ayaka – Rainbow Road

May 5, 2015 at 4:18 PM | Posted in ayaka | 3 Comments

ALBUM REVIEW
ayaka – Rainbow Road

1. number one
2. Have fun!!
3. Arigatou no Wa
4. No end
5. Tsuyoku Omou
6. beautiful
7. Gensoukyoku
8. Lose Control
9. Through the ages
10. Zutto Taisetsu na Kimochi
11. Chiisa na Ashiato
12. Birthday Song
13. Nijiiro

♦ ♦ ♦

Rainbow Road is the fourth studio album by Japanese singer ayaka and the second album released under her own independent label A stAtion on April 15, 2015. The album peaked at #2 on the Oricon Charts and has sold 43,847 copies to date.

Wow, it’s been over three years since I last reviewed an ayaka album! number one is the cheerful song that opens the album and it’s not weird that it sounds so uplifting, since it was the theme for the Winter Olympics! It has a grand feel and I really like the chanting near the end of the chorus, I would love to hear ayaka perform this live with an orchestra.

If Have fun!! isn’t already a fun title, the music definitely has it live up to its name. This song is bouncy, positive and extremely catchy (especially the chorus) since it’s not a complex song. Maybe it gets a little repetitive after a while, but then again it makes it so easy to remember this song.

When it comes to the tempo, Arigatou no Wa lets the album take a little step back to a more relaxed state in this midtempo piece. The inspiration for this song was actually ayaka’s mother and, as the title suggests, it’s about being thankful. The melodies in this song are beautiful and ayaka’s vocals sound amazing, definitely worth a listen (or more).

No end is one special song on this album since 1) it’s sung in both English and Japanese (and her English has definitely improved) and 2) this is a style ayaka hasn’t explored that many times before. It’s funky with its fast beats and brassy elements, and although her friend Tom Collekiyo made the music, it reminded me a little of the vibe of ‘CLAP & LOVE’. Nice!

Tsuyoku Omou stands out because of the variation in the musical arrangement and ayaka’s breathtaking vocals and adlibbing, which already start in the first part of the song. I can’t imagine this being the theme for a news program, but still, it is. The electric guitar in the background also contributed to that unique feeling since I haven’t heard in the other songs until now.

I remember being stunned by beautiful when it came out (over two years ago!), since it starts off so calm with the piano music before evolving into a more powerful piece. It reminded me of gospel music back then and it actually still does, and I love the addition of the choir very much. I think this is one of ayaka’s best pieces of music, and her vocals are top notch as well. Sometimes I just can’t stand how talented this woman is.

Gensoukyoku was the B-side for the Nijiiro single last Summer and I was impressed when it was released. Maybe when placed after the powerful beautiful its impact is a little less than it should be, since this is a more serene and calm ballad. Still, ayaka pulls this song up from being forgettable in this tracklisting by delivering an amazing vocal performance and I am again reminded of why this song is so pretty in the first place.

I’m not surprised Tom Collekiyo wrote the music for Lose Control as well, since it’s also a ‘CLAP & LOVE’ type of song (although it only sounds alike in the overall approach and vibe). I think this is one of ayaka’s newest achievement when it comes to the evolution of her style as an artist since it’s so different from most of her songs, but it’s not the most exciting one for me.

Through the ages was written by ayaka for an OST (‘Black Butler’) and sung by Gabrielle Aplin, but this version is basically a self-cover. There is so much emotion coming from both the music (with the strings and piano) and ayaka’s vocal performance that it could easily make you cry if you’re that type of person. I’d like to give a standing O’ for this masterpiece, but that would be weird from where I’m sitting now 😀

A wedding song! Zutto Taisetsu na Kimochi was written for her manager’s wedding (not her own, since she and her husband apparently never had one??) and the ambience is instantly clear from the opening with the wedding bells. There’s hope coming from ayaka’s voice that I like very much. Also, there aren’t many songs out there like this so that also counts as a unique achievement. Loved the violin part!

A marching band rhythm opens Chiisa na Ashiato, very original! This was on the same single as beautiful and now it instantly reminds me of my trip to Ireland two weeks ago because of its cheerful music with flutes and fiddles. A strange thing perhaps, but it makes the song even more memorable for me. It’s one of the most unique songs ayaka has ever turned out and I can really recommend it!

So… AYAKA IS PREGNANT?! 😀  It is said that Birthday Song is written for her baby’s future birthdays and it’s a cute song with a piano and a tiny little xylophone, real lullaby music if you ask me. The children’s voices that are added later are very cute and the entire song eventually has that playroom sound, so that makes it a bit more fun while it’s in fact not that special.

Closing the album, finally Nijiiro is here. Probably one of my absolute favorites on this album, it displays a quircky spring sound that I really like. I would definitely describe this as a lighthearted and uplifting song with some very nice and original brass instruments in the arrangement, which all makes it so much fun to listen to. Not the perfect song for closing the album, but it’s perfect on its own.

I didn’t expect liking the album this much! ayaka has always been one of my favorite J-pop artists and I really missed her when she didn’t release any new material for so long. Now that she’s back she has given us a real treat, and I think it will keep most of us satisfied for quite some time since I believe there’s a baby on the way, so motherhood will probably be her priority soon enough. Every song on this album is a piece of art in its own way and there’s always this one element that can make a song memorable and even better than you would initially think. So, arigatou ayaka for this wonderful album and I think we all wish you the best on being a mommy!

Favorite tracks: number one | Have fun!! | Arigatou no Wa | beautiful | Gensoukyoku | Through the ages | Zutto Taisetsu na Kimochi | Chiisa na Ashiato | Nijiiro

OVERALL RATING
starstarstarstarstar
5 stars

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ayaka – Nijiiro

July 8, 2014 at 11:05 AM | Posted in ayaka | Leave a comment

SINGLE REVIEW
ayaka – Nijiiro

1. Nijiiro
2. Gensoukyoku
3. Nijiiro (Instrumental)
4. Gensoukyoku (Instrumental)

Nijiiro is the fifteenth single by Japanese singer ayaka and the third under her own independent label A stAtion. The single was released on June 18, 2014 and peaked at #3 on the Oricon Charts. The title song was used as the theme song for the TV drama series ‘Hanako to Anne’.

