Yae, possibly most famous from Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles has a mighty fine repertoire behind her and this her second album Blue Line is the quietest and most delicate of them.
Yae’s instrumentation lays firmly in the acoustic old and Yae’s voice is silky smooth and angelic. “Fly” is the beautiful opener. Flowing piano plinks up and down the scales whilst the strings slowly build and soar as Yae melts your heart with sincerity. “Carol” is a short vocal embu showing her vocal layering talents. “Blue” then returns to a more muted piano that repeats the same riff whilst a lot of really bizarre instruments bend and twist around in the background. It creates a celestial element to the track as various bells and such are bent out of fashion. Guitars and keyboards seep in to fill the voids and it’s all beautifully eerie. “Nagaku Nobita Kage Wo Oikakete” is a further extension from this taking away the piano and guitar base and leaving ambient noises and synthesised bass and keyboard bleeps to lead the way. It works surprisingly well as Yae pushes her vocals right up front here.
Things return to the J-Folk way with “Sally” which see’s traditional percussion, guitars and soft keyboard pads leading the way with a lazy laid back track with a strong chorus. “Koi No Shitsuke” on the other hand feels like something of a musical orgasm! Starting out almost as a vocal only track guitar and drums are added in slowly and the pace starts to increase over verses and choruses until it’s a rapid fire rush to the soul. It’s so uplifting and enlightening to listen to – fabulous. “Hi No Ateru Oka De” was before the Hawaiian album the closest she had been to the genre. Whimsy Ukulele, sliding guitars and echoing shimmering backing vocals it’s like basking in the sun. “Omosayo” is like a traditional calling or summoning chant. A very small amount of Shamisen can be heard in the background but aside from that it’s all Yae’s vocals powering out.
The back third of the album returns to abstract ballad technique in force throughout the album with “Koi No Hana” which seems to have lots of twisting cog or screws along with xylphone for good measure. This is one of my favourites on the album. There’s something so simple and pure about the whole thing – its touching. “Kaze No Yuta” is the token English spoken track on the album. It’s gentle but one of two songs featuring a full band. Yae’s English is good and the whole thing has a Western sunshine feel to it with some excellent guitar and percussion work. “Tenshi” is a xylophone and vocal track that leads quietly to the reflective piano outro “Drop of Water”.
“Blue Line” is delicately beautiful. It’s not my favourite work of Yae’s but this is the relaxers purist album. Yae’s vocals and delivery always shine and whilst it may be a tad gentile for some, I get lost in its melodies.
Sometimes artists from overseas have an EP that they use to tread out into the other sectors of the world and that appears like what happened with Chitose Hajime’s “Kotonoha” which features five songs showcases her unique singing talents.
Chitose has a unique localised singing voice that means its flips up and down mid note like a very traditional Japanese folk songstress. The result means she is able to sound utterly unique even when doing bland covers (something she’s done since this EP). “Kotonoha” opens with the title track a wonderful acoustic guitar led track with punchy drums and a wonderful vocal montage to open the track. It’s beautiful and endearing whilst having a taint of sadness – something that occupies her voice most of the time with its husky glow. “Yakuskou” is a more minimalistic piano/keyboard led track with simple percussion. It slowly builds with adding extra instruments and shows how Hajime can sing without all the inflections and warbling. It’s quite a rare track in that respect. “RyuuguuNoTsukai” is a precursor to the more lighter Caribbean esque sounding rock she made with the album Cassini as it features funky guitar and happy chord progressions along with a fair few brass motifs signing off lines. The vocals here really shine – the sheer range and velocity she can change pitch in an instant always amazes me. “Seirei” returns to the acoustic rock anthems she’s more known for doing. It’s understated and easy listening done in a traditional Japanese folk song style. “Mihachigatsu” closes the EP with a cute ballad full of acoustic guitar, marimba and delicate warmth.
It’s a perfect introduction to this fantastic singer. Whilst some of her cover albums may not always hit the mark, when she’s doing original material it really shines and this is a great starting point.
Laura Shigihara has worked on some beautiful music in her time and this wonderful live/recorded hybrid cover of the sumptuous Inochi no Namae from the anime Spirited Away showcases her delicate voice to perfection. There’s some wonderful piano playing from Zorsy too.
Final Fantasy Songbook “Mahoroba” is a collection of songs arranged by Yuji Hasegawa and half of them have vocals sung in Japanese by Manami Kiyota. Taking various songs from different Final Fantasy games they are arranged using traditional instrumentation.
A perfect example is the opening “The Place I’ll Return To Someday” which is just a simple translation of the FFIX track to real life woodwind. It’s very fragile but sets the tone of whats to come. “Summer Album – Eyes on Me” is a rendition of the song originally sung by Faye Wong. This time in Japanese and in a folksy/jazz style, the song translates very well to a different genre. Manami’s voice is not as strong as Faye’s but it’s certainly not a failed attempt and I quite enjoy the fact we now have an alternative version.
