Album review: Capsule - Player

Album review: Capsule - Player | Random J Pop

Capsule's 11th studio album Player released in 2010, a point in member and producer Nakata Yasutaka's career where he was incredibly active and achieving a new level of fame following a string of hit albums he had produced for Meg, Perfume and Ami Suzuki. A period during which some refer to as Nakata's golden age, and listening back it's not hard to hear why. But an issue with Nakata's output at the time, is that whilst it did wonders for his personal brand and garnered hits, it would cause some problems in the long run for the acts he produced for, because they all shared the same sound.

Meg eventually got tired and broke away from Nakata completely, Perfume no longer have a definable sound, and Ami Suzuki's career is dead. And Capsule was also a casualty, as the sound that started off as theirs on albums such as Fruits Clipper and Sugarless Girl, then became that of Meg, Perfume and Ami Suzuki.

So, then...where do you go from here when putting together new material for a Capsule album?

Album review: Capsule - Player | Random J Pop

Player is an album that suffered because Nakata seemed aware that he'd spread his sound pretty thin, but it was so integral to his and Capsule's brand that he couldn't really steer away from it. But he also wanted to try other things, and the result is an album that is at odds with itself, and marks one of Capsule's least cohesive albums, but certainly not their worst.

During the production of Player, Nakata was clearly still in whatever zone he was in when he produced the likes of Perfume's Game, Ami Suzuki's Supreme Show and Meg's Beautiful. By 2010, Nakata had such a strong association with these acts and albums that you couldn't separate them from anything that he did, and the same goes for songs on Player. You'll will absolutely find songs on this album which sounds like they belong on all of the non Capsule albums Nakata produced from 2007 to 2010. Nakata and his record label wanted to capitalise on the success of these albums. I get it. But the end result is an album that feels more like it's riding a wave, and less like it's trying to be its own thing and push Capsule - even though the wave is one Nakata created in the first place.

Nakata was clearly in a state of trying to figure out what Capsule's sound would be, so we get songs which pivot to dance music. But the problem here is that the dance cuts sound so completely void of the charm from the other songs or what you know of Capsule.

Album review: Capsule - Player | Random J Pop

The songs on Player which strike the sweetest spots are the ones that try something a little different and don't feel like songs you can immediately file under 'Sounds like [Insert aforementioned act here]' and aren't just basic dance fodder.

"I Wish You" and "Hello" are both charming jaunts which are very beat heavy, something that's not common with Nakata productions, but they still have his melodic whimsy. It's cool hearing a signature style of Nakata intersect with something new. It gives both songs a really fresh sound which still punches through even now. "I Was Wrong" is the closest thing on this album to a ballad. It sticks out like fuck, but it's a really nice song with a vibe which is very reminiscent of the likes of Neneh Cherry. Album closer "Love or Lies" is one of the best songs on the album and feels like a kitchen sink of things you'd expect from a Nakata production. But the best thing about it is that it feels 100% like a Capsule song. "Love or Lies" is more of what this album needed, and feels like a perfect fusion of the sound that Capsule were known for, the productions Nakata was known for at the time, and the club heavy sounds that Nakata was moving Capsule into. It's just a shame that it comes right at the very end of the album. But I guess it's also a very fitting place for it to sit - creating a jumping off point for where Capsule could go for future albums.

Album review: Capsule - Player | Random J Pop

Player sounds like Capsule in the midst of an identity crisis, with Nakata trying to stay true to the core of Capsule, whilst also creating songs which may appeal to those who discovered him through his work with Meg or Perfume. But it creates a divide in the sound. Nakata made no effort to meld Capsule's past and present across an album. It's literally 'Here are some songs that sound like out old shit, and there's some songs that could be Capsule's new sound'. So Player ends up sounding more like a folder of songs Nakata has put together of shit he's working on and less like an album and an actual considered body of work.

Capsule's Player may appeal to you if you're coming into primarily for Nakata's production, regardless of what or how it is. But if you're new to Capsule, then Player is not a great place to start.

VERDICT: BLONDE 'TIL THE HAIR FALLS OUT

Album highlights: ■ Can I Have A Word
■ Hello
■ Love or Lies 🏆 J's fave

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