Wrapping up the summer J releases

BoA / KEY OF HEART / August 08, 2006
01. KEY OF HEART

BoA shouldn’t need an introduction so I’ll keep this one brief and in helpful snippets. Mega-huge Korean pop star who churns out albums at alarming speeds. Criss crosses between singing in Korean and Japanese, as has also gained huge popularity in Japan. Also sings in Chinese (Mandarin? Cantonese? I stupie and not know) and English. Released new single for the summer, KEY OF HEART.

Infused with summer flavor, the synth spectacle of the title track edges in during the last weeks of summer, barely scrimping on the deadline. With the recent influx of hippy poppy dancey synthy numbers released in the world of Jpop for the past three months, I’m losing my tolerance. I’m all popped out. After changing my mind and deciding AFI’s CD was pretty much a victory lap for Sing the Sorrow, and already overplaying the best on Kill Hannah’s latest, I ask myself…where did the rock go? I’m totally sidetracking, but thank God Dir en grey released Ryoujoku no Ame before I commited metal suicide. Or nu metal suicide. Or visual kei, or whatever the kiddies are calling them now. What I’m trying to say is, I wasn’t expecting rock or anything near it from BoA. But I can say, thank you but this is totally useless considering Ayumi Hamasaki, Morning Musume, and Koda Kumi have already released their summer singles. Among the three dozen or so others.

Ai Otsuka / Yumekui / August 02, 2006
01. Yumekui

Last year, I remember being thrilled with Japan’s summer releases. Namie Amuro’s Queen of Hip-Pop nestled in among Ai Otsuka’s Natsu Sora, Hamasaki’s fairyland, and Zwei’s Dragon. I was actually sad to see the summer go; now I’m pushing it out the door. After being nothing but disappointed by Otsuka’s last release in the Spring, I was hoping to be amazed by some sort of abrupt turnaround this summer. Instead, I got Yumekui which is what Aerosmith is to their last two albums. I’m at a loss for words and seldom does this occur unless I am dealing with complete crap (see: the last review I did of F.I.R.’s Flight Tribe which is more a brief history and final statements than an actual review).

Nami Tamaki / Speciality / July 12, 2006
02. Result / 07. No Way Back / 11. MY WAY

On that note, I planned on writing a separate feature review of Nami Tamaki’s new album Speciality, but than I actually heard it and realized I would have absolutely nothing to write about. Mostly because I think I worded myself out nicely six years ago when Two-Mix already released all of Tamaki’s CDs, except with less guitar and catchier. The songs “No Way Back” and “Reach for the Rainbow” are the only songs I could find relief in, but using “Ready Steady Go!” to conclude just broke my heart because what sort of moron decides to leave a lasting impression on the listener with a song that doesn’t sound anything like the rest of the album…in a bad way? I used to be of the persuasion that believed that the beginning and middle of the CDs were the only parts that really counted. But now that I’m not seven years old anymore and used to rewinding side A of a tape, I’m pretty sure that all parts of a CD matter. See, Nelly Furtado could get away with topping Loose with some extra filler songs because a) the good songs weren’t just good, they were phenomenal, b) it started out with a strong track and ended with a strong track (these things leave impressions), and c) the fillers were interspersed among the album and not just in one place, so they were just sort of that one song before the next three good ones.

Dir en grey / Ryoujoku no Ame / July 26, 2006
01. Ryoujoku no Ame

Finally, I already mentioned Dir en grey, but I’d just like to extol some more to wrap it up. I was going to do a separate review of the single, too, but there’s basically only one song on it and it’s hard to review just one song for two paragraphs unless it’s absolutely the greatest thing since “Come Together.” And it’s not. Buuut…I do like it. A lot. It’s got melody and drive and hey, it’s Dir en grey (I’m not one for bands resting on the success of their past, but I’m biased; they’re like my dysfunctional younger brothers who wear makeup and love to spit blood on stage and who wouldn’t be proud of that?). Plus, Dir en grey went on the Family Values Tour and so I should congratulate them on that. However, the other three tracks on the single were all live recordings of previous released songs. We can do better than that.

Perfume / Perfume ~Complete Best~ / August 02, 2006
09. FOUNDATION

Other worthy mentions this summer? Perfume released a best of collection, aka, a single collection. If we’re going dance-pop/techno, this is of what I want to see more. “FOUNDATION” and “COMPUTER CITY” actually make me feel happy. This is rare. Even more than rare, I thought it was an extinct emotion I could only recall memories with by listening to “Hey Jude” or “Hot Stuff.” See, Perfume is a good example of not only the quality of Japanese indie groups, but an overall Jpop DO. Arashi’s ARASHIC is an example of a Jpop DON’T. See how that works? Let’s try that again. HINOI TEAM’s Now and Forever: Jpop DO. Mai Kuraki’s DIAMOND WAVE: Jpop DON’T. All together now.

There are still a few summer releases I have yet to formally review, but those will be wrapped up in the next week or two. And then I can finally, gleefully, bid summer adieu.

BoA Official Site / Buy KEY OF HEART
Ai Otsuka Official Site / Buy Yumekui
Nami Tamaki Official Site / Buy Speciality
Dir en grey Official Site / Buy Ryoujoku no Ame
Perfume Official Site / Buy Perfume ~Complete Best~

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