Nana Mizuki – SUPERNAL LIBERTY

SUPERNAL LIBERY REGULAR

Tracklist:

  1. VIRGIN CODE
  2. GUILTY
  3. Appassionato
  4. Egao no Yukue
  5. Antique Nachtmusik
  6. Fun Fun★People
  7. FATE
  8. Vitalization -Aufwachen Form-
  9. Aishuu Twilight
  10. Setsuna Capacity
  11. Ladyspiker
  12. Rock You Baby!
  13. Million Ways=One Destination
  14. Bokura no Mirai
  15. Ai no Hoshi -two hearts-

***

Nana Mizuki’s tenth album SUPERNAL LIBERTY is a wild ride through a range of moods, tempos and styles. Some tracks sparkle and some are dull, and while I’m not as happy with her voice as I’ve been in the past, the album is an overall positive experience.

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Little Busters ~Refrain~ Was The Best Anime Of 2013

Why? Continue reading

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Onmyouza – Seiten no Mikazuki

Seiten no Mikazuki

Tracklist:

  1. Seiten no Mikazuki
  2. Yukiyukite Aoshi
  3. Seiten no Mikazuki (Kigaku Sou)
  4. Yukiyukite Aoshi (Kigaku Sou)

***

Onmyouza is back with a new single, yay! Let’s see how they go. Continue reading

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A Tribute To Hisoka

Everyone in the aniblogosphere who watches Hunter x Hunter seems to think that the Chimaera Ant arc is the Greatest Thing Ever. Well, they are WRONG. Chimaera Ant is shit. That’s because it doesn’t feature HxH’s best paedophile character Hisoka.

All hail Hisoka.

000_000

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FLOW – Ai Ai Ai ni Utarete Bye Bye Bye

ai ai ai flow

Tracklist:

  1. Ai Ai Ai ni Utarete Bye Bye Bye
  2. FROGS ~Keronpa Teikoku no Gyakushu~
  3. Samurymaflo 2014
  4. Ai Ai Ai ni Utarete Bye Bye Bye -TV Size-
  5. Ai Ai Ai ni Utarete Bye Bye Bye -Instrumental-

***

The A-side, Ai Ai Ai ni Utarete Bye Bye Bye is a typically good FLOW anime song. It’s a pumped-up rock track, using the band’s usual instruments plus a touch of synths. The performances from the members are solid – the guitars are played cleanly, Kohshi reaches his high notes easily, and the two vocalists harmonise well. The vocals would have to be the best part, especially Kohshi’s. Throw in one hell catchy chorus, and you’ve got a successful pop-rock number.

Three of Ai Ai Ai‘s features could be done better, but they’re all small issues. First, the snare drum sounds weird, although I’m having trouble pinning down why. I think it sounds a little dull and has a reverb effect applied, but I’m not sure. Second, in the first chorus’ “futashikana”, the “ka” is flat. Luckily, it’s short. Third, in the quiet chorus after the guitar solo, the guitar uses an echoing effect in triplet time, while the melody’s rhythm is normal. This is only for four bars, but I find it really off-putting and I don’t like how the two rhythms sit against each other.

But apart from my grumps, Ai Ai Ai is another respectable A-side from FLOW.

I’m a lot less keen on FROGS ~Keronpa Teikoku no Gyakushu~. The second track is an electro-pop song with programmed beats, bucketfuls of synths and auto-tuned vocals. I dislike the song because of these vocals. The constant filtering is excessive, and gets on my nerves. Sometimes, it sounds like the vocals are vomited out instead of sung. The frog noises are annoying, but the short growl was cool. I think it’s dangerous for FLOW to overuse vocal filtering, because a lot of their charm comes from the vocalists, and filtering cuts this out.

On the other hand, when coupled with the PV, I like the song a lot more. There’s some nice choreography, although sections of it will give you a seizure.

Samurymaflo 2014 (anyone know if I got that right?) tries out rap-rock. I don’t find it interesting – the guitar-work is repetitive, and I don’t care much for the rap. FLOW has energy in abundance though, so if you’re okay with rap then you might like it.

Ai Ai Ai ni Utarete Bye Bye Bye is an average single overall, with luckluster B-sides. If you’re in the mood for some good pop-rock though, check it out for the A-side.

***

Rating: 2.5 stars

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Artist Analysis: Takanori Nishikawa/T.M.Revolution/abingdon boys school

Hello readers! My second Artist Analysis will focus on the Japanese pop/rock maestro Takanori Nishikawa, and his acts T.M.Revolution and abingdon boys school.

