Kylee ~ Love Kicks…

Kylee – Love Kicks...

  1. S.A.U.
  2. You Get Me
  3. THAT ONE
  4. Not For You
  5. Empty Handed
  6. Wherever You Are Tonight

Today, I am posting the review of Kylee‘s first album (or mini-album), Love Kicks…, in recognition of her 15th birthday. Yes, Kylee (also Kylee Saunders or カイリー) is a young star of only 15 years who was born in the US to a Japanese mother and an American father, who inspired her to sing as a child. She has a deal with DefSTAR Records, and though she sings in Japan, all of her songs are in English. In fact, the title track of her first single, Vacancy, is available on iTunes USA.
Love Kicks… is Kylee’s first mini-album and chronicles the course of a relationship. It contains six pop-rock tracks and was released on 4 March, 2009.
[Note: Due to the potential iTunes USA release of this album, only limited tracks are available on this site. For more the absent tracks, please send my an email of inquiry.]

The album opens with the confident S.A.U., which stands for SOMETHING ABOUT [YO]U (I’m not really sure why she made it into an acronym myself). The beginning has a bit of a shaky start because the tie held in the vocal line seems to disagree with the time signature, though the pitch is on. The running chimes that come in the phrase before the chorus give an interesting texture in this rock tune. Kylee’s solid vocals throughout contrast well with the driving electric guitar, even when they become especially legato in the chorus. The quick-paced power chords—sustaining less than measure each—really move the melodic line, but Kylee’s vocals remain in control. In terms of lyrics,there is nothing too insightful, but the “falling in love” sensation segment of a relationship is well captured. Alas, the song ends on a random, distorted guitar gliss, which seems out of place, but aside from that, the arrangement is strong and enjoyable.
Language: English
Mood: adventurous
Tempo: allegro
Composition: B+
Arrangement: A-
Overall: A-

You Get Me, when viewed critically, can illustrate the exaggeration of a sense of belonging or acceptance in regard to one’s love interest, but the song is probably not meant to be that satirical. Lines such as, “You’re the only one who gets me / Nobody else understands and look at me like I’m just crazy” from the chorus are a bit over the top and excessively exclusive. Kylee’s distorted “woah-oh-oh” vocals sound a little strange and don’t really add much to the song. The same-pitch running eighth-note guitar merely accompanies blandly, as with the power chords in the chorus; there is no countermelody, and disappointingly, not even a guitar solo. Likewise, the percussion part is pretty straightforward, so it performs its function, but it is not particularly interesting. The running synth sounds do provide something of a countermelody, but they are weak and slightly overshadowed. The vocal harmonies, especially in the final repeat, save the arrangement and add a much-needed dimension to the song. These harmonies are especially stellar in the bridge, into which the key changes.
Language: English
Mood: liberated
Tempo: allegro moderato
Composition: B
Arrangement: B
Overall: B

The arrangement shines before the vocal part even comes in THAT ONE, the longest song on the album, clocking in at five minutes. The sustained (over two measures) synth string chords provide the backdrop for a light syncopated guitar accompaniment, which is then built upon by a differently-syncopated guitar melody—a blend that flirts with the ear. Although the strain is a bit repetitive, it still grips the ear. The stark contrast of the strings and the slight grunge sound of the guitar on melody is surprisingly refreshing and entrancing. The percussion carries the song and adds a punch to the guitar’s syncopation, but it never seems overbearing. The lyrics are a bit lackluster—not to mention grammatically poor—but that doesn’t mean that Kylee doesn’t execute them. As in the previous track, they seem to exaggerate the negativity of the situation outside of the love interest, but Kylee does not waver anywhere, though a bit of vibrato would fit the mood of the song nicely; perhaps it does not mesh with the timbre of her voice. Finally, the song ends on a resolution into a major chord, which tints the tone of the song with hope that she will indeed find THAT ONE.
Language: English
Mood: longing
Tempo: allegretto
Composition: B+
Arrangement: A
Overall: A-

The next song, Not For You, is a pivotal track on the album both lyrically and musically. Also, it appears to be a cover of the Natalie Bassingthwaighte song of the same title. The instrumentation shifts somewhat, as there is no electrical guitar present at all, but only acoustic power chords in the verses and base power chords in the refrain. The opening of horizontal chord building with the synth strings and Kylee’s hollow-sounding vocals casts a dark mood and finally settles into a minor key. The arrangement spans a relatively substantial range of pitches, from the power of the bass to the synth high strings, and this coverage gives a healthy depths to the song. The strings nicely embellish the verses as well, which would seem otherwise empty with the lengthy rests between phrases in the vocal part, and the forte bass piano chords at the cadenza evoke the image of a crash to the ground, which connects to the lyrics. The novelty of the relationship has worn off, and Kylee sings, “If I give you the world would it be enough for you? Not for you… / If I tore up my heart and my mind and wrapped them nicely?” The song ends abruptly and quietly, but it may have been better for such a strong piece to finish in a more noteworthy fashion.
Language: English
Mood: anxious
Tempo: moderato
Composition: B+
Arrangement: A-
Overall: A-

