Sunday, 23 March 2008

CD検討: 桃井はるこ - 「Sunday early morning」

Disclaimer: I am aware that momo-i's legion of fanboys/girls are frothing at the mouth if anyone discredits their idol. I want to avoid confrontation; rest assured that if any of my facts are wrong, I am willing to correct this article. My only intentions are to review her music and spread the good word. さあ, 始まる よ!

I recently covered momo-i's Famison series, her tribute to classic anime theme songs remixed as 8bit tracks. This put me in a mood for more of her music, so I was pleased to learn that she just recently released her first major album on March 8, 2008. The release was handled by Avex Entertainment, who also takes care of her anime singles. Not being overly familiar with her discography, I was surprised to read this was her first major album considering this idol has been around for a while, but then I found out that all of her previous albums were single compilations. The truth about this new record is that it only contains a couple of new songs, the others have been remixed and are mostly from 2007 so they are not old news just yet. This reminds me of what MOSAIC.WAV are doing with 「Amusement Pack」. In fact, this whole slapping-together-a-bunch-of-singles-and-calling-it-an-album thing is very popular in Japan. Considering their musical superiority, we're not really in a position to complain, are we?

The cover shows a very quaint momoi sitting peacefully next to her keytar, a quintessential instrument when it comes to denpa. The record comes with a sticker set and of course her famous power glove makes its presence felt... it's so bad! The track list shows 12 tracks, with the last one being a bonus song that will only appear on the initial press. Well if you'll allow me, I'll now rip into all of them; but not before making one special note. Having been a "professional" musician for a number of years, I am prone to setting aside the lyrics when writing reviews. Poetry just isn't my thing, and after glancing at the lyrics sheet, I can assume that I'm not missing out on much anyway. Much hullabaloo was made about the title track's lyrics being entirely written in English, but I'll let you judge for yourself! However, much like Mell's "Red Fraction", you wouldn't be able to tell the lyrics are English until you actually sat down to read them. While you read my review, you might as well enjoy the sounds of said title track.

1. Sunday early morning

The opening track immediately sets the tone: 8bit features will be the norm, color me excited! Co-produced by MISSILE CHEWBACCA, this new song is highly energetic and definitely is a good example of electrodenpa done right. The beat is infectious and Momoi's vocal patterns sound like a virus worth catching. There is something wholly organic about the arrangement, and I can't congratulate the artists enough.

2. Romantic summer -momo-i version-

First things first; as indicated in the title, this is a completely new take on the surfer-style "瀬戸の花嫁" opening theme which was originally sung by Haruko in 2007. But even with that in mind, nothing can prepare you for the insanity of the new version. As with the title track, MISSILE CHEWBACCA had a heavy hand in this remix and I can only thank the stars for that, for I am in musical heaven right now. It opens with a short 8bit prelude that is not without Famison similarities. But then the song shows its true visage as loud drums and scratched-in guitars bring us into the main course. Momoi stoically delivers her lines but that's just her being calm before the storm. Fuzzy keyboard lines and clever guitar licks are omnipresent and would undoubtedly make Franz Ferdinand go green with envy. Special attention was paid to the rhythm section as various syncopation forms were used, none of which failed to surprise me. Unexpectedly, the song breaks into a seriously wicked rendition of "Misirlou", commonly known as Pulp Fiction's theme song, but possibly using the Byzantine scale instead of the regular Arabic one. Yes, I am flat on my ass as well; if I haven't made it painstakingly clear by now, this song is pure musical cocaine and features an ocean of hooks and twists that would normally go unnoticed but that greatly please this reviewer. By far my favorite song, although Sunday Early Morning isn't too far behind.

3. 21世紀

"21st Century" is another new song, but is slightly different from the two previous tracks. It still benefits from a multi-layered arrangement but is just not as busy and noisy. In fact, it is a pretty straight-forward song that works well even though a slight lack of intensity could disappoint some. It runs a bit long at 5:01 as well, given that it consists of the same A-B chorus-bridge pattern from start to finish.


With a title like that, I was expecting something pop-punkish à la The Ramones but I was wrong... except for the time frame. It sounds as though this song was written in the eighties, only to be kept in a safe and brought back to life 20 years later. The chorus is incredibly catchy, but that's to expect from someone like 桃井はるこ!

