31 January 2015

January 2015 Idol News

This month I go over news for the Japanese idols and idol groups that I follow:

NEWS

Nakajima Yuto 

Morning Musume '15

Country Girls

Hello! Project Hina Fest 2015

Chu-Z

Little Glee Monster


28 January 2015

49 final impressions

Finally finished watching this drama and will happily move on to the next.

The drama seems to lose its way near the end and take a few odd turns. From breaking the fourth wall to a cameo for Golden Bomber. There is some set up that looked like it was meant to go somewhere but ended up being forgotten at the end and left things overall unsatisfying. Which is a bit frustrating as it also got stronger for a couple of episodes making this quite uneven. Also I despise suicide being used as a plot device, which this series does do, so that left a bitter taste for me.

It was nice to see Dan's father actually become more likable. Though it felt like it was at the expense of Dan as his plot did not go very far and still felt incomplete. But at least both became characters that could be sympathized with, as I felt there was not nearly as much of that in the first half of the series. And I really wanted to see much more of Dan than what we got and would have loved to have gotten to see more of him as he really felt undeveloped compared to his father. In any case Sato Shori at least did a great job playing the two roles as it was never confusing to tell who he was because of the different mannerisms he portrayed with them. It does make me interested in seeing what else he can do as an actor.

And talking about plots that felt underdeveloped the whole Chicken Basket sub-plot with connected plot with Dan's sister's deadbeat boyfriend are among those. But mostly because the conflicts and resolutions in the second half for them felt rather rushed and of course characters were not developed enough to really care much about what happened to them. Honestly these two sub-plots could have made for a drama on their own and it probably would have come off much stronger for it.

The love-triangle or whatever it was also felt lackluster. Takami Sachi (Yamamoto Maika) ended up coming off as rather cruel to how she treated Dan so I find it hard to believe she would be a good pairing for him. And Minaduki Mana (Nishino Nanase) really had little going for her outside of being a love interest. I feel sorry that the actresses were given such poorly written characters to work with.

Yasui Kentaro was the one who stole the series for me. Sure Shori did well with his acting which was impressive but every scene with Yasui in it he was the one I was fixed on. He just had a natural charisma with this character and truly impressed me. I would have loved to have seen the drama from the prospective of his character honestly. Perhaps some of the flaws would have been smoothed out that way.

Jinguji Yuta does not seem to be the acting type. With young and inexperienced actors you can give them some leeway as some of it will fall on the director but seeing how well Shori did, especially compared to how wooden he was in the drama he was in before this, I am willing to believe that Jinguji is just not good at acting. He was awkward in Sprout and in this, and neither in a good way. He may be able to get okay, as he at least has the fact that his character in this series was rather flat and the small story line he was given was fairly lackluster, but again I would have expected just a bit more.

In the end this drama did make me take notice of Shori's improvement as an actor and I have come to see Yasui as a Junior that genuinely interests me. So this was hardly a complete loss. And even then it was not a terrible drama, just not a great one, which still places it above at least a couple of other drama series from the NTV late night line up I have already watched. It just tried to do far too much without doing the right build up for it and should have kept things simpler.

With that though I am more than willing to move on and start up a new drama series.

NEWS' White full track listing

Johnny's net has updated with information for NEWS' upcoming album with a complete track listing for both versions.

For the limited edition the track listing is;

1. MR. WHITE

2. KAGUYA

3. NYARO

4. SEVEN COLORS

5. Weather NEWS

6. SuperSONIC

7. Black Jack -Inter-

8. BYAKUYA

9. ONE -for the win-

10. White Love Story

11. 愛言葉 (Ai Kotoba)

On major thing to note is that Ai Kotoba is listed as being written by NEWS. So I am looking forward to seeing what the group has come up with for that.

That said I am disappointed that it looks like one of the tracks, Black Jack -Inter- will most likely not be a full song but a short instrumental track. I am pretty sure the Inter is short for interlude and those do tend to be those kinds of tracks. But even then it will be seven full new songs (since NYARO was never released on a CD before this).

The regular edition has the solo songs for each member so the track listing is the above plus;

12. ロメオ 2015 (Romeo 2015) - Koyama Keiichiro solo

13. Skye Beautiful - Masuda Takahisa solo

14. あなた(Anata) - Tegoshi Yuya solo

15. ESCORT - Kato Shigeaki solo

Shige is credited for writing his song and as I've enjoyed the past solo songs he has written I am looking forward to this one. But overall I enjoy the solos for the group so I look forward to them all.

I am just getting more and more excited for this release and cannot wait for the covers to be revealed next.

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.

19 January 2015

Johnny's WEST - Zipangu Ooki ni Daisakusen / Yume wo Daikishimete RE single review

regular edition

Artist: Johnny's WEST
Title: Zipangu Ooki ni Daisakusen / Yume wo Daikishimete
Release date:  08 OCT 2014
Type: single
Version: regular edition / limited edition type C

limited edition type C

Packaging: The regular edition is rather basic with its packaging, though at least there is one more group picture used for the booklet, but outside of that it is all rather bare.

The limited edition type C has its booklet as one of its special features for the version. Each members gets a close up version (with what they are wearing on this cover) and a full body shot (with what they are wearing on the regular edition cover.)

Tracks:

1. ジパング・おおきに大作戦 (Zipangu Ooki ni Daisakusen)
This song sounds like the musical successor to the group's debut single A-side Ee Jya nai ka. It even works in festival chants as the fore mentioned song as well as a good deal of the fun. If you liked their debut single then you will most likely like this song as well as both songs are very much in the same vein and style.

2. 夢を抱きしめて (Yume wo Daikishimete)
This song has an ever so slight Latin music sound to it, much like how some of Hey! Say! JUMP's early songs did. It works though with giving the song a unique sound that still fits the group. Of course a part of that is simply because Johnny's WEST has not really settled into one set style so some switching between different ones works for them. It is not a song that interests me much though when I listen to it and just rather feels like it is just there.

3. SUPERSTAR
The first of two bonus tracks for the regular edition. And I love this song with all its pop glory. It has a nice beat and energy that I just love. But before we get to that energy we get a nice build up from the start until we hit the chorus for the first time. It is also not afraid to take musical breaks which helps make the song feel dynamic, and balances out the chorus that is a bit on the repetitive side.

