Archive for the ‘Special’ Category

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Hey Y’all

2010年 8月 5日

Hi everyone! Aoliwa here.

As you’ve probably noticed, Koweizhi and I have been rather absent lately. We just got back from a Taiwanese American camp and we’ve got lots of stuff.

  • Jpop releases by: YUI, Kanon Wakeshima, Nana Mizuki, VAMPS, alan, Ayumi Hamasaki, JASMINE, Namie Amuro
  • Kpop releases by: C.N. Blue (discography), BoA, and SHINee
  • Editorials: Kpop vs. Jpop (II), Summer of Tek
  • Live reviews: D’espairsRay, Dir en grey (we get to meet them :D)
  • New Polls
  • Aoliwa’s playlists for EVERYTHING

Also Koweizhi and I are doing some recording in the next couple of days so we might post that as well. Look forward to it!!

Much 愛、

Aoliwa

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Utada Hikaru- Boku wa Kuma (a special April post)

2010年 4月 1日

This is definitely one of Utada’s finer covers. The way the bear’s blue eyes glisten in the light is awe-inspiring. It is a total reflection of the high caliber of musicality in this single.

I have been wanting to review Boku wa Kuma for quite some time. This song is Utada’s first children’s song, but it is so much more deep than that. Utada’s vocals are absolutely radiant in this single. Her vibrato and complexity of the voice sink deep into your soul. I cried the first time I heard this song… it just touched me in the heart. The cute little French part during the bridge shows how Utada is accepting of all different cultures! This song should be the one to close out all of Hikki-chan’s tours; it will leave the fans in tears.

If the A-side wasn’t enough for you then make sure you check out the karaoke version! Sometimes I just like to sit in my room and sing this song at the top of my lungs.

Overall: I just might name my first child “Kuma-chan.”

Rating: no better song ever

Track list:

  1. Boku wa Kuma
  2. Buku wa Kuma (Karaoke)

happy april first.

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Ayaka- MTV unplugged

2010年 1月 14日

This was released just the other day and I have to say that I’m a huge fan of MTV Unplugged. I never used to listen to Utada Hikaru until I heard her MTV Unplugged concert. ayaka is a perfect candidate for something like this, given the almost folksy sound to her music.

So yeah… ayaka has a voice! We begin with Jewelry Day, although you can’t tell that’s what it is at first because it opens with ayaka belting out notes. She has a stunning vibrato and is in tune. The acoustic guitar make its entrance after a minute or so of ayaka singing. What’s interesting about the live version of this song is that we only have a single guitar and ayaka… nothing else. It makes for a serene opening. ayaka never misses a note.

Next we have one of her most famous singles, I believe. Complete with live piano and violin I believe maintains close semblance with the original song. Of course this being MTV Unplugged we have acoustic guitar instead of electronic instruments. During the bridge there are noticeably no drums, and the beat is created with the acoustic guitar.

Next we have the first out of six MCs. I will not be reviewing them.

Te wo tsunago is next, already a calm song. The complete acoustic version is even more serene than the original song. I loved the presence of the violin in this song as well. ayaka released a live version of this song on a previous single, but this time the background singers are actually in tune and together. Since there’s no electric guitar I wondered what they’d do during the bridge. Instead of electric, acoustic guitar and violin center stage. This violin solo is gorgeous.

Why begins with a quick note from piano. ayaka and acoustic guitar quickly chime in. The violin accompaniment during the verses gives the song a folksy atmosphere. Background singers accompany ayaka during the chorus, but I prefer doing it solo. Now there is electric guitar during the bridge, but it has been given a different effect so that it doesn’t stick out so much. Its sound is somewhat muted and reminds me of something from past decades.

To tell you the truth I was surprised to see that Goodnight Baby made it onto the set list. That being said it’s one of my favorite ayaka song. Ayaka’s vocals are overall softer during the live than on the track. With new instruments this song (like keyboard) has a different atmosphere from the original song.

The next song, Human Nature, is a cover of Michael Jackson’s song of the same name. This was my least favorite song on the set list because it’s kind of dated and didn’t exactly fit in with the other songs. That being said, I do like how they took a traditional R&B song and gave it an acoustic feel.

Fortunately another one of my favorite ayaka songs was up next. Blue Days was given a bit of a transformation during Unplugged. It was kind of hard to discern whether ayaka was accompanied by an electric guitar with effects or a heavily microphoned acoustic. Either way it maintained a very wholesome sound. No other instruments were added. Also ayaka ends the song a bit differently than the original (she goes down in pitch).

Mikazuki had a totally different opening; you couldn’t even tell that it was mikazuki right away. For the first thirty seconds or so we have a duet between piano and violin before transitioning into the rest of the song. Piano occupies most of the instrumentals, but violin and acoustic are added later. ayaka’s voice really rings in this song.

