{album} aozorafantasii – Flight

May 9, 2011 at 1:07 am | Posted in aozorafantasii, Music | Leave a comment

aozorafantasii – Flight

(released June 16th, 2010)

1. 旅 ~My Own Road~ [Tabi ~My Own Road~]
2. I’m Yours
3. Lonely City
4. ばらの花 [Bara no Hana]
5. You Don’t Know
6. Spell Left Unspoken
7. Sea of Stars
8. Across the Universe

aozorafantasii’s debut indies mini-album. Her real name is Lisa Qin, a Chinese American who studied at UC Berkeley, and then went to Japan to pursue her dream of becoming a singer. From what I gather, she teaches English there, holds street lives, and continues to upload her original songs on YouTube. I’ve been a fan of her since 2008, so I’m excited to review an actual CD release of hers.

The album opens appropriately with Tabi ~My Own Road~, a song about starting off on a new journey. This was a song I loved from her pre-debut YouTube/MySpace days, and it’s a mellow acoustic song with a melody that doesn’t really “peak” anywhere but gives that feeling of walking or traveling through a quiet countryside. Lisa’s voice is smooth and calming, and the editing makes her sound clearer and more polished without any obnoxious auto-tuning. I have serious issues with the mixing though – the guitar sounds way too subdued and limp and lacks the character of her rough YouTube version.

I’m relieved at least the guitar part wasn’t murdered in her cover of Jason Mraz’s I’m Yours. I always feel a bit weird about artists covering songs sung by other genders since the lyrics might feel mismatched, but it’s not that bad here. Still, it’s not the most remarkable cover of a pop song. It’s pretty, but not something I’d listen to again and again. I feel like her voice is a bit too calm for this song, and drags a little.

Lonely City is a Lisa original that actually benefited greatly from the processing. The guitar sounds much livelier and more rhythmic. The harmonies in some parts are improved on as well. This song is one of my favorites from her, as I can identify with the lyrics sometimes – feeling of being lonely in a busy city. Another reason is probably because the verse melodies remind me a bit of the catchy pre-chorus from Hilary Duff’s “Wake Up”, but I digress. Lisa also sounds a lot more heartfelt in this version. Lonely City is a beautiful, simple song that doesn’t get boring no matter how many times I listen to it.

Next we have a cover of Quruli’s Bara no Hana. Having never heard of the original before, I checked it out before listening to Lisa’s version. The original sounds like those Japanese rock bands my friend Steven loves, and Lisa’s rendition caters more to my taste. While the accompaniment is a bit plain and only has acoustic guitar (I miss the repeating loop in the original), Lisa’s voice gives the song a more bittersweet touch, and I definitely prefer her voice for this melody.

You Don’t Know is probably the closest she can get to mainstream American pop (think the more acoustic-based artists, like Jason Mraz and Colbie Caillat). It’s one of her originals that’s completely in English, and it’s a breezy song about crushes and not being able to confess. It’s got a pleasant rhythm that makes me feel like tapping my foot along, and would be a great summer track. Definitely better than her YouTube version, since it’s faster and more lighthearted.

I was rather surprised that Lisa decided to cover a Vocaloid song, but Spell Left Unspoken hit a bit of a sour note with me. Being rather fond of the cute Megurine Luka original, this stripped down version just doesn’t cut it for me. Lisa’s voice is pretty as usual, but that’s all there is to this song. The guitar is really weak just like in Tabi, and this cover doesn’t seem to carry any of the life that made the original so charming. At least add some piano (the piano line in the Luka original was one of the highlights of the song)?

I remember Sea of Stars being that one song that was a departure from Lisa’s usual style, as it ditches the guitar completely and goes for more of an R&B-inspired sound, and I thoroughly loved it. This revamped version is even better – a more solid beat that could make this song border on danceable, synths to mimic the sound of the ocean, and the piano line made more prominent. Lisa’s voice slips smoothly into this type of song without any trouble and she handles both lower and higher registers with ease. Definitely the high point of the album, and here’s to hoping she’ll make more songs like this someday!

The album closes with a cover of The Beatles’ Across the Universe. Nothing can touch the classic, but this is a very good interpretation. Lisa’s voice hits all the right spots for me in this one and the delivery overall is excellent. While I love the guitar riff the original opens with, the brief a capella entrance was great. Both melody and backing were performed cleanly, and I liked the relaxed summer evening feel this cover gave.

Final Thoughts: Lisa’s definitely got talent in both singing and songwriting, but I don’t think she’s ready to make her mark on the scene yet. This album reminds me very much of Gregory & the Hawk’s “In Your Dreams” album, as both contain songs that are very skeletal, but Lisa needs something that will help her stand out more. Her songs would definitely do better a bit fleshed out, and I really wish she had put more of her originals on this album instead of padding them out with covers – what happened to Rainy, Goodbye Song, Ameagari, etc…? There are several songs that I thought should have made the cut, but that’s a rant for another day.

Favorite Track(s): Lonely City and Sea of Stars by a long stretch, and maybe Bara no Hana. I’m on the fence with that one.

Overall Grade: B+


{Artist Spotlight} amateur J-Pop artists

November 25, 2008 at 12:33 am | Posted in aozorafantasii, HIMEKA, Music, _Artist Spotlight | 1 Comment

I generally don’t follow amateur artists at all because a lot of their work lacks the polished feel of ‘real’ singers’ works. I’m not talking about vocal ability…it’s the overall sound quality. While it’s true there are amateurs out there who can sing better than actual signed artists, they usually don’t have high-tech equipment to record with nor do they have a high-powered staff helping them mix.

Nevertheless, despite the setbacks of recording, there are still a few amateurs out there that pique my interest.

Continue Reading {Artist Spotlight} amateur J-Pop artists…

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