Tsukiko Amano – ZERO

October 5, 2008 at 1:28 PM | Posted in Tsukiko Amano | 2 Comments
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ZERO is Tsukiko Amano’s 5th and final studio album and it was released on September 3, 2008. The album reached #57 on the Oricon Weekly Charts and sold 2,762 copies.

♦ ♦ ♦

Opening the album in an ominous and unsettling fashion is the title track ZERO, the English version of Zero no Chouritsu. It’s still the same creepy song as before but in English and Amano is easy to understand for the most part. For example, she sings the chorus pretty well but it is hard to point out what she says during the verses. Even though the music is the same, I think I prefer the original Zero no Chouritsu. Anyway, this is a great first track to get things going for the album.

I liked the how the next track, SPY, instantly begins with aggressive electric guitars and drums. This is a very upbeat and fast paced rock song with a lot of attitude. Amano showcases awesome, lower pitched vocals in the verses and transitions into a higher key for the chorus. There is also a sense of the style in the music and Amano’s voice compliments it well, especially when she ends the chorus by saying “Yes, I’m a spy“.

Similar to the previous track, Primal Scream is another heavy rockish song but it’s a little bit slower in pace. The verses have an upbeat alternative sound with nice bass but the chorus is something quite different as it is slower and includes some synth in the background. I was surprised that this song was completely in English because she is really hard to understand this time around. From what I could get, the lyrics are kind of strange and it mentions stuff like Jesus, set me free.

The oldest song on this album also happens to be my favorite! Howling is such a pretty and calming track that is also really dynamic at the same time. The piano and strings give the music a melancholy ambiance next to the accumulating guitars and percussion. It’s beautifully sung as well and Amano definitely gives one of her best vocal performances.

Following the same laid back style as seen in Howling is HANDS, a song that is dominated by strings as well as some synth. It begins rather assertively with synth and bells but Amano quickly transitions into the chorus by singing the “Nothing in my hands” line. This is where the song begins to shine. I thought the chorus was fantastic because of the strings and Amano’s vocals were great too.

There is something about Itodenwa that is really charming. It’s the slowest song on the album but it is gorgeous nonetheless. The arrangement is very tranquil and mostly includes piano and acoustics next to Amano’s serene vocals. Strings appear during the chorus and just add to the peaceful atmosphere of the music. This was definitely one of my favorite tracks on the album.

Now we go from peaceful to turbulent with HEAVEN’S GATE. Next to SPY, it’s one of the edgiest and hardest-hitting songs on the album. I love how furious, relentless, and gritty this song is. It’s the perfect way for Amano to show off the more powerful side of her voice. The chorus is my favorite part of the song thanks in part to the thumping drums and beats.

I noticed the album shifts more into a pop sound starting with KITCHEN. The music still utilizes rock instruments but there are prominent pop undertones. It has a more cheerful and carefree vibe compared to the previous tracks and Amano’s “cuter” vocals also reflect this change as well. It ends up being a fun song though.

The next track is by far the weirdest on the album. Polar Bear is in English and features an offbeat, almost jazzy arrangement. I thought the music was very nice, especially during the quieter parts, but the lyrics are so strange. The first line is “My shoes are made by polar bears” followed by some gibberish. Once again, she is really hard to understand.

Continuing the album’s current pop/rock phase is Hello. Opening with piano and strings, the verses are nothing special but electric guitars later come in for the strong chorus. I didn’t find anything about this song that really stood out but at least it’s performed well.

Ending the album is the cute, piano driven pop track Jam Tomorrow. I wasn’t expecting the album to close with a song like this because her other studio albums have all ended with an epic rock ballad. It’s a big change but I could see why Amano would want to end her final album on a lighthearted note. This song is in English and it has a nice message that also represents her retirement.

Since this was Tsukiko Amano’s final album as a solo artist, I guess you could say that I was expecting a lot out of ZERO. Most of those expectations have been met and I believe that Amano has made a worthy album. The first half of the album is amazing but it dives right into pop after HEAVEN’S GATE. However, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing since the entire album is produced extremely well. It just kind of threw me off since there was a consistent flow going on at first. I’m still very sad to see Amano retire because she is honestly one of the few J-rock artists that I really love. But who knows? Maybe she will do solo work again someday…maybe. One can only hope.

