Ai Otsuka – LOVE LETTER

February 11, 2009 at 10:14 pm Leave a comment

Tracklist:
1. LOVE LETTER
2. Rocket Sneaker
3. Bye Bye
4. Kurage, Nagareboshi
5. Ningyou
6. Kimi Fechi
7. Creamy & Spicy
8. Do☆Positive
9. 360°
10. Shachihata
11. One×Time
12. Pocket
13. Ai

Ai Otsuka’s fifth album, LOVE LETTER, is definitely her most mature album to date. Usually, her album includes one crazy, out there song, but LOVE LETTER doesn’t have it. And she even included a title track! This was an album of many firsts, and unfortunately it her also her first to chart for only 4 weeks and sell less than 200,000 copies (some her singles sold more than this album!). But despite that, I thoroughly enjoyed LOVE LETTER.

Even though there isn’t one overly crazy song, there are still plenty of fun and upbeat tracks. Bye Bye is one such track, utilizing electric guitars and piano. The chorus is super fun (and catchy!) and I love the way she sings “bye bye!” Actually, this track will be released as a re-cut single, so hopefully it’ll sell well. Creamy & Spicy is another upbeat track, with lots of guitar riffs to go around. Sometimes she sounds a little strained, but I still like the overall happy and giddy feeling to the whole thing. She even experiments with a little bit of vocal distortion.

And then there’s Do☆Positive. If there was one crazy song, it’d be this one. Although the arrangement isn’t anything too wild, Ai’s vocals are very free, fun, and silly. And then when you factor in the video, she must have had a lot of fun with this one. In the PV, she and her band are all wearing these crazy afro wigs and playing in some kind of basement thing. And of course, I can’t forget Rocket Sneaker. I have to admit that lately, I’ve fallen in love this song. At first I liked it, but didn’t think it was anything special, but now I just looove it! Especially the chorus and the pre-chorus. Actually, that whole single was amazing.

There’s also plenty of ballads here, starting with the title track, LOVE LETTER. The only thing backing up Ai is a solo piano, which really puts emphasis on her vocals. It’s a really gorgeous and touching piece with Ai’s lovely singing. The album also closes with a ballad with the same name as herself, Ai. It starts off softly but gradually builds up. Though the melody can get repetitive, it’s still really pretty and there’s so much emotion that I don’t really mind. The only thing that really bothers me about this song is that at the end when a bunch of kiddies come and sing together. Ugh. (Not that I don’t like kids or anything…)

Ningyou is a very pretty and very sad song, as if seems like the song is about a girl who feels like she’s just a lifeless doll. The arrangement is really beautiful, as are Ai’s vocals. Something about this song is enchanting and I think I could listen to it over and over. There’s also two of her ballad singles: Pocket and Kurage, Nagareboshi. I still like Pocket a lot, it’s kind of like a song about a quiet and gentle love. Kurage, Nagareboshi is an epic piece with a sweeping arrangement. I like this one, but it’s nowhere at the top of my favorite Ai songs.

Kimi Fechi is a mid-tempo track with an ethereal feel to it. I really like this track, because it’s so simple and so relaxing. It’s kind of like a love letter, but not like decorated or anything, just honest feelings. 360° is just as relaxing as Kimi Fechi, especially with that lovely piano part (is there a score??). It’s really repetitive, but it’s quite interesting because she compares love to a ferris wheel and merry-go-round, she loves it but at the same time she also hates it. The PV for 360° is actually kind of freaky. It uses a lot of distortion effects and Ai is in some really interesting makeup and clothes. Last of the mid-tempo track is OnexTime. As with Rocket Sneaker, I’ve been really enjoying this track recently too. It’s just so lovely and relaxing to listen to.

Ai also experiments with jazz this time, with Shachihata. Or is it Shiyachihata? I’m really confused on this name. I see it written everywhere as Shachihata, but when I checked it on her website, it was definitely Shiya and not Sha. But besides that, I really like this one, not only because jazz is so fun but also because of her scatting, which is surprisingly really good! And Ai also sings in a lower register, and though at first it’s hard to tell it’s her singing, you can hear that it’s really her very unique voice.

I really love LOVE LETTER. The first time I listened to the entire thing, I wasn’t too taken by it, but now that I am familiar with every song, I can appreciate the whole thing. The happy songs are fun and upbeat without being annoying and the ballads are so gorgeous in its simplicity. Plus, there’s also the surprise of Sha(Shiya)chihata. It’s sad that as her music matures (and her as well!) it seems that people don’t like it as much as anymore. We all mature and change and it’s natural that the way we express ourselves would change as well. But just because Ai and her music is maturing doesn’t mean that she doesn’t have that craziness inside her still (just look at the Do☆Positive PV!). I’m looking forward to see she releases next (well, after Bye Bye that is).

Buy this album: CD only | CD + DVD

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Entry filed under: Japanese Albums. Tags: , .

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