Ai Otsuka – LOVE COOK

September 20, 2006 at 11:37 AM | Posted in Ai Otsuka | Leave a comment
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The cover of the CD+DVD and CD only editions

LOVE COOK is Ai Otsuka’s 3rd album and it was released on December 14, 2005. The album reached #1 on the Oricon Weekly Charts and sold 835,333 copies.

♦ ♦ ♦

Opening the album is 5:09a.m., a short yet extremely vivid track. The beginning is awfully quiet, showing off a eerie but soothing atmosphere with its distant synth. I love how the song just EXPLODES for the chorus, which was a big surprise the first time I heard it. Otsuka’s vocals change from calm to brazen and the same goes for the music because it features a flurry of electric guitars. However, this part is only exclusive to the chorus and the song ends in the same way it began.

The second track is the very pretty Haneari Tamago. The music flows beautifully with its string dominated arrangement and additional percussion. The strings also give off a sad feeling as well, perfectly matching the tone of Otsuka’s vocals. The song is definitely one of my favorites among the album’s new tracks.

I still think Biidama is a charming song with a melody that is very catchy. While the music is quirky in nature, it is also quite bouncy with its rhythm. It’s a cute song that I will always enjoy.

Now we have SMILY, the leading track from the respective double A-side single (Biidama being the other track). I will admit that this song is catchy but it can be a little overbearing at times. Like I said before, there are some nice moments (the chorus for instance), but there are also some annoying moments.

The next song is also on the offbeat side, but there’s something about U-Boat that I find really amusing. Right from the get-go we get some drums and clapping followed by the catchy norikonde u-boto line. This lyric gets repeated a lot towards the end, but I like those parts for some reason. Other than that, this is a fun, “beach inspired” track with upbeat electric guitars and bright vocals.

Neko ni Fuusen remains one of my favorite Otsuka songs to date because there’s something about it that I find uplifting, despite the sad lyrics. It’s probably the music and her vocals that create this feeling of encouragement.

For me, the best new track on the album is definitely Cherish. Otsuka originally released this song for the LOVE for NANA ~Only 1 Tribute~ compilation album and I was extremely glad to see it on here as well. It’s a different offering from her since this is a darker, more dramatic track with a rockish chorus. The music is quite dynamic with its addition of harps and piano as well.

The obligatory silly song comes in the form of Ramen 3pun Cooking. I actually really enjoy this track for its quirkiness but also because it is very catchy. The song is full of comical background voices and random instrumental sections. The chorus stands out thanks to the funny lyrics too.love-cook2

Tokyo Midnight is another pleasant song and it has a fantastic uptempo jazz sound. Even though I think it’s one of the less memorable tracks off the album, it’s still quite good. The use of brass stands out in the song but the constant percussion keep a nice pace.

To this day, Planetarium remains as my favorite song on the album as well as one of best songs that Ai Otsuka has ever done. Being a moving ballad, it’s full of longing emotions and heartfelt lyrics. It’s also a little different from your traditional J-pop ballad in that it relies more on percussion rather than on strings.

After such an amazing song, we now have one a track that I think is just absolutely foul. I honestly can’t stand Birthday Song! There are a lot of things about this song that turn me off but the main offenders would be the annoying harmonica and extremely repetitive lyrics. The song is just way too corny as well, even for Otsuka’s standards. It’s without a doubt the worst song on the album.

At least the final track is good. LOVE MUSiC is a very gentle and sweet pop ballad with a romantic atmosphere. Otsuka sings with sincerity next to laid back woodwinds and guitar riffs, except for the bridge that features a surge of these instruments. Since this is a very touching song, it closes the album on a happy note.

LOVE COOK is another strong offering from Ai Otsuka! I would say that this album is about near perfect like her previous one (the awesome LOVE JAM) except for one BIG thing: Birthday Song. If it wasn’t on the album, you would easily be seeing a 5 star rating (yeah, that shows just how much I hate it lol). It kind of throws everything off, especially with its placement after Planetarium. Anyhow, that song is the only bad aspect of this album. LOVE COOK is enjoyable and it definitely sets the stage for her more mature works that were later featured on the LOVE PiECE album.

Overall Rating

4½ stars

Tracklisting

1. 5:09a.m.
2. Haneari Tamago (羽ありたまご)
3. Biidama (ビー玉)
4. SMILY
5. U-Boat (U-ボート)
6. Neko ni Fuusen (ネコに風船)
7. Cherish
8. Ramen 3pun Cooking (ラーメン3分クッキング)
9. Tokyo Midnight (東京ミッドナイト)
10. Planetarium (プラネタリウム)
11. Birthday Song
12. LOVE MUSiC

Note: My favorite tracks are highlighted in blue!

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