Ai Otsuka – LOVE LETTER

January 17, 2009 at 9:24 PM | Posted in Ai Otsuka | 6 Comments
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The cover of the CD+DVD edition

LOVE LETTER is Ai Otsuka’s 5th album and it was released on December 17, 2008. The album reached #3 on the Oricon Weekly Charts and sold 179,174 copies.

♦ ♦ ♦

On Ai Otsuka’s previous albums, the opening track is normally an upbeat song but it looks like that trend has broken with the title track LOVE LETTER. The song is a piano ballad and quite a simple one as well. I thought it was kind of weird for her to open the album with such a slow song but I guess that was the point. Anyway, I don’t think it’s anything special but at least Otsuka’s vocals are nice.

For me, the album really starts with the extremely bouncy Rocket Sneaker. There are a good amount of upbeat songs on the album, but this one is definitely the best. The fast paced music is great and I loved the mix of electric guitar and piano.

Like Rocket Sneaker, most of the upbeat songs follow a more band oriented arrangement. Bye Bye is a bright and rockish song that compliments Otsuka’s vocals pretty well. The music is heavy on the guitars and drums as well. At the end of February, this song will be released as a recut single because of its tie-in with Asahi Beer.

Kurage, Nagareboshi is by far my favorite song on the album. It’s a beautiful summer ballad that’s performed very well and I just love how epic it is. The music is dramatic and has a calm, natural sound thanks to the strings and piano. Otsuka hasn’t had a ballad this grandiose since Planetarium so good job on her part.

A slew of new tracks are up next and they start with the ballad Ningyou. I gotta say that this song is pretty and it’s like LOVE LETTER, but a million times better too. The strings really make this song shine and I like that brief segment where the music speeds up when Otsuka’s vocals get stronger. I wish the song was longer though because it’s quite enchanting.

The next track has a laid back psychedelic sound but that’s what I like about it. Kimi Fechi is pleasant to the ears as well. It’s a relaxing song that features soothing electric guitars next to gentle drums and chimes. 

Opening with a cheery acoustic guitar, Creamy & Spicy has an lively atmosphere that doesn’t let up. The arrangement features rhythmic drums and electric guitar later on too. The only thing about the song that bugs me is when she shrieks the “creamy & spicy” line during the chorus though.

Here’s another pop rock song and it was one of the three tracks used to promote the album (360° and Ai being the other two). Do☆Positive is the most aggressive of these songs because of its swift arrangement alongside Otsuka’s energetic vocals. I like that she put some character into her voice to make things more fun and it gives the song some personality.

Now we have a song that is pretty far out. 360° has a spacy, yet ambient sound that includes fantasic piano chords and various synthetic beats. Otsuka’s vocals have been filtered with a cool layer effect as well. Even though she repeats the same line over and over again for the chorus, I find it pretty catchy and memorable.

The biggest surprise on the album is definitely Shachihata. Not only has Otsuka created a classic 1930s big band and brass driven track, her vocals are radically different. The voice you hear in this song sounds nothing like her because she’s singing at a far lower pitch than ever before. Even though she is doing nothing but adlibbing, I was enjoying every second of it. I was very impressed with this song and even more so since Otsuka composed it.

The album begins to slow down in pace with the next track. I still think One×Time is quite nice and I like its laid back arrangement. The gentle strings are great and they’re my favorite aspect of the song, especially during the catchy chorus.

Pocket was Otsuka’s take on the winter ballad and even though the song as a whole is kind of average compared to her other ballads, it is performed very well. The 2nd half of the song is the best part because the arrangment picks up and Otsuka’s vocals become more vibrant.

The final track on an Ai Otsuka album never fails to disappoint because she always wraps things up with a heartwarming ballad of some sort. This song, simply titled Ai, does exactly that. It’s a very sweet song and Otsuka sings with complete sincerity, especially near the end with the adlibbing sequence. I really like that part since you hear children providing the background vocals too.

While I think LOVE LETTER is good, I have to be honest and say that it is one of Ai Otsuka’s weaker albums as well. The album contains her most mature sounding material to date, but most of the songs end up being too reserved and mild at the same time. I don’t know how to put this without being overly negative, but a large portion of LOVE LETTER is missing the fun factor and replay value of previous albums. I’m aiming this criticism only at the new tracks though because I was expecting more out of them. On the plus side, Otsuka has crafted a thoughtful album with a wide array of pleasant pop songs. It’ll probably just take more time to grow on me in the long run.

Overall Rating

4 stars

Tracklisting

1. LOVE LETTER
2. Rocket Sneaker (ロケットスニーカー)
3. Bye Bye (バイバイ)
4. Kurage, Nagareboshi (クラゲ、流れ星)
5. Ningyou (人形)
6. Kimi Fechi (君フェチ)
7. Creamy & Spicy
8. Do☆Positive (ド☆ポジティヴ)
9. 360°
10. Shachihata (シヤチハタ)
11. One×Time
12. Pocket (ポケット)
13. Ai (愛)

Note: My favorite tracks are highlighted in blue!

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6 Comments »

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  1. frankly I disliked the album a LOT when it was leaked out a month prior to the actual release date . I find it OK now but it’s definitely not her best album despite being her most mature sounding one to date

  2. I agree with you, this album is epic but not as strong as her previous ones. Maybe the lack of her signature upbeat-crazy-catchy songs is because she meant that this album is a “Love Letter”, like how Gackt released his.

  3. I agree it’s not as strong, but I still really like all the tracks on there, especially Shachihata.

  4. I thought the album was average-sounding too. Most of the songs were just something I listened to once and forgot immediately after. The 3 songs that did manage to stick in my mind are Kurage, Nagareboshi; 360°; and Shachihata. When I first listened to Shachihata, I thought “was this song randomly stuck in this album?!? It doesn’t sound like Ai!!!” but I absolutely love it ^_^

  5. I think it’s nice to see Otsuka maturing, as the album shows. Every song on the album is enjoyable and I especially found Shachihata to be interesting! It did take a few plays for this album to grow on me as well, so it’s not just you Lex. ;)

  6. I personally loved the album o.O..although some songs were kinda meh. Like Ningou and Love Letter. I loved Ai and 360 though! I think its a great album for first time listeners of Ai Otsuka. Personally I hate her attempts at poppish rock songs.


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