5. Enter!

Enter! briefly begins with a loud, metal-distorted shotgun blast of guitar to the face, but doesn't fool its listeners for long as it quickly moves into a light-hearted mood. The guitar switches to a mild chorus effect and goes into the ska/reggae picking that is so prevalent in anime theme songs. Unfortunately, the digitized horns sound kind of cheap in comparison to the crystal clear guitar and Haruko's sweet vocals. The lyrics are as cheerful as they get and speak of the joyous world of anime and games. Overall, a solid little denpa song but nothing earth-shattering.

6. いまあなたが好き

Oops, sorry. I don't review ballads. Even when I was a kid and Guns'N'Roses was the hottest shit on earth, I would skip November Rain. I mean, fast-forward, of course. In reality, I tried to listen to this song in hopes that the beat would eventually pick up, but alas it didn't. In fact it reminds of the crappy songs heard in typical Chinatown bootleg DVD stores. Next!

7. Party!

Wow. Not only is the title similar to Enter! but so is the ska picking... are the two songs related or something? Now with a title like Party! you should pretty much expect what the song will sound like, and to a certain point the lyrics, but this is momoi, remember? The lyrics are about forming an RPG party and completing adventures! Think she's a World of Warcraft player? Again, solid little song, but nothing special.

8. ハイ・エナジー -momo-i version-
9. ルミカ

High Energy and Rumika are two heavily synth-driven songs that seemingly attempt to mimic theme songs of the eighties. They are respectively the Ending (featured on the previous video) and Opening themes of Kawaii! JeNny, the Robot-Chicken-meets-Sailor-Moon late-night show that took Japan by storm last year and will most likely invade America by 2009, mark my words! Momoi also provides vocals for Sister B, the show's bad guy (girl in this case), read this article for some behind-the-scenes information!

10. ナイト・で・ないと

I have to say I'm a little lost regarding the origin of this song. The official Avex site says this is an OP for PRISM ARK LOVE² MAXIMUM (erotic game), but as far as I'm concerned, KOTOKO took care of that and did a great job in the form of 「決断のentrance」, the long version of which I need to get my hands on, let me know if you can help! Short version is available here. Back to Night by Night, I have a feeling momoi's version was rejected and/or is a "second" OP featured on a companion CD out there. It could also be the ED for the TV anime series, but I haven't watched those and the Anime News Network listing shows a different theme song. Whatever! The eroge/anime market is just enormous in Japan, it's impossible for a mere mortal such as myself to keep track of it. The song itself is standard denpa fare, that is to say, conveys incredible feelings of happiness! Vocals are of the higher-pitched variety, which is Haruko's trademark of course. The most striking aspect to me is how much room the guitar was given. Its distortion is bitingly sharp, like a chainsaw, the palm-muting is precise and augments the tempo by a large factor. Job well done!

11. Thunder Shot!

If you ever needed proof that 桃井はるこ is one of the most versatile 声優 (seiyuu) in the industry, just give Thunder Shot! a listen. She transforms into a mature rocker and aims to give Olivia Lufkin a run for her money. The music is of the hard rock variety and heavily guitar-driven. But I guess you'll be surprised to learn what prompted this song. Apparently, Momoi is a closet (confessed?) fan of R/C cars and Thunder Shot! was actually written as an homage to a very popular Japanese model that came out in 1987. Personally, the idea just blows me away. Either way, the song works very well and I would actually look forward to an album written entirely this way.

12. Good morning!

If the KISS (Keep It Simple Stupid) principle ever needed a theme song, this could be it. The song is straight-up denpa, no doubt about that, but it doesn't require clever syncopation or novel ideas to work. In fact it reminds me of the slower MOSAIC.WAV songs like the recent "科学遣いの弟子" and the oldie-but-sweetie "電気の恋人" (check out that hilarious video) I find it a bit odd that a song called Good Morning is featured last (the next one being a bonus track) as it could have made for a good opener.

13. Get Wild (Bonus track)

Only available on the first press of Sunday Early Morning, this is a cover of TM NETWORK's old-ass City Hunter ED. We're talking 1987 here, I wasn't even... oh wait, I was born, and old enough to watch the show to boot. If you want to check out hilarious hairstyles and puffy clothes, check out this live performance. The cover works pretty well and is true to the source material.