Nijiiro is such a lighthearted and uplifting song, not really a Summer song but more of a Springtime tune. ayaka took a more laidback approach for this one with a lot of strings, piano and some brass instruments, sometimes even a flute comes in. The beginning of the song was a little quircky, and that vibe stays throughout the song, but I actually like it! Ofcourse ayaka’s vocals are the best that ever happened to J-pop in general so I’m enjoying myself with this.

As for the B-side, Gensoukyoku sounds more like other songs I’ve been used to hear from ayaka when it comes to the style of the music. To balance the single, this song is a soft ballad with strings and piano, giving it an emotional touch as ayaka’s strong voice sings the chorus. I love the soft percussion mixing in later, not too intrusive and giving the song just the right spark. Maybe this is indeed the better song on the single, but both are perfect so I’m not complaining a bit.

OVERALL RATING
starstarstarstarstar
5 stars

The title song was used as the theme song for the TV drama series “Hanako to Anne“. – See more at: http://www.generasia.com/wiki/Nijiiro_(ayaka)#sthash.qRQ9KzdC.dpuf
The title song was used as the theme song for the TV drama series “Hanako to Anne“. – See more at: http://www.generasia.com/wiki/Nijiiro_(ayaka)#sthash.qRQ9KzdC.dpuf

ayaka – beautiful / Chiisana Ashiato

February 20, 2013 at 7:36 PM | Posted in ayaka | Leave a comment

SINGLE REVIEW
ayaka – beautiful / Chiisana Ashiato

1. beautiful
2. Chiisana Ashiato
3. Hajimari no Toki English ver.
4. beautiful (inst)
5. Chiisana Ashiato (inst)

beautiful / Chiisana Ashiato is the thirteenth single by ayaka and the first release on her own record label A stAtion. The single was released on February 20, 2013. beautiful was used as the theme song for the drama Share House no Koibito and Chiisana Ashiato was used as Shiseido’s Maquillage commercial song.

Just as I though, beautiful is another ayaka ballad and it starts off in a very special way since it gives me gospel feelings with the piano melody and soft background choir. At first it stays very calm with just the piano, but as soon as the chorus comes along it develops into more of a power ballad with percussion, guitars and very powerful vocals by ayaka. If there’s one singer who never disappoints, it’s ayaka. This is the perfect track for her to return with, displaying her talent very well and at the same time showing her great musical style.

Chiisana Ashiato surprised me with the army march introduction, which then makes way for a bouncy piano and flute arrangement although the beat is still somewhere in the background. I really like this arrangement, I’ve never heard the combination of all these elements before and it’s actually very beautiful. When the violin comes in, the song takes on a slight Irish/Celtic style which I love. Still the song stays true to ayaka’s own style and this song made me smile.

Wow, Hajimari no Toki English ver., an English version for one of ayaka’s best songs ever. Her English is not flawless or anything, but at least you can easily understand her (better than Kuu for example). A major plus of this song is that you can finally understand the beautiful lyrical content (if you don’t speak Japanese that is). Great idea to bring back this song in this way, it definitely completes the single.

OVERALL RATING
starstarstarstarstar

ayaka – The beginning

February 2, 2012 at 4:53 PM | Posted in ayaka | 1 Comment

ALBUM REVIEW
ayaka – The beginning

1. Hajimari no Toki
2. Hello
3. Akai Sora
4. The beginning
5. HIKARI
6. Sora Yo Onegai
7. Tsunagaru Kokoro
8. THIS IS THE TIME
9. Soko Made Aruite Iku yo
10. Egao no Canvas
11. Magic Mind
12. Kimi e
13. Yasashii Ao

♦ ♦ ♦

The beginning is the third album released on February 1, 2012 by Japanese singer ayaka and first under her own independent label, A stAtion. It was released in two versions: a limited CD+DVD edition and a regular CD-Only version. The limited edition will come with a DVD and a photobooklet in a special package. The album debuted at #1 on the Oricon Daily Charts.

I’m so glad ayaka finally makes her comeback, and I have high expectations.Hajimari no Toki is a perfect way to start the album because it’s a beautiful but yet very strong track. It’s not a ballad, but it has soothing verses and pretty piano and strings arragements. In the chorus, ayaka really belts out her lyrics like only she can. She takes on a lovely singing melody too, it showcases her huge vocal range from chest voice right into head voice. Seems like she still has her strength!

Hello slowly gains volume and an electric guitar is heard from the very start. Apparently ayaka decided to add some more powerful songs on her album (I used to know her as the Queen of ballads). I love it when ayaka adopts a lower vocal sound, because it makes her voice sound much deeper and more impressive. I was very impressed by the power in this track, and luckily ayaka blends in with her huge voice.

If you ask me, Akai Sora sounds like a very uplifting song with a cute little bounce to it (thanks to the keyboard). It tones everything down a bit because the previous tracks had quite strong arrangements, and this one just kind of stays in that bouncy relaxed spot. I love the simplicity of this song, it still really appeals to me. I love this^^

The beginning is the first song I encounter that screams ’emotion’. It’s a lovely power ballad with piano, strings and percussion. It sort of gives us the best of both worlds when it comes to ballads. In the verses, ayaka keeps things very simple with just a piano and a soft tone in her voice, and then the chorus takes us to the powerful part again with ayaka hitting her beautiful high notes. The electric guitar solo gave me goosebumps and the bridge even showed ayaka improved her English! A stunning title track.

Another bouncy song is HIKARI with a cute percussion rhythm and a surprising synth melody in the background. In the chorus, some heavy electric guitar riffs come in and it doesn’t really makes sense but it gives the song a sense of power. ayaka’s vocals are dominant in this song, sometimes her belting is a bit out of place but in the end all these elements make the song a unique experience. Another goosebump moment with the solo (and the freaking high notes after the bridge!).

As expected, Sora Yo Onegai is a ballad, and eventually the shortest track on the album. What surprises me is that this ballad is the simplest track on this album with just a piano and ayaka’s vocals. Sometimes we only want simplicity, and ayaka apparently is very good at varying her music. Because of the simple music you tend to concentrate on her voice much more, and then you’ll notice how pretty and deep her voice is.

Tsunagaru Kokoro is so damn catchy, and it may sound cheesy but it reminds me of a nice summer’s day. It’s almost like an acoustic jam session with a guitar, handclaps, a nice percussion rhythm and something like an accordeon(?). It’s just a song that needs doesn’t require explanation, you just wanna get into the groove with it.

