Album review: Angela Aki - Answer

Album review: Angela Aki - AnswerI was first introduced to Angela Aki via PlayStation 2 video game Final Fantasy XII, of which Angela sang the theme song: "Kiss me goodbye". From then I've followed her on and off. In between hearing lots of synth pop, vocoding and auto-tuning - I need a break. There's only so much over-produced J-Pop one can take. So if like me you don't mind taking five from it now and then, and like a bit of musical integrity; then you should look to Angela Aki, and her third studio album in particular.

Answer is divided up between funky, uptempo numbers which see Angela's vocals soaring and riding the music with a great deal of energy and gusto. And slow down tempo tracks which are all about Angela and her piano. Which ever side of the music Angela treads, she yields some great results because she always sounds comfortable and in her element - never out of her depth and unsure.

"Answer" never fails to raise a smile . The song is so wonderfully uplifting; that if this song fails to make you feel good, then you must have a heart of stone. The anthemic chorus is absolute crack! Brilliantly arranged and sung by Angela. The perfect song for those sunny drives and good days. This should've been made a single. I'm actually surprised it hasn't been made a J-drama theme already. It'd work well. Album closer "Fighter" acts almost like an extension of "Answer", bathed in a similar sound, only more sedate. For those who find "Answer" to be a bit too much, this song is a nice alternative. "Black glasses" is the albums wild card song, in that it's the only song on the album sung entirely in English. As with many other Japanese artists, Angela interchanges between Japanese and English during her songs. But you may notice as with ladies like Hikaru Utada and Crystal Kay, that when Angela busts out the English: it's perfect. Well, that's because like Hikaru and Crystal, Angela is fluent in English. Angela's English singing voice is stellar. She sounds so much stronger and more gutsy when she sings in English. Angela should definitely consider releasing more English language music, as she has what it takes and has a unique angle to her given she can play the piano. "Black glasses" would make a great single for Angela to roll out with in the West. A great uptempo indie-esque song. "Reflection" sees Angela adopting a ska and reggae tinged swagger, and what could've been a cringe worthy song turns out to be something fun and bubbly. A nice song which would make a great encore song at a gig.

Angela Aki plays the piano and this is highlighted on half of the albums cuts, where the music is stripped right down to just Angela and her piano. Angela doesn't have the biggest or best of voices, but she has emotion and heart - something which comes through in "Somebody stop me"; which is an absolute stunner of a song. It's simplicity is just mesmerising. You cannot help but get caught up in the feeling of the song because it's so wonderfully arranged and thought provoking. "Our story" is a jolly upbeat song with it's loud chords and a twinkly bridge section. "Tasogare" breaks the mould slightly by featuring additional instrumentation aside from the piano. The rolling drum line and ethereal chorus gives the song a very Coldplay like sound.

Angela also throw a couple of cover's into the mix: With rendition's of Bob Dylan's often covered classic "Knockin' on heaven's door" and Grammy winning Boz Scaggs "We're all alone". Both some are given whole new twists. Not only from being performed by somebody else other than their original artists, but also being sung in Japanese. "Knockin' on heaven's door" has a much lighter feel than the original; with Angela's vocals colouring the song nicely and with there being a completely different musical backdrop. "We're all alone" is much more faithful to the original - retaining a bulk of the original melody, but doing away with the swaytastic 70's flavour. She does great things with both songs. I'm usually skeptical of covers, but I can't fault Angela's attempts at all.

Answer is a stunning album from start to finish. Amongst the ladies on the Japanese music scene who all look like lifeless robots and have their image overshadow their music - it's refreshing to have a talent who is so pure and all about the music first and foremost.

Angela Aki's 'Answer' scores itself a 8 out of 10
Album highlights:
■ Answer
■ Knockin' on heaven's door
■ Somebody stop me J's fave
■ Final destination
■ Our story
■ Tasogare
■ We're all alone
■ Reflection
■ Black glasses

1 comment:

  1. Nice review! I've been meaning to listen to more of her stuff. I loved 'Kiss Me Goodbye' and her covers of 'Eyes on Me' (FF8 theme) and 'Kiss from a Rose' (Seal song).

    Maybe I'll check this out at a later date.


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