25 January 2015

Kanjani8 - Kanjanism RE album review


Artist: Kanjani8
Title: Kanjanism
Release date:  05 NOV 2014
Type: album
Version: regular edition

Packaging:

As I pre-ordered the album I have the first press bonus items that come with it, a slipcase, a sticker sheet, a map and an application code. The last of course was useless for me as I live in the U.S. so there was no way to use it. The rest though are nice touches for the album. The slip case makes the case seem a bit less plain as there is a group image on the front of the lyric booklet. The sticker sheet is one sticker per member with everyone striking an action pose of some sort. The map is of a Kanjani8 themed island and on the back is a key to explain what the places on the map are.

For the booklet inside each member gets a page for a solo shot and on the pages before the lyrics for the songs included on the second disc there are images from the PVs of the duets and solo song on it.

That said I really have no clue who decided 90s fashion was the way to go for this album as there is no way anyone can make those styles look good.


Tracks:

(Disc 1)

1. EJ☆コースター (EJ☆Coaster)
The album starts with this fun track that has become one of my favorites. It is a great start to the album as it is also one of those songs that you can listen to and immediately think "Kanjani8". I love the use of brass instruments and the touches of jazz here and there in the song. And the chorus is just so catchy.

2. FUN FUN FUN FUN FUN FUN FUN FUN
FUNx8 does not seem to know what it wants to be but I still found myself enjoying this strange combination of a song. From its Red Hot Chili Pepper influenced versus to its almost monotone delivery of its lines of "FUN" it is all over the place. It goes some odd places yet somehow is able to return to form and I find myself interested in it even though it is not the kind of song I thought I would enjoy.

3. 三十路少年 (Misoji Shounen)
This song starts off as another fun high energy pop song then about midway through breaks away to through in talk parts that seem to overtake it. Perhaps this song would be more enjoyable live but as an album track it become weak with all the breaks from those spoken word segments that break the flow of the song. I want to like it, and I know this kind of song should not be so surprising coming from the group but I just cannot get back into after the first long break from the music.

4. キング オブ 男! (King of Otoko!)
This song has grown on me after not feeling too impressed after the initial listen of it. But I have come to appreciate and enjoy it. I think the guitar solo definitely played a good part in winning me over as I love a good guitar solo. But there is something about that just sounds rather epic in scale which I have come to enjoy as well and it is easily my favorite single track on the album.

5. Masterpiece
This is another song I really like off the album. It is electronic pop with a nice driving beat that keeps the song on high energy all throughout. The chorus really stands out though the verses stand on their own right. It also uses voice effects very well to enhance the song and not overpower it.

6. ココロ空モヨウ (Kokoro Sora Moyou)
This song begins a slow down for the album but still has enough energy so not to make the transition feel too abrupt. The chorus is where most of that energy is found but the verses are still well within the mid-tempo range of the song. The song at times does give off the feeling of soaring which of course is perfect considering the title and lyrics of the song.

7. ひびき (Hibiki)
After the previous track this ballad fits well here. That said while it is not bad it is not all that impressive either to me. But that tends to be a lot of K8's ballads. I feel they go safe whenever they do a ballad and thus we get some of their more bland songs being their ballads. At least everyone sounds good in it.

8. ゆ (Yu)
The Shibutani Subaru and Yasuda Shota collaboration song for the album. I have been on the fence about the song from the first listen and nothing has changed since then. It has a lot going for it that makes it the kind of song that I should love but it just does not click with me for some reason. Or at least not consistently as there are times I have no issue listening to it and then others I make sure to skip it or just leave it off the playlist completely. But it is a fun energetic pop song, and again one I feel I should like because that is one of my favorite types of songs yet I keep feeling like this song goes on for too long instead.

9. ER2
I really wanted to love this song as I loved ER, but alas it's not happening. I do like it though and it is a nice song to kick up the energy of the album with again. But it feels like it is a bit lost with its direction as it seems to just keep changing style throughout and does not seem to retain the kind of flow to keep the energy of the song going throughout so instead there are just sparks of it here and there. Even the guitar solo could not completely win me over with this song.