THIS IS THE TIME stirs things up a bit with a more heavy sound to it and a powerful arrangement. I love the mysterious melody of the strings, especially when combined with the electric guitar solo in the bridge. The real star in this song is ayaka herself, she shows she has so much power in her strong voice. She either belts out her lyrics or sings really high erall her adlibs are amazing. Another great and strong uptempo song.

Soko Made Aruite Iku yo is a ballad again, and a quite simple one but it shows from the start it has potential to grow. The piano is the central instrument and it plays lovely high notes. The tempo combined with the melody gives a nice soothing song, and it’s the golden combination of piano, strings, acoustic guitar and percussion that makes me like this song even more. One of my favorite ballads on this album, again because it’s not that complex.

It appears ayaka likes to make her non-ballads songs a bit bouncy, and Egao no Canvas is the definition of uplifting as well. I love the ‘Sha la la la la la’ line, it makes the song so much cuter than it already was. The cute lyrics make up most of the total lyrics, but I don’t think it’s a problem because it makes the song so damn uplifting!

Magic Mind doesn’t sound like a ayaka song, it reminds me much more of BENI’s music! The percussion is different, it’s not her usual drum percussion but more of a machine kind. The song is less ‘acoustic’ than the rest of the songs on this album, and it’s completely different too with the use of synths. Still there are some traditional elements too, such as nice high piano notes and strings. It’s the only ‘danceable’ track on this album, but that’s what makes it unique. Damn, ayaka’s super high note near the end of the song just nailed it!

I didn’t expect Kimi e to be uptempo since the title means ‘To You’, but well, it is. The great surprise in this song that really gave me alan vibes was the erhu in the bridge! It sounds great with the overall pop/rock sound, and I didn’t expect it to be that way. Eventually the ‘mistaken ballad’ turned out to be another kickass song with great power, thanks to the electric guitar and percussion.

Yasashii Ao is the last song, and this one is a ballad for real. It’s touching and ofcourse the piano is the central instrument again. The strings build around it wonderfully, and when ayaka is joined by a choir in the second chorus, the real goosebump moments have arrived for me. In my opinion, this song features ayaka’s best vocals on the entire album because of her adlips and frequent use of her head voice. It’s almost like she expanded her vocal range about an octave during her three year hiatus! Another great ballad, and maybe even my absolute favorite!

Three years are a real pain, and it’s exactly how long I’ve waited for something new to be released by ayaka. And damn, what an album! She’s gone indies, and she does it pretty well. I’m so happy for her that her condition from her Graves’ disease has improved over time, she has great talent and she really can’t be missed in the music industry. With The beginning she delivered a great comeback album with the best of musical variety on it. I’m hooked ❤

Favorite songs: Hajimari no Toki | Akai Sora | The beginning | Tsunagaru Kokoro | Sono Made Aruite Iku yo | Egao no Canvas | Yasashii Ao

OVERALL RATING

Information on ayaka’s 2012 album ‘The beginning’

December 28, 2011 at 8:56 PM | Posted in ayaka | Leave a comment

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Artist: ayaka
Album: The beginning
Release date: 2012/02/01
Label: A stAtion
Price: ¥3,990 (CD+DVD) / ¥3,150 (CD Only)

~CD Tracklist~
1. Hajimari no Toki (はじまりのとき; The First Moment)
2. Hello
3. Akai Sora (アカイソラ; Red Sky)
4. The beginning
5. HIKARI (Light)
6. Sora yo Onegai (空よお願い; I Beg The Sky)
7. Tsunagaru Kokoro (繋がる心; Connected Hearts)
8. THIS IS THE TIME
9. Soko Made Aruite Iku yo (そこまで歩いていくよ; I Will Go There)
10. Egao no Canvas (笑顔のキャンバス; Canvas Of Smile)
11. Magic Mind
12. Kimi e (キミへ; To You)
13. Yasashii Ao (やさしい蒼; Gentle Blue)

~DVD Tracklist~
1. Hajimari no Toki (はじまりのとき) (MUSIC VIDEO)
2. Hajimari no Toki (はじまりのとき) (Making of)

 

 

ayaka – Sing to the Sky

April 30, 2011 at 1:12 PM | Posted in ayaka | Leave a comment

ALBUM REVIEW
ayaka – Sing to the Sky

1. POWER OF MUSIC
2. Ai wo Utaou (愛を歌おう)
3. Sky
4. Jewelry day
5. Good Night Baby (グンナイベイビー)
6. For today
7. Why
8. Gold Star (ゴールドスター)
9. Mahoutsukai no Shiwaza (魔法使いのしわざ)
10. Te wo Tsunagou (手をつなごう)
11. Ai mo Uso mo Shinjitsu (愛も嘘も真実)
12. CLAP & LOVE
13. Kimi ga Iru Kara (君がいるから)
14. Okaeri (おかえり)
15. Kon’ya mo Hoshi ni Dakarete… (今夜も星に抱かれて・・・)
16. WINDING ROAD (ayaka × Kobukuro)

♦ ♦ ♦

Sing to the Sky is the second studio album by Japanese singer ayaka, and it was released on June 25, 2008. The album reached #2 on the Oricon Weekly Charts and was the #15 best-selling album of 2008. Sing to the Sky has been certified Double Platinum by RIAJ for shipment of 500,000 copies, and sold 614,872 copies in total.

POWER OF MUSIC immediately shows how soulful ayaka is as a singer, she starts things of with a very funky song that comes close to gospel at some points. There are some great brass instruments in this song, and the crowd yelling in the background make things even more fun. I think ayaka was already good when she made her debut album, but she even improved a little more and gave a stunning vocal performance in this track. I have listened to this album multiple times the past three years and this was a favorite from the start.

Ai wo Utaou (愛を歌おう) was featured on a double A-side single with Te wo Tsunagou, and it was the upbeat track on that single. I remember wanting to give it more than 5 stars because the single was so good, mostly because of <em>Te wo Tsunagou </em>but this track is also very good, even though it shows more signs of simplicity. Here ayaka draws more attention to the funkyness in her voice, and the music is an interesting mix of soft classical synths and hard percussion and electric guitars overlapping them. Very interesting track.

