Angela Aki – Kagayaku Hito

April 27, 2010 at 9:27 PM | Posted in Angela Aki | 4 Comments
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Kagayaku Hito (輝く人) is Angela Aki’s 10th single and it was released on April 14, 2010. The single reached #6 on the Oricon Weekly Charts and sold 10,082 copies.

OMG a guitar! MIND = BLOWN.

♦ ♦ ♦

The cover pretty much explains what you need to know about Kagayaku Hito. The song is unique coming from Angela Aki solely because of its acoustic guitar arrangement, totally devoid of her trademark piano sound. Unless you’ve heard her English album These Words, you’re in for something new. The guitar plays a prominent role in the song and features simple strumming. This isn’t YUI we’re talking about! XD I get the feeling that Aki is still fairly new to the guitar but I hope we get more songs like this.

Aki goes back to the piano on the B-sides. The Chase is an upbeat and bouncy song that includes thumping drums. It’s an uplifting track that’s along the same lines as Emily, the awesome B-side from her last single Ai no Kisetsu. The 3rd track is a cover of the super popular song Ken Lee…I mean Without You. I loved what she did with the song, once again mixing the original English lyrics with new Japanese lyrics.

Wrapping things up is a “gasshou” or choir version of Tegami ~Haikei Juugo no Kimi e~. The music is the same as the original but there are now added choir vocals, adlibbing and singing some of the lines alongside Aki.

Pros: Kudos to Angela for trying new things! Kagayaku Hito is a really nice song.
Cons: I don’t really have any. I hope she continues to experiment though.

BASICALLY…how about an accordion for the next single? Just kidding. XD

Overall Rating

4½ stars

Tracklisting

1. Kagayaku Hito (輝く人)
2. The Chase
3. Without You
4. Tegami ~Haikei Juugo no Kimi e~ (Gasshou Version) 
    (手紙 ~拝啓 十五の君へ~ (合唱バージョン))

Angela Aki – Ai no Kisetsu

September 27, 2009 at 7:54 PM | Posted in Angela Aki | 2 Comments
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Ai no Kisetsu (愛の季節) is Angela Aki’s 9th single and it was released on September 16, 2009. The single reached #7 on the Oricon Weekly Charts and sold 13,278 copies. The title track was used as the theme song for the drama Tsubasa.

Quit whining, guys! This cover is different. She’s BEHIND the piano instead of in front of it! *side eye*

♦ ♦ ♦

Ai no Kisetsu is taking a while to sink in because it doesn’t really leave a lasting impression. It’s an alright song but it feels like I’ve heard it several times before…well, when it comes to Aki’s upbeat songs at least (Sakurairo instantly came into my mind). Anyway, you don’t get anything new here. Even the “upbeat and inspirational” theme, like several songs before it, is getting a little stale.

The B-sides are more interesting though. Emily actually has some flair thanks to rhythmic piano and drums. The bridge was a nice highlight thanks to the background vocals and sudden change in the arrangement. Most importantly, who is this Emily?! First Dahlia and now this chick… quit playing with these poor girls, Angela. </3

Her cover of G.C. Cameron’s It’s So Hard To Say Goodbye To Yesterday is great too. Aki’s soulful vocals make this song shine, especially near the end. I LOVE her belting. lol

Pros: The B-sides are awesome. ♥
Cons: Unfortunately, Ai no Kisetsu is pretty drab. Send your hate comments now.

BASICALLY…Angela needs to mix it up a bit.

Overall Rating

 3½ stars

Tracklisting

1. Ai no Kisetsu (愛の季節)
2. Emily (エミリー)
3. It’s So Hard To Say Goodbye To Yesterday

Angela Aki – ANSWER

March 26, 2009 at 7:50 AM | Posted in Angela Aki | 10 Comments
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The cover of the CD only edition

ANSWER is Angela Aki’s 3rd album and it was released on February 25, 2009. The album reached #1 on the Oricon Weekly Charts and sold 160,587 copies.

♦ ♦ ♦

Starting things off is the album’s only single, Tegami ~Haikei Juugo no Kimi e~. The song makes a for a good opening track despite its slow first half and I do love the message and back story behind the lyrics too. It’s not as strong as previous album openers like Kiss Me Good-Bye and Sakurairo but it gets the job done.

