Wednesday, September 30, 2015
CD Review :: Aoyama Thelma - GRAY SMOKE EP
1) stay Feat Shota Shimizu
2) Heart Breaker Feat SWAY
3) ON & ON
4) how about us
5) Ichiban Aishita Hito
6) GOD'S CHILDREN Feat ANARCHY
GRAY SMOKE EP is Aoyama Thelma's 1st mini album & it was released on 16th Sept .
Aoyama's last release was her 4th album Lonely Angel which was released last Aug . In GRAY SMOKE EP , 6 songs are included in the tracklist & no singles are found in the mini album .
GRAY SMOKE EP has a male theme & aims to depict 'a man who lives in the gray zone' . To accomplish this , Aoyama enlisted an all male cast of collaborators that includes ANARCHY , Shota Shimizu , DOBERMAN INFINITY's SWAY & Dragon Ash's Furuya Kenji .
Kicking things off in GRAY SMOKE EP is stay & this song serves as the lead track in promoting the mini album .
stay is the 1st of 3 collaboration songs found in GRAY SMOKE EP & the opening no. in the tracklist features Shota Shimizu .
Prior to the physical release of GRAY SMOKE EP , stay was 1st released digitally on 2nd Sept . In addition , a video was made for the song as well .
stay is described as a ballad no. with sex appeal oozing out of the lyrics & the singers' voices , Aoyama stated , "Because I collaborate with Shota , I wanted to make it a song that would reverberate our voices . I think stay is a song that unites everything , including our peculiar voices & simple yet dramatic sounds ."
Meanwhile Shota commented , "We created this song aiming for it to be a top ballad . Aoyama is also good at singing the low keys , so I was able to produce this song no different from my own songs ."
Heart Breaker is the 2nd collaboration found in GRAY SMOKE EP and this features SWAY . This smooth mid tempo no. has a chilled vibe and both of their vocals compliment each other well .
The next 3 songs are solely handled by Aoyama . ON & ON was produced by Dragon Ash's Furuya Kenji while how about us has a slightly poppy edge .
Ichiban Aishita Hito is a class of its own with it being a good ballad which Aoyama sang effortlessly .
GOD'S CHILDREN is the last song in GRAY SMOKE EP & it's also the last collaboration found in the mini album . In this case , GOD'S CHILDREN features ANARCHY .
I feel that GOD'S CHILDREN is a rather fitting no. in concluding GRAY SMOKE EP . This Gospel inspired no. is something I enjoyed on 1st listen . I'm not that keen on ANARCHY's vocals slightly but this track couldn't be more fitting to conclude the mini album .
Over a year after her last release , Aoyama Thelma returns with a new EP in the form of GRAY SMOKE ! Serving as producer + designer , the R&B singer/songwriter shows off her innovative musicality in this release , which features appearances by Shota Shimizu , SWAY & ANARCHY .
As the saying goes , good things come in small packages which I think it describes Aoyama's 1st mini album offering rather well . I like the concept she has undertake for GRAY SMOKE EP & in addition , all the songs in the CD are pretty good .
Out of the 3 collaborations found in GRAY SMOKE EP , it's not a surprise I enjoyed stay the most since I listen/support Shota Shimizu . I had some doubts on whether will both of their vocals clash but after hearing the song , my fears were left out of the door + hopefully this will not be the 1st & last time both artistes collaborate with each other .
To me , although Aoyama has long ago passed her music peak , I still think it's heartening that she still continues to release music despite the odds & it's a pity that once again GRAY SMOKE EP has been overlook by the general public as there's so much more to her than just Soba ni Iru ne .
And for the record , Soba ni Iru ne is actually 1 of my least favourite single songs of Aoyama . Perhaps it's because it's very over rated as Aoyama has many other great singles in her discography but that's just me .
On that note , I hope I wouldn't need to wait this long for Aoyama to release something new . GRAY SMOKE EP is a sleeper release & despite it being marketed as a mini album , it definitely had the potential to be a full length album release .
Saturday, September 19, 2015
Crystal Kay - REVOLUTION Feat Namie Amuro
CD + DVD
2) Shooting Star
3) hard to say (MSG version)
4) REVOLUTION (PKCZ Remix Feat SWAY)
5) REVOLUTION (Instrumental)
REVOLUTION is Crystal Kay's 31st single & it was released this week on 16th Sept .
