Tomiko Van – Van.

January 8, 2009 at 10:28 AM | Posted in Tomiko Van | 5 Comments
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The cover of the CD+DVD edition

Van. is Tomiko Van’s 2nd studio album and it was released on December 10, 2008. The album reached #28 on the Oricon Weekly Charts and sold 8,852 copies.

♦ ♦ ♦

Opening the album is Tomiko Van’s first official single as a solo artist. Flower is very upbeat and shows off the great pop rock sound that most of the album has. What stands out the most for me in this song is the chorus because of Van’s bright vocals.

Technically, there are only 4 new full-length songs on the album and the first one to appear is my favorite. Utopia is a charming song that mixes constant beats with short electric guitar riffs. I love the chorus and even though it comes off as simple at first, I find it extremely lively and infectious as well. It should have been a single instead of Tokyo Biyori. XD

The next track is manacles, a song that is kind of old. It has been around since early 2007 but only as an edited version that appears on the soundtrack for the anime Reideen (it was the opening theme). Luckily, the full version is on the album. The song has an edgy jazz vibe thanks to the rhythm and I was kind of surprised upon the first listen. It’s like a more upbeat take of the jazz tracks on her debut solo FAREWELL so I liked what I was hearing.

Along with the singles, 2 B-sides were included on the album. I’m pretty sure that Brave, from the Flower single, was chosen over the others because it had a tie-in with a video game. That’s okay though because the song is pretty good nonetheless. I like the epic factor of the music and how it accumulates in sound, especially during the great bridge sequence.

Yumeji still remains as my favorite A-side from Van. It’s a gorgeous acoustic based ballad with strong vocals and uplifting lyrics. Van sings with a good amount of emotion that ranges from the calm verses to the powerful chorus. The song may be over 2 years old, but I still can’t get enough of it.

The most aggressive songs on the album are up next and this brings us to carry out, a song that is absolutely hectic. There is so much going on but its instrumental sections are just plain far out. The music includes strong electric guitars, blaring drums, and various strange synth riffs. Van’s vocals are distorted in the verses too. The arrangement is certainly jumbled up in certain places but it works out in the end. Speaking of the ending, it’s abrupt since the song just stops with a single drum beat.

After that track is the hard-hitting Senkou. Along with carry out, it’s by far one of her most rockish songs to date and I think it stands out compared to most of the album. There is a dark quality to the music thanks to the sweeping electric guitars and Van’s powerful vocals. The ending is still my favorite part of the song, as it just seems to crash in a flurry of screeching riffs.

The next two tracks were from her latest single and the only ones on the album that I don’t really care for. I can understand message., from Tokyo Biyori single, being included because it’s the first song she wrote by herself but I honestly find it uninteresting. The arrangement is pleasant at best but there could have been more.

Tokyo Biyori has grown on me…a little. It’s still her weakest A-side but it does have its moments. It’s the most laid back song on the album because of its lethargic acoustic arrangement that features steady drums, guitars, and strings. If there is a notable aspect of the song, it would be the chorus simply because it’s the most exciting part.

The album is almost over but the ending tracks are stellar. If Brave and Yumeji were one song, it would be Refrain. If I didn’t like Utopia so much this would definitely be my favorite of the album’s new tracks. The song is a uplifting rock ballad that starts off slow but builds up into a wonderful chorus. I love how Van begins the chorus by singing “Are you ready to fly?” with very nice vocals too.

I thought it was interesting for Van to end the album with an instrumental. I wish Van. was a full-length song because this instrumental is really pretty. It’s relaxing, ambient, and provides closure for the album, especially since it’s right after the excellent Refrain. The use of a Celtic woodwind instrument further in was a great touch as well. My personal interpretation of this song is that it could possibly be a signal that her solo career has come to an end since Do As Infinity is back together.

I have to admit that Van. is actually pretty good, but it was long overdue. I think it’s a solid album that only has some minor flaws. I wish there more tracks for instance, considering a good amount of the album comprises really old material that was released in 2006. The new tracks are fantastic though, especially Utopia and Refrain, so it’s not all that bad. Compared to her debut solo album FAREWELL, I think Van. is on the same level in terms of consistency and style. This album focuses mainly on pop rock songs instead of the jazzy tunes heard in FAREWELL too. I guess it’s safe to say that her solo career will be on hold because Do As Infinity will be releasing new material in the spring so I am really looking forward to that. In the meantime, Van. might curb your appetite.

