Sunday, August 31, 2014

Time Capsule Reviews: Perfume ~Complete Best~

Today in the magical land of Time Capsule Reviews, we're traveling back to 2006. Do you guys remember what happened in 2006? I was in middle school so pretty much everything from 2006-2009 has been blocked out of my memory. But at the very same time, Perfume was releasing their first album ever... and at the time, what could have possibly been their last album ever.

Yep, it's Perfume ~Complete Best~!


Before Polyrhythm, before GAME, before the World Tours, Perfume was a quirky little technopop group with a few singles under their belt and a label threatening to drop them. It was a different time back then for fans, a time which I was not present for. I discovered Perfume around the GAME era, so everything from Perfume ~Complete Best~ ended up being material I perused later on in my entrance to the sphere. But I have always wanted to review Complete Best on the Wonderland, so the Time Capsule Review poll worked out perfectly! I also haven't reviewed a single album since Pika Pika Fantajin (then again, I've been a little lax on reviews since college started). Still, Complete Best is such an important time in Perfume's career; it's almost crazy to think that this album was released eight years ago. I feel like I'm going through a museum! So let us hop in a time traveling fish (one that's actually from the era!) and go back to a strange time. A time of quirky dances, cheap music videos, and strange costumes, this is the Complete Best era.

Perfect Star Perfect Style

The only original song on Perfume ~Complete Best~ is Perfect Star Perfect Style. So it makes a little sense having it be the song to kick off this album! Now you've gotta remember that at the time Perfume ~Complete Best~ came out, Perfume was on the verge of disbandment. Had Amuse not given them one more chance with Fanservice [sweet], Perfect Star Perfect Style would be the last Perfume song they'd ever record. I bring this all up because when I listen to Perfect Star Perfect Style, it sounds like a farewell song. Even the lyrics read like Perfume is saying goodbye. Instead of being a sad song though, Perfect Star Perfect Style is an uplifting song. There's such hope and kindness in the lyrics, and the piano arrangement is perfect. I'm happy that the Perfume we know and love is still around, but this would have been a great sendoff otherwise. Perfect Star Perfect Style is one of Perfume's best; if you just listen to one song on Perfume ~Complete Best~ please let it be this song.

My Rating:


Linear Motor Girl

After the nostalgia-trip that is Perfect Star Perfect Style, we go back in time to Perfume's first major label A-side! I love watching the promotional material for Linear Motor Girl. Something about those funny looking outfits makes me smile! The Perfume of 2005 was quite different than the Perfume of now, and you can really hear that in Linear Motor Girl. Linear Motor Girl is a song full of bleeps and bloops with the girls sounding more chiptuned than ever. Admittedly, I used to hate this song. I thought it was annoying and weird and not as awesome as Perfume's later music. Now I have a much softer opinion of Linear Motor Girl. I like how fun and upbeat the song is, and the song has a very distinct, almost 8-bit sound. I'm not always in the mood to listen to Linear Motor Girl, and I completely understand if not everyone can get into this song. The song even grates on me sometimes... But for the most part, I think Linear Motor Girl is futuristic fun.

My Rating:


Computer City

So you now how I was saying early major label Perfume was a marketed a little differently than they are now? Well, their main gimmick was being a futuristic technopop unit with quirky dances and music videos that look like they came out of Battlestar Galactica. That's the most evident with Linear Motor Girl. Computer City though is a more serious take on Perfume's futuristic image. It's still a very upbeat song, but the lyrics of Computer City hint at something a little more somber. Computer City centers around the singer's experiences in Computer City, a utopia that's a little too perfect, and her desire to break free from it. I am a huge fan of science fiction and utopia/dystopia fiction, so Computer City is definitely one of my favorite Perfume songs. The lyrics are a big part of why; I think they're so well-done and highly recommend reading them if you need a translation. Lyrics aside, Computer City is still a great song and I love its placement on Perfume ~Complete Best~.

My Rating:


Electro World (Album version)

And after two great Perfume songs and a good one, we get the the one. The crown jewel, the pinnacle of the whole album, we descend from Computer City into Electro World. Warning, I freaking love this song. Behind edge, it is my second favorite Perfume song and until I transferred my library, my most played Perfume song. I did a full single review of Electro World so you can fully understand why this song is so awesome, but I'll just glaze over the highlights. What makes this version of Electro World so great is that it includes about twenty extra seconds in the beginning. It's only a small intro with an ambient hum and simple melody, but just that little touch adds so much more to this song. Electro World has a perfect delivery, a forcibly upbeat melody, and some of the most depressing Perfume lyrics I've ever read. Electro World is about a dystopia. It's kind of amazing and sad at the same time. Look, I'm not doing this song justice, go listen to Electro World.

My Rating:


Inryoku

So after that string of A-sides is our first B-side on Perfume ~Complete Best~. And honestly... I just need to come out and say it: I don't like Inryoku. In fact, do you guys remember that post I did about my least favorite Perfume songs? Take Spending all my time off of that list and put Inryoku in its place. So what made me develop such a negative opinion of Inryoku over the course of two years? Actually listening to the song. Inryoku was one of those Perfume songs I tended to glaze over, never paying much thought to it. Then one day with Perfume ~Complete Best~ on shuffle, I realized that Inryoku kind of annoyed me. And then from there... it just got more annoying. The distorted, chiptune-style that sorta worked in Linear Motor Girl grates on me tremendously in Inryoku. In fact, most of the song just sounds unpleasant. I think it's the way Perfume's vocals were edited. They sound more chipmunk-y than usual in Inryoku. So yeah, not a fan. Next song please!

