Ikimono Gakari – Ryuusei MIRACLE

Release Date: December 6, 2006

Tracklist:

1. Ryuusei MIRACLE
2. Yuki Yamane Yoru Futari
3. Kaze ni Fukarete
4. Ryuusei MIRACLE (Instrumental)

Ryuusei MIRACLE starts off with a strong beginning, with Yoshioka singing the chorus. Her voice is as strong as always, but I feel as if the background music is a bit too loud, so it covers her a bit. This song is quite typical of Ikimono Gakari, though the melody does prove to be different. It has an upbeat accompaniment, and a hopeful melody line. Lots of energy behind it.

Unlike the previous track, Yuki Yamane Yoru Futari mellows down quite a bit. There are only sparse instrumentals, with the piano being the main accompaniment. It’s nice to hear Yoshioka sing something a bit slower and calmer than the usual Ikimono Gakari music.

We head back into familiar territory with Kaze ni Fukarete. The drumset is featured here, as it is the only accompaniment heard when Yoshioka sings the chorus. I think this is more of a rock song, rather than an Ikimono Gakrai song. I’m glad that the harmonica is in this though, or else it just wouldn’t be Ikimono Gakari! In terms of melody, it is pretty typical, but Yoshioka does pretty well in this, but is still covered by the pounding beats in the background.

Overall Rating:
3/5

Tamaki Nami – Greeting

Release Date: February 25, 2004

Tracklist:

1. Eternal Voice
2. Believe
3. day by day
4. Complete
5. Be Positive <hikari no naka de kagayaite>
6. NEVER STOP MY HEART – kimi to iu kiseki ni –
7. Shining Star ☆wasurenai kara☆
8. Realize
9. Naked
10. Destiny
11. ashita no kimi
12. Prayer
13. Believe -Evidence01 Mix-

Eternal Voice starts us off with Tamaki’s signature techno-rock-pop like songs. The background music rocks for this song, and it reminds me of her Gundam music. It has an infectious, powerful feeling to it, but I can’t say the same thing for Tamaki’s vocals. Once again, her voice is covered up by the loud instrumentals, and she, as always, strains on the higher notes. The melody of Eternal Voice isn’t the most original one, but it is quite catchy. Too bad the guitar solo in the interlude section completely steals the show though.

We head right into Tamaki’s debut single, Believe. I can say that it provides a nice transition, but then again, all of Tamaki’s music I’ve heard of before some really similiar: the same techno-rock-pop type music.

day by day is a bit a different…at least the beginning is, with the piano and all. Right after the introduction, we fall back into Tamaki’s usual: pop, techno, and then more pop. The melody in this song is a bit more original though, especially the choppy parts at the beginning of the chorus. One of my pet peeves about this song is how the English is so randomly placed; it seems unnatural. Tamaki’s voice sounds a bit more natural in this song though.

We finally head into the rock genre with Complete, giving us a glance of Tamaki’s darker side. Her voice is also more mature sounding in here too, which is quite nice, I must say. Dammit, I’ll admit it: I love this song. The chorus is the best part, especially with the edginess of her voice. She is finally putting some soul into her voice, which, in my opinion, is necessary with every vocalist.

The instrumentals in Be Positive <hikari no naka de kagayaite> are a tad strange, to say it vaguely. We go into the softer, calmer side of Tamaki’s voice and music with this song. She still strains in this song though, something she needs to fix ASAP. I think this is her attempt at a ballad (an upbeat one, not the ones that K is so famous for). Here’s a shocker: there is no trace of Tamaki’s signature techo-pop-ness in this song.

I never expected a B-side to be on an album, but I guess Tamaki likes NEVER STOP MY HEART – kimi to iu kiseki ni – too much to leave it out. I’m glad it’s in here though, because it continues the calmness created by the previous track. Actually it is more of a ballad than Be Positive <hikari no naka de kagayaite>. It creates a nice transition from one track to another.

We have yet another single, Shining Star ☆wasurenai kara☆, but this time it is the A-side, so it isn’t that much of a shocker. I’m glad this song came after the two ballad type songs; the beginning of this track provides us with the smooth transition into the techo-pop genre again. Yes, we did need the transition, because we have Realize up next. Yay for Gundam!

Ohhhh, me like the beginning to Naked; it has guitar chords that are interrupted. This song is another techo-pop song, but unlike the above songs, it has more of an epic feeling to it for some reason. Tamaki’s voice also has more power behind it, so that’s another plus for this song.

It’s a shame we fall back into the Gundam music-like songs with Destiny. At least Tamaki tries to hit really high notes; but they don’t sound natural. This song is just so bland to me though…

The beginning of ashita no kimi is a bit different from the rest of her music, as it begins with a drumset, lightly tapping the drums. The melody here is one the best from Tamaki that I’ve heard of so far, but her voice ruins it for me (too strained, as always). Then, as usual again, the awesome guitar solo near the end is too good to be ignored (I feel like I’m repeating myself over and over again when reviewing Tamaki Nami).

