Miu Sakamoto – HATSUKOI

June 15, 2011 at 6:30 pm | Posted in Miu Sakamoto | 2 Comments
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  1. Joy
  2. Ring of tales
  3. Precious
  4. Interlude – Lacryma dancer
  5. Let you go
  6. True Voice
  7. Accidental merry-go-round
  8. Silent dancer
  9. Everything is new
  10. Ring of tales (Lily Star Fiddle Remix)

I’ve been looking forward to HATSUKOI since Miu announced that she would be returning to the studio with Dave Liang from The Shanghai Restoration Project. Her previous album with him was amazing and I knew that I was going to enjoy this album just as much. The magic and ethereal atmosphere from PHANTOM girl is back but it’s much brighter and infused with a fresh summer sound.

Joy begins with the sound of children playing as well as a luscious piano melody. Miu’s vocals are stunning as usual and the serene composition is breathtaking. During the chorus, strings are added and Miu’s vocals take on an operatic tone which sounds amazing. Percussion and synths are added in the second verse making the song more upbeat and infectious. The additions change the feel of the song completely. It is more vibrant and Miu’s vocals sound even more magical. The music is tamed for the bridge where the strings dominate and they sound amazing. Ring of tales has some very bizarre beats but it also has a sweet and simple piano. The strange beats take precedence in the song and her vocals bounce with them nicely. I was surprised by the bagpipes before the chorus and I wish they were incorporated in the chorus because they create a great Celtic feel. The melody doesn’t change in the chorus but Miu’s vocals are layered over another set of vocals and when it repeats, backing vocals are added. It sounds so beautiful and it makes the song truly captivating and unique. The bridge uses the slower vocals from the chorus and the piano gets a brief solo moment before the rest of the beats come back. The final chorus is superb because the strange beats are excluded and it sounds a lot more euphoric. The promotional track, Precious, is a vibrant summer tune with deep synths and a gorgeous, upbeat piano. She sounds sweet during the verses and in the chorus she uses her operatic vocals. The chorus enhances the summery feel with the synths and her vocal delivery is flawless. During the bridge, the piano and synths relax and the layering of her vocals over one another sound really nice. Overall, this is a lovely atmospheric song and it’s highly addicting.

Interlude – Lacryma dancer is the first and only interlude. It consists of Miu vocalizing and the arrangement is made up of ambient synths. I love how the music crescendos as it progresses and more synths are added to the melody. Let you go is the most laid-back track  and it’s one of the album’s best offerings. Miu sings softly in the verses and she’s accompanied by a piano and percussion. The vulnerable tone to her voice is perfect and it makes the song irresistible. She uses a breathier tone in the chorus and she puts forward so much emotion, “you were my home/you were my friend/what made you go/far from here, faraway/how can I let it go.” The mood that the chorus creates is very touching. In the second verse more instruments are added and the second chorus has gorgeous backing vocals. These additions make the song even better. This is a strong, emotional track and it’s my favourite tune from the album. What better way to start True Voice then with an a cappella intro by Miu that showcases her voice. Immediately after the intro, it explodes into edgy synths and it’s interesting how they contrast with her sweet vocals but they work well together. For the pre-chorus, her voice is a lot stronger and it starts to move into an operatic sound. Her voice continues like this in the chorus and its super catchy with the synths and percussion. It gets even better at the end when the synths die down and her backing vocals are added.

Like the last few songs on her previous album, Accidental merry-go-round doesn’t include any lyrics and it’s just vocalization with light synths and percussion. As it progresses, another synth line is added but overall it’s a nice, soft interlude-like track. It’s simple but effective. Silent dancer has a very mysterious flair to it. The looming, quiet synths are captivating and the little touch of the piano is lovely. Her vocals are so soft and breathy, they exude beauty. Her voice is stronger in the pre-chorus and she goes into her signature operatic tone which works as a great transition to the chorus. Her angelic voice accentuates the calming atmosphere and I love the buzzing synths. For the second half of the song, strings are added to the arrangement which gives the verse and chorus a grander feel. The strings dominate the bridge and they sound marvelous. I really like the build-up of this song and its alluring nature makes it unforgettable. Everything is new follows in the footsteps of the other tracks as it consists of mellow synths and beautiful vocals. I like the twinkling melody in the chorus and after the first chorus the tempo picks up with Miu singing at a quicker pace. The song does slow down again at the end but other than that there’s not much going on. Ring of tales (Lily Star Fiddle Remix) has the best melody on the album. I love how they took the little Celtic melody in the original and expanded on it because it makes the song much better. The fiddle is divine and it brings so much life into the melody. Miu’s vocals are more vibrant and upbeat, complimenting the new arrangement wonderfully.

Conclusion: While the album isn’t as strong as PHANTOM girl it still is an incredible release. It only falls short of her previous album because the arrangements are a bit too similar. Most of them contain synths and a piano with the closing track being the only one that uses other instruments. However, it’s still one of the best Japanese releases this year and a surreal listening experience. With Dave’s magical production and Miu’s unique voice they’re a match made in heaven.

Recommended Tracks: Let you go, Ring of tales (Lily Star Fiddle Remix), Silent dancer, Joy and Precious

Rating

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2 Comments »

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  1. I really can’t thank you enough for this review. After you praised it so, I went out and downloaded it, only to find that it’s amaaaaaazing. I seriously think Miu is one of my favorite artists now. I’ve only listened to HATSUKOI and Phantom Girl thus far, and I really want her older stuff *-* Have you listened to it?

    • I’m so happy! Miu is amazing and she definitely needs more fans. Her older stuff is so hard to find though. I have only been able to find one of them and that was due to a fellow blogger. I still have the link so add me on twitter or last.fm and I’ll send it to you.


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