Overall Rating

4 stars

Tracklisting

1. Flower
2. Utopia
3. manacles
4. Brave
5. Yumeji (夢路)
6. carry out
7. Senkou (閃光)
8. message.
9. Tokyo Biyori (東京日和)
10. Refrain
11. Van.

Note: My favorite tracks are highlighted in blue!

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Tomiko Van – Tokyo Biyori

July 6, 2008 at 4:16 PM | Posted in Tomiko Van | 10 Comments
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Tracklisting
1. Tokyo Biyori (東京日和)
2. message.
3. Hum a Tune
4. Tokyo Biyori (Instrumental)
5. message. (Instrumental)

This is Tomiko Van’s 4th single and it was released on June 18, 2008. The single reached #18 on the Oricon Weekly Charts and sold 5,219 copies.

Since this was her first single since November 2006’s Yumeji, I guess I was expecting more out of Tokyo Biyori. I had to admit that Tomiko Van’s music was getting a little stale after 2 sub-par cover albums and she was long overdue for a new single. Anyways, Tokyo Biyori is a calm and pleasant song that’s also quite assertive with its use of the acoustic guitar and drums. The underlying strings also give the music a sad, longing atmosphere. Despite all of this, as an A-side, it’s pretty weak compared to the likes of her first 3 singles Flower, Senkou, and Yumeji. Those songs were REALLY good but this one was just…okay.

I would have to say the same about the B-sides too. message. is Van’s first musical composition and a more aggressive song than Tokyo Biyori. With the fast paced acoustics, riffs, and additional chimes, the overall arrangement has been done quite nicely so I thought Van did a good job for her first composition. However, compared to her previous B-sides, this one was forgettable.

By the time Van released her second cover album in March, I was already getting tired of her cover songs. Was her cover of ORIGINAL LOVE’s 1996 song Hum a Tune not good enough to make the last album? I suppose so because it’s pretty bad and quite annoying. I could say this one of her worst covers she’s done, but that’s stretching it. Even though the song itself is upbeat and pretty rockish, it ends up being boring because of the typical arrangement and bland vocals.

Overall Rating

3 stars

Tomiko Van – Yumeji

December 27, 2006 at 3:23 PM | Posted in Tomiko Van | Leave a comment
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Tracklisting
1. Yumeji (夢路)
2. labyrinth
3. Yumeji -instrumental-
4. labyrinth -instrumental-

This is Tomiko Van’s 3rd single and it was released on November 29, 2006. The single reached #14 on the Oricon Weekly Charts and sold 9,646 copies.

Yumeji is by far my favorite song that Tomiko Van has done as a solo artist. I think this is a very uplifting song that mixes light beats with piano during the verses, giving the song a very surreal and down to earth feeling. The string arrangement really shines in the chorus, where Van demonstrates her strong vocals. The build up towards the ending of the song is best part because it sounds very epic.

The B-side, labyrinth, was a breath of fresh air for me. The opening electric guitar riffs are sultry and so are Van’s vocals. I like the jazzy undertones and I might even go as far as to call this song ’sexy’. ♥ The bridge also includes a nice brass solo. It’s definitely one of her more aggressive songs.

Overall Rating

5 stars

Tomiko Van – Senkou

October 21, 2006 at 3:21 PM | Posted in Tomiko Van | Leave a comment
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Tracklisting
1. Senkou (閃光)
2. Mosaic
3. Senkou -instrumental-
4. Mosaic -instrumental-

This is Tomiko Van’s 2nd single and it was released on September 27, 2006. The single reached #14 on the Oricon Weekly Charts and sold 12,196 copies.

If you compare Senkou to her previous single Flower, you’ll notice that this is a much darker song. The chorus features powerful vocals with heavy electric guitar riffs. The overall tone of the song is very melancholy and the way it ends is very interesting (it’s almost like a very abrupt ‘crash’). Lyrically, the song is about the sorrows and inward struggles of being alone.

