Saturday, June 29, 2013

Let's Talk about Nanda Collection

Wow, three singles and an album from Kyarypamyupamyu for 2013? Damn, and it's only June! You can slow down a bit, Nakata! Or you can spend some time making more music for Perfume... I kid, I kid, I'm happy that Kyary's getting another album, even if I'm a lot more excited about Perfume's album. I feel like I should point something out with Kyarypamyupamyu that I haven't really elaborated on in my pasts reviews of her material: I like her as a person. I think she has a very eclectic, amusing personality and I also think that she genuinely loves what she's doing. However, despite the fact that I think Kyarypamyupamyu seems like a very delightful person, her music has always been very hit-or-miss for me. I've never been able to get into her music the same way I got into Perfume or even MEG, despite the fact that she's also produced by Nakata Yasutaka. I've never been able to put my finger on just what it is about her music that doesn't do it for me the same way Perfume's does. It's not that her music is bad by any means but I've always found Perfume to be just... better. Is it the visual appeal? The music itself? I don't know, but I do know that I haven't listened to a lot of Kyary's non-single music. I haven't even touched Pamyu Pamyu Revolution, her first album. So I thought what would be a better way to look into Kyary's music than to review Nanda Collection? I've got my Apple Rating System ready and my headphones for listening so let's take a look at the technopop Harajuku icon that is Kyarypamyupamyu!

1. Nanda Collection

So I went in to this intro thinking it was going to be a full song, and when it abruptly ended after playing for only forty-something seconds, I was like "The hell?" You know, you have your expectation and when reality doesn't match up to that, you can't help but feel a little jolted. So, I listened to Nanda Collection again knowing the length of it this time around, and as far as intros go, it's all right. Personally, I'm not a huge fan of the "instrumental opener" song intros that I've seen on many a J-pop album; I'd much prefer a full-length song. That being said, Nanda Collection, makes for a pretty fun intro song. It's very upbeat and it's even got what sounds like... bagpipes in it? I swear to god those are bagpipes, but I might be wrong. So you get this nice buildup and then it just... ends. Personally, I would have liked to see what this song would have sounded like as a full song rather than just an intro. I think it had potential... so much for that, I guess.

My Rating:

2. Ninjari Bang Bang

After that very, very brief opening, the album kicks off with the first A-side! I think that Ninjari Bang Bang is definitely a good follow-up to Nanda Collection, mainly because it has an intro that really grabs you. I still really love the opening instrumental to this song, and I wish it went on a bit longer before the opening chorus kicked in. It has this very cool, wonk-y sound to it, and I don't think the rest of the song really matches with the tone of that opening. It's like the song segways into typical, cutesy Kyary territory when the chorus kicks in, and while that's not a bad thing, I would have liked to see this song take an edgier route. Maybe a remix, perhaps? Hell, if Nakata can remix Fashion Monster, why not Ninjari Bang Bang too? I don't want to say it sounds like there are two different styles that don't work in this song, because they do, but I feel like Ninjari Bang Bang could have taken more risks. Still, a pretty decent A-side!

My Rating:

3. Kimi ni 100 Percent

Next is another A-side! But don't worry guys, this is one of those A-sides that gets the promotion of a B-side. Think of Kimi ni 100 Percent to Furisodation as what The Matenrou Show was to One Two Three. All right, all right, to be fair this song was used in a children's cartoon called Crayon Shin-chan that Kyary guest starred in. That is the name, right? My wifi's out while I'm typing this so I can't exactly find out at the moment... I actually kind of forgot this A-side existed when the Furisodation PV was released, and I only listened to it once before starting this album review. Listening to it more intently, I can definitely see it being used for a children's show. Kimi ni 100 Percent is very cutesy and has a nice little upbeat melody that kind of makes me want to bob my head. I feel like if I were in a bad mood, I'd loathe this song, but overall, I think this is a pretty sweet and harmless song. Not very interesting, but still a cute song.

My Rating:

4. Super Scooter Happy

I actually contemplated listening to the original Super Scooter Happy before listening to Kyary's cover. You know, to see if I wanted to compare the cover to the Capsule original or go in judging the song alone. In the end, I did decide to listen to the Capsule version first, and I'm glad that I did! I really liked the original song, and I think it's cute enough and energetic enough that Kyary has the style and ability to cover it! And cover it she did! I honestly couldn't make out many differences in the original Super Scooter Happy and Kyary's cover, save for the vocals (well duh) and a few other little instrumental things. But yeah, this is one of those song covers that I actually like listening to! If I had to pick, I'd probably prefer Capsule a bit more since I like the vocals a bit more, but I still think Kyary's cover works very well to her advantage. Super Scooter Happy is such an energetic song, and probably one of my favorite songs on the album.

