Utada Hikaru’s 5th album “Heart Station” is possibly her lightest and definitely her grooviest album to date. Packed with computerised basslines and barely an organic sound in earshot this is a one lady dance-fest to the late hours.
“Fight the Blues” opens the album with a good prediction of what’s to come. Light percussion, heavy thick bass and catchy choruses. Utada’s vocal style hasn’t changed but then her vocals always have power and emotion throughout. “Heart Station” follows with this albums repeating theme of vocal ad-lib bridges. I thought the song was very basic upon first listen but its beauty is in its simplicity and is now a firm favourite. Rounding off the trio dance tracks to open the album you have the excellent “Beautiful World” which to me reminds me of a sped up “Keep Tryin'” which is no bad thing. In fact I’d say this is first album which really overlaps with a previous one. “Heart Station” is very much twin to “Ultra Blue” in style, but is more the upbeat twin whereas “Ultra Blue” was more of a pessimistic twin.
“Flavor of Life ~Ballad Version~” is up next with its excellent string arrangements making it the only song to not feature completely digital music and despite going at a fair pace this is one of only two ballad style songs. The second “Stay Gold” is my favourite of the album. There is something so very delicate about it with its high pitched layered vocals, its slow but ever present drum beat and echoing piano that really brings out the very best of Utada. Outstanding.
“Kiss & Cry” brings back up the tempo with a pre-chorus stolen from her English person’s “Hotel Lobby”. This song also took two or three listens to get used to but again I find myself singing along happily now. “Gentle Beast Interlude” mixes lots of the albums ad-libs together to a beat which quickly becomes “Celebrate”. This track has something very early 1990’s about it and is unabashedly joyous – like most of the work on this album.
“Prisoner of Love” is possibly the darkest the album becomes and even that’s got a foot stomping drum track to it! There’s a lot of English here for a Japanese track which is nice, perhaps foretelling where Utada’s next English album will go? This track harks back to her “Distance” album in terms of style but is more mature.
Then we have “Take 5” which consists of slow drum beats and speedier synthesisers and comes across like a space anthem but the way how it just stops suddenly mid line without warning/fade out/anything was so jarring I thought I had a faulty disc! The tracks great but the endings confusing!
However “Boku Wa Kuma” comes up next, despite a few people moaning that it doesn’t belong. It actually fits rather nicely considering the happy tones to the album as a whole so it doesn’t feel out of place… and who didn’t find Kuma-Chan’s blog random and fun to read. “Niijiro Basu” ends the album with a joyous, simple song that might appear throw away to begin with but its bouncy enough to stay in your mind for long after its finished. “Flavor of life” is also included in its original “Heart Station”-ed version at the end for the first press.
“Heart Station” is much a continuation of “Ultra Blue” but with happiness turned up a few notches. Is that a bad thing? Not for me! Each song is single worthy and would easily top charts and the fact that the only problem I have is that I’ve already bought half the album in singles should speak volumes. Anyone wanting to join J-Pop, infact anyone looking for some catchy music that seems very absent these days in Western music would do well to pick up this magical album.