4. for now and forever
Lots of energy for this B-side from the very first note. A pop song with an electronic dance music influence and the "go west" lines are nice and catchy. Easily one of my favorite songs for this single release for those reasons. It also has a nice break part that changes up the sound just enough to keep the song from sounding tired or getting boring. If I could change anything I would turn up the sound of the guys' vocals to hear them better.

3. WESTERN PARADE
The first track for the type C version of the single. It is more of a standard pop song that has a nice build up going for it with the chorus. It uses background vocals quite a bit but to good effect and they really help make the track stand out and do what good background vocals are meant to do, support the main vocals. And I love the part near the end of the song where they work in the name of their group, as they are a Johnny's group so they need at least one song to do so, but the change up is nice and flows well into the final chorus.

4. Can't stop
Again we return to an EDM influenced pop song but with a different sound. Not as catchy as for now and forever it is still a strong song in its own right mainly because of the chorus kicks everything up a notch. They end up being able to work in some rap lines with the change up for this song that work well, especially as a contrast to the verse that follows it. A good solid track that only lacks catchiness.



Overall: The B-sides really shine with this single. I would have been heartbroken if I missed out on the LE type C and the songs on it as I enjoy them both. The group still has yet to find a style that can be considered uniquely their own, yet the songs they are getting are overall rather strong so it is well worth following them in this stage of their careers.

A good single and a great follow up to their debut single and I cannot wait to get their next single.

16 January 2015

White NEWS

As I had hoped we are indeed getting a new NEWS album this year. The album will be released February 25th and is titled White. It will come in two editions.

The album will have the single tracks, KAGUYA, One -for the win-, and Seven Colors on it then eight new songs.

The limited edition will come with a DVD with a short film of the lead track from the album, Mr. White, as well as a making of feature for it.


The regular edition will have the solo songs for the members, which are not included in the limited edition.


The bundled set will come with a special bonus for getting the two versions together, which is a clutch bag.



I am so happy to wake up to this news. I was really hoping we would be getting a new album with a concert tour being scheduled for the group this year. Of course the limited editions are currently sold out at CDJapan, but I am sure at some point they will be available for a short time again. That was how I was able to get the bundle for KAGUYA as I did not have the money to get it when it first came up to be pre-ordered. Though that said I'm just going to be getting the regular edition of this as multiple editions of an album is out of my budget.

But still very happy with this news and will be making sure to pre-order when I can. There is no way I will pass up an entire album's worth of new NEWS songs.

15 January 2015

Nakayama Yuma - Get Up! RE single review


Artist: Nakayama Yuma
Title: Get Up!
Release date:  10 SEP 2014
Type: single
Version: regular edition

Packaging: Like his previous single the packaging is about as simple as you can get. The lyric booklet does give us a couple more pictures of Yuma but that is about it.

Tracks:

1. Get Up!
A dance pop song that has plenty of energy and a nice catchy hook in the chorus when the title of the song is repeated. There are some nice quieter moments in the song that work to keep the song from getting too repetitive. It did take a couple of listens for the song to grow on me but after that I have loved it since. A much better song from Yuma than High Five was and it alone gave me faith once more in his music.

2. Butterfly
This song starts so unassuming but then the chorus kicks in and everything is just elevated. A pop song that has some wonderful strings and piano worked in with it. In fact it would fit so well in with Missing Piece, which is one of my favorite songs from Yuma. I do not think I will love Butterfly as much but I do like it quite a bit and it is a really strong B-side for the single.

3. Best Friend
A bit of a slower track but not near ballad territory. There is a melancholy sound to the track that makes it stand out from the upbeat-ness of the first two songs. And there is just something about these kinds of songs that seem to fit Yuma and his voice. In fact we get to hear his falsetto with this and it a rather nice sounding one that thankfully is used just the right amount, very little, to truly make it shine. Not sure if I care for the little bits of autotune used in this, though they are definitely used just for effect and nothing more. But another solid track on what is easily one of Yuma's strongest singles yet.

4. I Say Good-Bye
Another slow but not a ballad pop song. And as the title would imply it also has a somber sound to it. Yet it is not the only emotion the song gives as with the chorus the music picks up to give it a hopeful sound. Which makes sense as from the bits I get from the lyrics (the last few lines are mostly English which helps) this is a song about breaking up with a lover on good terms and moving on so that while the romantic relationship is over it does not mean they cannot be friends. It is a song that I find that I am getting to like more and more still. It is a reminder of why I always go for the editions with the songs as the extras above all else because you can find gems like this.


Overall: After being pretty disappointed with High Five this single restored my interest in Yuma's music releases once more by being a solid release overall. I like all the songs and a couple are among my favorite Yuma songs so far. I am not sure if I like this single more than Missing Piece but the two are definitely tied at least.

While I would have been happy with Yuma debuting in a group I cannot say that I am disappointed with his solo career so far. He may not release much but he has some true gems for his songs and I look forward to his new releases, no matter how long I have to wait between them.

14 January 2015

14JAN2015 CDJapan order

A Johnny's filled order this time around.

Included:

NEWS - Kaguya single (LE A, LE B and RE)

Nakayama Yuma - Chapter 1 album (RE)

Kis-My-Ft2 - Thank YouJan! single (RE)


13 January 2015

Kis-My-Ft2 - Another Future RE single review


Artist: Kis-My-Ft2
Title: Another Future
Release date:  13 AUG 2014
Type: single
Version: 3rd Anniversary edition

Packaging: This release is one of the main reasons that I am including this category in these reviews, as it is far above the usual standard. The case is basically a hard cover book with the lyric booklet attached to one side and a paper pocket with the CD and the card with the individual messages from the members on it attached to the other side. The photo booklet has the standard solo shots that come with Kisumai CD photo booklets but it also has plenty of pictures of the group as duos and trios having fun around the house that this photo shoot was at. It is really those photos that make this shine as it is so nice to see the guys playing around. It also has a couple full group shots, but those are not as fun. This is also basically the regular edition of the release, which is why it is so nice to see the packaging to well done.