“This is Probably Goodbye” is a vocalised version of the good old farmboy song from FFVII. The fact it doesn’t stray far from the roots of the original definitely helps retain the cute and chirpy nature of the arrangement – a beautiful lazy piece of folk. “Town” (taken from FFIII) is even more laid back, ballad-like with some beautifully soft vocals.
“Fisherman’s Horizon” is a beautiful rendition of the song from FFVIII. Using electric piano, woodwinds and various guitars it carefully plucks its way through a six-minute epic that builds and evolves throughout. This arrangement made me appreciate the original again. “A Walk In The Rain” is a swinging folksy rendition of “Descendants of the Shinobi” from FFVII which is a fabulous lighthearted piece that Kiyota’s vocals are made for. Plus I’m sure we have a banjo playing! What more do you need?!
Strangely track seven is taken from the Ten Plants – a game/story/thing that had many of the top vgm composers contributing to the soundtrack. Not a Final Fantasy song no, but the acoustic guitar and piano led piece fits like a glove to this set of songs and the actual melody reminds of a few other Final Fantasy tracks rolled together. I’d like to hear if anyone else can hear them too. “Daguerreo” from FFIX is the third and final instrumental – a beauty acoustic guitar arrangement that could lullaby anyone off to sleep.
“Transient” taken from FFV’s “Far-Off Hometown” once again goes from the earthly instrument route for a direct fight off against its previous vocal arrangement on FFV’s “Dear Friends” CD. However the arrangement could not much more different in tone if it tried. This is one of the highlights of the album as it builds and builds itself up to a huge crowd pleasing arm swaying climax and for really the first time on the album – everything really stretches its legs properly. A personal favourite of mine this track.
The album closes with “The Light Goes Around” from FFIX’s “Unfulfilled Desire” a piano and vocal piece that ends the album on a suitably low-key note as the album is relatively low-key throughout. Leave the final track to run though and you’ll get a full traditional band reprieve of the opening track which is superb.
After “Pray” and “Love Will Grow” – I think people were expecting a third similar album to round off the classical orchestration beauty that was those albums. However this is something completely different – not better nor particularly worse. Its a different genre and deserves a mention for trying to be a bit more different. It’s not as accessible as the other two FF Vocal Albums but if you enjoy your music buried at the earth’s roots – I’d definitely recommend this album for you.
Yae has announced her 10 year anniversairy in March and to celebrate this week she is our Live Vault. Here’s to the next ten years Yae.
I have been searching for ages for a full decent live song on youtube of Yae. She’s so good live as her live CD shows and finally I tracked down this beautiful rendition of “Koi No Hana” which is different version compared the album one and I quite possibly prefer this rendition. Heaven! Yae had a new single out in April and I didn’t even know but it appears to be Japanese digital only so I’ll have to track it down somehow!
Chitose Hajime will be releasing two mini albums on the same day. The first mini album will contain six cover songs called “Kotohona”". The second album is a five track EP containing the theme of the film “Planzet”. Both are released 26th May 2010.
Having just watched the live DVD from her fourth album, I thought I’d treat everyone to some Chitose Hajime. This is the video for Wadatsumi no Ki and is a beautiful song. Enjoy!
Aoi Teshima has had a busy 2008 releasing two albums. The first is this one, entitled “The Rose ~I Love Cinemas~” which takes eight well known movie famous songs and then gives them the Teshima treatment.
Opening with title track “The Rose” we’re treated to the soft elegance of Aoi’s voice. In harmony with a gentle piano, you can imagine this being what heaven’s waiting music would be. Also it must be noted that the album is completely in English and the elocution is near perfect.
Next up is a beautifully relaxed version of “Moon River” with just vocal and acoustic guitar which is just dreamy and is followed by the serene “Calling You” which hushes you to sleep with a lullaby even with its downbeat nature.
“Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head” is possibly the only song that doesn’t work perfectly. While trying to turn it into a swing song, the lack of drums or upbeat bass really hampers the overall mood. It’s still a nice version but with percussion it’d have lifted it up. Then we have the song that I’d been waiting for Aoi to sing since I first heard her voice. “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” is typically stripped down and bare and also beautiful however I surprised that the tempo was faster than say the Eva Cassidy version. I’ve often thought of Aoi’s vocal being the Japanese Eva and so I’m surprised they didn’t milk this song for every second it plays.
“Beauty and the Beast” follows from the Disney film and this is definitely softer and just as effective as hearing Mrs. Potts sing it! VGM fans will notice Fabian Reza Paine from FFX-2 Piano Collections as the pianist. An excellent choice of song with a nice instrumental section which is completely unrushed unlike the previous track.
