Hatakeyama Miyuki: Reflection

It takes a long time for the charms of Hatakeyama Miyuki’s third studio album of original music, Reflection, to reveal themselves.

A very, very long time.

In other words, this album is pretty boring.

Hatakeyama has a beautiful croon. When she sings really strong material, it’s some of the most moving performances ever recorded. When the material isn’t up to par, her voice is the only reason to keep listening.

The pre-release single, "Ai ni Melody", hinted Hatakeyama was paired with some promisingly strong material. Reflection, unfortunately, reveals all that strong material was squandered on the single.

"Ai ni Melody" is a natural single, while "Tada Aru Dake" is wonderfully poignant and "Clematis Yo", a nice cabaret piece.

Some of the remaining tracks don’t possess the same kind of drama.

"Suigusa" comes close but only after a very slow build to a rhythmic samba, and "Aru Hareta Hi ni Kimi wa Niteru" features an attractive lilting hook that makes it somewhat distinct. "Kuchitzuke", meanwhile, is reminiscent of Port of Notes’ better moments.

But it’s the long-winded middle tracks spanning more than six minutes — "Koiwai Sanka" and "Condor no Kage" — that make it difficult to warm up to the album. They’re both beautiful numbers in their own way, but they can get lost in their understatedness.

"Wakaba no Koreya" is the least impressive track. A mellow tune in the SoCal ’70s songwriter vein, the melody is indescript, despite Hatakeyama’s every effort to imbue humanity into it.

Listeners yearning for the tightness of Diving in Your Mind or Port of Notes’ Complain too much will have to keep yearning. Reflection is an genteel, restrained album, and while Hatakeyama sings these songs with her trademark emotional croon, it’s not enough to elevate the unremakrable songwriting.