Tracks:

1. Another Future
It took a few listens but this song really grew on me. I quite love it now, especially with how it has a mysterious feel to it when it begins. The choruses have the most energy but the rest hardly drag anything down. Even the instrumental break in the middle continues to move everything along well. Which should not be all that surprising seeing that this song falls into the dance pop category so it should be able to at least do that much.

2. Perfect World
This song takes us to more basic pop without being basic itself. I love the strings used in this. They add a nice flair to the song and work surprisingly well with the beats of the chorus. And I love that there are quieter moments in this song so voices can be heard a bit clearer than usual. And the build at the end it a nice break from the usual progression that Kisumai songs follow.

3. 感じるままに輝いて (Kanjiru mama ni Kagayaite)
This moves back to more a dance pop sound. And even though we get strings in this as well I do not think they add too much to the song. But that could be in part because they sound like they are being drowned out by the other instruments and sounds being used in the song. It is in no way a bad song, in fact listening to it I enjoy it, but once I am done and on to the next song I quickly forget it, unlike the other two. Which is a shame as it has a lot of what I enjoy in a song but it just does not do anything that feels all that special with those elements that I do not feel like I have heard before.


Overall: I have not stopped being impressed with the packaging for this CD. It has to be one of my favorites for some time and definitely of all the releases I got in 2014. It is just a lot of nice little touches that makes it seem truly special.

For the songs, well two out three is not bad. Again none are terrible it is just Kanjiru mama ni Kagayaite comes off as a bit forgettable, especially compared to the larger discography of the group. Or even the two songs on this single that both manage to be solid additions to that ever growing discography.

Definitely would recommend this single for any fan of the group and it is not a difficult find either so no worries on getting a copy if you want to pick this up.

11 January 2015

Johnny's WEST - go WEST Yoidon! RE album review


Artist: Johnny's WEST
Title: go WEST Yoidon!
Release date:  06 AUG 2014
Type: album
Version: Regular Edition

Packaging: Standard CD jewel case but it is used to maximize the amount of pictures used as the back cover has a group picture on both sides. The lyric booklet comes with solo shots for each member of the group, and they all look great, as well as a couple of group pictures. So it is far from a barebones release for the regular version though nothing overly stand out about it.

Tracks:

1. ええじゃないか (Ee Jya nai ka)
Already reviewed this track with the single review (as well as the final three tracks on this) so you can read it there. But this is a good way to kick off the album as it is a good track to sum up what kind of group Johnny's WEST is, a lot of fun and plenty energetic. And one would probably not guess that this is one of the four bonus tracks for the regular version of the album.

2. Summer Dreamer
Lots of energy with this song that makes it a good song to follow Ee Jya nai ka. Or in the case of the limited edition lead off the album as it is the first track for that. Light and poppy with song nice energy, or basically what one would expect for a summer pop song. While it is a nice start to the album it is a song that I tend to forget as I move on to listen to the other songs that come off as stronger than this one.

3. 粉もん (Kona Mon)
Kona Mon picks up the energy and goes with a style that has the verses rapped/speak sung before going into a sung chorus. It has a bit of a funky sound to it that fits the sound of the group and the style difference between the verses and chorus. I would not think it would work as well as it does but it is a really fun song to listen to.

4. Wake up!
Probably the song that I like the least but I do like it. It just does not click with me as well as the others so if I had to leave a song off this list it would be this one. The use of a clock alarm is a cute touch and overall it does fall on the cute side of things, but not overtly cutesy.

5. LET'S GO WEST ~KANSAI!!~
This song has been used more or less as the theme song for the Kansai Juniors in general for a while now but I guess that will have to change as it has become a JW song. It is noticeably shorter than the rest of the songs on this album, clocking in just under three minutes, but it is probably better that way. This song has always come off to me as the kind of song meant for live performances, so while it is still a fun listen it would really shine watching an actual performance of it. Which can be seen with all the performances the Kanjuu have done of it.

6. P & P
One of the two new songs that make up the four bonus tracks of the regular edition. It is also one of my favorite songs on the album as it has one of the catchier choruses. Overall it is just a great solid pop song and I love the brass instruments in it.

7. Break Out!
I do not think there is anyway to transition to this song with it feeling a bit jarring. Break Out! is a change in style from everything so far and has a bit of an edgey sound to it, or as edgey as Japanese boy groups get. In fact you could place it with early KAT-TUN and even some early Kanjani8 songs and it would fit well with them. Like other songs on the album the song has a mix of rap and singing but in this there is more mixing with both being present in the verses and the chorus. It also has a haunting music break about half way through that works well with it.

8. Criminal
Criminal complements Break Out! by not being too different in style with it being more of a dance pop song so it also has an edge to its sound. It has a good driving beat that runs through the verses before having things changed up to lead into the chorus. And the chorus brings that beat back to continue to drive the song forward.

9. ちゃうねんっ!! (Chaunen!!)
And then there is a sudden switch back to the earlier pop styles on the album with Chaunen!! The song has a bit of a Latin beat to it, but it fits with the earlier pop songs as it continues the trend of fun pop music that does not take itself too seriously. And it helps a lot that the chorus is really catchy.

10. バンバンッ!! (Bang Bang!!)
As a Junior fan it seems a bit strange for JW to get this song as this has been used as the theme song for the program the members of Kin Kan and Naniwa Oji have. So I associate it more with those Kanjuu than I do the JW members. But whatever the reason behind it JW now has the song, much like how they inherited LGWK, so at least there are a couple Kanjuu songs getting a CD release with this group. But the recorded version gives us the full song, with slow solo intro before it launches into the energetic pop song it is. The verses are done in a rap/speak-sing way for most of it that works well with the song as it keeps up the pace of the song. There is also a nice break where things slow down a bit again before it reverts back to the main tempo of the song. It is a song I enjoy a lot, especially the changes in it as it keeps it from getting boring.

11. Olé Olé Carnival!
And we get the next bonus track on this album and the other one that is a new song. It is another poppy track that continues with the energy that the previous track brought in. And it has a song that it is a bit of a throw back sound to it. It also helps have the album end as it started being another summer themed song. but overall a strong song with a nice build up and the slow down at the start and near the end gives the song some added spice.

