Ai Kawashima [Ashiato] (Third Album)

June 7, 2009

a.03

Kimi ni…..
My Love
Sakura Bojou
Crying (album version)
Someday
Kareshi
Sochuu Omimai Moushiagemasu
Akai Kutsu no Mimosa
Taisetsu na Yakusoku
Dreaming World
Kyuusei Shu
compass
Ashiato

The album starts off with Kimi ni…... I’m on the fence with this track, because I like it, but then again I don’t like it. The piano arrangement is nice if not predictable. Ai’s vocal performance on the other hand is just very hit or miss and mostly miss, I mean I don’t know what it is, or if its just me, but the tones she makes with her voice are just very annoying. It almost put me off this song completely, but I like the pace, the flow and its not really a bad song.

The next track on the album is the up-tempo My Love. I’m actually pretty surprised that this isn’t down-tempo, but it was a welcome change and so soon? The arrangement is pretty up-beat and sparkly, though just like the previous track, predictable and a bit anime-ish. Ai’s vocals weren’t as annoying thankfully, but she sounded rather odd trying to keep up with the music and I just didn’t buy it, it was a pretty tired vocal performance. This isn’t a bad song either, but unlike the first track, I don’t really care for this and can’t see myself listening to it again.

The next track on the album brings the pace back down with Sakura Bojou. This song seemed very long to me, but even though it seemed long I wasn’t ready for it to end, which is surprising seeing as how I’m talking about Kawashima here and I don’t really like her voice. The arrangement was calm, not anything interesting, but it went with the flow of the song and didn’t distract. Ai’s vocal performance was the usual, but I’m impartial to it in this track and thought she did a decent job.

The next track on the album is the down-tempo Crying (album version) This isn’t a bad song, but it just plays without being felt. The arrangement is a simple piano piece, but I thought it was a little too simple and the ‘ping’ sound I kept hearing was very distracting. Ai’s vocal performance was bearable in a sense, but I honestly didn’t care for it, it just passed over me. The chorus is basically the only part of this track that I somewhat remember. Its also longer than the previous, but thankfully just like ‘sakura bojou’ it didn’t seem long. I guess this is one of those songs that will have to grow on me, but I doubt I’ll be listening to it again.

The next track on the album calms things down with Someday. This song is pretty plain, but the flow is nice. The song didn’t really do anything arrangement wise and seemed to be there just to give the song something to stand on. Ai’s vocal performance was light and surprisingly nice. This song seemed long to me for some reason, which is strange because it is long, but it wasn’t long in a irritating way, but a ‘hmm? this song isn’t over yet’ way.

The next track on the album is Kareshi. This is quite possibly the most interesting song on this album so far. The arrangement is rather cute-sy in a mild way and even though it doesn’t do much it did keep the song interesting and a bit lively and upbeat. I thought Ai gave a pretty good and consistent vocal performance as well.

The next track on the album continues the breezy pace with Sochuu Omimai Moushiagemasu. This is another rather upbeat track that is nearly as interesting as the previous, if not moreso. I actually like the arrangement, not so much sparkly, but pretty nice and at one point it was a bit lovely? I thought Ai’s vocal performance was fine, she did sound like she was just getting over a cold, because her vocals had this strangely weak tone to them, but otherwise I found it bearable.

The next track on the album is the smooth Akai Kutsu no Mimosa. I actually really like this and it stood out, by not really standing out at all. The arrangement is very lounge and blue-sy and it made me think of smoke. I loved how laid-back and sensual it was. Ai’s vocals were surprisingly nice, I actually had no problems with her in that department. This was a pretty cool track.

The next track on the album keeps the down-tempo pace going with Taisetsu na Yakusoku. Well… this is a rather uneventful track. I actually thought I was going to like it, because it started off on a somewhat good note and then it just went nowhere and fast. This is such a tedious listen. The heard it a thousand times before arrangement just dragged and Ai’s vocal performance made me think of YUI, it was so monotonous. This song is boring and too long to have nothing going for it.

The next track on the album is the whimsical Dreaming World. I’m really surprised that this song was a bit over four minutes, because it honestly played like a six minute song. This is a track that you don’t really pay attention to, but you think is a pretty all right song once it fades. The arrangement is typically sparkly, but its of course fitting. Ai’s vocals were decent, it did seem like she was trying to sound dreamy a lot, by elongating on certain parts in the song and I thought that was kind a annoying and weird, but otherwise it was a fine vocal performance. The choir that came in towards the end was nice as well.

The next track on the album is the nice Kyuusei Shu. This song also seems longer than it actually is. I actually quite like this. The arrangement is the most interesting I’ve heard on this album, the smooth Jazz like qualities of it really appealed to my ears and put me in a very serene almost blissful mood. Ai’s vocal performance was pretty darn good as well, possibly the best I’ve heard so far as well. This is definitely the stand-out track, if only because it completely separates itself from the rest of the tracks on here.

The second to last track on the album is compass. I’m wondering if this song was suppose to be good, because I spent over five minutes wondering if it was ever going to go anywhere. The arrangement is the piano, it plays prettily, but is very simple, it eventually becomes background noise. Ai’s vocals are decent I guess, but did nothing to stand out and I found I hardly cared for it, pretty weak. This track is forgettable.

The last track on the album is its namesake Ashiato. This song isn’t bad, but I really dislike Ai’s vocal performance. The arrangement consists of an acoustic guitar, nothing amazing, but its nice on the ears. The problem is it makes Ai’s vocals stand out in glaring relief and I really don’t like the annoying tones she does with it, reminds me of that thing Ayu insists on doing with her voice in everyone of her songs nowadays. I just don’t like her voice and this song makes it stand-out too much. The arrangement was nice, Ai’s vocals weren’t. This was a quiet albeit weak ending to the album.

-GRADE: B-
Rating: ** stars

Ai Kawashima’s third album Ashiato was decent, but I wouldn’t listen to it again. I don’t really know what to think of Kawashima, I’m starting to think she was better when she first started out, because her material now is a drag. I admit, there were a few songs on this album that I genuinely liked, but overall this album was rather boring and forgettable. It was also a chore to get through and I found myself wondering if I really wanted to continue reviewing her music, because she honestly doesn’t appeal to me at all. I don’t like her voice and though she does a genre that I like, her music is more often than not tedious. I liked her first album and this album wasn’t as bad as it could have been; some tracks did appeal to me. I’m going to give Kawashima one more chance, but honestly I don’t think I’ll ever become a fan of her (perhaps her mini albums are better?).

*This is an old review, this is the first of a slew of reviews I did before I decided to go on my hiatus. [April 7th, 2009]

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