This album delivers some strong new tracks, and Sky is really one of them. The percussion rhythm is very different than what ayaka used to display in her music and I love how the arrangement combines that good old piano and guitar, the chorus also features a nice bass melody. ayaka’s vocals are really top notch in this track, in the chorus she tends to belt out her lyrics and never fails to impress me by doing so. In fact, the chorus is my very favorite part of the entire song, it’s very strong and dominant. Only one little (irrelevant) minus: she sings ‘fry to the sky‘ instead of the title words, LOL xD

I have a special connection with Jewelry Day, because it’s so beautiful and emotional and it reminds me of so much. This is such a sad song, just look up the lyrics and you will see. I love how ayaka lays so much emotion in her vocals, she brings the song in a very convincing way. The music is very simple, yet it captures me, with soft tribal percussion, a prominant guitar melody and soft soothing strings, the latter especially during the ending of this song. This has to be one of ayaka’s best and most powerful ballads yet.

Good Night Baby (グンナイベイビー) is a very cute and nice song with a little bounce to the melody, and it’s also a very short song being just over three minutes in length. There are actually only about two different parts in the song; the bouncy verses and a more poppy chorus. There is however one different part, a little bridge in there somewhere, in which ayaka really belts out the lyrics, but for the rest it’s just a short and sweet song.

The next song was a digital single that I hadn’t reviewed before, For today, and it’s one of the more agressive songs on this entire album. That’s both musically and vocally, the music is very there with hard percussion and electric guitars, while ayaka displays some strong and solid vocals again in the chorus. I love her adlibbing in layered vocals right after the chorus, and the agressive guitar solo in the bridge is pretty. I like the ending of this song very much.

I always remember the chorus of Why, with ayaka’s high note, but it’s also a lovely song about freedom. This was on a double A-side single with CLAP & LOVE and I preferred Why over that one. This song is more touching because it’s a pretty ballad, and there was another great solo by an electric guitar in this song. ayaka is usually very strong at doing ballads and she proves it once again. The chorus was the most beautiful part again.

Gold Star (ゴールドスター) is actually about today’s society and a hero who goes by the name of Gold Star! Fun fact, haha. It’s also a little more on the agressive side with a lot of dominant instruments that suit ayaka’s vocals in the best way possible. Concidering her vocals, this sounds more like a darker song on the album, and it could’ve been a little more interesting to my taste. But still it’s a very good song indeed.

Mahoutsukai no Shiwaza (魔法使いのしわざ) is the first song to slow down the album a little more, and it features mostly a piano. ayaka flows along with the nice piano melody very well, making this a very interesting and cute track. I had to listen to it a couple of times before it actually stood out to me, but now I really like this song. And it ends waaaay to soon, where did the song go??

The best song on the entire album has to be Te wo Tsunagou (手をつなごう) , and I can’t even say why I love this song so much. Everything about it just seems to be right, from the melody in the song to the use of a lovely acoustic guitar and ayaka’s emotional and touching vocals. The song starts off very soft and sweet, but then it become stronger by the minute with a very good electric guitar solo. ayaka’s vocals are best during the last chorus with a very high note. Can I give this song 10 stars? xD

Ai mo Uso mo Shinjitsu (愛も嘘も真実) sounds to me like a very mysterious song, and it’s also a bit jazzy with elements of blues. It’s a darker song, but it still appeals to me quite a bit. ayaka singing in a lower register always seems to sound good whatever happens, and no matter in what register she sings, she always manages to belt out some lyrics, also in this song. It’s an interesting track, and due to its sound it dinstincts itsself from the rest of the songs on this album.

CLAP & LOVE is one of the few ayaka songs to use a vocoder in the arrangement and it’s a rather agressive one when placed right after the previous two/three tracks. ayaka is accompanied by handclaps, an electric guitar and sometimes even a choir, and a nice bassline is in there as well. Even though this is a nice song, it’s kinda forgettable because there seems to be no pinnacle to the song, the chorus could’ve been a little more bombastic than it was now. But ayaka gets a little extra point for the great vocal performance she gave here.

Mix some strong pop/rock with classic strings and you get Kimi ga Iru Kara (君がいるから), a lighter song of the kind. The mix is rather interesting because you don’t hear it pretty much, and even though it’s a lighter song there are still some booming aspects in it that are sure to make you go like wow, such as a grand solo in this solo and sometimes very agressive vocals by ayaka. The song might be a bit repetitive at some points, but I don’t give any notice to that fact, it’s just a nice song.

One of ayaka’s most catchy singles of this era was Okaeri (おかえり), and I hold a personal record for listening to this song 13 times in two days! I love how she used bagpipes in this song, very unusual and extremely infectuous and they are the reason I fell in love with this song and became quite addicted to it. It’s a warm and sweet song, and I also love ayaka’s vocals in it very much. The way she transitions from low to high in her voice is incredible, and this is also one of the best songs on the album.

I should have noticed Kon’ya mo Hoshi ni Dakarete… (今夜も星に抱かれて・・・) before, because it’s a pretty ballad with a lovely melody and great vocals by ayaka. This is also another emotional ballad, and ayaka is the queen of those songs. Damn, how ashamed am I for noticing this song now and not earlier, I love this so much. ayaka hits some pretty high notes in this song, giving me goosebumps all over, and being led mostly by just a piano, I must say it is very very beautiful.

The last track, a bonus track is the lovely WINDING ROAD (ayaka × Kobukuro), starting off with a lovely acapella part by the three singers. The rest of the song is very funky and just a little midtempo, and the three of them make such a great group (ayaka, come back from hiatus and join Kobukuro!). I was surprised the two guys from Kobukuro had such beautiful singing voices, and they were great for this song. The bridge is the only thing I’m on the fence with, the adlibbing was a little too much, but the falsetto note by one of the guys from Kobukuro was great! Another great thing is that they released another collaboration, coming up soon on this blog! My God, how I love this collaboration, the acapella parts remain the best parts.

I adore ayaka, and she seems to improve every time she releases new work. This album was better than her debut album, but only slightly. ayaka developed her own unique sound, and I love her for that. She can make every song something special, and maybe if you listen to all the songs in a row they tend to drag a little after a while, but then again every track individually was a masterpiece. I was happy some of ayaka’s best songs ever were on this album, they made the entire thing very strong and quite addictive. I stopped counting at listening to this album 5 times in a row, that’s how much I loved it!