My Rating:

5. Invader Invader

After that brief interlude of a non-single song, the A-sides invade again! See what I did there? Ah, sometimes I think I amuse myself more than my readers... Anyways, Invader Invader, the wacky alien-themed A-side from the most recent single of this era, is an all right A-side to me. Like a lot of other Kyary songs, I like it but I don't love it. It sounds like a pretty normal Kyary song with a very up-tempo beat, cute vocals, and a catchy chorus until you hit... the break. Oh yes. You know what break I'm talking about. The Dubstep break. Yeah, I don't care how many times I listen to Invader Invader, I don't think I will ever grow accustomed to the sudden Dubstep break after the second chorus. I mean... what's the meaning of it? Does is symbolize some musical statement beyond my listening perception? Meh, Nakata's probably just on a Dubstep high. Beyond that, there's not much to talk about with Invader Invader.

My Rating:

6. Mi

Oh hai, original song! So Mi (a name to call myself!) is the first completely original song on Nanda Collection and it... bothers me. With Kyarypamyupamyu, her songs always seem to border a line between endearingly cute and obnoxiously cute to my ears and Mi falls into that latter category. I think it really doesn't help that the introduction is so repetitive, and the way Kyary hits the notes grates on my ears. Then after all that repetition, there's this static break that goes on a little bit longer than it should be before the verses start. And from there, the song just flips back and forth between fluctuating levels of annoyance. I really think it's just the chorus that gets to me. I can't only take so much of "Mi" being repeating again and again and again and again and... blagh, even writing about it is making me go crazy! Mi might be for some Kyary fans but for me I doubt this will be an album track I'll be frequently listening to.

My Rating:

7. Fashion Monster

Back to A-sides! After the annoying clusterfuck that is Mi, Fashion Monster is a comforting change of pacing. I reviewed the song and PV for Fashion Monster back in late 2012, and I gotta admit, this song has grown on me. I don't know what it is, but somehow all the elements of this song work. Maybe it's because I listened to it more around October... as weird as it sounds, this is a really good Halloween song. I don't even the lyrics are about Halloween but something about this song gets me excited for Halloween the same way Go Go Summer! gets me excited for summer. What I like about Fashion Monster is that it has a really distinct hook in the chorus that really pulls you in at the start. The rest of the song maintains and atmosphere of quirky fun that simply works for the song. Looking back at all the A-sides of this era, I think Fashion Monster has got to be my favorite.

My Rating:

8. Saigo no Ice Cream

Ooh, a title with the word "ice cream" in it? I like this song already! In all seriousness though, Saigo no Ice Cream is one of the better album tracks for me. I like that this song has a more... vintage sound (especially in the opening). I know it's weird to call techno vintage-sounding but it just does to my ears. What I also like about Saigo no Ice Cream is that it the sound isn't quite as cute as the other tracks on Nanda Collection. Don't get me wrong, it's a still a very sugary song, but it isn't annoying. In fact, it sounds like one of the most fluid new tracks on the album. I like it when Kyary gets a song that isn't quite as cute as say, PonPonPon or Kimi ni 100 Percent because it's refreshing. I didn't think much of Saigo no Ice Cream when I first heard it, but like a lot of Kyary songs, it's grown on me! If you're looking for a less diabetes-inducing Kyary track, I'd recommend this one! Even if the title does have the word "ice cream" in it...

My Rating:

9. Noriko to Norio

Hoo boy, another repetitive song. I have a lot of the same problems with Noriko to Norio that I did with Mi. On the up side, there are a few parts of this song that don't annoy me like... eh... the verses! And a few parts of the instrumental... yeah, I'm not really feeling this song. The chorus to this song really gets on my nerves, mainly because it drags. Actually, it's not just the chorus that drags. A lot of parts in this song feel really low in energy because of that odd tempo. Despite the fact that this song is only a little over three minutes long, it feels so much longer. Combined with the fact that the vocals don't sound pleasant to my ears, listening to this song is a lot harder than you'd think it would be. Again, if you like Kyary's cuter and more repetitive songs, I think you'll like Noriko to Norio, but I have a certain level of tolerance for cutesy repetition, and much like Mi, Noriko to Norio crosses that line just a little too far.

My Rating:

10. Furisodation

Okay, is it just me or did the tempo on this song get faster? Eh, it's probably because I haven't listened to this song in awhile. That being said, why in the hell have I not listened to this song in awhile!? I forgot how awesome this song is! Like Fashion Monster, Furisodation is a song that somehow grew on me from the time I reviewed it to now. What I love most about this song is the sheer enthusiasm in it. The song is meant to be a celebration of turning twenty years old and becoming an adult and it sounds like it. Furisodation has such contagious joy that it makes me excited to turn twenty! Or twenty-one since that's more celebrated in the US... I could listen to this song over and over again and not get tired of it! The PV for Furisodation is also pretty awesome but I have a PV review that elaborates on why that PV works so well. As a song alone, Furisodation still holds up incredibly well, even more than it did when I first listened to it!

