Hitomi Shimatani – Flare

August 12, 2008 at 6:17 PM | Posted in Hitomi Shimatani | 1 Comment
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The cover of the CD only edition

Flare is Hitomi Shimatani’s 7th album and it was released on July 16, 2008. The album reached #21 on the Oricon Weekly Charts and sold 13,174 copies.

♦ ♦ ♦

The first track is a cute song that gives off a 90s dance vibe. Heavenly is a little more reserved than I thought it would be but it’s actually quite charming. The music is a mix of vibrant strings and light beats set to a medium tempo. The instruments and musical rhythm really showcase an American 90s sound that is reminiscent of the lighter dance songs from that decade. It’s not too aggressive but Shimatani’s vocals make this song pretty catchy and more upbeat too.

The next track is odd to say the least. Start has an offbeat arrangement filled with aggressive piano chords and various synthetic sounds. I got that 90s vibe again but not the good kind like when I heard Heavenly. Shimatani’s vocal style is kind of strange too since she sings most of the song in her lower register, which probably wasn’t the best choice for her because she doesn’t sound as good. I think the song could have been better executed because it had the potential to be good.

This is a song that I find incredibly catchy and thanks to multiple listens, I have memorized the title! Ame no Hi ni wa Ame no Naka wo Kaze no Hi ni wa Kaze no Naka wo is a breezy and carefree song with fantastic vocals. Shimatani really makes the chorus shine by singing the long winded title in an upbeat fashion.

Along with the 90s sound that some of the new tracks have, there are also songs that have a certain ethnic flavor to them. Dita isn’t one of the Spanish inspired songs that she does so well, but something else. The music is hard to describe but I think that it has a French or Mediterranean atmosphere. The laid back piano, percussion, and heavy use of the flute makes me think this. Then again, I also think this song sounds like elevator music because it’s boring too.

At least we get a temporary break from the slow songs with Shinku, a taste of the lingering crossover genre that Shimatani excels at. You get the powerful strings and thumping beats which are essential for the crossover sound, plus a strong vocal performance as well. For me, this was the best single that she released for the album.

I wasn’t expecting Nakitai Nara to be right after Shinku. I thought that the transition from a powerful pop song to a depressing ballad was a little off. I didn’t really like the song when it was released as a single but it has slowly grown on me since then. At this stage of the album, it’s not the boring ballad that I originally thought it was. It’s actually sung quite well and the string arrangement is extremely effective in creating the sad mood of the music.

Dear… is another one of those “French / Mediterranean / elevator” songs that I mentioned before when I examined Dita, but this one is actually pretty good. It has a nice and laid back sound with a crisp arrangement consisting of guitars and various percussion instruments. The song makes me think of a relaxing day at the beach…or something. Anyway, Shimatani pulls it off this time.

The album takes a turn for the better with what is definitely the best of the new tracks. Taiyou no Flare is a stunning pop song and it has a little dash of that crossover sound thanks to the inclusion of dance beats that go with the flowing strings in the background. I loved the chorus because it so uplifting and Shimatani shows off those stellar vocals when she performs that taiyou no flare line.

So I have said that some of the new songs on this album are similar to American 90s music, but WAKE YOU UP is a little different. The deep English background vocals, quick single notes, and electric guitar dominated bridge are all common elements of classic 90s J-pop. The arrangement is so quirky but I also think it’s very fun, especially during the chorus. It has now become one of my favorite songs on the album and I have been listening to it A LOT lately.

After we’ve been woken up, it’s now time to Shake it up! There is a nice, constant beat and it’s the most ethnic sounding track on the album. It’s also the only one to hint at a Spanish vibe since the bridge has this cool bottle tapping sequence and you do hear a man talking in Spanish under an echo filter.

Neva Eva provides some much needed variety to the album. The heavy brass arrangement really makes this song shine and along with the electric guitars and drums, there is almost a ska sound going on. Shimatani also gives one of her best most upbeat vocal performances as well.

I’m glad that Marvelous ends the album on a happy note. It’s an uplifting song with ambient piano chords and underlying synth. The chorus is very vibrant with its upbeat and catchy vocals too. Even though it still sounds quite similar to Camellia, it makes for a good ending track.

On the CD only edition, there is a new strings version of Ai no Uta that appears as a bonus track. I loved the original version and that only featured the piano but with the addition of strings, the song is even better. They actually don’t appear until about a minute in but they are absolutely gorgeous. Shimatani’s beautiful adlibbing sequence that makes up the beginning of the bridge was my favorite part in the original version and the new strings just solidified that.

I have to admit that Flare is a downgrade when compared to her last album PRIMA ROSA, but it still has its strong points. She will always be a chameleon when it comes to musical genres because she does some more experimenting on this album with songs like Heavenly, Dear…, and Neva Eva and I appreciate that. It also helps that she maintains her strong versatility as a singer. The biggest problem that I had with the album were the new tracks, except for Taiyou no Flare and maybe Heavenly. They could have been a little better and I wish there was some more effort put into them as well. As a whole, I felt that Flare wasn’t as cohesive as I would have liked it to be, but then again almost all of her albums have missteps when it comes to flow. Overall, I liked this album and there are a good amount of standout tracks too. While not as good as past albums, Flare still proves to be an enjoyable, yet relaxing listen.

Overall Rating

4 stars

Tracklisting

1. Heavenly
2. Start
3. Ame no Hi ni wa Ame no Naka wo Kaze no Hi ni wa Kaze no Naka wo
     (雨の日には 雨の中を 風の日には 風の中を)
4. Dita
5. Shinku (深紅)
6. Nakitai Nara (泣きたいなら)
7. Dear…
8. Taiyou no Flare (太陽のFlare)
9. WAKE YOU UP
10. Shake it up!
11. Neva Eva
12. Marvelous
13. Ai no Uta Strings version (愛の詩) [CD only bonus track]

Note: My favorite tracks are highlighted in blue!

1 Comment »

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  1. Nice review. It seems we share a few of the same concerns. Maybe her new material, once she releases some will be a tad better.


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