{single} Chiba Saeko – Sayonara Solitia

October 27, 2009 at 10:49 am | Posted in Chiba Saeko, Kajiura Yuki, Music | Leave a comment

Chiba Saeko – Sayonara Solitia
千葉紗子 – さよならソリティア

(released January 21st, 2004)

1. さよならソリティア [Sayonara Solitia]
2. here we stand in the morning dew
3. さよならソリティア (instrumental)
4. here we stand in the morning dew (instrumental)

Chiba Saeko’s 9th single. The A-side is used as the ending theme for the series Chrono Crusade, in which Chiba also voices the character Azmaria Hendric. Both songs were composed by Kajiura Yuki.

Sayonara Solitia started so calm and plain that I wasn’t exactly sure if this was even a Kajiura Yuki work – until the backing vocals came in, and even those are rather low key. I believe Chiba Saeko is singing as herself in this song, and not in character as Azmaria, since her voice isn’t high and cutesy in this song. At first listen, she does sound a little happy for a song like this, but there’s a subtle hint of grief in it that’s perfect. I’m fond of the contrast – the sparse synthesizer and bass during the verses and the fuller arrangement during the choruses. The ending was beautiful – Chiba sang the verse lines and there’s a brief moment where she’s singing a capella, a pause, then the instrumentals and choir finish the song.

here we stand in the morning dew speeds things up with a pounding beat, and is reminiscent of the Kajiura’s more dance-like tracks. I like the rhythm of the song, and it’s hard to explain how, but the music really fits the title – I think it’s because of the backing vocals giving this whole “misty morning” feel. I used to like this far more than Sayonara Solitia when I heard the pair of songs years ago, but since my taste has leaned more toward songs of emotional resonance of late…this B-side is a great track but doesn’t really stir anything within me. Chiba’s quite the versatile vocalist though, and pulls off both slow and fast styles with ease.

Overall Grade: A


{album} tiaraway – TWO:LEAF

March 21, 2008 at 11:43 am | Posted in Chiba Saeko, Music, tiaraway | Leave a comment

tiaraway - twoleaf
tiaraway – TWO:LEAF

(released January 26th, 2005)

1. introduction
2. 旅光年空へ [Tabikounen Sora e]
3. From silent sky
4. Your Shade
5. 恋のジェリービーンズ [Koi no Jellybeans]
7. 超絶特急Go→tiara [Chouzetsu Tokkyuu Go→tiara]
8. I fall there ~夢の続きへ~ [I fall there ~yume no tsuzuki e~]
9. Can you feel crying alone?
10. シロキカギロヒ [shiroki kagirohi]
11. 想い出 good night [Omoide good night]
12. LOVE★微熱!? [LOVE★Binetsu!?]
13. AQUA ~遙かなるブルー~ [AQUA ~Harukanaru Blue~]
15. Usual place

tiaraway’s 1st and only album. tiaraway was a fixed-term seiyuu duo consisting of Nanri Yuuka and Chiba Saeko. Since disbanding, Nanri has continued her career as the vocal half of FictionJunction YUUKA, and Chiba has focused on seiyuu work. This album in general is electronically influenced, so expect songs you would hear in a video game or anime.

introduction – this consists of random techno beats and electronic blips that would be good BGM for an RPG game where the character is exploring an area. The music builds in volume and ends with something that sounds vaguely like chant music. This track (and a lot of others on this album) are composed by Shikura Chiyomaru, who did the music for Nanoha StrikerS.

Tabikounen Sora e, a cheery album-opener, starts with Nanri and Chiba energetically singing the chorus in unison. The background music is mainly your standard electric and bass guitar and percussion and while is nothing special, sets off the happy mood. The vocals are peppy during and the lines leading up to the chorus have rather pretty vocal harmonies. This song is the start of the album’s “journey” and feels like a transition away from the cute character image songs you typically hear seiyuu sing to a more J-Pop sound.

From silent sky establishes a fantasy world feel with the dream-like opening vocals. The music is more techno-influenced with a heavier beat than Track 2. The vocal harmonies are also stronger here. The verses are more calm and serious in contrast to the driving rhythm of the choruses. I can’t pin it down emotion-wise, but there is a veiled sense of sadness. My favorite parts are the floaty English vocals (“dream in a dream…”). I feel strange for saying this, but From silent sky is just begging to be used as a mahou shoujo anime opening theme.

Your Shade slows things down a bit and deceives you into thinking it’s a mid-tempo ballad with its acoustic guitar and repeating piano/bell line with underlying electric guitar. Then as the vocals build up, the heavy percussion kicks in. The emotion is a lot stronger in this song – there’s a slight melancholy mood during the verses and a strong sense of yearning during the choruses. The harmonies are good, although I do wish Chiba would sing out more, since Nanri’s voice is overpowering her during the more dramatic parts.

Koi no Jellybeans sticks out on this album as the song I dislike the most. It sounds like a bad, cheesy character song for some romantic comedy anime. Well, the overall song composition is rather good and these two seiyuu can actually sing in tune. It’s just the excessive cutesiness that makes me cringe. Chiba’s cutesy voice is okay but Nanri’s just makes me shudder. And…the lyrics! What kind of song do you expect from “honey honey my darling yeah yeah”? It’s a fun song, but it will get annoying – fast.

