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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Musings: Gem X

“I am not perfect.”

Author: Nicky Singer

Genre: Sci Fi, Dystopia, Thriller, Romance, Age: Children’s+

Released: 5th October 2006 (UK version)

GemX is an odd book that exposed me to dystopian, sci-fi stories. By the same author as Feather Boy, which some people may remember being a TV series shown on CBBC, this is out of print in the UK. I know that Amazon US has it.

I remember reading this a while ago, and although the writing quality isn’t spectacular, a few scenes have glued themselves in my mind.

The story explores what it means to be perfect, and what it means to be human. The setting is so cruel and unforgiving, and it was a gruff introduction into dystopian sci-fi, but it’s memorable to say the least.

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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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