12. 浪速一等賞! (Naniwa Ittou Shou!)
What is nice about this song is that it actually works to be a follow up to either Bang Bang!! or Olé Olé Carnival!, which it does depending on which version of this album you got. What is not so nice is that it starts off the rest of the songs that were included on the group's debut single so it is not a new song. It is a fun song and I love it, but I just wish the album would not have used so many songs from the debut single release.

13. その先へ… (Sono Saki e...)
I can understand why this song would be stuck on the album where it is. For the limited edition it would be the final track and ending with a slow song is a common thing. Unfortunately it is the only slow song on the album and the song it follows is very different in style that it does not escape the feeling that it was simply tacked on because it could be.

14. バンザイ夢マンサイ! (Banzai Yume Mansai!)
This is the final bonus track and with it there is little reason to get the debut single of the group unless you are getting one of the limited editions or really want the lyric booklet for it. Also while the previous two tracks do not mesh well enough together to be a goof finish of the album the addition of BYM does not help at all. In fact it just makes it an even greater mess as it dramatically switches tone again.


Overall: This is one of those albums that I enjoy the songs but not as an album. While I do not mind a variety of song styles on an album I believe there should still be some kind of flow to it so nothing sounds jarring. Like having songs that are a mix of two to be a bridge or even having instrumental interludes to do just that. But I do like the songs and enjoy listening to them, just not together so much.

At this moment I would say that JW still needs to figure out what they are going to be when it comes with their music. At this early stage I doubt they are getting much choice in what they sing but I do hope the members are thinking about it so when they do begin to get some input they can create a sound that they can claim. Right now they definitely feel like they are as K8 were when they first debuted and listening to K8's early albums there is a shared issue of musical styles being all over the place.

Yet the songs are fun and I do love them, just not together as an album.

08 January 2015

Busaiku - Tei Tei Tei Terette Teretei Tei Tei ~Dare no Ketsu~ LE B single review


Artist: Busaiku
Title: Tei Tei Tei Terette Teretei Tei Tei ~Dare no Ketsu~
Release date:  27 JUL 2014
Type: single
Version: Limited Edition B

Packaging: I will not lie, if I had known this was going to be the cover for this edition (which is the cheapest of the three) I would have gone for one of the more expensive ones. This is just creepy and I do not like to look at it. Thankfully there is a picture of the group in their suits also on the lyric booklet, but outside of that there is nothing of note with the packaging.

Tracks:

1. てぃーてぃーてぃーてれって てれてぃてぃてぃ ~だれのケツ~ (Tei Tei Tei Terette Teretei Tei Tei ~Dare no Ketsu~)
Like Busaiku's debut single this is comedic in tone as the underdog members of Kis-My-Ft2 try to sell their appeal. It is a bit of a mess of a song as it goes all over the place not completely sticking to a single style the whole way through. Yet as this is a song that is more gag than anything else it works as it is the lyrics that are the most important part of the song. Personally I enjoy this song musically better than their first song but like them both.

2. てぃーてぃーてぃーてれって てれてぃてぃてぃ ~だれのケツ~ (karaoke track)


Overall: If you liked their previous song then there is a good chance you will like this. If not then I would not expect to have this change your mind.

It is a bit hard to tell true vocal skill with this song, outside of Yokoo's weakness at it, because of the comedy angle. But at least you can clearly hear them all and use it to figure out voices for the members.

The Busaiku singles though are mainly to help promote the back four of Kisumai and honestly looking at how their rankings have improved in popularity polls and the fact they had an entire drama for them to star in as well as other various projects that have placed the four in front if not on equal standing to the front three it looks like it did its job well. Not only that but with the long life of Johnny's groups if Kisumai wants to keep relevant in the years to come having more than a "cool" image is going to be very beneficial. So this helps lay the ground work for that as Busaiku get experience in comedy. So even if you dislike these singles there is still a benefit gained from them for the entire group.

07 January 2015

49 mid-season impressions

Needless to say one of the main reasons I have taken so long to review the rest of this series is that it just does not interest me much. But I forced my way through Sprout and 49 is at least much better than that drama was so I feel like I need to finish this.

To be fair there does seem to be some hope for the drama to be more enjoyable for me as we hit the mid-way point. Just the episodes leading up to it have done little to get me to care much for the main cast of characters.

I think my biggest issue is that I really do not care for Kagami Dan's father. He comes off being rather selfish to me, even the things he says he is doing to help his son all seem to be doing what he thinks is best for him without taking his son's feelings into account. It does seem though this is not something being completely ignored in story, but it took it long enough to get to that point that it is going to have to do much more to make me care for him.

Yet I will say that Sato Shori is impressing me with his acting in this. I have been watching Hungry! on the side and seeing how wooden he was in that and comparing to how he has been doing in 49 is amazing to see the improvement. Johnny's would do well to keep getting him acting roles, and he has a young looking face so he should be able to pull off being a teenager for quite some time.

Takami Sachi (Yamamoto Maika) is another character that is just not clicking with me at all. She seems to mainly exist to be a tag along for Dan's father and the sudden shift to her liking him enough that she would be willing to sleep with him (which thankfully he has no interest in) just confused me. I feel that there is something missing with her character to put everything into place with her words and actions.

Honestly I never got the hype for Yasui Kentaro before but he is winning me over with this drama. I doubt he will ever be a favorite but I still hope Johnny's does right by him as he looks to be a talent worth promoting. He is currently the main reason I am watching this drama as every scene he is in he is a delight and I wish he was the main character of this drama. I would much rather watch a drama about his character dealing with a defunct basketball club and trying to save it with a member who is possessed by his father's ghost.


Everything else just seems to fall into the "okay" area. Not terrible but not great either. So far the drama has felt uneven but there is some time for it to smooth things out so I do not think I can write it off just yet. I just hope it does have a stronger second half.

06 January 2015

Kis-My-Ft2 - Kis-My-Journey RE album review


Artist: Kis-My-Ft2
Title: Kis-My-Journey
Release date:  02 JUL 2014
Type: album
Version: Regular Edition

Packaging: Standard CD jewel case for this. If anything really stands out it is the fact that there are two booklets. One is simply a lyric booklet while the other is a photo booklet. The lyric booklet is as plan as they come as all images are basically saved for the photo booklet. The photo booklet gives us two sets of solo shots of all the group members as well as two group shots. The two sets are different in style, one more like the cover while the other has a blue sky background and is set around the theme of going on a journey/trip. Both look good and actually do well to reflect the album as it alternates between the dance pop the group has been doing and the more standard pop they seem to be moving into.