My Rating:


Monochrome Effect

Oh yeah, here's the song that kicked off Time Capsule Reviews in general! I suppose I owe some gratitude for Monochrome Effect. But that doesn't mean I have to love this song now. Also known as the American Dad song, Monochrome Effect pretty accurately sums up Perfume's sound during their indies era. Cute, quirky, idol-ish, Monochrome Effect is downright nostalgic. And how can I possibly forget that music video and all its groundbreaking technology? I think that CGI even beat The Last of Us. As a song alone though, I've never seen much in Monochrome Effect. I mean yeah, it's cute and everything, but I've never been able to formulate many other thoughts about it. I guess the instrumental's kind of funky, and Monochrome Effect is a slight shift away from Sweet Donuts and closer to technopop. A big emphasis on the pop there, because Monochrome Effect sounds very much like an idol pop song. Still, it's a decent song.

My Rating:


Vitamin Drop

I always found the placement of the indie singles a little weird on Perfume ~Complete Best~. Their second single's first, their last single's second, and their first single's last. Why? Because... that was the magic combination to keep Perfume around for another year, that's why! Okay, let's talk about Vitamin Drop. Vitamin Drop is actually my favorite A-side of the three indie A-sides and probably the closest to sounding like the Perfume we know and love today. Vitamin Drop still has this perky, almost retro idol sound; I kind of love it. I think the fun animated music video helps too. Admittedly, Vitamin Drop doesn't grab me like some of Perfume's later A-sides, but the bubbliness of the song is strangely endearing. And it's catchy! This song could have totally been used in a commercial, maybe endorsing Chocola BB. It was used to endorse a Nintento Game, so there's that. On its own, Vitamin Drop is a fun, offbeat song that I really like for reasons not entirely known.

My Rating:


Sweet Donuts

And here at the middle of the album is where Perfume started. Okay, Omajinai Perori was where it all started, but Sweet Donuts was where Perfume and Nakata started. Funny enough, Sweet Donuts sounds nothing at all like the Perfume of today. It's kind of fun to compare sounds with Sweet Donuts; it's at least a great way to gage just how far Perfume's strayed from their original sound and concept. Sweet Donuts has almost a Shibuya-kei sound, like something Capsule would have released at the time. And it also sounds very much like an idol song. A traditional idol song that just happened to have a bit of technopop in it. Sweet Donuts is a very much a cute song, almost saccharinely cute. It gets stuck in your head very easily, and who doesn't love donuts? As much as I love Krispy Kreme, I've always found Sweet Donuts to be a simply okay song. Can I appreciate what it stands for in Perfume's history? Of course, but as a song, Sweet Donuts never held strong replay value for me. It's a little too cutesy for my tastes. Still, Sweet Donuts is... well, sweet!

My Rating:


Foundation

The first of Linear Motor Girl's two B-sides, Foundation lacks the cutesy, futuristic sound of Linear Motor Girl, instead opting for a calmer approach. Foundation always sounded to me like it could be featured in a makeup commercial... which makes perfect sense considering the title of the song. Getting into Perfume, I don't remember having a strong impression of Foundation; it was one of those Perfume songs I kind of forgot about. I mean, Foundation made it to my song library, but it's never been close to one of my most played Perfume songs. Still, I think Foundation has its strong points. Those soft synths and whispers give Foundation this very cool and soothing feel. I think the weakest aspect of Foundation is that the vocals sound kind of monotone, even for Perfume. Foundation will never be one of my favorite Perfume B-sides, but of the two on Linear Motor Girl, I like Foundation better. Computer Driving on the other hand...

My Rating:


Computer Driving

...you know, I used to really like this song. I'm not sure when (around JPN era maybe?) but I recall I time when I liked Computer Driving a lot. Maybe didn't love it, but by no means did I dislike this song. Now I think it's an okay song, not one of Perfume's best though. I know a lot of fans strongly dislike Computer Driving, and I can kind of see why. There is something about the cuteness of the vocals that can be a little irritating. Ironically, Computer Driving is one of Perfume's least vocoded songs, which is especially surprising when you consider the time this song came out. It would be years before we got to hear Perfume sound this natural again. So what is it that makes people dislike Computer Driving so much? For me, there's just not much that stands out about Computer Driving. Yes, it's a cute song, and the dance is adorable, but what else is there? Even Foundation had a more distinctive sound. It's not a horrible song, but Computer Driving is still pretty blah.

My Rating:


Perfume

What a more fitting song to transition to after Linear Motor Girl's B-sides than Computer City's B-side? For sanity's sake, I'm calling this B-side Perfume the Song to distinguish from... well, Perfume. Anyways, Perfume the Song is a curious little song. Honestly, I've never thought that Perfume fit on Computer City. Computer City is so much more serious, that Perfume the Song comes off as major mood whiplash. After Computer Driving though... I think its placement on Perfume ~Complete Best~ fits much better. Still, this isn't high on my favorites list. It's not even on there at all. Perfume the Song is an extremely peppy song, probably Perfume's peppiest. Perfume the Song sounds like something you'd hear playing pinball machine and is just about as scattered as one too. Not to mention that it's surprisingly long for such a fast-paced song. If I'm in the right mood, I can enjoy Perfume the Song, but most of the time, this is one of those B-sides I tend to skip.

