Ayumi Hamasaki – LOVE again

03/06/2013 at 7:05 PM | Posted in Ayumi Hamasaki | 2 Comments
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Ayumi Hamasaki - LOVE again

~Album~

Ayumi Hamasaki – LOVE again

1. Wake me up

2. Song 4 U

3. Missing

4. SAKURA

5. Melody

6. task’n’bass

7. Bye-bye darling

8. snowy kiss

9. Sweet scar

10. petal

11. glasses

12. untitled for her… story 2

13. Gloria

14. Ivy

15. You & Me

~

So Ayumi and Co. angered a lot of fans with this release as it included every track from the two mini albums she had just put out and naturally only had a few new tracks, like I said in my again review, I couldn’t care less.  At this stage I feel like Ayu could release stuff in any way she wants to and if I get a good song or two out of it then I’m happy.

Continue Reading Ayumi Hamasaki – LOVE again…

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Ayumi Hamasaki – again

02/28/2013 at 10:08 PM | Posted in Ayumi Hamasaki | Leave a comment
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Ayumi Hamasaki - again

~Mini Album~

Ayumi Hamasaki – again

1. Wake me up

2. Sweet scar

3. snowy kiss

4. Ivy

5. Missing (Orchestra Version)

6. Melody (Acoustic Piano Version)

7. Wake Me Up (Remo-con rmx)

8. snowy kiss (Shohei Matsumoto Remix)

9. Wake me up (Original Instrumental)

10. Sweet scar (Original Instrumental)

11. snowy kiss (Original Instrumental)

12. Ivy (Original Instrumental)

~

So here is again, hot off the heels of my LOVE review. I’m just hoping to keep on popping out these reviews as fast as possible until I’m all caught up.

~

From the second I first hear it, I knew “Wake me up” was going to be a good song. The song starts out with deep synth and Ayu singing in a deep, somewhat serious tone. The song builds up perfectly to an explosive chorus with heavy percussion and synth with Ayu belting out the words with raw emotion. It’s catchy as hell and works well to pump you up. If I was a person who worked out regularly (I should be, oops.) this would definitely be my new workout jam.

Score – 9.5

On my first listen I thought “Sweet scar” was one of the most boring songs Ayu had ever done. However, I’ve come to realize the beauty in its simplicity. See, this song is pretty bare bones consisting of Ayu’s tender almost breathy at times vocals, alongside some piano, violin, and little else. With just those things, the song really comes together and feels really cohesive. It’s also a nice change up from the usual ballads. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I love those kinds of ballads. BALLAD by Ayu is one of my favorite ballads from her, it’s so grand and opposite from this song. But like I said, Sweet scar is just nice for a change, it really shows that less is more.

Score – 9

We change gears a lot with “snowy kiss” coming up next. The electric guitar, strings and synth in the intro does not prepare you for the stuff that’s about to go down. The beat drops heavy as Ayu starts belting out the chorus and I just loved the way the vocals were layered and harmonized, it really gave it an interesting sound. The strong bass featured throughout the song gives it a sense of seriousness to the situation and Ayu’s vocals amplify that in such a strong way. I love her ability in songs like this to clue you in to what’s going on just on the sound of her voice. I love that the song never really lets up and is thumping from beginning to end. A few years ago, I don’t think I would have liked a song like this as much as I do but I guess Ayu brings that out in me.

Score – 9

The mini album closes to a close with “Ivy” which is somewhat of a mid tempo ballad in a more traditional sense. In the first half of the song, it just seems kind of OK compared to the other 3 songs on here simply because of the fact this it is more traditional with piano, strings, chimes, etc. However, the latter half of the song really impresses me a bit more. It really starts to build and feels like the entire song really was leading up to it as Ayu starts to put more and more emphasis and emotion into her vocals. Even though it’s my least favorite off of this mini I feel it closes it well and I still enjoy listening to it.

