Sunday, January 24, 2010

Monday, January 18, 2010

Periodic album review

I've been stuck on an Ambient/Dream Pop kick out of which I've just been starting to dig myself.  Somehow, rearranging the sentence to avoid the ending preposition made it sound like one of the more awkward sentences I've written in my life (next to this one).  Moving on...

Hirahara Ayaka 平原綾香, "my Classics!" (DREAMUSIC, 2009)

Another CD I'm just getting around to.  Hirahara Ayaka, who comes from a family of classical and studio musicians, rearranges classical music with pop beats and lyrics mostly written by her.  In particular, I like Hirahara Ayaka because her voice is unique: it's both nasally and husky in a way that does not grate on the ear, but instead provides an unexpectedly pleasant musical experience.  I think this is because her voice has a very soft quality to it, and this, combined with her inherent musicality, makes her voice a pleasure to listen to.  At the same time, the fragile nature of her voice limits the types of songs she can sing successfully, and in particular Hirahara floundered for quite a bit with her first few albums before settling on ballad to midtempo numbers with soft beats, often bolstered by strings and other classical instruments in order to cultivate an almost orchestral pop sound that is inherently orchestral in nature, not bound in a focus on the piano that appears to be the foundation of other pop artists of this nature.  At any rate, "my Classics!" is a very strong album that plays to Hirahara's strengths, particularly the classical background of both her persona and her music.  While on the one hand, this may signal a resignation to the popular expectations of her by "covering" classical songs, on the other this gimmick actually serves to make the album much more coherent as a whole than Hirahara's past albums.  The only sore track is the final one, "Jupiter," where it is clear the song has not been altered from its appearance as Hirahara's first single, down to the painful opening line.  It might even be argued that "Jupiter" is much more pop than the other songs on the album, both indicating Hirahara's development as an artist and the poor editorial decision of sticking the song on because it is a classical song as well.  On the other hand, the arrangements for the preceding single for the album, "Nocturne/Campanula no koi ノクターン/カンパニュラの恋," fit into the framework of the album quite well, and in fact improve upon the listening experience of the songs from their original single appearance.  Other worthwhile tracks are the opener, "pavane~naki oujo no tame no pavaanu pavane~亡き王女のためのパヴァーヌ" (T1) and "Moldau" (T6).  A very strong album worth a listen.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Periodic album review

This week's albums are...

→Pia-no-jaC←, "EAT A CLASSIC 2" (Boundy, 2009)

A continuation of the pop duo's "EAT A CLASSIC" series, involving arrangements of classical music in line with the group's piano and cajone-based jazz-influenced pop.  I think this album is significantly stronger than the original "EAT A CLASSIC," and it also shows the group venturing into new experiments with sound.  Since it appears that the group's goal is to figure out how to create a plethora of sounds through a minimum of instruments, it makes sense that the classical works chosen here are all ordinarily vivid orchestral pieces.   Whether by altering the piano or the cajone to make new sounds or by emphasizing precisely the absence of sound and the limitations of those instruments to capture the broad sounds of the original, Pia-no-jaC appears to have produced another album both insightful and entrancing.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Periodic album review

Not only reviewing this week, but also testing scheduled posting features!

Lusine, "A Certain Distance" (Ghostly International, 2009)

I had heard the song "Operation Costs" elsewhere, so thought that it would be a worthwhile purchase.  I notice that recently I have been deviating towards ambient electronic music as of late.  "A Certain Distance" is a good album, but somehow it has failed to leave a strong impression with me.  The sounds are vibrant and clear, but for me the album fails to cohere as a whole in a way I had expected it to.  Uncertain.