Utada Hikaru – Fantôme | ALBUM REVIEW for Electric Bloom Webzine

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Took me quite a while, but finally, my review for Utada Hikaru‘s new album Fantôme is online, on English website Electric Bloom Webzine.

I thought this was a pretty solid record. Not your typical pop collection of songs (there’s a lot of sadness and melancholy, but also a bit of joy), and it has a few flaws here and there… but still, it’s a good and very enjoyable record. Not the new Deep River, nor her new-era masterpiece, but definitely a good record that Hikki’s fans will enjoy.

The reason why I reviewed it two weeks after its release, is because both this record and me needed time. Time to absorb these songs and avoid a rushed judgement, like most headlines out there are apparently doing: I’ve been hearing a lot of complaints, framed by words like “boring”, “uninspired” and even “useless”. Everyone is entitled to their own opinions of course, but the feeling is that many journalists and bloggers jumped on the “bash Hikki to look pro” bandwagon just cause it’s cool. Whatever…

Read my review of Fantôme on Electric Bloom Webzine!

Here’s my review. Hope you enjoy it, and be sure to let me know what you think about it! There’s no score, but i’d give it a 8 / 10.

There’s a new article and a review coming here on my blog this weekend, so be sure to stay tuned!

Take care.

– Alex

BLOG | Vibes from the past

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This week hasn’t been particularly rich in terms of physical releases, but at the same time, some well known faces surfaced again to bring vibes and sonorities highly missed in recent times.

Of course, the highlight of the week has been Utada Hikaru‘s comeback on the market, with two songs that brought back one of the most beautiful voices of Japanese music. While Hanataba wo Kimi ni  is a nice track that follows the classic Hikki pattern, Manatsu no Tooriame delivered feelings only Utada’s wonderful voice and interpretation can convey. Yep, I cried like a baby for the millionth time, exactly as happened when Sakura Nagashi dropped a few years ago. And by the way, she topped the iTunes chart just minutes after the tracks got released.

Another pleasant come back, even though with a much more contained impact (since, uhm, it’s not really a comeback) is Aira Mitsuki‘s third digital single since the end of her hiatus. Pretty much following the sound of the previously released tracks, Doctor A brings back that 2008 Techno-pop sound that, no matter what, I will always love. She can keep doing the same song over and over again, I wouldn’t mind. But it’s about time she announces a new album or something more consistent than single tracks released digitally.

Not a comeback, but definitely a more than welcome release, the new tricot song is just as good as you would expect. Setsuyakuka is a good showcase of the band’s talent in making Math Rock compositions accessible and enjoyable to anyone, and I can’t wait for the three girls to release their new KABUKU EP in a few weeks. Of course, you will find a review here on the release date, so be sure to stay tuned.

Well, that’s it for this week’s recap guys! I’ll review the new Tentenko record in the next days (if she doesn’t release three albums in the meantime) plus a few more impression articles are on the way as well. Oh, and of course, Kyary Pamyu Pamyu’s new single is getting released on Wednesday, and I can’t wait to see if it’s as bad as everything she has done in the last two years (answer: probably yes).

Stay tuned guys! Take care.

– Alex

Utada Hikaru’s comeback is a convincing one: Impressions on “Manatsu no Tooriame”

The time has finally come: Utada Hikaru, singer, songwriter, and one of the most successful Japanese artists ever, is finally back from her six-years long hiatus today, with two new digital singles that instantly topped the iTunes chart. That’s right, we finally have the chance to listen to her new songs Hanataba wo Kimi ni and Manatsu no Tooriame.

I’m not even talking about Hanataba wo Kimi ni that much: I can tell you that the track is nice, but not outstanding either, and that Hikki’s vocals are always on point as you would expect. If you’re a fan, you’re gonna like it in its simplicity. That’s it.

What I definitely want to talk about though, is Manatsu no TooriameThis track brings back the Hikki I loved in that masterpiece called Sakura Nagashi, and despite not aiming at the same emotional levels of the Evangelion track, it still gets pretty close to it, despite more friendly vocal lines and a generally linear approach. Behind its apparent simplicity, Manatsu no Tooriame is indeed a beautiful melancholic piece and a remarkable comeback for Utada: Most of the track is basically a voice/piano duo that focuses on Hikki’s outstanding interpretation, that evolves towards the end with a dramatic arrangement, in a nice crescendo that gives a good emphasis to the track. What’s most admirable (and it comes as no surprise) is Hikki’s capacity of conveying feelings through her voice: I have no problem in saying I cried listening to this track, despite having no idea of what she was saying. I’m like that.

