29 July 2013

Nana Mizuki - Vitalization

Senki Zesshou Symphogear G OP
Space Battleship Yamato 2199 ED (Track no. 2)

Tracklist:

1. Vitalization
2. Ai no Hoshi
3. Dramatic Love

1. Vitalization

Even after several attempts to write about it, Vitalization still manages to slip through with its overwhelming amount of epic, making it next to impossible to do justice to. A chopped-up pile of heavy synthage opens the track, exploding into a suddenly deep ambient and Nana's almost operatic vocals. Being even crazier than Synchrogazer, the complex arrangement utilizes every imaginable kind of techno and electronic samples, from 8-bit chips, over sub-woofers and extremely hard, strong dubstep sequences right before the salve of the insanely fast, seizure-inducing chorus. As not to forget the roots of her music, on the top of all the trancelike spins a single hypnotic violin is added as well, making another venture into techno-anison. In contrast, Nana's voice flawlessly slips from heavily layered tones to the impressive pureness similar even to one of Yuki Kajiura's vocalists. Summing up, the effectiveness of it might just be present there because it's all new and unique, but it will definitely be present in the legends as one of her best songs, and a masterpiece.
Rating: 10

2. Ai no Hoshi


Suddenly, the atmosphere completely changes, with a silent piano slowly playing in the background accompanied by a touching violin. The dreamlike, soft scenery gains a bit of tempo afterwards, joined by drums and an acoustic guitar, and even a harp, but it still leaves the serene impression unimpaired. Accordingly, Nana's vocals have the main spotlight here, soaring up to heights and returning even deeper, all while following the moving melody and tear-jerking chord progressions which make this song so special. The fans are somewhat split on either Ai no Hoshi or Vitalization being the better song, but all I can say is that it's definitely up to the challenge of the famous tie-in it was given.
Rating: 10

3. Dramatic Love

Closing the single, Dramatic Love is perhaps a bit of a load-off for Nana because of the lack of the overall seriousness and vocals stunts, being more like an upbeat, filtered version of DISCOTHEQUE mixed with the 80s catchy charm. For some reason, aside the uplifting and happy instrumentation, heavily techno-related elements from Vitalization appear occasionally, such as deep pulsations, slightly noticeable dubstep and such, which together with the piano and bells creates a quirky game-like feeling, especially in the middle eight section. There are some unusual harmonies present, but the song is very enjoyable and caters to her more J-pop oriented fans. 
Rating: 9

Considering this single is yet to officially come out in Japanese stores and charts, fingers crossed that it will reach the #1 spot it definitely deserves. I was rather too rash to say Jiyuu e no Shingeki is the best single of the season, since Vitalization has a fair chance at beating it, especially in the eyes of a devoted fan. My overall rating is: 10 - RECOMMENDED.

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25 July 2013

May'n - ViViD

Blood Lad OP

Tracklist:

1. ViViD
2. Wild Rose
3. ViViD (without May'n)
4. Wild Rose (without May'n)

1. ViViD

An impending intro joined by a western-style guitar open the Blood Lad theme song, unraveling into Mayn's signature uplifting  techno-dance beat mixed with light rock passages. As if it were from any J-pop singer, its catchiness and may actually be the main selling point, as the track switches from happy to relatively serious in a short amount of time. Unsurprisingly, though, the vocals, after climbing up in quality with her previous singles, remain consistently powerful and versatile, especially in one moment where she hits a very high tone, followed by a harder electric guitar sequence, and wrapping up the final chorus filled with unusual harmonies including the filtered supporting vocals. Overall, it's a bit simple and short when compared to most of anison, but still quite enjoyable.
Rating: 8

2. Wild Rose

In contrast with ViViD's energy, the next track starts silently, with a touching piano intro over subdued strings and bells. As the song progresses more, a rich arrangement appears adding acoustic guitars and even more strings with the slow tempo. In contrast, here, May'n switches from her dominant vibrato capability to a unique whispery vocal colour, which perfectly suits such a relaxing piece. Ending the same way it started, it gives the impression that it could very well be used in an anime as an ending theme, although the title is mistaken with the intentions and emotions this track reflects.
Rating: 9

In the sea of generic B-side ballad finishers, Wild Rose stands out, even surpassing ViViD in my eyes. This being either the third of the fifth single in this era, depending on if you count the digital ones, it seems it's already about time for a new album from May'n, which I am expecting to be of the same quality. My overall rating is: 8 ½

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23 July 2013

ALI PROJECT - Watashi no Bara wo Haminasai

Rozen Maiden: Zuruckspulen OP

Tracklist:

