Album review: Ayaka - Sing to the sky

Album review: Ayaka - Sing to the skyAyaka's Sing to the sky builds upon the musical foundations set in her debut First message. The difference here is that Ayaka sounds a heck of a lot more confident and a lot more soulful. Opening song "Power of music" has Ayaka selling her soulful vocals in spades. I had no idea she had it in her, but she pulls it out of the bag on this song and sounds amazing. And from here on out she just rolls out the goodness.

The most noticeable thing about Sing to the sky is how much more funky and effervescent it is in comparison to Ayaka's debut. "Sky" bubbles along with a reggae tinged bounce, whilst "Clap & love" comes with it' southern twang and "Gold star" has Ayaka going all rock chick on our arses and she works these styles surprisingly well. Not only does she have the vocals to pull it off, but none of the straying into these new forays cause her to lose her own distinct sound and vibe. It's still very much Ayaka, just a different side to her. It comes as a shock initially because based on Ayaka's image, you wouldn't expect her to come with songs which aren't so glossed over and have so much attitude and swagger to them. But it's something I welcome as it colours her so well and gives her a greater sense of depth.

Whilst Ayaka dips her toes into new funky territories, the sound here is very much similar to that of her debut. Lovers of First message will instantly latch onto songs such as "Kimi ga iru kara" and "Okaeri". The first of which is a brilliant song that should've been released as a single. or snapped up as a J-drama theme. It's radio friendly, anthemic and wonderfully uplifting. It's the archetypal Ayaka song: vocals which show her range, power and beauty, uplifting, well layered and tightly produced. Easily my favourite song on the album and one which I end up sticking on repeat on every occasion I listen to it.

One of my favourite songs from Ayaka's debut was a ballad called "Blue days". Whilst nothing on Sing to the sky comes close to the brilliance of that song, Ayaka does deliver several heart felt and emotional ballads which tow similar lines. "Why" is an stunning song and the closest thing to "Blue days" in terms of its sound. Album closer "Kon'ya mo hoshi ni dakarete" is beautifully sung, with Ayaka's vocals highlighted by the minimalistic instrumentations which consist of just light strings and a piano.

Sing to the sky is a stunning album. Whilst not a drastic departure from First message, it's a welcomed album due to it being more of what made her debut such an enjoyable listen. Ayaka sells each and every song and shows how multi faceted her voice is - something which wasn't fully demonstrated on her debut. The album has a great unplugged sound to it, whilst being brilliantly and tightly produced. Sometimes it's nice to hear a singer just sing songs and not focus on hitting every note perfectly and ensuring every harmony and vocal layer is super tight.

Ayaka's an undeniable talent who I'm sure will be in the game for many years to come. A worthy purchase and an album you can play from start to finish without skipping a single track. Already I'm looking forward to hearing what she knocks up for her third album. I'm officially a fan of this girl.

Album highlights:
■ Power of music
■ Sky
■ For today
■ Why
■ Mahoutsukai no shiwaza
■ Te wo tsunagou
■ Kimi ga iru kara J's fave
■ Okaeri
■ Kon'ya mo hoshi ni dakarete

The first: Ayaka's debut album First message

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