The B-side, Mosaic, is definitely more up-tempo. Alongside the electric guitars, there is a jazzy piano in the background adding some flavor to the song. The chorus is catchy and reminiscent of the upbeat songs on the FAREWELL album, only better.

Overall Rating

4 stars

Tomiko Van – Flower

September 29, 2006 at 3:20 PM | Posted in Tomiko Van | Leave a comment
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Tracklisting
1. Flower
2. Brave
3. Flower -Instrumental-
4. Brave -Instrumental-

This is Tomiko Van’s debut solo single and it was released on June 7, 2006. The single reached #10 on the Oricon Weekly Charts and sold 18,802 copies. The title track was used as the theme song for the drama Oishii Proposal.

Flower is VERY similar to her past Do As Infinity material and it really shows with the upbeat combination electric guitar and percussion. Plus, there is some synth added in certain parts of the song. It’s a very nice change from her ballad dominated debut album FAREWELL.

There is a certain quality of the B-side, Brave, that makes it have a somewhat epic sound to it. The song features slower paced yet powerful vocals from Van during the chorus. The bridge is the highlight of the song because it starts off very gently and slowly builds up into a medly of percussion. This is a great B-side and it would have made an equally good A-side.

Overall Rating

4 stars

Tomiko Van – FAREWELL

September 13, 2006 at 1:21 PM | Posted in Tomiko Van | Leave a comment
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The cover of the CD only edition

FAREWELL is Tomiko Van’s solo debut album after the disbandment of Do As Infinity and it was released on March 29, 2006. The album reached #7 on the Oricon Weekly Charts and sold 36,591 copies. 

Van did not release any singles prior to the album’s release but the songs farewell and Hold Me… were released as PVs. The music presented on this album is drastically different from her work in Do As Infinity. The songs are mainly soft ballads with some jazz thrown in.

♦ ♦ ♦

The first 2 tracks on the album, farewell and morning glory, are both mid-tempo ballads. farewell features more a traditional Japanese sound because of the low key strings while morning glory is a little more jazzy.

The next 2 tracks are definitely more in the realm of pop. Urara. and Essence feature electric guitar and upbeat percussion.

Track 5, horoscope, is another ballad. This song is done very well in the same style as farewell and morning glory.

Tracks 6 and 7 are in my opinion, the best songs on the album. complacence and Nue no Naku Yoru are very reminiscent of her Do As Infinity songs. I think of them as sweet nostalgia. Both songs feature more aggressive electric guitar riffs and percussion. complacence is amazing because of its awesome chorus and Nue no Naku Yoru features an impressive acoustic guitar intro with some enka elements thrown into the music.

Prepare for a borefest with tracks 8 and 9. HOLY PLANET and Before Sunset just drag on and on and both of the songs seem to have nothing going for them.

Track 10 is the most jazz influenced song on the album. Hold Me… is a little boring, but Van’s vocals are very gentle and her voice is perfect for the genre. The music itself is very jazzy as well, but it kind of sounds like lounge music at the same time too.

The final track is a cover of A Dream Is a Wish Your Heart Makes, a song from the Disney movie Cinderella that Van performed for the Japanese release of the movie’s soundtrack. This song took me by surprise and I thought Van did a REALLY good job with her English vocals. They’re pretty understandable but her ‘Engrish’ is still pretty evident.

Veteran Do As Infinity fans (like myself) will find this album sort of hard to get used to. The music is a lot more laid back and relaxed but there’s still a great variety of music presented in this album. The only songs I disliked were HOLY PLANET and Before Sunset because they were a little too laid back for me but aside from that, this is a great debut album. I like Van’s new style of music and I fully support her solo career. She is truly saying farewell to the music she has done in the past.

Overall Rating

4 stars

Tracklisting

1. farewell
2. morning glory
3. Urara. (うらら。)
4. Essence
5. horoscope
6. complacence
7. Nue no Naku Yoru (鵺の鳴く夜)
8. HOLY PLANET
9. Before Sunset
10. Hold Me…
11. A Dream Is A Wish Your Heart Makes

Note: My favorite tracks are highlighted in blue!

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