1. Watashi no Bara wo Haminasai
2. Fraulein Rose
3. Otome no Aganai

1. Watashi no Bara wo Haminasai

A gliding violin introduction sets the uplifting, yet slightly creepy atmosphere for a catchy synth melody followed by Arika's singing. Although it's more of their Light Alice style than the heavy gothic music we usually expect, it still follows some eccentric chord progressions utilizing bells in the midst of a seemingly cheerful melody, making it quite similar to their previous single, and perfect for the grim setting of the Rozen Maiden anime. Especially for a newcomer to their music, Arika's vocals may seem thin and inconsistent, but she again proves, despite her age and long career, that she can still perform the vocal stunts and even have an excellent vibrato capability. The strange ambiental noise and distorted guitars that have been following the instrumentation through the whole track are expressed at the final chorus, wrapping up the song in a mysterious fashion.
Rating: 9

2. Fraulein Rose

Silently, Fraulein Rose makes its entrance with a deep, relaxing piano, and, judging by the title, is also somewhat Rozen Maiden-themed, despite not being a tie-in. On the contrary of such a deep arrangement, Arika sings even higher this time, with a fairy tale-like dreamy choir backing her up, until the tempo and an acoustic guitar set in. This track is much of their usual style, but still has that one bit of melancholy and the strange, scary heavy gothic moments. Instead of the usual vocal filtering and layering, Arika reaches very high without her voice actually going into falsetto, and the same choir is silently being added every time an effective transition needs to be made. Suddenly, the mood is broken by an explosive, dark theme including strings much deeper than we've been able to hear, but not a long time passes before the serene ambient returns.
Rating: 10

3. Otome no Aganai

The big violin orchestra unravels, following a melody very much like the main melody of Watashi no Bara wo Haminasai. Slowly, everything starts getting heavier and heavier with more classical music-like crescendos and dramatic effects, before it returns to the restful thematic. Unfortunately, the third track in the single isn't anything especially memorable, but it's worth listening to even if only for the haunting arrangement, and the usage of Arika's light voice once again. 
Rating: 8

If Arika with her 50 years of age can do music this excellent, to the point where the worst track in the single still deserves an 8, then she surely sets the bar higher for any other musician. My overall rating is: 9.

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19 July 2013

Luna Haruna - Ai wo Utae

Monogatari 2 ED

Tracklist:

1. Ai wo Utae
2. Koi no Senshi
3. Uchiage Hanabi
4. Ai wo Utae -Instrumental-

1. Ai wo Utae

I had myself wondering if I played the right single, since Luna's new song is absolutely nothing like any material she has released in the past. With the uplifting rock guitar and the noticeable violin to make it all closer to usual anison, this sounds very much like something LiSA would release. However, this actually works against her vocal power, since it doesn't have the chance to shine due to the simpler melody, even with the excellent colour. Ai wo Utae could be a nice song by itself, but the attempt of merging her extremely artistic profile (Yuki Kajiura, anyone?) with somewhat cheap pop-rock is unfortunate. If she wants to do heavier stuff, it would definitely work better if she went down the path of gothic metal, like we've been able to see in her past single, than jump right into the mainstream.
Rating: 7

2. Koi no Senshi

A quirky piano glissando opens up the next track, followed by an acoustic guitar and the cheerful hand clapping which immediately raise a red flag for something sugary and cute once again. It pretty much tries to copy the previous song, except for the simpler arrangement and only a bit more upbeat rhythm. Luna can definitely do much better, as this song made it presence only when playing, while leaving nothing memorable and noteworthy behind.  
Rating: 4

3. Uchiage Hanabi

This would be the usual ballad which would wrap up the single, but instead of more of the same, we get something more melancholic, quiet, and the Luna Haruna we're used to. Being quite relaxing and dreamy, the piano and even some silent synths play in mid-tempo over the beautiful, touching melody, and the clear vocals, which are finally filterless. Surprisingly, the chorus provides a very catchy melody, but without utilizing any of the standard chord progressions. It appears the final song is the best one of all three, and is already making a music video on itself, being very reminiscent of autumn and falling leaves.
Rating: 9

Where did our Gothic Lolita Kajiuran go? It's not like her composers don't have the ability to make good songs anymore; it's the probable attempt to copy some of her labelmates which have succeeded with ani-rock. Well, at least they had the decency to make the cover look cheesy, as to show what's mostly inside the package. My overall rating is: 7.

