[Album] Abe Natsumi – 2nd ~Shimiwataru Omoi~

2nd ~Shimiwataru Omoi~ is the second album released by Abe Natsumi. It features four singles that were released prior to the album, with all four charting in the top 10. The album wasn’t a big hit though and sold significantly less than her first album, peaking at #9 and selling 23,000 copies.

2ndshimiwataruomoi
Released: March 29, 2006
1. Gakusei Jidai (学生時代; Student Days)
2. Koi no Hana (恋の花; Flower of Love)
3. F.O.
4. Yuugure Sakusen Kaigi (夕暮れ作戦会議; Team Meeting at Midnight)
5. Yume Naraba (夢ならば; If There Are Dreams)
6. Nichiyoubi What’s Going On? (日曜日 What’s Going On?; Sunday What’s Going On?)
7. Tokyo Michikusa (東京みちくさ; Tokyo Wayside Grass)
8. Datte Ikitekanakucha (だって 生きてかなくちゃ; ‘Cause I’ve Gotta Keep on Living)
9. Elevator Futaripocchi (エレベーター二人ぽっち; The Two In The Elevator)
10. Koi no Telephone GOAL (恋のテレフォンGOAL; Love’s Telephone GOAL)
11. Chottozutsu ne. (ちょっとずつね。; A Little Bit)
12. Ending (エンディング)

Gakusei Jidai is a lighthearted midtempo pop tune. It starts off with some weird talking, but soon goes into the song. I do find that it feels a bit old and almost like an 80’s J-Pop sound. The chorus is the highlight of the song, but even then it is a bit flat. It isn’t particularly catchy and relies mostly on that 80’s guitar riff to really get the job done. Unfortunately, this is a lackluster opening and I’m surprised it is so long (almost five minutes). Luckily, Koi no Hana comes popping up. The album’s fourth and final single is a bright uptempo pop tune that reminds me a little of something by Shimatani Hitomi. I do find that the chorus just zooms by, but it is catchy and at least quite memorable. It has some traditional elements in it that make it stand out and works really nicely with Abe’s vocals. I also like the brightness of the music. F.O. is a nice surprise. I was expecting something a bit lackluster, but the song is a stomping and explosive bright pop tune. I love the heavy beat tied with the flashy synths and blasting brass. The melody isn’t that memorable, but the music definitely has enough energy to keep the song rolling. Yuugure Sakusen Kaigi brings some heavy guitars in at the start, but transforms into a dreamy pop song for the verses. It really reminds me of something by ZARD or another 90’s J-Pop artist. Unfortunately, it doesn’t quite have the nostalgic charm of their best songs. The chorus is boring and the music doesn’t really elevate things either. Yume Naraba storms in as the album’s third single and is easily the album’s highlight. It’s a dreamy midtempo pop tune. While the verses aren’t the most exciting, the chorus definitely makes up for it. It’s a bit dragged out, but the melody fits perfectly with the heavy bass and vocal heavy backdrop. It definitely grows. Nichiyoubi What’s Going On? is something I’m not a big fan of in H!P, which is a Tsunku heavily-featured tune. While he makes some good songs, the background vocals he usually adds make some songs come off super cheesy and ruins certain sections. While this song is a bright pop tune, the odd chanting vocals just doesn’t do it any favours. Just not my kind of tune. Tokyo Michikusa is much better just because it doesn’t have those odd background vocals. With that said, it’s not the most exciting ballad either. It’s really calming and sort of just slowly moves along. I do like the more traditional elements that come up during the music and the song does get better as it progresses, but it does get a bit boring. Datte Ikitekanakucha is a big change as it has some latin elements in it with its faster-paced music and touches of spanish guitar. However, the beat really overpower things here and the pop elements definitely stand out more. I wasn’t too keen on this song at first, but this time through I can definitely say it sounds much better. It’s catchy and I love how Abe sounds. It’s an exciting tune and is the album’s first single. Elevator Futaripocchi is just a lighthearted pop tune and while I want to like it, it just does not stand out. The melody is nice and the music has some nice aspects like the guitar, but there is really nothing that makes me want to go back to this song. Just forgettable. Koi no Telephone GOAL is the album’s second single and it is definitely the most Hello!Project of the singles to me. It has a funky vibe to it and has the signature Tsunku vocals. I do think the background vocals aren’t as bad here and don’t overpower things and help the catchiness of the melody to stand out. With that said, it’s my least favourite of the songs because I wish the music just sort of stays at a consistent pace throughout and doesn’t really excite me as much as I want to be. Chottozutsu ne. is a nice surprise. While it is a ballad, it has a really nice jazzier melody to it that stands out and works great with Abe’s voice. I do find the verses to be a bit dull, but that chorus helps to bring some energy to the laid back pop ballad. It’s one of the stronger album tracks. Ending is just an outro with a bunch of talking. It’s an interesting way to end things.

Overall: The thing with this album is that I found it less consistent than her debut album. While her debut didn’t have many stand out tunes, the fillers weren’t as weak. Here, the album jumps up and down constantly with some stellar songs and some boring tunes. With that said, I do like this album a tad more just because most of the songs don’t have those odd background vocals.

