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

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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

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