I was wondering why orchestral versions of old Shiina Ringo songs seemed like a familiar idea. Then I remembered: Baisho Ecstacy, her concert DVD from 2003.
On that DVD, Shiina performed orchestral rearrangements of her songs, with Saito Neko conducting. My brother called it the closest thing she’s gotten to an MTV Unplugged concert. I was pleasantly surprised by how well her music adapted to new settings.
It’s been a while since I watched Baisho Ecstacy, so I haven’t confirmed whether some of those arrangements found their way into Heisei Fuuzoku. (I suspect not.) Nonetheless, the creative direction Shiina takes on her first solo album since announcing the end of her solo career (to form Tokyo Jihen) isn’t new.
But it’s still nice to hear her take it.
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The problem with stellar debut albums is that they sometimes set a bar that cannot be surmounted. Sasagawa Miwa’s 2003 debut album, Jijitsu, was one I couldn’t stop playing when I discovered it. Sasami has released more albums since, but her debut still casts a long shadow.
Mayoi Naku, her fourth album, finds the singer taking a starkly different approach from her previous works. On the whole, Sasagawa is an introspective writer, someone more comfortable with a tender song than a big gesture. While she includes enough of her trademark writing on Mayoi Naku, she’s also offset it with some very big gestures.
The title track effectively establishes the tone of the album — a mid-tempo song with thick orchestration and more guitars than she’s previously shown off. If there’s any stumbling to be made, Sasagawa gets it out of the way early on. The second and third tracks, "Yukigumo" and "Kourizatou", sound so similar, it’s easy to mistake them as a single song.
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UA is set to release her first new album of original material in two years, titled Golden Green, so says Bounce.com. The album hits stores June 20. In addition to the pre-release single "Oogon no Midori/Love scenes", Golden Green contains 10 tracks, including "Melody La La La", "Paradise alley/Ginga cafe", "Moor" and "San Andreas Fault". Think Sync engineer Zak (Matsumura Kazuyuki) produces.