Unfortunately there were no bagpipes for the performance of Okaeri. Instead their melody is kind of implied with the harmonies of the violins and piano. Okaeri was already kind of a folk song and the live version only enhances that fact.

Now off to newer material. Yume wo Mikata ni proves to be one of the more powerful and uplifting tracks on the set list. The cheery piano pairs well with ayaka’s airy voice. The song gains a lot of momentum during the chorus because of the choir in the background. One of the background vocalists actually gets a solo.

I was surprised that Arigatou was on the set list. They used piano and violin to replace electric guitar and brass. The audience clapped during the beat of this song. I kind of like this version better than the original.

Another surprise… WINDING ROAD? I wasn’t a fan of this song actually, and I wasn’t sure what they’d do without Kobukuro. Background singers took their place… much better than Kobukuro because these singers actually have soul and voice. Now this song is over 8 minutes… why? There’s actually an audience participation section in the middle with ayaka guiding them along.

Lastly, we have Minna Sora no Shita, and I couldn’t recognize it at first. I was like “where are my strings??” Instead, they were replaced by piano. Also this song opens much slower than the original. This gives ayaka some freedom with her vocal solo. Kind of a rubato. For this song we just have piano and ayaka, making this song more ballad-like. The live of this song was over 7 minutes because of the songs slower pace. A perfect way to end the night.

Overall: ayaka can do no wrong… she performs exquisitely on CD and live. Also, don’t miss out on the MCs… ayaka’s known for talking a lot xD. I don’t know when this concert took place or the status of her illness at the time, but if she wasn’t feeling well she definitely didn’t let it show.

Rating: 10/10

Set list:
1. Jewelry day
2. I believe
3. 手をつなごう
4. Why
5. グンナイベイビー
6. Human Nature
7. ブルーデイズ
8. 三日月
9. おかえり
10. 夢を味方に
11. ありがとう。
12. WINDING ROAD
13. みんな空の下

*MCs are not included in the track list!

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Best of 2009: Album Artwork

2010年 1月 8日

I’ve been looking forward to this part of the “best” awards. This will probably be my last installment of the “best of”s, because I’m going to have a gigantic “worst” of post out this weekend. So here, in all their glory, are what I thought were the best album covers of 2009.

RURUTIA: Seiros
For a while I thought that this release was part of 2008 because it was released so long ago!. Anyway, RURUTIA’s music is very ethereal and reminiscent of Final Fantasy music. This cover reflects the magical element so present in her music. This cover is like a cross between reality and fantasy.

Namie Amuro: Past<Future
Plagiarized or not, this is one hot cover and it represents Namie’s moving forward with her musical career. The cover came under suspicion when it greatly resembled an image in a Korean magazine. Although it seems like the case is valid, it probably wasn’t Namie’s idea. In truth what really makes this cover amazing is Namie’s coy expression. Even if it wasn’t her idea, her cover is ten times sexier.

alan: Gunjou no Tani
This cover is one of alan’s finest. She looks so peaceful. She dons traditional garb, and it really pops compared to the dark background behind her. In this cover we have tradition and nature- the two most important aspects of alan’s music. I hope we see more of this soon!

OLIVIA: Sailing Free
Everything about this cover is so “OLIVIA.” She’s just kind of floating there, looking completely serene. Although it’s a lot of pink, all of the detail keeps this cover from being boring.

Koda Kumi: Alive/Physical Thing
Regardless of what you think of the single, I think its cover is astounding. Kuu-chan’s covers have gotten progressively better over the years. She went from looking almost like a trashy porn star to looking like more of an artist. I love the juxtaposition of this cover: Kuu looks like an angel while the environment around her is clearly rugged. Her outfit looks really high-fashion and her make up looks class. This cover is sexy without being over-the-top.

Nana Kitade: Tsukihana
Not only was this an outstanding musical feat for Nana, but its cover is a work of art too. Nana looks great in a traditional kimono. Since Nana is a model for a lot of lolita clothes, she knows how to wear an outfit. Her posture and expression make this otherwise traditional setting a little more modern.

Tohoshinki: Stand by U
The reason I like this cover so much is that it makes the boys look more “real” to us. They usually wear flashier clothes in staged and tempered environments. Here though, things look a little more candid and realistic. This kind of comforting image fits the A-side as well because the song projects a kind of intimacy.