This's Crystal's 2nd single release of 2015 after she released her previous single Kimi ga Ita Kara in June & REVOLUTION features Namie Amuro .
Prior to the physical release of REVOLUTION , the entire single was released digitally on 2nd Sept .
Promo wise , REVOLUTION was picked to be used as the opening theme song for TBS's CDTV for the months of October & November .
REVOLUTION was composed by RYUJA , Matt Cab & J-Hype . Besides this song , the single also includes a remix of the A-side which was done by PKCZ that comprised DJ MAKIDAI , VERBAL & DJ DARUMA .
B-sides wise , the single includes Shooting Star which's sung solely by Crystal & hard to say (MSG version) which's a self cover/re-recorded track of Crystal's 8th single which was released in 2002 .
An aggressive number , REVOLUTION is a song that supports people living vigorously and positively . Crystal has always been a big fan of Namie , often singing her songs during her concerts & at karaoke sessions . Namie willingly agreed to collaborate with Crystal upon receiving the offer .
Regarding the collaboration , Crystal commented , "I had hoped that we would collaborate one day , so I made this enquiry when the year began . I am very happy that Namie agreed to do this . My dream has come true ." Namie also stated , "It would make me happy if Crystal & I could deliver the powerful message in this song together ."
2 of Japan's fiercest songstresses come together for a REVOLUTION ! For her 2nd single of 2015 , Crystal Kay enlisted reigning J-pop diva Namie Amuro , 1 of her childhood idols , for a dream come true collaboration .
This without a doubt is 1 of my favourite collaborations that has been released this year & I'm personally happy for Crystal as it's not often you can say that your dream of collaborating with your childhood idol has been fulfilled but that became a reality for her .
Song wise , REVOLUTION is a great empowering upbeat no. & I'm probably biased but I can't really find any fault/wrong with this song . And both ladies' vocals harmonise very well together .
The remix of REVOLUTION is also good as it has a more futuristic sound with aggressive beats . But end of the day , I enjoy both the original & remix versions of REVOLUTION equally .
I hope this will not be the 1st & last time both ladies collaborate with each other as they sound really in synch together .
On that note , REVOLUTION is a collaboration that's highly recommended in checking out .
Tuesday, September 15, 2015
Saito Kazuyoshi - Semete Ikouze! / Kizuguchi
CD + Guitar Pick
1) Semete Ikouze!
3) Kimi no Namida
4) Diamond Ring
Semete Ikouze! / Kizuguchi is Saito Kazuyoshi's 44th single & it was released on 2nd Sept .
Saito's last single release was 2013's Kagero while his last double A-side single release was 2007's Kimi wa Boku no Nani wo Suki ni Nattandaro / Very Very Strong ~Eine Kleine~ .
Despite it being a double A-side single , only a video was made for Semete Ikouze! .
Semete Ikouze! was used as the TV CM song for House's Ukon no Chikara . Prior to the physical release of the single , the song was 1st released digitally on 22nd July while Kizuguchi was used as the theme song for NTV's drama Konkatsu Deka starring Koike Teppei .
Both A-sides are equally memorable & good but for me I prefer Semete Ikouze! slightly over Kizuguchi with the 1st A-side sounding a bit more catchy .
Kimi no Namida & Diamond Ring both serve as B-sides in the single .
Even though both B-sides are under 3 minutes long , they're actually surprisingly good . Compared with both A-side songs , the B-sides no.s have an unique sound . I wish Kimi no Namida was a bit longer as for it to sound less than 2 1/2 mins , it's a bit short .
Saito Kazuyoshi is 1 artiste I respect a lot seeing that he has been in the industry since 1993 . When I 1st started listening to his songs , I immediately sense that the quality of his music is different & unlike other male solo rock artistes out there .
He might be a Rock musician but somehow when I listen to Saito's music , the dynamics found in his songs elevate things to a whole new level .
And Saito is definitely not slowing down seeing that he will release his 18th album Kaze no Hate Made next month on 28th Oct . Semete Ikouze! is included as track #4 in the tracklist & given an album version while Kizuguchi is included in the album as track #3 .
