YUI – How Crazy Your Love

“How Crazy Your Love” is YUI’s fifth studio album.  I am a fan.  Hence you can imagine how painful it was for me to wait till the record hits the store here in Singapore when not too far away, in a place called Hong Kong, the album not only comes with a CD, but also a DVD recording of YUI’s live concert in Hong Kong.  Normally, it takes up to a month for a regional cut Japanese CD to arrive at our stores.  It takes even longer if the album contains video contents.  Having learned my lesson, I ordered online via HMV Hong Kong and have this special edition album (that comes with a YUI printed guitar pick!) delivered.

If you are a fan, the special edition is a must buy.  Her 2011 concert in Hong Kong has a listing of 17 songs plus 5 encores.  That is over 2 hours of entertainment.  Compare to her 2006 “Song of the Sun” concert, she now has more songs and has grown up to be a sweet 24.  Like the previous recording, she plays her guitars on stage.  Shy, she may seem, her live performance has exceeded my expectation.  I cannot wait to see the same concert recorded in Japan.  The DVD is lying somewhere inside my shelf.

It took me a bit of time to like “How Crazy Your Love”.  Perhaps my sensory system has been abused by over-produced music of recent time.  Or perhaps I wanted more rock music from the album or that missing killer slow song.  To be frank, YUI is not a great singer.  But she writes good songs.  So far, her albums are pretty consistent, in terms of style and delivery.  And I am still eagerly awaiting for her next production, which I hope to see later this year.

Back to the album, the more rock flavored “Rain” is my favorite.  The opening track “HELLO” is playful, and it seems to work really well in a live setting.  I also like “Separation”, which is more melody driven especially on the bridge.  I can’t say I love all 13 tracks.  But I can’t find one that I don’t like.  Fans out there.  What are you waiting for?

YUI – Holidays In The Sun – A Pleasant Album, Still Same Style

Nowadays, I seldom write about the music I listen to.  Not as often anyway.  With legal and unlimited music download, it matters little if it is a good album, or a bad one.  Because worst case, I delete the album off my digital storage.  On average, I listen to an album once, or twice, and then move onto the next one.

Once in a while, there are still albums that cannot be downloaded.  The charm of opening the case of a new album, savoring the artwork, listening to each track with such an attention and anticipation, all because I have paid twenty bucks for the entire package.  One of my recent purchases is YUI’s fifth album.  YUI tends to release plenty of singles (5 from this album so far) without an album in sight.  Imagine how ecstatic I was when I found her new album in store.

Being a Japanese artist who writes and performs her own songs, it is expected that “Holidays In The Sun” would sound much like her previous albums.  And it does.  In addition to her playing guitar, in this album, she plays the piano too for the opening track “to Mother”.  It is refreshing.  And it is also the only song in the album that features her piano track with no guitar overlay.  I wish that “to Mother” has as much of an impact as her other slow songs from her previous albums such as “Tomorrow’s Way” or “LOVE & TRUTH”.  Hence, on first listen, there seems to be something missing.  Something like a “LOVE & TRUTH” would be nice.  Then again, the overall mood of this album is upbeat.  Memorable upbeat tracks like “es.car” and “I do it” can easily please a live audience.  “Holidays In The Sun”, as a whole, is pleasant to listen to.  Fans would be pleased, for sure.

Her songwriting is not perfect.  At times I think she may have squeezed in one too many syllables into a sentence.  Her singing is not perfect.  At times I think she has gone out of breath trying to deliver what she envisions to deliver.  But what transpires, to me, is her being genuine and sincere and trust that her fans would appreciate the purity within.  I wish I could share a video of hers to demonstrate my last point.  Perhaps the one with her siting near the edge of the stage singing to a concert audience with only her guitar, in candle lights.  Just like how she is used to sneak through the streets, find a quiet spot, and start singing with her guitar to initially nobody and soon a gathering crowd.  Even the music video of her latest single “to Mother” would have proved my point.  The good news is, if you purchase “Holidays In The Sun”, it comes with a DVD that contains 6 music videos, “to Mother” included.

And so, the waiting of her yet another new album continues.  I hope it would take less than 2 years this time.

YUI – My Short Stories – Did You Know This is a B-Side Compilation?

No I didn’t.  Nor the Oricon chart cares.  21 years old Japanese singer songwriter and one-time actress releases a b-side album and it charted at #1.  I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw her 4th album “My Short Stories” at HMV.  Wasn’t it this April when she released her last studio album?  I am still regularly listening to “I Loved Yesterday”.  By April 27, I have listened to that one song “LOVE & TRUTH” no less than 400 times.  By June 13, I estimated the played time of the same song to be 5,000.  Today, you connect the dots and tell me how many times “LOVE & TRUTH” has killed me softly again, and again.

I couldn’t contain my excitement when I first listened to YUI’s “My Short Stories”.  But something was missing, something didn’t seem right.  I was desperately looking for the rock identity (“Rolling Star” anyone?) that YUI has evolved from her shy, simple, pleasant debut but I found none; I was desperately looking for the new symphonic sound (like my beloved “LOVE & TRUTH”) and I found none neither.  YUI seems to have returned to her root in the first few tracks (kind of too early for a budding 21 years old artist don’t you think?).  Onto the fifth song “Jam”, the rock identity seems to surface.  And I am falling more in love with the album as the track number increases.  “I Wanna Be”, “Cloudy”, and “Crossroad” are some of my favorite tracks.  The last song, a nice slow one – “Why Me” – wraps up the compilation nicely.