Score – 8

I couldn’t help feeling that the “Orchestra Version” of Missing sufferes from the same things that the Song 4 U Orchestra Version does. The arragement is pretty and makes the song a bit more heartfelt in a tones down way, but pales to the original still. There’s just something about the original being a bit brazen and fast paced that makes it work better than this sort of ballad format.

Score – 7

Again, I was disappointed with the “Acoustic Piano Version” of Melody. The original song is great as a relaxing, mid temp song with a laid back vibe. So I felt slowing it down and stripping it down in this way to just sole piano kind of really detracts from what is good about it. So overall just a little bit disappointed with this mix, again, considering I usually love this kind of stuff no matter what.

Score 6.5

-The Remixes-

Going from disappointment to pleasant surprise, the “Remo-con rmx” of Wake me up is actually pretty great. I’ll try not to jinx it, but perhaps I’m becoming OK with some remixes. Mostly I’ll like a remix if it maintains at least a little kind of structure to it. It’s the crazy, hyper incoherent messes that I don’t really care for. Naturally some dubstep influences in here but I feel like at this stage it is to be expected, especially for an artist like Ayu. The heavy synth and thumping beats here in particular were actually quite melodic at times while even making the song feel a little darker and more mysterious.

The “Shoehi Matsumoto Remix” of snowy kiss kind of has the same things going for it but at the same time, I simply manage to love the original so much that it impedes my ability to fully enjoy this remix. I guess it does a good job of turning something that’s originally melancholic and emotionally charged into something dancey and keeping that emotion with it.

Final Note

Well, I can honestly say that this mini was a lot better than LOVE was. The songs were just better and I find myself listening to them more than what’s on LOVE, plain and simple.

Overall Rating

FullFullFullFullHalf

Ayumi Hamasaki – LOVE

02/26/2013 at 5:08 PM | Posted in Ayumi Hamasaki | Leave a comment
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Ayumi Hamasaki - LOVE

~Mini Album~

Ayumi Hamasaki – LOVE

1. Song 4 U

2. Missing

3. Melody

4. Song 4 U (Orchestra Version)

5. You & Me (SHINICHI OSAWA Remix)

6. You & Me (Remo-con rmx – Extended)

7. Missing (Dubscribe Remix)

8. Melody (BROKEN HAZE Remix)

9. Song 4 U (Original Instrumental)

10. Missing (Original Instrumental)

11. Melody (Original Instrumental)

12. You & Me (Original Instrumental)

~

OK let’s face it, more tracks does not a mini album make. I know why they decided to classify this and again as mini albums and I know a lot of fans were upset because of LOVE again, though frankly I couldn’t care less.

~

Just as Tales of Xillia 2 is a sequel to Tales of Xillia, I find that “Song 4 U” is a sequel to progress. I feel like the songs have slightly similar structure and sound yet manage to be unique and I really like that about the two of them. However, at the same time, I wouldn’t say it’s fair to and I wouldn’t want anyone to feel like they have to compare the two songs. I find Song 4 U to be a little better than progress though, but that’s just my opinion. I love the way the lyrics flow so well throughout the entire song, in the verses and the choruses. The overall heightened emotion of the vocals that seems to come through more during the end, as if it’s been building up the whole time was really cool to me.

Score – 8.5

“Missing” was originally described as an emotional rock track and while I don’t think it lives up to what I thought it was going to be based off of the description it still is a good emotionally charged song. The feelings conveyed in the vocals, especially where the chorus is concerned, and the prominent piano featured through the entirety of the song helps with that. The chorus, of course, stick with me strongly from the first time that I heard it in a preview, I couldn’t get it out of my head! Apart from some electric guitar and some heavy percussion there really wasn’t anything here that struck me as being particularly “rock-ish” but that was fine with me. At first I honestly thought that there was a part of the song missing towards the end as it had this abrupt start and stop to it and I’m wondering if this was intentional. If so, good going Ayu… 😛

Score – 8

To me, “Melody” is a pretty good calming, mid tempo track. It starts off seemingly stripped down until a larger, grander electrified intro crashes in, when the singing starts however, it goes back to being stripped with pretty much just Ayu’s vocals and acoustic guitar. Of course, slowly but surely, things start to build as we get up to the chorus which unfortunately was a little lackluster for me. I feel like the music’s fine, I just expected Ayu to pull out something better either lyrically or vocally, so I was a little disappointed in that regard. Overall though, I appreciated the more relaxed feel I got from this after coming down from Song 4 U and Missing. It’s a sweet song but I feel like against the other two, it just doesn’t manage to stand out much, still, I enjoy it from time to time.