“What is a Youth?” is the song with the most backbone to it. Its great to hear something a bit more upfront and powerful. This has a downbeat feel to it with a rousing middle that you want to shout out and is a welcome departure from the rest of the album. “Alfie” returns to the piano/vocal ballads that work so well before you end on an acoustic guitar version of “The Rose”.
Fans of her first album will not be disappointed however if like many, you were looking for a bit more variety and versatility you will find that this album is even more streamlined to one sound than Earthsea was. “The Rose” plays to all of Aoi’s ballad strengths to make a completely weepie / relaxing experience but there’s more in the box if she’d only be allowed to let herself go. Japan’s Eva Cassidy? You bet!
The girl lucky enough to sing and then be offered lead actress in a Studio Ghibli film had her dreams come true when straight after her début album “Tales of Earthsea Kashu” was released. The ten track album is full of Aoi’s beautifully serene vocal talent but is that enough?
“Kazoeuta” opens the album with just Teshima singing sparsely. It’s a tender introduction to a tender album. “Ryu” brings in a foreboding sounding piano which quickly gives way to a gentle touching ballad that has a bass driven bridge. The interesting chords used gives it a fresh sound compared to other ballads.
“Tasogare” is much more folksy and traditional with guitars, zithers and rain sticks at hand. This is much more epic in scale and the style of music really suits Aoi’s voice. This is definitely a highlight of the album. “Betu no Hito” is cute. Half folk half waltz and a smattering of accordion does this track no harm.
“Tabibito” slows things down again with a piano/vocal track. The addition of strings helps this song pass through smoothly with its catchy chorus. Even when a chorus is rousing, Teshima always has a certain sadness and wisdom in her young voice which makes the song here. “Nanakamado” is the other stand out along with “Tasogare” and “Tabibito” as this is the sole happy folk song. There’s a bounce in the songs step which makes it irresistible to listen to however It also makes you wonder why every other song is slow.
“Sora no Shuten” is bitter-sweet and reflective in sound and completely in offensive, as is “Haru no Yoru ni” although the latter is much more delicate and spacious. That then brings us to the Tales songs. “Therru no Uta” is a beautiful song and still shines on its own merit. Fresh and haunting with a sweet ending, it never loses its appeal. It does however showcase that this album is completely one sound. If you liked this song, then be prepared for 10 very similar songs. “Toki no Uta” completes the set in typical fashion.
So the first album could be either completely justifiably solemn and minimal or completely uninspired depending on your view. I think the term sometimes on this album is “Lazy”. This is essentially an extension album from the film songs that done so well. Therefore sticking with a winning formula they’ve diluted the magic they had. No song is bad but played together they lose their sparkle a bit. One thing is certain though, she has a voice to sing me to sleep night after night after night…
Aoi Teshima is this weeks Live Vault artist with a beautiful rendition of “Rainbow” which is the ending theme for “The Witch of the West is Dead”. This has yet to be released on an album of her’s so sit back and relax to her silky smooth whispers and shy charm.
Chitose Hajime confirmed her new album entitled “Cassini” will be released on the 16th of July. What does seem to conflict though is that the special edition has 12 tracks and a DVD while the regular edition has 13 tracks and no DVD. If this is true then I wonder how many will buy both? A bit unfair surely!
“Suteki Da Ne” is the vocal theme of Final Fantasy X and is sung by Rikki. The song is a ballad with a swaying beat, an absolutely fantastic violin solo (which actually differs from the OST version of the song, and in my opinion this version is far superior) and a completely unique vocal talent from Rikki. The vocals she provides are very high pitched and have a slight nasal effect, which is either good or bad depending on whether you like that or not, but apart from that, it’s a magnificent song, with a beautiful ending.
Normally, we are only treated to one new song on a single, but here Rikki pushes the boat out and gives us two!
“The Moon” is a song of Rikki’s, which is a piano, and vocal song. It’s very original in its concept, and if you like Rikki’s voice, you’ll adore this song, especially the chorus piece’s, which are very heartbreaking indeed. It’s an extremely timid and sad song, but has elegance to it as well.
“Pure Heart” is the big surprise here. With lyrics penned by Emiko Shiratori, the voice of Final Fantasy IX’s “Melodies Of life”, Rikki fronts a Celtic version of Final Fantasy VII Aeris’ Theme. Rikki’s voice either makes it or ruins it, depending on what you think of it when she goes ever so slightly off key at times. The rendition for me is a lovely adaptation of the theme. Surely other singles should be doing this to! To round of the album is the instrumental version of “Suteki Da Ne” which rounds of the album nicely.
To be fair, this is not going to be to everyone’s taste. Rikki’s voice is so distinct that if you don’t like it, you’ll be driven up the wall, but if it’s for you, then I suggest you snap this single up very quickly indeed as there are three fantastic songs here.