MIGMA SHELTER – Amazing Glow | SINGLE REVIEW for ARAMA! JAPAN

MIGMA SHELTER is certainly one of the most interesting acts in the Alt Idol niche this year; part of the AqbiRec family (There There Theres, CLOCK&BOTAN), the six girls are the first unit in the scene to adopt Trance music as core of their sound, whereas other projects only briefly flirted with it to refine particular passages in certain tracks. I kind of feel guilty for not having ever talked about these girls before, so I took the release of their second single “Amazing Glow” as a chance to finally analyze this one-of-a-kind project. It’s a brief but very consistent release, that consolidates the sound proposed by these talented girls and their production team. Be sure to read my full review for MIGMA SHELTER‘s second single “Amazing Glow” on ARAMA JAPAN!

MIGMA SHELTER – Amazing Glow | SINGLE REVIEW for ARAMA! JAPAN


– Alex

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Namie Amuro – Red Carpet | SINGLE REVIEW

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Release Date: December 3rd
Formats: CD, CD + DVD
Number of Editions (2): Regular Edition (CD only), Limited Edition (CD + DVD)


Namie’s new single delivers good vibes and another lesson to her label mates

It’s no secret that out of the three Avex divas, Namie Amuro is the only one that today is still releasing concrete and generally enjoyable music. With Ayumi Hamasaki in self-destruction mode with a career that will unavoidably end if she doesn’t decide to take a break or definitely retire, and Koda Kumi basically not delivering anything appealing in a long while and constantly relying on compilations, the Okinawan singer pretty much has her way paved at the moment, and saying she’s living the second youth of her career is no understatement, with recent albums such as Uncontrolled and her latest _genic delivering good material and convincing performances.

Namie comes back on the scene to start a new chapter of her discograpy with Red Carpet, a new single featuring two tracks and a more mature look on the cover, even though the music inside shows no sign of aging despite not breaking any boundary or reaching outstanding levels: She just does the job right, an approach she’s probably confident to adopt at the actual state of things. The highlight of the A-side Red Carpet is Namie’s interpretation, particularly in the chorus where the singer delivers the right dose of catchiness as well as an appealing performance in the bridge, and what’s even better, the track doesn’t mess around with fillers or uselessly lengthened sections, going straight to the point and resulting in the enjoyable pop track it successfully aims to be. The second and last track Black Make-up delivers a more uplifting vibe, maybe a bit too standardized in certain sections, but that ultimately does a good job in being a catchy and thoughtless track, and once again the entertainment is held up by a straightforward formula that makes the compositions on this single flow just right.

Red Carpet is a single Namie’s fans will undoubtedly like and that will possibly get anyone looking for nice pop tunes interested, with both tracks doing a nice job thanks to a smart approach. The highest peak of Namie’s career probably lies in the past, but she keeps doing her best to deliver worth-listening material to her fanbase after twenty-three years of career, something genuinely admirable that her label mates should learn to do as well.

Vote: 7 / 10

Tracklist

01. Red Carpet
02. Black Make-Up

– Alex

Negicco – Nee Badiya | SINGLE REVIEW

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Release Date: August 11th
Formats: CD, CD + DVD, Analog 7′ Vinyl
Number of Editions (5): Limited Edition Type A (CD + DVD), Type B (2CDs), Type C (CD – 1 track only) Regular Edition (CD only), EP Limited Edition (7′ Vinyl)

More than ever in the last couple of years, the story of Negicco has finally come to light and made the mainstream scene acknowledged of the reality and the struggles (and genuine successes) that composed the thirteen years-long career of the Niigata-based local Idol unit, an act that’s an anomaly in a genre that averagely sees the rise and fall of its groups in less than half of the time Negicco have been active.

Now, after more than a decade, the “Never give up girls” are still active and more vital than ever, cause their story evolves slowly but with consistence and genuine results: From the struggle of getting the well deserved recognition they’re starting to achieve now, to the search of a sound that could represent their identity that made their pre-T-Palette era a mixture of different sounds, it really seems like Negicco finally found their recognition and music stability they’ve been seeking for years, and their new single Nee Badiya is the proof of it: The title track sums up the sound that represented the unit for the past few years, now improved and finally getting rid of misleading elements like the sometimes forced idol chants in all benefit of a structure that remains simple but functional, flowing much better if compared to their past compositions; the instrumental sounds great and “alive”, with every instrument putting out the best to give a jazz/funky charisma (sometimes slightly reminding of 90’s Shibuya Kei) to a track that delivers an happy and thoughtless vibe in a catchy key, mainly thanks to the chorus that will easily get stuck in your head in no time. The singing of the girls sounds improved as well, and better balanced between the verses/bridge too, which is something that comes to the ear in the whole single more than once.

