Shimatani Hitomi [Heart & Symphony] (Fifth Album)

April 25, 2009

Sky High
Falco
真昼の月 (Mahiru no Tsuki; midday moon)
沙羅双樹 (Sara Souju; sal tree)
Salvia
Garnet Moon
Mona Lisa
kokoro (heart)
Mermaid
太陽神 (Taiyou Shin; sun god)
voice
フレーム (Frame)
Viola (crossover version)

The album starts off with the exhilarating Sky High. I’ve always thought this was a great song and with the exception of Flare Shimatani always manages to start her albums off with a bang. This song is quite refreshing and gives you such a high feeling of flying through the sky, or free falling. The arrangement is classical laced with techno and the result was rather flashy and engaging, because I paid attention to it more than Shimatani. Ah, Shimatani’s vocal performance was nice, no complaints there, I definitely loved it when her voice seemed to fade as she got into it, it always leaves an impression when artists do that. This was such a good start to the album.

The next track on the album is the somewhat suspenseful Falco. I say that because this is the type of song that should make your blood rush and your heart race, but it never quite manages it. The arrangement sounds like whooshing air, I’m serious. I’d say it should be the theme to a game series, but I’ll regulate it to some sort of fantasy anime, since ‘sky high’ sounds more like a game theme. Its an all right arrangement, it just doesn’t leave much of an impression. Shimatani’s vocal performance was decent, but I recall hearing it mostly during the chorus, which was suppose to sound climactic, but I wasn’t moved. I don’t know, this isn’t a bad song, but it could have been so much more, it tries, but doesn’t quite succeed. I did like the chorus though (maybe it’ll grow on me).

The next track on the album slows things down with 真昼の月 (Mahiru no Tsuki; midday moon). Ah, what a gorgeous song. It made me think of Maaya’s ‘afternoon repose’ as it just moves through you and makes you smile. The piano arrangement is lovely and the added sparkle sounds were a nice touch. Shimatani’s vocals are beautiful in this, so warm and full of love. I just really enjoyed listening to this, its like ‘take me home’ all over again.

The next track on the album continues the slow pace with 沙羅双樹 (Sara Souju; sal tree). I have no clue what a ‘sal tree’ is. This track is just as gorgeous as the last, but sounds a bit more ancient. The arrangement is rather quiet in simple, it doesn’t flow out at you, but moves through you, so its felt. Shimatani’s vocals were very soft and placating and it was just a nice vocal performance all around. This is another good down-tempo track from her.

The next track on the album is the light Salvia. I actually had to listen to this song twice, because it didn’t really do anything for me the first time. The second time it played a bit better. The arrangement is rather gorgeous, it sounds like a traditional flute and makes me think of Fushigi Yuugi and cold nights. Shimatani’s vocals are a bit heartbreaking to me, but I think that’s because of her tone and because despite how calming this song is, it does give off an adept feeling of longing and loneliness.

The next track on the album brings the pace back up with Garnet Moon. The title is quite pretty, though it does make me vaguely think of Princess Garnet from Final Fantasy IX. Its like a different more up-tempo version of the previous. The arrangement sounds like something you’d here in an arcade, only with a lot more class. Shimatani has done better vocal performances, but it was decent. This track isn’t really all that interesting, but maybe it’ll grow on me.

The next track on the album is Mona Lisa. This song plays a bit like ‘garnet moon’ and ‘salvia’ combined. The arrangement is pretty dramatic at the start and somewhat throughout and it kind a made me think of horse back riding ala LOTR’s style. Shimatani’s vocals are good, as usual. Hmm? This song didn’t turn out quite like I expected it to, because it caught my attention, but didn’t really succeed in engaging me. I still like it though and I feel as if it will grow on me.

The next track on the album is the down-tempo kokoro (heart). You can toss this into the typical ballad pile, but its a rather nice one either way. The arrangement is a simple and elegant piano and violin piece that made me think of the Disney instrumentals. Shimatani’s vocal performance was soft and lovely and definitely kept the pace of the track at a serene flow. This song doesn’t stand out and she has way better ballads than this, but I liked it for what it was.

The next track on the album brings the pace back up with Mermaid. This is a pretty dramatic and somewhat dark song. The arrangement at the beginning is some truly Transylvania type organ music and then she goes right into the beat, which manages to keep a creepy Halloween type vibe throughout especially with all the ghostly ‘oh’ing’. Shimatani’s vocal performance was pretty much on point; pretty hard-hitting. I think I expected this song to be more flowing, but I like the twist and how it invokes an atmosphere of dark water crashing against a foreboding and rocky cliff. This also makes me think of Vampire Knight.

The next track on the album is 太陽神 (Taiyou Shin; sun god). I don’t know, with a title that translates to ‘sun god’ I think I just expected more. The song isn’t bad, but it just doesn’t really stand out much at all. The arrangement sounds a bit techno, or bass-driven, but I like the freshness of it. Shimatani’s vocal performance was also nice. I guess I liked the flow of it, but there’s not much to say in regards to it as it doesn’t sound any different from ‘salvia’, ‘garnet moon’ or even ‘mona lisa’.

The next track on the album brings on the ambiance with voice. This song gives off such an atmosphere of fantasy. The arrangement is pretty sweet, I really liked how folk and Irish and mildly epic it sounded. It also gave me the impression of a woman dancing barefoot wearing a flowing white dress. Shimatani’s vocals are gorgeous, because they always are, even so I liked the arrangement more. This track would have been perfect as the intro to a fantasy anime movie, or movie in general.

The next track on the album is the inspirational sounding フレーム (Frame). This played like the obligatory thank-you song and its pretty refreshing as it doesn’t sound like anything I haven’t heard before, but it has enough going for it to keep it interesting. The arrangement was nice, though it did play like one of those insert scenes to a climactic part in a movie. Shimatani’s vocal performance was good as well, she seemed really into the song, I especially loved when she would say: ‘arigatou’ Hmm? This track does seem to fade, but its likable and would have been a good ending to the album.

The last track on the album is the bonus Viola (crossover version). This song played a lot smoother than I thought it would and so I will assume that the original is a tad bit quicker than this in pace. The arrangement is rather simple, but fitting, I mean it doesn’t particularly jump out and grab your attention like most of her arrangements, but its a decent listen. Shimatani gave a nice and rather safe vocal performance. This track is pretty mild and mellow compared to the original, but they both offer pretty much the same in quality.

-GRADE: B
Rating: ** stars

Shimatani Hitomi’s fifth album Heart & Symphony was pretty good, but pretty safe at the same time. Its almost like you’ve heard it all on ‘love letter’ so by the time you get to this the novelty has worn off. That doesn’t mean that this isn’t a good album, if you ignore ‘flare’ Shimatani does not have a bad album and they always have enough variety going for them to keep you interested. I enjoyed the more down-tempo tracks more than say the up or the mid-tempo’s, because its just something about Shimatani’s voice that makes them sound so good. I would have to say she does her more up-tempo tracks a lot more justice and that’s the sound I would like to hear from her more often than not, but on this album with the exception of ‘sky high’ they all just seemed to bleed into each other and sound the same. I mean I honestly expected ‘falco’, ‘garnet moon’, ‘mona lisa’ and most definitely ‘mermaid’ to play a bit better than they did and be a lot more memorable than they were. Heart & Symphony is a nice listen, but its her most safest and average album since ‘papillion’.

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