Since Aibu still hasn’t fixed his internet, and I’ve finally found some free time, I’m going to put in my thoughts:
Second Full-length Album
The second I’ve album of the year comes quickly after the first, Mami Kawada’s incredible SAVIA. Does it measure up? Depends on what you’re after really. If, like me, you couldn’t wait to hear more of the mysterious and moving style of composition that made Endless Loop and O some of Eiko’s most powerful music to date, you/I will be a bit disappointed. Even those who don’t mind Eiko’s softer and simpler tracks from her non-I’ve releases might feel a bit underwhelmed by the new tracks on Hikarinadeshiko.
The Introduction track that opens the album is really just an extended opening of the title track, and probably would have been part of the song if not for the PV. It’s really a lot sadder than the music would indicate, as the song revolves around the metaphorical concept of “hikari nadeshiko” which, for those who didn’t pick up my subtle hint a couple of posts is a kind of traditional handmade sparkler that sparks for a bit and dies out after a minute. The PV shows the sparkler in passing, as well as the similarly metaphorical shooting star. The sorrow of the song speaks strongly through Eiko’s voice, but the arrangement just doesn’t fit. Still a beautiful song.
After a similarly melancholy all alone, Eiko seems to retract from I’ve over ATLANTE and Kanransha. The former is a pretty little hymn that flares up in the middle, but doesn’t reach the intensity of similar tracks on O like Taiyou and Mune no Cross. Eiko’s voice seems to dominate ATLANTE and the rest of the tracks like her early works, instead of the interplay between arrangement and vocals that make I’ve arrangements so accessible for non-Japanese listeners. Speaking of which, I can’t understand Kanransha. Yes, SORMA No. 1 is credited as arranger, but let me tell you, this isn’t I’ve. I have heard dating sim background musics that are more complex and much more interesting than this. If songs like Higurashi and Endless Loop are roller coasters, Kanransha is well, a ferris wheel: unless you’re actually on a date or in a relationship and can enjoy the simple joint solitude of an otherwise unremarkable attraction, you’re going to be bored to tears. Needless to say, I’m probably skipping this track in the future.
Scheherezade shocks me for two reasons: one, they actually spelled Scheherezade correctly and two, Eiko has never attempted to sound so seductive (feel free to disagree, of course). Not shocking is Eiko’s utter mangling of “velvet bed” which echoes in the intro, despite its intriguing rhythm. I admire the somewhat Arabic arrangement, but there’s just something so unfinished about it, like the story is there, but some of the spirit is missing.
Naraku no hana, plenty has been said about that song.
This version of Aoi Kajitsu that follows it is a completely new version, re-recorded vocals and all. It’s the better for it, really, even though it still doesn’t quite measure up too well. I would have never guessed the Engrish thrown in at the end of the chorus, either. FLOW, as I may have mentioned before, is far happier and non-spiritual as I had expected when I first saw SORMA No. 1’s credit on the B-Side of the Naraku no Hana single. The song that sullied the single has surprisingly redeemed the album, somewhat. Compared to the other two tracks by the same arranger, this sounds so much more representative than Eiko.
Why can’t I help but feel that the Oriental instrument that enters in the beginning of Asunaru no Ki is so damn cliche? Feels as authentic as a Chinese buffet, but that’s probably just me. The song is just fine, appropriately quiet and soothing, which affirms to me that at least Eiko can still do that.
Consider Juuyon no Tsuki, and consider the previous song. Yeah, big difference.
Maiko Iuchi’s contribution to the album is Haru Michiru, and while I won’t say it’s the most unimpressive song on the album (that goes to Kanransha), one has to feel somewhat confused by the arrangement, as if the notes were there, the intention was there, but the execution ended up jumbled and disorientating.* Not as cringe-inducing as SAVIA’s dream, but still a mess. And yes, that is French thrown in for good measure.
The last track is the Ozone version of Ai no Uta, which like Juuyon no Tsuki, seems far separated from the rest of the album by its 2003-era I’ve arrangement. Makes me wonder what Uchuu no Hana (e) will sound like when it is inevitably placed into Eiko’s next album.
I can’t help but notice that this and the Juuyon no Tsuki are so much more satisfying than the rest of the album, title track and Naraku no Hana excepted. What I loved so much about O is the otherworldly feel of nearly all of its tracks, and I really expected Eiko to follow this trend into the rest of her music, which is why I can’t say I like Hikarinadeshiko as a whole, and I would anticipate that those who became fans through Naraku no Hana and Higurashi won’t like this album either. Apart from the title track, none of the new tracks stand out as being good, and Kanransha stands out as incredibly lifeless.
About the packaging: I suppose the packaging says it better than I could. On the outer box, the I’ve logo appears twice: one the spine and the top. The booklet you see is a matte-paper booklet containing the handwritten lyrics to the song Hikarinadeshiko and watercolors by artist 三城きよ (Kiyo Miki). Like the rest of the album, it is a very simple construction, emanating more from folksy Eiko than the witch persona that I’ve may or may not have fabricated for her and contradicts the reassurances that this is indeed an I’ve-produced album. Could Geneon give Eiko a hand? Doesn’t seem like it. The DVD contains nothing but the PV that you can already find in a dozen places on various youtube-type sites and on BARKS.
*Almost made a self-reference there. Aibu should be back in full form soon, hopefully.