Singing is indeed the most surprising part of the second track Oyasumi, a slow paced ballad that detaches itself from everything we’ve heard in Negicco’s discography for its pleasant and classy feeling. Despite being five minutes long and pretty much repetitive, it’s simply a pleasure to listen to it, and the above mentioned vocals are what makes it kind of unique for Negicco, reaching levels of expression rarely shown by the girls, showcasing an interesting improvement in vocal skills that backed by a soft and relaxing instrumental make Oyasumi a nice piece to add to their discography, and a good variation of their sound.

It’s clear that both track on this single are the result of a now well developed sound that Negicco decided to make their own, improving it one release after another and reaching interesting and very nice levels with Nee Badiya. Without a shade of doubt, this is Negicco’s most convincing single in a while, and I can’t wait to see how the girls will manage their new and finally stable music identity. The fact this release already reached the top of the Oricon Daily Chart, and their future participation at the Perfume FES!where the girls will hit the stage together with their beloved role model J-pop group Perfume, makes it feel like Negicco’s long awaited success and recognition has finally arrived. And with all the passion and love they show with every release and concert, we can only wish to Nao☆, Megu and Kaede all the best for their future, sure that they’ll never give up.

Vote: 7 / 10

Tracklist

[CD]

01. Nee Badiya
02. Oyasumi
03. Nee Badiya (Instrumental)
04. Oyasumi (Instrumental)

[CD 2 | ReNegi – Limited Edition Type B exclusive]

01. Summer Breeze (Royal Mirrorball remix)
02. Festival de Aimashou (bo en remix)
03. Negi-sama Bravo☆ (Tomggg remix)”

[DVD]

01. Nee Badiya (Music Video)
02. Oyasumi (Music Video)

* Note: The Limited Edition Type C only contains the Nee Badiya track. The Regular Edition contains both songs and instrumentals.

– Alex

Curumi Chronicle – White Sweet Cake | SINGLE REVIEW

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Release Date: December 3rd
Formats:
CD
Number of Editions (1):
Limited Edition (Tower Records exclusive)

When Curumi Chronicle announced her temporary hiatus a month ago in order to focus on her duties as teenager, all the fans of the EDM schoolgirl definitely didn’t know how to react: After the double single release with 17 bringing sweet and upbeat J-pop goodness filled with Curumi’s signature production and that killer single that goes by the name of Touch me, it was hard to see this coming, but taking this negatively would probably be the wrong way to face this news: Not only Curumi will be back next spring with more amazing music, but she also managed to give her fans a Christmas gift before her short pause, which is the release of a single called White Sweet Cake.

Though, calling it “new” single would be wrong: The track giving the name to this release is indeed a previously (digitally) released song that our beloved EDM schoolgirl has been performing for quite a while during her live shows, now coupled by a remix for it and a Mash Up of the most successful tracks created by her talented producer USAGI DISCO, making a package that, while actually not offering any new track, it still has its value and almost twenty minutes of good music.

And it’s great that White Sweet Cake finally got physically released, because it’s a track that all the Curumi fans and those who simply want some good Techno-pop music will love. As the title suggests, what we get with this single is mainly a Christmas track, a trend that several artists follow every year but only few of them actually make it personal from a stylistic point of view. This is not the case:White Sweet Cake is a 100% Curumi Chronicle track that features a lively and festive atmosphere not made of Christmas samples but instead of synths creating catchy melodies spread all over the track, giving life to the parts of the structure where the Techno-side of Curumi’s sound takes the spotlight, summoning dreamy vibes that make this song plain irresistible from the first second. Same can be said for the verses, where the cute but mature and slightly cold singing we’ve learned to love in the past years is coupled by appropriated and well executed chords that directly lead to a catchy, shiny chorus that all the fans loved and will forever love to jump to during Curumi’s shows once she’ll be back to rock venues around Tokyo. Moving along, the USAGI DISCO Mashup of Curumi’s most famous and successful tracks kicks in, bringing eleven minutes of Techno-pop goodness featuring tracks taken from her entire discography, most of them mixed very well, and while maybe the same can’t be said for a couple of them, in the midst of all these great tracks and heavy beats framed by the glitchy effects USAGI loves so much, fans will love to play this mashup, and occasional listeners will find a valid discovery to add in their party playlist.

The remix of White Sweet Cake made by DJ Obake is the last track of the package, giving a sweeter and softer vibe to the track, featuring an interesting background with more emphasis on the instruments, sacrificing a bit of the classic Curumi sound in advantage of a softer and more present Christmas feeling, concluding a single that can deliver quality and entertainment despite not being a “major” release.


Verdict

While officially not bringing anything new to the table, White Sweet Cake is still a worthy single that will please all the fans of the EDM Schoolgirl waiting for her to come back this spring stronger than ever with more Techno-pop goodness. Newcomers will probably want to look at Curumi’s most influent releases such as her previous single Touch Me and her first album, but the catchiness of the title track and the nice mashup of her best songs still represent a nice welcome to those eager to discover a new and valid artist.