Favorite tracks: POWER OF MUSIC | Sky |  Jewelry day | Why | Te wo Tsunagou (手をつなごう) |Okaeri (おかえり ) |  Kon’ya mo Hoshi ni Dakarete… (今夜も星に抱かれて・・・) | WINDING ROAD (ayaka × Kobukuro)

OVERALL RATING

5 stars

ayaka – ‘Sing to the Sky’ era

March 27, 2011 at 8:37 PM | Posted in ayaka | Leave a comment


After a month of listening to ayaka’s music, starting with the ‘First Message’ era, I must admit I’m quite fond of this girl. She’s already in my top 15 on Last.FM, and that means something because most of the time I don’t listen to one artist all that much, I vary. ayaka found her way to my heart with her first singles and her debut album, and after that I immediately downloaded the rest of her discography. Today I will be pursuing the ayaka madness with the second era, for her second album ‘Sing to the Sky’. Enjoy!

♦ ♦ ♦

WINDING ROAD (ayaka × Kobukuro)
Released: Februari 28, 2007
Oricon charts position: #2
Rating:

WINDING ROAD starts off with a great acapella part by the three singers, and after that the song becomes very funky and soulful. They sound great together and I was surprised about the quality of Kobukuro’s voices, the men are very good singers as well. It’s a happy song, it lifts my spirit so much and I love the piano, percussion and the brass elements in this song a lot. It’s a typical ayaka song but the boys from Kobukuro blend in so easily, especially when one of the boys does a high falsetto note (wow, it’s a guy). The acapella parts remain my favorite parts.

 

Jewelry day
Released: July 4, 2007
Oricon charts position: #2
Rating:

A beautiful acoustic guitar opens Jewelry Day and then ayaka immediately stuns me with her amazingly emotional vocal parts. The singing melody touches me, and it seems this song has very sad lyrics. It can be heard through the emotions of the music, even without understanding the words she sings. It gets even prettier when I hear the strings. This is one of my favourite ayaka ballads up until now.
Even though the title doesn’t imply it, I’m alone is actually a little more upbeat. This song also has a prominent electric guitar solo in the bridge that I absolutely loved, and ayaka is again very good at transitioning between her head voice and chest voice in the chorus. This could’ve done pretty well on her album, but now it remains one heck of a B-side that I really like listening to.
Start to 0 (Love) gets and acoustic version now, and it’s a darn good one to say the least. I loved the original and I like how ayaka either makes an acoustic version of a song or performs it live. Her vocals sound raw and pleasant here, and I can’t remember such prominent handclaps in the original, which are a great addition to the song now.

 

CLAP & LOVE / Why
Released: September 5, 2007
Oricon charts position: #5
Rating:

From the cover I expected a more agressive song for CLAP & LOVE, and I was quite right. ayaka is accompanied by handclaps, an electric guitar and bass and sometimes a little choir drops in. To me this is one of ayaka’s more forgettable songs, but it’s not bad at all though. I love her vocals performance here and the ambience of the song is amazing, but some parts are just don’t give me the feeling some of her other songs do.
Why is, as expected, a ballad. It’s also the theme song for Final Fantasy VII, so I expect great things from this! What I get is a touching vocal performance, and the part where I loved them the most was in the chorus, when ayaka sings the title word. There is another great electric guitar solo in this song, but it was a rather longer one so it captured my attention even more. Even though some people may disagree, I prefer Why over CLAP & LOVE.
ayaka’s speaking voice is beautiful and deep, and she opens with that when she announces Peace loving people (Live ver.). I already know what a great live singer she is, and she doesn’t disappoint. The music is beautiful with a little bounce and sometimes a little ambient string element that I adored. ayaka continues to speak during some instrumental parts of the songs, and oh how I wish I could understand the girl… Although this is an extremely long live version, I adored every minute of it!

 

Te wo Tsunagou / Ai wo Utaou
Released: March 8, 2008
Oricon charts position: #7
Rating: 

I had the feeling that I would love Te wo Tsunagou from the very beginning when it opens with an acoustic guitar and lovely vocals. It all starts so soft and sweet, but the song then evolves into something much stronger and solid with more instruments, such as loud percussion and even an acoustic guitar. This song only could give this review 5 stars…
Ai wo Utaou would be the second song on the album, and also the second on this single. It’s more upbeat than the previous song and also a little more uplifting concerning the melody of the track, and this one features vocals that are just as pretty as in the previous track. Here she captures the attention with the funkyness in her voice, in the track is was mostly emotion.
Finally a live version of my all time favorite song: Mikazuki! This was sung live at the Nippon Budokan, and it was even better than the live version I included in my previous ayaka review (the one of First Message). She reached all of the high notes without any flaws and because the music is even slower now, it captures so much more of my emotions. Apparently it’s because of the strings ensemble. Perfect, period. Can I give this a 5+ star…?

 

Okaeri
Released: May 14, 2008
Oricon charts position: #6
Rating:

I love how Okaeri incorporates some bagpipes in its musical arrangement, it makes this song so unique and that was already in the very first minute of the song! This is one of the songs that were most memorable for me from the album Sing to the Sky, and I love it more and more every time I listen to it. Another lovely electric guitar solo, I love those in ayaka’s songs, and the strings are also wonderful in this song. But what I loved most, were ayaka’s pretty vocals, they were again very strong and solid.
Meiro is one of ayaka’s most rockish and agressive songs to date, but it does suit her very well. She handles it so very dignified I was surprised about the good quality of this song. I loved ayaka’s adlibbing section in the bridge, together with the agressive electric guitar solo. It’s not one of her best songs, but it’s very good at least.
YES! A live version of the beautiful Te wo Tsunagou, and apparently ayaka had a good day on December 20, 2007 because this song was recorded on the same day as the Mikazuki live version on the previous single and this one also features flawless high notes. The song starts off acoustic again, but then comes the smashing second half of the song that completely blew me away. I think I found another favorite ayaka song here^^

 

I love this girl, really, is there anything she can’t do? Almost every single of hers is worth 5 stars, so I think I have been very fortunate to have found out about her. She is one of my favorite artists now, and I can’t wait to review Sing to the Sky and her compilation album!