I really do enjoy Angela Aki’s cover songs but I wasn’t impressed with her version of Bob Dylan’s Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door at all. I have no problem with the music but the song just doesn’t work that well with Japanese lyrics. Most of the time Aki’s vocals sound disconnected from the main melody and it’s pretty noticeable. The bridge sequence is very nice though.

The next track is my favorite song off the album! Seriously guys, I am in love with ANSWER. It’s a fast paced song with a great mix of piano and electric guitar that is bound to make you feel good. The chorus is definitely a highlight thanks to the catchy lyrics and positive tone of Aki’s vocals. Her last two album titled tracks were awesome and this one is no exception.

A slower song follows and it’s Somebody Stop Me. This song is pretty interesting because of its odd structure but I was liking Aki’s soulful vocals. While the first half of the song is pretty normal, the second half stands out when she begins to sing the “somebody stop me” line and holds the note in “stop” for a good 10 seconds. I thought the addition of a lone xylophone near the end was cool too.

Now we have Dahlia, an absolutely gorgeous song with great strings and amazing adlibbing sequences. This song clocks in at 7:40 in length but the time just seems to fly by when I listen to it. The music has a nice buildup into the chorus and the strings get more involved when the chorus arrives too. Aki sounds radiant as well, especially near the end and during the adlibbing parts that I mentioned earlier. I love it when she goes “la la dahlia“!

The always pleasant Final Destination is next and it was originally a B-side on the Tegami ~Haikei Juugo no Kimi e~ single. I’m glad this song is on the album since it evens out the slower piano dominated tracks that come later. Like most of the tracks on her previous album TODAY, this song has more of a band arrangement with its prominent percussion section.

I don’t really remember the next two tracks. Our Story is performed solely with the piano and the arrangement is pretty impressive but that’s it. The whole thing ends up sounding monotone and not interesting at all. Not to mention that it gets repetitive pretty fast too.

I can say the same thing about Tasogare as well. This song is even more boring and drab than Our Story because it just seems to drag and bury itself into a downward spiral. There’s no direction in the music and I feel like I’m listening the same melody over and over. Where exactly is this song going? NOWHERE.

Hmmm…what’s We’re All Alone doing on this album? This is a new version of the Boz Scaggs cover that originally appeared on Aki’s Indies mini-album ONE, but still…why is it here? Anyway, just like her first version of the song, it’s performed with just the piano so there’s nothing new music-wise. However, she did record it with new vocals.

Finally, a GOOD song! Reflection is one of Aki’s most unique songs to date and it’s very refreshing to the ears. The piano chords are rhythmic and create a distinct reggae sound along with upbeat percussion, which I thought was really cool. Aki sounded like she was having fun while recording the song too since she displays carefree and bouncy vocals.

OMG…Requiem. What is there to say? IT’S FUCKING EPIC, THAT’S WHAT. Being over a whopping 10 minutes in length, the song is dedicated to her deceased grandfather and probably the most ambitious piece of music that Aki has ever crafted. How epic is it? So epic that it’s divided into 4 “movements” so it’s like a modern day Christian requiem (a musical composition that is used to mourn the dead). I’ll try to cover the 4 movements without too much detail. The first movement starts off slow but it gets dramatic around 3 minutes in when the music speeds up and becomes much more foreboding. This marks the beginning of the second movement. Upbeat percussion and strange woodwinds are rampant in the faster parts of the movement but disappear in favor of strings during the slower parts. You get about 4 minutes of that before the epic ikite iru toki ni, ieba yokatta sequence appears and the music just seems to escalate which in turn concludes the second movement. That’s when marching band drums open the short, but amazing third movement. Opera choir vocals appear and mostly adlib but the third movement ends with them chanting aeternam habeas requiem (Latin for “may you have eternal rest”). The fourth and final movement is the same as the first and ends the song in a slow, but extremely effective fashion. Yeah, I think the song is absolutely mesmerizing, but I listen to it in moderation since it’s so damn long. lol

After all that seriousness, it’s time to kick back and relax with Black Glasses. Aki worked with Ben Folds for this charming and uptempo number. The lyrics are in English and I think they’re pretty clever, especially when the chorus comes around. In the end, it’s a fun song with a great sound that can be best described as “short but sweet”.