Overall Rating

4½ stars

Tracklisting

1. ZERO
2. SPY
3. Primal Scream
4. Howling
5. HANDS
6. Itodenwa (糸電話)
7. HEAVEN’S GATE
8. KITCHEN
9. Polar Bear
10. Hello
11. Jam Tomorrow

Note: My favorite tracks are highlighted in blue!

Tsukiko Amano – Zero no Chouritsu

August 19, 2008 at 8:45 PM | Posted in Tsukiko Amano | 4 Comments
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Tracklisting
1. Zero no Chouritsu (ゼロの調律)
2. Shiroi Hana ~White Garden~
    (白い華~White Garden~)
3. Sully

This is Tsukiko Amano’s 6th Indies single and it was released on July 30, 2008. The single reached #61 on the Oricon Weekly Charts and sold 2,839 copies. The title track was used as the theme song for the video game Zero ~Gesshoku no Kamen~.

When it comes to structure, Zero no Chouritsu is very deceiving. It’s kind of all over the place with the arrangement but it actually works out in the end. The song opens with an elegant piano intro which caught me off guard at first because it quickly goes into an aggressive synth and electric guitar sequence. Tsukiko Amano’s vocals stay pretty steady throughout the entire song, even during the hectic chorus. There are also interesting instrumental sections that include dramatic strings but the bridge stands out with it’s gothic organ solo. I also have to mention the creepy ending which features the same piano as heard in the beginning but it concludes with a scary low note. Quite fitting for a surivival horror game, right?

The B-sides on this single were exclusive tracks that originally appeared on Amano’s Indies B-side album Uma Salmon. They are also self-covers of songs that she wrote for other artists. The first one is Shiroi Hana ~White Garden~, a song that she wrote for the girl group 9nine. This is an upbeat and rockish tune that is pretty catchy as well. I liked the constant electric guitars and percussion because they had a great, thumping rhythm. Amano also displays controlled, yet assertive vocals.

The other song is Sully. Originally written for the rock band EARTHSHAKER, Amano has created an awesome hard rock track that doesn’t let up. The aggressive arrangement is very exciting and the electric guitars are furious so there is a lot of energy in the music. In the end, both of the B-sides on this single are excellent and I liked them both equally.

Overall Rating

4½ stars

Tsukiko Amano – HEAVEN’S GATE

February 3, 2008 at 6:01 PM | Posted in Tsukiko Amano | Leave a comment
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Tracklisting
1. HEAVEN’S GATE
2. Seven to Date (セブンとデート)

This is Tsukiko Amano’s 5th Indies single and it was released on January 23, 2007.

With heavy, grungy electric guitar riffs and beating drums, HEAVEN’S GATE proves to be one of Tsukiko Amano’s most aggressive songs to date. The music is furious in pace and relentless with its chords, adding vast amounts of edgy excitement. This is most evident in the chorus where everything elevates and becomes stronger in sound. Amano’s voice is perfectly suited for this kind of song as well. She sings with her lower register, giving the vocals a gritty and musky tone.

Just like many of Amano’s B-sides before, Seven to Date is a cute little pop number. The piano arrangement is surprising in its complexity, but also quite playful and fun. There’s also a far off woodwind instrument and a little synth in the background too. I really do love the versatility of Amano’s voice as she changes it to sound more “cute” and upbeat for this song. The chorus is especially catchy too.

Overall Rating

4½ stars

Tsukiko Amano – Howling

May 31, 2007 at 6:24 PM | Posted in Tsukiko Amano | Leave a comment
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Tracklisting
1. Howling
2. Bowling

This is Tsukiko Amano’s 4th Indies single and the limited CD+DVD edition was released on March 14, 2007 while the normal edition was released a month later on April 11th.

Compared to her 5 anniversary singles, Howling is quite laid back but has a more epic and classical feeling to it. The song opens with piano chords and a nice string arrangement. I also loved the gentle quality of Amano’s voice since she displays nice, controlled vocals that are really beautiful. When the chorus arrives, Amano elevates her voice and the strings and percussion become more prominent. The bridge is my favorite part of the song because of the electric guitar solo and the sudden change of speed in Amano’s vocals.