Score – 7.5

The “Orchestra Version” of Song 4 U seems like it could suit the game well but I don’t think it brings the song itself to new heights. If anything it’s just a bit quieter though at times the grandness of the arrangement brings it to another level not really heard in the original. Normally I really love these versions of Ayu’s song but for this one, I think I vastly prefer the original.

Score – 7

-The Remixes-

Didn’t really care for the “SHINICHI OSAWA Remix” of You & Me. It seems a little too scattered and a little boring because of all the instrumental breaks. I listened to the “Remo-con Remix” a lot and  it’s not my fave but it’s way more cohesive and melodic than the first remix is, I was actually able to dig it.

The “Dubscribe Remix” of Missing was predictable at best but it has its moments. The breakdowns with some vocals were simultaneously annoying as they were interesting to me, I managed to get into it a bit mostly because of how the chorus comes in after each of them.

If there’s any remix worth mentioning on here, it’s the “BROKEN HAZE” remix of Melody. I, wait for it, actually liked this remix. Crazy I know but I do. I genuinely got into it after a few listens. It’s cohesive and gives the song a new sound of course, but also a completely different vibe. The cut vocals and vocals samples along with rearranged vocalizing really impressed me and actually added to extended music breaks. I think i was actually pleased to find a remix I didn’t completely hate, it’s happened sporadically before, though.

Final Note

This mini album is about 3 or 4 tracks short of feeling like a real mini album to me. it’s a maxi-single at best. That being said, even though I like all 3 songs for the most part, they are just kind of OK and I feel like for only having 3 songs it needed something a little better.

Overall Rating

FullFullFullHalfEmpty

Ayumi Hamasaki – Party Queen

03/28/2012 at 7:30 AM | Posted in Ayumi Hamasaki | 5 Comments
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~Album~

Ayumi Hamasaki – Party Queen

1. Party Queen

2. NaNaNa

3. Shake it❤

4. taskebab

5. call

6. Letter

7. reminds me

8. Return Road

9. Tell me why

10. a cup of tea

11. the next LOVE

12. Eyes, Smoke, Magic

13. Serenade in A minor

14. how beautiful you are

So with no prior singles, except for how beautiful you are which was released not too long ago and is a digital single so it doesn’t really count even though I reviewed it… we have this album with all new songs! Continue Reading Ayumi Hamasaki – Party Queen…

how beautiful you are – Ayumi Hamasaki

02/22/2012 at 11:00 AM | Posted in Ayumi Hamasaki | Leave a comment
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~Single~

how beautiful you are – Ayumi Hamasaki

1. how beautiful you are

2. how beautiful you are (Instrumental)

A short one today, a digi single in anticipation for her new album Party Queen, which I can’t wait for.

“how beautiful you are” is naturally a ballad and quite a typical one for Ayumi. One thing I must commend is the simplicity of the arrangement. It’s not overly grandiose which was refreshing, though it does build a little as the song progresses so it’s definitely not a bore at the same time. The song contains piano and strings and the occasional harp which makes it that much more lovely. I really liked the vocalizing in the bridge and even more so when it built up after the first round, it’s probably one of my favorite parts of the song.

Score – 8

Final Note

Not bad, honestly, really can’t wait for all the new songs coming from the upcoming album.

