Best of 2010: ~Singles~

December 23, 2010 at 12:53 PM | Posted in !Features! | Leave a comment

This selection of singles is totally made by me, depending on my own choices and not on the ratings of last year. Some singles might not have been reviewed seperately or not at all, but then remember this blog started in August and I haven’t got the time to review every single release.

~ Top 10: best singles 2010 ~

SHINee – Hello
Ayumi Hamasaki – L
alan – Kaze ni Mukau Hana
Rihanna – What’s My Name (feat. Drake)
Christina Aguilera – You Lost Me
P!nk – Glitter In The Air
BENI – Sign
Koda Kumi – Suki de, Suki de, Suki de ~ Anata Dake ga
Namie Amuro – Break It/Get Myself Back
Katy Perry – Firework

~ Top 5: best B-sides ~
Ayumi Hamasaki – SEVEN DAYS WAR (Original Mix)
Koda Kumi – Anata Dake ga
alan – Namonaki Tane
BENI – I Like It
KOKIA – The Long And Winding Road

Ayumi Hamasaki – Love songs

December 23, 2010 at 12:49 AM | Posted in Ayumi Hamasaki | Leave a comment

Ayumi Hamasaki – Love songs

1. Love song
2. crossroad
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)

♦ ♦ ♦

Love songs is the twelfth studio album by Japanese singer Ayumi Hamasaki, and it was released on December 22, 2010. The album was released in three different jackets: Jacket A with a CD+DVD, Jacket B with a CD only and Jacket C with a USB and microSD. On the first day, the album already sold 70,609 copies.

Opening the album is the title track, Love song, a nice pop/rock song with a piano melody and guitars. Ayumi is obviously experimenting with a new vocal style. Some call it nasal, I call it less childish. Vocally, it’s one of her better tracks in my opinion, her voice is a lot stronger because of this. The music is a bit uptempo, definitely not a ballad, and a good track to open the album.

The opening track flows nicely into the first A-side, crossroad. A very interesting track to say the least, with good use of drama with the strings, a guitar and a piano melody in the softer parts of the song. Being another Tetsuya Komuro creation, this has to be good, and I guess we won’t get rid of him until the last track, hehe. This is one of the better A-sides this era, which was already good judging the singles.

MOON starts off really calm at first with a classical feel to it with soft synths and strings, but soon enough electric guitars and percussion take over and the song becomes a real Ayu rock song including a rocking guitar solo in the bridge. Ayu’s vocals are fierce and solid, and the prettiest part in my opinion is the sort of acapella part after the bridge. For a song that’s almost six minutes long, it’s very bearable to sit and listen the whole thing.

I think Ayu experimented with her vocals not only for the opening track but for the entire album, and she does it again in the new track sending mail. It’s a very bombastic track with a lot of strings, and the pathos comes to a burts in the chorus. The guitars are also bringing it to a real sound explosion, and that’s what makes this one of the most agressive tracks on the album. I like the way the violin ends the song in a mysterious way.

Then the ‘sexy little things’ for this album: Last angel is such a blend! So many styles are featured, I stopped counting at five. The song starts with classical instruments, which give you the idea it’s going to be a ballad, the verses are soft but with a beat in it and then the chorus is one big dance event. One heck of a song, right? Another one of the better A-sides (oh right, it was on L, her freaking best single of the past few years).

insomnia is the first interlude, and it’s a haunting one. It’s all based on very deep bass, strings and piano notes, and sometimes Ayu is adlibbing in an altered voice. Interludes never really add anything to an album, but this one was quite well.

I still don’t know what the value is of putting one track between two interludes, but regardless. Like a doll is another uptempo track with some real pop influences, and after a couple of listens it just grew on me. The piano melody is quite cute, but the percussion makes this song a lot more powerful, so it’s a very nice combination between the two. Placed after insomnia, it immediately brings in softer elements on the album.

My favourite interlude of all time would be aria, a nice mix between slow deep percussion and a beautiful dramatic violin solo. The first part is my favourite, it’s so dreamy and soft, and then the soft electric guitar brings in some texture which is hardly recognizeable but still very nice. No ‘task’ can beat this one, Ayu!

Another MOON? Oh no wait, it’s its twin, blossom. Why do these tracks sound so much alike and were still placed on the same single? I guess we’ll never know what was in the creative mind of Ayumi. One big difference: blossom is a bit heavier than MOON and a bit faster paced. The instrumental bridge is also a lot heavier with a harder guitar solo. I think this one is even better than MOON and one of the most solid tracks on the album.

The opening for Thank U sounded very special and likeable, but when Ayu comes in with her ‘lalala’ thing she kinda blew it for me. It was a bit offkey, you see. This is actually the first track on this album I didn’t care for all that much. Being the ‘RED LINE ~for TA~’ for this album, it’s not even original.

Sweet Season is another fabolous A-side, also from the wonderful L single! It’s more of a Western style song, with a country violin playing some cute melodies I have come to love so much. I have developed a huge appreciation for country music in general. The rest of the song is based on an electric guitar, nice percussion, strings, a piano, a choir and good vocals. It’s one of my favourite tracks on this album.

The last interlude is overture, and I love it just as much as I love aria. It’s just so pretty and soothing with all those classical instruments, such as a piano and even some woodwinds. It’s bigger than aria when you talk about the arrangement, so this interlude is a definite standout.

I don’t see the use of opening a song with ‘Dance, dance, dance, do it again‘ (8x) and ‘sing, sing, sing, do it again‘ (8x), let alone making the title sounds like ‘to win again’ due to a lot of baaad Engrish. do it again as a song is quite decent, it’s a ballad in the verses but the chorus is very fierce again. The instrumental bridge was my favourite part, the rest was just so blegh to me. True, this song has something, but the repetition makes it so darn annoying!

November opens in such a special way with those xylophone sounds and even a harmonica! It’s right in the middle between a ballad and a midtempo track, and I love this one for its unique arrangement. Ayu has a lot of similar tracks, and finally she gives me one that is very unique and unlike anything else. Her vocals are very solid here as well.

Another track with a lovely opening melody: Virgin Road. Tetsuya Komuro’s influences are easily recognizeable, because he also worked on crossroad and a song is born among others. This track is another real ballad, and I love the verses and hook most of all because it’s really pretty with a lot of dramatic strings. I was a bit on the fence with Ayu’s vocals during the beginning of the song, but I dropped that judgement after a couple of lines. A pretty long song, but for me, these were some great 6 minutes (and the organ during the end was quite… soothing?)

The last track is one I’m gonna skip from now on. SEVEN DAYS WAR (Live at Yoyogi on Oct. 11 2010) is such a bad live performance! Ayu really sounds like she’s having a hard time singing the song, and she really oversung it in a nasal way. I almost HATE this version o.O The original was so much better, my gosh, why did she blow it? (EDIT: I found out later she was crying during this performance)

What an album this is, folks. Ayumi used a lot of the same instruments in her songs, which is good in one way because the songs flow better that way and the transitions are better, but on the other side things will become a bit meeeh after a while. What I do know is that this album overflows with creativity and the songs all have something special. I’m glad Ayumi put her A-sides on this album, they make up for quite a lot and they are the highlights of this album.
This is not her lowest point at all, like my affie from Kurayami Monogatari said, but it’s not her best album either. I have waited for it for so long, and I thought it wouldn’t be released until March or something, and I expected something great. This isn’t a disappointment though. I think this is an album that has to grow on me before I really like it, there are so much aspects I do like! That’s why the rating may be a bit higher than expected.

Favorite tracks: Love song | crossroad | Last angel | aria | blossom | Sweet Season


4 stars

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