After a month of listening to ayaka’s music, starting with the ‘First Message’ era, I must admit I’m quite fond of this girl. She’s already in my top 15 on Last.FM, and that means something because most of the time I don’t listen to one artist all that much, I vary. ayaka found her way to my heart with her first singles and her debut album, and after that I immediately downloaded the rest of her discography. Today I will be pursuing the ayaka madness with the second era, for her second album ‘Sing to the Sky’. Enjoy!</p>
<p style=”text-align: center;”>♦ ♦ ♦</p>
<p style=”text-align: left;”><a href=”http://musicaddiction.netne.net/?attachment_id=897&#8243; rel=”attachment wp-att-897″><img class=”alignleft size-full wp-image-897″ title=”windingroad” src=”http://musicaddiction.netne.net/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/windingroad.png&#8221; alt=”” width=”150″ height=”150″ /></a><strong>WINDING ROAD (ayaka × Kobukuro)
</strong><em>Released: Februari 28, 2007
Oricon charts position: #2
</em>[rating:5]<em>
</em></p>
<p style=”text-align: left;”><em>WINDING ROAD</em> starts off with a great acapella part by the three singers, and after that the song becomes very funky and soulful. They sound great together and I was surprised about the quality of Kobukuro’s voices, the men are very good singers as well. It’s a happy song, it lifts my spirit so much and I love the piano, percussion and the brass elements in this song a lot. It’s a typical ayaka song but the boys from Kobukuro blend in so easily, especially when one of the boys does a high falsetto note (wow, it’s a guy). The acapella parts remain my favorite parts.<em></em></p>
<p style=”text-align: right;”><em>
<a href=”http://musicaddiction.netne.net/?attachment_id=898&#8243; rel=”attachment wp-att-898″><img class=”alignright size-full wp-image-898″ title=”jewelryday” src=”http://musicaddiction.netne.net/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/jewelryday.png&#8221; alt=”” width=”150″ height=”150″ /></a></em><strong>Jewelry day
</strong><em>Released: July 4, 2007
Oricon charts position: #2
</em>[rating:4.5]</p>
<p style=”text-align: left;”>A beautiful acoustic guitar opens <em>Jewelry day</em> and then ayaka immediately stuns me with her amazingly emotional vocal parts. The singing melody touches me, and it seems this song has very sad lyrics. It can be heard through the emotions of the music, even without understanding the words she sings. It gets even prettier when I hear the strings. This is one of my favourite ayaka ballads up until now.
Even though the title doesn’t imply it, <em>I’m alone</em> is actually a little more upbeat. This song also has a prominent electric guitar solo in the bridge that I absolutely loved, and ayaka is again very good at transitioning between her head voice and chest voice in the chorus. This could’ve done pretty well on her album, but now it remains one heck of a B-side that I really like listening to.
<em>Start to 0 (Love)</em> gets and acoustic version now, and it’s a darn good one to say the least. I loved the original and I like how ayaka either makes an acoustic version of a song or performs it live. Her vocals sound raw and pleasant here, and I can’t remember such prominent handclaps in the original, which are a great addition to the song now.</p>
<p style=”text-align: left;”><a href=”http://musicaddiction.netne.net/?attachment_id=899&#8243; rel=”attachment wp-att-899″><img class=”alignleft size-full wp-image-899″ title=”clap&amp;love” src=”http://musicaddiction.netne.net/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/claplove.png&#8221; alt=”” width=”150″ height=”150″ /></a><strong>CLAP &amp; LOVE / Why
</strong><em>Released: September 5, 2007
Oricon charts position: #5
</em>[rating:4.5]</p>
<p style=”text-align: left;”>From the cover I expected a more agressive song for <em>CLAP &amp; LOVE, </em>and I was quite right. ayaka is accompanied by handclaps, an electric guitar and bass and sometimes a little choir drops in. To me this is one of ayaka’s more forgettable songs, but it’s not bad at all though. I love her vocals performance here and the ambience of the song is amazing, but some parts are just don’t give me the feeling some of her other songs do.
<em>Why</em> is, as expected, a ballad. It’s also the theme song for Final Fantasy VII, so I expect great things from this! What I get is a touching vocal performance, and the part where I loved them the most was in the chorus, when ayaka sings the title word. There is another great electric guitar solo in this song, but it was a rather longer one so it captured my attention even more. Even though some people may disagree, I prefer <em>Why </em>over <em>CLAP &amp; LOVE</em>.
ayaka’s speaking voice is beautiful and deep, and she opens with that when she announces <em>Peace loving people (Live ver.)</em>. I already know what a great live singer she is, and she doesn’t disappoint. The music is beautiful with a little bounce and sometimes a little ambient string element that I adored. ayaka continues to speak during some instrumental parts of the songs, and oh how I wish I could understand the girl… Although this is an extremely long live version, I adored every minute of it!</p>
<p style=”text-align: right;”><a href=”http://musicaddiction.netne.net/?attachment_id=900&#8243; rel=”attachment wp-att-900″><img class=”alignright size-full wp-image-900″ title=”tewotsunagouaiwoutaou” src=”http://musicaddiction.netne.net/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/tewotsunagouaiwoutaou.png&#8221; alt=”” width=”150″ height=”150″ /></a><strong>Te wo Tsunagou / Ai wo Utaou
</strong><em>Released: March 8, 2008
Oricon charts position: #7
</em>[rating:5]</p>
<p style=”text-align: left;”>I had the feeling that I would love <em>Te wo Tsunagou</em> from the very beginning when it opens with an acoustic guitar and lovely vocals. It all starts so soft and sweet, but the song then evolves into something much stronger and solid with more instruments, such as loud percussion and even an acoustic guitar. This song only could give this review 5 stars…
<em>Ai wo Utaou </em>would be the second song on the album, and also the second on this single. It’s more upbeat than the previous song and also a little more uplifting concerning the melody of the track, and this one features vocals that are just as pretty as in the previous track. Here she captures the attention with the funkyness in her voice, in the track is was mostly emotion.
Finally a live version of my all time favorite song: <em>Mikazuki</em>! This was sung live at the Nippon Budokan, and it was even better than the live version I included in my previous ayaka review (the one of First Message). She reached all of the high notes without any flaws and because the music is even slower now, it captures so much more of my emotions. Apparently it’s because of the strings ensemble. Perfect, period. Can I give this a 5+ star…?</p>
<p style=”text-align: left;”><a href=”http://musicaddiction.netne.net/?attachment_id=901&#8243; rel=”attachment wp-att-901″><img class=”alignleft size-full wp-image-901″ title=”okaeri” src=”http://musicaddiction.netne.net/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/okaeri.png&#8221; alt=”” width=”150″ height=”150″ /></a><strong>Okaeri
</strong><em>Released: May 14, 2008
Oricon charts position: #6
</em>[rating:5]</p>
<p style=”text-align: left;”>I love how <em>Okaeri </em>incorporates some bagpipes in its musical arrangement, it makes this song so unique and that was already in the very first minute of the song! This is one of the songs that were most memorable for me from the album Sing to the Sky, and I love it more and more every time I listen to it. Another lovely electric guitar solo, I love those in ayaka’s songs, and the strings are also wonderful in this song. But what I loved most, were ayaka’s pretty vocals, they were again very strong and solid.
<em>Meiro</em> is one of ayaka’s most rockish and agressive songs to date, but it does suit her very well. She handles it so very dignified I was surprised about the good quality of this song. I loved ayaka’s adlibbing section in the bridge, together with the agressive electric guitar solo. It’s not one of her best songs, but it’s very good at least.
YES! A live version of the beautiful <em>Te wo Tsunagou</em>, and apparently ayaka had a good day on December 20, 2007 because this song was recorded on the same day as the Mikazuki live version on the previous single and this one also features flawless high notes. The song starts off acoustic again, but then comes the smashing second half of the song that completely blew me away. I think I found another favorite ayaka song here^^</p>
<p style=”text-align: left;”>I love this girl, really, is there anything she can’t do? Almost every single of hers is worth 5 stars, so I think I have been very fortunate to have found out about her. She is one of my favorite artists now, and I can’t wait to review Sing to the Sky and her compilation album!</p>