On Aki’s last 2 albums, the final track was a ballad with English lyrics but it looks like she has broken that trend with Fighter. Closing the album with an inspirational track like this one works equally as well so I didn’t have a problem with it. I liked the song’s main message about how everyone has a fighter within them too. I felt the music was a little lacking though and the arrangement comes off as a tad bit underwhelming.

I hope nobody gets mad at me for saying this but even though I thought ANSWER was a good album, Home and TODAY were much better. Sure, you could say that ANSWER is her most personal album, but so what? That doesn’t detract the fact that nearly half of the album is pretty underwhelming. There ARE some really amazing tracks like ANSWERDahliaReflection, and Requiem but on the other end there were dull ones as well. I will hand it to her that the album contains some pretty daring material, but you have to go through a good amount of drab to get to it. Still, if you’re an Angela Aki fan, you’ll enjoy the album. As for me, I liked it to a certain degree, but just not as much as her previous efforts.

Overall Rating

4 stars

Tracklisting

1. Tegami ~Haikei Juugo no Kimi e~ (手紙 ~拝啓 十五の君へ~)
2. Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door
3. ANSWER
4. Somebody Stop Me
5. Dahlia (ダリア)
6. Final Destination
7. Our Story
8. Tasogare (黄昏)
9. We’re All Alone
10. Reflection (リフレクション)
11. Requiem (レクイエム)
12. Black Glasses
13. Fighter (ファイター)

Note: My favorite tracks are highlighted in blue!

Angela Aki – Tegami ~Haikei Juugo no Kimi e~

October 6, 2008 at 4:38 PM | Posted in Angela Aki | 2 Comments
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Tracklisting
1. Tegami ~Haikei Juugo no Kimi e~
    (手紙 ~拝啓 十五の君へ~)
2. Final Destination
3. Still Fighting It
4. Tegami ~Haikei Juugo no Kimi e~
     -strings version-

This is Angela Aki’s 8th single and it was released on September 17, 2008. The single reached #3 on the Oricon Weekly Charts and sold 205,867 copies.

When I first listened to Tegami ~Haikei Juugo no Kimi e~, I thought it was rather unremarkable. It’s a slow burner and the musical structure is similar to another song that was released earlier this year: ayaka’s Te wo Tsunagou. It’s one of those songs that doesn’t really pick up until halfway through and that’s exactly what happens here. However, Aki’s vocals are stellar as always and her voice breathes life into the music, which is actually the most memorable thing about this song. Going back to the arrangement, the beginning is mostly just piano but it later adds some clapping and background vocals. This is where things begin to get REALLY good and the true message of the song comes out: “Keep on believing“. That is what Aki sings during the inspiring bridge sequence and it eventually leads into a great climax. While not as musically involved or exciting as previous singles, Tegami ~Haikei Juugo no Kimi e~ still proves to be a wonderful song that reaches out to people with its positive and endearing lyrical content.

Believe it or not, I thought the B-sides on this single were even better! They start with Final Destination, a vibrant song with a laid back band arrangement. The chorus is pretty catchy and Aki’s vocals are wonderful, especially when she performs those high notes. The bridge is the absolute highlight though with the English she incorporates:

Driving forward to my final destination. No matter how far or how long, whether it’s right or wrong, I belong in your arms.

The other B-side marks the return of the classic Angela Aki cover song! If you’re not familiar with her covers, she takes an English song and adds her own Japanese lyrics while keeping some of the original lyrics. In a sense, she makes the song her own while still maintaining some of the qualities of the original. This time she covers Ben Folds’ 2001 song Still Fighting It. This is actually my favorite song on the single and I think it’s beautiful from beginning to end. Aki sings with such sincerity and emotion that I couldn’t help but love it. The ending is fantasic when she sings some of the original English lyrics with powerful vocals.