My Rating:


wonder2

Ah, wonder2, we meet again. Closing out the album rather appropriately is Perfume's final B-side of this era. I don't love wonder2 quite as much as I love Electro World, but this is still one of my favorite Perfume B-sides. I love the tranquility of wonder2. The beginning of wonder2 starts on this soft hum and Perfume singing a sweet, memorable melody. That melody's repeated throughout the rest of wonder2, and I think it works well. Wonder2 is one of Perfume's calmer songs, and it never really picks up the energy. Still though, it strangely works. I think it works even better on Perfume ~Complete Best~. This is such a perfect song to close out an album, a single, a concert, they could play this song at my graduation and I'd be down for that. There's a reason this was Perfume's go-to encore song for such a long time. I'd actually love to see wonder2 come back, because it is such a pretty song. Definitely a perfect close to a chapter in Perfume's career.

My Rating:


The Verdict

Whenever I'm recommending Perfume albums to new fans, I tend to shy away from Perfume ~Complete Best~. Why? Well, because GAME exists but why else? After all, it is a good compilation of Perfume's early work. As Perfume's first compilation album (and only compilation album for a very long time), there's a pretty good variety. All the major-label B-sides are there, along with the one indie B-side, and every A-side excluding Omajinai Perori and Kareshi Boshuuchuu. If you're looking to hear what Perfume sounded like in their early days, Perfume ~Complete Best~ is a good place to start. But Perfume ~Complete Best~ is very different from the Perfume of today. It's almost nostalgic how much Perfume has changed since the days of Complete Best. During Complete Best, Perfume's image was different from their polished, classy look, and their music was much closer to idol music than their GAME and onward work. Because Complete Best has such a different sound, I don't like pointing fans to that album first. The album doesn't give you as good of an idea of Perfume's general sound as GAME or even Level3. Don't get me wrong, I think anyone interested in Perfume should listen to Complete Best, but not right away. Give yourself some time.

Enough about other people, let's talk about me. Or how I feel about Perfume ~Complete Best~. Well, I guess it's kind of hard to say that since Complete Best is just a compilation album. But it is the only album to include the indie singles, so I've always seen it as an album with a lot of A-sides and B-sides. Kind of like JPN! There's almost this innocence to Perfume ~Complete Best~. I mentioned that idol sound earlier, and it's incredibly prevalent in Perfume's older work. Mainly their indie A-sides and nearly all of the B-sides. Computer Driving was even a major label B-side and that really sounded like an idol song. My favorite part of Perfume ~Complete Best~ is the first third, from Perfect Star Perfect Style to Electro World. Everything from there onward ranges from great (wonder2) to skippable (Inryoku). So while I can acknowledge Perfume ~Complete Best~ showcases an important era for Perfume's music, this is probably my least favorite Perfume album. I know, I know, it's a compilation album but still. Even if it's my least favorite Perfume album, Perfume ~Complete Best~ isn't without strong points, and it's a nice trip down nostalgia lane.


Even though I'm giving Perfume ~Complete Best~ three and half apples, I really do recommend it. If you're more into Perfume's idol side, then you'll definitely prefer Complete Best over their later work. For me, I think Complete Best is okay. Again, the first third is the best part of the album for me. Vitamin Drop and wonder2 are also pretty good. Other than that, I got nothing else! Oh, except that with the month of September upon us comes another chance for another Time Capsule Review... I wonder which year we'll return back to this time...

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Faint Star's Incredibly Long Debut Single

Luckily, it's not as long as AKB48's 2013 Janken single!


So you might be wondering, "Who the hell is Faint Star!?" or maybe even, "Wow! Nia's reviewing Faint Star! This is amazing! She's such a quality person!"But I'd wager more the former. Faint Star is a group that rose from the ashes of the now-disbanded Tomato n'Pine. I don't know too much about Tomato n'Pine other than the few singles they released, and I think that they were a fairly popular group. Obviously not popular enough since they disbanded. So one of Tomapai's members, Hina, has gone on to form Faint Star with non-Tomapai member Yuria. Other than that, not much has been released about Faint Star. What drew me into Faint Star was the music video for Sleeping in Your Car, released on their Youtube channel. It was a cute music video, and I really enjoyed the song. With no other information about them, that intrigue kept me interested! Two music videos later, Faint Star has finally released their debut single, Koboreteshimattamizunoyouni! Try saying that out loud. I figured that there's no better way to expose a new group to international fans than reviewing it, so let's take a look at Faint Star and see if they're worth following!

Covers/Outfits

There's just one cover for Koboreteshimattamizunoyouni, and it's pretty simplistic. I've seen the "natural and possibly not wearing shirts" look on so many covers, including Perfume's Voice and Vanilla Beans Vanibest album. In fact, this cover gives me some strong Vanilla Beans vibes... I'm sure it's just a coincidence! Because this is a "natural and possibly not wearing shirts" kind of single cover, I can't say much about the outfits for Koboreteshimattamizunoyouni. But the promotional outfits Faint Star has used look nice! Very crisp and clean. Also, the girls look kind of Photoshopped on the covers. I mean yes, all covers feature some degree of Photoshopping, but I notice it more with this cover. Not sure why. Overall, these are nice covers. Generic and simple, but nice.