The B-side is pretty odd because of its offbeat combination of synth and rock. Bowling is also on the poppy side, an attribute that many Amano B-sides share. Her vocals during the verses are playful and fun but change to aggressive and gritty during the chorus. This is another thing that I love about Amano: she has the ability to drastically change her vocal style to match the music.

Overall Rating

4½ stars

Tsukiko Amano – A MOON CHILD IN THE SKY

December 21, 2006 at 9:47 AM | Posted in Tsukiko Amano | Leave a comment
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A MOON CHILD IN THE SKY is Tsukiko Amano’s 4th studio album and it was released on September 21, 2005. The album reached #42 on the Oricon Weekly Charts.

Amano was obviously inspired by Star Wars Episode III just by looking at the cover and booklet scans.

♦ ♦ ♦

The opening track of the album, A MOON CHILD IN THE SKY, is a short (but ambient) 1 minute instrumental that seamlessly flows into the next track, Devil Flamingo. Compared to her past works, Amano incorporates A LOT of synth into the new album tracks and it really shows. This is a furious song and I love Amano’s gritty, fast paced vocals in the chorus.

Track 3 is pretty much a continuation of the previous track because it follows the same style. JOKER JOE has even more electric guitars and synth.

Track 4 is a new version of Idea, Amano’s 9th single. The only main differences I can detect in this version are the muffled vocals at the beginning and stronger percussion of the overall BGM. Aside from that, it’s almost identical.

Track 5 is the upbeat and jazzy Stone. This song combines strings and percussion with light electric guitar. The bridge was always the highlight for me in this song.

The next track is a completely rearranged version of Hisui, Amano’s 10th single. I’ll just say that I don’t like this new version because there are so many unnecessary changes. The original version was a breathtaking string ballad but the ‘Moon child’ version just doesn’t compare to it. Amano’s vocals aren’t as good and and the overall BGM just doesn’t work. The song gets better at the end when some strings come in, but they are different as well.

Track 7, 1/2 -a half-, opens with a creepy organ solo and then with that familiar synth. The chorus is excellent and I love the bridge because it showcases Amano’s amazing vocal range.

Track 8 is Koe, the Fatal Frame III theme song. This song will always be one of my favorites from Tsukiko Amano because of its overall ambience and atmosphere.

The next track is the oddly cheerful Satoumizu. The opening piano keys are cute and the whole song is upbeat. The addiction of strings and electric guitar is excellent. I’m a sucker for her semi-pop songs.

Track 10 is the punkish Parade. It’s too bad this song is way too similar to Devil Flamingo and JOKER JOE.

Track 11 is the pop ballad Hakase to Kujaku. It’s a mid paced with gentle vocals from Amano and a nice percussion beat.

The last track on the album (before the secret bonus track) is BY FAR the best new song on the album. Kakan begins as a calm piano ballad with beautiful vocals during the chorus. As soon as the first chorus is over, the song explodes into a flurry of electric guitar and synth. This when the song becomes quite epic and faster paced. The bridge features a haunting electric guitar solo and string arrangement. There are just so many transitions in this song which make it so amazing. I wish Amano released this song as a single.

About 40 seconds after the ending of Kakan, I was completely surprised to hear Taisou. This song is pure bubblegum pop with cutesy background vocals and the crazy voice of a male announcer. It’s a comical and fun way to end this VERY serious album.

A MOON CHILD IN THE SKY definitely contains a mix of different genres of music. It’s mostly hard rock and synth but the music in-between all that makes this a very enjoyable album to listen to. The only dissapointment I had was with the new version of Hisui. If you compared this album to her previous ones, it’s almost as good but each of her albums presents a different style of music so it’s hard to judge. Tenryuu (her 3rd album) will always be my favorite album from her and this one is probably my 2nd or 3rd favorite. Amano never fails to amaze me and she is one of the few artists to always release impeccable and infectious music.

