Ayumi Hamasaki – Love songs

January 10, 2011 at 10:43 am | Posted in Ayumi Hamasaki | Leave a comment
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  1. Love song
  2. crossroad
  3. MOON
  4. sending mail
  5. Last angel
  6. insomnia
  7. Like a doll
  8. Aria
  9. blossom
  10. Thank U
  11. Sweet Season
  12. overture
  13. do it again
  14. November
  15. Virgin Road
  16. SEVEN DAYS WAR (Live at Yoyogi on Oct. 11 2010)

Ayumi’s always been an artist that I’ve been on the fence about. Every album she releases has one or two amazing songs that I become addicted to while the rest of the album ranges from good to not so great. Sometimes I get in a mood where I feel like listening to her but that is usually a phase that eventually passes over. However, once in a blue moon she releases an album that makes me stop dead in my tracks. Love songs happens to be one of those albums.

The title track, Love songs, opens up with a gorgeous piano that leads to strings and when Ayumi begins singing the chorus, the acoustic guitar and the percussion takes center stage. In the verses the percussion and the strings are more dominant and Ayumi’s vocals are deep which is when she sounds best vocally. I’m not a fan of her high vocals so any song with her deep vocals is already off to a good start. Her vocals for the chorus are full of energy and she sounds really good. The only slip up this song has is the weird vocal moments where she belts out in an extremely nasally voice. It sounds awkward and puts a dent in the track. There are a few surprises in the arrangement most notably the guitar break and the piano one shortly after it. Starting the album with its title track was a smart move. crossroads picks up pretty much where the previous song left off. The verses consist of strings, an acoustic guitar and Ayumi’s vocals are really nice especially the parts when she speeds up her singing. The percussion kicks in right before chorus, creating a dramatic transition into it. I rarely go crazy over Ayumi’s vocals but her vocals during the chorus are divine. In the bridge, a guitar is included to the arrangement which adds some edge to the track. I’m surprised by how much I love this song and I’m a bit mad that I didn’t check it out when it came out as a single.

MOON starts off with soft instruments but it quickly changes to a more rock oriented sound. The song returns to its soft sound for the verses where she sings in a nice delicate tone. The best part of the song is the rock driven chorus where her vocals are strong and once again I love the sound of her voice. I heard this track when it came out as a single and I passed up on it because it didn’t interest me but it sounds a lot better on the album. For the bridge, a fantastic and gritty electric guitar is added which leads to a slowed down version of the chorus. Despite being a long track, it’s really nice and doesn’t overstay its welcome. I previously stated that Ayumi’s albums always have a song that is simply irresistible and amazing and sending mail is that song. You would think with its title it would be sweet or light but it’s the darkest song on the album. I adore the arrangement of the song. The piano and strings are dramatic and Ayumi’s fast singing is engaging. The verses are superb and create a great build-up for the chorus which is the star of this song. The chorus literally catches you off guard with its hard percussion, strings and Ayumi’s powerful vocals. There are some vocoder effects thrown into the song after the first chorus before she begins the second verse. Ayumi always delivers with her dark and aggressive songs and this is no exception.

Last angel has a promising start with magnificent strings leading into foreboding drums. It sounds awesome and seems like the song is going to be epic but sadly all that disappears when Ayumi starts singing. The piano and strings sound nice but I would have preferred the arrangement at the start of the song to be used. Ayumi’s vocals are good but the parts when she sings in a soft voice sound dull and it ruins the flow of the song. The best part is definitely the chorus because of her strong singing and the gorgeous strings. This song has been given lot of praise and I don’t understand why. It’s a decent song but it could have been much better. Seriously, the first interlude, insomnia, sounds like something right out of a horror film. It’s dark and creepy and I love everything about it. The strings, synths and piano all come together to create one of Ayumi’s most memorable interludes. Like a doll seems to have trouble deciding whether it wants to be a cheery song or a dark one. One minute it has a sweet piano and the next minute it’s dramatic and dark with Ayumi singing “like a doll.” I actually like the way the song turned out and the part when she repeats the title is my favourite because of how creepy it sounds. The chorus is quite energetic and light which contrasts nicely with the darker elements of the song.