Koboreteshimattamizunoyouni

Now to the real meat of the single, Koboreteshimattamizunoyouni! Good god, that's a pain to type out. I think I've finally remembered how it's spelled after all these weeks! Anyways, Koboreteshimattamizunoyouni sounds more technopop compared to the rest of the songs on this single. It's nowhere near to the level of Curumi Chronicle or Perfume or even Kus Kus, but Koboreteshimattamizunoyouni still has some prominent technopop vibes. There are even parts of the song sound trance-y, mainly the instrumental breaks. I doubt it'll happen, but Koboreteshimattamizunoyouni could absolutely get an extended mix a la edge (⊿-mix). The vocals sound pretty normal, so if you're not huge on technopop, you don't have to worry about Faint Star sounding robotic! The vocals have that consistently smooth-quality that I liked in Sleeping in Your Car. I don't know what kind of music style Faint Star is going for yet, but Koboreteshimattamizunoyouni makes me wonder if they're going to dabble in more technopop with future singles. I wouldn't be complaining! I've been itching for another techno duo since amU...

While I do love my fix of technopop, I still think that Koboreteshimattamizunoyouni has some weak points. The main one being that the song is kind of slow. At first, the pacing creates this cool, moody atmosphere, but after the 2-minute mark, Koboreteshimattamizunoyouni starts to drag. And the song sounds kind of subdued. There's just not as much energy that I think Koboreteshimattamizunoyouni created. So a song that could have made a stronger impression ends up leaving a slightly more underwhelming impression. And the song isn't trance enough to be slow and subdued in an entrancing way. Koboreteshimattamizunoyouni is still a pretty good song, and I do like the overall sound of it. But it comes off as a little lackluster and fails to leave a strong impression on the first listen. My advice is listen to it a few times, and that should give you an idea of whether Koboreteshimattamizunoyouni is the kind of song you'd enjoy. For me, this lengthily-titled song has its merits, but I wouldn't have minded another song on this single to be the A-side.

The full music video for Koboreteshimattamizunoyouni is admittedly, a little scant. It's scant in a simplistic, tasteful way, but still scant. Sitting through the music video for a full four minutes is a bit challenging because so little happens in it. I think what would have helped is a little color, because the main color palette for Koboreteshimattamizunouyouni's PV is whites and grays and beiges. Pretty dull. I can give benefit of the doubt and assume Faint Star's creative team doesn't have a huge budget to work with. If that's true, then I think they did pretty well with what they were given. The PV for Koboreteshimattamizunoyouni just shows the girls. Sometimes they're in slow motion, sometimes it's showing them dancing. Alongside the girls themselves are also a few random images and special effects. There are white flower petals, two hourglasses, some visual effects here and there. Oh yeah, the hourglasses break at the end! Then... they rebuild themselves. Fun! Then there are letters displaying the full title of the song or the names of the girls. Like I said, a very simplistic PV.

Have I mentioned that all of Faint Star's music videos feature English subtitles? Because they do! And not the butt-ugly Google Translate subtitles Hello! Project uses for their music videos! If an idol group is going to put English subtitles on their music videos (and again, there's not much reason to considering how small the international market is), then Faint Star sets a pretty good example. The subtitles for Koboreteshimattamizunoyouni are tastefully subtle while also being easy to read. However, the subtitles aren't enough to spice up the PV for Koboreteshimattamizunoyouni. This is still a very, minimalistic, very slow music video that I could probably fall asleep to. Even the dance is slow. Koboreteshimattamizunoyouni has got to have one of the easiest dances I have ever seen. The girls don't even move their feet. They literally just stand in one place and make hand motions. I think the dance is meant to look artistic, but it ends up looking a little bare-bones. Like the rest of the music video! Overall, the PV for Koboreteshimattamizunoyouni is decent, but you're not gonna remember it after a day or so.



After much calculating and contemplating and other analytical, tech-y things, I have decided the best rating for Koboreteshimattamizunoyouni is one apple for every character in its title! No, actually I'm just giving the song four apples. It's a good song that isn't without its weaknesses, but if you like technopop and idols, then check Koboreteshimattamizunoyouni out!

Sleeping in Your Car

Next on our tour of Faint Star's debut single is the song that kickstarted my interest in them! Seriously, I was heavily considering reviewing the music video for Sleeping in Your Car. The only reason I didn't was because I had such little information about the song and Faint Star. So what made Sleeping in Your Car stand out to me at the time? I think it was a song that just came out at the right time. I was in the mood for something bright and airy, and Sleeping in Your Car pretty much came flouncing in being exactly the kind of idol song I wanted to hear. So yes, Sleeping in Your Car is light. Very light. It's like the music version of those little crackers they have at Chinese restaurants! There's nothing profound about the song, but Sleeping in Your Car is still refreshingly light. The members of Faint Star are even floating in the music video. Despite its light fluffiness, Sleeping in Your Car manages not to sound bland. How? I am not 100% sure, but I think the production for Sleeping in Your Car was handled well. Apparently the team who produced Sleeping in Your Car has also produced for other idol acts, including Dempagumi.inc and 9nine.

