Posts Tagged ‘Chihiro Onitsuka’

Chihiro Onitsuka [Sugar High] (Third Album)

January 30, 2009

Not Your God*
Koe (Voice)
Rebel Luck
Tiger in My Love
Castle Imitation (Album Version)
Hyouryū no Hane (Drifting Shuttleclock)
Suna No Tate (Sand Shield)
King Of Solitude
Borderline
Castle Imitation

The album starts off with the intro-song Not Your God. This song is rather powerful in a sense. It has Chihiro singing in English (her English isn’t really that bad in this), backed up by a piano. Its pretty good.

The next track on the album is the awe-inspiring Koe (Voice). This is the type of song that really just goes straight through you in such a profound way. I like how subtle the arrangement is, its there but it doesn’t overpower even when Chihiro’s voice rises, it compliments her vocals perfectly. Chihiro’s vocal performance was really quite good, she gave off the right amount of emotion, her voice sounding wistful but strong at the same time. It just absorbs you. I love how the song seems to display an inner strength that gives off such a feeling of hope, it really does sound like a voice.

The next track on the album is the somber Rebel Luck. This song is really heart-breaking to me. I’ve always thought of this as being one of her more up in the tempo songs, so it tends to take me by surprise when it comes on and the pace is very slow and nearly mournful. The arrangement consists of a piano, that plays so well despite not doing much of anything and is seemingly playing the same notes over and over. Chihiro’s vocal performance in this song is very touching, I love the sure way in which she sung this, not doing more than what was necessary and that made this song all the more felt.

The next track on the album is the mid-tempo Tiger in My Love. This is a pretty interesting song from Chihiro, but it does kind of remind me of the original version of ‘shine’ and ‘little beat rifle’ only less boring and with more of an edge. The arrangement is a combination of the piano and drums and both really just pounds into you, it seems to be such heart behind them. Chihiro’s vocals were pretty strong in this, but at the same time a bit exasperating. I use to really dislike this song, but its grown on me.

The next track on the album is the somewhat dramatic Castle Imitation (Album Version). This is a really great song, I mean its just so powerful in a quiet way. The arrangement is one moving piano piece, I just really felt so moved by it, it really seemed to embody the harsh atmosphere of the song. This is also one of Chihiro’s best and most meaningful vocal performances to date, I mean when she sings the chorus its just so felt. I really can’t be in a down type of mood while listening to this, because honestly it would bring me to tears. Chihiro’s voice and the whole vibe of the song just comes across as so very painful to me and it makes me think of regret.

The next track on the album keeps the somewhat down-tempo tracks coming with Hyouryū no Hane (Drifting Shuttleclock). This is another good song from Chihiro, but I don’t think its one of her more stronger tracks that stand out. This features a nice and very fitting piano arrangement as well, which creates an atmosphere of being swept up by the wind. I felt cold listening to it and I think that was an appropriate feeling. Chihiro’s vocals are great in this, especially during the chorus. I’ll admit the song tends to get a bit exasperating towards the end, because its not long but it felt long to me for some reason and it ends kind of abruptly.

The next track on the album is the wistful Suna No Tate (Sand Shield). This is one of the first songs I believe I heard by Chihiro and honestly it just goes through me. The arrangement sounds like the wind, it really does, it was almost like I could hear the wind blowing over me and whispering to me, it made the whole atmosphere of the song very depressing. Chihiro’s vocals were nice, I mean for a song like this, she sung in a high tone and I think it was really appropriate. This song seems to talk of pain and longing and gave me the impression of someone giving up.

The next track on the album is the rather depressing King Of Solitude. This is one of my favorite song titles, it really makes you think. This is also one of my favorite Chihiro tracks and one of the first I heard by her. I never really understood the depth of this song until I watched the video, it made me think of the 1800’s with all the still shots and how everything just looked and seemed so old and lost to time, its one of my favorite videos because it really seemed to reflect the song. The arrangement is the piano and it plays rather somberly throughout, but it is one of the most fitting arrangements I’ve ever heard. Chihiro’s voice sounded sad, though she strained a bit I still always find myself hanging off her every word. This song always makes me feel so heavy.