We finally come to the last ‘real’ track of the album, Prayer. This song continues the techno-pop streak from god knows when. I think I like Believe -Evidence01 Mix- more the original mix. It’s more epic sounding with the strings, and the echo the mixer put to Tamaki’s voice.

Overall Rating:
3/5

Meh, I’m still not a fan of Tamaki’s music.

K – Girlfriend

Release Date: July 27, 2005

Tracklist:

1. Girlfriend
2. Play Another One
3. Just The Two of Us
4. Girlfriend (Instrumental)

Girlfriend has a nice and spooky introduction, but gives way to K’s famous ballad styled songs. K’s voice is very emotional in this song, but it sometimes cracks at the wrong time. He uses the lower, deeper part of his voice, which is quite rich and warm. The harmonizations in this song are done quite well; they greatly emphasize the part they are sung at. In terms of the melody, it is a typical melody, though somewhat catchy at the chorus. In general, the song sounds like something out of a JE boyband (in a bad way).

Eh, Play Another One sounds like some retro, hip hop song. K’s English needs work in this song, but it’s not that bad. This is really not my type of song, but it’s nice to hear K singing something else apart from emotional ballads. His voice is really edgy and raw in this song, which is a nice change. This song gets annoying after a while though.

Like the previous track, Just The Two of Us needs some English work, since it is an all English song. We head back into soft ballad like songs, in contrast to the previous track. K’s vocals are so much weaker in this song though which is a huge disappointment.

Overall Rating:
3/5

ayaka – First Message

Release Date: November 1, 2006

Tracklist:

1. Start to 0 (Love)
2. Real voice
3. Sha la la
4. Blue Days
5. I believe
6. Stay with me
7. melody
8. Kimi no Power to Otona no Furi
9. Eien no Monogatari
10. Toki wo Modoshite
11. 1.2.3.4
12. Story
13. Rairarai
14. Mikazuki
15. message

First Message starts off with a cheery start! Start to 0 (Love) is an upbeat, pop-like song that has an infectious beat. ayaka’s voice stands strong as she goes from the verse into the chorus. She utilizes her more mature side of her voice in this not-so mature song, which is quite interesting. The harmonies in the background add a nice effect on the overall feeling of the chorus, giving it a grand, yet humble feeling. A nice start to her debut album.

The next track, ayaka’s single, Real voice, continues this upbeat, rockish genre that Start to 0 (Love) had started. This song still hasn’t grown on me, but maybe that’s because I’m not much of a happy, upbeat person in the first place.

The piano has a nice, groovy entrance in Sha la la, before ayaka starts singing the blues sounding melody. This song really showcases ayaka’s incredible range; it jumps from the lower register to the upper register in a matter of beats. What disappoints me in this song is the lack of energy, or emotion in ayaka’s voice. The overall melody is unique and interesting though.

Blue Days is starting to grow on me, but I wish ayaka’s voice would have more power behind it in this song. She does have emotion in some parts of the song though. With Blue Days, the album takes a turn to the calmer side of ayaka’s music. The melody of this song, especially in the chorus is gorgeous (for a lack of a better word).

Following Blue Days is ayaka’s debut single, and one of my favourites from her: I believe. This song continues Blue Days’ feel of a mellower and calmer side of both ayaka’s voice and music. I’ve always loved this song…it must be because of the rich melody it has.

After two singles, we finally head back into an album-exclusive song, Stay with me. This song takes us back to the jazzy, upbeat side of ayaka. The melody resembles a mixture of soul and jazz music, which is an interesting combination that she has managed to put together. It ventures through both high and low registers, making this a rather hard song for someone with a small range (*cough* me *cough). ayaka seems to have regained her energy in her voice, as this song is quite energetic. Too bad the sound management people seems to have turned down the volume on her voice.

After one non-single track, we go back to another single, melody. This song has started to grow on me, because of its addictive melody. I still don’t like the part where she sings ‘melody’ over and over again though.

Kimi no Power to Otona no Furi is a happy, upbeat rock song with pounding beats and an excellent guitar. This song has a jazzy piano playing in the background, behind the really, really loud drum set. The melody of this song is quite catchy, though it doesn’t suit my taste too much. My favourite part has to be the guitar solo, before ayaka slips into a calm like interlude (which is quite pretty too).

A soft guitar introduction starts off Eien no Monogatari, a soft ballad type song. I really like the harmonies at the beginning; it’s like ayaka has her own choir or something. Her range is also put into test as she launches into a really high note in the beginning of the song. Well, this is a lot different from her previous song. Overall, this song gives off a calm vibe. Too bad it’s only a little over 2 minutes.