Aria is the second interlude and it consists of beautiful strings and heavenly backing vocals. I love when the instrumentals crescendo and the atmosphere becomes so ethereal. It’s another really great interlude. blossom is one of Ayumi’s songs you swear you’ve heard before but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. The verses are predictable but the chorus is where the song shines as rock elements are added to the song. It feels very familiar and has that typical Ayumi feel but she sounds great and it’s quite catchy. This is one of her better summer songs because of the few twists that are added to the song especially the  electric guitar in the bridge. The first time I heard Thank U I thought it was a long interlude. About 60% of the song consists of Ayumi singing “lalalala” along with backing vocals. This could have easily resulted in a disaster but surprisingly Ayumi manages to make it work. The verses are quite cheerful and she sings in quick and cute vocals and the bright atmosphere of the song is contagious due to the light melody. The constant barrage of optimistic “lalalas” gets drilled into your head and I can’t help but love it. Sweet Season has a vibrant arrangement and it’s got a bit of a country feel to it. Ayumi’s performance on this track is nice and I love the uplifting feel of the chorus. It’s a very simple song and I appreciate that aspect of it. It’s a nice listen and the electric guitar in the bridge spices things up a bit.

The final interlude, overture, is the most relaxing of the three. I love how nostalgic it feels and the woodwinds are gorgeous. Everything about this interlude is incredible and its fantasy sound is divine. do it again begins with a frantic piano and Ayumi singing “dance, dance, dance/do it again,” and “sing, sing, sing/do it again” repeatedly which is accompanied by dramatic strings. I adore the English lines and find them very captivating. The woodwinds in the verses are so beautiful and she sings calmly for the most part until the chorus where the music picks up and she begins to sing faster. This song is also quite dark except for the bridge where the melody changes and becomes light with extravagant strings and some light drums. The final chorus features some “lalalas” in the background which add a lighter feel to it. This is one of my favourite tracks on the album. November has one of the most memorable melodies because of the delicious xylophone and harmonica. Ayumi’s vocals are really sweet and I love the instrumentation in the verses. Halfway through the first verse the percussion is added and the song becomes a mid-tempo and her vocals become livelier. The chorus uses sweeping strings, a lovely piano melody and Ayumi sings with great emotion. I love the build-up in the bridge as the strings become more dramatic right before the final chorus.

Virgin Road has a fantastic melody with its orchestrated feel. The crescendo in the verses with the strings is nice but that’s all the verses have going for them. Ayumi sings this song like the rest of the ballads on the album so this song doesn’t have anything that makes it stand out. The chorus is enjoyable because of its dramatic atmosphere and her higher vocals. This isn’t a bad song but it doesn’t have anything going for it either. It’s not that memorable compared to the other ballads on the album.  Depending on the version of the album, the final track will be different. SEVEN DAYS WAR is a cover of TM Revolution and it’s a nice ballad. She sings in her lovely deep vocals and the backing piano is so soft. I love the mature tone she employs and the gradual inclusion of strings, background vocals and percussion. The build-up leads you to believe that the chorus will be huge but the instruments die down a little and Ayumi’s vocals become calmer. However, the song does hit its climax in the bridge and the arrangement reaches its full potential with chanting backing vocals. The final chorus is livelier and the upbeat arrangement makes it standout more. The integration of the chanting vocals in the chorus works wonders and gives off an epic feel. SEVEN DAYS WAR (Live at Yoyogi on Oct.11.2010), as you can see by its title, is a live performance. I don’t usually listen to her live performances but this is good and the live arrangement gives it a grandiose feel. This isn’t as great as the original but it’s not too bad either.

Conclusion: Love songs is a huge improvement over Rock’n’Roll Circus. The ballads were much more memorable minus a few near the end. This album is very cohesive so there isn’t any one song that ruins the flow of the album but this also causes a few problems. An album should be cohesive but that doesn’t mean the songs have to sound identical which is what happens to some of the songs on the album. The first half is amazing but near the end you feel like you’ve heard all the songs already. Despite this, the album is one of Ayumi’s best efforts.

Recommended Tracks: sending mail, do it again, crossroad, November and Love song



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