The next track on the album is the rather powerful Borderline. This is a song that though good in its own right, after a while becomes a bit underwhelming. That doesn’t mean it isn’t good, it just means that I’m not as awed by it as I once was. This song is right up there with ‘gekkou’ and ‘infection’ in terms of intensity vocal wise. Chihiro gives a solid performance and I mean you really can’t help but feel everything she is saying, especially when she reaches the climax. This song use to really move me, it still does.

The last full track on the album is Castle Imitation. This is the regular version and honestly this is one of the first times I’ve ever preferred an album version over the original. This is still good, but it lacks the emotional intensity and depth of the album version.

The last track quite absurdly is an instrumental of Castle Imitation. What? Why!?

-GRADE: B
Rating: ** stars

Chihiro Onitsuka’s third album Sugar High is a good album, but that is really no surprise. However, I gave it a B because it offers nothing we haven’t already heard from her, its too short with only nine tracks eight excluding the regular version of ‘castle imitation’ and because there are three different versions of the same song in one is an instrumental. The stand-out track is without a doubt ‘king of solitude’ and Chihiro, though the album is brief had some really solid tracks on here and I found that I enjoyed them all. Sugar High is Chihiro’s last album that displays her powerful vocals (before she had her throat surgery) and though I felt she could have done more with it, it still stands out as one of her best albums.

Chihiro Onisuka [LAS VEGAS] (Fourth Album)

November 15, 2008

Sweet Rosemary
bad trip
Rou no Tsubasa (蝋の翼; Wings of Wax)
Bokura Barairo no Hibi (僕等 バラ色の日々; Our Rose Coloured Days)
amphibious
MAGICAL WORLD (Album Version)
A Horse and A Queen
Rainman
Angelina
BRIGHTEN US
everyhome

The album starts off with the down-tempo Sweet Rosemary. This is a really calming song, and I like that it was at the start of the album, because it puts you in such a thoughtful and reflective mood, that really makes you anticipate the rest of the album. The arrangement is a nice soft piano melody, that really moves you and gives off a very somber and fragile air. Chihiro’s vocals are slow-paced and light, and she gives you time to soak in the song and creates a very soothing if not sad air. Its a lovely song, and the perfect start to a rather quiet album.

The next track is the down-tempo and rather forlorn bad trip. When I first heard this song, it really blew me away. Chihiro sings this song in all English, not good English, since you can only understand what she is saying half the time, but I thought she did well enough. One part that really stood out to me was this line: ‘your red vibration reaches into my castle’ for some reason that line is just so powerful to me, and it really wrenches my heart. The arrangement is very heavy, it really is, its so dark and moody and really makes you feel like you’re on a lonely stretch of road going nowhere. Chihiro’s vocals were good as well, her voice held a quiet strength, letting each word she uttered felt. I love the line: ‘it looks like a bad trip to me’ It just reminds me of being caught up in a situation that even though you don’t know the outcome, you just know its not going to be good, but even though, you’re going to face it.

The next track is the nostalgic sounding Rou no Tsubasa (蝋の翼; Wings of Wax). This song isn’t really all that interesting, but its a really good and meaningful song. The arrangement is really nice and simple, I liked how it was so basic but didn’t really feel like it was. Chihiro’s vocals were kind of weak, but I thought she did a good job. This song has such a old time nostalgic feel about it, its like a song that makes you think back on when you were a kid and  how you would gaze at the sky wishing you could sprout wings and fly. It leaves you with a feeling of detachment and the sad fading of a dream.

The next track on the album is the quietly epic Bokura Barairo no Hibi (僕等 バラ色の日々; Our Rose Coloured Days). This song really had the potential to be another Gekkou or infection. However, the arrangement though dark and atmospheric is just not powerful enough. It also gave me the feeling of being swept up by the wind. Chihiro’s vocals as well just don’t get powerful enough, you can tell she is trying, but she just can’t do it and its all just so frustrating. This song though good, could have been a lot more emotionally moving and intense than it was, but Chihiro’s sadly weak vocal performance prevents that from happening.