Toki wo Modoshite is still rock typed (like most of her tracks on this album), but with a slightly darker tone. The melody is also more mellow, but the upbeat part of it is still there. ayaka uses the girlier part of her voice in the verses, but immediately switches to her mature voice when she hits the chorus. This song presents us the soft rock side of ayaka, which she brilliantly does.

More rock! 1.2.3.4 brings us yet another rock song. ayaka’s Engrish a pet peeve of mine, and she slightly irriateted me by using it in this song. The chorus has a catchy melody though, so I guess that makes up for it. Actually, the entire song is quite catchy! Other than that, this song brings nothing different than what her previous tracks have already shown us.

Story sounds a bit more kiddy, or maybe it’s just the effect of the background music. This song is still rock based, but it has a softer and calmer feel to it. ayaka’s voice is also more concentrated and less wild, compared to the above tracks. The lyrics of this song also move faster than the other so

ngs we’ve heard from ayaka.

I don’t know why, but I really don’t like Rairarai. This song is a more pop typed song, in contrast to ayaka’s other songs. The melody is very typical, with little or no jumps at all, and the accompanimen

t is a guitar and a drum set. ayaka’s voice is a bit stronger though, the saving point of this song.

After a not-so-great track, ayaka comes back with Mikazuki, one of my favourite songs from her. This song is also a transition from the rock songs that ayaka always loves to write, to the calmer, ballad type songs that are quite emotional at times.

message, the last track of this song, is an interlude. It features ayaka singing a cappella (a nice added bonus).

Overall Rating:
3.5/5

Utada Hikaru – COLORS

Release Date:  January 29, 2003

Tracklist:

1. COLORS
2. Simple and Clean
3. Simple and Clean (PLANITb Remix)
4. COLORS (Original Karaoke)

COLORS is on my all time favourites list from Utada. The imagery of the lyrics is quite beautiful, and matches the title really nicely. Hikki’s voice is also at its best here too; dripping with emotion while tackling the technical side. The melody of COLORS alluring and captures the listener’s attention while being easy on the ears. It just has this…power to it.

Ah, here’s the song that made Hikki famous internationally, Simple and Clean. I prefer Hikari to this song, but it has its charm too. The lyrics are a bit darker than Hikari, but they also match Kingdom Hearts nicely. They are more mature and less optimistic, but still quite uplifting. The beginning of the chorus will never be able to match Hikari’s though.

Yeah, I’m also skipping this remix. Never struck me down anyway.

Overall Rating:
5/5

Hoshimura Mai – Sakura Biyori

Release Date: March 7, 2007

Tracklist:

1.Sakura Biyori
2. Wonder Land
3. Yagetsu
4. Sakura Biyori (Instrumental)

Sakura Biyori is the 10th ending theme song to the anime Bleach, just for your information. This song starts off with a light guitar introduction that gives off a rather traditional sound. The melody of this song is simple, yet really likable to the ears. My favourite part as to be the chorus though; the calm and simple verse just suddenly powers up to a massive chorus. It’s quite a stunning song.

After such a calm song, Wonder Land brings us back into Hoshimura’s familiar territory: piano rock. Unlike the previous song though, her voice is not as strong, and seems slightly strained on the higher notes. The melody is typical, making this song quite uninteresting. There was a guitar solo near the end, which was the nicest part of this song.

Wow, the piano introduction to Yagetsu is the prettiest thing ever. This song is so much calmer compared to the first two tracks. It only has a keyboard accompaniment. The title actually means ‘night moon’, and this song gives off that feel of a quiet night with the moon shining overhead. Though it is simple, the melody is quite beautiful too; it has some nice intervals which makes the song sound like a lullaby.

Overall Rating:
4.5/5

Ikimono Gakari – Koisuru Otome

Release Date: October 18, 2006

Tracklist:

1. Koi Suru Otome
2. Nirinka
3. GET CRAZY! -Aki mix version-
4. Koi Suru Otome (Instrumental)

Koi Suru Otome begins with a guitar and piano duet before Yoshioka comes in. I’ve always loved how her voice is sweet, yet has that mature layer under it. It also has a soothing factor in there somewhere. As for the song, Koi Suru Otome has that “Hikari” feeling to it: hopeful and uplifting. I love the a capella part near the end; it send a rather powerful message.

The next song, Nirinka, starts off with a light guitar solo before the verse hits. Yoshioka’s voice is softer and the main focus of the song, as the background fades a bit. Unlike the last track, Nirinka is a bit slower and less energetic. The melody of this song is quite beautiful though. An outstanding track for a B-side.

We get back into more rock music with the last song of the single, GET CRAZY! -Aki mix version-. I’ve never heard the original version, so I’m basing my views of this song on this version. To be truthful, I’m slightly disappointed: it’s mostly loud instrumentals and Yoshioka’s voice is kind of covered by the music. At least the harmonica is still here. The bright is that Mizuno Yoshiki, the band leader, has his own solo here too (he usually sings backup).

Overall Rating:
4.5/5