The track gains even more pathos if paired with its wonderful Music Video, that shows slices of different lives and moments, framed by an impressive care for details and an excellent direction: It pictures the simplest moments and things in a unique and emotional way, with a truly outstanding artistic result.

Utada Hikaru’s comeback is a convincing one: The emotional and beautiful Manatsu no Tooriame makes up for the nice yet unimpressive Hanataba wo Kimi ni, and nothing can be considered bad or disappointing here. The best thing I was happy to notice, is that Hikki is in great shape and more than ready to start a new chapter of her career. And I can’t wait to see what she has in store for us.

– Alex

5 Beautiful Japanese Music Videos you need to watch

The Japanese Music industry can distinguish itself from the rest of the world for several reasons: Its huge dimensions (it’s the second biggest music market in the world), its variety, the innovative concepts several groups can deliver, and much more. One factor that should’t be ignored as well is the quality of these groups’ videographies, which averagely sets on high levels if compared to the rest of the world, and several Music Videos bring so much innovation and creativity within that you’ll be surprised and overwhelmed by all kinds of feeling, wether it’s happiness, melancholy or simply fun.

Here’s a list of five music videos that rank among the best the industry has seen in the last years, and I will post even more in future articles. Be sure to stay tuned, and enjoy these beautiful MVs and songs!


5. Sakanaction – Aruku Around

One of the classics from the band that conquered the Oricon charts and shown the world how to fuse J-rock and Electronic Music with elegance and mastery. Not only Sakanaction‘s music is accessible and elaborated, their music videos are all up to the quality of their tracks, and with Aruku Around the band from Sapporo enriched their videography with a one-shot video (meaning there isn’t any kind of montage or cut) that’s a continuous stream of surprising moments, where lyrics are emphasized by the interaction of frontman Ichiro Yamaguchi with everything that surrounds him. Joyful, funny and breathtaking, a must watch and a great song to get into this particular band.


4. toe – Goodbye

A beautiful, melancholic track and trademark tune from this excellent Japanese indie math rock band, the one that all their fans eagerly wait for when attending their concerts in Japan and around the world: Goodbye is a perfect representation of the toe sound, coupled by one of the very few Music Videos the band ever released, an impressive showcase of the stop-motion technique that’s second to no one, fitting the melancholic mood of the track greatly other than being one of the most particular videos you’ll ever have the pleasure to watch.


3. m-flo – All I want is you

While the Hip Hop scene in Japan is still waiting for its moment to truly come out and become accepted in the mainstream industry,m-flo are one of the rare exceptions that made this genre accessible to anyone thanks to the inclusion of electronic elements and female vocals, and one of their most famous tracks All I want is you brings one of the most fascinating Music Videos of the last years, whose message is clear: Despite being only one of billions of people in this world, we are all connected, and our life can change from one moment to another. An amazing video that will entertain you from the beginning to the end, every single second: A must watch!


2. Perfume – VOICE

The Techno-pop trio from Hiroshima is not only one of the most influent mainstream acts of the Japanese music scene, but also a quality guarantee when it comes to Music Videos: Bringing innovation, creativity and plain joy, Perfume‘s discography is one of the richest and most valid in the industry, and with VOICE the three lovely girls expose not only their cuteness and adorable personalities, but also the talent of the team of artists working behind the scenes that made A-chan, Nocchi and Kashiyuka’s talents reach stellar levels: A lovely and pleasant watch that will brighten your day!


1. Utada Hikaru – Sakura Nagashi

Utada Hikaru is an amazing singer and artist, and with the beautiful masterpiece that is Sakura Nagashi, she proved once again to Japan and to the world what she’s capable of, what stream of emotions her voice can still unleash inside of us despite the distance she voluntarily took from the music industry years ago. The emotions this song deliver are enormously emphasized by the Music Video, a beautiful montage of shots taken in nature and in other different places, focusing on heartbreaking moments in a crescendo of emotions that follows the vibe of the track perfectly, to the point you’ll find yourself in tears and realize how fragile we humans are. This is audiovisual art at its best, and no one other than Hikki could have delivered these strong emotions with such delicacy. Absolutely brilliant.

These were only five of the must-see Music Videos the Japanese music scene can offer, and more will come in my next article dedicated to this particular aspect of the industry.

What do you think about these videos? Did you like them? What are the MVs that deserve to be in this list? Be sure to leave a comment down below!
– Alex