TMR SUCH DIGNITY!

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Konomi Suzuki – 17

17 seventeen

Tracklist:

  1. DAYS of DASH
  2. Yume no Tsuzuki
  3. CHOIR JAIL
  4. Watashi ga Motenai no wa Dou Kangaetemo Omaera ga Warui
  5. Unmei no Engagement
  6. AVENGE WORLD (Album ver.)
  7. Shuujin -Paradox 2013-
  8. Sekai wa Kizu wo Dakishimeru (Album ver.)
  9. Anata ni
  10. Yakusoku no Tsuzuki
  11. Tears BREAKER (Album ver.)
  12. Tsuioku no Kuroki Makenshi (2014MIX ver.)
  13. I Say “Happy Day!”
  14. Open Heart
  15. DAYS of DASH (Pf ver.)

***

Konomi Suzuki’s first album 17 contains some excellent tracks, but is brought down by poor vocals, sloppy arrangements and filler tracks. 17 is an acceptable debut release, but could do with some serious improvements.

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Song Feature: ReVamp – The Trial Of Monsters

Good singers, such as Floor Jansen, are able to convey moods which match each section of a song. While this is important, in this post I won’t focus on the overarching emotions expressed in a piece. Instead, I’ll examine how Floor builds upon the lyrical content with little tricks, such as where she places words into the melody line, and the way she sings individual words. These techniques don’t make or break songs, but I think they’re cool!

The song I’ll take a look at is The Trial Of Monsters, by ReVamp. Here’s the song and the lyrics. It’s symphonic metal, heeheehee.


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Mami Kawada – Break a Spell

break a spell

I really like this cover. Very cool.

Tracklist:

  1. Break a Spell
  2. Remaining Snow
  3. Break a Spell <instrumental>
  4. Remaining Snow <instrumental>

***

The intro of Break a Spell uses growling dubstep and heavy beats, which threw me off at first and made me expect an electro song. However, it settles into an electro/rock fusion, which is a genre I’m more comfortable with. Although the song isn’t driven by guitars, it feels more like a rock track than other Mami songs I’ve heard. I particularly like the repeated guitar theme, an edgy chromatic line from one guitar contrasted with brighter chords from the other.

The instrumentation and arrangement are good overall. I enjoy the distorted guitars combined with electro influences, and the percussion has low, forceful sound. As usual, I would have preferred real drums, but the programmed beats are fine in this case. The pre-chorus should have had a louder guitar mix because it’s lacking energy, but the rest of the song’s mixing is satisfactory. I love the key change at the chorus. The chorus melody doesn’t snatch my attention a lot, but it’s acceptable and I’m happy enough with it.

Mami’s vocals are all right. She does well, but I’m not captivated. Her head voice is great though, and she does a couple of cool slow slides, like on “shikokku ni yo kaze ga”. However, I think her vocals are weird in a couple of places, like on “break a spell”, where she has some odd, wobbling effect on her voice. Either that or her vibrato is bleagh.

Break a Spell is a solid electro-rock piece, with respectable arrangement and vocals. The few issues don’t hurt the song too much, and it’s quite a pleasant surprise.

Contrasting with the title track, Remaining Snow is a slower electronic piece. It’s also really boring. I can’t find much to say because it’s so bland. The vocals are okay, though I don’t like Mami’s slightly cute tone. There’s no changes in dynamics or creative melodies to make things better. The song just plods along. On a random note, the verse is like a sleepy version of Ami Tokito’s Sentimental Generation (just mentioning it, and it doesn’t affect my rating of the song. Also lol dat PV).

Break a Spell is a good A-side, but Remaining Snow is a lazy B-side. Overall, this is a decent single, and if you like electro/rock in your anison, it’s worth a listen for the title track.

***

Rating: 3 stars

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Nano – Born to Be

born to be

Tracklist:

  1. Born to Be
  2. Happy Ending Simulator (Nano ver.)
  3. NEW WORLD (Mahou Sensou ver.)
  4. Born to Be (Instrumental)
  5. Happy Ending Simulator (Instrumental) (Nano ver.)
  6. NEW WORLD (Instrumental) (Mahou Sensou ver.)