I’ll never stop to say that Curumi Chronicle is a promise for the future of Japanese Techno-pop: Time will eventually write her story.

Vote: 7.5 / 10


Note: You can buy White Sweet Cake exclusively at Tower Records stores in Japan, which actually makes it pretty hard to buy for overseas fans: But don’t worry, the single is fully available on Curumi’s Soundcloud for free, so everyone in the world will be able to listen to it! If you’re still interested in getting a physical copy, your best bet is to check the Tower Records Online store and use a Warehouse Service to ship it to your home. For more details, check out my Support Japanese Music from Overseas guide.

Tracklist

01. White Sweet Cake
02. USAGI DISCO Curumi’s Mash Up
03. White Sweet Cake (DJ Obake remix)

– Alex

Negicco – Hikari no Spur | SINGLE REVIEW

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Release Date: December 2nd
Formats: CD, CD + DVD, 7′ Vinyl
Number of Editions (4): Limited Edition Type A (CD + DVD), Limited Edition Type B (2 CDs), Regular Edition (CD only), Analog Limited Edition (7′ Vinyl)

In their eleven years career, Negicco experienced lots of changes in terms of music directions, spacing from classic Idol music to Techno-pop, Jazz and Pop rock, and even a bit of Trance, all of them built on their solid J-pop core sound; But despite this numerous and sometimes repentine change of directions, the three girls from Niigata always managed to deliver good music and expose their pure and down-to-earth personalities their fans love, giving coherence and excellent flow to their bigger productions mainly represented by their 2013 album Melody Palette, able to unite several music influences under the same roof and make them work greatly, for a result that represented one of the best Indie Idol albums of 2013.

Lately, though, this loss of a precise music direction and trademark sound started to influence negatively the Niigata-based group, with their last two singles falling in bland tracks that, while still finding some value during their energetic live concerts, don’t even represent half of what these really talented girls and their long time producer Connie can do. In this sense, Hikari no Spur doesn’t represent the revolutionary single some fans were waiting for, and not even the birth of a definitive style that could widen the girls’ popularity, but it’s a step in the right direction that brings Negicco outside that sense of monotony and shallowness that recently hit their career for the first time, despite the shadow of it still slightly lurking around.

The truth is that Hikari no Spur is a nice single that fully achieves its main goal, which is to be a Winter/Christmas release to warm your bones during the shivering season and to enjoy these girls’ adorable personalities in such a festive period of the year. The first track and A-side takes a little step back to the Negicco classic formula, that first of all brings back the order with a standard structure finally free of the repetitive Idol chants and replaced with the classic verse-bridge-chorus that works just fine with this kind of tracks. Nao☆’s solo singing welcomes the listener with a catchy and happy chorus, later followed by verses where each girl gets her spot, showcasing once again their different but cute and not excessively cheesy singing, well balanced during the whole length of the track. The above mentioned chorus comes to full life as all the girls’ voices join in, with a melody that will easily get stuck in your head while summoning happy and thoughtless feelings, for a simple but definitely well made passage enriched by a shiny and delicate instrumental that shyly gets the spotlight in different parts of the track, giving the right feeling and variousness to it.

The following track 1000% no Kataomoi keeps the wintery and festive atmosphere alive, but differentiate itself with a funnier and upbeat vibe; The entire track exposes its identity with the happy and thoughtless singing of the girls and with an instrumental that emphasizes each instrument delicately, from the piano to the electric guitar, coupled by occasional more exposed bass notes and dreamy synths that refine the atmosphere with class and delicacy, with a very nice result that elevates this entire single as a perfect Negicco Christmas single.


Verdict

Hikari no Spur wants to be nothing but a cheerful and happy single to listen to during the Christmas season, and it achieves this goal with simpleness and delicacy, composed of quality instrumentals and good interpretation by the girls, who literally fit the festive atmosphere in the best possible way (who wouldn’t feel like it after traveling to Finland?). Negicco fans will love it, while occasional listeners will find a pleasant single that will deliver great atmosphere and an adorable personality. It’s great to see Negicco going back on track with a nice single, and we hope the new year will ultimately see the three girls from Niigata coming back with more quality music, leaving behind the shallow sounds that represented their most recent period. For now, we can enjoy this single and wait for a thoughtless and happy Christmas to come. Konnichi Negi Negi!