Overall Rating

4½ stars

Tracklisting

1. A MOON CHILD IN THE SKY
2. Devil Flamingo
3. JOKER JOE
4. Idea (A Moon Child mix) (イデア)
5. Stone
6. Hisui (A Moon Child type) (翡翠)
7. 1/2 -a half-
8. Koe (聲)
9. Satoumizu (砂糖水)
10. Parade (パレード)
11. Hakase to Kujaku (博士と孔雀)
12. Kakan (花冠)
Hidden bonus track: Taisou (体操)

Note: My favorite tracks are highlighted in blue!

Tsukiko Amano – Koe

August 26, 2006 at 9:44 AM | Posted in Tsukiko Amano | Leave a comment
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Tracklisting
1. Koe (聲)
2. Moe (萌)

This is Tsukiko Amano’s 11th single and it was released on July 27, 2005. The single reached #39 on the Oricon Weekly Charts. The title track was used as the ending theme for the survival horror video game Zero: Shisei no Koe, also known as Fatal Frame III: The Tormented in North America and Project Zero 3: The Tormented in Europe.

Koe is an amazing song. The song opens with very creepy piano chords and surreal vocals. Things get really interesting during the middle of the first verse when a strange ‘beating’ or ‘thud’ effect comes into the song and it sounds like it came straight from a horror movie. The chorus is typical J-rock with some nice strings added in and the electric guitar solo during the bridge is the one of the best I have ever heard. The whole entire song is beautifully crafted and I think it’s one of her best.

The B-side is the complete opposite of the title track. Moe is a fun pop song with awesome electric guitar riffs. The B-sides on her more ’serious’ singles are always upbeat and fun. The chorus is very catchy and Amano always has great control of her voice, no matter what type of music genre she sings.

Overall Rating

5 stars

Tsukiko Amano – Hisui

August 19, 2006 at 9:41 AM | Posted in Tsukiko Amano | Leave a comment
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Tracklisting
1. Hisui (翡翠)
2. Camellia ~Ai no Version~
   (カメリア~愛のバージョン~)
3. Hone ~Ai no Version~ (骨~愛のバージョン~)

This is Tsukiko Amano’s 10th single and it was released on February 16, 2005. The single reached #73 on the Oricon Weekly Charts.

The best thing about this single is that it’s VERY different from what Amano normally releases. She is best known for her rock songs like Bodaiju, Ningyou, and Chou so faithful fans will be surprised by the the content on this single because each song was composed and performed with a live orchestra, something Amano has never done before. Also, each song is a ballad.

Hisui
makes full use of the strings section of an orchestra. Amano’s voice is simply beautiful and her vocal range is astounding. Her voice becomes more powerful towards the end of the song as the strings elevate to a thrilling conclusion. This is the best song on the single.

The second track is an orchestra version of Camellia, one of my favorite from her first album Sharon Stones. Amano’s vocals are drastically toned down compared to the original version. The string arrangement is brilliant but I still like the original version more.

The final track is an orchestra version of Hone, track 4 off her 3rd album Tenryuu. I absolutely loved the original version so I had high expectations. The string arrangement is nice and more upbeat compared to the two previous tracks (even though the lyrics are weird), but there was still someting missing. The song didn’t sound complete without the piano arrangement of the original version. However, Amano’s vocals and the strings make up for it. 

Overall Rating

4½ stars

Tsukiko Amano – Idea

August 9, 2006 at 9:37 AM | Posted in Tsukiko Amano | Leave a comment
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Tracklisting
1. Idea (イデア)
2. ID

This is Tsukiko Amano’s 9th major label single and it was released on November 3, 2004. The single reached #70 on the Oricon Weekly Charts. The title track was used as the 4th ending theme for the anime Konjiki no Gash Bell!! (Zatch Bell overseas).

Idea is a lot more upbeat and poppy than her previous singles, which followed a more serious J-rock style. The song begins very gently with calm vocals from Amano and then explodes into upbeat rock and synth. I absolutely love the chorus because it is so catchy and the simple English phrases “Stand out” and “Hang on” are really nice too. The song itself is very enjoyable to listen to.

The B-side, ID, is more serious and faithful to Amano’s style of rock (with a little grunge on the side). The song is short and very sweet with amazing verses and more use of synth. The bridge is my favorite part of the song because it’s very playful. Amano always has AWESOME B-sides on her singles.

Overall Rating

5 stars

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