***

Born to Be opens with the starring instrument, a heavy slap bass, which sets the tone for the whole track. This is one angry song. Nano starts with a pissed-off rap, before moving into her no less vicious regular singing. Through the piece, she’s complemented by electric guitars and a thundering bass that has plenty of flashing licks. The arrangement is good, with a solid rock setting, and the song is generally mixed well.

There are a few places which could be improved, but they’re all minor. Given the bass is prominent,  I would have liked it to have a louder mix during the pre-chorus and chorus. Also, the bass interlude in the middle sounds more like an outro, dropping the energy a bit much. I’m not keen on the rap, but it works okay in this case. Again, all these issues aren’t a big deal.

However, while Born to Be is decent, I’m disappointed when I compare it to her previous three A-sides. I like this song’s attitude, but the music doesn’t grab me as much as pieces like No Pain, No Game or SAVIOR OF SONG.

On the Nano version of the single, the B-side is Happy Ending Simulator. It’s a rock song like Born to Be, but honestly it doesn’t excite me much. The opening vocals are set against plain guitar, making the intro sound bland and empty. But I like the changes to 3/4 time, and the bass in the second verse is sweet. Can’t say much except that I’m meh about this one.

On the Mahou Sensou version, the B-side is NEW WORLD, a trance song. Nano exploring new musical territories is a cool idea! I love the clean guitar riffs,  and there are beautiful piano and violin lines alongside the synths and beats. The verses are spoken/rapped, but in a calm way, and the chorus vocals are multilayered. Awesome. Now, if only Nano could think of some lyrics apart from “finding the courage”. There isn’t much I dislike about this song. The only part I find off-putting is the pitch-sliding synth which goes up and down, instead of resolving on a note above the starting note (does anyone understand that? xD). Overall, I enjoy the ideas in NEW WORLD and the neat genre change.

To sum up, Born to Be is a reasonable offering from Nano, but doesn’t live up to the high standards of her previous releases. My favourite from the three tracks is NEW WORLD, but Born to Be and Happy Ending Simulator are acceptable for a few listens.

***

Rating: 3.5 stars

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Nagi Yanagi – Mitsuba no Musubime

Mitsuba no Musubime

Tracklist:

  1. Mitsuba no Musubime
  2. Intention Propellant
  3. Unjour
  4. Mitsuba no Musubime <instrumental>
  5. Intention Propellant <instrumental>
  6. Unjour <instrumental>

***

Unlike Aqua Terrarium‘s guitar-centric mix, the new A-side Mitsuba no Musubime has a more standard instrumentation of piano, strings and synths. It works though. Everything about this song is gentle – Nagi’s soft ballad voice, the quiet guitar strums and the piano like trickling water. And all the components fit together smoothly. The backing vocals help build the dynamics before the chorus, and the chorus, which goes at a decent tempo, manages to feel natural and unrushed. Nagi’s lead vocals, while relaxed, never feel weak nor too strong, and her head voice is brilliant. I also like the change between the first and second set of verses. In the first set, the instrumentation is based around piano, with simple violin lines. In the second set, the strings take a lead role at first, and show off some of the most gorgeous trills I’ve ever heard. When I compare Mitsuba no Musubime to Aqua Terrarium, I prefer the latter, but Mitsuba is still a great track.

The next two songs, Intention Propellant and Unjour, are more a case of not matching my tastes than being “bad”. Intention Propellant is three and a half minutes of weirdness, led by oddly timed piano. The execution is good, with unique piano lines and a pitter-patter snare drum in the verse that isn’t too loud (which other songs suffer from). I find the effects-laden percussion in the chorus annoying, and there’s a pause that’s awkwardly stretched out about three-quarters of the way through, but apart from that it’s well-done. Just I don’t find it very interesting.

Unjour tones the weirdness down a notch. I enjoy the call-and-response between Nagi’s excellent singing and the playful synths, as well as the chilled “doo doo doos” in the background, but there’s nothing in this song that gets me excited. Well, except for the vocal quality.

In this release, only the A-side appealed to me, although the two coupling tracks had their moments. However, the B-sides aren’t out of the ordinary for Nagi, so you might enjoy them if you’re a fan of hers.

