Michiru Hoshino / YOU LOVE ME / September 02, 2015
It’s hard to keep up to date with Michiru Hoshino — she’s not a relevant or popular enough J-pop figure to feature in popular news outlets, despite being a former Team-A AKB48 member. It’s always been Hoshino’s dream to compose her own music, and she seems to have found her niche in the indie market, penning low-key, natsukashii jams. She’s also a staple presence at Tower Records, itself now a short term for forward-thinking, yesterday-sounding idol groups like Negicco and Vanilla Beans. So it was surprising to learn she had already released another album before anyone had the chance to anticipate it.
E・I・E・N Voyage was one of my favorite albums of 2014, and A/W COLLECTION ~Anata to Watashi no Collection~, a small collection of B-sides and extras, followed shortly afterwards. YOU LOVE ME more today than yesterday but not as much as tomorrow shows small, but important maturation: there’s a lot more of an oldies vibe, such as the sweet “Be My Baby” drums and crooning on “Sakamichi no Tochuu,” and both “YOU LOVE ME” and “MISTY NIGHT, MISTY MORNING”‘s chipper piano chords. The synthpop of “Chotto SOMETHING NEW” is about as upbeat and contemporary as the album is ever going to get, but it’s to the album’s benefit that it remains as calm as a water park in October. At times, she’s still falling into the trap of trying to sound a little too much like Pizzicato Five right after they peaked, when Konishi started to make everything sound just a little too much like a Main Street parade at Disney (“INTERSTELLAR”), but there’s a good chance the next track will always take things back down to a more easygoing level. To his credit, Konishi has a hand in one of the greatest songs on the album “Natsu Nandashi” (re: Happy End), just to prove he’s now staying above it. This is a beauty of a record, a mellow mish-mash of several decades, genres, and sounds. Hoshino’s vocals aren’t without flaws, but they suit the songs.
Unless idols, from AKB48 or otherwise, go on to do all the things we expect them to — modeling, acting, talk shows — they don’t always surpass their formative years. There are rare exceptions like Tomomi Itano, but Michiru Hoshino has taken an alternate route in the music industry. This isn’t to say that everyone following her example would, or could, succeed, but it seems to have worked for her: she consistently releases joyful pop tunes on par with the best that the J-indie world has to offer.