I didn't notice this at first, but Sleeping in Your Car sounds a lot like a Vanilla Beans song. To the point where it's a little eerie. The vocals have that same smooth, breezy quality of Vanilla Beans' songs, so much that if I put Sleeping in Your Car in a Vanilla Beans playlist, I wouldn't be able to spot the difference. Imitation is flattering, and I'm pretty lenient when it comes to idol groups sounding like other idol groups. But every time I listen to Sleeping in Your Car, I can't help but picture Vanilla Beans singing the song. It almost makes me regret ever finding the similarity... If you are a fan of Vanilla Beans, you're either gonna love Sleeping in Your Car for sounding like a Vanilla Beans song or hate for the exact same thing. For me, the likability of Sleeping in Your Car trumps its similarity to Vanilla Beans' music. Sleeping in Your Car was the first song that got me into Faint Star, and all these months later, I still enjoy it tremendously! This is the song that I wish had been the A-side on Koboreteshimattamizunoyouni, either this one or the next song I'm about to talk about...

The music video for Sleeping in Your Car has about as much budget as Koboreteshimattamizunoyouni, but I like Sleeping in Your Car's PV better. Like I said, the music video got me interested in Faint Star. Also, remember when I mentioned the girls floated in this PV? Yeah, they do! A lot! It's a really cute effect; it could have been extremely creepy had BiS decided to do a video like this. But BiS is no longer with us... sigh... What was I talking about? Right, the music video has some pretty simple effects, but they're not so overdone that I'm bored of them. The PV relies on this stop motion effect where some frames are removed from each shot, making the motions of the girls seem jerky and a little cartoonish. Again, that could have been extremely creepy had another idol group done this. It's a simple little effect, but it gives this charm to the PV. Which is a good thing, because there isn't much else going on in the PV. The girls just dance and walk around on a white backdrop; in fact, the only colors in this PV are the outfits! This could have been a really dull music video, but with the right effects, Sleeping in Your Car is an engaging and cute little music video.

Like with Koboreteshimattamizunoyouni, subtitles exist in Sleeping in Your Car. Thankfully, these subtitles also look tasteful and aren't in-your-face like some subtitled music videos. Yes, I'm still bitching about Hello! Project's subtitles; sorry, it's a bad habit. But the subtitles on Sleeping in Your Car fit the music video perfectly. And they're this lovely shade of light blue, which also adds some much-needed color to the music video! I'm actually happy that there are subtitles on Sleeping in Your Car, because I highly doubt anyone would post a translation of the lyrics. The lyrics to the song are really cute, and they make a lot of sense! The song mentions all these Swedish bands too like The Cardigans, Cloudberry Jam, and Roxette. I'm not sure what the songwriter's fascination with Swedish bands was, but that does give the song this quirky edge. Also, the girls look cute in this PV! In Koboreteshimattamizunoyouni, they looked kind of weird. Here they've got on cute outfits, and they're styled nicely! Their outfits look like outfits Vanilla Beans would wear... okay, probably not the best thing to compare them too considering all the other Vanilla Beans similarities Sleeping in Your Car has...



Despite Vanilla Beans comparisons left and right, Sleeping in Your Car gets a light and airy four and half apples from me! I love the carefree sound of the song and the general production. Also gotta love those random Swedish bands dropped in the lyrics. The music video matches the happy feeling of the song, so really you should just do yourself a favor and check Sleeping in Your Car out.

Re Mi La

Behind Door #3 is our second B-side on Koboreteshimattamizunoyouni! Like with Sleeping in Your Car, a music video for this song was released before this full single. So going in, I knew what to expect from Re Mi La. What I didn't now was that the song was five minutes long, kind of a lengthy song for an idol group. Unless that idol group is Especia. Anyways, Re Mi La sounds like something Shishido Kavka would release. Well, I think if this were a Shishido Kavka single, there would be a kickass drum solo, which Re Mi La unfortunately lacks. The beginning of Re Mi La does start with a nice guitar solo. It made me initially think Re Mi La was going to be a pop-rock song (which I wouldn't have minded at all). Instead, Re Mi La has more of an ambient electro sound, kind of what Koboreteshimattamizunoyouni has. In fact, Re Mi La and Koboreteshimattamizunoyouni actually have a pretty close sound. Of the two though, I think Re Mi La works better. Even though the song is longer, Re Mi La doesn't drag out the same way Koboreteshimattamizunoyouni does.

Besides, I think the lengthiness of Re Mi La sounds more intentional than Koboreteshimattamizunoyouni. Re Mi La has this cool, laidback sound that works nicely. The vocals don't sound dead, but the girls do sound intentionally calm. I don't want to say that Re Mi La is a ballad, because it's not. It is a slow-paced song. If you're into slower idol songs, then you might like Re Mi La. Also, there's that hint of technopop in Re Mi La. I like that Faint Star isn't vocoded like amU or Perfume; the girls' smooth vocals work well enough with the song. I think if Re Mi La had gone full techno, it could have worked too, but I like the song the way it is. Like with Sleeping in Your Car, the song also drops some random Western artists, such as Madonna! I don't have a full translation of the lyrics, but the ones I have read are well-written! I'm noticing that all of Faint Star's lyrics are pretty good. Obviously, I can't know how well they actually are since they're translated, but the translations make sense, and the Western references are kind of cool. Even without those, Re Mi La is still a neat song and one of my favorites off of Koboreteshimattamizunoyouni.