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17 July 2013

OLDCODEX - Rage on

Free! OP

Tracklist:

1. Rage on
2. Now I am
3. Swamp

1. Rage on

Like your standard shounen-like anime opening, but on steroids, Rage on opens with a torrent of percussions, hard drums and guitars, unraveling into a very aggressive J-rock track. Differing from the actual show, which doesn't take itself quite seriously, this song is gritty and dark, but still easily likeable and catchy. Although the melody is still relatively simple, and the vocals show no special or artistic elements because of it, the high point is the synthy, distorted environment in the middle eight section, crossed by some great guitar solos, before a calm buildup to the final chorus.
Rating: 8

2. Now I am

An even more hostile and offensive start suddenly calms down in more of an R&B fashion with only occasional intermissions of guitar chords. Even with the mid-tempo, the vocals are still not as good, and are constantly being overpowered by the rich arrangement, and the bad try at screamo does nothing to improve them. Like a big, unstoppable hammer, the instrumentation is pointlessly drumming in the background, though, it would be very unmemorable without the pure hitting power, and it sounds even slower now that the rhythm speed has been slightly lowered. Now I am just takes on all the bad points of the previous song and amplifies them.
Rating: 6

3. Swamp

Unsurprisingly (especially with the not-so-hopeful title), the second B-side has nothing special to be mentioned that wasn't already taken by Now I am, except that the guitar chords have been replaced with heavy distortions, which still try to make up the complexity element by their sheer strength, unfortunately. I sincerely do love rock music, but even it takes some originality to be interesting, and not just try to replicate "more of the same". 
Rating: 3

The B-sides of a single are what really tests the artists, and OLDCODEX failed at it, except for the averagely good A-side. You can find much better J-rock done even by some seiyuu. My overall rating is: 6.

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14 July 2013

Sumire Uesaka - Genshi, Jyoshi wa, Taiyo Datta

Genshiken Nidaime OP

Tracklist:

1. Genshi, Jyoshi wa, Taiyo Datta
2. Tetori Ashitori
3. SUMIRE #propaganda
4. Genshi, Jyoshi wa, Taiyo Datta (off vocal ver.)

1. Genshi, Jyoshi wa, Taiyo Datta

An off-key violin opens the first track with a surreal, dreamlike atmosphere, but quickly switches to its opposite with Sumire's chubby singing. After last time's fiasco, the arrangement was a bit toned down, but still varies greatly with the toy instruments returning, and paired with real synths and a subdued guitar. Generally, the vocals aren't improved, even with the light usage of vocoding, since her talent is probably more useful and achieved in voice acting, rather than singing. Like her previous single was, it's somewhat fun but nothing memorable and original, no matter how hard it tries to convince us in its craziness.
Rating: 5

2. Tetori Ashitori

Electronic and strangely melancholic melodies continue on, with Sumire repeating "tetori" while the tempo builds up in a trance-like song. Unlike Genshi, Jyoshi wa, Taiyo Datta, the vocals aren't as chubby anymore and transform in a higher pitch and nasal usage, but sound even worse in an overall unpleasant and poorly performed 80s ambient. We actually get to hear some sugary voice acting in several lines, reminding of character songs, but she can't really pull of kawaii when compared to professionals like Yukari Tamura or Yui Horie. With nothing to back up the poor singing, lack of transitions and a reason to listen to this song, it again becomes repetitive and easily forgettable.
Rating: 4

3. SUMIRE #propaganda

The only song which actually seems interesting in this single starts off quiet, but unravels into the gliding of 8-bit chipping sounds, disharmonic synths and the robotic singing from Sumire which is much more emphasized, alike to a Perfume song. Melody-wise, the same catch from Tetori Ashitori is unfortunately used, significantly dropping the final mark. The ever-so-slight hint of Russia is recognized, though, as we do hear even some Russian being inserted, which is quite rare for mostly English-filled Japanese songs, but at least they're on Sumire's familiar ground, since she does Russian studies aside her seiyuu career. 
Rating: 7

After a relatively average debut, Sumire Uesaka digs herself even deeper in the ground of amateurism, as she has done nothing to improve on any segment of the songs she performs. I was sincerely hoping that we'd get to hear something more like the B-side from her debut single, but the chance of that happening seems faint. My overall rating is: 5.

7 July 2013

Linked Horizon - Jiyuu e no Shingeki

Shingeki no Kyojin OP (Track no. 1)
Shingeki no Kyojin OP 2 (Track no. 2)

Tracklist:

1. Guren no Yumiya
2. Jiyuu no Tsubasa
3. Moshi Kono Kabe no Naka ga Ichiken no Ieda to Shitara

1. Guren no Yumiya

Tension-inducing war drums and choral chanting open the song, calmly setting the battlefield for the aggressive and strong opening we all know and love. The arrangement found here is the very definition of epic, as we get every heart-racing fanfare, drum, violin, guitar, synth all intertwined together with the filtered vocals to make an unforgettable impression. I was even surprised at how hard-hitting it was, since the anime short version was significantly lighter in the dark, battling atmosphere. Although the chorus is the most memorable part of the track, we get it only at the beginning and the very end, with the middle of the track being crossed with various different themes and melodies, which all serve to reflect the character of Eren in a different fashion. The more peculiar form similar to that of classical music needs getting used to, since everything except the main theme was cut out from the opening sequence as well, but the forceful guitar solos and parts where Revo sings with less background support are still every bit as impressive as the whole track. Without any doubt, this is the best song in the Spring 2013 season.
Rating: 10