That's it for the review, I hope you enjoyed reading and let me know if I missed anything or got one of my facts wrong. I do have one huge regret, I wish the lyrics to the title track weren't just random English words. Musically, it has the potential to be her breakout American single, but that kind of "creativity" just won't fly here. "Romantic Summer" is superior in every way, but too hectic for the US market. Here's to hoping an updated version with actual lyrics will be released someday. Feel free to state your opinion in the comments!


Anonymous said...

Do Momoi fans really seem that bad? :( Personally I'm pretty used to people making fun of her and her kind of music, so it doesn't really bother me what people say... I just chalk it up to taste, her music isn't made for everyone. You didn't even really say anything bad in your article anyway..?? lol

Momoi's lyrics are usually very clever, so I was confused when I saw the lyrics for Sunday Early Morning... I think the "soramimi" alternate lyrics you can read on nico nico were intended, maybe influenced by her time at anime expo turning from good to bad on early sunday morning at her panel ;D Everyone speaking crazy, confusing stuff, but at the end anime is the mutual language for everyone there :) (That's what I get out of it anyway, I think too hard about this stuff...??) I should have asked her about it.. orz

I really loved it's arrangement, and Romantic Summer too :D Very cool distorted sound, almost like plus tech squeeze box or mac donald duck eclair!

I usually love Momoi's ballads even if I too usually find ballads boring.. Ima Anata Ga Suki is probably my least favorite of her ballads so far though (though probably it will grow on me) I really loved 1+1 and Kotae from UNDER17. Chuo Line might have been the better choice to include on this album, but I'm glad it was this one in the end since it's a new song instead of a repeat.

Good Morning was the ending for Momoi's radio show, which ended after midnight so it was technically morning, so she wanted to write it to work as a good morning or bedtime song, which is why it's the last track, I believe :D

Oops I wrote too much orz

Kent said...

Just one correction for you: City Hunter (the TV series) started in 1987. That's the same year I started attending the local anime clubs and such, and a bunch of us were watching it and were thinking of driving 6 hours south to SoCal to see TM Network perform at a small club in LA. :)

We also were huge fans of City Hunter 2's soundtrack by PSY-S and used to watch their music videos and such (for that and To-y). Years later, I saw Masaya Matsuura at an event for his game Vib Ribbon and people in front of me came up to him and proclaimed they were his oldest fans, following his work with the original Parappa in 1996. He thanked them and they moved on. I then went up to him, told him I was one of his oldest fans, and thanked him for PSY-S music for City Hunter 2 in 1988 and he just sat there shocked. :)

Anonymous said...

Enter! and Party! were both Toranoana special releases by the way so it was interesting that you made that connection :)

電波の世界 said...

Thanks for your feedback, minna!

@Kent: That was actually 2 typos in one, not only was it 1987 but also the song was the ED, not OP. Thanks for your interesting story!

@mandichan: thanks for the Good Morning! precision... that actually makes a lot of sense. Is her show still on and is there any way to listen to it online? I think your SEM lyrics interpretation are clever, can you post the intended lyrics here?

Anonymous said...

I think "ketsudan no entrance" was an insert/character song in Prism Ark Love2 Max...

Now I really do need to look up her stuffs. *shakes fist at uni for making her busy*

Anonymous said...

For her radio shows, the best way to listen online is probably using niconico douga I think they stopped the waiting period on accounts, so it may be easy to sign up if you haven't yet!

As far as the lyrics go, there are a few kanji titles I don't know so I might be slow at writing them >_< is the nico link where you can see them though! They are just made up by people watching the video though, no way official, but I think still must be at least a little intended!!

Anonymous said...

Oh, here are the "correct" lyrics for Early Sunday Morning :)

電波の世界 said...

huh. well I had read rumors about how her lyrics were nothing more than a bunch of anime titles thrown together but I guess they were true. it's interesting how she masqueraded the whole thing as Engrish, to avoid licensing issues possibly? Given that she's on a major anisong label...

or maybe she's just cracked in the head a little bit... as we all are.

Nadirah said...

Finally got my hands on this album (working on downloading- I mean, acquiring the Famison series) and I have to say I really like it :D The variety of the songs keep me entertained. I've only heard snatches of Momoi Haruko's songs via anime songs but that's about it, the interest never grew. I could learn to love all this though, heh. Those 2 videos you put up got me hooked.

Anyway if you still need the full version of ketsudan no entrance, e-mail me :)

Nadirah said...

Oh, and I've half a mind to make Good morning! my alarm ringtone - that'll wake me up and annoy the heck out of my roommates to boot, what could be better? :P