The acoustic-dominant Empty Handed has a more intimate feeling, and like many acoustic pieces, is more accessible than rock songs. The tune is more or a less an acoustic guitar/vocal duet with steady percussion and minimal electric guitar. The melody is engaging all throughout, including in the verses and the bridge, especially at the end of the later refrains with accidental mordants in the descending, slurred cadenza. Where the arrangement is lacking, the lyrics—which reflect the beautiful blend of acquiescence and self-confidence as she becomes disillusioned with her love interest—redeem the song. This emotion is expressed by lines such as “Were you just happy to hide behind dreams and broken lies? / There’s a crack in your perfect smile, and it’s been growing awhile” and “I know I can do better.Empty Handed proves Kylee’s ability to also perform well on more subdued songs with a more serious and heartfelt tone.
Language: English
Mood: calm, sad
Tempo: andante moderato
Composition: A-
Arrangement: B+
Overall: A-

Wherever You Are Tonight, the album’s final track, sings of the lingering emotions after the breakup. The electric guitar and the percussion are brazen throughout, and they seem to compete with each other a bit during the chorus. The verses have more of the Western-style same-pitch running eighth-note guitar accompaniment. The guitar solo is nice to hear, along with chunks of countermelody on acoustic guitar in the later verses, though the vocal echoes in the final chorus don’t add much. Both the music and the lyrics lean on the generic side with lines about being connected though they are apart.
Language: English
Mood:
Tempo: allegro moderato
Composition: B
Arrangement: B-
Overall: B

Love Kicks… is strong for a debut album, both solid and engaging. In the future, I hope that Kylee’s sound and lyrics mature and incorporate more of her own emotion. I doubt she writes her own lyrics, given that she should not have a experienced the full course of a relationship at her age, so it would be great to hear her sound mature as her voice is already dark and far from childlike. This album has a raw potential for success stateside, but Kylee’s music has plenty of room for a tailoring from mainstream pop/rock to something more of her personal expression, which will emerge as she develops as an artist.
Overall: A-

the brilliant green ~ Ash like Snow

  1. Ash Like Snow
  2. goodbye and good luck ★Piano arrange version★
  3. Ash Like Snow ★original instrumental★

the brilliant green (ザ・ブリリアント・グリーン), known as “BuriGuri” (taken from the katakana spelling), consists of three members: vocalist/lyricist KAWASE Tomoko (川瀬智子), bassist/songwriter OKUDA Shunsaku (奥田俊作), and guitarist MATSUI Ryou (松井亮). After their major debut in 1997, the band went on two hiatus, in 2001 and 2002, so that the members could focus on solo work. Kawase released 4 albums and 16 singles under the stage names Tommy february6 and Tommy heavenly6. In 2003, Kawase and Okuda were married, and in 2007, the band returned and is currently active.
Ash Like Snow is the brilliant green’s 17th single and was released on February 6, 2008. It peaked at 8th on the Oricon Weekly Charts.
[Note: BuriGuri is a little too popular to be reviewed in this blog, but since I really like this single and because ash has a special significance to me, I’d like to review it anyhow.]

Ash Like Snow, a hard rock song in a minor key, was used as the second opening theme to the anime Mobile Suit Gundam 00. (This song also appears as the final track on the brilliant green complete singles collection ’97 – ’08.) Excellent arrangement is what rock songs need to carry them, and this one soars. The quieter verses crescendo into the brazen chorus, which is supported by strong power chords. Vocal distortion is also utilized strategically, and the percussion performs its function precisely without being overbearing. As Kawase repeats “ash like snow” accompanied by only the syncopated electric guitar, the mood is
held in suspense and builds into the last two choruses. The final chorus is the perfect with the ends of lines falling in glissando and overlapping with the next line. The lyrics match the caliber of the music with lines like this one from the first chorus: この世界が形を変えるたびに/守りたいものを壊してしまっていたんだ (kono sekai ga katachi wo kaeru tabi ni / mamoritai mono wo kowashite shimatte itan’da; every time this world changes shape / all that I wish to protect is broken). The apocalyptic theme of the song coupled with ash falling, returning to the earth, is stunning and near-epic.
Language: Japanese with some English
Mood: lamenting, dark
Tempo: allegro moderato
Composition: A
Arrangement: A+
Overall: A+

