Music: Chihiro Onitsuka – This Silence Is Mine – Single Review

“This tattoo, this preview, this heartbeat”

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Artists: Chihiro Onitsuka

Genre: Folk, Pop

Released: 18th December 2013

Chihiro Onitsuka used to have this unreal voice back in the early days of her career. Her previous albums have some of the most beautiful and haunting music I’ve ever heard, and this is coming from someone who makes it their mission to find that kind of stuff. Sadly, due to some health issues, her voice slipped into a gravelly tone, rather than that angelic instrument that gave out those soaring notes.

To compensate for the change in her vocal abilities, for recent albums Chihiro Onitsuka has produced songs with a 70s/80s rock style that’s…. different. See Anata to Science, the other song on this single, to have a good idea of what the new sound is like. Well, I’m sure fans appreciate it, but it just isn’t the same, and no-one expected another epic ballad out of this singer.

Along comes The Silence is Mine, an eery, haunting track that seeps under the skin and settles deep, to fit Drakengard 3, a game that is equally disturbing. This song is ugly-pretty. Gorgeous instruments and a rasping voice. A thumping beat, accompanied by strings builds up to reach a breathtaking finale. It feels like this could be her final song, and the purity and energy surges through powerfully. Chihiro’s vocals are raw and edgy and almost crying through those long high notes in anguish, delivering each word with such conviction that this song will haunt you for a long time. Sweeping instrumentals carry the listener through the final parts of the songs.

Now Drakengard 3 actually got released a while ago, and sadly rather quietly as a PSN Download only. The Silence is Mine was used in the trailers to promote the game, and is also the in-game vocal theme. How many people will come across the game, bearing in mind that the Drakengard series only has a cult following to begin with? How many will hear this song? To bring out one of the best songs in recent years, Chihiro Onitsuka deserves recognition. It deserves silence.

See below for previews:

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Music: Androp – BooHoo/AM0:40/Waltz – Single Review

“It’s strange, “Everyone”, Who is that again? Aren’t you curious?”

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Artists: Androp

Genre: JRock, JPop

Released: 22nd August 2012

I cannot even explain the infatuation I began with Androp after coming across the video for BooHoo, one of the songs from this triple A-side single.

BooHoo is a guitar-riffed-filled pulse-racing track that incorporates breathless vocals with life questioning lyrics. The chorus strikes as high and screechy, and yet it is pretty catchy. Everything about this track is just momentum. The softer parts of the song are almost dreamlike. Cries of “BooHoo!” will get stuck in your head.

Being a triple A-side the quality of the next track is pretty good, and although AM0:40 is less memorable than BooHoo, the chorus is likable and positive. This shares some of lyrics from BooHoo, and while I feel that the first song is superior, AM0:40 is such a short affair that it doesn’t outlive its welcome.

If there was one song I wasn’t expecting from a rock band, it was probably something that sounds like it’s dropped straight out of a shoujo anime. The soft vocals, the rhythmic almost lullaby-ish melody, Waltz feels like a summery tune to put on a lazy afternoon. The intense energy of the band is still coiled in the background, but this song feels like a gracious break from sharp questions the band posed earlier.

I don’t listen to JRock much because I don’t particularly the style, but Androp have their own style. The band members just look like cool guys hanging out, and the whole feeling of the band is so relaxed, yet they give out their own intense energy. Perhaps vocalists get too much attention, but in this case Uchisawa Takahito, who is lead vocalist and also lead guitarist, his unique vocals in BooHoo has wormed their music into my brain.

High pitched vocals from a guy isn’t really a thing I would recommend to anyone, and yet it works. Let’s not call it JRock. Call it Androck.

See below for previews:

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Music: Ayumi Hamasaki – LOVEppears – Album Review

“Fly High And Then Immature Boys & Girls End Roll”

Artists: Ayumi Hamasaki

Age: October 2, 1978 (age 33)

Genre: JPop, JRock, Dance, Electronic, House

Released: 10th November 1999

One of my favourite albums, LOVEppears (pronounced ‘love appears’) is stuffed with dance tracks in Ayu’s distinctive voice.

The album follows a very tight and coherent style, so if you’re a fan of 90’s soft rock, electronic, or dance music, and you like a few of the songs, this album will rank high.

Although Boys & Girls is a favourite among many fans, WHATEVER, And Then, and Fly High are upbeat and vocally more interesting.

Even though it’s been a two decades since this album was released, the dance songs haven’t aged.

See below for album previews:

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Music: Ayumi Hamasaki – I am… – Album Review

“Connected Evolution Naturally Never Ever Still Alone”

Artists: Ayumi Hamasaki

Age: October 2, 1978 (age 33)

Genre: JPop, JRock, Dance, Electronic

Released: 1st Janury 2002

An album that’s covered with Ayumi Hamasaki’s own production, under the pseudonym of CREA. The personal touch truly helped as most of the songs are incredible, and recommended to old and new fans.

The opening track I am… starts with acoustic singing merging into pop-rock, that sets the tone of the album. The strong vocals follow into UNITE!evolution, NEVER EVER and M. Many of these songs are her most popular, and are also concert-favourites.

There’s a very tight and coherent production making the songs blend into each other, but each have their own distinctive quirks. Some would argue that Ayu has never created another album of this caliber.

