Shimatani Hitomi [Flare] (Seventh Album)

October 18, 2008

Ame no Hi ni wa Ame no Naka wo Kaze no Hi ni wa Kaze no Naka wo (雨の日には 雨の中を 風の日には 風の中を; In the Rain When It’s Raining, In the Wind When It’s Windy)
Shinku (深紅; Deep Crimson)
Nakitai Nara (泣きたいなら; If I Want To Cry)
Taiyou no Flare (太陽のFlare; Sun’s Flare)
Shake it up!
Neva Eva
Ai no Uta (Strings Version) (愛の詩<Strings version>; Poem of Love)

The album starts off with the mellow track Heavenly. I expected this song to be a little more than what it was, and as it stands its a pretty weak album opener. The song despite it being rather breezy and charming, is also very bland and seems boring even though I didn’t get bored once while listening to it. The arrangement is sub par compared to what I’m used to from Hitomi, usually her arrangements are very creative and majestic, this one is pretty basic and lamely sparkly. Hitomi’s vocals were good, but they seemed very uninspired to me. I do like this song, for some reason its easy-going-ness is very appealing to me.

The next track is the odd Start. This song just really confuses me, because I want to like it, but I really just can’t. The arrangement is nonsense, its really all over the place and so are Hitomi’s rather bored vocals. I mean for some reason this song just came across as very off-key to me, like the arrangement was moving quicker than her vocals and vice versa it was all very strange. I expected this song to be a lot more, but just like the previous track it played like some generic soap opera music from the 90’s.

The next track is the song with the longest title ever, Ame no Hi ni wa Ame no Naka wo Kaze no Hi ni wa Kaze no Naka wo (雨の日には 雨の中を 風の日には 風の中を; In the Rain When It’s Raining, In the Wind When It’s Windy). The length of this title is really just absurd and every time I look at it, I want to ask why she felt the need to make it so lengthy? Anyways, this track is like the epiphany of generic 90’s summertime pop, at its most average. I thought the arrangement was nice, very windy and easy-going, its the type of beat that a make you smile for no good reason. Hitomi’s vocals were very light, she sounded free to me and a little sad. I did like her vocals in this though. I mean, this song is painfully mediocre but I like it, its a really charming song in my opinion.

The next track is the lovely Dita. I did not really pay much attention to this song when I first heard it, but its actually quite a good song, and a very danceable one at that. I mean it has a lovely Caribbean like flare to it, that makes you think of clear skies and a blue, blue sea. I could just imagine myself dancing across a ballroom floor in a beautiful, long flowing off the shoulders dress. Hitomi’s tones were light as well in this, but they fit in perfectly giving the song a very easy and enjoyable sound.

The next track on the album is the very adventure RPG-sounding Shinku (深紅; Deep Crimson). I first heard this song a while back, a long while back actually, and I remember I really liked the song but I hated the video. I thought the arrangement was a bit dark and very old-timey in its Spanish flare. It gave me the impression of a Spanish Western. I love Hitomi’s vocals in this song especially during the chorus, it seemed like she was really getting into the song and feeling it and it was like ‘this is the Hitomi i’m used to hearing!’

The next track is the down-tempo Nakitai Nara (泣きたいなら; If I Want To Cry). When I first heard this song, I thought it was boring and refused to listen to again. I did, and I actually found myself enjoying it the second time around and absolutely falling in love with its accompanied b-side. This song is very anti-climactic and still very boring. It never really goes anywhere, and it gives me the impression of ‘beige’ its just there. Hitomi’s vocals are nice but I did expect a bit more. The arrangement was OK, but just like her vocals I didn’t too much like it. The beat never drew me into the song, but for some reason made me feel cold. I still like this track though, its a decent listen.

The next track is the light-sounding Dear…. We’re presented with yet another down-tempo track and one that I surprisingly found myself enjoying this second time around. Yes, its srill quite a boring and mediocre song, but its mellow and crisp flow really make it interesting. The arrangement is very Hitomi typical, but a little watered down. It gives you the atmosphere of being somewhere infinitly beautiful with the one you love and I like that. Hitomi’s vocals were light and warm. I thought this was a nice song, even if it isn’t very memorable.

Next up is the albums title track Taiyou no Flare (太陽のFlare; Sun’s Flare). Well, its close enough. I actually expected this song to be a lot more epic than what it was, but I did enjoy it a lot more this second time around. The arrangement was very airy and breezy, it was almost like stepping through a sheen of water and the wind hitting your face soon after, its a very exhilarating feeling. Hitomi’s vocals were rather warm and light, but nothing really special. This is an average yet decent song.

The next track is the generic WAKE YOU UP. At least Ame… was somewhat enjoyable, this song is just annoying. I can’t believe Hitomi thought this was good enough to release as a single, but its no surprise seeing as how all her Flare era singles were weak with the exception of Shinku. The arrangement is forgettable throwback 90’s trash, and Hitomi’s vocals are grating and uninspired. The only thing I liked was the backing vocals, which made this song a tad bit interesting, or intriguing enough to keep me from pressing the ‘next’ button.

The next track is the mid-tempo Shake it up!. I actually expected this song to be a lot faster than what it was. I can not believe I went from not caring about this song to actually finding it mildly enjoyable. I mean nothing HAPPENS! It stays at the same pace arrangement wise and vocal wise. There’s no rise in the beat, no tone changes, nothing. I just think its a very simple song, and I think that’s why I find myself somewhat liking it.

The next track is the lack luster Neva Eva. I really dislike this song, its just so bad. Its takes everything about Spanish music that Hitomi made good and turns it bad, and I’m not really sure how she managed to do that. The arrangement is all over the place, I couldn’t even be bothered to care about it, it sounded like some amateur salsa party music or something. Hitomi’s vocal performance was forgettable and grating. This song just fails on every conceivable level.

The second to last track is the plain Marvelous. I don’t like this song, but I do like the arrangement. It has a very somber vibe going for, but at the same time its also a very inspiring and hopeful beat. Hitomi’s vocals aren’t really my cup of tea, but it wasn’t a bad performance. I just felt that she should have put more emotion and feeling into this song, it just didn’t seem like she cared. I like this song more as an instrumental, the song really does nothing for me.

The last track on the album is a bonus, Ai no Uta (Strings Version) (愛の詩<Strings version>; Poem of Love). I really did love this song when I heard it as the accompanying b-side to Shinku and I still love it now. The strings add more depth and emotion to the song, making it a sweeping ballad of longing and love. This is really a gorgeous song, and Hitomi’s lilting vocals really did this song justice. A very nice album closure.

Rating: * star

Shimatani Hitomi’s latest album Flare is a huge disappointment. I’m not exactly sure what was going through her mind while she was doing this album, (or releasing the singles for that matter) but it obviously wasn’t on the music. Prima Rosa was a solid album, and I thought it could only get better, since I can’t recall once being disappointed with a Hitomi album even if I didn’t so much like Prima Rosa when I first heard it. Everything about this album from the arrangement to her vocal performances was uninspired, lazy, average and ultimately forgettable. I found myself liking this album a lot more during this second listen, because when I first heard this, I absolutely loathed it, now I just simply dislike it. Flare does not emit that majestic Hitomi air that I’ve grown to associate with her music. The ballads weren’t sweeping jewels, but boring lumps of coal. The up-tempo tracks weren’t epic, infectious and highly danceable, but lank and lacking emotion and drive. I guess it has something to do with the fact that Hitomi isn’t really selling at all, which I think is a shame because before this she was making some top-notch music–I guess along with her sales, her passion for making creative and memorable music has died also. I do hope to hear the old her again.


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