goodbye and good luck ★Piano arrange version★ is a piano version (obviously) of BuriGuri’s second single of the same title. The brilliance of the juxtaposition of this song on the single is immediately apparent with the opening line, “It’s likely to snow tonight.” (Is it ash like snow? Is the world ending tonight?) Musically, this song begins as a well-written albeit generic piano ballad until the chorus, in which the chord progression (down to a diminished and back) is captivating. I don’t get the intentional and repeated loss of tone at the verses’ cadenzas, but it’s also in the first version, so it must be an attempt at originality. The piano part intensifies in the coda, but the finishing pitch bend is a poor way to end the song and does nothing but detract from it. Lyrically, the song is simple, but the plaintive lines about friendship are moving, for example: “Say goodbye and good luck / I’m with you all the way.” Though the words are not poetic (“I will miss you very much if you move”), they still evoke all the emotions associated with goodbye. In my opinion, this version is better than the original because the vocals and blend better with the piano, and the theme of this song fits better with the vocal/piano duet arrangement.
Language: English
Mood: nostalgic
Tempo: andante moderato
Composition: A
Arrangement: A-
Overall: A

As aforementioned, the placement of these two songs really makes for an impacting single. In one respect, it can be considered a double A-side because the original goodbye and good luck was the A-side of the band’s second single. (I don’t really understand the cover, though, and I think that Enemy‘s cover would have suited this single as well.) Here is one of BuriGuri’s best singles to date.
Overall: A

Lia、多田葵 ~ doll/human

  1. doll (Lia version)
  2. doll (TADA Aoi version)
  3. human
  4. doll (inst)
  5. human (inst)

Lia was formerly a member of I’ve Sound, and since leaving the project, has released four original albums and two “Happy Hardcore” singing albums. Although she does not consistently release singles, she often performs themes for anime and video games. I don’t know anything about TADA Aoi, sorry.😄
doll/human has a special cover because it is released specifically for an anime. This single did not make the Oricon Top 30 Weekly. Both songs on the single are composed and lyrics written by MAEDA Jun (麻枝准) and arranged by ANANT-GARDE EYES.

doll (Lia version), used as the ending song of the anime Gunslinger Girl -Il Teatrino- (the sequel to Gunslinger Girl), is an emotional, well-rounded package that I’m sure fits the anime rather well. This song in a simple 4/4 time begins with a doubled bell line that continues throughout the song to set the mood backed up by piano chords. The verses are serene with intriguing lyrics–for example, the first verse: あたたかな手から生まれた/心を持たない人形/笑うことはなく/話すこともない (atataka na te kara umareta / kokoro wo motanai ningyou / warau koto wa naku / hanasu koto mo nai; born from a warm hand, [I am] a doll who doesn’t have a heart, who can’t smile and can’t speak, either). The interesting cadenza of the verses flows smoothly into the subito forte chorus, which matches the intensity of a climatic bridge. The power chords in the strings and bass add even more. As the final word of the first chorus echoes several times, the low strings come in for more support, which comes from registers both above and below the melody. The lush syncopated strings jabs in the final two choruses really give the song motion all the while supported by the percussion. Even though the arrangement is predominately vocal, strings, and piano, doll has a very resonate and dark sound.
Language: Japanese
Mood: yearning and determined
Tempo: moderato
Composition: A+
Arrangement: A+
Overall: A+

doll (多田葵 version) is the exact same as Lia’s version except for the vocalist, obviously. However, I prefer Lia’s version because Tada sounds strained and very spread compared to her. I’m not sure why there is a Tada version, other that she might be the seiyuu for one of the characters in Gunslinger Girl, and then that might hold some symbolism within the series. 

The juxtaposition of the other A-side, human, immediately stands out symbolically. Written in a major key, it is a more playful song with pizzicato strings throughout. The beginning is a little boring and weak with just the vocal and the plucked string instrument. It does not really become interesting until the melody of the chorus, but then really solidifies at the second chorus with the blossoming high strings’ countermelody and the percussion’s entrance. What really makes this song interesting, though, is the cello solo and modulation before the final two choruses (where electric guitar power chords come in), and, of course, the lyrics. Lia sings of endless searching, which mysterious lines such as these from the second verse: 道から道へさまよう/時には雨に打たれながら/消えていった人の/足跡を探してきた (michi kara michi e samayou / toki ni wa ame ni utarenagara / kiete itta hito no / ashiato wo sagashite kita; I wander from road to road. /While sometimes being pelted by rain / I came searching for / the footprints of someone who had disappeared). Although this song is not as impacting as doll, it “pulls its own weight” and rounds out the single well.
Language: Japanese
Mood: free, playful
Tempo: andante
Composition: A-
Composition: A
Overall: A