Friday, September 11, 2015
Hilcrhyme - Ienai Ienai
CD + DVD
1) Ienai Ienai
2) I'm Ready
Ienai Ienai is Hilcrhyme's 18th single & it was released last week on 2nd Sept .
This's the duo 2nd single release of the year after they released their 17th single YUKIDOKE in Feb . And soon after that , they released their 6th album REVIVAL in April .
Ienai Ienai was picked to be used as the ending theme for the anime Jitsu wa Watashi wa & it's the 1st song that Hilcrhyme has provided to be used for an anime .
Prior to the physical release of the single , the A-side was released digitally on iTunes last month on 19th Aug .
Just like YUKIDOKE , Ienai Ienai is a mid tempo song & I guess it's the closest in describing it as a ballad . It's not a typical sounding no. as vocalist/rapper TOC has a knack of making the duo's discography interesting .
The same thing goes for the B-side , I'm Ready . What struck me about the song is that it contrasts the A-side quite well as I'm Ready is a lot more aggressive driven unlike Ienai Ienai where it's somewhat more soft spoken .
1 of the rare if not only rap artiste that I've supported for quite a long time , Hilcrhyme is proof that they still are able to do what they do best . I normally don't like to listen to rap but somehow Hilcrhyme is an exception . Perhaps it's because I like the way TOC raps/sings & also with DJ KATSU hemming/composing most of the group's melodies , they're proof that when both of them come together as 1 , they're able to create something magical .
And before the year concludes , a concept album titled Shunkashuutou ~Hilcrhyme 4Seasons Collection~ will be released on 18th Nov with Ienai Ienai to be included as a bonus track in the tracklist .
Tuesday, September 08, 2015
ARASHI - Ai wo Sakebe
CD + DVD
Ai wo Sakebe is ARASHI's 47th single & it was released last week on 2nd Sept .
The group's latest single offering was released 4 months + since their previous single Aozora no Shita, Kimi no Tonari .
The A-side was picked to be used in the ads of wedding information magazine Zexy .
According to creative director Yanai Michihiko , this collaboration came about as he wanted "ARASHI to sing 'a national song of celebration' that everyone can sing together during a wedding reception ." In response to Yanai's request , ARASHI put together a cheerful & uptempo wedding song that's sung from the point of view of the bride's male friends .
On Ai wo Sakebe , ARASHI commented , "The lyrics are made up of words of congratulations that you are too embarrassed to say because you've known each other for a long time as well as feelings of slight loneliness . It would make us happy if you would love this song that will liven up weddings and celebrate a new threshold ."
There're a total of 4 B-sides in the single , the 1st one is something titled Yume ni Kakeru .
Yume ni Kakeru was picked to be used to promote the latest JAL FLY to 2020 ad in which ARASHI are the spokesperson for the airline . This uplifting song is something that inspires hopes & dreams in the people who listen to it .
It's good to be bad & I say are found in the CD only edition of the single . Both songs contrast the A-side quite well with It's good to be bad sounding rather angsty/edgy while I say is a catchy funky no. .
Mr. Lonely is exclusively found in the CD + DVD edition of Ai wo Sakebe . Out of the 4 B-sides , this's slightly on the weak side but this poppy sounding no. is still something that's worth checking out .
Shout out loud for love with ARASHI ! Just before the start of ARASHI BLAST in Miyagi that will take place later on this month , the group delivers their latest single offering in Ai wo Sakebe .
Before hearing Ai wo Sakebe , I thought it might sound like 2008's One Love as that was their 1st wedding inspired no. & I was surprised upon listening to Ai wo Sakebe .
When I 1st heard Ai wo Sakebe , it sounds like a mix of their previous singles , 2003's Hadashi no Mirai / Kotoba Yori Taisetsu na Mono & 2010's Troublemaker which's definitely not a bad thing .
I didn't quite liked Aozora no Shita, Kimi no Tonari that much but there's no deny that Ai wo Sakebe is hands down great if not catchy . In addition , lyrically it's touching .
B-sides wise , it has been way too long that I enjoyed all of them & let alone for me to listen to them on repeat as the B-sides in their past singles are usually something I only listen to a few times & after that I don't do so anymore but that's not the case for the ones found in Ai wo Sakebe as I feel each of the B-side song(s) are able to stack up against the A-side .
