Ai Kawashima – 24/24

June 6, 2010 at 10:00 PM | Posted in Ai Kawashima | 2 Comments
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The cover of the CD+DVD edition

24/24 is Ai Kawashima’s 5th studio album and it was released on May 26, 2010. The album reached #34 on the Oricon Weekly Charts and sold 3,787 copies.

I see you hiding behind that camera, Ai! I C U.

♦ ♦ ♦

One of Japan’s most underrated singer-songwriters, Ai Kawashima has always impressed me with her enchanting songs and her voice that I describe as nothing short of angelic. Imagewise, she’s homely but I think that’s part of her appeal (I always see her on those Oricon polls and stuff like that). Anyway, that’s why I’ve been a fan ever since her I WiSH days.

Kawashima’s latest album 24/24 proves to be one of her more enthusiastic releases with a primary focus on upbeat songs. Compared to past albums, there are fewer ballads but that’s not a problem. For example, the A-side Haru no Yume is really the album’s only true ballad. I wouldn’t count the opening track Hakobune because it’s very short (kind of like Ai Otsuka’s LOVE LETTER).

A large portion of the album is filled with catchy piano tunes including WHITE, Color, Omedetou, and Daisuki da yo. They’re all pleasant songs that radiate with Kawashima’s gentle vocals. Other notable tracks include very upbeat tracks like Ban Soko and Hakata Kiito Koiuta along with the acoustic guitar driven I got you. The album slows down near the end with mid-tempo pop songs that incorporate more strings. They don’t exactly fit into the category of ballads though. Haguruma, Eggheart, Day by day, and the final track Sakura are indeed slower paced and they sound sooooo pretty.

My favorite aspect of 24/24 is that it’s an album brimming with hope and optimism. There are seriously NO sad songs on here. Her previous albums had at least one or two of them so I was surprised. Every song is presented in an uplifting manner and the album as a whole is enjoyable to listen to. My only criticism would be that it lacks some of the variety of past albums. For instance, I felt that her last album Simple Treasure had a wider array of arrangements and instrumentation but 24/24 still ends up being the successor. For me, this is her strongest album since her debut.

Pros: The ultimate “feel good” album! =D
Cons: Besides the limited range of instruments used, I don’t have any.

BASICALLY…I highly recommend this album! Kawashima did an excellent job.

Overall Rating

4½ stars

Tracklisting

1. Hakobune (ハコブネ)
2. WHITE
3. Color
4. Haru no Yume (春の夢)
5. Ban Soko (ばんそーこ)
6. Omedetou (おめでとう)
7. Daisuki da yo (大好きだよ)
8. I got you
9. Hakata Kiito Koiuta (博多純恋歌)
10. Haguruma (歯車)
11. Eggheart
12. Day by day
13. Sakura (さくら)

Note: My favorite tracks are highlighted in blue!

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Ai Kawashima – Haru no Yume

April 19, 2010 at 6:34 PM | Posted in Ai Kawashima | 3 Comments
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The cover of the CD only edition

Haru no Yume (春の夢) is Ai Kawashima’s 19th single and it was released on April 7, 2010. The single reached #10 on the Oricon Weekly Charts and sold 6,469 copies.

The bunny on the cover is NOT Ai Kawashima. I repeat, that is NOT her. >_>

♦ ♦ ♦

Spring is in the air and Ai Kawashima has crafted a pretty ballad that is perfect for the season. Haru no Yume is a gentle song that comes in the same style of previous ballad A-sides like compass and Taisetsu na Yakusoku. At over 5 minutes long, it starts off slow with acoustics and piano but gradually builds up into a great final chorus. After a couple of a listens, I have warmed up to the song.

Both of the B-sides are upbeat tracks. Sora to Tsubomi and Tentoumushi are both quite nice. The first B-side has cheery piano and drums while the second is more rockish. They’re good songs but I think Tentoumushi is the better of the two because of its arrangement.

On a random note…OMG she’s on the cover of her new album! *shocked*

Pros: A balanced single. I liked every track.
Cons: The A-side is kind of boring because of the slow buildup.

BASICALLY…consistency is key! Another good release from Ai.

Overall Rating

4 stars

Tracklisting

1. Haru no Yume (春の夢)
2. Sora to Tsubomi (空とつぼみ)
3. Tentoumushi (てんとう虫)

Ai Kawashima – Daisuki da yo

January 5, 2010 at 11:26 PM | Posted in Ai Kawashima | 2 Comments
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The cover of the CD+DVD edition

Daisuki da yo (大好きだよ) is Ai Kawashima’s 18th single and it was released on December 16, 2009. The single reached #12 on the Oricon Weekly Charts and sold 6,435 copies.

I demand that you show yourself, Ai Kawashima! D<

♦ ♦ ♦

Starting off a new era with a dose of sweetness is Daisuki da yo. The song reminds me of her last single, the similarly titled Daijoubu da yo, but without the rockish undertones. The cute pop sound is more prevalent here and I liked it. Kawashima never fails to deliver a pleasant track, that’s for sure.

The B-side that appears on both editions is Oh my snow, an upbeat winter themed track. Next to the perky instruments are some jingle bells that add to the festive mood of the song.

Track 3 is where things begin to differ. The CD+DVD edition has believe me, I believe you while the CD only has Umi ga Hakobu Uta. Unfortunately, the CD only track hasn’t surfaced so I can’t give any thoughts about it. believe me, I believe you is another upbeat song with electric guitars though.

Pros: The A-side and Oh my snow are really nice.
Cons: Like BENI, she suffers from “mid-tempo A-side syndrome”.

BASICALLY…less leaves, more Ai!

