Posted by: 愛撫 | 03/27/08

Album review: Mami Kawada – SAVIA

The long-awaited sophomore full-length from Mami Kawada is out now, but how does it stack up against its predecessor, or amongst the other I’ve Girls solo albums for that matter? Well, I’m not afraid to spoil that it isn’t a disappointment, but for the rest you’ll have to go below the cut.

Mami Kawada (川田まみ) – SAVIA (2008, Geneon)

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Tracklisting:

1. energy flow
2. JOINT
3. Beehive -album edit-
4. TRILL
5. 赤い涙 (Akai Namida)
6. triangle
7. sense
8. DREAM
9. intron tone
10. 翡翠 -HISUI-
11. 最後の約束 (Saigo no Yakusoku)
12. Get my way!
13. portamento

The review:

I begin this review with a confession to make. Prior to her 2006 full-length album SEED, I never cared for Mami Kawada much. Even her brilliant-upon-later-reflection singles radiance and Hishoku no Sora hadn’t done much to hold my interest before that point, so it came as a total surprise to me when I actually preferred SEED to the KOTOKO and Eiko Shimamiya albums released that same year – so SAVIA naturally had a lot to live up to, being the follow-up to the album that opened my eyes to Kawada.

Truthfully though, I was never really worried. Mami’s been putting out nothing but quality in these last 2 years since SEED, and even if every one of the album’s new songs was terrible, few albums can claim the kind of single strength SAVIA has thanks to the inclusion of all the songs from her ’07 singles save for the sickeningly-sweet misstep Aozora to Taiyou. And, knowing I’ve as well as I do, I knew the odds of that ‘every new song being terrible’ scenario coming true were just about nil.

So, really, it isn’t a surprise that SAVIA is an improvement over SEED. Better singles, less midtempo filler, more genre experimentation, less Maiko Iuchi, everything that could have been better about SEED is present here. Even the instrumental introduction has been improved this time ’round: if opening track ‘energy flow’ has any flaw, that would have to be the simple fact that it’s too damn short. But by the time it exits with the opening chords to JOINT, well, its length (or, more specifically, the lack thereof) is forgiven.

The main reason SAVIA is of note, however, has little to do with the quality of the songs, top-notch as they may be. Just as KOTOKO found herself with her second album Glass no Kaze, SAVIA has Mami Kawada settling into the role of an accomplished, versatile artist. Delving into multiple styles and only sounding uncomfortable when wrestling with Maiko Iuchi’s twin monster ballads (DREAM and Saigo no Yakusoku, the only two bad songs on the album), Mami defies any attempts to pigeonhole her as just the ‘rocker chick’ of the Love Planet Five group in brilliant form. Particularly surprising is her dance-music turn on early-album highlight ‘TRILL’, a blast from the past sure to rekindle any old-school I’ve fan’s faith in the collective. But equally noteworthy is her refined pop-punk persona on ‘sense’ (which bears more than a slight resemblance to Outer song ‘Leave me hell alone’, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing), proving that Get my way! was far from just a one-off experiment and promising many interesting things for Kawada’s future.

In summary, SAVIA is stunning. If you had told me even 2 years ago that Mami Kawada would make an album better than anything KOTOKO had ever done, I’d probably say you were insane. But here she is, and this album is indeed better than any of KOTOKO’s, and while it’s hard to compare them I’d like to think it surpasses any of Eiko Shimamiya’s releases as well. If one were to present a single-artist distillation of everything the I’ve brand has stood for in its 10 years of existence, it would undoubtedly sound not too much unlike SAVIA. I don’t usually say this, but buy this album. It’s in your own best interest.


Responses

  1. I’m not going to say that it is better than Hane, but SAVIA is definitely a lot better than what I would have expected from her three years ago. While KOTOKO seems to have gone down her own marshmallow happiness path, Mami Kawada has developed her own style that works so well with I’ve arrangers that they complement each other. SAVIA is the best music I’ve has produced in too long, and Mami’s vocals closely rivals KOTOKO’s for talent and passion. I can’t wait to see what Eiko has in store for us next week.