Tracks:

1. "3rd" Overture
It builds with the usual electronic dance music the group has been releasing until it blends into the first track of the album. So it basically does what it needs to do.

2. Seven Journey
A nice track with a steady driving beat throughout. It does sound rather repetitive though, and even though there is a change up in the music to break that up a bit it feels too little too late. But still a song I have no issue listening to as long as I am in the mood for it. Otherwise I do get bored with it after the first couple of minutes.

3. 3.6.5
More pop than anything else but still with a touch of the dance style to make it a nice follow up to the lead song. And it does avoid the flaw of that track by changing up a bit more so it does not get too repetitive. Though compared to some of the stronger songs on the album this one ends up more on the forgettable side of things but is still a good album song.

4. Striker
So far each Kis-My-Ft2 album has had a harder sounding track and Striker is that track for this album. These also tend to be my favorite album tracks and this also holds true this time as well. A strong driving beat that is never allowed to overstay its welcome as we get a few breaks and tempo changes throughout the song. The use of spoken/rap lines in the song work out great and overall one of the more interesting tracks on the album.

5. ダイスキデス (Daisuke Desu)
This song is less dance pop and more general pop which makes its placement a bit awkward. Switching out 3.6.5 with Striker would have avoided it, but Daisuki Desu does set the tone for the following tracks as the album moves away from the dance pop style in general. It is also one of the stronger songs on the album with some good arrangement as well as some great moments for the lead vocals to really shine.

6. FORM (Kitayama Hiromitsu's solo)
Kitayama leads the solo/sub-unit portion of the album with his solo. A mid-tempo pop song that has some nice energy to it and does well in showcasing Kitayama's voice. It also works well to lead into the next track with the slower tempo. Honestly I prefer Kitayama's more rockish solo songs and find this song a bit on the mediocre sound of things. It is no way bad but it does nothing to really stand out or elevate itself above good.

7. LU4E ~Last Song~ (Fujigaya Taisuke's solo)
Fujigaya's solo is a ballad this time around and it is a rather plain one. It is saved from being dull is that it does make Fujigaya stretch his vocals with its notes. That and the instrumental is dialed back so his voice is never overpowered by them. So for the album it is a nice change of pace and it fits well between the other two solos in terms of sound.

8. Only One... (Tamamori Yuta's solo)
Tamamori's solo is actually my favorite of the three. Perhaps because he is not known for his vocals they knew well enough to give him something a bit upbeat and musically interesting to help cover for that. And I do think he has been working on his vocals as well. That said this song does not complement his voice all that well so they still need to work on finding a style that will for him. Despite all this though the music is never overly repetitive and has a nice flow which makes this track stand out among the solos.

9. FIRE!!! (Kitayama & Fujigaya duet)
This duet makes up for the lackluster solos for the two. It is more of the dance pop sound but it is done well with great beats that pump energy into the song. It has a nice break that lets them show off their vocals and most importantly it is catchy. Easily one of the better songs on the album.

10. 棚からぼたもち(Tana kara Botamochi) 舞祭組(Busaiku)
I did not care for having this song on the album. Yes it is a fun track and I do like it, but it meant that the four that make up Busaiku were not going to get a new song for the album. Their previous album tracks have been some of my favorites which is the main reason for the disappointment. Outside of that it is a terrible song to have follow FIRE!!! The two songs are just so different in style it is quite jarring. But it is obvious who choice the placement of the songs was really going for having all the solo and unit songs be together in the middle of this album. Or I can only assume so as there really is no good place to put this song on it with just how different it is from everything else.

11. ツバサ(Tsubasa)
One of the more standard pop songs on this album. It works well where it is as it leads off the string of pop songs that take us to the end of the album. And coming after Tana kara Botamochi that feels needed. It has a bit of a relaxing feeling to it, but not because it is threatening to put you to sleep. The chorus is where we get some energy before going back to the calmer versus. This also really lets all three lead singers get chances to be heard clearly in those versus. Which makes me wish the other four would have gotten something more than harmonizing in the chorus for it.

12. 光のシグナル (Hikaru no Signal)
I already reviewed this track, which ended up being the only group single track on the album. Mainly because there was a single collection release before this. But it fits well in this album with this final portion being more standard pop just like this song.

13. 僕らの約束 (Bokura no Yakusoku)
A group ballad this time, and it would be a nice end to the album which for the other editions of it this song was. In fact I can easily see this being a final song in a concert set list and would be surprised if it was. It just has that feel of winding down and with the flourishes of strings throughout it has something that makes it feel memorable. Which is what you want for a finale song.

14. アゲてくぜ! (Agete kuze!)
The bonus track only on the regular edition of the album. This is probably the only song on this album that could have been placed next to Tana kara Botamochi and not felt too out of place. It is a fun pop song that leans more on the fun. It has a bouncy kind of feeling and of course some nice energy. Being a bonus track it does feel tacked on at the end, but at least falls into the standard pop sound of the last few tracks of the album.


Overall: Did you like Kisumai's previous albums? Then you are bound to like this album as well. It does not stray far from their past albums, for better or worse. Like their previous albums there will be a few stand out tracks while the rest will most likely be forgotten after a couple of new releases from the group.

It is more standard pop than their previous albums which seems to be the direction the group is going if their post Kis-My-Journey singles are anything to go by. I can envision that in the future it will be a good transition album if the group is truly slowly moving away from dance pop being their standard sound.

If I have one complaint about all the group songs is that it would be nice to hear more of s-My-2, as for the most part only KiFt is heard. Though Tamamori tends to drowned out by the other two if he does not have a solo line. But I still await the day I do not have to wonder if I will ever hear s-My-2 in any Kisumai songs, but with the final 2014 release perhaps that day is finally coming.