ayaka – First Message

February 20, 2011 at 12:32 PM | Posted in ayaka | Leave a comment

ALBUM REVIEW
ayaka – First Message

1. Start to 0 (Love)
2. Real voice
3. Sha la la
4. Blue Days (ブルーデイズ)
5. I believe
6. Stay with me
7. melody
8. Kimi no Power to Otona no Furi (君のパワーと大人のフリ)
9. Eien no Monogatari (永遠の物語)
10. Toki wo Modoshite (時を戻して)
11.  1・2・3・4
12. Story
13. Rairarai (ライラライ)
14. Mikazuki (三日月)
15. message

♦ ♦ ♦

First Message is the debut album by Japanese singer ayaka, released on November 1, 2006. It was originally planned for release on September 6, 2006, however the album was postponed so that the Mikazuki (三日月) single would be able to be released. The album reached #1 on the Oricon Weekly Charts and sold 1,202,180 copies.

Many people say ayaka makes a lot of pop/rock songs, which is true but in my opinion they’re more of the funky genre, just like Start to 0 (Love). It’s a very good and strong opening track because it’s very cheerful and ayaka’s vocals immediately show what a good singer she is. The sound of her voice is unique, and also very attractive in this song.

Real voice then is indeed more of a pop/rock song with strong electric guitar influences. The opening of the song features ayaka singing through a sort of vintage microphone, and then a lovely piano and guitar introduction follows. I though this song was quite decent, it was not the best single she released for this album but it certainly has its qualities.

Finally the studio recording for Sha la la! The live version was featured on her second single, ‘melody ~SOUNDS REAL~’, and I loved it for its jazzyness. I kinda miss the violin though, it made the song a little folkish. The chorus is my favorite part in this song, and also the ‘sha la la la la’ lyrics in the bridge. ayaka knows how to release catchy funky songs with a little spice to them.

Blue Days (ブルーデイズ)was the B-side for melody, and it’s more of an acoustic ballad song. Each part of the song has something to offer; the verse features a lovely singing melody and in the chorus ayaka hits the high notes very well. Especially one in the bridge, her vocal abilities are really more than they appear to be.

ayaka’s debut single, I believe, is immediately one of her best songs ever. It’s full of emotion, a real ballad with strings, a piano, guitars and soft percussion. The song has a bit of drama to it, which I absolutely love, especially with ayaka’s heartfelt vocals.

Stay with me comes in with a little bang by some funky electric guitar riffs, and the song features somewhat of a bouncing beat, very catchy. When she sings ‘<em>I love you</em>’, she won me over for this one. Even though some of the new uptempo songs sound a little alike, Stay with me actually does have a distinct quality, it’s not forgeteable.

One of my fav uptempo tracks, and also my first ayaka song ever (hehe), is melody. I don’t even know why I like this song so much, maybe because it’s so happy and careless. My own guilty pleasure is the way ayaka pronounces the title word, it’s not perfect English but it doesn’t irritate me at all (‘melodaaaaaay‘ =D). Some of the guitar parts remind me of Spanish music, and the electric guitar in the bridge added that extra something to the song.

If I say uptempo, than I mean UPtempo with Kimi no Power to Otona no Furi (君のパワーと大人のフリ)! It was one heck of a surprise for me to hear ayaka breaking it down like this, and her vocals are even more than amazing here. I love the way she can easily swift from belting to her head voice. The transition into another key is not only smooth and effortless, it’s also a really good way to make this song memorable.

For a few seconds, the guitar introduction reminded me a lot of Secondhand Serenade’s ‘Your Call’ (look it up on YT), but luckily Eien no Monogatari (永遠の物語) is a real standout. It’s a shame the song is so short, ayaka’s harmonizations sound lovely and the song is so dreamy I could listen to it for another three minutes.

Then follows the probably most jazzy song on the album, Toki wo Modoshite (時を戻して). It features that same bouncy beat as some of the other songs, but this time a few brass instruments are featured and ayaka sings in a lower voice most of the time. Altogether, the song sounds a lot different from the rest, somewhat darker but not melancholic at all.

1・2・3・4 is a more pop/rock song, but with very funky vocals from ayaka herself. When she sings the title words she draws my attention to her voice instantly. I like the distorted vocals in the bridge, and the way she counts up to going back to the chorus again.

Story is an uptempo but yet still lighter song overall, and I loved the laid back electric guitar influences in the song. The acoustic guitars make this song catchy from the start, and the chorus of this track reminds me a bit of an Ayumi Hamasaki song (I can’t think of the name though). It’s a very good song individually, but after 12 songs it might come of as unoriginal, even though it is original ofcourse.