  2. I suspect the main reason Mami’s been making such good songs recently when KOTOKO’s been largely sucking has a lot to do with the fact that KOTOKO is a brand name by this point, one that’s capable of selling regardless of the product’s quality. Mami doesn’t have that kind of a name yet, so she actually has to work hard and it pays off with some of the best music I’ve has ever made. So while I do wish success for Mami, at the same time I don’t if that would lead to the kind of complacency that leads to shit like BLAZE getting made.

  3. I still haven’t had a chance to listen to the album *cue tearing my hair out* although I’m this close to buying it just because I’m tempted by that tracklist…

    Just wanna add that while I think Mami’s an excellent singer and that her vibrato’s beautiful (though I still think MELL’s vibrato is more consistent & powerful), singing live she still doesn’t sound as wonderful as KOTOKO or Eiko… I’m not saying that’s a bad thing necessarily since it’s *live*, but I think she can definitely improve on that matter. I just hope there’s another Budokan concert so that I can waste-um, I mean, splurge my money on the DVD. I’m still looking for the original Budokan DVD, in hopes that my local stroes will miraculously carry it, haha.

  4. Oh, and just saying SEED didn’t really leave a mark on my memories (I hardly remember any of the tunes other than the singles…), so this album is as good as gold in my book with all the great singles supporting it & also portamento <3

  5. Just got the album yesterday night via Amazon, and had the chance to listen to it today.

    I have very mixed feelings for SAVIA. On one side, it is a very enjoyable album, and a strong contender to be my favorite non-compilation album (the others being Glass no Kaze, SEED and Uzu-Maki). On the other hand, I am a completist for I’ve releases, so an album where I already bought almost half of the songs felt a bit like a ripoff – not that it takes away from the album’s quality.

    Mami’s work last year certainly was better than KOTOKO’s. I think the only KOTOKO song I truly enjoyed last year was rush, and singing for a series like Hayate no Gotoku! did not help either. I can only hope for a good 2008 where Mami keeps the pace and KOTOKO catches up.

  6. I must agree with Naddie about SEED. The album was a bit of a bore. You can tell that a lot more work was put into SAVIA.

    And while Mami isn’t as good live, as KOTOKO & Eiko, there’s a good reason for that. Mami doesn’t have as much experience as KOTOKO. KOTOKO has done so many live performances that she’d obviously be better. Eiko has more experience than both of them. Let’s face it, she’s the oldest and has way more experience than the younger girls. She even started out the old fashioned way by doing jingles for TV. Yes, I am pimping Eiko’s music! While KOTOKO and Mami have pretty high sales, you could tell O had a lot more work put into it.
    Back to the subject of SAVIA, did anyone else feel like DREAM was meant for KOTOKO?

  7. @Same: I think there is a lot more confidence from Mami in SAVIA than in SEED. Back then, she didn’t have a definite persona, so most of her attempts were bound to be half-hearted. Compare that with Eiko at the time, who had a long enough career to discover the artist she wanted to be and as a result, O overshadowed SEED. The blockbuster hit Higurashi helped a lot in that regard.
    Mami and the arrangers seemed to get the hint that songs like Beehive and JOINT (and to a lesser extent, seduce) work really well for Mami, she embraced that persona, and what came out of it is what you hear in SAVIA.
    DREAM probably should have been a KOTOKO song. While Mami did a fine job singing it, I think KOTOKO would have done a better job in separating the two voices. Like Aibu, I didn’t really like the song; jarring arrangements and random Engrish do not make a good hook.

  8. Yeah, but there’s random Engrish sprinkled throughout the whole album, but then again, I’ve loves random Engrish.

  9. i must agree with you all about Savia being a great album, Trill was just the greatest surprise, i was not expecting it at all!
    this album is indeed a sort of compilation of every genre IVE has dwell with, and i love it for that.

  10. SAVIA was a kickass album in general, but it’s now out of the Top 20 on Oricon! Damn it!

  11. Well, I’ve only listened through it once, but it’s official: I love this album. So good. And finally, a good version of portamento <3 I even like DREAM & Saigo no Yakusoku that much either, and I am not exactly a ballad person. Every single song on the album was a thrill to listen to.