04 January 2015

Hey! Say! JUMP - smart RE 1st press album review


Artist: Hey! Say! JUMP
Title: smart
Release date:  18 JUN 2014
Type: album
Version: 1st press

Packaging: Basic CD case for a two disc release. The booklet is rather basic as well. The pages with the lyrics though do have full body shots of the members on them, but they are rather small. Outside of that each members has a solo shot in the booklet and that is it.

To take a moment to mention cover outfits, Arioka Daiki and Takaki Yuya have hideous suits, Yamada Ryosuke and Okamoto Keito have terrible shirts and Nakajima Yuto's tie is quite questionable. Everything else falls into various shades of good and okay.

Tracks:

(Disc 1)

1. ~Prelude of smart~
This is the first instrumental piece on the album. I typically do not care for opening instrumentals and this one is no different. It does not really showcase what to expect of the album and really just feels like filler.

2. FOREVER
The album starts strong with FOREVER, a dance pop song that honestly makes me think more of Kis-My-Ft2 than Hey! Say! JUMP, as the former has been doing songs like this basically since their debut. But I like the song as it has a good beat and a nice epic sound to it. Definitely a good song to start things off with.

3. Ready Go
Of course all the build up from the first two tracks comes to a crashing halt with this song. It starts promising enough with a mysterious sound to it but then it dives right into a rather generic pop song. I guess there is some sounds that makes it sound like a bit of a throw back to older idol songs but it is such a drastic change for the previous song and the chorus is so generic it fails to be catchy. By the time I finished listening to the next track I had already completely forgotten how this went.

4. Come On A My House
While Ready Go made no sense to have after FOREVER it works well to precede Come On A My House. While this is also a energetic pop song it at least has a catchy chorus to make it memorable. Which I would hope since it is a single track. While I do like the track it does little to fit the more "mature" feel of the album that was promised, though that was already ruined by the song preceding it.

5. 切なさ、ひきかえに (Setsuna sa, Hikikae ni)
One of the stand out album tracks of the album and is a bit slower than the previous songs. This is the song that should have followed FOREVER, with a sound that sounds closer to the dance pop/Kisumai of that song. It has hints of R&B mixed in which is a nice touch that makes it stand out and elevates it to one of the better tracks of the album.

6. Candle
Of course with tracks like Candle it is not too hard for the stand out tracks on the album to do so. There is nothing really wrong with Candle outside of the fact that it is boring. It is paint by numbers ballad that brings nothing that was not been done a hundred times over with a pop ballad before.

7. パステル (Pastel)
Pastel must have been placed after Candle to wake anyone who fell asleep listening to that. Otherwise I cannot figure out why such a poppy song is following a ballad. It is just another example of what a mess this album is when it comes to have any kind of flow. Outside of that the song is okay. Like I mentioned it is poppy though never gets too cute as Ready Go or Come On A My House. But like Ready Go I find it rather forgettable, though between the two tracks I would say that Pastel is the stronger of the two.

8. ゆーと叩いてみた。(Yuuto)
The other instrumental track on the album and it is what the title says, Yuto playing the drums. And it actually works to give the album some flow as it leads into the next track quite well. A pity the first half of the album could not be so well planned out.

9. コンパスローズ (Compass Rose)
Another one of the better songs on the album, and this one sounds very HSJ. It fits the band songs that their albums tend to have, like DASH!! and Hurry Up! In fact like those songs this one has a quick driving beat that runs through it to give it a lot of energy. While the rap section does not seem to fit very well in the song it is so short that it is not too jarring or messes with the overall flow of the song.

10. Ride With Me
One of the single tracks which means another song that sounds good. It sounds a bit like a natural transition from the single tracks they did for their previous album but not so much with it following a song like Compass Rose. Honestly the song is not much to my taste though it is catchy and does fit what the group seemed to be moving towards with their style.

11. Come Back...?
Back to the dance pop with this song that is not a bad follow up from Ride With Me though it throws you off at first by starting softly with a piano before the rest of the instrumental kicks in. Both seem to have the same amount of energy with their beats overall and both have strong rap parts. Not a bad song and it fits in well between the two songs preceding and following it.

12. RELOAD
While I would consider this one of the better songs of the album I do not think it suits the voices of some of the members very well. Hikaru, Chinen and Yabu all have voices that tend to sound whiny and this song seems to bring that out with them. And while it is a dance pop song it feels more like a HSJ songs.

13. はじまりのメロディ (Hajimari no Melody)
Enjoying that dance pop music, well get ready for that to end as Hajimari no Melody is a straight out ballad that kills that flow. It is at least the better ballad of the album but I cannot help but think that whoever arranged the tracks on this album noticed it was near the end and figured it needed to end with one.

14. AinoArika
I already reviewed the song when I reviewed the single and my thoughts about it have not changed. Though I think that perhaps if it was switched with Hajimari no Melody it would be a better song to follow RELOAD as at least it has some energy to it.

(Disc 2)

1. My World
One of my favorite album tracks on the album. In fact it seems like a crime to have this be one of the songs that is only available on the first press edition of the album. So much energy to a strong pop song with horns/brass instruments thrown in to great effect. Seriously, this is the kind of song I expect from HSJ.

2. ともだちだよ (Tomodachi yo)
While I do not care for this song I do not completely dislike it. A nice mid-tempo pop song that sounds cheery and a bit of a throw back sound to make it stand out. It does seem to be a bit on the cutesy side as well but at least it is catchy.

3. Yes! - 怪盗y-ELLOW-voice (Kaitou y-ELLOW-voice)
This sub-unit consists of Yamada Ryosuke, Yaotome Hikaru and Takaki Yuya and their song is easily my favorite. And not just because Takaki is in the unit. The song has the energy I like and pulls off being cool without trying too hard. I do not care how whiny Hikaru's voice can sound in parts but Takaki and Yamada sound good in this.

4. Super Super Night - ナイトスタイルピーポー (Night Style People)
Chinen Yuri, Nakajima Yuto and Yabu Kota is a combination of voices that would usually have me cringing, not so much for Yuto though. Yet this song is actually quite enjoyable and I am not annoyed by anyone's voice in it. So thank you to the one that gave this unit a song that was in Chinen and Yabu's more tolerable ranges.