Vote: 7/10


Tracklist

[CD]

01. Hikari no Spur
02. 1000% no Kataomoi
03. Hikari no Spur (Instrumental)
04. 1000% no Kataomoi

[CD 2 – Limited Edition Type B only]

01. Koi no Express Train (ayu toky0 arrange version)
02. Soushisou Ai (Ara Koi remix)

[DVD – Limited Editon Type A only]

01. Hikari no Spur (Music Video)
02. Hikari no Spur (Making of MV)
03. T-Palette Records president prank (!)

Dempagumi.inc – Dempari Night | SINGLE REVIEW

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Release date: November 26
Formats: CD / CD + DVD / 7″ Vinyl / Cassette / Digital
Number of Editions (6): Limited Edition A – B – C / Regular Edition / 7″ Vinyl Edition / Casette Tape Edition

Dempagumi.Inc is without a doubt one of the Idol groups out there to follow right now: The six crazy (in a good way) colorful members have been able to bring the classic Idol concept to a whole new different level thanks to the fusion with the Akihabara culture and everything that surrounds it, with several well known medias such as Anime, Manga and Videogames influencing their style and concepts without taking over the still highly present personality of each member. Based on this, you know what you’re getting with Dempagumi.Inc: Funny and crazy concepts, continuos references to the Otaku culture, cute girls in colorful outfits and, most importantly, upbeat Idol electro-pop quality music, something that these girls and their valid production team showed more than once in the past and especially during this year, with valid singles such as Sakura Apparition and Chururi Chururi ra, and the new single Denpari Night that we’re going to analyzed isn’t less promising: We know what to expect, and as fans of Idol Music we’re already excited about it. And you should be as well.


Denpari Night / Bali 3 Kyouwakoku

Not even a second and you’re into it already: Denpari Night slaps you in the face in no time with a storm made of rolling drums and the natural high-pitched voices of the girls that lead to the melodic craziness we all love, giving the right boost to the song brought by this powerful intro that doesn’t even represent half of all the fun that comes later. Because while the track surely stands on the standard Dempa sound level (and it’s all good) it still gives the priority to the more fantasy vibe it wants to offer enhanced by the use of dreamy and, well, fantastic sounding melodies and synths. It’s a very well balanced songs, offering verses free of all the crazy good background and giving more attention on the singing, that briefly lead to the pre-chorus bridge that charges you up to for a catchy, cheerful and orchestral chorus that will get stuck in your head in no time, smartly balanced between shiny synths and melodic singing, sounding just plain great and pleasant for your ears; All of this happens in a minute if not less, and that’s another great pro of this track (and generally of the Dempa productions) which wastes no time and gives everything the listener wants to hear and more without getting lost in its structure. Not all the five-minutes-long songs out there can sound and be so entertaining and not boring at all, and even in the break preceding the shorter second verse, the song just keeps the mood up greatly. Everything in Denpari Night is at the right place and performed at the best, offering the Dempa trademark sound framed by a valid and never too-cheesy fantasy vibe with interesting details in the background giving it a certain personality to differentiate it from their other tracks while still finding its place in the same category.

And don’t even think about relaxing now. Your ears won’t have a second to rest while listening to this single, because the best has yet to come, and it goes by the name of Bali 3 Kyouwakoku.

Everytime a song like these gets released in the Idol scene is a blessing: Bali 3 is crazy, and the representation of the Dempa sound brought to the top by the talented producer Takashi Asano. The song makes it clear since the beginning with the extravagant and catchy melody that will get you instantly hooked with this track, that features a classic structure that emphasizes each part and gives it great personality. The verses are fast, with each girls singing their own part, followed by a pre-chorus bridge that summons a dreamy vibe while still maintaining the beats up, leading to a chorus that’s just plain perfect: Amazing key change, powerful and restless bass lines, all framed in a chiptune synth feast, to then go back to the main melody, everything that will just make you go insane. This song seriously wants you to headbang with your headphones on, it has an enormous live potential, and I just want to experience this song in a crowd full of fans losing it to the chorus. And all the rest of the track of course, because exactly as Denpari Night, in Bali 3 Kyouwakoku everything is at the right place, and it’s not hard to say that this track is an almost perfect modern Idol song: It’s fast but well paced, and each section of it, from the verses to the chorus and the bridge, has a great impact on the track and forms its incredible personality, which is 100% Dempagumi.Inc and more. Add it to the list of the songs to hook in some friend in the Idol world, and you won’t be possibly wrong. A truly great track.


Verdict

Idol Music means happiness, entertainment, and beautiful thoughtless fun, and Dempagumi.Inc took all of these vital factors and masterfully packed them into Denpari Night, a single that lives up to the expectations of all the fans and goes beyond it. From the beginning to the end, each second of these tracks pulses with life and unchains a powerful wall of sound made of crazy synths, chiptune goodness and a killer upbeat vibe that will just make you jump and bang your head like you rarely did before. Denpari Night brings some freshness with a more fantasy-themed vibe without betraying the roots of the Dempa sound, while Bali 3 Kyouwakoku is the consolidation of it, brought it to perfection by the masterful composition and production of Takashi Asano.

If you’re a Dempagumi.Inc fan, you need to get this single right now. If you’re new to this group and to the Idol world… well, you couldn’t have come at a better time.