The next track it the ridiculous amphibious. I’m all for experimenting with new sounds, and bringing new things music wise to the table, it adds variety and keeps the artist interesting, since we already know what to expect. When I first heard this song, I couldn’t believe that it was actually Chihiro singing this, though I’m not surprised. This song is awful and she drops the F-bomb a ridiculous amount of times, but you wouldn’t even notice because her English doesn’t sound like English… at all. I thought the arrangement was messy, I really didn’t like it. Chihiro’s vocals were very strained and weak and I know its not her fault, but it really drags this song down, because you’re just wishing she would put more energy into this song, and perhaps save it from mediocrity. I hope the next time Chihiro decides to experiment with different musical genres, she does a better job, because this song is just awful bad, and forgettable.

The next track on the album is the down-tempo MAGICAL WORLD (Album Version). I loved this song from the first moment I heard it, right after I heard everyhome back when it was announced that Chihiro was coming back after a long absence. The arrangement is really nice, and definitely sounds magical and soothing on the ears. I thought Chihiro’s fragile vocals really worked with this song, because it doesn’t ask for too much. I love the whole flow an vibe of this song, especially the chorus, which really makes you wish magical men truly did exist. This is definitely one of my favorites, I never get tired of this song.

The next track on the album is the old sounding A Horse and A Queen. I mean its true that this song was suppose to be featured on her second album, This Armor but was pulled. I think it would have played better on that album though, because it just seems so out of place and bland on this one. The arrangement sounds very cowboy like, I can’t really explain it, but its not necessarily a bad thing. Chihiro’s vocals are pretty weak and baseless. I couldn’t connect with her at all, and it really ruined this song for me. Its just really forgettable.

The next track on the album is the eccentric Rainman. I say eccentric, because this song is very different from anything I have ever heard from Chihiro. Her songs are never as straightforward as this one is, and I think I like the fact that this song separates itself from the rest. The arrangement is very light and chime-like. The main and probably only instrument was the piano, and its as simple as it gets. Chihiro’s vocals were very light as well, and it almost sounded like she was smiling. It seemed like this song allowed her to sound happy for once, instead of always sounding so sad and weighed down by pain. This song is somewhat cute and carefree, but still like all Chihiro’s songs, retains that element of melancholy.

The next track on the album is the odd Angelina. This song was done in honor of Angelina Jolie, how weird is that? Anyways, I always find myself at a standstill with this song. Its good, I like how dark and somber and moody the arrangement is, it goes well with Chihiro’s vocals, which are quite good, because this song doesn’t ask for too much. This song is pretty forgettable in a sense, because its so quiet and never does much of anything. It seems to just trickle along at a steady pace, the only thing standing out being the mild chorus. I still find that I like this song.

The second to last track is the interlude BRIGHTEN US. Its a nice inspirational little interlude, but Chihiro’s voice is weak and because there is no arrangement, its glaring. Not only that, but its a pretty forgettable interlude, and one that is harshly pointless.

The last track on the album is the intense everyhome. When I first heard this song, way back in early ’07, I believe. I remember being blown away, and so excited for her long-awaited return. The arrangement is just really powerful, and is very reminiscent of infection. In fact this whole song has that infection vibe to it, that makes it quite the powerful track. Chihiro’s vocals were the most controlled by far, you could hardly tell how weak her voice had gotten, and she really hit that high note at the end with a precision that was strangely absent on this album. I love how heavy this song is, but at the same time I love how it invokes a palpable sense of inner strength and desperate longing.

-GRADE: A-/B+
Rating: **1/2 stars

Chihiro’s Onitsuka’s fourth and latest album LAS VEGAS is pretty so-so. I must admit I was way confused by the name, and even though people say the album gives you a sense of having traveled, I didn’t get that feeling at all. I personally think this is not Chihiro’s worst album (she doesn’t really have one), but it is by far her weakest. I’ll admit she has a few good and very memorable songs on here: Sweet Rosemary, bad trip, Rou no Tsubasa, Bokura Barairo no Hibi, MAGICAL WORLD (Album Version), Rainmen and everyhome. That’s pretty much the whole album, because the rest are just forgettable in every sense of the word. Chihiro before she recorded this album, underwent throat surgery and that explains why her vocals are not as powerful as they once were. The change in the strength of her voice is very dramatic and unfortunate, because she had such an incredible voice and range. I’m not saying her voice is bad now, she can still carry a tune, but its lost that fire it had, and now sounds very weak and fragile. I thought Chihiro did her best though and I respect her immensely for that. It must have been painful, coming to terms with all the setbacks in her life and rising above them. LAS VEGAS was a great album when I first listened to it, and now its just simply a good one. I’m anticipating the fifth.

