Monthly Japanese Music Review – January 2011 – Part I: Singles

Yeah, I know this post is coming a little late (partly due to my extreme laziness). But, as I said in my previous entry, better late than never, don’t you think so?

This January there haven’t been many releases, as evidenced by the extremely low sales figures we’ve seen on Oricon these past few weeks (especially on the album charts, in which there have been a couple of weekly number ones with only around 20k copies sold). Out of all the J-pop stuff that has been released this month, there were only like 3 releases I was really anticipating, but that didn’t stop me from listening to a lot of new music! If there’s any good thing about not being too excited for something, it’s that it’s hard to be disappointed by it, and since I was pretty sure from the very beginning that the little stuff I was looking forward to would be good at least, this month’s list of disappointments is going to be rather short.

The amazing stuff:

愛は力 (Ai wa Chikara) – alan x Kei Fukui

Tracklist

1. 愛は力 (Ai wa Chikara)

Here’s something radically different from the stuff I usually listen to. I’ve been listening to alan since the release of her first album back in 2009, and, even though she’s already tried a few different genres, we’d never heard her sing something like opera before, so I was quite curious about how this would sound like. I love the epic feel the whole song has, and while alan’s vocal technique may not be as refined as that of professional opera singers (this difference can be clearly noted in this song since she’s singing together with tenor Kei Fukui), she still sounds great as usual. Sadly, even though I personally loved this, I don’t expect the average J-pop listener (or even other alan fans) to like it because, well, opera is not everybody’s cup of tea.

Dear J – Tomomi Itano

Tracklist

1. Dear J

2. TUNNEL

3. Thank You

4. Stay by my side

5. ツンデレ! (Tsundere!)

When it was announced that Tomochin would be debuting as a soloist, my expectations were rather low because, err, her singing just sucks *hides from rabid fans*. However, when the preview of the lead song came out, I was pleasantly surprised to hear such a catchy dance song, really different from the usual stuff we hear in most AKB48-related releases, and without annoyingly cute, high-pitched vocals a la Watarirouka Hashiritai. Thank god autotune exists! Dear J is easily my favorite song of the year so far: I’ve played it over 150 times and I still love it to bits. B-sides Stay by my side and Tsundere! are pretty good, too. The former is an R&B-ish ballad which reminds me of something Kana Nishino would sing, and the latter, originally an AKB48 stage song, is an upbeat pop tune with a pretty cool arrangement. The remaining B-sides TUNNEL and Thank you are not bad, but pale in comparison with the other 3 tracks and her not-so-good vocals don’t help much either, so I don’t see myself listening to them very often… But who cares about that when the other 3 songs are so awesome? I’m definitely looking forward to her next single coming out next April.

Personal highlight: Dear J

コールドフィンガーガール (Cold Finger Girl) – Chiaki Kuriyama

Tracklist

1. コールドフィンガーガール (Cold Finger Girl)

2. 月面軟着陸 (Getsumen Nanchakuriku)

To be honest, I didn’t know what to expect from Chiaki’s 3rd single because her previous one Kanousei Girl was such a letdown, especially after such a great debut single as Ryousei no Namida. But after giving it my first listen, my faith in her was immediately back! Lead song Cold Finger Girl has been on endless repeat on my iPod for quite a few days and has become my favorite song of hers so far, and coupling song Getsumen Nanchakuriku is quite nice too. I really like the rock route she’s going (her music reminds me of Aya Hirano’s, but better and with decent vocals), and if she keeps releasing such awesome songs on a regular basis, she has potential to become one of my favorite artists in the future.

Personal highlight: Cold Finger Girl

モノクローム (Monochrome) – Haruka Tomatsu

Tracklist

1. モノクローム (Monochrome)

2. モノクローム ~ version de l’apprivoiser (Monochrome ~ version de l’apprivoiser)

First of all, thanks to ReHikari for letting me know about the existence of this single! Since it’s not an official single, but a bonus disc included in the DVD / BD release of the anime it belongs to, I had no idea Tomacchan had put out a new song. That said, Monochrome is without doubt one of her best songs, completely different from the usual happy idol pop songs with not-so-good singing we usually get from her. Her vocals haven’t sounded this nice since Musuhi no Toki… and that was in 2008. A pity it hasn’t been released separately: I would’ve bought it for sure. I still hope she’ll include it as a bonus track in her next album.

