop song. The verses do a good job building things up, but then the explosive chorus comes in and it just sort of ruins everything. The transition is odd and the melody isn’t particularly catchy either. A bit disappointing. HEARTBEAT has a bit of a jazzier vibe to it, which is a nice change from the last song. It actually reminds me of something from the early/mid-00’s in J-Pop, but just doesn’t quite hit the mark as well. The chorus isn’t as strong as I want it to be. The melody just floats on top but it isn’t that catchy. I think it could have been tweaked to be stronger as I do enjoy the music. Colorful is a bit cheesy, but it’s a decent pop song. I do feel like the transition between the verses and chorus are much smoother here than in other songs, which is a nice change. It’s not particularly catchy, but it does have its charm. Ito also sounds really nice and her voice suits this kind of song really well. I am surprised they added this B-side to the album though. Unite As One is a long ballad, almost clocking in at seven minutes long. I do like it when Ito does ballads, but there is something about this one that just drags on and on. The verses take forever to get through. The chorus is nice, but this would have been much better if it was cut down another two minutes. Luckily, Mahaloha comes strolling in. This is easily one of the best songs on the album and was released as the album’s second single. It has a relaxing, summery vibe to it that shows a more restrained vocal performance from Ito. The song is also a duet with Micro from Def Tech. Both of their voices fit nicely with the tune and it’s a fun kind of song to sing along to. A Long Walk is an upbeat pop tune with a more electronic take on things. The song also has some Spanish elements to it that helps it stand out. I quite like the music to this song and the melody itself isn’t too bad either. It’s drawn out and beautiful and I love the way that Ito sings this. It’s a surprisingly strong song and one of the better album tracks. Moon Rabbit is a nice fusion of dance and Spanish sounds. It reminds me of something that Nakashima Mika would have done with its upbeat, but flushed out arrangement. The chorus is also surprisingly catchy and while the lyrics are a bit odd, everything still flows pretty well. It’s a great song. I’m Here was the album’s first single and is definitely the most aggressive song on here as it has a fast-paced beat and striking synths. I do like how catchy the chorus is, but I do feel like Ito’s voice doesn’t quite hit the spot as her sweeter and airier tone can’t bring in the right amount of power that the song needs. It’s still a decent tune though and one of the album’s catchier songs. The title track, Wish, is a nice pop ballad that is easily one of the album’s best tracks. While it is a bit long, it isn’t as drawn out and the verses don’t pull the song down. It reminds me of her other song, Precious as it gradually builds in power as the song goes on. The melody is gorgeous and while the music is a bit expected, everything works together so nicely. I don’t know what is up with Tokyo Days though. It is an upbeat, bright pop tune but it has some 90’s J-Pop vibes with it due to the use of background vocals. It reminds me of Komuro Tetsuya’s music, which was popular in the 90’s. Unfortunately, I just don’t think this song does well as it attempts to bring that oldschool sound with contemporary music, but doesn’t blend them well enough. MY HEART WILL GO ON was originally released on a tribute album for Celine Dion. Ito does a good job singing this classic tune. I do think she does strain a bit on the higher parts, but she is able to hold her ground throughout. The song does add a more contemporary twist to things, but it still keeps the original sound in tact. A nice ending.

Overall: I do find this album to be a bit better than her debut. While there are some duds like her first album, I do find the album tracks to be stronger on here. The singles weren’t as good, but they didn’t detract too much from the album. Surprisingly, the second half of the album was stronger than the first half for me as the songs had stronger melodies and more interesting arrangements. This was a solid album though.