Chihiro Onitsuka [Hotaru (蛍; Firefly)] (14th Single)

November 14, 2008

Hotaru (蛍; Firefly)
HIDE AND SCREAM

Chihiro Onitsuka’s 14th single starts off with the a-side Hotaru (蛍; Firefly). This song has a very quiet and strained epic-ness to it, that makes it heart-breaking in a not so obvious way. I was thrilled when I found out that Chihiro was coming out with another single, and when I read the title, I could hardly wait to hear the song. Fireflies have always come across to me as very sad and very inspiring. The song is a very typical Chihiro ballad, I noticed that her vocal performance was not as strong as it once was, but I could tell that Chihiro was trying her hardest to convey and sing this song with a lot of emotion and I have to respect her for that. The arrangement sounded very familiar but even so I did enjoy the somber mood it invoked. This song is not as good as I thought it would be, for an a-side, especially an Chihiro a-side, its pretty weak. I still enjoyed it though.

The last track on the single is the b-side HIDE AND SCREAM. I actually enjoyed this b-side more than I enjoyed the a-side. The arrangement is a slow, lilting and somewhat dark piano melody, that really sets a moody and lonely atmosphere. It made me think of that Jewel song, You Were Meant For Me, it really sounded similar. Chihiro’s vocal performance in this song was a lot better, if only because it was a lot more clearer, and didn’t ask or need as much vocal-wise like the a-side did. This song comes across as very depressing to me, even though while Chihiro was singing, it sounded like she was smiling.

-GRADE: B+
Rating: ** stars

Chihiro’s Onitsuka’s 14th single Hotaru was pretty disappointing and pretty good at the same time. Hotaru was a good a-side, but a pretty weak one as well. HIDE AND SCREAM was a bit better, and in a sense sounded more like an a-side song, to me anyways. I really wish that Chihiro had put another song on here, just to round it out, but in the end it was a solid single.

Chihiro Onitsuka [Insomnia] (First Album)

September 16, 2008

Gekkou (Moonbeam)
Innocence
BACK DOOR (album version)
edge
We can go
call
Shine (album version)
Cage
Rasen (螺旋; Spiral)
Memai (眩暈; Dizzyness)
Gekkou (album version) (月光; Moonbeam)

The album starts off with Chihiro’s hit Gekkou (月光; Moonbeam). When I first heard this song a few years back I could remember clearly being very impressed by Chihiro’s sheer vocal prowess, and the lovely piano arrangement. Listening to this version on the album, it really underwhelms, it seems almost weak in a sense, like Chihiro’s vocals aren’t as powerful as I remember, and it creates a very dull atmosphere. I don’t know why that is though; it’s still a good song and perhaps the album version will be better. NOTE: This is still such a good song.

After a surprisingly dull album opener we go into the next track, Innocence. This is one of my favorite Chihiro songs, and one I wish was more popular than it is. I didn’t expect it to go the way it went, it started off slow and then Chihiro really kick starts the chorus, which is the best part of the song, that in the note she hits and holds towards the end. The song is dark, but doesn’t make that fact obvious–plus I love that quiet strength it carries.

Chihiro slows it down with the next track, BACK DOOR (album version). I really love this song because it doesn’t try to do more than it should, Chihiro keeps the same slow-pace going throughout the song, only picking up slightly during the chorus. The arrangement is very slow-paced and lovely, never overwhelming or distracting, but helping to bring Chihiro’s sorrowful vocals to life. I love when she sings, ‘where is the back door/where is the back door of myself?’, it makes sense when you think about it.

The next track is one I both like and dislike, edge. I love Chihiro’s vocals, which are strong and consistent; I don’t too much like the arrangement, which is very boring and stagnant. The chorus is the most interesting part of the song, but after awhile even that falls to the wayside, and the song just seems to trickle by without you noticing. It’s a song that you would expect to be very powerful, but it just after awhile becomes very dull and long-winded.