The strong contrast of this double A-side brings great music to Gunslinger Girl. In fact, the contrast is so great that it is difficult to compare the two songs to each other, which allows each one to stand on its own and let its own particular strong points shine.
Overall: A+

KOTOKO ~ リアル鬼ごっこ

  1. リアル鬼ごっこ (RIARU Onigokko; A Real Game of Tag)
  2. siren
  3. リアル鬼ごっこ -instrumental-
  4. siren -instrumental-

KOTOKO, whose full name is HORIKAWA Kotoko (堀川ことこ), began her career in music as one of the core members of the group I’ve, which derives its name from 愛撫 (aibu; caress) because most of their songs were used in H-games. Though she is still a member of the group, and an indispensible one at that, she has released several albums and singles solo under the Geneon label. She writes the lyrics to all her songs (with rare exceptions), and I’ve writer TAKASE Kazuya (高瀬一矢) writes and arranges most of her songs. She also writes lyrics for and coauthors some I’ve songs that she doesn’t perform vocally.
リアル鬼ごっこ (RIARU Onigokko; A Real Game of Tag) is KOTOKO’s 10th maxi single and was released on December 19, 2007. So far, it has reached 15th on the Oricon Weekly charts. For both songs, the lyrics and vocals are by KOTOKO, and the composition and arrangement are by Takase.

リアル鬼ごっこ (RIARU Onigokko; A Real Game of Tag), which was used as the opening theme for a Japanese movie of the same title, is a very typical KOTOKO song: this long track begins with a lengthy introduction of synth and electric guitar that gradually builds in intensity. The slight distortion of the vocal part in the chorus makes KOTOKO’s voice seem ethereal, as though it is floating on air; this is contrasted by the syncopation in electric bass part. A master lyricist, KOTOKO once again opens the door to a surreal world with obscure Japanese phrases such as 「憐憫の声 哀咽の渦」 (renbin no koe aietsu no uzu; a voice of compassion, a whirlpool of choking pity). To amplify this, she also uses unlikely English words and phrases like “august murder” and “weal” (i.e. wheal). In the chorus, the lines seem to end in exclamation marks because of both the melodic pattern and the culmination of emotions at that point, which is common in KOTOKO songs and part of what makes them so interesting. Although there is sufficient support, it sounds more nonmusical, that is to say largely percussion and electronic. However, I think that this supports the mood of the song well and allows the resonance of KOTOKO’s vocals to be heard as she sings of the contrast of a sense of humanity and emotionless maiming.
Language: Japanese and English
Mood: grave, detached, pitying
Tempo: moderato
Composition: A
Arrangement: B
Overall: A-

siren conveys a similar mood to the A-side. However, it has a more trance sound, even though it uses more “real” instruments, such as piano and acoustic guitar; needless to say, this creates a very curious sound. KOTOKO continues with cryptic and surreal lyrics, this time of estrangement, with lines like 「結末見ぬまま 遠き国のpain」 (ketsumatsu minu mama tooki kuni no pain; without an end in sight for the pain of distant lands) and 「名も無き者の言葉が重なる/本当か嘘かはどうでもいい」(na mo naki mono no kotoba ga kasanaru/hontou ka uso ka wa dou demo ii; the words of nameless people overlap each other/whether truth or lie, it is fine). The worldview illustrated by the lyric of this song could easily be more deeply analyzed, but by someone more proficient in Japanese than I. The song is in a minor key, and the major chord resolutions at some of the cadenzas, especially in the verses, toss a blossoming splash of color and really add to the musicality of the song, and the ever-supporting piano holds the arrangement together.
Language: Japanese
Mood: sad, desolate
Tempo: moderato
Composition: A
Arrangement: A-
Overall: A-

This single from KOTOKO is a relief after her previous two “silly” singles for Hayate no Gotoku. It encompasses a definitive mood, but I believe that the songs sound too similar to be on the same single; they are both in minor keys and have almost the exact same tempo and structure. Nonetheless, it is all still quality work from KOTOKO and Takase.
Overall: A-

Kiyoharu ~ MELODIES

  1. MELODIES
  2. BLOOD TREE

Kiyoharu (sometimes KIYOHARU or 清春),whose full name is MORI Kiyoharu, was born in 1968 and is one of Japan’s foremost singer-songwriter-guitarists. He is the former vocalist of the visual-keu band Kuroyume (黒夢) as well as the band Sads. He began his solo career in 2003, and he composes, sings, plays guitar, and also designs clothes. (Well, he was in a visual-kei band.) As he has been in the music business for over 15 years, he has become a very influential j-rocker.
MELODIES is Kiyoharu’s 13th single and was released on October 31, 2007.

