For a major label, Toshiba-EMI seems to have some adventurous A&R. Sony and Universal dominate where pop is concerned, but To-EMI have managed to court a large number of Musicwhore.org favorites at one point or other.
The label currently houses Shiina Ringo, Yaida Hitomi and Utada Hikaru. Zoobombs, Bleach and Number Girl were on its roster, and Hatakeyama Miyuki and PE’Z recorded for the label before moving on.
But it can’t hit a homerun everytime. So this round-up features some near-hits, almost-misses and Yorico.
Fuji Fabric, Fab Fox
My first reaction to this album was, "Huh. Someone’s been listening to their Who records alot." Fuji Fabric is a difficult band to pin down. One moment, they sound whimsical. The next moment, they’re manic. Another moment, they’re psychedelic. Fab Fox shows hints of influence by classic rock. The organ riff driving "Chiheisen wo Koete" sounds like it sprang from the fingers of Ray Manzerek. "Baseball wa Owaranai" busts out some Brain Wilson bounce. The ethereal chorus at the start of "Maria to Amazonesu" is almost Queen-like. There are a lot of nice moments in Fab Fox, but it doesn’t seems to coalesce into an enjoyable whole. I couldn’t get into it as much as I did the previous self-titled album.
Hayashi Asuca, Chou
I like the fact three of the best singers around have family names starting with the syllable "ha-" — Hatakeyama Miyuki, Hajime Chitose and Hayashi Asuca. Unfortunately, it seems all three have been afflicted with poor song choice. I haven’t been thrilled by any of Hajime Chitose comeback singles, and I’ve been trying to find something interesting in Hatakeyama’s latest solo album, Reflection. Hayashi Asuca presents her third album, Chou, but it seems the gimmick of her mature voice and youthful age has worn off. Her charms as a singer can’t hide the fact the template which made her debut album sound fresh is showing signs of wear. Saki stood out among pop releases three years ago, but repetition of something different eventually makes it the same. The songs on Chou aren’t all that memorable. Even the singles don’t sound distinct. It’s hard being blessed with a terrific instrument but being saddled with substandard material.
Yorico, second Verse
Thank you, Yorico. You’ve filled a void a left by Onitsuka Chihiro, and you’ve managed to expand it to be more versatile. On her major label debut, Cocoon, Yorico demonstrated a willingness to explore. Although piano-driven intropsection is her usual modus operandi, she budgets significant space to rock out. second Verse is even heavier on the rock than before. It’s mostly the watered-down metal so essential for anime theme songs, but it’s far more variety than most singer-songwriters would accomodate. second Verse is also muchmore extroverted than Coccon. Last time, Yorico seemed to hide behind balladry. This time, she’s out in front, if not rocking out, delivering some uplifting pop.
Yukawa Shione, Yukawa Shione
Hmm. I think Yukawa Shione would probably sound more interesting if she went more post-rock. It’s almost easy to hear her as a guest vocalist for Kicell. Hell, she could even be lead vocalist. Her lazy delivery and burnished voice almost welcomes a more freaked-out sound than the tamed psych-folk her self-titled debut offers.