We pick up the pace a little with the next track, We can go. We finally get a break from the more dreary tracks, and into one a little more upbeat and summer-y. I’ve always loved We can go, because it is such a fun and inspirational song, with wonderful vocals, especially towards the end when Chihiro starts aud-libbing. My favorite line would have to be when she says: ‘We can go to the place, where we’re forgiven’, one of her best songs.

The pace slows down with the down-tempo track, call. This song is really sad, with an absolutely beautiful and atmospheric arrangement which just pulls you in, and envelopes you in sorrow. Chihiro’s vocals are just wonderful, she sings this song so sadly, and it really tugs at the heartstrings, especially the chorus, because her voice really sounds like a call. I love songs like this that set the mood, giving you one solid emotion without overdoing it.

The next track is one of my favorite Chihiro Onitsuka songs, though not this version: Shine. This is the original version, the one that in my opinion is utterly inferior to the version presented on her singles collection album, which has more ‘oomph!’ in my opinion. This version just seems to float along; Chihiro singing in a deeply repressed voice throughout, but it brings nothing but detachment. I mean you can feel the intensity, because Chihiro delivers it well, but after listening to the other version, this one just can not compare, and I’m left unsatisfied, and wishing there was more, wishing the song would pick up and stop dragging along. When I first heard this album, I was expecting to hear the song I had grown to love and even memorized! Imagine my discontent when this came on instead.

Next is a song by Chihiro I really love, Cage. It’s one of those songs that define Chihiro, like infection. It’s so raw, and beautiful in it’s despair. The instrumental is lovely, and has this sort of chime like vibe going for it, that really catches your attention. Chihiro’s vocal performance is just great, especially during the chorus, when her voice rises and is just a little breathy. You feel her emotions, so intense, bubbling to the surface, making the pain, evident. You feel trapped, but not for long. The song going out with the instrumental was just love.

Definitely a favorite of mine, is the next track, which keeps the somber mood Cage cast, going. Rasen (螺旋; Spiral). I just love how she sings the verses very slowly and precisely, and then picks it up just a tad during the chorus, which really hits you, ’cause it’s so very poignant. The instrumental gives you the feeling of walking along the side of the ocean on a dark and windy night, which makes the atmosphere of the song very aesthetic. It’s a beautiful and sad song: ‘life, my life, my fragile life, I’ve finally noticed it’ and then at the end she sings: ‘I’ve finally obtained it’. Rasen (螺旋; Spiral) is such a beautiful and heart-breaking, self-reflecting song; one of her best.

The second to last track is the somewhat uninteresting, Memai (眩暈; Dizzyness). I like the title, but I expected more of a warped feel. Instead it just seemed like a watered down version of call. I don’t know, maybe it’s the stale instrumental that just floats along and the fact that Chihiro’s voice though good, doesn’t really do anything, so it just gives you this lethargic type of feeling, that makes the song a bore. I was nearly put to sleep by the end of this song, or well, I did go to sleep, for a few seconds… it sucks actually, because I really wanted to like this song. It’s not really bad, just a sleeper.

The last track on the album is the album version of Gekkou which in my opinion isn’t any better than the original. In fact it’s even more uninspiring and plain. Chihiro slows the arrangement and her vocals way down, to the point of putting you to sleep. It’s like Shine all over again just with a different song. I can’t feel the emotion, and I’m wondering if my love for this song has diminished, it just doesn’t move me the way it did when I first heard it. This version was flat, and should have never been included on the album, it played like fodder.

-GRADE: B
Rating: ** stars

This is Chihiro’s debut album and I must say I’m a lot less enthused about it this time around, than I was when I first heard it. It’s a very slow-paced album, with a lot of somber songs; some that bore like Memai and edge, and some that inspire, like Cage and We can go. Chihiro has a wonderful voice, that when put to good use, is very powerful and really touches your soul. I love Chihiro because she is so different. Yes, there are a lot of J-singers that approach their music in the same way Chihiro does, but no one does it quite like she does, and that’s what separates her from the rest. Chihiro is definitely like a Japanese Jewel, and I can tell she gets her inspiration from her as well. I’ve always thought of Chihiro as a very sad woman, and she conveys that so accurately in her music. Insomnia could have been better, it really could have, but it’s not a bad album. I honestly feel like this album deserved to sell the million+ copies that it did, despite it not being as great as it should have been.

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