I could only find the short version of Re Mi La's music video. That's a little disappointing, because it's my favorite music video of the three on this single. Unless something drastically different and terrible happens in the full version of the PV, which would both cruel and ironic. Unlike the other two music videos, Re Mi La utilizes a real location. I'm always saying this, but locations are your friend. Especially cool urban locations like a city at night. Something about the lighting and the people just makes city locations really awesome to me. Speaking of lighting, there are some really cool lighting effects in this music video. The girls dance in the dark with certain patterns of light projecting over them. It's easier to show than tell, so just go watch the short version of this music video. Re Mi La's PV has a cooler artsy urban feel than Koboreteshimattamizunoyouni and Sleeping in Your Car's music videos. And again, all they're doing is showing the girls walking around the city (with a few cool editing tricks), but it's so interesting looking at the environment they're in. I really do want to see the rest of this music video even if it's more-or-less what was in the short version. For now, I'll enjoy the short version, because it really is the most interesting of the three PVs from this single.



I'll also give Re Mi La four and half apples! Between this and Sleeping in Your Car, I can't decide what my favorite B-side on this single is. I'm leaning a little toward Re Mi La, because it is a cool song that doesn't sound eerily similar to a Vanilla Beans single. Even then, I'm not sure... But if this song had been the A-side, I wouldn't be complaining in the least.

Super Summer Wonder

The last song on Koboreteshimattamizunoyouni is more-or-less a retread of the light sound of Sleeping in Your Car. Actually, Super Summer Wonder is the most idol-sounding song on this single. It's also the most predictable-sounding song on this single. And yet I am surprisingly okay with it. Super Summer Wonder is not my favorite song on this single, but there is something endearing about it. I think it again has to do with the production and vocal delivery of the song. The two members of Faint Star have such smooth, melodically pleasing voices. The girls sound... more mature! That's it! Somehow that just makes Super Summer Wonder a pleasant-sounding song without sounding too generic. Still, I could totally see a cute, adorable Watarirouka Hashiritai-esque dance to this song. Super Summer Wonder reminds me a lot of Sleeping in Your Car; both are fun, sweet idol songs. Oddly enough though, Super Summer Wonder does not remind me of a Vanilla Beans song. Super Summer Wonder reminds me of a Tanpopo song! Mainly Otome Pasta ni Kandou, but pretty much the general sound of  4nin Tanpopo. Definitely not their early stuff...

While Super Summer Wonder sounds very similar to Sleeping in Your Car, I don't like it quite as much as I did Sleeping in Your Car. It's still a very nice song but as I said, a tad predictable. I just feel like everything I can say about Super Summer Wonder is more-or-less what I said about Sleeping in Your Car. And that's not necessarily bad, but writing about Super Summer Wonder and not sounding redundant is a little difficult. I guess the inclusion of Super Summer Wonder on this single does balance out the sounds nicely. Koboreteshimattamizunoyouni and Re Mi La serve as the more serious, mature songs, and Sleeping in Your Car and Super Summer Wonder are the lighter, happier songs. Super Summer Wonder is also the only song on Koboreteshimattamizunoyouni that wasn't previously released on Faint Star's Youtube channel. I do wonder if the song will get a music video... I wouldn't mind seeing a music video for Super Summer Wonder, especially a cute one like Sleeping in Your Car's PV! Overall, Super Summer Wonder if a cute B-side and a likable one too!



I will give Super Summer Wonder four apples! Not quite as strong as the past two songs on Koboreteshimattamizunoyouni but nonetheless, I enjoyed listening to it! Like with Sleeping in Your Car, there something endearing about the cheerfulness of Super Summer Wonder. If you're looking for a song to brighten your day, I'd listen to Super Summer Wonder!

The Verdict

And that's a wrap! Wow, this single was just about as long as the title of the A-side! Not that I mind; I love when idol groups release singles with multiple B-sides. It's nice hearing different angles of their sound on one single. AKB48 did a pretty good job with that for a while! So yes, there's a lot Faint Star offers with Koboreteshimattamizunoyouni with three different B-sides alongside the A-side. Two of those B-sides are also promoted like A-sides with music videos, so that's also a nice bonus! But quantity only matters if the quality matches up to it. So are the four songs on Koboreteshimattamizunoyouni any good? Well, if you glazed over my apple ratings, then you can figure out my general opinion. My least favorite songs on Koboreteshimattamizunoyouni were title song and Super Summer Wonder. That lengthy A-side I don't want to type out again, is a cool song with a bit of techno sound to it, but parts of it drag out too much and the song lacks energy. Super Summer Wonder is a cute song, but it sounds a tad generic, especially with Sleeping in Your Car already on Koboreteshimattamizunoyouni.

Luckily, my two least favorite songs are still pretty good songs! Neither Koboreteshimattamizunoyouni or Super Summer Wonder are terrible songs; they're still good listens, even if neither one reaches 5 apple status. The two songs on this single that I do love are Sleeping in Your Car and Re Mi La. Sleeping in Your Car has a great hook and a delightfully carefree sound, along with interesting lyrics. And Re Mi La is the kind of song that Koboreteshimattamizunoyouni needed to be. It's a cool song that despite being five minutes, manages to keep me pulled in. So with two great songs and two good songs, where does that leave Koboreteshimattamizunoyouni as a whole? Well, even though, I like all the songs on this single, I do feel that Koboreteshimattamizunoyouni lacks some variety. Sleeping in Your Car and Super Summer Wonder sound eerily similar, and even Koboreteshimattamizunoyouni and Re Mi La have the same general sound. I don't mind per se, but I did still notice. Nonetheless, I think Koboreteshimattamizunoyouni still has a lot to offer, and I'm looking forward to Faint Star's future work. And I recommend you guys check this duo out too!


