KOKIA – Christmas gift

December 25, 2012 at 2:13 PM | Posted in KOKIA | Leave a comment

KOKIA – Christmas gift

1. Amazing Grace
2. Hallelujah
4. We Three Kings Of Orient Are
5. Christmas Medley
6. Teo Torriatte (Let Us Cling Together)
7. Ave Maria
8. It Came Upon A Midnight Clear
9. Seinaru Yoru ni~Holly Night
10. Kokoro no Rousoku

♦ ♦ ♦

Christmas gift is the eighth album by Japanese singer KOKIA, released on November 12, 2008. The album reached #56 on the Oricon charts and charted for two weeks.

Amazing Grace starts off acapella with just some soft bells in the background, and it’s so amazing to hear KOKIA show off her classically trained vocals. She can sing long high notes with such a clear voice, it gives me goosebumps. Later, strings come in and KOKIA starts singing a duet with herself (her own background vocals). Her layered vocals sound great. It actually gives me ‘Fairy Dance’ vibes when the song develops. A beautiful version of the song, and perhaps even my favorite.

KOKIA’s voice is so cute when she sings Hallelujah, or well it isn’t actually singing, it’s more like softly speaking out the lyrics. Although it’s not the best version of Leonard Cohen’s song I’ve heard, it has something. I can’t tell what it is, but the song has a good emotional feel. KOKIA’s English is not that good when she sings certain words, but no one does a worse job than Kuu so… I like the little saxophone parts that drop in somewhere during the middle of the song. In the end, I’m surprised that I actually like it.

There are some carols on this album as well, and the first is I’LL BE HOME FOR CHRISTMAS. It starts off very harmonious with strings and a piano, and that’s where I had the feeling that this will definitely be a calm ballad album. KOKIA’s vocals are way better this time, her English is good and her voice actually blends in very wel with the overall soft jazz ambience the song has. The arrangement is the best thing this song has to offer, with the strings and piano playing around each other and magically flourish.

We Three Kings Of Orient Are is another traditional Christmas song that I don’t know because I’m not a Christian. A saxophone solo smoothly leads into the song, and every now and then it returns with a little accent around the piano music. There’s a sense of mystery to this version that I like very much, it already distincts itself from the rest of the songs on the album. Another nice fact about this song is that KOKIA’s vocals are much stronger and I can even hear some of the Irish vocal techniques she learned while recording her previous concept album.

The Christmas Medley: 13 minutes of joy! KOKIA’s rendition of Santa Clause Is Coming To Town is soooo cute, like… she sings ‘Sahnta Close’ to an adorable melody. And faster paced too! The next song is Let It Snow, with matching bells and oboe accents. The entire medley has a soft jazz feel to it, and it always fits the Christmas ambience in my opinion. The Little Drummer Boy is where KOKIA starts singing with a borderline British accent during some parts, if you ask me. Not familiar with this song but she doesn’t make it very special or anything. The First Noël is another s0ng I don’t really know very well, but KOKIA sings it with such a beautiful and controlled voice that I instantly love it. The little jingle bells and soft harpsichord fit very well together to create the best Christmas/Renaissance ambience. Until I hear a sheep. Yes. Jingle Bells is more bossa nova stuff, turned cute. Her version has a nice tempo and beat to it, and it comes off as very modern to me. Then we get back to Santa Clause Is Coming To Town one last time and a very cute message from KOKIA to Santa Clause set to the melody of Silent Night before this medley is over. Very nice medley with good Christmas songs, but there was no transition between the different parts.

The first use of Japanese in a song: Teo Torriatte (Let Us Cling Together). Is it just me or is there a sense of melancholy all over this song? I bet it’s that harpsichord, it makes the song very haunting when it’s not meant to be. Still, the ambience is enjoyable. I like the English and Japanese in the same song together. But although the song lasted for four and a half minutes, it went by way to fast for me.

The next song is Ave Maria, an opera song but not traditionally a Christmas song. I guess you can turn anything into a Christmas song? KOKIA’s voice is clear and strong, but also almost angelic, against the piano and violin music. She hits amazing notes in this song, and the best thing about KOKIA’s opera vocals is that she doesn’t make it heavy. I don’t feel pressured when listening to this!

A nice acoustic guitar melody opens It Came Upon A Midnight Clear, and that same acoustic quality stays throughout the song with some lighter strings added later on. The melodies are the most appealing yet, just like KOKIA’s middle range voice here which I love to hear. A real surprise in this heavenly arrangement was a panpipe, a unique touch to a song on this album and it kept the attention. Very good song!

Seinaru Yoru Ni~Holly Night has a huge typo in the album’s official tracklist but who cares, THIS SONG IS SO BEAUTIFUL. One of only two Japanese-only song on the album, it’s a very mysterious but beautiful song with some kind of accordion playing some nice accents and KOKIA’s light angelic vocals singing the melodies with a slight echo to them. The notes she hits are amazing again. One of my favorite songs on the album.

The other Japanese-only song on this album is the piano ballad Kokoro no Rousoku, and I’ve always thought that KOKIA’s voice sounds best with piano music while she’s singing in her soft airy voice. It’s a very simple song, yet the emotion it oozes is breathtaking and it just silents me. It’s a beautiful way to close this album, it’s almost like it has come full circle with this lovely piece of music.

Christmas gift may be filled with ballads and the only uptempo stuff was in the Christmas Medley, but KOKIA did give us some beautiful Christmas songs with this release. Her voice is something you need to get used to, but once you know how she rolls you can enjoy almost everything she does. Just look at Hallelujah. She sings in a very cute, almost childish voice and it didn’t disturb me a bit. I just fell in love with her music as soon as I heard the Irish concept album, and it’s great to hear she still uses some of the singing techniques she learned while recording that album on this one. Too bad Christmas is only once a year,  but on the other hand, if you listen to this album just once a year you can enjoy it every time without letting it bore you!

Favorite tracks: Amazing Grace | Hallelujah | We Three Kings Of Orient Are | Christmas Medley | Ave Maria | It Came Upon A Midnight Clear | Seinaru Yoru Ni~Holly Night | Kokoro no Rousoku

4 stars

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