Angela Aki [ANSWER] (Third Japanese Album)

August 2, 2009


Tegami ~Haikei Juugo no Kimi e~ (手紙 ~拝啓 十五の君へ~; Letter ~To You, at 15~)
Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door (Bob Dylan’s Cover)
Somebody Stop Me
ダリア (Dahlia)
Final Destination
Our Story
黄昏 (Tasogare)
We’re All Alone (Boz Scaggs’s Cover)
リフレクション (Reflection)
レクイエム (Requiem)
Black Glasses (In Collaboration with Ben Folds)
ファイター (Fighter)

The album starts off with the albums first and only single Tegami ~Haikei Juugo no Kimi e~ (手紙 ~拝啓 十五の君へ~; Letter ~To You, at 15~). I gushed about this song enough in my single review of it, but I still find that I love it, even though it seems a bit underwhelming on the album.

The next track on the album is Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door (Bob Dylan Cover). I didn’t too much care for this song when it first came out, but I’ve always rather liked Angela’s cover songs, she really does them well. This is no exception, she translated the lyrics to Japanese, which was a nice touch and dished out another exceptional cover. I’d actually like to hear the original.

The title track ANSWER is up next. I got such a ‘kokoro no senshi’ vibe from this song and would have been amazed had it actually went in that direction. It doesn’t, but its still a good song. The arrangement is piano based of course, with some guitar thrown in for good measure, mild, but effective. Angela’s vocal performance was pretty nice, in the beginning I wasn’t too much feeling her, but she got into it as the song went along. I really love the, ‘you’re my answer’ part of the chorus, its rather sweet. I thought I wasn’t going to like this track, but it became its own as it went on. I still think ‘today’ is her best title track to date though.

The next track brings the pace down to a trickle with Somebody Stop Me. This song is strange, because I don’t know if I should like it. I mean I do, but it seems to just come and go. The arrangement is that of the piano, its rather simple and makes this song sound familiar, like one of her older songs. Angela’s vocal performance was pretty good, though it didn’t seem like she sung much. This is a good track to pop on when you want to wind down, but be careful of the mood, since this songs gives off a rather depressing vibe.

The next track on the album is the rather dull ダリア (Dahlia). This is a pretty long song, well over seven minutes. I honestly can’t fathom why Angela would want such an uninteresting song to just stretch on like this did, but I think that was this songs major downfall. I like how the arrangement started off on a classical note and then of course fell into one of Angela’s typical piano melodies. Needless to say it got old fast, especially considering the length. Angela’s vocals give me such a ‘silent girl’ vibe and that is not good at all, because as it stands that is Angela’s most boring song to date. The vocals just dragged, because Angela wasn’t really doing much, but just singing this song in the same tone throughout. The most I made out was ‘dahlia’. This is a pretty tedious track, in which is magnified by the absurd length of it.

The next track on the album lifts the pace and the mood with Final Destination. This is so far my favorite song on the album and it got me back on track with it after the snooze-fest of the previous. The arrangement is of course the piano, but I like how crisp and clean it plays. Angela’s vocal performance was nice as well, because I love how the song just gives off such an self-assured feeling. Its precisely like I said in my single review of it: Angela’s going somewhere and no one is going to stop her. I love this track and yes, ‘oh, driving in my car’ is still the love.

The next track on the album is Our Story. This song is all right, if only because of its delivery, because if this song wasn’t so strong, mostly vocal-wise, it would be really boring. The arrangement is just the piano, but its played simply and aggressively at the same time, nothing interesting, but its effective. I liked Angela’s vocal performance, it wasn’t all that interesting, but she was into it and it kept me engaged, its honestly the only reason why I like this track.

The next track on the album is the down-tempo 黄昏 (Tasogare). This song sounds so familiar, I mean the piano piece and the vocals. I liked this a bit, it didn’t do much, but its honestly a nice listen. The arrangement is of course the piano, played rather somberly. Angela’s vocal performance was pretty wistful as well as if she was singing about something or someone that made her happy and sad at the same time. This is a pretty quiet track, but its good.

The next track on the album is the repeat We’re All Alone (Boz Scaggs’s Cover). This track is on her mini-album, so I honestly don’t understand why she decided to put it on here. I guess she did an all new vocal performance, but I can’t tell the difference, its still the same song to me. I like it, just not on this album, since it seems like filler and its pointless.

The next track on the album is the surprising リフレクション (Reflection). Well I didn’t expect this song to go the way it did, as its a pretty up-beat and slightly fun track. The arrangement is very Island-y, that’s the best word I can use to describe it without saying reggae-ish. I liked it, it was simple yet engaging. Angela’s vocal performance was quite energetic as well, I really liked how she got into it and made a song that could have come across as quite confusing, rather enjoyable.

The next track on the album is the dramatic and rather epic レクイエム (Requiem). This is a really long song, I just felt I needed to get that out of the way. Though despite its length it never drags or becomes boring, of course my interest shifted, that’s to be expected, but I never found myself wondering why it hadn’t ended yet. The arrangement is a piece of work, its quite incredible and certainly drives the entire song, completely reflecting the title. Angela’s vocal performance was rather nice as well and I’m surprised she managed to keep it up for so long, I’m wondering if she’ll ever sing this live. The length a turn a few people off, but I say give this a chance and hear it through to the end, you won’t be disappointed.

The second to last track on the album is the quirky Black Glasses (In Collaboration with Ben Folds). In collaboration, huh? This is a pretty different song from Angela, it almost sounded like she was enjoying herself for once, but that’s of course a stretch, she sounded way too serious for that. The arrangement is piano of course, but I like how whimsical and fun it plays, with the tinkles. Angela’s vocals were nice as well, I liked the verses more than the chorus, because the chorus came across as rather silly to me with the whole, ‘wizard of oz’ reference, but all in all this was a pretty enjoyable track.

The last track on the album is the strangely in Japanese ファイター (Fighter). This is quite a twist, normally she ends her album with incredible all English tracks, but this time its a pretty good Japanese one;  I’m not sure if I like this script-flipping. Anyways, this is a nice song. Its not as sad as ‘your love song’ or as positive as ‘surrender’ its somewhere in the middle, but it does leans more towards positive and sounds more hopeful than the previous album closer, reflecting the title nicely. This was a good ending to the album, I really loved how it went out, very abstract. I would have still preferred it to be in English though.

Rating: *** stars

Angela Aki’s third album ANSWER was a lot better than I expected it to be, to the point that I actually may prefer it over her second album. When I first gave this album the run through I was not impressed and I thought it was boring, so I went into this review with no expectations and came out rather pleased. I don’t know how Angela does it, but she manages to make boring sound so good, except in the case of ‘dahlia’. ANSWER is another good album from Angela and I hope she keeps them coming, she never really disappoints.

*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 15th, 2009]


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