The singles that ARASHI have released this year have been pretty good in which in the beginning of the year they released Sakura which was fantastic despite the generic sounding title & then subsequently Aozora no Shita, Kimi no Tonari which was alright & now Ai wo Sakebe .
And there's definitely no stopping ARASHI as before the year wraps up , they will release their 14th album Japonism next month on 21st Oct but Ai wo Sakebe is excluded from the tracklist .
Friday, September 04, 2015
Fukuyama Masaharu - I am a HERO
CD + DVD
CD + Muffler Towel
1) I am a HERO
2) Stage no Mamono
3) Sono Egao ga Mitai
4) Nando Demo Hana ga Saku You ni Watashi wo Ikiyou
5) Mikaniro no Natsuyasumi 2015
I am a HERO is Fukuyama Masaharu's 31st single & it was released last month on 19th Aug .
Fukuyama's last single release was 2013's Tanjoubi ni wa Masshiro na Yuri wo / Get the groove . I am a HERO was released to celebrate Fukuyama's 25th anniversary in the music business .
I am a HERO includes a total of 5 songs in which all tracks received different promo tie in's .
The A-side was picked to be used as the theme song for NTV's drama Hanasaki Mai ga Damattenai . This fun sounding no. is slightly not catchy on 1st listen but as each listen goes by , it becomes easier to get familiarised into the track .
I am a HERO has a total of 4 B-sides in which the 1st 1 is something titled Stage no Mamono .
Stage no Mamono was picked to be used in the ads of Asahi Beer's Asahi Super Dry & just like I am a HERO , the song has a video .
Unlike the A-side , I liked Stage no Mamono as I felt it caught my attention the moment I 1st heard it . In addition compared to the other songs in the single , Stage no Mamono is the most upbeat rockish sounding out of the lot .
The 2nd B-side Sono Egao ga Mitai was picked to be used in the ads of Kewpie's Kewpie Mayonnaise in celebration of its 90th anniversary of the product .
Sono Egao ga Mitai is a very laidback chilled out song . For this song , it's just Fukuyama with an acoustic guitar that back him up which couldn't get more simplified sounding than this .
The 3rd A-side Nando Demo Hana ga Saku You ni Watashi wo Ikiyou was used in the ads of Shiseido's TSUBAKI & in the single , it was remastered .
The only ballad in the single , Nando Demo Hana ga Saku You ni Watashi wo Ikiyou rightfully earns its place in the tracklist . Fukuyama sounded really at ease when he belts out this number .
Mikaniro no Natsuyasumi 2015 is the last B-side/song in the single & for this , it was picked to be used as the theme song for the insect documentary movie Ari no Mama de Itai .
This track is a re-recorded version of Mikaniro no Natsuyasumi , which was originally found as track #4 in Fukuyama's 2001 / 8th album f .
I will treat Mikaniro no Natsuyasumi 2015 as a new song since I did not heard the original take of the song . Just like Sono Egao ga Mitai , both tracks have a easy going acoustic guitar sound which's great if you just want to listen to something relaxing .
And I also like the sound of the harmonica that can be heard in Mikaniro no Natsuyasumi 2015 which adds a nice touch to the song .
Celebrate the 25th anniversary of Fukuyama Masaharu's debut with I am a HERO ! In the past 1/4 of a century , Fukuyama has established himself as 1 of Japan's most representative singer-songwriters . He has had (and continues to have) an enviable career & his latest release is sure to add to his considerable treasure trove of hits .
It's mind bogging to know that Fukuyama has been in the industry for so long & let alone for 25 years . With the release of I am a HERO , it shows why after all these years , he's still in great demand .
For I am a HERO , all the songs in the single managed to carve an unique identity from each other & the B-sides themselves are quite solid . They also showcase how musically versatile Fukuyama is , be it when comes to him singing upbeat Rock songs and/or ballads .
Many musicians come & go but for Fukuyama to still be around for 25 years , it's no easy task & he's definitely not going anywhere for sure .
Happy 25th anniversary to 1 of the most respected musicians & here's to many more happy anniversaries to Fukuyama Masaharu !