Wednesday, March 18, 2015

JRock Mix: Hello World!

Yay for our first Music Mix that doesn't feature idols! Although it's still Japanese music, this time I bring a review of all-girl pop rock band Scandal's newest album release: Hello World! 

First, some quick background about the band: they were formed in Osaka, Japan in 2006 by four high school friends. After being in the indie scene for a while and finding great success, they had their major debut in 2008 with the single, "Doll." Scandal are well known among international Japanese music fans and have continued to evolve in their music sound throughout the years. The band is made up of (from left to right in the picture above): Tomomi Ogawa (bassist, lead vocals); Haruna Ono (lead vocals, secondary guitarist); Rina Suzuki (drummer, keyboardist, secondary vocals); and Mami Sasazaki (lead guitarist, secondary vocals).

Hello World is Scandal's 6th studio album released in December of 2014. Now, I own every single album release from Scandal and I have enjoyed the way they have explored different sounds to add to their music. Their fourth album, "Kirifuda wa Queen" (Queens are Trumps) is one of my favorite albums just because it's markedly different in style and sound than their previous albums. It's the most experimental of their albums. With Hello World however, Scandal delivers an album that sticks to their more traditional pop rock sound. As I consider their 5th album, Standard, to be my least favorite of their releases, it was nice to see them going back to their roots in their 6th release, returning to the sounds and arrangements that made me a fan in the first place.

Front of Hello World!
The band starts out with, "Image" one of my favorite songs on the album, delivering a very "Scandal-esque" sound and arrangement. As always, Haruna's voice blends nicely with the voices of the other girls. I really liked the way the song slows down for the instrumental break and then picks right back up. Scandal follows this great opening with "Your Song", another classic rock song that uses some autotune tastefully and introduces Tomomi and Mami's voices smoothly. I loved the alternation between just drums playing and just the guitar playing and the lyrics are very uplifting. This was another strong 5 stars in my book. "Love In Action" features more of Scandal's trademark sound and arrangement, using some electronic sounds in the background to spice things up a bit.

"Departure", the 4th track on this album is a ballad that breaks up the continuity on the album. I quite like the overall sound of it, although I do prefer Scandal's more upbeat songs. The music box at the beginning is a nice touch and use of violins in this song really communicate the sense of melancholy in this song. "Graduation" goes back to Scandal's traditional sound. I really liked the arrangement of the lyrics in the first verse. "Yoake no Ryuuseigun" is a slower song that I would say I like, but doesn't stand out too strongly too me on the album. I really like the chorus though and the music video is absolutely beautiful. "Onegai Navigation" has a more punkish sound and causes the girls to push their voices to higher registers. I really love this song, it's traditional Scandal but with a few changes making the song all the better. In the second verse, when Haruna begins to sing really fast that it almost turns into a rap always gets me pumped up. this is definitely another of my favorites from their album.

Back cover of Hello World
Runner's High is definitely my second favorite song overall on this album. I love the lyric arrangement and the overall rhythm in this song. I also like that when we get to the chorus, we feel like the girls have started running and then in the second part of the chorus, it's like they're slowing down and then start running once again. I don't know if that makes sense, but in a nutshell, the lyric arrangement is very appropriate. Hon wo Yomu is my #1 song on this album. I don't know why, but Kan Beer has the traditional Scandal sound, but overall it's my least favorite on the album. It's not that I hate it, but I'm pretty neutral on it overall. Mami's solos always tend to become some of my favorite songs on Scandal's albums xD. Anyways, it starts off kind of weird and I'll admit that at first I didn't like it, but now I find it super catchy and just love everything about this song. I hum it to myself randomly from time to time.

"Winter Story" and "Oyasumi" are both very beautiful ballads. It's nice to hear more of Rina's voice in "Oyasumi". I like both of them and are perfect songs for snowy or rainy days. "Place of Life" is the final song on this album and here we have the traditional Scandal song coming through strongly. It's the perfect ending song as it gives off this, "goodbye for now, until next time" vibe. It brings the album to a great conclusion and once listening to the final song, all I can think of is how Scandal has delivered another amazing album that will join the ranks of Kirifuda wa Queen, Baby Action and Temptation Box as some of the best albums Scandal has released. A definitely 5 star album. There is no song I would rather skip than listen too and while there are a few forgettable songs, they are still fairly good and I would not rate them lower than a 3.5/5. Overall, this album is definitely a 5/5 for me!
Finally, a picture of my 6 Scandal albums. 
The two albums on top are actually best albums that I had to have xD
Encore Show is amazing, just saying :)

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