Times like these, I wish I used a more elaborate rating. Since I don't though, I'm settling on four and half apples for Koboreteshimattamizunoyouni. The single has its weak points, but the general sound and production on the single is good quality. If you like idol duos (Vanilla Beans in particular), you should definitely listen to this single.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

The Power of C-ute

Five bucks says that The Power refers to C-ute's power to stick around longer than Berryz Koubou.


So what has C-ute been up to since Berryz Koubou dropped the disbandment hiatus bomb? Well, they released a single and... that's all I can think of. Actually, that's pretty much all they've been doing. That and Japan Expo but yeah. Traveling and releasing singles. And not the best singles I might add. Their one other single this year was Kokoro no Sakebi wo Uta ni Shitemita/Love take it all, and neither one of those A-sides was that great. The former as a decent song but nowhere near the top of my favorite idol songs this year. And Love take it all sounded like a generic dance song; the music video didn't help either. Honestly, I'd rather Tsunku/UFP lay off the double A-sides for awhile. The first few singles, it was cool, but now it's getting very formulaic. Yet here we are. So while the double A-sides are in full swing, I'll keep on sticking to just the more write-able of the two A-sides. For C-ute's The Power/Kanashiki Heaven (Single Version), that would be The Power. But before we get to The Power, a quick look at Kanashiki Heaven (Single Version):

  • There is literally nothing different about the single version of Kanashiki Heaven. However, Kanashiki Heaven still stands as one of my favorite C-ute songs. I'm not sure why UFP felt the need to re-release it for a third time, but I can't complain much. As for the music video, the only thing you really need to know about it is this: pole dancing. That is all.

Now onto to The Power! Not That's the Power just The Power. Yep. So The Power... it has a very strong-sounding song title! It's the kind of song that brings to mind pounding drums and loud voices, with a rousing chorus tying it all together! Or at least in my head, that's what The Power sounds like. In actuality, The Power is a funky sounding song with the same Middle Eastern sound of Perfume's Handy Man. I still prefer Handy Man over The Power. I am totally for experimenting with the sounds of other cultures; hell, I even encourage it. But... okay, I'm cutting right to the chase: The Power sounds like a Berryz Koubou reject. The arrangement has that same weird structure that I've heard in Berryz songs like Cha Cha Sing or Madayade or Munasawagi Scarlet. The girls of C-ute even sound like Berryz Koubou when they're singing together. It's weird! Despite the Berryz-esque arrangement, The Power still sounds weird and harmonically dissonant. That can work sometimes, but here The Power just sounds disjointed with none of the verses flowing together. I know I complained about Love take it all and C-ute's string of dance songs, but I'd take any of those over The Power.

Also, the vocals for The Power are poorly done. The girls' singing isn't off-key or anything, but everyone sings with the emotion of ⊿-era Perfume. I don't know what it is about that stilted, choppy style of singing, but it either sounds really cool or really bad. And I haven't even gotten to Mai's solos yet. Might as well now! So when Mai sings her first solo in each of the verses, it's Autotuned. Like really Autotuned. In comparison, the rest of the song has about as much song editing as you'd expect from a pop song. I think maybe it was a stylistic choice, but it's a god-awful stylistic choice. Mai already sounds like a chipmunk; Autotune does not help that. And that's literally the only time said Autotune is used, and it sounds painfully out-of-place in The Power. I know it's just two little solos that take up a few seconds of The Power, but those few seconds really bother me. And sometimes it's the little things that eat away at you. Maybe those two little lines wouldn't irritate me so much if the rest of The Power had more to offer, but there's just not much to the song.

Okay, I'm lying, there is something to The Power. I'm just not sure what it is. We do have Tsunku's "I recorded this grunt while I was pelvic thrusting," vocal samples in the song. Oh yeah, those are annoying too. Tsunku's voice has always been hit-or-miss with me, and his constant presence in The Power is annoying. Honestly, I'm not sure what type of sound Tsunku was going for here. I mentioned The Power having a Mideastern vibe earlier, but that's not anywhere near elaborated on as it could have been. The Power overall just has this blah sound with nowhere near the energy or zest it needs. It's like the poor man's Cha Cha Sing. I do appreciate C-ute getting something a little different from the generic dance sound they've been using for their past A-sides. But whatever The Power is, it's too lackluster to be a standout song. Maybe if it were a fantastic mess of a song, but it's not even messy enough to be that. The verses drag, the vocals are weird, the sound is aimless, and I am just about out of words to describe The Power. My advice? Stick to That's the Power. I'll hold out for C-ute to releasing something more high-quality.

Well, the one thing C-ute's been doing well recently are nice-looking music videos! Okay, maybe they're not as high-budget as AKB48's, but not all of us have a swimming pool of budget money to work with. Nonetheless, let's take a look at what the PV for The Power offers! I'm hoping it offers immense amounts of power. Maybe some pyrotechnics too.