My Rating:

11. Kura Kura

Okay, another short song. Gee, I wonder if this song will be fast-paced and repetitive? Just kidding, this song is totally a ballad, guys. Are you starting to see a pattern with what kind of Kyarypamyupamyu songs I like and don't like? Yeah, Kura Kura is way too cute for my tastes, though I will admit it kind of sounds like a song you'd hear in a very techno-y version of The Nutcracker. Or the circus. Or The Nutcracker being performed by a circus. Take your pick! It's not that Kura Kura is a bad song (in fact, I think the instrumental sounds pretty neat); in terms, of musical style, this song isn't aurally pleasing to me. Just look at my past comments for Mi and Noriko to Norio and you'll get the gist of my opinions of Kura Kura. I can admire the work put into the song, but stylistically, it does not appeal to me. Eugh, I feel bad for coming down so hard on all these new album songs. Maybe the last song will win me over?

My Rating:

12. Otona na Kodomo

Luckily, yes! Otona na Kodomo is one of my favorite tracks on the album! It's also the longest track on the album, but I like that. Funny how I seem to always prefer the longer Kyarypamyupamyu songs. What makes me like Otona na Kodomo is that like Saigo no Ice Cream, it's not a particularly "cute" song. The instrumentals are rather smooth (or as a smooth as a Kyary song can get) and the tempo is fairly slow. The song still has energy, but it doesn't feel as spastic or rushed as Noriko to Norio or Kura Kura. I also like that the melody is very straightforward; there's not a lot of vocal manipulation in Otona na Kodomo beyond the normal vocoding in Nakata songs. You get some nice background vocals that flow with the instrumental very nicely too! There's even some xylophone thrown around in Otona na Kodomo, and it works very well! I think Otona na Kodomo was a nice-sounding song to close the album!

My Rating:

The Verdict

So I'm really glad that I decided to review Nanda Collection, because I think doing so has made me figure out why I can't get into Kyarypamyupamyu the same way I got into Perfume. Unlike Perfume, who seems to have a kaleidoscopic range of different musical styles that all retain a style of polished technopop that I really enjoy listening, Kyary's songs are very hit-or-miss. I think that's mainly because her image and style is just so... kawaii. I hate using that word on my blog, but that style is really what Kyarypamyupamyu embodies both visually and musically. And personally, I have a rather low tolerance for cuteness. I can take a certain amount but there's a certain level of cuteness that I just don't care for. With Kyarypamyupamyu, her music is either above or below that amount, and usually above. It just doesn't appeal to me because cuteness is a style that I am not a huge fan of, at least not in large doses. Why else do you think my favorite idol groups are Tokyo Girls' Style and BiS instead of Super Girls? I follow a group or artist primarily for the music, and unlike Perfume, an artist whom I consistently like save for a few songs, I never know the next Kyarypamyupamyu song is going to appeal to me. That being said, a big part of my own personal taste is why I have a very 50/50 opinion of Nanda Collection. I think if I were a bigger fan of Kyary's music, I would be down with this album more, but I'm not. I'm a fairly casual fan of Kyarypamyupamyu, but I'm a fan of Nakata's music, so I still like to give her songs a listen and see if they're any good. The A-sides featured on this album are strong for the most part, especially Fashion Monster and Furisodation. Even though, there are a decent amount of A-sides on this album, they're not so many that there aren't a lot of new album tracks unlike JPN and yes, I'm still mad about that. Of the six new album tracks (excluding Nanda Collection because it forty-seven effing seconds long), half I like and half I can live without. The thing is, I dislike Mi, Noriko to Norio, and Kura Kura for all the same reasons: the style doesn't appeal to me, the vocals are too repetitive, the songs are too annoying, you get what I mean? However, I like Super Scooter Happy (which is a cover anyways) along with Saigo no Ice Cream and Otona na Kodomo because they tone down the cuteness that was too overwhelming in the other tracks on Nanda Collection.

Based on my own personal enjoyment, I will give Nanda Collection 3.5 out of 5 apples. So yeah, clearly not my favorite album of 2013. In the end, how much you like the cuter side of Kyarypamyupamyu's music will determine how much you like this album. For me, it's a mish-mash of tolerably cute and oh-my-god-get-me-a-toothbrush-to-wash-out-this-sugar cute. As for now, Nanda Collection will tide me over until the release of Level 3 in the fall.

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