METAL MOON – believe it or not, when you hear this song, you’ll think the title is very fitting. This is partially because the instrumentals, which are all electronic. Part of the background sounds like a metallic version of an Asian string instrument. tiaraway uses a darker and lower vocal range in the descending melodies. Their English is rather bad, but the vocal quality makes up for it. The vocals change completely in the chorus, though – they sound thin and slightly harsh, like metal, and borders on the trance-y I’ve Sound voices.

Chouzetsu Tokkyuu Go→tiara was the theme song for tiaraway’s radio show. When I initially heard the sweetened vocals singing “Go tiara” so badly that it sounded like “Go Vienna,” I feared it would be another Koi no Jellybeans. Fortunately, they didn’t drive their pitches up THAT many notches. Overall, Chouzetsu sounds like a slightly toned down version of Tabikounen Sora e. I rather like the tune as it is very catchy, and the random yelling amuses me. The repetition of “magical drive” was pretty grating though.

I fall there ~yume no tsuzuki e~ follows the same formula as From silent sky and Your Shade with contrasting vocal moods but to a lesser degree. This is an enjoyable song but not the most memorable on the album. The highlights would be the vocal harmonies and the instrumentals – especially the intro and the guitar solo in the middle. Again, I wish they wouldn’t hand Chiba the backseat just because she has the lower voice. At “I fall there,” there seems to be backing vocals which could be made more obvious too.

Can you feel crying alone? makes more sense musically than grammatically. It’s more revved up than the previous track, with a faster beat and more powerful vocals. The melody has a bit of chromaticism in it and while there are less harmonies, they are tighter. I was taken aback by the passion tiaraway put into the song, as if they are really “crying out” (though I do think Nanri stretched her voice a bit too much at times). Background-wise, I loved the thunder-and-rain effect in the beginning, and the harp was an interesting addition.

shiroki kagirohi is a departure from what I established in my mind as the “tiaraway sound.” It sounds like an odd mixture of an Asian folk song and a theme for one of the .hack// games. This is like other tiaraway songs in that it has the verse-chorus dichotomy. shiroki starts with low vocals (I thought Nanri was Chiba at first!) and the synths make it sound a bit Oriental. The chorus sounds like it’s going in circles and has a mysterious tone. Make this song darker and more string-heavy, and you could pass it off for Kajiura Yuki.

Omoide good night was the ED theme to the anime W~Wish and is probably their most well-known song. It has a rather jazz-waltz feel due to the synthesized strings, bells, and piano. The piano sounds especially nice with their voices, and makes me wonder why the composer didn’t use it in their other songs. Vocal-wise, the harmonies are more fluid, and Chiba gets a chance at the melody instead of always singing underneath Nanri. But overall, the best aspect of the song is how well the instrumentals and vocals complement each other.

LOVE★Binetsu!? – from the intro, I can already tell this is cutesy song #3 on the album. I’m tempted to skip it, but I found it a lot more enjoyable than the other two. I can’t really comment on the song arrangement as it is similar to Koi no Jellybeans but faster and more hyper. The cute voices aren’t too overdone on this track, and the pair can actually maintain good harmonies while singing like that. The lack of silly lyrics (okay, “ding dong for you” is still kind of silly, but not cringe-worthy) is a plus too.

AQUA ~Harukanaru Blue~ – ooh, this track has just answered my wishes for more piano. The intro is absolutely lovely, and the vocals float above it. There are more strings, too. The title couldn’t be more appropriate – tiaraway’s voices flow like water and I absolutely love Nanri’s little “lilts.” Even the louder parts don’t destroy the calm atmosphere – they’re like a rolling river, washing over you with its gentle strength. AQUA has this whole “returning to home” mood, winding you down for the album’s conclusion.

TWO:LEAF makes me think of a valley filled with mist with its acoustic guitar, harp, and vocal “ooh” intro. It retains the calmer feel from AQUA, although for the album’s titular track, I sort of expected more. It’s a pretty song with a simple melodic structure and while it’s pleasant to listen to, it could be better. I think the angelic backing vocals should be brought back more, and that Chiba should be more prominent because her voice suits this song better. I loved the more acoustic accompaniment but the synth was still way too heavy.

Usual place is THE song that got me listening to tiaraway. Maybe it’s bias from it being an old favorite, but I can’t really find anything to criticize. I think tiaraway’s vocals are at their best in here, both solos and harmonies. The acoustic and electric guitar and synth provides just the right amount of backing (I felt overwhelmed in some of the other tracks). The key modulation from verse to chorus is my favorite part, as is the descending sequence in the chorus. This time, I didn’t mind Nanri being much louder because their voices melded so well.

Final Thoughts: Let me make this clear – this album is not for everyone. For those who thrive on mainstream pop, you will be turned off by the quirkiness of TWO:LEAF. I, for one, loved how the album showcased both the vocalists’ and composers’ originality while keeping a trademark sound. The songs range from upbeat to moody and you can take any of them and slap them on an anime, and it’d work. My only complaint would be that there aren’t enough ballads on this album.

Favorite Track(s): This is a tough choice since I like many of the songs on this album, but for those just getting into tiaraway, I strongly recommend From silent sky, Your Shade, Omoide good night, or Usual place.

Overall Grade: A-

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