Overall Rating

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Ayumi Hamasaki – FIVE

08/31/2011 at 11:04 PM | Posted in Ayumi Hamasaki | 2 Comments
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~Mini-Album~

Ayumi Hamasaki – FIVE

1. progress

2. ANother song feat. URATA NAOYA

3. Why… feat. JUNO

4. beloved

5. BRILLANTE

After two albums in just one year last year, Ayu takes a little bit of a break and slows it all down by quietly releasing this gem.

What feels like a LONG time ago, it was announced that Ayu would do the theme song for the newest Tales of game, Tales of Xillia. Fast forward to now and the song “progress” is out and it’s beautiful and awesome for a video game theme and an Ayu song by itself. It starts out pretty quiet, simple piano and strings with Ayu singing the first verses and chorus. After that however, everything picks up! In comes fast strings, percussion and a grungy electric guitar start up and the song really gets going. The most impressive is the chorus now as Ayu is really putting her all into and she sounds really strong in it, it flows perfectly too, and is wicked catchy. She finishes the song with what seems like an extra syllable tacked onto the last line of the last chorus which I found cool and tacks on some vocalizing (WOAH WOAH WOAHHH) which flows so well and ends the song off perfectly.

Score – 9.5

“ANother song” features Urata Naoya whom Ayu collaborated with last year for Dream ON. Also geddit? ANother? AYU NAOYA. A. N. ANYWAY… moving on. This song is kind of  a medium ballad with some synths and rhythmic clapping going the entire time. I’m still not a huge fan of Naoya’s voice although am getting used to it I suppose. The song seems kinda bland because there isn’t much different in the verses and when the chorus hits, though when the bridge hits you know it. A little bit of key changing in the final choruses spices things up a bit. Not a bad song, but just kinda… nice? Eh.

Score – 8

Another collab is up next with “Why…” which features JUNO. I like his voice a bit better than Naoya’s but hey, whatever… This song is a bit of a bigger ballad that’s a bit more involved. The verses are fairly quiet and everything gets a bit loud in the chorus which is bursting with percussion and strings. I thought their voices blended a bit better as well during the chorus and such. I liked the back and forth vocals and overall structure featured in the bridge. I find Ayu doesn’t do many collabs and maybe I like it better that way, but this one’s not bad at all.

Score – 8.5

Now for a real Ayu ballad “beloved” is beautiful and heartfelt. The verses are calming with prominent piano and background strings. I like how the strings become more involved once the chorus hits and the building of everything overall as the first chorus comes to a close and percussion and chimes come into the mix. I loved the melody during the bridge and the slight vocalizing featured in it was beautiful. Wish the outro was a little more involved, although the vocalizing was nice.

Score – 9

And here is the mini album closer. “BRILLANTE” pronounced ‘brill-on-tay’ is something else altogether. The song features some really interesting ethereal sounds and starts off with male chanting in (I think) Latin. Everything builds slightly and quite suddenly explodes into a bit of Arabic and even Egyptian sounding influences.  Everything quiets down as Ayu actually starts singing which for some reason sounds more beautiful than ever. Everything picks up, including the chanting during the chorus. There is something really raw about Ayu’s voice when she is singing here and I think it works absolutely great. The music and arrangement are I suppose on par with some kind of big, movie soundtrack sounding song, it’s all really impressive. The bridge is positively beautiful and could bring me to tears in a weaker state. The ending is interesting also in that it’s a bit extended and features some more chanting. The background music also stutters a bit and starts repeating exponentially and it all comes to an abrupt end.

Score – 10

*Note*

Upon my first listen I did stumble upon FIVE’s hidden track. Unfortunately this song is only a slightly alternate / different version of “Why…”  and it features Urata Naoya instead of JUNO. It’s a bit more upbeat and I really enjoyed listening to it. Would have killed for a completely new song though. No ratings for this song though. Go buy this mini and give it a listen!

Final Note

I’ve heard a lot of negativity is surrounding FIVE and I quite honestly don’t know Why… progress and BRILLANTE are some of Ayu’s best songs TO DATE, BRILLANTE even being a song I considered to be one of her best ever, in all honesty.