Vote: 8.9/10


Tracklist

[CD]

01. Denpari Night
02. Bali 3 Kyouwakoku | 02. Phantom of the Truth (Limited Edition C only)
03. Denpari Night(Instrumental)
04. Bali 3 Kyouwakoku(Instrumental)

[DVD]

– Making of “Denpari Night” MV (Limited Edition A only)
– Making of “Bali 3 Kyouwakoku” MV (Limited Edition B only)
– Making of “Phantom of the truth” MV (Limited Edition C only)

– Alex

Sakanaction – Sayonara wa Emotion / Hasu no Hana | SINGLE REVIEW

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Many artists of the Japanese music industry differentiate themselves from the rest of the world thanks to the uniqueness in combining several and completely different genres into one and make them work greatly, and the guys from Sakanaction are one of the main acts keeping up with this open mentality with some brilliant musical offerings born from a masterful fusion of rock, pop and pure electronic/club music, that guaranteed to the five musicians from Hokkaido the definitive consecration with their last album reaching the top of the Oricon chart.

With the melancholic and oniric Goodbye/Eureka behind, Sakanaction are back with a long awaited new single to bring some more quality music to our ears, and it’ll be interesting as usual to see what Ichiro Yamaguchi (mastermind of the group) came out with. After all, in all their their talent and great personality, it’s always a mystery to foresee these guys’ movements… and that’s really exciting.


Sayonara wa Emotion

If there’s a key word that represents this first song at its best is, guess what, emotion. The song kicks off with a delicate drumming and the shy melody from Emi’s piano, as a touch of fresh-sounding synth leads to Yamaguchi’s first verse; The singing is minimal and not invasive, following a clear and precise metric in the main part to then delicately evolve in the chorus, directly linked to the verse with no bridge or any sort of structure change but represented only by an higher and more emotional tone of voice and emphasized keyboards that delicately divide this section of the track. The second verse follows the same pattern, with shy guitar notes now enriching the whole plethora of details forming the verse. The aggressive guitar riffing and the drum roll break through the second chorus giving new life to the song, summoning a more emotional atmosphere leading to a short instrumental section that sounds almost like an improvisation. A short keyboard break leads to the last chorus, followed by a typical Sakanaction ending section with all the members singing together: Lots of emotions, in name and deed.

The whole song, despite adopting a very simple structure and featuring distinct sonorities, it flows well and doesn’t weigh to the the ear of the listener: The first part, with few delicate details and calm singing perfectly leads to the second, lively but more emotional section full of emphasis, marked by aggressive guitar riffing and the rolling rhythmic part coupled by higher notes in the bass line. Despite not being technically a masterpiece, in its simpleness, Sayonara wa Emotion summons a lot of feelings while entertaining with its wide range of sounds and layer of details: Simple, but very well executed.

Hasu no Hana

The previously released Hasu no Hana now comes in its single version, and after the emotional emphasis of the previous track, this song brings a more thoughtless and light approach to the package: With the main chorus kicking off the track, the whole song rotates around the main section’s catchiness and pleasant sound made of delicate riffing, evocative synths and bass lines, coupled by Yamaguchi’s catchy and relaxing singing. The structure, as the song itself, is really simple and catchy: The verses focus on the lyrics with a background as usual made of details made of guitar notes and a continuous synth, to then add samples and Ami’s bass line in the second verse. A pre-chorus bridge following the same main melody leads to a break and the final chorus; A final instrumental section brings us to the end of the track.

Hasu no Hana is a very simple song that doesn’t stand out for anything in particular, and it’s undoubtedly a bit under the Sakanaction standard, but it doesn’t fail under any aspect at the same time, giving the most of it in the chorus and its pleasant and positive vibe. Far from being an unforgettable track, it still represents a nice occasional listen for the fans of the Hokkaido guys.

[Extra Content] Ame(B) – SAKANATRIBE x ATM version – / Music (Cornelius remix)  

Sakanaction always put a lot of effort in bringing value to their releases, and this single isn’t an exception: The acclaimed and absolutely amazing Sakanatribe version of the band’s classic from Shinshiro (performed in their last tour Sakanatribe 2014) is finally available as audio track, this time enriched by the collaboration of AOKI Takamasa, and it’s fair to say that the difference with the original version performed live isn’t that much (luckily), where the only changes reside exclusively in the lyrics, this time sang by all the band’s members without any effect, and in the focus in the singular parts of the song, leaving behind the more club-ish elements and all the effects that came with it; The live version was genuinely more cool and entertaining than this one, but yet, it still remains an amazing piece of track that you won’t stop listening to. Moving along we find the curious remix of Sakanaction’s classic hit Musicmade by Shibuya Kei pioneer Cornelius, that brings us an acoustic version of the track with slight electronic influences: It’s surprising how the lyrics and singing of this song actually fit perfectly in such a different execution, and the result is very good and a pleasant listen to those who loved the original track (who didn’t?). The rich video footage contained in the Limited Edition is worth the extra money, showing different collaborations of the band with other artists as they play in the studio, plus featuring interviews (Japanese only) with Ichiro Yamaguchi and the guest musicians.