***

Rating: 3 stars

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GRANRODEO – Hengenjizai no Magical Star

hengenjizai no magical star

Tracklist:

  1. Hengenjizai no Magical Star
  2. Zecchou Poison
  3. Once & Forever (Plugless Live Edition)
  4. Hengenjizai no Magical Star (OFF VOCAL)
  5. Zecchou Poison (OFF VOCAL)

***

The first two tracks from GRANRODEO’s new single are typical of the duo. If you already like GRANRODEO’s brand of rock music, you’ll probably be pleased with Hengenjizai no Magical Star and Zecchou Poison. Kishow is his usual boisterous self in Hengenjizai, wild and slightly nasal but powerful, while in Zecchou he restrains himself in the verse. Hengenjizai‘s arrangement is good, the usual rock instruments plus the occasional light synths. I always welcome backing vocals, so the “woahs” and echoing vocals are a treat, although the shouted “go” is quiet and anticlimactic. I also enjoy the drop in tempo and volume in the before the choruses, which sets up a nice contrast. On the other hand, Zecchou takes a jazz-rock path, complete with triplet time. The verses are smoky and dark, but GRANRODEO have never been known to hold a dark tone through a song, and the chorus is back to their upbeat fare. That’s disappointing, but all my complaints melt away when we get to the glorious, blues-inspired, twin-guitar solo. *dies*

*revives* So, the first couple of songs are good, regular GRANRODEO material. What about the third, a live rendition of an earlier song of theirs called Once & Forever? Well, um, not so good. To put it mildly. I’ll start with the positive side though. They’ve changed the arrangement to a strings-based ballad, a daring move. I give this a big tick, with my favourite part being how they slow down the chorus.

… Actually, I can’t think of any more praise to give. The strings intro sounds a tad off, and I suspect the violins aren’t in key at the beginning. Also, the acoustic guitar is out of place among the strings. I’m thinking it would have been a better idea for e-ZUKA to play arpeggios through the song, and only solo in the bridge. Speaking of solos, as much as I love a good acoustic guitar solo, there are too many dud notes here for my taste.

And then there’s the vocals. They are a HUGE problem. Kishow isn’t the most consistent singer anyway, but in Once & Forever he’s so, so far away from his best. This is unacceptable, especially if you’re going to be singing against a string quartet, where flaws are glaring. His voice does not fit the strings. High notes are strained and flat. Dynamics are poor, with notes trailing off or suddenly changing in volume. He struggles to hit notes properly, resorting to singing the note below, and then sliding up. Being nasal and unnecessarily fierce is just one more horrible thing about Kishow’s performance. Once & Forever, may you rest in peace after being cruelly butchered by an incompetent vocalist.

Overall, Hengenjizai no Magical Star is still a decent single. If we ignore the vile, maggot-infested dung-pile of track three, it receives a good rating. As it is, my overall impressions are less positive, but the first two pieces should be fine for ani-rock fans.

***

Rating: 3 stars

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T.M.Revolution | SCANDAL – Count ZERO/Runners High

Count_Zero_Runners_High_(Limited_Edition)

Tracklist:

  1. Count ZERO
  2. Runners High
  3. Count ZERO (Instrumental)
  4. Runners High (Instrumental)

***

The first track from the split single, Count ZERO, is performed by T.M.Revolution. It opens with mid-tempo strings, which got me hoping for a deviation from his usual pop/rock/dance. Well, my hopes were soon dashed, but Count ZERO is a big step up from his last two singles. The beats are fierce, the synths are heavy, and the guitars, though mixed quietly, give an extra power boost in the chorus. While the arrangement isn’t too special for T.M.R, it’s good enough, and anyway, Takanori’s vocals are what hold the song together. His relentless energy is a joy to listen to, especially the mighty extended notes, chock-full of vibrato. The only improvement I can think of is there could have been a slower, stringsy chorus (like the intro) directly after the bridge. No big deal though. On the whole, Count ZERO is a very respectable addition to T.M.Revolution’s discography.

Girl band SCANDAL performs the second track, Runners High. I’ve never been a fan of SCANDAL, and Runners High isn’t doing anything to win me over. I wouldn’t say this song is bad – the delivery is (mostly) fine, and there are some catchy lines, but it just doesn’t work with me. There are a couple of issues I have. The lead vocalist is okay, but sounds a little hoarse, and doesn’t have much power on the upper notes. Well, at least they didn’t use the high, squeaky idol-sounding girl. I also think the mixing of the guitars is too soft, which makes the track feel empty and un-rocking. However, I think these are general complaints I have against SCANDAL, so maybe if you’re already a fan you’ll be fine with Runners High. Maybe.

