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winnie - The Darkest Eternal Light
Official Site
2nd Mini-Album
2008.03.19
EXCR-1002

Track Listing:
01 suck my brain
02 no way out
03 starlike stereo
04 time will tell
05 lost your sky

Amazon.jp | CDJapan
| HMV

winnie is a three member Japanese indies band whose been together since 2002. Members are Iori, Okui, and Shoji. Unlike many other Japanese bands winnie differentiate themselves by singing entirely in English and mixing the vocals of female member Iori and male member Okui. The Darkest Eternal Light is their second mini-album after releasing nothing since 2003.

Starting out with Suck My Brain you are immediately grabbed by Iori's vocals and the combination of smooth and raw pop/rock sound. The guitar riffs are catchy and work well with the lyrics. Despite the lyrics being in English much of the song does make sense rather then a jumble of random English words that some might expect a all Japanese speaking band to sing when singing in English. Iori and Okui's harmony is very complimentary. The only band thing about this song is it's length at it's only 2:35 which makes for a very short song.

Moving on we start out into No Way Out with a little more acoustic sound mixed in the rock. Again Iori's vocals are featured first with Okui harmonizing. Mixing the more acoustic sound and rock creates a unique blend that reminds me of more Western music. We get a break guitar bridge before the song continues. While most of the lyrics are clear there are few times when there can be a little confusion about what their saying but happens even in Western music. Again it's noteworthy that No Way Out is only 3:16 and slightly short compared to a lot of Japanese songs.

Ah, Starlike Stereo. This is the song that did it for me. The first time I heard I wasn't sure it was an original song but maybe a cover but Starlike Stereo is original to the group. With a beating guitar we are now introduced to Okui as lead vocals. With the chorus of "Oh, my friends" the song catches you and never lets go. It's mid-tempo beat and ever present strumming guitar. The lyrics are always understandable and you can't help but sing along. There is a fantastic light rock sound to Starlike Stereo that gives it the feeling that you've heard it before even if you haven't. This nostalgic feeling stays with which best exemplifies winnie's talent for songwriting.

Time Will Tell immediately starts with no pretense. This time both Iori and Okui sing together from the start and continue to meld their voices together. Like it's title Time Will Tell with a more rock sound has a feeling of urgency to it. The pulsing lyrics and questions help keep the song moving forward. Again the group is merging a rock sound with undertone of pop elements to make a unique sound. Once again we are given a great rock bridge with the vocals of the two singers in the background.

While Lost Your Sky can be noted as very similar to Time Will Tell as it also has a dark tone then the previous songs. But it also has a more rock feeling and I love the way they sing the title lyric. Instead of a instrumental bridge we are given a vocal bridge that helps to drive a pulse that lies within the song. A very good song to end with.

With very unique blends of pop, rock, and acoustic winnie is certainly a band to keep your eye on and one to definitely get addicted to.

MU // download (320kbps)
*My personal rip. Please do not redistribute.
18th-Feb-2008 09:43 pm - [review] Akino Arai - Kakusei Toshi
Japan

Akino Arai - Kakusei Toshi
Official Site
8th single
05.22.02
VICL-35385

Track Listing:
01 Kakusei Toshi
02 Tasogare wa Mirai de Matsu
03 Pouriinu Pouriinu
04 Kakusei Toshi (without Akino)

Amazon.jp | CDJapan

I personally believe that music is one of the most important things to human because although we can't feel it, taste it, or see it, it has the deepest emotional impact on us and our lives. There exists in my library a small collection of songs that I've deemed such an impact on me they are irreplaceable in my mind under no circumstances. Kakusei Toshi by Akino Arai is one of those songs.

Akino Arai is herself an artist who needs more recognition then she has. A extraordinary composer, Akino Arai has done music for numerous animes and games all the while releasing a small discography of popular music intertwined with her other music. It is impossible for me to say what is Akino Arai's best musical pieces simply because of the shear enormity of her work and the absolute near-perfect quality of that work. Not much is known about her personal life and what is known is sketchy but despite that Arai continues to release something better every time.