These new propositions of Sakanaction’s classic tracks are an interesting and entertaining feature that enrich the whole package of this single in an important way: The fans will appreciate it and love both of them.


Verdict

Sayonara wa Emotion / Hasu no Hana pretty much follows the atmospheres and the vibe of Sakanaction’s previous single, represented by predominantly calmer and more reflective sonorities while leaving behind the more electronic influences that guaranteed the uniqueness of the band’s core sound. But this doesn’t mean this single isn’t good, at all: Sayonara wa Emotion is a well done and executed track, with an evocative and revolutionary feel and great pathos in its final part where all the members’ talent and attention for details comes out, while Hasu no Hana, despite not being an unforgettable track nor the best offering for newcomers, it’s still a pleasant listen that fans will love to come back on once in a while. The two extra tracks and the rich video footage (this one exclusive of the Limited Edition) included in the package are worth all your time and money, elevating the value of this overall release that, while it doesn’t reach the same level of most of Sakanaction’s previous singles, it still has lots of value and great music for everyone.

Vote: 7.5/10


 

Tracklist

[CD]

01. Sayonara wa Emotion
02. Hasu no Hana – Single Version-
03. Ame(B) -SAKANATRIBE×ATM version-
04. Music (Cornelius Remix)

[DVD – Limited Edition only]

01. Good-bye Session featuring Tamaki Roy (Originally broadcasted on Ustream on 2013.11.28)
02. Yamaguchi Ichiro x Tamaki Roy Talk Session
03. Sample STUDIO LIVE guest Sasaki “SUNNY” Yukio (Originally broadcasted on Ustream on 2014.8.5)
04. Sasaki “SUNNY” Yukio Interview

– Alex

Sakura Gakuin – Heart no Hoshi | SINGLE REVIEW

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Release Date: October 22
Formats: DVD
Number of Editions (2): Type A / Type B

Despite not being a constant presence on the front cover of every magazine or one of the most promoted groups in the scene, Sakura Gakuin is still one of those Idol units that’s constantly gaining popularity the more the time goes by, thanks mainly to its characteristic adoption of the Idol concept that takes the form of a personalized School system. Therefore, like in a real class, the personality of each member (a main factor of any idol group) is enhanced by the constant and equal exposure every girl in the group gets, and while the “main” members may get more attention in certain moments, no one is left behind, bringing the fans to get attached to the whole group instead of one or two members. Add the constant amount of graduated and non talents pursuing their individual careers in several fields (BABYMETAL, Ayami Muto etc.) and you have a group that people can’t help but love.

This time the lovely girls from Sakura Gakuin are trying something different for the first single of the new 2014 class: A DVD Single. Which is, as you can obviously expect from the name, a single sold exclusively on DVD format where the video footage has the same importance as the musical content. In the case of this new release, titled Heart no Hoshi, the content is formed by two versions of the MV for the song (no audio tracks), plus some bonus video footage, which basically translates in sacrificing a bit of music for more video content, a decision that’s worth talking about: Is it a good choice?


[SONG] Heart no Hoshi

When following a group like Sakura Gakuin all you want is thoughtless and upbeat music, and this track produced by Tommy february6 and Shunsaku Okuda doesn’t disappoint from this point of view: Kicking off with a build that immediately leads to the chorus, the track promptly presents a joyful and shiny vibe coupled by the singing of the entire group, and despite the way the track starts might sound a bit “dispersive” (result of starting a song with a build) the chorus brings up everything thanks to its catchiness and the happy vibe that surrounds it, something that all the Sakura Gakuin fans were looking for and will love. Each verse of the song features individual lines from all the members supported by melodic synths (almost reminding the 80s sound) and a rhythm electric guitar, while the pre-verse section is focalized on the main members singing, that also characterizes the main bridge of the track where Moa, Yui, Hana and Yunano have their own lines. The structure of the track is simple yet well thought, especially in the chorus-vocal harmony-chorus part preceding the above mentioned bridge, and despite being more than five minutes long, the song actually flows pretty well and its length doesn’t give a sense of boredom or repetition.

Heart no Hoshi is an average but well done Sakura Gakuin song that doesn’t exceed in any aspect, but that still manages to be enjoyable, adorable, and up to the expectations for all the fans of the School Idol Unit.

Heart no Hoshi – Video Footage

Depending on the version of the single you’ll get, there will be different video contents. In total, what the group offers with this release is: Music Video, Music Video – Dance Ver. –  and a Making Of. Nothing you wouldn’t find a normal CD+DVD release, but anyway.