2. Jiyuu no Tsubasa

After some roaring crowd noise, Juiyuu no Tsubasa directly continues from the previous track, in a more uplifting hymn-like melody before becoming turbulent and energetic again. Unlike Guren no Yumiya, this song is quite subdued and more techno-rockish, though I tend to like it even more because of the several touching and catchy melodies. While following the same unusual form, some darker chord progressions are present, making me wonder which melody of the many will be converted in the "anime mode", since every one of them is equally attractive and energetic. After several transitions, the whole instrumentation stops entirely to deep-voiced narration in German, with a Final Fantasy-like ambiental background and surprisingly dark church bells play, follower by a slow version of the main melody from Guren no Yumiya, and ending with the same theme from the start. Seeing as this will be the opening theme to the, still unreleased, second season of Shingeki no Kyojin, I wonder how the reactions will turn out, because it occasionally even surpasses its predecessor.
Rating: 10

3. Moshi Kono Kabe no Naka ga Ichiken no Ieda to Shitara

Everything in this single is seemingly tied together, and this track with the unfortunate, arduous title continues the chain from Jiyuu no Tsubasa. Immediately after the last choir dies down, not a moment of silence passes until a quiet, ticking clock can be heard, bringing back many nostalgic memories from Chrono Trigger. Building up, a gentle, repeating melody stacks on top of the ticking clock, and a female vocalist appears this time around. A very surreal and serene scenery is made when the song starts playing with the human perception of space by listening to something, and adding a flowing stream of water, children running around and playing, the sound of someone cooking in a kitchen, and so on, all while not imposing on the original melody. After some time, the track unravels into a proper song, with the same marching drums and effective atmosphere, but in a slower tempo. Besides again touching me deeply for nostalgia with some Final Fantasy chords, the dramatic and sad vocals are a nice change after Revo's somewhat obscured singing. Summing up, everything dies down for a music box sequence, which again leaves space for the same, lone clock ticking. Just as we thought everything is over, and we can turn the volume down, the opening choir from Guren no Yumiya starts singing again, but leading in a sudden blackout instead of continuing, making everything in a full circle.
Rating: 10

I can't even begin to describe the greatness of this single as a whole, and not just the mere thing from the Shingeki no Kyojin OP everyone is excited about. It's pretty hard to find many different words for god-like. My overall rating is: 10 - RECOMMENDED. 

And, once again, just in case you didn't get it properly:

LISTEN TO THIS SINGLE.


2 July 2013

PIKO - Kotonoha

Katanagatari ED

Tracklist:

1. Kotonoha
2. Run
3. Boku no Nouto (Kari)
4. Kotonoha (Pikoless Version)
5. Run (Pikoless Version)
6. Boku no Nouto (Kari) (Pikoless Version)

1. Kotonoha

Soft guitars and Piko's higher-pitched voice open a track that relates very well to supercell's last single, with the traditional Japanese theme going on. Being a step out of his usual rock style, violins shift this track more to the side of anison; however, after a sudden transition past the first chorus, the whole song gains a big amount of synths and trancelike build-ups, which makes a very interesting arrangement. This time around, with his great capability as a "trap" singer, Piko utilizes a more feminine voice most of the time, though still managing to hit some of the lower tones too. A retro-styled fadeout leaves Kotonoha sounding somewhat unfinished and short, but still a great piece.
Rating: 9

2. Run

Run immediately kicks things off again, with a faster tempo, and a recognizable, expected ani-rock instrumentation. Unfortunately, even with the catchy melody, it is quite short, leaving us with less than 3 minutes, and an unfinished cliffhanger like in Kotonoha. Suiting the simpler arrangement, Piko's high vocals are every bit as powerful as the lower octave of the melody sung in the middle eight section, although they still fail to be completely expressed with such little time, along with the instrumental stunts found in the previous song.
Rating: 7


3. Boku no Nouto (Kari)

If you have ever got a Japanese single, you already know the drill. The third song is the scapegoat of composing and singing effort, which is the easiest to incorporate into a summer ballad. Accordingly, the simplest arrangement of only a piano is in use, accompanied by the unusually sugary, high-pitched vocals which can even parallel some female singers. With everything just okay and about right, this track is unmemorable and generic.
Rating: 3

I hate how, most usually, the last song on a release is the one that ruins the summed-up impression. Ignoring Boku no Nouto, this was a great single, and it's a shame no harder J-rock was incorporated, as was with his Vocaloid cover album. My overall rating is: 6.