5. Oh! アイドル! (Oh! Idol!) -愛追I隊 (Aioitai)
With Arioka Daiki, Okamoto Keito and Inoo Kei in a unit there is little surprise they went with with something that leaned heavily on being fun and cute. That and vocally simple as while the tones are not so bad with these members it still has some of the weakest vocals of the group. But since they keep it simple it is not that obvious


Overall: While I may not feel as disappointed with the album as I was when I first listened to it, I am still not ready to get back to following HSJ once more. Especially since this is still a mess of an album. It needed to have the tracks rearranged so they could flow into each other at least, or at least not be nearly as jarring as it switches from genre to genre. And having someone who understands that ballad does not mean "bore you to death music" would have helped as well. This is also the version of the album I would recommend getting as the second disc easily has some of the best songs on it.

This album makes it look like HSJ is having an identity crisis, which is not too surprising as they no longer are the only group with members in their age range. In fact they have many other groups to compete with for that but seem to be the ones having trouble to find a sound to be tied to them. And it is not like they did not have one before, but for whatever reason they decided to ditch it and go for songs that make them look more like imitations than originals.

I am still disappointed that this album that was touted to be a more "mature" album than the group had done before really did not seem to be too far away from their previous album, JUMP WORLD. Songs like Ready Go, COAMH and Pastel just ruin any added maturity the group was going for. Instead they just add to the sense of an identity crisis for the group as they try to figure out how to break away from being the cute group.

03 January 2015

NEWS - ONE -for the win- LE A/RE single review

Regular Edition
Artist: NEWS
Title: ONE -for the win-
Release date:  11 JUN 2014
Type: single
Version: Limited Edition type A & Regular Edition

Limited Edition type A
Packaging: Being a Johnny's Entertainment release the RE is the usual slim CD case then the LE Type A is a regular CD case for a CD & DVD combination release.

I much prefer the RE's cover even if we do not see the members' faces, but at least it looks like it has a concept behind it. Plus the booklet has a couple of pictures where we get to see everyone's faces, so that kinda makes up for it. Other than that all the RE booklet has are the lyrics for the four songs included on the CD.

The LE booklet is even more basic with only one set of pictures of the four members inside with the lyrics for the two songs included on the CD. The back of the booklet is just the names of the members printed sporadically on it. It really feels like JE felt that the DVD was more than enough content for this version and went cheap with everything else.

And while I am not usually one that pays a lot of attention to such things I really think the font used on both covers looks ugly. It is so plain and have the numeral 1 on there just confuses me. "1" is not even used in the actual song title, and the sub title that does go with the title, `-for the win-` , is oddly no where to be seen.


Tracks*:

1. ONE -for the win-
There is little doubt from the start that this song is meant for a sporting event with the use of the sound of a crowd and a horn. The rap part actually has no jarring affect to it and works quite well. It just sounds a bit strange with Masuda Takahisa doing it instead of Kato Shigeaki, as he has been the member stuck with the rap parts in NEWS songs for the most part. But overall it is a solid song and a fun one to listen to if you do not mind the fact it is obviously about soccer.

2. SEVEN COLORS
I actually like this song better than the A-side though I love them both. Honestly this could have stood as its own single and while I am disappointed it was not released as one. I am glad it was at least released on CD though. I enjoy that it launches right into the song with almost no instrumental intro before Tegoshi Yuya takes his usual lead. Like the title track it is also a soccer related song though this one not as obvious but still one meant to pump you up with its energy.

3. 君がいた夏 (Kimi ga Ita Natsu)
I love the music box opening to this song. It really sets the tone for the whole song nicely. The verses have a nice laid back sound to them that contrasts well with the chorus that is full of flourishes of music. And I was surprised to hear Kato Shigeaki start off the song instead of Tegoshi or Massu. It is a nice change though and it then comes as no surprise that all the members feature rather equally in this song.

4. FLYING BIRD
More upbeat than Kimi ga Ita Natsu but like that song it really takes off during the chorus of the song. While like the soccer songs on the single it is an uplifting track it is not as energetic. But getting through hard times and trying your best is not a message that always needs to be surrounded in fanfare. I also love the strings used in the song at the start and in the chorus. It really makes the song soar, which is perfectly fitting with its title.

*For the RE as the LE Type A only has the first two tracks.


DVD:
The DVD has the PV for the title track as well as a making of feature to go with it. And it has a menu screen. This is worth noting as not all these LE DVDs have one so it is nice to see a release that put that tiny bit of effort to actually make one.

Have to say that I love these scenes with the CGI ribbons and the guys walking. I just love the effect and the colors of the ribbons are a nice contrast to the white background. And the fact that they use it to show who is singing what parts. I may know everyone's voices by heart by now but I can imagine that for a new fan this would be very helpful in matching voices to members outside of listening to their solo songs.

The PV really works with the tie-in for the song as it is willing to break from the group to showcase the soccer. Most tie-ins rarely showcase what they are promoting but this PV basically does the opposite and leaves you with very little question. Much like the song itself.

The green screen is used to good affect overall. Not only do we get the stadium and walking scenes but there are also others that work to tie in the World Cup to the PV. The variety is nice and while there is a lot of CGI in this it is done well and rarely feels jarring.

The use of extras is a nice touch as this is meant to be a cheer song so having cheering fans just makes sense. There is also some nice interactions between NEWS and some of them, like the scenes with the kids.

The making of breaks down the shooting to the scenes that where shot and the order of shooting them. Most of the first half focuses on the actual shooting with some breaks to talk about some various points about the PV.

I personally have always loved seeing how things are done especially when it comes to filming so I really enjoyed that we get to see a bit of it, with at least seeing how things were set up for certain scenes.

Since Massu designed the outfits that the group wears in the PV he gets to talk about them. It is nice because he does point out some things that would be missed, like everywhere he incorporated a "1" on them and the fact that the stars on the back of the jackets when added up equal the number of countries participating in the World Cup.

Between the filming of the scenes we get some focus on the guys off stage and some really fun moments. One of the highlights is Koyama eating some curry and Tegoshi giving commentary which leads to Koyama calling "hayashi", which quickly gets pointed out is not a type of curry. In fact Koyama in general is the most interesting member of this as not only do we get his airheadedness there but he also manages to kick a soccer ball into one of the lighting equipment, but thankfully does not manage to do much damage to it.