Many compare her to other jpop and anime singers such as Maaya Sakamoto and Kokia, but in retrospect, Arai has been in the industry much longer then any of her contemporaries. And I feel that she is the pioneer of the kind of sound that is now gaining momentum in singers such as kotringo and Rurutia.

Kakusei Toshi is the title track of the single translated means Awakening City. I'm not sure I will be able to get an accurate description of the song without fawning over it but I'll give it a try. The opening is electronic in sound and gives a feeling of moving back and forth like the wind before Arai's voice comes in. Sweet and pure not quite overbearing but not breathy but just the right amount of softness the song gets a fuller sound and then moves into the chorus. Several instruments join in from the drums to the strings and acoustic guitar all lead by Arai's vocals. Electronic meshes with a acoustic while Arai backs up her own lead vocals with a multiple chorus of herself. We get the interlude with strings before Arai comes back in.

One thing that makes Kakusei Toshi such an important song for me is not only the surreal sound but the perfect expression of the lyrics. "Are you crying? / It's just the meagre past / If I look up / Into the DIGITAL SCREEN / Of the sky / The wind's song / Is climbing up the high stairs / We can hold it if we listen / We can awaken from / The dream where we were hurt / Don't cry"
As far as I can remember I haven't been touch so emotionally by a song such as this and indeed Kakusei Toshi is the main inspiration for my collection of short stories entitled The Nine Towers of Bábael. Finally the song comes to a close while Arai's continues to sing until fading out. There really isn't a way of describing the emotional breath of air that runs through every time I listen to this song. I never tire of it and it never looses its magic despite repeated listens. It remains one of the most important pieces of music in my collection.

Tasogare wa Mirai de Matsu is one of the two b-sides for Kakusei Toshi and after the beauty of the title track Arai cleverly brings us back down to Earth for a gently mostly string-inspired song. With an electronic backing to the song Arai features a beautiful quartet of string instruments of which create a beautiful counter to Arai's soft voice. The song has a bit of odd sound mixture of happy and light giving a wonderful light emotional feeling to it. Definitely a signature Arai song done to perfection.

For Pouriinu Pouriinu Arai has taken us a step back even further into a gentle acoustic guitar filled song that gives the illusion of being outside complete with the sound of wind and chirping birds. The song mostly features Arai's voice which I haven't complete done justice to. Arai vocals are somehow both soft and song. She has a gentle tone but not quite breathy and a song sound that is not quite overbearing. While I could categorize her voice as being in the same genre as Maaya Sakamoto and Kokia, Arai's voice itself is unique. I have yet to hear another Japanese singer come even close to matching her tone and beauty. I personally can almost always recognize her voice when I hear it. Pouriinu Pouriinu is a perfectly beautiful slow and soothing song that she has managed to perfect.

The fourth track of the single is the instrumental of Kakusei Toshi and do you really need me to wax on more about how perfectly beautiful and fantastic this song is? The instrumental itself gives you a more clearer listen to the music which is beautiful.

Despite the fact that I used words such as "perfect" I know that everyone's opinions of music is their own and there is no way I can force anyone to see my point of view. I can say though that in my opinion and in my heart I consider Akino Arai to one of the best musicians/composers in my world. She has helped inspire me and aid me in harnessing my emotions to create my own work in writing. I almost can't say enough about this incredible artist who I highly recommend you try.

MU // download (320kbps)
*My personal rip. Please do not redistribute.
15th-Feb-2008 10:44 pm - [review] bice - bice
Japan

bice - bice
Official Site
2nd single
07.17.1998
PCCA-01214

Track Listing:
01 Akubi
02 Still Life
03 Lazy Trip
04 Behind Summer

Amazon.jp

Before Rurutia there was bice. Three years before Rurutia would debut it was bice who sang with breathy vocals and ever changing music. Now I love bice simply because she made me into a hypocrite. I don't particularly like breathy vocals but I couldn't deny that there was something in bice that drew me to her music and still does. Sadly she is practically unknown to overseas fans save the fact that she was composer for the drama Kimi wa Petto. In addition a good portion of her work is out of print making it hard to find.