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29 July 2013

Nana Mizuki - Vitalization

Senki Zesshou Symphogear G OP
Space Battleship Yamato 2199 ED (Track no. 2)

Tracklist:

1. Vitalization
2. Ai no Hoshi
3. Dramatic Love

1. Vitalization

Even after several attempts to write about it, Vitalization still manages to slip through with its overwhelming amount of epic, making it next to impossible to do justice to. A chopped-up pile of heavy synthage opens the track, exploding into a suddenly deep ambient and Nana's almost operatic vocals. Being even crazier than Synchrogazer, the complex arrangement utilizes every imaginable kind of techno and electronic samples, from 8-bit chips, over sub-woofers and extremely hard, strong dubstep sequences right before the salve of the insanely fast, seizure-inducing chorus. As not to forget the roots of her music, on the top of all the trancelike spins a single hypnotic violin is added as well, making another venture into techno-anison. In contrast, Nana's voice flawlessly slips from heavily layered tones to the impressive pureness similar even to one of Yuki Kajiura's vocalists. Summing up, the effectiveness of it might just be present there because it's all new and unique, but it will definitely be present in the legends as one of her best songs, and a masterpiece.
Rating: 10

2. Ai no Hoshi


Suddenly, the atmosphere completely changes, with a silent piano slowly playing in the background accompanied by a touching violin. The dreamlike, soft scenery gains a bit of tempo afterwards, joined by drums and an acoustic guitar, and even a harp, but it still leaves the serene impression unimpaired. Accordingly, Nana's vocals have the main spotlight here, soaring up to heights and returning even deeper, all while following the moving melody and tear-jerking chord progressions which make this song so special. The fans are somewhat split on either Ai no Hoshi or Vitalization being the better song, but all I can say is that it's definitely up to the challenge of the famous tie-in it was given.
Rating: 10

3. Dramatic Love

Closing the single, Dramatic Love is perhaps a bit of a load-off for Nana because of the lack of the overall seriousness and vocals stunts, being more like an upbeat, filtered version of DISCOTHEQUE mixed with the 80s catchy charm. For some reason, aside the uplifting and happy instrumentation, heavily techno-related elements from Vitalization appear occasionally, such as deep pulsations, slightly noticeable dubstep and such, which together with the piano and bells creates a quirky game-like feeling, especially in the middle eight section. There are some unusual harmonies present, but the song is very enjoyable and caters to her more J-pop oriented fans. 
Rating: 9

Considering this single is yet to officially come out in Japanese stores and charts, fingers crossed that it will reach the #1 spot it definitely deserves. I was rather too rash to say Jiyuu e no Shingeki is the best single of the season, since Vitalization has a fair chance at beating it, especially in the eyes of a devoted fan. My overall rating is: 10 - RECOMMENDED.

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25 July 2013

May'n - ViViD

Blood Lad OP

Tracklist:

1. ViViD
2. Wild Rose
3. ViViD (without May'n)
4. Wild Rose (without May'n)

1. ViViD

An impending intro joined by a western-style guitar open the Blood Lad theme song, unraveling into Mayn's signature uplifting  techno-dance beat mixed with light rock passages. As if it were from any J-pop singer, its catchiness and may actually be the main selling point, as the track switches from happy to relatively serious in a short amount of time. Unsurprisingly, though, the vocals, after climbing up in quality with her previous singles, remain consistently powerful and versatile, especially in one moment where she hits a very high tone, followed by a harder electric guitar sequence, and wrapping up the final chorus filled with unusual harmonies including the filtered supporting vocals. Overall, it's a bit simple and short when compared to most of anison, but still quite enjoyable.
Rating: 8

2. Wild Rose

In contrast with ViViD's energy, the next track starts silently, with a touching piano intro over subdued strings and bells. As the song progresses more, a rich arrangement appears adding acoustic guitars and even more strings with the slow tempo. In contrast, here, May'n switches from her dominant vibrato capability to a unique whispery vocal colour, which perfectly suits such a relaxing piece. Ending the same way it started, it gives the impression that it could very well be used in an anime as an ending theme, although the title is mistaken with the intentions and emotions this track reflects.
Rating: 9

In the sea of generic B-side ballad finishers, Wild Rose stands out, even surpassing ViViD in my eyes. This being either the third of the fifth single in this era, depending on if you count the digital ones, it seems it's already about time for a new album from May'n, which I am expecting to be of the same quality. My overall rating is: 8 ½

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23 July 2013

ALI PROJECT - Watashi no Bara wo Haminasai

Rozen Maiden: Zuruckspulen OP

Tracklist:

1. Watashi no Bara wo Haminasai
2. Fraulein Rose
3. Otome no Aganai

1. Watashi no Bara wo Haminasai

A gliding violin introduction sets the uplifting, yet slightly creepy atmosphere for a catchy synth melody followed by Arika's singing. Although it's more of their Light Alice style than the heavy gothic music we usually expect, it still follows some eccentric chord progressions utilizing bells in the midst of a seemingly cheerful melody, making it quite similar to their previous single, and perfect for the grim setting of the Rozen Maiden anime. Especially for a newcomer to their music, Arika's vocals may seem thin and inconsistent, but she again proves, despite her age and long career, that she can still perform the vocal stunts and even have an excellent vibrato capability. The strange ambiental noise and distorted guitars that have been following the instrumentation through the whole track are expressed at the final chorus, wrapping up the song in a mysterious fashion.
Rating: 9

2. Fraulein Rose

Silently, Fraulein Rose makes its entrance with a deep, relaxing piano, and, judging by the title, is also somewhat Rozen Maiden-themed, despite not being a tie-in. On the contrary of such a deep arrangement, Arika sings even higher this time, with a fairy tale-like dreamy choir backing her up, until the tempo and an acoustic guitar set in. This track is much of their usual style, but still has that one bit of melancholy and the strange, scary heavy gothic moments. Instead of the usual vocal filtering and layering, Arika reaches very high without her voice actually going into falsetto, and the same choir is silently being added every time an effective transition needs to be made. Suddenly, the mood is broken by an explosive, dark theme including strings much deeper than we've been able to hear, but not a long time passes before the serene ambient returns.
Rating: 10

3. Otome no Aganai

The big violin orchestra unravels, following a melody very much like the main melody of Watashi no Bara wo Haminasai. Slowly, everything starts getting heavier and heavier with more classical music-like crescendos and dramatic effects, before it returns to the restful thematic. Unfortunately, the third track in the single isn't anything especially memorable, but it's worth listening to even if only for the haunting arrangement, and the usage of Arika's light voice once again. 
Rating: 8

If Arika with her 50 years of age can do music this excellent, to the point where the worst track in the single still deserves an 8, then she surely sets the bar higher for any other musician. My overall rating is: 9.

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19 July 2013

Luna Haruna - Ai wo Utae

Monogatari 2 ED

Tracklist:

1. Ai wo Utae
2. Koi no Senshi
3. Uchiage Hanabi
4. Ai wo Utae -Instrumental-

1. Ai wo Utae

I had myself wondering if I played the right single, since Luna's new song is absolutely nothing like any material she has released in the past. With the uplifting rock guitar and the noticeable violin to make it all closer to usual anison, this sounds very much like something LiSA would release. However, this actually works against her vocal power, since it doesn't have the chance to shine due to the simpler melody, even with the excellent colour. Ai wo Utae could be a nice song by itself, but the attempt of merging her extremely artistic profile (Yuki Kajiura, anyone?) with somewhat cheap pop-rock is unfortunate. If she wants to do heavier stuff, it would definitely work better if she went down the path of gothic metal, like we've been able to see in her past single, than jump right into the mainstream.
Rating: 7

2. Koi no Senshi

A quirky piano glissando opens up the next track, followed by an acoustic guitar and the cheerful hand clapping which immediately raise a red flag for something sugary and cute once again. It pretty much tries to copy the previous song, except for the simpler arrangement and only a bit more upbeat rhythm. Luna can definitely do much better, as this song made it presence only when playing, while leaving nothing memorable and noteworthy behind.  
Rating: 4

3. Uchiage Hanabi

This would be the usual ballad which would wrap up the single, but instead of more of the same, we get something more melancholic, quiet, and the Luna Haruna we're used to. Being quite relaxing and dreamy, the piano and even some silent synths play in mid-tempo over the beautiful, touching melody, and the clear vocals, which are finally filterless. Surprisingly, the chorus provides a very catchy melody, but without utilizing any of the standard chord progressions. It appears the final song is the best one of all three, and is already making a music video on itself, being very reminiscent of autumn and falling leaves.
Rating: 9

Where did our Gothic Lolita Kajiuran go? It's not like her composers don't have the ability to make good songs anymore; it's the probable attempt to copy some of her labelmates which have succeeded with ani-rock. Well, at least they had the decency to make the cover look cheesy, as to show what's mostly inside the package. My overall rating is: 7.