There is still no “LOVE & TRUTH” that I so long for.  But as an album disregarding that it is a b-side compilation, I wouldn’t be able to distinguish it from the rest of her studio albums in terms of production quality.  I am indeed delighted to learn that this is a b-side compilation because now I get to better appreciate another side of YUI, to relive her growth once again.  PS. The below nicely done video, “I’ll Be”, is the only new song from the compilation.

Accompanying her CD is a DVD collection of three video clips and a set of live recording.  OK, I am not going to defend her vocals in a band setting because it is simply not her strength.  Simply put, YUI sounds much better with just YUI and her guitar and I suspect she composes her songs with just that (on that note, I think I can personally relate).  In some of the live clips, a few cameras were following her wandering the streets of Sapporo, Sendai, and Hiroshima with her guitar.  In one classic act like she used to do before she becomes famous, she sat down in a quiet corner, took out her guitar and started singing.  Gosh, she is my inspiration.  Need not to say, it didn’t take long for the crowd to build up during those live recording sessions on the street.

Some artists are just worth the effort to follow their music careers with, to quietly and patiently observe how they grow.  If you are new to YUI, start with her movie “Midnight Sun”.  It won’t go wrong.

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YUI – I Loved Yesterday – Kill Me Softly With “LOVE & TRUTH” …

YUI's I Love Yesterday

… and then kill me again.

I must have heard that one song “LOVE & TRUTH” no less than 400 times by now as I have frequently left my players (Hi-fi, mp3 phone, PC iTune) on single song repeat mode while traveling, working, reading, and blogging ever since YUI’s third album has landed in Singapore.  And if you think that I am obsessed with numbers, guess what I have noticed when I first read the song list of “I Loved Yesterday” at HMV?  All her three albums have 13 tracks.  No more, no less.  Strange eh?  And how did I even remember such a detail?  Freaky.

At times I wonder which is the most tedious to write: a book, a CD, or a movie review.  To write this review, I have listened to her two previous albums in conjunction with “I Love Yesterday” quite a few times in order to, perhaps, remind myself why I like YUI’s music in the first place.  Her trademark of a hauntingly innocent girlie voice with a taint of vulnerability and yet full of conviction in delivering her music is still written all over her third album.  The fact that she has written all the tracks on her own and plays the guitar track translates to yet another rock album that does not deviate from her style – except “LOVE & TRUTH” that seems to be the odd one out.  It must have something to do with the lethal combination of a rock ballad and a symphony.

A song written for the Japanese film “Closed Note”, what “LOVE & TRUTH” means to some of YUI’s fans is perhaps similar to what “Last Smile” does to the Love Psychedelico fans – we love that one song so much that we will probably spend eternity waiting for another “LOVE & TRUTH” or another “Last Smile” to appear from the same artist.

“I Loved Yesterday” comes with a DVD that contains 4 video clips of songs from her previous album and a short concert filming of “LIVE at BUDOKAN” (7 tracks).  I would be lying to say that the filming of her live performance is near perfect.  A bit far from it, unfortunately; a bit pitchy here and there, in fact.  On a more positive note, besides able to see her in action on stage with her guitar, the last clip “YOKYO” is probably one of the most moving music clips I have seen (the most moving scene still belongs to Ayumi Hamasaki when she screamed at the top of her lung thanking the crowd at the end of the show … at an open stadium, to a silence audience, without a mic).  Also, there is a clip called “Jam” and I swear I have not heard that song from any of YUI’s album before.  I like that one quite a fair bit.

Overall song quality-wise, “I Loved Yesterday” may be the weakest compares to her debut “From Me To You” that is packed with songs with memorable tunes and her commercially successful second album “Can’t Buy Me Love” that is lifted by her movie “Midnight Sun”.  Nevertheless, it is still a 21 years old YUI production that is worth keeping.  Below is the video clip of “LOVE & TRUTH”.

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YUI’s 2nd Album – Can’t Buy Me Love

Readers of my website may remember how I discovered the Japanese singer YUI after watching the movie Midnight Sun and foretold that she is a new artist to look out for. I even went in great effort to import her first album “From Me To You” from HMV Hong Kong. Within one week of release, YUI’s 2nd album “Can’t Buy Me Love” totally shattered the sales record of her previous album. If fans like me can just buy the record off the shelf without sampling a single song, there must be some kind of craze going on.

YUI’s strengths lie in her talents in songwriting, guitar playing, and her simple yet pleasant appearance that melts the crowd – more than make up for her vocal ability for someone who is only 20 this year. Then again, what is wrong with girlie voice? Jazz singer Lisa Ekdahl seems to sound like a girl no matter how old she was when each of her album was recorded. While YUI’s first album “From Me To You” probably made famous by her movie “Midnight Sun” because she did showcase some of her songs in the said movie, “Can’t Buy Me Love” does not have the same advantage. I have to admit sometimes visual impact can be powerful and of course what I am trying to assess is if “Can’t Buy Me Love” lives up to expectation.

“Tomorrow’s Way” from her first album is probably my one of my top 10 all time favorite Japanese songs right now. “Good-bye Days”, the theme song of her movie did not appear in her first album (her 1st album was released before the movie) but happy to say, it is inside this new album. Same goes to “I Remember You” that was featured in her movie. Though these two songs sound a little bit dated, it is good that they are featured somewhere. The two major singles coming out from “Can’t Buy Me Love” are “Rolling Star” and “CHE.R.RY”. Both are featured below. My favorite song of this new album is perhaps “Umbrella” – a song that may come close to “Tomorrow’s Way”.

All in all, I enjoy “Can’t Buy Me Love” and am glad that YUI has kept up with the good work. Her next single “My Generation / Understand” is nowhere to be seen in this new album of hers. I sense a third album in the making knowing how productive Japanese artists can be. YUI writes all her songs – both music and lyric – and if she can keep up with that pace, it is indeed admirable.

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