See below for album previews:

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Music: Anna Tsuchiya – Unchained Girl – Single Review

“Ah Ah Ah Ah Stayin alive”

Artists: Anna Tsuchiya

Age: 11th March, 1984 (age 28)

Genre: JPop, JRock

Released: 28th September 2011

This single would be easy to skip, for the terrible covers, which show Anna posing in a toilet. However, as one of Japan’s most influential female rock singers, Anna Tsuchiya definitely deserves a second look.

Stayin Alive is a cover of the Bee Gee’s version, with Tsuchiya’s own smoky voice. Although I’m a big fan of the original, this has a dark atmosphere that’s hard to resist, complimented by the grungy rock video.

The other song is Juicy Girl feat. The Samos, a party-hardy song that does very little for me, and shows off none of Anna’s voice. Try following the nonsensical lyrics and Anna’s rubbery english, it’s a great ride.

Master Blade, a collab with Yoko Kanno, sounds like it belongs as the ending theme to some anime. With Anna struggling to hit the high notes, and the lackluster orchestra, it seems likely to be forgotten when the album is released.

There is one song that saves this single.

See below for previews:

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Music: Ayumi Hamasaki – A Song for XX – Album Review

“Friend Wishing You Present”

Artists: Ayumi Hamasaki

Age: October 2, 1978 (age 33)

Genre: JPop, JRock

Released: 1st January 1999

Ayumi Hamasaki’s first album is also one of her most innocent and simply produced. It shows the influence of the 90’s, as well as influence from when her label Avex used to be predominately a dance label.

A song for XX, the titular track is surprisingly heartfelt, despite Ayu’s delicate voice. Likewise with poker face, from her first single.

The ballads songs are pretty good, with YOU and POWDER SNOW striking chords with me. There’s something really likable about the latter, and the piano version in Ayu’s LOVEppears album is worth chasing up.

Yes, it’s dated now, but fans of Ayu will enjoy her origins, as well as the drastically different voice. Compared to her newer albums, Ayu’s first album is more simple, but has more than just nostalgic value.

See below for album previews:

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Music: Tomohisa Yamashita – LOVE CHASE – Single Review

“Don’t run away, come here…”

Artists: Tomohisa Yamashita

Age: April 9, 1985 (age 27)

Genre: JPop, Dance

Released: 4th July 2012

You know when a song is so ridiculously catchy that it stays in your head for days? You watch the video and the ridiculous-awesomeness of it hits you?

Tomohisa Yamashita’s song, a.k.a Yamapi’s, Love Chase, is about a guy battling with his inner-selves about a girl.

See below for previews:

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Music: Namie Amuro – Uncontrolled – Album Review

“In The Spotlight Go Round Get Myself Back Singing Yeah Oh”

Artists: Namie Amuro

Age: September 20, 1977 (age 34)

Genre: JPop, R&B, Urban, Dance, Electro, Ballad

Released: June 27, 2012

Widely regarded as the Urban queen of Jpop, Namie Amuro comes back with her 10th album. Featuring singles that have trickled through, during the last three years, Namie manages to tie together love songs and dance tunes, with her unique, sweet-but-rubbery voice. For the first time during her career, many of her songs are in English, giving a fresh angle to her songs.

Starting the album is the electro-dance song In the Spotlight (Tokyo), and the theme of clubbing is continued with NAKED. Dance songs are sprinkled throughout the rest of the album. One stand-out track (among many amazing songs) is SINGING “YEAH OH”.

Much of the songs follow in the same style as her previous albums, but there’s a different and current feeling to this production. It’s one of Namie’s best albums to date, her fans will be pleased to know that she’s still modern.

See below for album previews:

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Music: Ayumi Hamasaki – Party Queen – Album Review

“Party Queen Reminds Me How Beautiful You Are”

Artists: Ayumi Hamasaki

Age: October 2, 1978 (age 33)

Genre: JPop, JRock

Released: 21st March 2012

Party Queen is Ayumi Hamasaki’s thirteenth album, one of her rare albums that didn’t chart at number 1 after being released.

Apart from the abhorrent album covers, the album is a mess of forgettable tracks, rocky screeches and stilted rapping. Party Queen, NaNaNa and Shake it suffer from what I like to call “Madonna syndrome”.

As in, you’re old now, you don’t have to sit quietly and sip tea, but have some dignity! The amount of “partying” that Ayu is trying to convey seems too forced.

This isn’t Ayu’s best work, but ups and downs have become a regular part of her career. She still holds her own against other singers.

See below for album previews:

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Music: Girl’s Generation (SNSD) – Paparazzi – Single Review

“Life is a party”

Artists: Girl’s Generation (SNSD)

Active: 2007 – onwards

Genre: KPop, Jpop

Released: 27th June 2012

Girl’s Generation is a girl-group I initially came to notice from vicious parodies. Competing in a saturated market full of boyband fan-girls, they’ve earned their anti-fans.

They’re better known for their cute-girl image, which I’m not a fan of, but Paparazzi (no relation to Gaga’s version) sung in Japanese, is too catchy to resist. Each girl gets her chance to sing a couple of lines, though their voices mesh together so well, you wouldn’t notice anyone in particular.

It’s amusing that the despite the stage version of the music video being the biggest, most expensive and most varied in their career, I prefer the dance version, which shows more choreography.

 See the video below:

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