Not much is known about as she keeps her personal information private but she is able to play several instruments including: Guitar / Piano / Organ / Accordion / Flute etc...
So what drew me to bice? Simply put her music. Unlike Rurutia, bice's music seems to branch out more into mainstream and yet still remains unique with her voice. She mixes acoustic and electronic to mesh well with her particular vocals and is in solo control of her music as 90% of the time she is the composer and arranger.

bice maybe a self-titled single however none of the songs are named thus. First track is Akubi and you are immediately thrown into a medium-tempo acoustic rock song with an awesome guitar riff. The whole song has a nice "traveling" kind of beat. Now I will say that bice's vocals might not be for everyone. However, despite her vocals being breathy she doesn't shy away from sound. So the end result this is strange mixture of full acoustic song and lighter vocals which exception of the chorus in which bice pulls out a little more sound. I was blown away by this song when I first heard it because it's a perfectly cool mainstream pop/rock sound that is conquered by bice's vocal creating a sound that is all her own. I definitely say that this is my favorite track on the single.

Still Life continues the acoustic sound with some fantastic guitar but unlike the previous track Still Life has a more laid-back taking-a-nap-in-the-sun kind of feel to it. There is a lighter sound to the music so bice puts out a little bit more in vocals and although she seems to strain her voice a bit the desired effect seems to come out. Creating a lazy atmospheric sound while all the while the guitar strums in the background.

Lazy Trip brings us right back to a quick pace happy song with what sounds like a recorder in the background, correct me if I'm wrong. bice gives us a cute upbeat full sound and her voice seems to be stronger then in the previous two tracks. Lazy Trip has all the makings of a perfect travel song with all intentions of being a song of pure joy and happiness. And I'm pretty sure that's a recorder. Any artist who can fit a recorder in a pop song and make it work, is a pretty awesome force to be reckoned with.

Lastly we are given Behind Summer which starts out with an almost tropical sounding guitar intro. This is set somewhere between the tempo of the others not quite fast but not slow either. The song seems to perfectly fit in the full acoustic sound already given by the other tracks and while you can definitely hear the same styling as the previous tracks there is something in that makes it stand alone on it's own as with the other tracks. This is the kind of song you play in the car while driving along the coast.

I am happy to say that bice as done something very few artists has done for me. She managed to grab me with her music and convert me to a sound I had previously dismissed. She definitely has been added to my list of artists to buy and I highly recommend her to everyone.

MU // download (320kbps)
*My personal rip. Please do not redistribute.
11th-Feb-2008 09:46 pm - [review] Fayray - Covers
Japan

Fayray - Covers
Official Site
cover album
06.08.2005
YRCN-11049

Track Listing:
01 Heaven / The Psychedelic Furs
02 Dreams / Fleetwood Mac
03 Angel / Jimi Hendrix
04 The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face / Roberta Flack
05 I Wanna Be Free / The Monkees
06 Tiny Dancer / Elton John
07 This is Love / PJ Harvey
08 Moonchild / King Crimson
09 I Believe in You / Neil Young
10 The Wind / Cat Stevens

Amazon.jp | CDJapan | HMV | Yesasia

While many other Japanese artists have done covers of American songs, I find that they seem to work best when done in English as opposed to the original lyrics translated into Japanese. An example of the later would be Angela Aki's fondness for doing covers but translating such as Seal's Kiss from a Rose and Fiona Apple's Never is a Promise. I personally don't like this because the translating of the lyrics means that the lyrics will inevitably changed and thus the meaning and purpose of the song is changed.

However the alternative means Japanese singers singing in hard to understand English. Fayray however is one artist who can do these covers in English and not only get away with it but in some cases improve the original songs. While she may not be as well known outside of Japan, Fayray herself is very accomplished singer/songwriter. With a background similar to Utada Hikaru, living in the States, helped her English to become polish and influenced her with American music of the 70s and 80s.