Overall Rating

FullFullFullFullHalf

Ayumi Hamasaki – Love songs

12/22/2010 at 3:06 PM | Posted in Ayumi Hamasaki | 3 Comments
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~Album~

Ayumi Hamasaki – Love songs

1. Love song

2. crossroad

3. MOON

4. sending mail

5. Last angel

6. insomnia

7. Like a doll

8. Aria

9. blossom

10. Thank U

11. Sweet Season

12. overture

13. do it again

14. November

15. Virgin Road

16. SEVEN DAYS WAR (Live at Yoyogi on Oct.11.2010) [Bonus Track]

Whew, this girl doesn’t quit, she’s already released an album this year, and hot off the heels of her 3 single project she releases yet another album. Some people might not approve, but personally I really enjoy her music, so the more the merrier. Continue Reading Ayumi Hamasaki – Love songs…

Ayumi Hamasaki – L

09/28/2010 at 11:03 PM | Posted in Ayumi Hamasaki | Leave a comment
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~Single~

Ayumi Hamasaki – L

(This track listing is a culmination of all versions of the single)

1. Virgin Road

2. Sweet Season

3. Last Angel

4. crossroad (Orchestra Version)

5. SEVEN DAYS WAR (Orchestra Version)

6. SEVEN DAYS WAR (TK Acoustic Piano Version)

7. Virgin Road (Instrumental)

8. Sweet Season (Instrumental)

9. Last Angela (Instrumental)

This is the final single in Ayumi’s 3-single project culminating in this single, the 50th! On a fun side note, “L” represents the number 50 in Roman numerals.

Ahh, “Sweet Season”. It really is just a nice sweet song surprise, surprise. The music is actually kind of interesting because it features some Country music influences. I thought it was cool how Ayu sung about each of the seasons. The chorus was the high point and it sounded bittersweet and I liked how she ended each one with “Kira Kira Kira…”

Score – 9

I think “Virgin Road” is amazing, bordering on the epicness of BALLAD. It’s heartfelt and sounds like it has a really powerful message. The chorus especially sounds amazing with Ayu’s vocals and those awesome yet subtle strings. I liked how quiet the beginning was, but I didn’t mind too much when it became more involved with percussion after the first chorus.

Score – 9.5

Get ready because “Last Angel” takes you for a spin. The song starts off with some great strings, but even I was like “Another slow song?” but that’s when it all changed. A fast beat suddenly comes creeping in, followed by a thumping beat on top of that, it suddenly stops, replaced by Ayu and a darker toned piano playing. As the chorus starts the techno/club sound comes back in and the rhythm here is quite refreshing. It sounded like something she would have done in the “I am…” era, yet updated. I thought it was brilliant.

Score – 9.5

I thought the “Orchestra Version” of crossroad gave the song quite a different feel especially during the chorus. The usual fare applies here as far as Orchestra Versions go, but it was interesting nonetheless.

Score – 8.5

I liked the instrumental itself of the “Orchestra Version” of SEVEN DAYS WAR, at first I found this version to be a little boring, I thought it sounded a little too similar to the original so it didn’t really have anything new going on however towards the very end, the strings and percussion made things a bit more interesting.

Score – 8

I didn’t realize how low Ayu’s vocals were in SEVEN DAYS WAR until I listened to the “TK Acoustic Piano Version” It’s much quieter and mostly just features vocals and soft piano. Towards the end though the “lalala”s come in and some simple organ starts playing.

Score – 8

Final Note

I’m not sure what’s next for Ayu after this, but I love the direction she’s going in.

Overall Rating

FullFullFullFullHalf

Ayumi Hamasaki – crossroad

09/23/2010 at 3:01 PM | Posted in Ayumi Hamasaki | Leave a comment
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~Single~

Ayumi Hamasaki – crossroad

(This track listing is a culmination of all versions of the single)

1. crossroad

2. SEVEN DAYS WAR

3. blossom (Clockwork Yellow Remix)

4. MOON (Orchestra Version)

5. blossom (Orchestra Version)

6. crossroad (Instrumental)

7. SEVEN DAYS WAR (Instrumental)

This is the second single in Ayumi Hamasaki’s 3 single project leading up to her 50th single entitled “L”. Ayumi finally releases a single a-side for the first time since Talkin’ 2 myself (that is, if you don’t count her 10th Anniversary Single “Mirrorcle World”).