Ayumi Hamasaki: Rule/Sparkle
This is one of my favorite Ayu covers to date. The tight-fitting outfit, silver high-heels, and bold covers give this image a futuristic look, perfectly representing the songs on the single. This single came out with many cover editions, as is common for Ayu nowadays, but this one was my favorite. Her makeup looks great too… not overdone, but still foxy. =]


Minami Kizuki: Shiroi Tsuki
I discovered Minami’s music kind of late in the year. For those of you who don’t know her, she has a voice uncannily similar to Hajime Chitose’s (she did the 4th ending to Blood+). This single happens to be a ballad, and the cover kind of reminds me of something alan would do. Minami really stands out from the black background. I really do think of the moon when looking at the cover.. maybe it has something to do with her reflection.


Miliyah Kato: WHY
This single represents one of Miliyah’s strongest releases to date. This cover lacks the glamor of a lot of these others on the list, but it perfectly reflects the raw emotion of the song WHY. Miliyah is known for her more “Diva-esque” covers, so this vulnerable side from her is something to look forward to.

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Nana Mizuki (The Alchemists)- Theme of Lan Fan

2009年 12月 24日

Now who is at on the cover some might ask? It’s Lan Fan, the kick-ass body guard from Xing from Full Metal Alchemist: Brotherhood. In my opinion Lan Fan is one of the strongest female characters in anime today.

Both songs are by Japan’s most famous seiyuu, Nana Mizuki. In accordance with a number of other seiyuus from FMA, Nana-chan has created a single in honor of her character, Lan Fan. Despite the fact that these songs are for an anime, Nana has departed from the typical anime sound. She opts for real instruments instead of synth. Sorakaze opens us up with some electric guitars. It seems intense at first, but the verses are much more ethereal with the acoustic guitars and background synth. I have a little problem with the chorus in the song because it returns to the electric guitar feel and Nana’s voice doesn’t seem to match it too well.

Sotto, sotto is the better of the two tracks. It too uses acoustic guitar during the verses. It’s all very calm and peaceful until we get to the chorus. The chorus is more descriptive of Xing and Lan Fan. It’s upbeat with an imperial feel to it. It reminds me of horses galloping with the all the clapping and guitar rhythms. My only complaint is that this song is too short!

Overall: A solid single from Nana-chan, but sotto, sotto takes the cake.

Rating: 8.5/10

Track list:
1. Sorakaze
2. Sotto, sotto

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Christmas Blowout Part III: Covers

2009年 12月 24日

So this last section of my X’mas blowout is dedicated to Japanese/Korean covers of traditional/Western Christmas song. Since these songs are so varied and not original creations of the artists I won’t be ranking them. I know it’s already Christmas for many of you, but for the rest of us it’s still Christmas Eve. Merry Christmas everyone!

Love,
Aoliwa and Kowezhi

BoA: The Christmas Song
Yeah I know, this is probably the most ubiquitous Christmas song of the season and you’re probably all tired of hearing it by now. BoA does a great job with this song though, and her voice is very strong. I’d say this is a bit more of a cutesy rendition of the original IMO.

K: Merry Christmas
Merry Christmas is a mini-album of Christmas covers that was released this past December. All songs are done a capella (kinda reminds me of glee club stuff). K’s English sucks when he speaks *cough* first track *cough,* but when he sings it it’s great. He covers songs like Wonderful Christmastime and This Christmas. Also, the final track is an a capella ver. of Only Human. Pretty… but WTF?!

CHEMISTRY: Winter of Love
This Christmas album from CHEMISTRY features both original songs and covers of older Japanese Christmas songs. Some of the songs are a little dated, but CHEMISTRY does a great job at bringing them back to life for the holidays.

Ayaka Hirahara: AVE MARIA (+Schubert ver.)
Ayaka Hirahara is the queen of classical covers. Since last year she has released to different versions of the ever-famous, Ave Maria. The original version was the B-side to Shinsekai. It approaches the song with a melancholy jazz feel (she even scats). It is stunning. The Schubert version was released this past fall, and it’s much shorter and lighthearted. It bears no resemblance to the former.

TVXQ: Christmas Gift from TVXQ
I looove this mini-album. The boys did a great job at doing a capella covers of classical Christmas songs. Standouts for me were Silent Night and Angels We Have Heard on High. This stuff is very soothing and great for listening during the night.

Nightmare: Akahana no Tonakai (Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer)
I know what you’re thinking.. what?! But yeah, back in the day when Naito was a tiny little indies band they created a rock version of this kids’ classic. It begins with some charming xylophone, but it turns 180 degrees as soon as the guitars start up. It’s kind of a twisted version of the song, and despite the LQ sound, I still think this is sexy as hell. Plus at the very end you get a greeting from all the members wishing you Merry Christmas (and Ni~ya sounds a bit drunk). Enjoy =]

Merry Christmas!!!