An extra bonus on the single is the strings version of Tegami ~Haikei Juugo no Kimi e~. I like this version more than the original and for one simple reason: DUH, IT’S THE STRINGS. The song sounds a lot better with the them and as a result, more radiant as well. I still think the original sounds kind of “empty” with just the piano but the strings instantly fix that in this version.

Overall Rating

5 stars

Angela Aki – TODAY

September 29, 2007 at 8:49 PM | Posted in Angela Aki | Leave a comment
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TODAY is Angela Aki’s 2nd album and it was released on September 19, 2007. The album reached #1 on the Oricon Weekly Charts and sold 192,301 copies. 

♦ ♦ ♦

I thought Sakurairo was a perfect opening track because it instantly sets the positive and upbeat tone of the album. I have always loved this song because it is full of emotion and the lyrics are gorgeous.

Track 2 is Again, a very upbeat track with a lovely chorus. Further into the album, you will notice that Angela Aki is starting to include a stronger percussion section and more sweeping strings into her songs. It’s an incredibly pretty song and one of my favorites of the album’s new tracks.

Don’t confuse the next track with Aki’s Smashing Pumpkins cover from her Kokoro no Senshi single because the TODAY on this album is a completely different song. The biggest thing I noticed was the use of electric guitar during the chorus and bridge. Aki’s repeating of the ‘T’ sound in the word ’today’ is a unique aspect of this track and it actually gives it a little bit of life.

I guess Aki has jumped on the Ai no Uta boat along with several other artists but I’m not complaining. This is such a beautiful and moving song thanks to Aki’s soulful and sincere vocals. The addition of lower keyed strings later on really add a feeling of sadness but also hope into the song. 

I do have to admit that Tashika ni sounds A LOT better on the album since it jumps in right after the slow and somber Ai no Uta. As a single, I wasn’t really feeling this song, but I see it in another light as a track on the album.

Silent Girl is another slow tempo track only accompanied by the piano. It’s a little on the boring side, but Aki’s stellar vocals are nothing to scoff at.

Track 7 is nothing short of amazing. Moral no Soushiki is a song of inconsistency that’s always changing tempos and vocal styles. It opens with a strange drum solo and then into some dark piano chords. Aki opens the explosive the chorus with the Latin phrase Pater Noster which means ‘Father’s Prayer’, and it is one the many forms of symbolism that the song uses. Aki even sings through the point of view of another person (a mother) during the song’s ’slow down’ phase. This is definitely one of the best tracks she has ever made.

Otome Gokoro is a very jazzy song because of its quick piano chords and bass guitar in the background. The chorus is charming and extremely lively and Aki’s vocals also compliment the grooving vibes of this song. 

The opening piano chords of One Melody set the heartwarming and inspirational tone of the song. I really liked the use of band instruments in this very calming track.

Track 10 is probably the most relaxed and reserved on the album with its minimal use of other instruments. Tomo no Shirushi is nothing extremely special but it’s still a very pleasant song.

Next up is Kodoku no Kakera, a very dramatic song with pretty vocals. The opening piano chords with the additon of the strings and French horns give the song a melancholic, almost depressing atmosphere.

It’s great that On&On appears after all these slower paced tracks because this is an uplifting song with a catchy chorus. Aki’s vocals are wonderful especially near the end of the song where she begins to adlib.

I was so impressed with Surrender, the album’s final track. The song is completely in English and the lyrics are beautiful. Aki pours her heart and soul into this song and it even sounds like she’s on the verge of crying near the end. She definitely gives one of her most emotional performances in this song and it closes the album with sincerity and compassion.

TODAY is almost like a continuation of Angela Aki’s debut Japanese album Home because it’s like the end of the story that she created in Home. This album was created with a different state of mind and that’s reason why so many of the tracks have that upbeat, pop sound to them. Home was a very bittersweet album in terms of lyrics and music while TODAY is full of life and optimism, two very different sides of the spectrum. In the end, I loved this album because every track is of the highest quality. Even though the album is definitely more ‘pop’ than Home was, it doesn’t change the fact that Aki is still making incredible music.