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17 July 2013

OLDCODEX - Rage on

Free! OP

Tracklist:

1. Rage on
2. Now I am
3. Swamp

1. Rage on

Like your standard shounen-like anime opening, but on steroids, Rage on opens with a torrent of percussions, hard drums and guitars, unraveling into a very aggressive J-rock track. Differing from the actual show, which doesn't take itself quite seriously, this song is gritty and dark, but still easily likeable and catchy. Although the melody is still relatively simple, and the vocals show no special or artistic elements because of it, the high point is the synthy, distorted environment in the middle eight section, crossed by some great guitar solos, before a calm buildup to the final chorus.
Rating: 8

2. Now I am

An even more hostile and offensive start suddenly calms down in more of an R&B fashion with only occasional intermissions of guitar chords. Even with the mid-tempo, the vocals are still not as good, and are constantly being overpowered by the rich arrangement, and the bad try at screamo does nothing to improve them. Like a big, unstoppable hammer, the instrumentation is pointlessly drumming in the background, though, it would be very unmemorable without the pure hitting power, and it sounds even slower now that the rhythm speed has been slightly lowered. Now I am just takes on all the bad points of the previous song and amplifies them.
Rating: 6

3. Swamp

Unsurprisingly (especially with the not-so-hopeful title), the second B-side has nothing special to be mentioned that wasn't already taken by Now I am, except that the guitar chords have been replaced with heavy distortions, which still try to make up the complexity element by their sheer strength, unfortunately. I sincerely do love rock music, but even it takes some originality to be interesting, and not just try to replicate "more of the same". 
Rating: 3

The B-sides of a single are what really tests the artists, and OLDCODEX failed at it, except for the averagely good A-side. You can find much better J-rock done even by some seiyuu. My overall rating is: 6.

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14 July 2013

Sumire Uesaka - Genshi, Jyoshi wa, Taiyo Datta

Genshiken Nidaime OP

Tracklist:

1. Genshi, Jyoshi wa, Taiyo Datta
2. Tetori Ashitori
3. SUMIRE #propaganda
4. Genshi, Jyoshi wa, Taiyo Datta (off vocal ver.)

1. Genshi, Jyoshi wa, Taiyo Datta

An off-key violin opens the first track with a surreal, dreamlike atmosphere, but quickly switches to its opposite with Sumire's chubby singing. After last time's fiasco, the arrangement was a bit toned down, but still varies greatly with the toy instruments returning, and paired with real synths and a subdued guitar. Generally, the vocals aren't improved, even with the light usage of vocoding, since her talent is probably more useful and achieved in voice acting, rather than singing. Like her previous single was, it's somewhat fun but nothing memorable and original, no matter how hard it tries to convince us in its craziness.
Rating: 5

2. Tetori Ashitori

Electronic and strangely melancholic melodies continue on, with Sumire repeating "tetori" while the tempo builds up in a trance-like song. Unlike Genshi, Jyoshi wa, Taiyo Datta, the vocals aren't as chubby anymore and transform in a higher pitch and nasal usage, but sound even worse in an overall unpleasant and poorly performed 80s ambient. We actually get to hear some sugary voice acting in several lines, reminding of character songs, but she can't really pull of kawaii when compared to professionals like Yukari Tamura or Yui Horie. With nothing to back up the poor singing, lack of transitions and a reason to listen to this song, it again becomes repetitive and easily forgettable.
Rating: 4

3. SUMIRE #propaganda

The only song which actually seems interesting in this single starts off quiet, but unravels into the gliding of 8-bit chipping sounds, disharmonic synths and the robotic singing from Sumire which is much more emphasized, alike to a Perfume song. Melody-wise, the same catch from Tetori Ashitori is unfortunately used, significantly dropping the final mark. The ever-so-slight hint of Russia is recognized, though, as we do hear even some Russian being inserted, which is quite rare for mostly English-filled Japanese songs, but at least they're on Sumire's familiar ground, since she does Russian studies aside her seiyuu career. 
Rating: 7

After a relatively average debut, Sumire Uesaka digs herself even deeper in the ground of amateurism, as she has done nothing to improve on any segment of the songs she performs. I was sincerely hoping that we'd get to hear something more like the B-side from her debut single, but the chance of that happening seems faint. My overall rating is: 5.

7 July 2013

Linked Horizon - Jiyuu e no Shingeki

Shingeki no Kyojin OP (Track no. 1)
Shingeki no Kyojin OP 2 (Track no. 2)

Tracklist:

1. Guren no Yumiya
2. Jiyuu no Tsubasa
3. Moshi Kono Kabe no Naka ga Ichiken no Ieda to Shitara

1. Guren no Yumiya

Tension-inducing war drums and choral chanting open the song, calmly setting the battlefield for the aggressive and strong opening we all know and love. The arrangement found here is the very definition of epic, as we get every heart-racing fanfare, drum, violin, guitar, synth all intertwined together with the filtered vocals to make an unforgettable impression. I was even surprised at how hard-hitting it was, since the anime short version was significantly lighter in the dark, battling atmosphere. Although the chorus is the most memorable part of the track, we get it only at the beginning and the very end, with the middle of the track being crossed with various different themes and melodies, which all serve to reflect the character of Eren in a different fashion. The more peculiar form similar to that of classical music needs getting used to, since everything except the main theme was cut out from the opening sequence as well, but the forceful guitar solos and parts where Revo sings with less background support are still every bit as impressive as the whole track. Without any doubt, this is the best song in the Spring 2013 season.
Rating: 10