Thus the creation of Covers her first English album. Fayray knows how to start the album off with Heaven a cover of The Psychedelic Furs. While I admit I've never heard a good majority of the originals of the songs covered in this album I find that I am blown away enough by Fayray's covers that I'll certainly find the songs. Heaven itself is a mid-tempo song with a beautifully full sound of drums, guitars and Fayray's voice which seems to crone out the beautiful if repetitive lyrics. This possibly my favorite track on the album as it leaves you feeling with a wonderful sedate feeling but still has somewhat of a beat to keep you from falling asleep. For certain this song and many of the others, would not have worked as well had Fayray's English weren't on the level it is which allows the lyrics to come through. Heaven is the home of the heart // Heaven don't tear you apart

Moving the beat up a bit Fayray next covers Fleetwood Mac, a band most American's have heard. The acoustic sound is full but feels a bit less then Heaven giving the song a little lighter feeling. Funnily enough Fayray's voice seems to be reminiscent of Stevie Nick's voice and the arrangement perfectly compliments it. The song has a nice beat that keeps the pace of the song moving and I can detect the sounds of strings whose presence is a little easier to hear then previously in Heaven. Once again a very awesome cover of an awesome band.

Oh, Angel! I love this song and I've loved every cover of this song. But Fayray's version ranks up with Fiona Apple's cover which is more piano based. If you've never heard the original your missing out as it is Jimi Hendrix. Fayray's arrangement is beautifully slow and tranquil with minimal instruments leaving only Fayray's voice to sing in a soft from strong tone. The guitar is gorgeous and not overpowering and definitely an throwback to the original version.

Next is The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face, now I'll admit I've never heard the original nor have I ever really heard of the singer so I was pleasantly surprised to find a beautiful piano and voice ballad that Fayray sings absolutely gorgeously. The whole song is very understated with the piano even being sparse. But this gives it the beautiful sedate feeling.

Tiny Dancer was an Elton John song and I myself wondered how Fayray would do an Elton John song. We get a beautiful jazzy piano and drums with a simple beat while Fayray lays down some sassy vocals. Underneath a bass helps add some backbone to the song. But the piano and Fayray's voice take center stage in this song creating a cover that if I had not known who the original composer was would never have thought it was an Elton John song such is Fayray's talent.

The speed of the album picks up with This is Love original from PJ Harvey. While I have heard of him, I have never heard any of his music though I can get a good idea of sound from this cover. The pace is faster with a fuller acoustic sound then the last few tracks and some pretty awesome guitar that though is center is not over-played. All the while Fayray keeps the sass she had in Tiny Dancer but her voice seems to shine out even more.

Moonchild is a bit more laid-back with a very smooth melancholic sound. There is a constant guitar strum in addition to electronic background. Here Fayray's voice seems to be most at ease. The singing is gentle and full allowing her voice to shine through. This I think is her forte. While she can do faster paced songs the slow gentle ballad gives her more an opportunity to create a slow emotional connection through her music.

I Believe in You is true to Neil Young. With a laid back acoustic sound it gives a very country feeling which seems appropriate. Fayray pulls a little more soul out of her voice then the previous track. She gives us some strong vocalizations and an even more beautiful sound. I think the emotion of the song really comes through for her more so then the original.

Fayray ends with The Wind which starts out with a light acoustic sound. While not as slow as the previous two tracks, Wind doesn't stray out into the realm of fast-tempo song. There is a little more then laid-back sound to it and some very pretty guitar parts. Fayray gets a male back-up singer with this song and is perfectly complimented with him. In addition there are some gorgeous vocalizations towards the end.

But wait! We get a bonus track hidden after The Wind. This track is titled My Foolish Heart and is simply a very gorgeous jazzy piano piece that brings about a very cool ending to the album.

All in all I am so glad I bought this album. It introduced me to a very under-appreciated artist who certainly needs more people to get into her. You can bet I'll be reviewing more from her and her original work.