Though overall in the second half of the making of we get to see more of the guys having some fun and really get to see how comfortable they are in general with each other. And we get a group talk near the end to sum things up.

But instead of ending there Koyama gets to do something a bit fitting of a leader and gives his final thoughts about the single and PV between takes on one of the scenes. There is some video from other parts of the making of edited in which gives this a nice touch and makes it work nicely as the final portion of the segment. And it is with that the making of wraps up.


Overall: While I do wish the group released more than the one single for 2014 I cannot complain with this release. It has the types of songs that I love from the group and the single I turn to if I am feeling down. I feel in love with NEWS when they did not have much more than their early discography, which had its fair share of songs for sports events, and this single feels like it is in that vein. And for them it feels natural as they have changed styles repeatedly throughout their history, though never straying far from pop music.

The title track and its PV are about as in your face as they can get about their subject matter while still maintaining a balance to show the group. The making of is a great watch as a fan, though most of the group interaction is found in the second half but the first half does have the commentary from members about the PV itself. I am so glad that NEWS has these now that they have become a four member unit. I never understood why they never did before but it makes me appreciate their inclusion now. Especially because the remaining members are fun to watch together as they have become so comfortable being around each other after so many years.

The B-sides of the RE are nice to have to give something a bit different than the two tracks on all the editions and are strong additions of NEWS' discography.

If anything the covers leave something to be desired with how plain they are and that font that does them no favors. But everything else makes up for them.

So a great release from the group and makes me hope that next year we will be getting more than the one already announced single.

02 January 2015

TOKIO - LOVE, HOLIDAY. RE single


Artist: TOKIO
Title: LOVE, HOLIDAY.
Release date:  21 MAY 2014
Type: single
Version: Regular Edition

Packaging: Honestly if you have been getting TOKIO singles for a the past few years you know what you are getting in terms of packaging. Especially for the RE which will have a cover that does not feature any of the group members, then have one group picture with the lyrics of the songs included on the CD. And that is it. As I mentioned this is what all their single releases have been like for years so there is no surprise that this single is no different on that front.

Tracks:

1. LOVE, HOLIDAY.
This song makes Nagase Tomoya use his higher register which I would put as a mark against. He does not sound terrible but he just does not sound all that good when he is hitting higher notes. But that is mainly for the verses and goes into a more comfortable range with the chorus, which is where the song shines in general. It is fun and catchy and where most of the energy of the song is. There is also a long music break to showcase the other members of the band, and Joshima Shigeru on guitar is always a plus. Overall I do enjoy the song and it is not that Nagase is unlistenable in the versus, I just know I am going to want to avoid the live performances of the song much like their song Amagasa (which I love but it is painful to hear performed live).

2. みあげれば (Miagereba)
This song does not do much for me. It is weird as it has a lot of the elements I typically enjoy and Nagase sounds good throughout but it just fails to grab me. It is not a bad song and I love how it starts soft and then brings in a stronger sound with the chorus to build up from until it hits the climax. But then it does something I really dislike and goes completely quiet for far too long around the three minute mark. I had to check to make sure if the song had ended or not because it is an abrupt end and then it is about 15 seconds of silence. If that gap was much shorter I probably would have no issue with it but 15 seconds is far too long for me. It is frustrating as it could be a song I would enjoy more if not for that.

3. フレーズ (Freeze)
I do not really have any complaints about Freeze. Outside that it is very much in the same vein as most of their more recent songs when it comes to sound in general. But even then I enjoy it and like that they have a section of the song that pulls back with the music that helps it stand out. It also has a nice slow build up throughout the song and even though it never soars to great heights it still ends strong before its fade out ending. Plus Nagase gets to remain in his vocal comfort range throughout so no worries about him getting scream-y when performing this live.

4-6. (backing tracks for the three songs)


Overall: While TOKIO single releases tend to be plain with their packaging their CD content tends to make up for it, and that is no exception with LOVE, HOLIDAY. Overall I liked the title track and enjoy Freeze. If I had to pick between the two LH will probably win for being the memorable and catchy song though Freeze would be a close second. Miagereba will end up being skipped and kept off playlists for me as that break just kills it for me.

If anything listening to the single again really makes me hope that in 2015 we will get at least another single from the group now that they are done with their 20th anniversary stuff.

01 January 2015

A new year with a new start

As this new year begins I plan on starting over with a few things with this blog to make it more active again. It will be a bit of a slow start up for now but I do plan on bringing some reviews back for now.

The reviews for the 2014 releases I purchased are still on the way. I do plan on doing this again in 2015, as I am enjoying doing it. It really gives me the chance to fully revisit these releases and remind myself of why I enjoy these, or sometimes not so much. So at least December and January will see a bit of an upswing in activity from this.

I do not think I am ready to get back into reviewing Shounen Club episodes weekly. I do plan on eventually doing so but until then I will try to do at least two a month to try to keep apace of the new episodes. By the end of the year I do want to be back to reviewing the episodes weekly but until I get all my schedules figured out I want to start small. In fact this month I may only get one episode done but I will start this up again no matter what.

I will be trying to have drama reviews every other Wednesday to try to catch up with my backlog. I have already begun on these reviews so I have given myself a grace period before I start to get to the point where I could fall behind. But I figure this will be the schedule for these reviews for at least this year, as there are plenty of dramas I need to watch. Not to mention movies and SPs that will also be in the mix.

Of course once I catch up with what I have I am not sure how I will go from there as the biggest resource I had for dramas is now gone. But this should at least get me through this year with what I have.

Outside of that I do want to do some other things but none have been fully planned out on what they will be. Once I have something I will announce it, but I do want to just focus on these two things for the near future. I do not want to bite off more than I want to chew after all.

Of course I will still be making posts when something new comes out for the groups I am following or any bits of Johnny's news that interest me. I hope in general to at least have about ten posts a month for 2015. Of course it will probably be an easy goal to reach near the end of the year when we should have the debut of the next FIVB group. That is definitely something that is exciting, but debuts always are.

So I hope these are things others will also be excited to follow on this blog. And hopefully keep this going, as I have no plans to stop blogging about Johnny's.