Otsuka Ai [LOVE JAM] (Second Album)

December 23, 2008

スーパーマン (Suupaaman; Superman)
Happy Days
Strawberry Jam
大好きだよ。 (Daisuki Da yo.; I Love You.)
扇子 (Sensu; Fan)
妄想チョップ (Mousou Choppu; Crazy Chop)
ポンポン (Pon Pon)
ふたつ星記念日 (Futatsuboshi Kinenbi; Two Stars Remembrance Day)
金魚花火 (Kingyo Hanabi; Goldfish Firework)
黒毛和牛上塩タン焼735円” (Kuroge Wagyuu Joushio Tan Yaki 735 En) (Salty Grilled Tongue of Black Cow 735 En)
フレンズ (Furenzu; Friends)

The album starts off with the quirky スーパーマン (Suupaaman; Superman). I guess its customary for Ai-chan albums to begin with a bang. Well, this is one bang I can do without. I’m not saying its a bad song,  I actually love the Ai songs that sound like she was on a high when recording them, but this just goes completely over my head. The sound effects, Ai-chan’s weird vocal performance, the rush of the arrangement; its just all too much and does nothing to keep my attention. I mean, ‘Oh My God!’ my sentiments exactly, random guy voice.

The next track is the asinine Happy Days. Goodness, I hate this song. You know those songs that just, when you hear them, you have this sudden urge to kill yourself? Well, that would be this song. Its so annoying that I just can’t stand it! I really can’t. I’m so glad I’ll never have to endure listening to it again… hopefully.

The next track on the album is the jazzy Strawberry Jam. I did not expect this song to go this way, I actually thought it was going to be another cutesy, acid-trip type song. Its actually pretty mellow, thank-goodness. The arrangement is the best part about this song, the trumpets add such a soulful atmosphere to this track that really just absorbs you. Ai-chan’s vocals are pretty nice.

The next track on the album is my favorite Ai song, 大好きだよ。 (Daisuki Da yo.; I Love You.). I really just love this song to death. The arrangement is so moody, and just oozes of an unfulfilled love. Ai-chan’s vocals are pretty good, she put a lot of emotion into her voice, and though it becomes a bit taxing because of the hi-pitch of it, you find that you can overlook that fact and just enjoy the song for what it is… a weepy ballad of love. This is her best ballad, in my opinion.

The next track on the album is the sort of there 扇子 (Sensu; Fan). Hmm? This song isn’t very interesting, and I honestly didn’t expect it to be as mellow as it is. The arrangement was fitting, pretty dramatic as it took the song out. I liked the drums. Ai’s vocals were pretty controlled, high still, but controlled. This is an all right song, though not one that is very memorable.

The next track on the album is the techy 妄想チョップ (Mousou Choppu; Crazy Chop). I had to listen to this song twice, because I had to make sure I didn’t like it. The arrangement is catchy, and the only thing about this song that stood out. Ai’s vocals weren’t bad, but they were annoying in a, ‘let’s repeat things in an irritating in muffled techno-style voice’  and it just got annoying way too fast. I more often then not really dislike Ai-chan’s quirkier songs, because though unique, they just rub me the wrong way. This song is just pointless.

The next track on the album is the frantic ポンポン (Pon Pon). No surprise, this is your typical Ai-chan acid trip, equipped with a chaotic and frenzied arrangement, that makes you feel as if you’re on a roller coaster and a high-pitched and squeaky vocal performance chock full of annoyance, that flows together and leaves you twitching for some ibuprofen.

The next track on the album thankfully slows the pace down with, ふたつ星記念日 (Futatsuboshi Kinenbi; Two Stars Remembrance Day). This was a nice song. The arrangement is very easy-going and flowing, and really gives off this feeling of remembering happier times. Ai-chan’s vocals were controlled, though still child-ish, it brought a lot of charm to this song and made it an enjoyable listen.

The next track on the album is the down-tempo 金魚花火 (Kingyo Hanabi; Goldfish Firework). This is such a good ballad from Ai-chan. I love how the arrangement is so dramatic in twinkly in such a quiet way, it really moves through you. Ai’s vocal performance was really good and sorrowful, she put a bit of emotion into this song to make it quite the heartfelt little track. I still think Daisuki Da yo is her best ballad, but this one is definitely up there.

The second to last track on the album is the oddly titled 黒毛和牛上塩タン焼735円” (Kuroge Wagyuu Joushio Tan Yaki 735 En) (Salty Grilled Tongue of Black Cow 735 En). Why does a title that translates to, ‘salty grilled tongue of black cow, 735 en’ sound so nostalgic and sad? I always go into this song thinking its going to be one warped piece of mind-numb-ing-ness, but I always come out pleasantly surprised. This is a nice soothing track, with a really good vocal performance from Ai.

The last track on the album is one of the infamous ‘friendship’ songs that I love. フレンズ (Furenzu; Friends) was a nice little down-tempo song to leave the album on. I loved the slow pace of it, mostly the verses and how she took the song out. I like how her voice rose a bit during the chorus, even if she did sound a bit weird, she certainly put a lot of personality into this song to keep you interested and somewhat moved.

-GRADE: B
Rating: ** stars

Otsuka Ai’s second album LOVE JAM was a pretty good album, but most definitely a step down from LOVE PUNCH. I gave this album a solid B despite me liking the majority of the songs on here, because it just isn’t memorable in my opinion. Its like the album left no impression whatsoever on me, and I found myself mostly bored while listening to it, which is a bit of a downer because Ai-chan’s albums–normally–really keep me entertained. This one didn’t and I found it a bit hard to review as well, not really, but if you don’t enjoy listening to an album you’re not going to enjoy writing about it either. I absolutely hated her trademark ‘sugar high’ songs, and this is the first and only album so far (I have yet to listen to LOVE LETTER) that I did not like at least one of them. The down-tempo songs in the end is what save this album from falling into the realm of mediocrity, since they were top-notch, especially Daisuki Da yo. and Kingyo Hanabi. LOVE JAM was an all right album, but compared to the greatness that is her first album, this could have really been just so much better.

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