10. おえかき (O e Kaki)
An incredibly short song clocking about a minute and a half that is part sing along with a group of really young children. It sounds like a standard children's song and is such an odd fit for where it falls on the album. But I am not sure if there would have been any place where it would fit as it is such a complete break from everything else on it.

11. ドヤ顔人生 (Doya Kao Jinsei)
The song Nagase Tomoya of TOKIO wrote for the group. Even without knowing this was the track that Nagase wrote I enjoyed this song from the start. It is a slightly jazzy, a bit rockish pop tune that has a really great chorus hook. And something that sounds like a harmonica. Really the only thing to make this song sound any cooler would be some cow bell. But loved this song and the fact that it sounds like a K8 song and not a TOKIO song like it easily could. So much kudos to Nagase for really being able to write a song for the group and one that is such a joy to listen to.

12. 象 (Zou)
Probably one of their more rockish songs on the album and of course I like it. It has a hard edge to it so it is a song that I would have no trouble to count as a rock song. And I love how it goes soft for a while before the chorus, as that works to really highlight the energy of the chorus as well as change things up so it does not get stale sounding.

13. RAGE
With a title like RAGE I was expecting something with something of an edge to it and at least a little bit angry sounding. Instead this is rather poppy and upbeat, especially with the chorus. It makes me want to switch titles with the previous track honestly. But outside of that it is a nice song though I cannot help but feel like there is something lacking with it. I cannot place what exactly or maybe the issue is that compared to some of the other songs on the album it just does not do enough to stand out.

14. オモイダマ (Omoidama)
And of course since we are at the end of the album we get a slower song. At least it is not a ballad so it is not too jarring. In fact with the chorus being a burst of music compared to the more stripped down verses it does feel like it more or less fits well to follow RAGE. Yet that said the song fails to grab my attention much and tends to get skipped.

(Disc 2)

1. アイスクリーム (Icecream) / Yasuda Shota & Nishikido Ryo
Should be no surprise that Yasuda and Ryo wrote this song. It seems like a rather standard pop song but there are sections, like where they speed through their lyrics, that manages to catch my attention. It is not the most standout song but I like it enough to listen to it when it comes up on my playlist.

2. 『愛 Love You』("I Love You") / Murakami Shingo AKA KING
Was not sure what to expect with this song. It is the only solo and probably like others I was surprised to learn it was Hina of all the members that got a solo. That said I was pleasantly surprised with the outcome. I usually do not care for rapping with J-idols as most of the time they are just talking in rhythm but Hina actually tries a do a true rap song and does not do too bad. And if he performs this at concerts with as much energy as he does here then I can imagine it easily being a highlight.

3. アダムとイヴ (Adam and Eve) / Yokoyama Yu & Ohkura Tadayoshi
Another rather basic pop song but has a bit of an R&B flavor, or at least the R&B influenced pop music of the late 90s/early 00s of J-pop. It gives it a unique sound on this album and while neither member is known for being the strong singers of the group it fits their voices well, never making eithr of them stretch out of their comfort ranges.

4. 道 (Michi) / Shibutani Subaru & Maruyama Ryuhei
Subaru and Maruyama have lyric credits for this song which is the only ballad on this album I can say I really enjoy. Which is a bit surprising as Maruyama does not always have the most pleasant voice to listen to. But honestly Subaru is doing all the heavy vocal lighting in the song anyway which has a really nice build to its crescendo. And I love the use of a saxophone in this. It really adds a nice flare to a song that overall goes simple for its instruments.


Overall: This album feels like K8 decided to use the new freedom they have gotten from being on their own album to do everything they wanted to do for an album without much thought beyond that. For some songs that seemed to work out well enough for but others fell flat.

And I find myself rather divided on the album as a whole. There are a couple of songs that I flat out adore, some I just like and most of the rest I am indifferent with. So to this day FIGHT remains my favorite album from the group and there has yet to be an album from the group that I love just as much. (Though my favorite K8 song comes from 8UPPERS.)

Yet I feel that this album also shows potential for the group, with what they could possibly be as they continue to grow musically. That is an exciting prospect, but at the same time a bit worrying as they move in a direction that I do not care for. Their next album will have to be the make or break album for me about that, as I really only follow K8 for their music at this point.

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