MELODIES is one of those musically mystifying songs that switches between major and minor keys. However, this one is backwards from most; the verses are in D major, and the chorus is in its relative minor, B minor, so no modulation is clearly heard. At times, the major/minor sound is even ambiuguous because of the accidentals, which Kiyoharu uses very smoothly and naturally (naturally in that it is not a rough and sudden accidental, but fits with the chord structure well). As is a problem with the rock genre as a whole, the words can be hard to distinguish because of volume of electric instruments, but it can also be because I am not extremely proficient in Japanese. Despite the parts in which the vocal clarity is lost, Kiyoharu utilizes heavy nature imagery (more than the average Japanese song). The music itself is plenty enthralling, especially during the bridge, in which the guitars expertly weave minor and major chords. Whether is it just the acoustic guitar or the full arrangement of all the band instruments, this song’s energy never lets up.
Language: Japanese
Mood: reminiscent, desolate
Tempo: andante moderto
Composition: A
Arrangement: A
Overall: A

BLOOD TREE, despite its interesting title, is quite a letdown after the title track. Its nonstop grunge and dissonance gets to be grating very quickly, and both the melody and “harmony” are uncontrolled, making it seem like an acid-trip track. The sound is very Westen, and I think it would make a good Guitar Hero song. However, the muffling and distortion of the vocals only detract from the song and add to the cacophony; the random electric guitar chord at the end is only a reminder of how unworthy this song is.
Language: Japanese with some English (I think)
Mood: angry, trippy
Tempo: allegretto
Composition: C
Arrangement: C-
Overall: C-

I think that the songs on this single must be taken separately, and I am disappointed that Kiyoharu did not write a better piece to be coupled with MELODIES; even a blander song would have been better. While the A-side shines, the B-side only scuffs it.
Overall: B

鬼東ちひろ ~ LAS VEGAS

  1. Sweet Rosemary
  2. bad trip
  3. 蝋の翼 (Rou no Tsubasa; Wings of Wax
  4. 僕等 バラ色の日々(Boku-ra Bara-iro no Hibi; We, Rose-coloured Days)
  5. amphibious
  6. MAGICAL WORLD
  7. A Horse and A Queen
  8. Rainman
  9. Angelina
  10. BRIGHTEN US
  11. everyhome

ONITSUKA Chihiro (鬼東ちひろ) stunned the j-pop world with her alto voice and transcendental lyrics in 2000 with her first single, Shine. The piano had always been an integral part of her songs and their arrangements and has won several prestigious awards for her music. She was inspired by western music since her childhood, and this influence is readily heard in her songs. However, her career was interrupted when she became infected with colitis and had to have throat surgery. During her three-year hiatus, many thought that she had left the music business altogether. While she was sick, she struggled with suicidal urges and at one point in her recovery weight only 79 pounds. Even with these difficulties, she came back with two amazing singles before releasing this album.
LAS VEGAS is Oni’s 4th album and was released on October 31, 2007, one day after her 27th birthday. Of its 11 tracks, 7 are new, and two of the old ones have new arrangements. It reached 6th on the Oricon weekly album chart.

Oni wrote the opening track, Sweet Rosemary, while watching the move What’s Eating Gilbert Grape. This is a classic example of a sad song in a major key. The opening acoustic guitar lick is like a walking bass that persists throughout the song and keeps it moving. Despite the mellow tone of the music, the lyrics conjure surreal images about the course of life, such as the closing 「きっと小さな胸を焦がすのだろう」 (surely a small heart is scorched). Oni sings “rururu,” the Japanese onomatopoeia for teardrops falling, to the melody of the chorus. This simple arrangement really compliments the emotion of the song and transitions pleasantly into the next track.
Language: Japanese
Mood: sad, pensive
Tempo: moderato
Composition: A-
Arrangement: A-
Overall: A-