Personal highlight: Monochrome ~ version de l’apprivoiser

Other singles worth mentioning

If – French Kiss

Personal highlight: Chinmoku

In case you don’t know who they are, French Kiss is an AKB48 sub-unit formed by members Yuki Kashiwagi, Aki Takajo and Asuka Kuramochi, and this is only their 2nd single. If is a decent song and the chorus is especially nice. As for the b-sides, one of them, Chinmoku is a beautiful ballad which has actually become my favorite FK song so far, but the other two are… forgettable, that’s the best adjective to describe them, since I don’t even remember how they sound like (and I’ve listened to them a few times already). Overall, their first single was much better, but this one is not bad.

大好きだよ / スピードあげて (Daisuki da yo / Speed o Agete) – Lil’B

Personal highlight: Speed o Agete ~Caramel Pod remix~

Due to the lack of releases from artists I usually follow last month, I decided to give a listen to the stuff other artists I hadn’t listen to before released this January. This single is one of those releases. Since I’m totally new to Lil’B’s music, I gave this single a try with no expectations… and it turned out to be really nice. Their vocals, while not amazing, are pleasant to listen, and all those rapping lines add a pretty cool touch to the songs. I liked all the songs on this single, but my favorite is without doubt Speed o Agete… not the original one actually, but the remixed version! It makes me feel like dancing~

STRAIGHT JET – Minami Kuribayashi

Personal highlight: STRAIGHT JET

While I’m not really a fan of Minami (mainly due to the fact that most of her songs sound the same), she has some songs I really like and that’s why I check her music out from time to time. A-side STRAIGHT JET is the typical upbeat song we’ve already heard thousands of times as the opening theme of some anime… but that doesn’t mean it’s bad! Actually, I find it great! Coupling song First Addition may be not too memorable, but it’s alright I guess, at least I like it enough not to skip it when it randomly pops up on my playlist.

終末のフラクタル (Shuumatsu no Fractale) – Faylan

Personal highlight: Shuumatsu no Fractale

Let’s be honest about this one: when I gave it my first listen, my intention was to send it directly to the shitpile. However, I gave it a second listen a few days later and surprisingly, I really liked the lead song. I love the chorus and her voice sounds great! And that’s the only reason why this single is worth mentioning, because I still HATE TO DEATH that piece of shit called HAPPY SOUL DANCE. I HATE IT HATE IT HATE IT. Plus her voice sounds annoying as hell in it, trying to sound cute and failing miserably. I bet it was because of it that I recalled the single to be so terrible.

Why? (Keep Your Head Down) – Tohoshinki

Personal highlight: Why? (Keep Your Head Down)

Despite being such a hugely popular band, I’d only listened to a couple of THSK songs before, and this was actually the first time I download any of their releases. This is their long-awaited comeback to the Japanese music scene (as a two-person band, though), and I quite liked it. Both Why? and MAXIMUM are pretty cool songs. I haven’t listened to the original Korean versions (yet) and therefore I can’t compare them, but these Japanese versions sound good to me. However, that remix of Why?, also included in the single is… well, not-so-good.

放課後オーバーフロウ (Houkago Overflow) – Megumi Nakajima / May’n

Personal highlight: Get it on-flying rock

The title track is alright (and Megumi’s singing is pretty nice) but a little too generic-sounding for my taste. The true gem of this single is the b-side Get it on-flying rock, it’s such a catchy pop-rock tune! The chorus is great!

The crappy stuff:

プラチナLover’s Day (Platinum Lover’s Day) – Yukari Tamura

In general, I’m not very fond of Yukarin’s music because I usually find her voice annoying as hell, but she has a few songs I like despite her crappy singing, so I always check her new releases out. Platinum Lover’s Day may be half-decent (the chorus is quite fun and all), but since the two b-sides are terrible (Kono Yubi Tomare is the most headache-inducing thing I’ve heard in the past few months, and floral blue is boring as hell), it doesn’t save the whole single from being mediocre.

Next post: the albums!

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3 responses to “Monthly Japanese Music Review – January 2011 – Part I: Singles

  1. ReHikari February 13, 2011 at 10:05 pm

    Woot, I’m tempted to listen to Faylan’s new single now just to see how bad the c/w is XD (got it on hold still) And lol I knew you’d love Monochrome ;p

  2. Senyuizuki February 13, 2011 at 10:50 pm

    oh wow, Chiaki Kuriyama is the school girl from Kill Bill.
    I remember listening Cold Finger Girl a while ago and not thinking that much of it, but on relisten it’s definitely better than I had thought.

  3. npal February 14, 2011 at 9:42 pm

    I also liked Monochrome. They should’ve given it to someone else, it’s a waste giving it to Haruka, who won’t be able to sing it live even if her life depended on it xP

    PS Haru’s my favorite onion. Eh… girl… that…