The concept surrounding the Music Video and the whole single is described as “If our hearts are connected, the earth is one”, and this MV follows this ideal greatly with a funny execution and well done shooting and editing. The video shows the members taking the part of the Rakusa Clan, a group of girls that lives rurally and peacefully in a forest that suddenly discover a magic doorway to another world where the Sakura Gakuin girls we all know live and dance together. At first frightened by this vision, the members of the clan show the footage (shot by Yui) to everyone in the forest and start enjoying the sight of themselves dancing in the other reality; Despite encountering some resistance at first by the clan Leader (which is obviously Moa), the girls get near the doorway until the Moa on the other side discovers the clan as well. Of course you’ll get a clearer idea by just simply watching the MV, but everything that composes it is just well done, from the shooting, to the palette color (that despite being different in several sections still matches very well) and the lovely make up of the Rakusa girls. It’s clear that the Sakura Gakuin production team pointed a lot on this music video, and the result is indeed very good, combining concept, quality and the adorable personality of the girls in a great and functional way.

The other footage features a Dance Version of the MV, where you can only see the Sakura Gakuin girls dancing to a nice choreography with Pom-Poms, and a Making-of featuring off-shots and questions to each member between a break and another, something that hardcore fans will surely appreciate.

Verdict

Sakura Gakuin’s new single brings quality and enjoyable contents both musically and visually, even though it’s clear that this whole release is mainly focused on the cinematic side. The choice of making this release a DVD Single is still questionable, especially for the fact that you get only one new song and not even a shade of B-side, but with a track that’s still up to the expectations despite not exceeding in any way, and a funny and definitely well done Music Video featuring various bonus footage, Heart no Hoshi is a worthy experience for all the Sakura Gakuin fans. Newcomers would probably take a look at some of the previous and richest group’s releases, but still, it’ll be a decent product in case they decide to go with it.

Vote: 6.9 / 10


Tracklist

[DVD] Type A

01. Heart no Hoshi (Music Video)
02. Heart no Hoshi (Dance Video)

[DVD] Type B

01. Heart no Hoshi (Music Video)
02. Heart no Hoshi (Making-of)

– Alex

Curumi Chronicle – Touch Me | SINGLE REVIEW

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Independent idol Curumi Chronicle definitely made her notice during the last year since her debut in 2013: With a cute and natural identity and her strong collaboration with the promising young producer/DJ Usagi Disco, the lovely Curumi already released a (very good) first album and a recent EP under the independent label PAV Records, showcasing great quality production, a versatile voice that sounds anything but conventional for an idol, and a nice mix of Techno-pop, J-pop and EDM that defines the clear inspirations of the Osaka-based idol while still showcasing great personality and yes, even some pretty unique elements. After the celebration of her first anniversary as idol, Curumi is now ready to release not one, but two singles contemporarily, each one focusing on a side of her sound, with Touch Me entirely dedicated to her more techno/EDM side, and 17 on the J-pop/Idol-ish part, for a double release that splits into two the music identity of this girl. Accomplished experiment?

Rise of the EDM School Girl

The stronger of the two releases kicks off with Voice, a track directly featuring Usagi Disco that immediately defines the attitude of this single: Limited lyrics, repetitive vocals and a lot of electronic music goodness to dance with, especially with drops like the one towards the end of the song that alone makes the listening of this track worth it; From the heaviness of the beats to the synths and the melodies everything is perfectly balanced and combined with Curumi’s voice, something that not always worked in her previous releases, and the result is nothing short of amazing. After all it’s clear that the composition is better than ever with this single, and there’s also space for new elements: While mainly rotating around the EDM sphere, the entire single welcomes different influences such as Techno, Trance and Dubstep elements, 80’s dance, and even some pretty brutal Drum n’ Bass goodness identifying the second track FLIGHT, that explores an unknown side of Curumi’s sound personality with a dark vibe made of heavy and dramatic synths and a touch of electric guitar perfectly coupled by the vocals that prove once again her versatility in singing different genres (you gotta love this girl’s voice); The piano solo at the end softens the mood giving a nice closure to a song that’s as unusual and dark as very, very good. Touch Me is the song that will ultimately conquer your heart and ears, as the hypnotizing voice of Curumi and the pure 80’s beats of this titletrack will lead you to a wonderful explosion of dreamy synths and melodies coupled with soothing, relaxing vocals performed by Curumi: It’s music that makes you fly with your mind, and between sensual melodies and a glitchy bridge that unifies past and present vibes, you’ll find yourself looping this song way more than once; With great atmosphere, balance, and masterful composition, this song is one of the best pieces of this single and of Curumi Chronicle’s career, a gem that will be remembered for long by the fans of the young idol and not only. Brilliant.

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The last two songs Seventeen (original) and KITTY (Touch Me mix) are a nice addition to the package that strengthen the identity of this single, with the first being a mix of the titletrack of the coupling single 17 (that’ll be analyzed in the next review) with a less noisy but heavier arrangement and the second a heavy EDM revisitation of the cute track from the Second SpringEP. Both mixes are worth listening, and while the first doesn’t go that far from the other version, the Touch Me mix of KITTY gives new life to this piece with interesting  ideas and some pretty badass EDM passages that makes this song worth to be blasted in your car and to be danced at your parties.