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[Album] Abe Natsumi – Hitoribocchi

Debuting as the first ace of massive girl group, Morning Musume, Abe Natsumi was the lead vocalist in many of the group’s songs. In 2003, she started her solo career and graduated from the group in 2004. Hitoribocchi is Abe’s debut album and featured her debut single as well as a special collaboration single.

hitoribocchi
Released: February 4, 2004
1. 22sai no Watashi (22歳の私; My 22-Year Old Self) [MV]
2. Memory Seishun no Hikari (Abe Version) (Memory 青春の光 (安倍 Version); Memory The Light of Youth)
3. Koishita Onna no Ko Dosue (恋した女の子どすえ; Because I’m A Girl In Love)
4. Hare Ame Nochi Suki ♡ (Abe Version) (晴れ 雨 のち スキ ♡(安倍 Version); Clear Day, After The Rain, I Love You)
5. …Hitoribocchi… (…ひとりぼっち…; …Alone…)
6. Kiiroi Osora de BOOM BOOM BOOM (Abe Version) (黄色いお空でBOOM BOOM BOOM(安倍 Version); Boom Boom Boom in the Yellow Sky)
7. Anata Iro (あなた色; Your Color)
8. Toumorokoshi to Sora to Kaze (トウモロコシと空と風; Corn and Sky and Wind)
9. Furusato (Abe Version) (ふるさと(安倍 Version); Hometown)
10. Ude Kunde Kaeritai (腕組んで帰りたい; I Want to Go Home with Our Arms Intertwined)
11. Haha to Musume no Duet Song (母と娘のデュエットソング; Mother and Daughter’s Duet Song)
12. Pi~hyara Kouta (ピ〜ヒャラ小唄; Whistle Ballad)

Hitoribocchi opens with the first and only single, 22sai ni Watashi. I really like this song because it has a sadness to it that sort of contrasts the hopeful feelings of the lyrics. Abe has always been one of Morning Musume’s stronger vocalists, and it is really heard here. Her voice really works with the music. With that said, I do not like the background vocals, as they sort of distract from the song and make it sound more outdated than it is. Memory Seishun no Hikari is actually a Morning Musume song and one of their earliest singles. I absolutely adore this song as it has a cooler vibe to it with its slight R&B influence mixed with some funk and pop. I love how dark it is as well, although the song does sound a bit outdated. Unfortunately, I feel like Abe doesn’t do the song justice on its own. The vocal delivery was much fuller in the original because the harmonies were more on the forefront and not just Abe’s voice. It isn’t bad, but could be better. Koishita Onna no ko Dosue is a really huge change from the more nostalgic qualities of the last two songs. Here, we have an upbeat country-rock tune. I think it’s a really cool inclusion, but the placement is a bit odd. My major problem with this song though is that the melody just isn’t as memorable as the music. I love the electric guitar in the song, but the vocal arrangement is a bit dull and doesn’t really keep up the energy, especially in the chorus. Hare Ame Nochi Suki ♡ is originally a single released by Morning Musume Sakuragumi. It brings something a little more slower again and has a really nice strong chorus. However, like the last song, the song sort of ends up a bit forgettable. I think some of these songs have more character when there are a mix of voices. Abe is a fine singer, but these songs don’t particularly suit her voice as well as they could. It’s a decent tune and has some nice aspects, but just ends up a bit flat. The title track, Hitoribocchi, is really different than what I expected, but I sort of like it for that reason. The song has this relaxed feel to it and is more reliant on the acoustic guitar, with some additions as it progrsses. I don’t feel the melody is really catchy, but the emotion is definitely there and Abe’s whisper-singing really works well with the sadness in the song. Not bad. Kiiroi Osora de BOOM BOOM BOOM is one of my favourite songs from the Hello!Project family and I’m glad it is on this album. It has so much energy with its mix of pop and ska. The brasses are great and the funky beat works so well with the insanely catchy melody. My only gripe is that the song feels so much more empty in its vocal delivery and there are some odd parts where vocal parts overlap. Decent rendition. Anata Iro is a tango-inspired pop tune. I do like the arrangement as it seems really exciting and has some really fun elements to it such as the fast-paced Spanish guitar as well as the strong percussion. The chorus is also quite charming and surprisingly catchy. I also feel like the background vocals don’t detract from the song this time. Solid. Toumorokoshi to Sora to Kaze is another change in sound as well. Here with have a fun pop tune with some interesting guitar riffs and flashes of brass. The music sort of reminds me of the last song in the sense that it seems very full. However, the melody is just really dull. It is really slow and Abe sings in a way that doesn’t really put much life into the song. Quite average. Furusato was released as one of Morning Musume’s first singles. This pop ballad is really nostalgic in its sound and is a bit outdated. With that said, it’s such a staple and classic H!P song. The original was pretty much a Abe Natsumi solo, so there aren’t many differences here except that Abe’s voice sounds much clearer. It’s a nice song with touching lyrics. Ude Kunde Kaeritai is an uplifting pop tune and works with Abe’s voice quite nicely. I like the heavy feeling of the music, with its low guitar riffs and pounding percussion. The melody is rather cute, albeit not as catchy as it could be. It’s a charming song, but I bit forgettable in the long run. Haha to Musume no Duet Song is a special collaboration between Abe and singer Yosumi Keiko. It is a fun pop tune with some rock elements to it. Both singers work well together and I like the beachier vibe of the music. It sounds very old school, although I’m not totally sure if I buy the whole thing. It’s a nice filler. Pi~hyara Kouta is exactly what it is, a nice pop ballad with some traditional qualities to it. I really think the arrangement is absolutely stunning and the melody just seems to flow right across it. I do wish the chorus melody was a little more beautiful and explosive. I feel like the song has a lot of potential, but sort of plays it too safe and doesn’t do anything that really stands out.

Overall: I like Hello!Project a lot, but this album was sort of what I was expecting. It seems more like a collection of different sounds with little cohesion. It’s not entirely a bad thing, but I felt like quite a bit of the material just sounded too outdated, even for the time the album was released. The covers were a nice touch, but they could’ve been done better and the album tracks are largely forgettable in the long run. One thing I really didn’t enjoy was the awkward background vocals in some of the songs, which detracted from their quality. Would definitely recommend tracks 1 and 7 though.

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