Merry Christmas wotas... this is for you

Merry Christmas wotas... this is for you

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Christmas Blowout Part II: Upbeat Songs

2009年 12月 5日

Yay now we’re onto part II of my Christmas Blowout Series (and there’s still one more part to come!) This time I’m focusing on the more upbeat songs. There aren’t nearly as many of these as there are ballads, so I’m only doing a “top 10.” More male artists/bands will be featured this time, and there are even some jrockers! Again, this might feature a song or two that is not especially “Christmas” or even winter… but any song I associate with this particular season is eligible. So, without further ado, enjoy!

10. Jingle Bell- 雅-miyavi-

Hah so if you first listen to this song you won’t believe it’s a Christmas song. We definitely see what miyavi calls “happy hardcore.” So we have heavy guitars paired with a major melody. Honestly the song just makes you want to dance or something. You don’t see much variation in miyavi’s voice throughout the song, but I think the emphasis is on the instrumentals anyway.

9. Winter Winner- ORANGE RANGE

Listening to this song it’s no mistake that this is a winter song! We open up with some Christmas bells, but soon transition into a positive guitar melody. The song is very upbeat, and it makes you want to go out and have a snowball fight or something. Also, this is one of ORANGE RANGE’s older songs, so many of you will appreciate the style.

8. I Wish- L’arc~en~Ciel

This is a classic winter song for any jrock fan. We have a progressive beat in the beginning of the song, but the chorus is super cute. Why? We have kids singing =D. Haah I’m a sucker for kids singing. The chorus features alternating English lines, so you can understand some of the song if you don’t speak Japanese. This song features Christmas bells and brass, making it a perfect precursor to another jrock song on this list!

7. Nichiyou no Asa- Utada Hikaru

Meaning “Sunday Morning,” this song was featured on her album “Ultra Blue.” Knowing Utada, we get a nice hip hop influence. A xylophone beat follows us throughout the song, giving it some variety. The song structure is a bit unusual, because between each verse and chorus we get Utada speaking, saying different aspects of a Sunday morning. Not a traditional winter song, but good for any Utada fan.

P.S. This is my favorite Utada cover of all time!

6. Christmas曲(櫻井ソロ)- Arashi

Haah this is definitely just a random image. Anyway, this is a solo by arashi singer, Sho. My version of this song is pretty low quality, but I love it all the same. It’s very laid-back and features acoustic guitars, faint background synth, brass, and bells. Sho, being the rapper of the group, raps throughout the verses, and it’s surprisingly relaxing. The rest of the group joins him for the chorus. The chorus is sooo cute too if you listen to the lyrics (but they are in Japanese, so beware). I love this song so much that I’ll listen to it year ’round.

5. Hitoiro- Mika Nakashima

This is not a winter song, but it was released for Nana so I will always associate it with winter. Anyway, while I don’t think it represents Black Stones at all, this is one of my favorite songs of all time. Since it’s for Nana we know it will have some rock influence. The verses feature some piano in the background, and they’re very calm. The chorus however, is amazing. The strings in the background are what give it its power. It’s too upbeat to be a ballad, even if it has many ballad elements. IMO it’s Mika’s best song.

4. Hurry X’mas- L’arc~en~Ciel

Remember how I said the brass would prepare us for another jrock song? Well this is it! Hurry X’mas is much more of a jazz song than a rock song, but it’s a new taste on Christmas songs. We have an especially wide range of instruments… even an accordion. The PV is cute too… and HYDE wears a Santa hat xD. This whole single is Christmas themed, because it features another rendition of “I Wish.” The song also features some English for those of you who don’t speak Japanese!

3. White Light- Namie Amuro

You all knew it was coming… this is one of the more famous jpop Christmas songs. I love the cover… pretty gold wreath is a nice spin on a traditional Christmas symbol. White Light is easily a love song with some very cute lyrics. We have a nice R&B beat, but also some bells in the background. Namie’s English in this song is pretty good, even if it sounds like she’s singing “silent night, hory night.” Everything about this song is winter love themed, making it a timeless winter song.

2. Actuality- Kou Shibasaki

Actuality is Kou’s first Christmas single, and if you like this song I’d suggest getting the whole thing because the b-sides are lovely winter songs too. We have bells throughout the song and lots of strings. The song is a bit slower paced, but definitely not a ballad (for example, this song always reminds me of ice skating). Like many of Kou’s songs, there’s a faint jazz influence. The end of the song ends nicely with Kou gently fading into a winter day scene (shopppers, church bells).

1. So Merry Christmas -take 06- -Mihimaru GT

To me this is a classic Christmas song. Unfortunately it was just a b-side, and it could have totally been an a-side. Anyone familiar with Mihimaru GT knows that they combine singing and rapping, which they do here. This combination along side bells and chimes gives us a new sort of Christmas vibe. My favorite part of the song is the bridge when we hear a choir that leads into Hiroko’s solo against piano. This song is a different style for Mihimaru GT, but to me it makes the perfect upbeat Christmas song.