bad trip is a beautiful song that illustrates the theme of a trip well but doesn’t get obnoxious with music that sounds like it’s crazy acid-induced. Oni wrote this song with American film composer Billy Corgan in mind. Essentially a voice-cello-piano trio with some accents, this song presents an interesting worldview in the metaphor of a trip gone wrong. The melody, which consists of the piano and vocals echoing each other, is entrancing, and its rhythm is creative, especially with the ties. The piano solo in the middle of the song touts jazzy strains, but it’s smooth jazz that lacks any grating chromatics. As with many Oni songs, the music itself evokes vivid images even independent of the lyrics; this one is reminiscent of a despondent person sitting in a bar in a small town on a summer evening with tears falling down their cheeks. The low-register cello solo at the end seems a little odd musically, but it aptly fits the song and leaves a sense of unsettledness lingering. Oni’s English grammar is lacking and her accent makes it harder to her, but I think the odd grammar adds to the song’s theme, with lines like “the sun got melt” and “one sweetest fusion comes up slowly,” and the hallucinatory imagery is strangely beautiful. Although trips/drugs are almost like “deus ex machina” techniques to legitimize anything in a song, Oni does not take advantage of this and instead gives us a controlled, emotional piece.
Language: English
Mood: depressed, lethargic
Tempo: adagio
Composition: A
Arrangement: A
Overall: A

Oni said herself that the next song, 蝋の翼 (Rou no Tsubasa; Wings of Wax), is about “the emotional high of being in love.” Of course, she had the myth of Icarus in mind when writing this, and thus the song instantly becomes a profound metaphor for love. Musically, this is very mainstream for an Oni song, and the lyrics of the chorus are more simplistic as well, as compared to the complex and surreal ideas in most of her other works. The band-style arrangement with omnipresent percussion and electric guitar and bass give the music energy, while the near-constant acoustic guitar offers a textural contrast. The piano is really brought out in the mezzo chorus. The song ends well musically with a resonating major chord; however, I would have liked to hear some sort of fall from the sky, but that is more of less granted in the transition. Oni’s voice seemed rather strained in this song even though the notes are not at the edge of her range, and the lack of vocal vibrato is a little disappointing.
Language: Japanese
Mood: carefree
Tempo: allegro moderato
Composition: A-
Arrangement: B+
Overall: B+

僕等 バラ色の日々 (Boku-ra Bara-iro no Hibi; We, Rose-coloured Days), the single released before this album, is a stunning second-half of the love story; after the novelty and high of love subsides, we look back on those cherished days with ambivalent nostalgia. In all facets–musically, lyrically, and metaphorically–this performance impacts the mind, heart, and soul. The minor key suits the song well and does place too dark of a tone over it, and the melody of the verses interestingly begins on beat two. Even though the strings are arranged horizontally, the song moves vertically and as one, even as all parts–conuntermelody, harmonization, power chords–overlap and weave together. The passion is heard equally in Oni’s vocals and the supporting arrangement, which is so full that seems to fill a blank canvass with beautiful shades of rose. A woodwind in the second repeat of the song sounds like ululations echoing in the distant hills. The lyrical piano, guitar, and strings all sing with Oni, and even those who cannot understand the words should feel some sort of emotion evoked within them. Nonetheless, the words are rich in insight and wisdome, such as 「うそをつき過ぎて本当になった/この世界で」 (in this world, the lies told too many times became the truth); in fact, I could easily quote the whole song. The ebb and flow of this song is not contrived in the least, which allows it to move the listener, who won’t second-guess it. “Boku-ra” is not only a gem on this album, but also in the discography of the whole j-pop world combined.
Language: Japanese
Mood: nostalgic, melancholy
Tempo: andante
Composition: A+
Arrangement: A+
Overall: A+

amphibious, whose title is actually supposed to mean “androgynous,” surprises with an opening brazen, loud, pounding bass drum, keyboarded accordion, and electric guitar riff that is relentless throughout the whole song. Oni admits that this arrangement-adaptation was risky, and I don’t think it was worth it. The constant banging gets grating, this experimentation with nontraditional instruments could have been worse, but it turned out far from well. The “ah”s before the bridge actually have a pretty melody and vocals seemed estranged from the rash arrangement. Apart from this, Oni seemed lazy with her vocals, as though she did not care about intonation. I was both stunned and surprised to hear her swear so shamelessly; I have no crusade against vulgarity, but her songs are usually so much more meaningful. The vocals are especially explicit near the end, but the instrumental coda actually has an interesting sound. Overall, the instrumentation was rather poor, and in my opinion, this is the worst Oni song to date.
Language: Japanese and English
Mood: brash
Tempo: vivace
Composition: C
Arrangement: C
Overall: C