So the PV takes place in the same area every J-pop Mideastern-themed song does!


Something about those vests remind me of those terry cloth robes they give you at those really nice gyms...


C-ute descends upon their fans in the form of birds! Caw! Caw!


And now for the sexual tension portion of the dance!


The hair and makeup for this PV are actually pretty nice... pity the outfits suck.


Whoa, what's this!? A decent-looking transition effect!? Do my eyes deceive me!?


Oh look, it's the direction Suzuki Ami's career went!


I think the girls are trying, but these outfits really don't work.


What are they even going for with the heels and the sweatbands and the weird vests? Are they supposed to be going to the beach or the gym?


Hello, transition effects from Gounn, my old friend.


I keep bringing back these Gounn screencaps a lot more than I expected.


If only this PV ripped off the outfits from Gounn as well...


There is a difference between these effects and Gounn's! They're slower. Much slower.


Damn, Maimi is on point during her close-ups.


Hell, everyone is. I need whatever shade of lipstick they're wearing.


The dance could be better. I feel like I've seen a lot of these moves in C-ute's past choreographies.


I think I just got screencapper's deja vu.


God, these effects look messy whenever I pause on them.


Maybe if the color scheme was brighter? The colors all look so drab. The black and white doesn't help.


To the light we go!!!


Just kidding, we just went back to the dance shot.


Okay, you can't do the leg-flapping thing from Dance de Bakoon! and not expect me to notice.


See?


Look at all the mini suns in this shot! They're so oversaturated!!


...I've nothing of substance to add but Airi just looks really good in this screenshot.


Hold the phone, isn't that move from... Fushizen na Girl!?


That does it! C-ute's on double secret probation!


...was that fire always burning behind Maimai or are we just in hell now?


I don't know what choreography this move rips off but it must rip off something!


This all reminds me I need to get cracking on my rip-offs editorial...


Chissa


How can I forget the iconic airplane choreography?


You know, the one they used in Heart Electric's choreography!


And that's The Power! No, not That's the Power just... nevermind.

Well... I think the PV for The Power had more of a budget than Berryz Koubou's last music videos! Of course on the Hello! Project budget scale, The Power is around the low end of the middle area. And unfortunately, there's not much with The Power I want to talk about. Let's go over the elephant in the room first: the transition effects! You know, the ones from Gounn! Okay, I know that idols rip off other idols all the time. It's bound to happen, and coming to terms with that fact will make your life so much easier. But... look, it's freaking Gounn. I'm gonna notice, and I'm certain other idol fans have noticed too. If they'd had some of the same Buddhist imagery that Gounn did, then maybe I'd be more critical. So the effects rip off Gounn; I hope we're all good and clear on that. But are they a good rip-off? Eh... for Hello! Project, yes. C-ute has gotten some scant music videos, and the extra effects on The Power do add a nice touch to the video. They bring some variety to the dance shot/close up formula that the rest of music video adheres to. But as nice as that is, visually, these effects aren't that pretty. The colors look dull and muted, and I don't like the decision to have the girls shown in black-and-white during these parts.

Still, I'll give the production team behind this video an E for effort, because those special effects are pretty much the only thing to talk about with this music video. Okay, yeah, the set is decent (and I think that other dance shot was filmed at an actual locations). The decorations are practically a splurge for Hello! Project. But like with the song, there's nothing to this music video. Everything has a vaguely exotic vibe, but nothing is taken advantage of. Everything ends up looking kind of blah. Again, like the song! I guess the one highlight is that the girls look really pretty in their close-up shots. The hair and makeup were all very well-done for this music video. But I have no idea what the hell is going on with those outfits. All I know is that I don't like them. They look like cheap swimsuits and terry cloth robes you can find at Walmart. Same goes for the jewelry. Again, maybe they were supposed to add to that exotic look, but the styling overall is just as befuddled as everything else about this PV. At least Aitte Motto Zanshin was shot in a really cool location. The music video for The Power can't even have that. Although I will say this PV's better than Love take it all.

Overall, I don't know what to tell you. The Power was already working with a drab and kind of irritating song. The music video doesn't amplify those qualities, but it doesn't smooth them over either. There's about as much energy in the music video as there is in the song. Even in the dance shot the girls look only half into it. Oh yeah, how about that dance? I'm not an expert, but I saw about 10 recycled dance moves in this PV, some from C-ute's choreography and others from other idol groups. Again, I understand that idols rip off idols all the time, but when it's noticeable I can't help but point it out. Besides, that's pretty much the last thing I can really talk about with this music video. Everything else you've seen in H!P music videos. The set-dressing is decent, the costumes suck, the lighting ranges from good to blinding, and the special effects were done brighter and better in Gounn. Did I miss anything? If you're a diehard C-ute fan, maybe you'll like this better than I did. As I said, the makeup was very nice. Other than that, I don't have anything else to add to The Power. Oh, expect that I hope for better from C-ute in the future, especially in the wake of Berryz disbandment "hiatus."


Yeah, I gotta go with 2.5 apples for The Power. I think someone made an effort at some point, but the song is a dull mess. The music video tries to give some power to The Power, but even then, that's done through ripping off Gounn and other various dances. The PV's not unbearably terrible, but if you don't watch it, you're not going to miss anything.