So all up, this single wasn’t too bad! T.M.Revolution’s offering was more to my tastes, but the SCANDAL one was decent. I would’ve preferred a double serving of T.M.R but eh, I’ll take what I can get. Solid release.

***

Rating: 3.5 stars

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Hello Sleepwalkers – Goya no Machiawase

Goya no Machiawase [Single]

Tracklist:

  1. Goya no Machiawase

***

Goya no Machiawase is a rock track, opening with a set of catchy guitar riffs. These riffs are one of the strong points of this song, and can hold my interest on their own. The guitars’ tone is also good; not overly distorted, and with a bright quality. My favourite guitar lines are the twin riffs preceding the first chorus, but overall I’m happy with nearly all of the guitar component.

The vocalist gives a respectable performance. His tone and pitch are consistent through the song, and the filtered effect is short and tasteful. Although he does slide to a lot of his notes instead of hitting them cleanly, he seems in control of his slides, so I can let that pass here. However, there are a couple of weak bits. One is where he plain yells the last note of the first chorus, and another is where his switch to head voice isn’t that strong. But in both cases, the flaws are short so don’t make too much of a difference.

Without a doubt, the chorus is a main selling point for Goya no Machiawase. It’s addictive as hell, with a great back-and-forth between the lead vocalist and the other band members. I find this funny, because normally I’m not a fan of shouted backing vocals, yet I’m cool with it here.

While the track is good in some aspects, it doesn’t do as well in others. The lack of snare drum at the end of the first chorus lessens the intensity that the band had going before. The instrumental section of the bridge also has a poorer sound. The guitar is over-distorted and hence messy, and the bass is mixed too loud. It’s true that a heavy bass presence can give a great fierce sound, but in this piece I feel it’s out of place and doesn’t meld with the rest of the song.

The track’s final weakness is its length. Sorry, 2:50 doesn’t cut it. I mean, there were some excellent ideas flying around, but only having two verses and two choruses is just lazy composition. Goya no Machiawase boasts catchy vocal and guitar lines, but is hampered by a number of sloppy techniques.

***

Rating: 3.5 stars

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Etsuko Yakushimaru – X Jigen e Youkoso/Zettai Monsieur Sei

x jigen

Tracklist:

  1. X Jigen e Youkoso
  2. Zettai Monsieur Sei
  3. X Jigen e Youkoso (off vocal)
  4. Zettai Monsieur Sei (off vocal)
  5. X Jigen e Youkoso (TV size)

***

X Jigen e Youkoso opens with retro synths that would not be out of place in an old-school alien shooter game.  As the song moves into the verse, more synths bounce and fizz, and together with guitars under heavy wah-wah, the outer space feel is set up. Along with the synth deluge, terse violins and short, chaotic saxophone bursts add tension to the mix. With the unique, catchy arrangement, it’s a good choice that the percussion is simple and unobtrusive. While I love the verse synths and violin, my favourite part of the arrangement is the sultry wails of the saxophone in the bridge and later sections of the track. There’s also a clever part where the lyrics match the music, in the second verse after the first chorus. When Etsuko says “biito” (i.e. beat), the other instruments go silent, except for the bass drum’s beat.

Etsuko’s vocals are acceptable, but no more than that. She has a conversational, playful air in the verse, with normal singing in the chorus. While her vocals do suit the song, I am frustrated by her utter lack of power. To sum up, the arrangement is spectacular, the vocals average.

Moving on to the second track, Zettai Monsieur Sei has a more basic arrangement, centred around subdued keyboards and the drums. This arrangement isn’t complicated, but it’s still attractive. However, the main problem is the vocals. Sometimes, the notes Etsuko sings sit poorly against the backing material. At other times, I can’t tell whether it’s an odd choice of notes or she’s just flat. Either way, the vocals are off-putting, and while (in the case of the odd choice of notes) this may have been intended, I can’t say I’m too keen on it.

Lastly, the song ends with a loud, messy guitar solo which sounds like it was lifted straight from a Rage Against the Machine track. It’s an interesting move, but a massive contrast to the relaxed vibe from the rest of the song, and I don’t think it fits well.

Both X Jigen e Youkoso and Zettai Monsieur Sei are creative tracks, and the composers and arrangers should be commended. Unfortunately, the vocals are the main flaw. They work, but it’s annoying how weak they are (I have a similar issues with Etsuko’s Penguindrum works). Still, I there’s a lot of good in this release, and I recommend that people give the single a listen.

***

Rating: 3.5 stars

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