Overall Rating

3½ stars

Tracklisting

1. Daisuki da yo (大好きだよ)
2. Oh my snow
3. believe me, I believe you [CD+DVD]
    Umi ga Hakobu Uta (海が運ぶうた) [CD only]

 

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!

Ai Kawashima – Daijoubu da yo

May 21, 2009 at 11:41 AM | Posted in Ai Kawashima | 1 Comment

Tracklisting
1. Daijoubu da yo (大丈夫だよ)
2. Power of smile
3. Shiawase Hakoberu You ni
    (しあわせ運べるように) [CD+DVD]
    Escape [CD only]

This is Ai Kawashima’s 17th single and it was released on April 8, 2009. The single reached #10 on the Oricon Weekly Charts and sold 9,534 copies.

It’s nice to hear an upbeat, rockish A-side from Ai Kawashima. Daijoubu da yo has instrumental sections that feature assertive electric guitars with quiter parts that focus on Kawashima’s gentle vocals. The band arrangement of this song is pretty good and perhaps the most musically involved compared to her other recent A-sides. In the end, it’s a step in the right direction. Here’s hoping for more songs like this one on her upcoming album Simple Treasure.

While the A-side was more of a “homely” kind of song, Power of smile is pure poppy fluff. It’s upbeat right from the getgo and includes looping synth within that positive arrangement. It seems like the most upbeat song on the past couple of singles has always been a B-side. Switch it up, girl!

Since the normal CD only bonus track Escape is nowhere to be found, I’ll only cover Shiawase Hakoberu You ni. This song is solely performed on the piano and it maintains a pleasant mid-tempo sound. I don’t find it boring at all so that’s a plus and it helps that the song is pretty short too. lol

Overall Rating

3½ stars

Ai Kawashima – Kakera / Flag

September 6, 2008 at 7:43 PM | Posted in Ai Kawashima | Leave a comment
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Tracklisting
1. Kakera (カケラ)
2. Flag
3. Taiyou Densha (太陽電車)

This is Ai Kawashima’s 16th single and it was released on August 20, 2008. The single reached #22 on the Oricon Weekly Charts and sold 7,039 copies.

Ai Kawashima always manages to make good, relaxing pop music so Kakera was no exception. At least the song is more interesting than her last two singles because it features a stronger and more involved arrangement. The music is on the bright side and it includes pleasant piano chords with elegant strings. Kawashima’s vocals are great as usual and she does put some emphasis into her voice near the end.

The other A-side is the more upbeat and charming Flag. Even though the music is similar to Kakera with its use of instruments, I liked this song more thanks to its happy and overall lighthearted nature. It features a catchier melody and fuller vocals from Kawashima too.

There is also a coupling track and it’s pretty good too. Taiyou Densha quickly starts off with an enticing percussion section and I was already getting hooked. The chorus is the best part of the song and I liked the male vocals in the background. They actually provide a nice harmony during the chorus but especially near the end with the delightful “la la” segment that closes the song. I also have to mention the electric guitars since they were a great touch as well.

Overall Rating

4 stars

Ai Kawashima – Door Crawl

December 24, 2007 at 12:43 PM | Posted in Ai Kawashima | Leave a comment
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Tracklisting
1. Door Crawl (ドアクロール)
2. Iro no Nai Mono (色のないもの)
3. Tomoshibi (灯)

This is Ai Kawashima’s 15th single and it was released on December 12, 2007. The single reached #20 on the Oricon Weekly Charts and sold 10,251 copies. The title track was used as the theme song for the Square Enix video game Chocobo no Fushigi na Dungeon.

Door Crawl is a pleasant and laid back listen, but I liked the fact that there are additional band instruments. Without them, it would just be another plain Ai Kawashima ballad. The electric guitar chords and drums give the music life and make everything sound less bland. Kawashima’s vocals sounded a little rushed at times, mainly during the chorus, but she keeps them controlled at least.

The first B-side is a little upbeat like the previous track, but it uses minimal instruments. Iro no Nai Mono makes use of drums and acoustic guitar for the calm verses, but adds oddly placed synth and strings for the chorus. Overall, this track is nothing special and the melody sounds rather ordinary.

The next B-side also uses synth, but I thought it was a bad choice for it to open the song, which is a ballad. Tomoshibi starts off quietly but eventually accumulates to a sweeping chorus with pretty vocals and strings. There is also synth during the bridge, which completely ruins it because it sounds so out of place next to the more ”natural” instruments.

Overall Rating

3 stars

Ai Kawashima – Shiawase Desu ka / Suitcase

October 11, 2007 at 12:39 PM | Posted in Ai Kawashima | Leave a comment
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Tracklisting 
1. Shiawase Desu ka (幸せですか)
2. Suitcase (スーツケース)
3. RAINBOW ~Atarashii Watashi, Hajimaru~
    (RAINBOW ~新しいワタシ、始まる~)

This is Ai Kawashima’s 14th single and it was released on October 3, 2007. The single reached #12 on the Oricon Weekly Charts and sold 11,145 copies.

Ai Kawashima is an exceptional ballad singer and she once again proves what she excels at with Shiawase Desu ka. It’s a simple piano and string ballad with very gentle vocals. The thing I like the most about Kawashima is the angelic and pure quality of her voice and she puts it to full use in this song.

The next track is Suitcase, which is a little more upbeat and lively than Shiawase Desu ka. It starts rather simple with just the piano but then adds a steady percussion beat and some strings. The song is rather pleasant, but I would have liked it more without the unnecessary synth segments.

Track 3 is by far the most upbeat track on the single. RAINBOW ~Atarashii Watashi, Hajimaru~ is a nice listen and Kawashima is pretty good at singing faster paced songs as well. Her vocal style changes quite considerably when the music is of a different tempo. In this song, it’s actually a little lower pitched.

Overall Rating

3½ stars

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