    Now excuse me while I loop the album.

  12. D’oh, I meant to say I like DREAM & Saigo no Yakusoku, omit “that much either” heh.

  13. Damn! Same is true! SAVIA is not in the top 20 daily! But it had a good debut at least…

    What I didn’t like much in this album were the ballads by Maiko. I think we have just the same rants about the 2 songs DREAM and Saigo no Yakusoku. They just don’t really fit in the album.

    TRILL (although this and triangle really share the same sounds) and intron tone are my personal favorites! They are really great! And once again, Kazuya composed/arranged better songs — way better than his early BLAZE.

  14. I didn’t notice there’s no track named SAVIA until now D:
    Let’s see, my favorites are ‘energy flow’ which is too short, and TRILL. They rock! That’s all, I guess my taste is a little different. DREAM could also have been my favourite without the jarring arrangement.

  15. I’ve yet to give SAVIA a listen, but I’m looking forward to it. I guess I was wrong when I said I thought this album would sound more mainstream than the last? What I meant was that since she did so many anime songs for her recent singles, it was tailored for a wider audience than just the I’ve fans. Since anime songs usually are. Mostly.

  16. I wouldn’t really say SAVIA is more mainstream than SEED – while many of SEED’s songs occupied a sort of comfortable midtempo pacing and were never too hard on the ears, songs like intron tone on SAVIA are actually harder than JOINT, and there’s also more of an experimental tone to many of the songs than I’ve been used to hearing from I’ve post-verge.

  17. well if we’re going to base the two albums according to its total sales, SEED wins (#12 in the Oricon weekly) while SAVIA is in #15 and not only that. The first week sales of SEED is 18,021 while SAVIA is just 9,504 copies. BUt if we’re going to base on the songs, for me SAVIA has the most win songs but Maiko Iuchi’s best ballad composed/arranged for me is in SEED (which is Hirusagari no Gogo).

  18. Random thought while I finish final papers:
    It all comes full circle doesn’t it? I have heard that the original version of Lament, that is, the one released on the eponymous album in 2003 was originally designed to be sung by Mami Kawada.* Several months after Lament was released, KOTOKO released a different arrangement of Lament for her Hane album, which so I have heard was meant to reflect KOTOKO’s style, which within the context of Hane (and not her more recent works) was positively true.
    Listening to Lament (the album) just now, and then listening to Lament (from Hane), I imagined Mami singing and putting her influence on the original version as it was meant to be. And you know what? It would have fit in perfectly with SAVIA, four and a half years later. When Lament/Outflow was first released, I knew Mami for tiny days, Sora no Mori de, and Asu e no Namida, songs which were far removed from harder I’ve tracks, so I had a hard time believing that she would be chosen to sing something like Lament. In hindsight, I guess I’ve knew what they were doing after all?

    *I honestly don’t remember where I heard it, but I know it was before even Hishoku no Sora.

  19. Mami with Lament? The song leans more towards dark trance than Mami’s rock style now isn’t it?
    That’d be like Mami with Collective… Hard to imagine, but I still think KOTOKO is more suited.

    Now that I think of it, except for Kaori, all the I’ve girls are very versatile aren’t they?

    Off-topic: Should there be “Recent Comments” and “Recent Posts” in the side bar too? :P

    Off-topic #2: My auto-generated Gravatar vaguely resemble the Nazi symbol 3:

  20. In reply to your off-topic inquiries, Skan…

    #1: There probably should be a recent posts sidebar, but I’m too shitty a web designer to figure out where to put it. As for recent comments, I just don’t see the point of devoting a sidebar to that when the bar already requires a particularly epic scroll-down to navigate without even the recent posts being there.

    #2: Signing up for a WordPress account is free and lets you pick your own totally bitchin’ icon like Hikaruhoshi’s MELL headshot and my hilariously awesome robot instead of being stuck with some kind of vaguely swastika-looking quilt pattern. Seriously, there’s no downside to getting an account.

  21. Hmm….well, I really like Mami Kawada though people tend to underestimate her…I still support even though if she’s not like A****…I still support her^__^

    More power to you kawada-san^__^


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