[Album] aiko – Chiisa na Marui Koujitsu

Chiisa na Marui Koujitsu is the first album released by aiko. The album wasn’t a major success at first, but it has been continuously re-released and has done moderately well in the long run, peaking at #31 and selling over 138,000 copies. Two singles were released prior to the album. The first did poorly, but the second was a top 30 hit.

chiisanamaruikoujitsu

Released: April 21, 1999
1. Orange na Mangetsu (オレンジな満月; Orange Full Moon)
2. Jet (ジェット)
3. Shiseikatsu (私生活; Privacy)
4. Utahime (歌姫; Songstress)
5. Akai Kutsu (赤い靴; Red Shoes)
6. Ijiwaru na Tenshi yo Sekai wo Warae! (イジワルな天使よ 世界を笑え!; Mischievous Angels Laugh at the World!)
7. Koi Ochiru Toki (恋墜ちる時; When Falling in Love)
8. Natsu ni Muffler (夏にマフラー; Muffler in Summer)
9. Bob (ボブ)
10. Naki Mushi (ナキ・ムシ; Cry Baby)
11. Ashita (あした; Tomorrow)

I love how the album starts off. Orange na Mangetsu is a catchy pop tune that it very classic early aiko. The song has a bouncy piano that ties nicely with the funky bass, percussion and touches of guitar. The song isn’t particularly catchy, but there is a great energy to the music and aiko’s singing that makes things start off in a fun way. This is what I was hoping to hear. My only issue with it is that it clocks in at over five and a half minutes.

Jet is a nice follow-up to the last song. It still retains that brighter quality to the music that was heard in the last song, but changes things around a bit. The music isn’t as explosive as the last song and while the melody is fun as well, aiko really hits some straining notes that don’t sound as pleasing. While I like the rock elements in the music, I don’t feel it is really elevates the melody that much. Still a solid tune.

The next song we finally get is something on the slower side of things. Shiseikatsu is a midtempo pop tune, but it is a pretty classic sounding aiko song. I could see this one as a single because the melody really pops and it is quite catchy. The music is also a nice change with its emphasis on the acoustic guitar and light beat. The thing that I really enjoy most about it is there are some darker tones at times.

The first ballad comes in the form of Utahime. This song starts off really nicely with the piano before the percussion and bass come rolling in. aiko’s vocals are quite sweet sounding for the verses, but I like the power she brings in the chorus. It’s not her most instant melody, but it is still pretty easy to take down and I like its more dramatic take on things.

Akai Kutsu was released as a B-side to the album’s second single. It is a bit different from the other songs because it of the cool guitar riff that starts things off is carried throughout the entire song. Even though it is there, the song still retains the usual brightness of aiko’s music. Unfortunately, at this point it is probably my least favourite of the songs. It’s not bad, but the music is sort of a blur in the background and I’m not as fond of the melody.

The next song really matches its title. Ijiwaru na Tenshi yo Sekai wo Warae! is an explosive pop song that brings some brass into it to give it a bit of punch and fun. The melody is also surprisingly catchy and works wonderfully with the music to really give it some great energy. I’m pleasantly surprised with this one and even aiko sounds like she was having a blast singing it.

Koi Ochiru Toki makes me think of music that she released in the mid-part of her career in terms of melody, but it still has the arrangements that are a bit older. This is another upbeat song, but it doesn’t quite have the same energy as the last song. The verses are a bit boring and are rather monotonous, while the pre-chorus just lacks a smooth melody. The chorus is definitely better and it’s quite catchy. Pretty solid overall.

I like the name of Natsu ni Muffler and it’s a pretty cool song. I like that tries to do something a little different with the focus on the electric guitar. The verses are quite nice and I like the feeling that it brings. However, the chorus is a bit lackluster and the notes are a bit grating here. It’s a cute song and it does get more charming as it goes on.

Bob is a short and sweet piano ballad. It’s quite cute and I like the focus on aiko’s vocals. However, the song gets a bit boring later on and I feel like it relies too much on the atmosphere it brings than the strength of the melody. It’s still a sweet song.

aikonakimushi

Finally getting into the singles, we start off with Naki Mushi, the album’s second single. This song is on the slower side of things, but it really works on bringing a dramatic sound. The music is pretty classic aiko, but it’s the melody where things shine, although both work together really nicely. The chorus is especially interesting with the sections that are sung in different ways. This isn’t one of my favourite singles from her, but it’s a solid song on here.

aikoashita

aiko’s first single, Ashita, just does not fit on this album. I really love this song because it is straight pop with its focus on synths and dance beat. The rest of the album focuses on a more organic sound that mixes pop and rock, but here we get a darker, dance-filled number. It’s still surprisingly catchy. While it can get a bit odd at times with the vocal performance or how weird the background vocals sound, it is just something completely different from aiko’s usual material.


Overall: This is a good first album. I feel like it was lacking a bit on the ballads, but I like that the album was quite cohesive until the last track. It’s really interesting to hear this album as aiko’s later music still plays on a lot of the same elements and sounds but changes things up. It’s a little bit rough, but the whole album has an innocent charm to it. I wish the melodies were a little stronger though as the majority of the songs didn’t really stand out in that area.

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-

[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-