MU // download (224kbps and up)
10th-Feb-2008 06:31 pm - [review] kotringo - nemurugirl
Japan

kotringo - nemurugirl
official site
mini-album
01.23.2008
RZCM-45785

Track Listing:
01 runaway girl
02 chocolate
03 snowman
04 itsumo
05 jump jump
06 Fuwafuwa song

Amazon.jp | HMV | Yesasia

I discovered kotringo simply because I liked how the cover looked. While cruising uploading sites I saw it and decided to give a try. Time and time again I've been told by my friends that this not a good thing to do because most of the time the music is bad even if the cover is pretty.

But I usually go for it when downloading as it's served me well. So instead of downloading and forgetting about it, I unzipped it right away and listened to it. I was greeted by a piano and a soft but strong female voice. It took only the first song for me to fall absolutely in love with the sound of this talented songerwriter. So much so that I've already purchased her debut single and are planning to buy the rest of her discography which consists of two singles, an album, and now this mini-album.

Debuting last year, kotringo starting playing piano when she was five and began composing when she was seven. Hailing from Osaka she spent a few years in New York composing and performing. In 2005 she sent in demo tapes to Ryuichi Sakamoto's radio auditions and would later be signed for debut in 2006.

The album starts out with Runaway Girl which simply is one of the reasons I was blown away. The melody is simple with piano and strings and in retrospect it sounds like many other piano pop songs but doesn't really "copy" any of them. Light and gentle with the strings creating a beautiful background kotringo's voice then comes in soft but strong. The melody moves forward and seems to be pulled into a beautiful round phrase with the strings before returning to the piano. Kotringo's voices will probably sound somewhat weak and maybe a bit breathy to some people but I personally can here the gentle strength underneath. The song simply ends with the strings.

Next is Chocolate which kotringo takes a different use of the piano. With light drums the song starts out with almost a jazzy flavor before encompassing the piano and kotringo's voice. She shows off her English a bit which, compared to other jpop singers, is pretty good. Chocolate is certainly more upbeat then Runaway Girl with a cute interlude of drums and piano. All the while the piano continues to fluxuate from hard to soft and kotringo's voice follows the same pattern. We get a very full sound towards the end which then tapers down into a softer sound while still keeping the previous beat and eventually fades out.

Snowman seems to move the direction of the album with a cute piano intro and more electronic background with the piano then the previous two tracks. It is as uptempo as Chocolate though and still heavily ingrained with her piano sound. But by this track kotringo is able to combine her piano and the electronic hip-ness of pop together and the formula seems to work really well. We then get a slight strange little interlude and then the song picks up again. The piano though seems to have taken a more backseat to the electronic sounds instead of being the focal point however it's the piano that ends the song.

Itsumo which means "always" in Japanese is the ballad. It seems the normal blend of piano and voice which makes up the normal jpop ballad. There is also a beautiful melancholic sound to kotringo's voice that aids the song from being just a generic ballad though. There is some background electronic sounds that fades in and out ever so often which helps gives a more fuller sound to the song.

Jump Jump brings us right back to an upbeat tempo but once again the electronic sounds seemed to have over-powered the piano which instead of being the focal point is the backbone of the song until the chrous when it switches to just the piano and kotringo's voice. But the song has a very light happy sound all the while kotringo sounds happy and light. Then another moment of voice and piano that is just lovely and very light sounding. Then all of a sudden an artful piano break for the tempo jumps back in. (I couldn't resist.) We end with electronic and piano together and fading.

Fuwafuwa Song is a sort interlude of piano and electronic sounds including sounds of bubbles? But all the while kotringo is singing "fuwafuwa" which I'm not sure what it means but it's cute before the piano takes over. Threre is a sound which is somewhat lounge-like and the song ends with that ever present "fuwa".

All together I think that nemurugirl has a consistant and cohesive sound accompanied beautifully with kotringo's voice and her piano. There is no doubt to her composing skills and I hope she has a nice long career ahead of her.

MU // download (192kbps)
29th-Apr-2007 12:50 pm - [Mod] Introduction
Utada
Welcome to Someday Reviews. This journal is an extension of the sharing community some_day_music where you can download discographys of Asian (though mostly Japanese) artists.

I will try to provide with merchant links to help you purchase the cds. My goal is try and get you to love these artists as much as I do so that you'll put your money into so they keep making music.
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