Wow even ayaka is infected with the ‘r and l problem’ in Japan (an r is pronounced like an l and vice versa). It’s written like Rairarai (ライラライ), but ofcourse it’s pronounced like ‘Lailalai’. It’s another funky pop/rock song with a lot of guitars and percussion, and it’s quite distinct from the rest of the songs on the album. The repetition of the title words makes this song very catchy and I actually like this quite a lot.

And finally there we have Mikazuki (三日月), my favourite single for this album. This is another real power ballad, the music grows stronger after a while. It’s just a piano in the beginning, but then strings and guitars come right in for a little extra touch. ayaka’s high note in the chorus, which she sustains like  a true professional, gave me goosebumps and I can’t stop talking about how wonderful this song is. Well, after having said that, I think this is a good time to stop XD  Perfect. Period.

message to end the album. That’s… different. After a few seconds of silence, it seems like we’re out on the street somewhere with a lot of noise from cars and people. ayaka starts singing as if she’s out there too, just like that, and it’s all acapella. It’s pretty, I’m jealous of her wonderful voice here.

Well, I wasn’t expecting anything else from this album than what I’ve got now: it’s a perfect debut album. Alright, it has some minor flaws, I admit, but I can listen the entire cd without wanting to skip anything. In my case, I’d say that’s rather exceptional. I even skip songs by my favorite singers, so ayaka definitely earned some points here. Even though she is knows as a real ballad queen, the album is filled with a lot of catchy uptempo pop/rock songs, some with very jazzy and funky influences. Her music is unlike what I have heard so far in the J-pop music business, and ofcourse her voice is one of a kind. My second part of the ayaka ‘obsession’ went very well again, so join me next time for the ‘Sing to the Sky’-era!

Favorite songs: Start to 0 (Love) | Sha la la | Blue Days (ブルーデイズ) | I believe | Eien no Monogatari (永遠の物語) | Mikazuki (三日月)

OVERALL RATING

4½ stars

ayaka: The ‘First Message’ era

February 16, 2011 at 9:20 PM | Posted in ayaka | Leave a comment


And then I remembered ayaka was there too. Yes, was, she’s on extended hiatus now and I instantly thought it’s such a shame that I had never reviewed any of her works. Ever. Shame on me, I heard she was quite good. Then I thought of one of my earlier posts, December 2010 I think, about alan’s single discography to catch up with her releases. That’s what I wanna do with ayaka’s entire discography now! So here is part 1 of the ayaka madness: the singles from the era of her first album: ‘First Message‘!

♦ ♦ ♦

I believe
Released: February 1, 2006
Oricon chart position: #3
Rating:

And we’re off! My first encounter with ayaka starts off with her first single that sounds like a ballad. The song opens with a piano and a lovely strings melody, and I’m surprised ayaka has such a pleasant and quite deep voice. Her vocals are so good in I believe, and it’s only the beginning, for the rest of the song is quite enchanting all the way. I’m in love with the chorus!
The quality of ayaka’s voice pleased me even more in the B-side Yume no Kakera. It’s upbeat, it’s funky, it could’ve been a great album track. ayaka couldn’t have sounded stronger here, she completely stunned me. I heard ayaka is known for her ballads, but if all of her upbeats are like this, I’m a fan already.

melody ~SOUNDS REAL~
Released: May 10, 2006
Oricon chart position: #14
Rating:

melody is the only ayaka song that sounded familiar to me, so I believe I might have heard it before. It’s very upbeat and cheerful, entirely different from ‘I believe’, and the beginning of the song reminded me of Spanish music with a lot of guitars. The bridge even features a big electric guitar solo and I love the rockish quality of this song.
In Blue Days (ブルーデイズ) ayaka’s ballad talent comes up again, and her voice is perfect for acoustic songs like this one. The song is all made up from an acoustic guitar and very soft percussion in some parts of the song. After a while the music gets stronger, and I’m so surprised ayaka reaches the higher notes in the song so easy.
The next three songs are all live versions, the first being melody, the second is Sha・la・la (the studio version is on ‘First Message’) and the last one is Blue Days (ブルーデイズ) . In melody -Live version- is recognized a change, more strings are added. Sha・la・la -Live version- is a quite jazzy song, and the violin gives it a folkish attitude. In every song, ayaka sounds flawless and just like she sounds on records. Perfect live singer.

Real voice
Released: July 19, 2006
Oricon chart position: #11
Rating:

And she’s pretty too, what more could you want? Real voice is another rockish upbeat song, and the opening with piano and electric guitars is awesome. It’s gives everything such a cheerful ambience. I like ayaka’s vocals a lot in this song, it’s a very decent single and really shows another side of her after some laid back songs and live versions.
Peace loving people is another song with a jazzy sound. I actually like this a little over the A-side because it’s different. The percussion has a nice bounce, the piano plays a jazzy beautiful melody and the brassy elements in the song are the cherry on the cake, it finishes everything. Very cheery song, I love it to death.

Mikazuki
Released: September 27, 2006
Oricon chart position: #1
Rating:

Yeah, one of her famous ballads, and the prettiest I have heard yet. Mikazuki is heartfelt, powerful and strong, everything a good ballad needs. Don’t get me started on ayaka’s vocals. At this point, she was already on her way with her carreer but still a beginner, only 18 years old and her voice is so strong. She sounds like a true professional. I love how the music builds itsself up towards a powerful last chorus, and ending with a soft piano melody.
Kimi no Kiss de is also a song that reminds me of the funky Spanish and South American guitar music, but then with a little pop twist. Ofcourse it’s an upbeat song, and ayaka’s voice sounds a lot deeper although she still hits her higher notes perfectly.
It’s funny that Yume no Kakera gets a live version now, since it was the B-side for I believe. I love this song even more now, her vocal performance is so pure and good. One of the few J-pop singers that can actually sing live the way they do on their albums.

 

I love this girl, really, there’s nothing more I can say. What else is there to say than that she is the perfect picture of a succesful J-pop singer? She’s pretty, her voice has an incredible quality that I haven’t heard elsewhere before and she is very enlighting. I really needed someone like her now, I’m almost stuck to the same singers lately. ayaka brings some variation into my little music world, and I’m glad I decided to make this post. I can’t wait for the next parts, I’m soooo not through with this girl!

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