B+

[Album] YUKI – Commune

Commune is the second album released by YUKI. The album showed a change in sound as it focused more on acoustic songs than rock tunes. The album was preceded by three singles. Unlike the singles from her first album, the singles this time weren’t as successful, with biggest hit peaking at #10. The album itself peaked at #11 and sold 90,000 copies.

commune
Released: March 26, 2003
1. Swells On the Earth
2. Naki Souda (泣きそうだ; I Think I’ll Cry)
3. Good Times
4. Strawberry (ストロベリ)
5. Rock’n Roll Star (ロックンロールスター)
6. Stand Up! Sister (スタンドアップ!シスター)
7. Hummingbird (ハミングバード)
8. Sentimental Journey (センチメンタルジャーニー)
9. Funky Fruits (ファンキーフルーツ)
10. Koibito Yo (version) (恋人よ; Sweetheart)
11. Communication (コミュニケーション)
12. Sabakuni Saita Hana (砂漠に咲いた花; A Flower That Bloomed In The Desert)

The album opens on an interesting note with Swells On the Earth. It’s a cool intro that pretty much gives us a glimpse of what the album will be like. It’s a gentle tune that focuses on the acoustic. Naki Souda has a lot more energy and sort of brings back the energy from her first album. I do like the power this song has and YUKI’s voice suits this song quite nicely. I just wish the melody was more memorable. The music is cool and I love the cool riffs, but I don’t quite remember how the actual song goes. It’s fun, but not really what I was looking for. Good Times is more mellow, but definitely more interesting. I love the spacey vibe of this song, especially in the verses. The song pretty much stays at the same level until two-thirds into the song when things just explode. It’s an interesting twist and much needed as the song did get a bit dull before this part. I like the contrast of the two parts. Strawberry changes things up once again as it plays around with the vocal delivery. I can’t really say this is my kind of song though. It’s not bad and the hook is a bit catchier, but it also doesn’t have much impact. I just don’t really remember this song that much, but I do appreciate it trying to do something different. Rock’n Roll Star finally brings something more acoustic. When it comes to YUKI’s early releases, her acoustic songs always came off more charming to me. I do like this one more than the other songs. The music is light and YUKI gives an interesting vocal performance. Stand Up! Sister is the album’s first single and it is one of the stronger songs on the album. It has a midtempo acoustic sound to it, but does bring more energy. I quite like the verses with the use of background vocals, but it’s the chorus where things shine. The song is quite catchy and I feel like it’s finally the first song that really gets stuck in my head. It’s not her best song, but it’s a solid tune. The album’s third single, Hummingbird comes popping up right after. Another acoustic pop song, this one is definitely more laid back. It reminds me a bit of Prism from YUKI’s last album as the vibe feels more like it is traveling. I do wish the hooks were a bit more memorable as I forget how it goes. There are some really charming parts to it though and I really like it when the strings come in. The album’s second single follows. Sentimental Journey continues the acoustic vibe of the last few songs, but I do think it is stronger than the last one. The song is a bit long, but the chorus is definitely better as the melody goes up and down and brings some unpredictability. It’s quite relaxing, but touching at the same time. Funky Fruits brings exactly what is expected. It has that 60’s psychedelic sound to it and it is a fun change. I actually like the verses more than the chorus though. It starts off sounding like it is going to build into something great, but I feel like it just takes too long to get there and the chorus itself is quite repetitive and short. Not my kind of song. Koibito yo (version) was original released on the album’s first single as a B-side track. I’m not quite sure of the original, but this version is a really weird song. The vocals are distorted in a way and it sounds like YUKI sounds like she is singing from afar. The music has a more reggae quality to it that comes up around halfway through. It’s definitely an interesting song to say the least. Not sure if I like it. Communication finally brings a bit more energy as it has a more uptempo swing to it. Unfortunately, I just do not like this song that much. The vibe feels so sleepy and like YUKI has very little emotion in her voice. The melody and the music just continue at the same pace throughout so it feels like there is very ltitle change as well. Sabakuni Saita Hana ends the album in an interesting way. Although it is a slower song, it has an interesting arrangement and it reminds me of an older style of music. I do think it gets a bit dull as the song goes on though as it does last around five minutes and the changes in it aren’t that big.

Overall: I can understand what this album is trying to do. It feels like it is playing up a lot of older styles of music, which is a nice thing to hear. However, it also feels like the album isn’t very contemporary. Rock is a harder genre for me to get into, but I feel like this album just wasn’t for me. Compared to her first one, this one seemed a lot less accessible and the music and vocals were just very different. It’s a cool release and I want to like it, but it doesn’t quite do it for me personally.

C+