MAGICAL WORLD was the first B-side off Oni’s everyhome single. This should be subtitled “album version” because this arrangement differs slightly from that of the single version with added high strings and percussion that really color the music where it was lacking before. The song, about human warmth, opens with the piano and warm low strings. The piano, which remained unchanged, carries the melody well. This new arrangement is vastly better, even though the single version was respectable in and of itself. It spans all registers and feels lush and warm, and thus deeply conveys the theme of song. Even the simple descending and ascending strings’ half notes contribute to the balance. The questions that Oni poses in the chorus, such as 「涙だけが 雨のようになぜ溢れるの」 (why do only tears overflow like rain?), add depth to the song lyrically and recognize that not all is perfect in love.
Language: Japanese and English
Mood: warm, dreamlike
Tempo: adagio
Composition: A
Arrangement: A+
Overall: A

A Horse and a Queen is another Oni song with a more mainstream sound with a distinctly more western style, such as Beautiful Fighter, but even better blended with the Japanese. The opening of guitar and brass instantly sets the tone. The contrast of these two instruments seems awkward, even dissonant at first. I am not a fan of brass outside of its conventional use in symphony, but it seems to work well in this arrangement. The long chorus as an addictive melody, and Oni’s vocals are noticeably crisper throughout the whole piece. The melody fluctuates and thus remains interesting, but it remains under control. The jazzy piano solo encompasses the musical idea of the piece and induces and infectious beat. The ad-lib at the end adds flavor and spice to round out the sound. This song is well written, but I don’t like it as much as her other music. Although the arrangement is strange for her, Oni takes her core songwriting skills to make a firm and refreshing piece.
Language: Japanese
Mood: assertive
Tempo: andante moderato
Composition: A-
Arrangement: A-
Overall: A-

Rainman is another song that should have “album version” attached because it differs greatly from its original version as the B-side on the 2004 Sodatsu Zassou single. The same walking quarter-note piano accompaniment remains, but added are percussion, guitars, and strings; the guitar can be heard mashing in the right speaker, but it seems a little like an afterthought. The chimes that open and close the song seem a little silly, but are reminiscent of dewdrops shining after a rain shower. All of the added instruments really bring life to a song whose original arrangement was rather dull. The drone strings especially provide the much-needed texture as the pitch percussion continues to accent in the chorus. I believe that Oni’s English pronunciation has also improved, but they lyrics are still unchanged; they sound like Japanese ideas merely put unidiomatically into English, but it does produce some cute lines like, “But only be my side like this / So wonderful above all things.”
Language: English
Mood: chipper, teasing
Tempo: allegretto
Composition: A-
Arrangement: A
Overall: A-

The oldest and longest song on the album, Angelina, was named after American actress Angelina Jolie. The arrangement, which includes piano, cello, guitar, and others, builds throughout the song and swells at the second chorus with added bass percussion. The mellow electric guitar plays the special role of countermelody and has a few slick ascending runs. The music rises even more in the final choruses with background vocals and an arrangement so full it seems like to burst with emotion, especially when the rumbling percussion enters. The second part of the chorus’s rhythm builds momentum as Oni sings about the complexity of relationships. Each phrase repeated mounts in intensity. The short piano and cello duet interlude adds even more to the musical theme. Oni returns with her epithetical surreal lyrics, and she sings of survival of life and its miseries, illustrated by the repeated line of 「私はまだ死んではいない」 (I still am not dying). This ballad is so resonate and somewhat diverse in instrumentation, but it remains collected to astoundingly and lyrically present an emotional worldview.
Language: Japanese
Mood: lachrymose, struggling
Tempo: andante
Composition: A
Arrangement: A+
Overall: A+

The short BRIGHTEN US is Oni’s first a capella release and is meant to sound like a hymn. This song is a more joyful counterpart to her other songs with Christian overtones (e.g. 月光 [Gekkou; Moonlight], Borderline) as she sings of God’s amazing creation and the joy Christians have in glorifying Him. I believe the song does sound hymn-like, but I have noticed that many hymns end with the major pattern semitone down, semitone up (e.g. in G major, G-F#-G). Although the ending is distinct, this could be a potential endless song. Nonetheless, I suggest this hymn be added to all Catholic missiles for 2008 ordinary time. ^_~
Language: English
Mood: praising
Tempo: andantino
Composition: A-
Arrangement: n/a
Overall: A-

The closing track is the apropos everyhome, the first single Oni released after her hiatus. She was inspired to write this while watching the American movie Forrest Gump with the sound muted, which can be seen in the simple line 「列車を待つ」 ([I] wait for the train). Also, she believes that this is the song of hers that can withstand the test of time. (Anecdote: This song is 5:50 long, so whenever I look at a digital clock and see the time 5:50, everyhome comes to mind; I guess it has withstood the “test of time,” at least in regards to me!) The arrangement is comprised of merely a piano and vocal duet, but the piano part is so dynamic that it more than makes up for the lack of other instruments. Oni and the piano, played by her new arranger KOBAYASHI Takeshi, rise and fall in synchronization, and the dynamics are masterfully executed, especially when they are terraced. When she hits the climax notes, the piano sings in octaves, but neither part seems to be accompanying another, and therein lies the depth of this duet. Even though each part is “doing its own thing,” the two always remain coordinated. So much of the world can be seen in images the lyrics of this song evoke as it sings out confidently.
Language: Japanese
Mood: sad, observant
Tempo: andantino
Composition: A+
Arrangement: A
Overall: A+

