Ai Kawashima – Simple Treasure

July 14, 2009 at 7:41 PM | Posted in Ai Kawashima | 3 Comments
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The cover of the CD only edition

Simple Treasure is Ai Kawashima’s 4th studio album and it was released on June 3, 2009. The album reached #27 on the Oricon Weekly Charts and sold 6,542 copies. The first single released during this era, Shiawase Desu ka / Suitcase, was not included.

♦ ♦ ♦

A bright, lighthearted tune opens the album and it’s my favorite out of the new tracks. All of Kawashima’s studio albums have begun with an upbeat track and Again is no different. The verses are calm but the song accumulates to a charming chorus that adds percussion, chimes, and light electric guitar. The only thing about the song that bugs me is the way it ends since those background vocals felt unnecessary to me.

I have always been indifferent towards Door Crawl, which I felt has been one of Kawashima’s weaker A-sides. The song is weak vocally but I think the instrumental sections that feature the electric guitar are pretty good. After some consideration, I think it sounds better on the album unlike when it was a single.

Kakera / Flag was definitely the best single from this era and the second A-side makes an appearance as track 3. Flag is a cheery song with pretty strings and upbeat percussion, perfectly complimenting the music’s uplifting atmosphere. It’s also one of my favorite tracks on the album.

A mid-tempo track is next and it utilizes flowing strings with a steady beat. lover has quiet, acoustic sequences during the verses that transition into an elevated chorus. Kawashima showcases stronger vocals throughout the entire song, but especially during the bridge.

The album also has some upbeat, rockish songs and we get our first exposure to them with Revolution. I wasn’t fond of the verses since Kawashima sounded pretty flat but she does get better when the chorus arrives. Once again, the instrumental sections are great.

With its playful arrangement and carefree attitude, I really liked Aoi Tori. The mix of piano and light percussion is very nice and everything just sounds positive. It’s a great song and a welcome addition to the album.

Daijoubu da yo, Kawashima’s latest single, is next. This song has grown on me and I do like how it’s more progressive in sound (like most of the new tracks on the album). The chorus is another highlight since I think it’s quite catchy.

Now the ballads begin to appear and they start with Namida, a solemn song whose most striking feature is the lonesome pan flute. Aside from that, this is mainly an acoustic track that keeps things pretty simple.

Reminder is also a ballad, but it’s much more dramatic. Filled with somber piano and low key acoustics, the music has a tense, apprehensive vibe to it. I think this works out in the end because Kawashima gives a more emotional vocal performance with the chorus being the most notable part.

Taking a short break from the ballads is Merry-go-round, which is surprisingly one of the most upbeat songs on the album. I liked Kawashima’s stronger than usual vocals and the delightful chorus because it has a great pace. This song definitely stands out at this stage of the album but I am not complaining in the least bit. It’s wonderful.

Oh boy, we’re back to the slower songs. Luckily, Honesty is quite good. Relying more on the piano and drums this time, the music is uplifting and doesn’t have that depressing atmosphere as heard in Namida or Reminder. *sigh* Kawashima is on a roll as the album is reaching its conclusion. ♥

Picking up the pace is Yawaraka na Hizashi. It’s mid-tempo, cute, and charming. It sounds like some of the B-sides of this era, but MUCH better and more pleasant. The arrangement features gentle, but ever present synth riffs. At least they are not grating to the ears and seem to fit in better with the rest of the instruments.

The last track happens to be my favorite A-side! I was quite content to hear Kakera ending the album. The song makes for an ideal final track because it’s uplifting, enthusiastic, and lively. Lastly, the album ends on a positive note, just like her previous ones.

Even though the singles released prior to Simple Treasure weren’t as great as I hoped they would be, the album as a whole is very pleasant and generous to the ears. I have always thought Ai Kawashima’s singles stood out more once they are actually on an album and it still remains true here. However, it was the new tracks that impressed me though since they are all quite good. Most of them are better than the A-sides as well. Like the title of this album implies, Kawashima did go for a more minimalist sound, but that’s where I think the album shines. It’s easy listening at its best but without being boring. Compared to her previous albums, I would say Simple Treasure is on the same level.

Overall Rating

4 stars

Tracklisting

1. Again
2. Door Crawl (ドアクロール)
3. Flag
4. lover
5. Revolution
6. Aoi Tori (青い鳥)
7. Daijoubu da yo (大丈夫だよ)
8. Namida (涙)
9. Reminder (リマインダー)
10. Merry-go-round
11. Honesty (オネスティ)
12. Yawaraka na Hizashi (やわらかな日差し)
13. Kakera (カケラ)

Note: My favorite tracks are highlighted in blue!

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3 Comments »

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  1. I have never listened to this singer. But your review makes me want to give an ear to this album. It seems to be simple and easy to listen to, perfect for summertime! Great job!

  2. Never listened to her either! I’ll check it out~

  3. ai kawashima is my favourite singer. she sounds like an angel, can play the piano and write her own songs, and is pretty. however, one bad thing is that sometimes her songs sound boring. But her ballads and pop songs are PERFECT! check out “Shigure”, her most magnificent song ever!


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