2. Jiyuu no Tsubasa

After some roaring crowd noise, Juiyuu no Tsubasa directly continues from the previous track, in a more uplifting hymn-like melody before becoming turbulent and energetic again. Unlike Guren no Yumiya, this song is quite subdued and more techno-rockish, though I tend to like it even more because of the several touching and catchy melodies. While following the same unusual form, some darker chord progressions are present, making me wonder which melody of the many will be converted in the "anime mode", since every one of them is equally attractive and energetic. After several transitions, the whole instrumentation stops entirely to deep-voiced narration in German, with a Final Fantasy-like ambiental background and surprisingly dark church bells play, follower by a slow version of the main melody from Guren no Yumiya, and ending with the same theme from the start. Seeing as this will be the opening theme to the, still unreleased, second season of Shingeki no Kyojin, I wonder how the reactions will turn out, because it occasionally even surpasses its predecessor.
Rating: 10

3. Moshi Kono Kabe no Naka ga Ichiken no Ieda to Shitara

Everything in this single is seemingly tied together, and this track with the unfortunate, arduous title continues the chain from Jiyuu no Tsubasa. Immediately after the last choir dies down, not a moment of silence passes until a quiet, ticking clock can be heard, bringing back many nostalgic memories from Chrono Trigger. Building up, a gentle, repeating melody stacks on top of the ticking clock, and a female vocalist appears this time around. A very surreal and serene scenery is made when the song starts playing with the human perception of space by listening to something, and adding a flowing stream of water, children running around and playing, the sound of someone cooking in a kitchen, and so on, all while not imposing on the original melody. After some time, the track unravels into a proper song, with the same marching drums and effective atmosphere, but in a slower tempo. Besides again touching me deeply for nostalgia with some Final Fantasy chords, the dramatic and sad vocals are a nice change after Revo's somewhat obscured singing. Summing up, everything dies down for a music box sequence, which again leaves space for the same, lone clock ticking. Just as we thought everything is over, and we can turn the volume down, the opening choir from Guren no Yumiya starts singing again, but leading in a sudden blackout instead of continuing, making everything in a full circle.
Rating: 10

I can't even begin to describe the greatness of this single as a whole, and not just the mere thing from the Shingeki no Kyojin OP everyone is excited about. It's pretty hard to find many different words for god-like. My overall rating is: 10 - RECOMMENDED. 

And, once again, just in case you didn't get it properly:

LISTEN TO THIS SINGLE.


2 July 2013

PIKO - Kotonoha

Katanagatari ED

Tracklist:

1. Kotonoha
2. Run
3. Boku no Nouto (Kari)
4. Kotonoha (Pikoless Version)
5. Run (Pikoless Version)
6. Boku no Nouto (Kari) (Pikoless Version)

1. Kotonoha

Soft guitars and Piko's higher-pitched voice open a track that relates very well to supercell's last single, with the traditional Japanese theme going on. Being a step out of his usual rock style, violins shift this track more to the side of anison; however, after a sudden transition past the first chorus, the whole song gains a big amount of synths and trancelike build-ups, which makes a very interesting arrangement. This time around, with his great capability as a "trap" singer, Piko utilizes a more feminine voice most of the time, though still managing to hit some of the lower tones too. A retro-styled fadeout leaves Kotonoha sounding somewhat unfinished and short, but still a great piece.
Rating: 9

2. Run

Run immediately kicks things off again, with a faster tempo, and a recognizable, expected ani-rock instrumentation. Unfortunately, even with the catchy melody, it is quite short, leaving us with less than 3 minutes, and an unfinished cliffhanger like in Kotonoha. Suiting the simpler arrangement, Piko's high vocals are every bit as powerful as the lower octave of the melody sung in the middle eight section, although they still fail to be completely expressed with such little time, along with the instrumental stunts found in the previous song.
Rating: 7


3. Boku no Nouto (Kari)

If you have ever got a Japanese single, you already know the drill. The third song is the scapegoat of composing and singing effort, which is the easiest to incorporate into a summer ballad. Accordingly, the simplest arrangement of only a piano is in use, accompanied by the unusually sugary, high-pitched vocals which can even parallel some female singers. With everything just okay and about right, this track is unmemorable and generic.
Rating: 3

I hate how, most usually, the last song on a release is the one that ruins the summed-up impression. Ignoring Boku no Nouto, this was a great single, and it's a shame no harder J-rock was incorporated, as was with his Vocaloid cover album. My overall rating is: 6.

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