All in all, this album offered some very impressive songs and a couple disappointments, but as many have noticed, something was lacking on this album. Too many have complained about Oni’s voice, which has not been the same since her surgery, and even her arranger, Kobatake, says, “Chihiro used to be a singer who was characterized by the gap between the daring words depicting the ‘corrupt world’ and the lyrical melodies and her looks. Now she is turning into a rocker who is realistic and life-sized.” Whether this is accurate or not, I think Oni evinces that she is still trying her best to make quality and moving music. She has gone through so much, and though her voice many never again be the way it once was, I think we should all do our best to appreciate her efforts and be patient as she strives to improve.
Overall: A-

坂本 真綾 ~ さいごの果実

  1. さいごの果実 (Saigo no Kajitsu; The Last Fruit)
  2. ミツバチと科学者 (Mitsubachi to Kagakusha; The Honeybee and the Scientist)
  3. さいごの果実 (w/o maaya)
  4. ミツバチと科学者 (w/o maaya)
  5. さいごの果実 (short size)

SAKAMOTO Maaya (坂本 真綾), a well-known singer-seiyuu in anime fandom, began her career at the young age of 16, while she was still in high school. She voiced the female lead for the anime Escaflowne and also performed her first song, 約束はいらない (Yakusoku wa Iranai; No Need to Promise), which was the anime’s opening theme. For many years, she collaborated with renowned composer KANNO Youko, singing many of the songs she wrote.
Saigo no Kajitsu is Sakamoto’s 14th single, as well as the first one she has released since her latest album, 30minutes night flight. The single, released on November 21, 2007, reached 19th place on the Oricon Weekly.

さいごの果実 (Saigo no Kajitsu; The Last Fruit) was used as the ending theme for the anime OVA Tsubasa Tokyo Revelations. The word “kajitsu” can also mean “beautiful day” or “summer day” in addition to “fruit,” depending on the kanji; I believe the double meaning here is intentional. The slightly unusual cover goes very well with the lyrics of the opening verse. The rhythm feels a little lulling but continues to move, and the arrangement is well-rounded throughout the whole song. The vocal part harmonizes throughout the chorus, and in octaves at the peak of the chorus, which adds rich dimension to the sound of the song of as a whole. The bridge is full of emotion and energy with a lush strings, shimmers, and harmonizing vocal arrangement, but there are some silly precussion instruments (like a gong) that seem out of place and don’t add anything to arrangement; if anything, they detract from it. After the period of high energy, the music goes to a sudden mezzopiano; it’s a technique fairly common in j-pop, but always effective. This emotionally loaded song resonates with a superb arrangement that includes electric guitar power chords, omnipresent strings, and (for the most part) well-placed percussion.
Language: Japanese
Mood: longing, frustration, resignation
Tempo: andante moderato
Composition: A
Arrangement: A-
Overall: A-

The B-side, ミツバチと科学者 (Mitsubachi to Kagakusha; The Honeybee and the Scientist), is a lighthearted song in the key of D major; the music is a summery contrast on this winter single. The acoustic Spanish guitar, persistent throughout the song, is pleasant to the ear, especially combined with Sakamoto’s voice. The presence of synth sounds is subtle, but just there enough for the ear to subconsciously perceive and digest it. The chorus is definitely the most engaging part of the song; background vocals add some much-needed support, Sakamoto hits the highest notes of the song (which is to be expected), and the vocal part jumps up and down repeatedly a fourth. The bridge offers interesting syncopation, and the unsion vocal part and electric guitar jump between speakers (on a stereo setting), so it sounds almost as though there are two people singing. I still don’t understand the relation of “the honeybee and the scientist” (my Japanese is far from perfect), but the lyrics of devotion are nice nonetheless, though the A-side’s a more profound. Although the song it relatively short at 3:50, it is presented well and is a worthy B-side.
Language: Japanese
Mood: cheerfully anticipative
Tempo: moderato
Composition: A-
Arrangement: A-
Overall: A-

This is a well-rounded, good quality single from SAKAMOTO Maaya. The B-side is better than many Japanese and American artists’ A-sides, in large part due to the exceptional arrangements.
Overall: A-

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