Verdict

Touch Me is an amazing single: It’s strong, powerful, various and full of great and valuable moments, proving once again the versatility and the personality of Curumi’s singing that’s clearly getting better and better with time exactly as the strength of her production team that crafted a single that’s well balanced and masterfully composed, with cascades of electronic music that won’t make you tired not even for a second.

Curumi Chronicle and Usagi Disco packed a single that’s worth all your time and also the attention of the major labels of the industry. This is great music, and an exciting promise for the future of Japanese EDM/Techno-pop.

Vote: 9.5/10

Tracklist

01. Voice feat. Usagi Disco
02. FLIGHT
03. Touch Me
04. Seventeen (original)
05. KITTY (Touch Me mix)

– Alex

Momoiro Clover Z – Moon Pride | SINGLE REVIEW

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The five colorful members of Momoiro Clover Z never lacked in terms of charisma and beautiful concepts, and after Gounn and the excellent Naitemo Iindaio single, the girls are now back from the deep ocean and ready to release the long awaited (and announced) theme songs for the new Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon Crystal anime, that will take the form of their new single and represent one of the most important moves of this year, as they hit the stage of the huge Nissan Stadium for the second time right when I’m writing these words. Take on the responsibility of providing music for the remake of one of the most famous and worldwide successful anime ever created isn’t an easy task, and their energetic charisma and the ability of their production team will be the key for a successful release. Was the waiting worth it?

Full Moon

It doesn’t take long to realize that Momoclo are taking care of the new Sailor Moon opening: After a dreamy melody introducing a short verse, the sound we’ve loved in some of the best productions of the colorful unit comes to surface as the song take its shape with a melodic electric guitar hitting our ears, and the intentions here is already clear: Moon Pride is a track that doesn’t betray the Momoclo fans nor the Sailor Moon lovers, but instead make these two (not so far) worlds collide to create a perfect combination of personality and sound. The verses are calm, and the alternation of voices between the girls give the right variation in a part of the song that’s necessarily calmer to maintain the right atmosphere, also enriched by well placed back vocals as the pre-bridge charges up the atmosphere before a chorus that points everything on energetic singing and strong instrumental presence instead of relying on the easier catchy formula, in order to give a proper balance between the calmer and stronger parts while maintaing a variable but homogeneous vibe. The instrumental is truly an element to praise here: While built on a simple and pretty standard structure, the details make it worth listening to more than once, like the piano in the pre-chorus or the coupling synth in the absolutely amazing guitar solo that builds up the main bridge of the track: Everything is created with simpleness in mind but with great execution for a result that’s more than satisfying, and while not ranking at the top of Momoclo’s productions, Moon Pride does its work of opening theme greatly and unifies the artist and the concept in a smart way that will satisfy all the fans out there. Same can be said for the ending theme of the anime Gekkou, a slow ballad that doesn’t exceed in anything in particular but still delivers the right atmosphere thanks to the delicate vocals and the instrumental featuring some good moments made of orchestral sounds, dreamy synths and even organ parts, giving an “important” vibe to the track; The faster bridge directly leading to the final chorus, surely intended to offer a surprise effect and variation, feels a bit out of place and invasive where a simple progression would have fit better. Still, this B-side covers its role of ending theme properly, while from the mere point of view of a Momoclo fan it won’t probably offer many listens as the girls definitely have more entertaining songs of this kind in their discography. Moon Revenge, exclusive track of the regular version and cover of the original main theme of the Sailor Moon R movie that received the Momoclo treatment, is possibly the weakest track of the single: While it’s fair to adapt a personal style, the production team went a bit too far with it and made everything sound way too upbeat and even confusing than necessary both in the instrumental and in the vocals, compromising the original atmosphere made of mistery and magic, for a forgettable cover that could have been proposed in a better and smarter way knowing the talent of both the girls and their production team.


Verdict

Moon Pride is a single that does its work plain well: The opening theme is energetic, well balanced, and offers a great and appropriated atmosphere for the concept, with some pretty epic moments here and there guaranteed by the sound we’ve learned to love in the best Momoclo productions, while Gekkou is a good and well executed ending theme, even though not outstanding or unforgettable. The Moon Revenge cover, on the other hand, is shallow and lacks in terms of pure entertainment and fidelity in the original track’s atmosphere.

All in all, Moon Pride is a good and enjoyable single for the fans of both Momoiro Clover Z and Sailor Moon fans, while those not interested in the anime will find an average release that will hardly be ahead of the most famous singles of the colorful idol unit. It’s kinda understandable though: The main role of Moon Pride is to provide good theme songs for one of the most famous anime ever created, and in this, it does its job well. Which is not something any idol group out there could have done.

Vote: 7/10


Tracklist

01. Moon Pride
02. Gekkou
03. Moon Revenge (Cover | Momoclo version exclusive)