Right off the bat “crossroad” is definitely a different, it has this kind of hybrid classic/new sound to start. I always like when artists mix old with new. It’s arrangement and structure are also a little different than what Ayu tends to do. I loved the chorus, even more so in the end when she added the extra words and emphasis onto the end of the final chorus.

Score – 9

“SEVEN DAYS WAR” is a cover of a song originally by TM Network. This is a pretty good cover with Ayu mostly keeping true to the original song but adding her own flair here. The music seems a bit more upbeat than the original and features a small chorus “lalala” ing in the background towards the end.

Score – 8

The “Clockwork Yellow Remix” of blossom gives the song a really different, electronic, futuristic sound to it. The pacing is quite different naturally. I found the chorus here to be actually pretty good.

The “Orchestra Version” of MOON has a small but gorgeous instrumental opening. Harp starts as soon as Ayumi starts singing and strings come in on the leadup to the chorus which is surprisingly quiet and bare to start, with the second half of the chorus bringing most of the instruments softly back in. I thought this made for quite an interesting effect. The instrumental outro was also exceptionally pretty and ended seemingly sudden. Truly a beautiful version of this song.

Score – 8.5

I really liked the lamenting yet seemingly happy piano featured in blossom’s “Orchestra Version”. I loved the violin in the chorus and overall how this version changed the feel of the whole song a bit. The outro here was also really pretty.

Score – 8.5

Final Note

Glad to see things changed just a tad with this single here, now onto the 50th!

Overall Rating

FullFullFullFullHalf

Ayumi Hamasaki – You were… / BALLAD

12/28/2009 at 8:03 PM | Posted in Ayumi Hamasaki | Leave a comment
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~Single~

Ayumi Hamasaki – You were… / BALLAD

1. You were…

2. BALLAD

3. RED LINE ~for TA~

4. You were… (Music Box mix -retake version-)

5. Sunset ~LOVE is ALL~ (Orchestra version)

6. You were…(Instrumental)

7. BALLAD (Instrumental)

8. RED LINE ~for TA~ (Instrumental)

After much delay Ayumi Hamasaki finally releases another Double A-side single You were… / BALLAD. Naturally, given the season, it is of course Winter themed

“You were…” starts off very Winter/Christmas sounding with its assorted bells and piano. The high point of this up tempo ballad, the chorus, crashes in and features some nice strings. The sequence during the bridge, featuring prominent electric guitar, is what I loved the most.

Score – 9

“BALLAD” is a much softer ballad and it features some traditional eastern influences. I loved Ayumi’s strong, powerful and emotional vocals backed by sweeping strings. This song features a beautiful bridge which leads into strings and then back into the song. I also loved how fleeting the ending was.

Score – 10

“RED LINE ~for TA~” was a bit of a surprise. I really liked the structure of the song and it features a pretty different sound. I really loved the catchy chorus the most. For some reason I thought the “Lalalas” at the end really closed the song off nicely if only to make up for the abrupt ending.

Score – 10

I actually really liked the “Music Box mix -retake version-” of You were… and I didn’t think I would at first. It made the song seem a bit more tender which I thought was nice. I liked the winding sound used in the bridge and I absolutely loved the organ that came in in the end.

Score – 9

Sunset ~LOVE is ALL~ returns with an (Orchestra version). I thought this was a nice reworking of the song and really gave it a grand scale feel. Out of all the additional instruments I really liked the harp and horn that I heard.

Score – 9

Final Note

This single is solid, You were… is to be expected but it’s still good, BALLAD is just… amazing.*dies*

Overall Rating

FullFullFullFullFull

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