Overall Rating

5 stars

Tracklisting

1. Sakurairo (サクラ色)
2. Again
3. TODAY
4. Ai no Uta (愛のうた)
5. Tashika ni (たしかに)
6. Silent Girl
7. Moral no Soushiki (モラルの葬式)
8. Otome Gokoro (乙女心)
9. One Melody
10. Tomo no Shirushi (友のしるし)
11. Kodoku no Kakera (孤独のカケラ)
12. On&On
13. Surrender

Note: My favorite tracks are highlighted in blue!

Angela Aki – Tashika ni

July 23, 2007 at 8:49 PM | Posted in Angela Aki | 1 Comment
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Tracklisting
1. Tashika ni (たしかに)
2. Tashika ni -piano version-

This is Angela Aki’s 7th single and it was released on July 11, 2007. The single reached #15 on the Oricon Weekly Charts and sold 11,210 copies.

Even though Tashika ni is quite a charming song that is very upbeat and free spirited, I couldn’t get over how repetitive it was. The verses and how she transitioned to the chorus by singing whoa whoa whoa were my favorite parts of the song. The first half of the song is great but near the end, that’s when the repetition begins to appear. She begins to repeat the same phrases over and over and I thought it was kind of annoying.

Track 2 is the piano version of the song. I thought the piano was overshadowed by the other instruments in the original so I thought this version was great. Even though the piano version is almost a minute shorter than the original, it still has that repetition.

Overall Rating 

3½ stars

Angela Aki – Kodoku no Kakera

June 7, 2007 at 8:46 PM | Posted in Angela Aki | Leave a comment
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Tracklisting
1. Kodoku no Kakera (孤独のカケラ)
2. Kodoku no Kakera -piano version-
3. Solitude

This is Angela Aki’s 6th single and it was released on May 23, 2007. The single reached #9 on the Oricon Weekly Charts and sold 31,534 copies. The title track was used as the theme song for the drama Kodoku no Kake ~Itoshiki Hito yo~.

Kodoku no Kakera is another high quality song from Angela Aki.  This is one of Aki’s more dramatic songs because of it’s mix of melancholy strings and piano chords. The chorus is beautifully crafted and Aki’s vocals are gorgeous as always. I loved the way she elevates her voice to make it become stronger.

The piano version of Kodoku no Kakera is pretty much the same song as before. The piano arrangement alone is great and Aki still presents all of the goods.

The final track on the single is a piano instrumental piece of Kodoku no Kakera that has a new title: Solitude. It starts off a little different from the original arrangement but still follows the main melody of the verses and the chorus. The piano chords are much more frequent too.

Overall Rating

4 stars

Angela Aki – Sakurairo

March 17, 2007 at 8:29 PM | Posted in Angela Aki | 1 Comment
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Tracklisting
1. Sakurairo (サクラ色)
2. On&On
3. Power of MUSIC
4. HOME -piano version-

This is Angela Aki’s 5th single and it was released on March 7, 2007. The single reached #8 on the Oricon Weekly Charts and sold 105,796 copies.

Here it is, Angela Aki’s first single since the release of her debut album Home. Sakurairo begins with nostalgic piano chords and a very pretty string arrangement. The thing I like most about this song is that she does a little dedication to HOME (her debut single) during the bridge by using some of the lyrics as well as the main melody. It’s very short but its transition into the final chorus is amazing. I was very happy with this song and she definitely has raised the bar for her future singles, it’s THAT good.

I honestly thought that this was her all around best single because of the awesome B-sides and the first one is On&On, an upbeat pop song with a catchy chorus. The mix of piano, bass, and percussion is great and this is probably one of her most upbeat songs to date. Aki’s vocals are simply amazing and her free-styling at the end of the song is to die for.

The next track is a new version of MUSIC titled Power of MUSIC, a song that originally appeared on her debut album Home. I thought the original was great and this new version is better on so many levels. There are many changes in the song including the addition of a light dance beat, new lyrics (the chorus remains intact though), and an even more cheerful atmosphere than that of the original.

The bonus track on the single is a piano version of HOME, her debut single. I have to say that Aki’s vocals are even better than that of the studio version and it’s a little slower paced. This is still my favorite Angela Aki song and it’s wonderful to hear a new version of it.

Overall Rating

5 stars

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