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9nine - Retrospection in Musica

I'll be honest, my feelings towards this blog are becoming almost certain that it's now redundant, a water-laden ship wallowing half-sunk upon the waves of the wota blogosphere. The few features I do now: the album reviews, the January idol list and the December Year in Reviews are becoming harder and more time-consuming to write. Of course, this is because when I started this blog I was very solely stuck to H!P, and then it was mostly Momusu. Of course, I expanded, and quickly, being DD will do that to you. Perhaps too quickly. My idol bodyparts list sank, I doubt I'll ever finish it. It's not that it's hard to write; indeed, there is very little writing to be done. It's that it's tedium. And that's the way I feel in general now about writing for this blog. Album reviews no longer flow like rivers from my fingertips. The new Berryz album awaits, unlistened to. The new Momoclo album beckons, yet the words of praise falter on my lips, the minor disappointment of Neo Stargate fresh in my memory.

Even on the other side, on Beat Laments The World, has my content slowed to a stuttering halt. I still write posts, of a surety, but I'm nearly a year since my last massive list post and no further ideas strike me. Those that do sit, awaiting but someone to stoke the flames. It seems then, I must content to idle, posting what unwelcome reviews I may, and generally existing until I regain somewhat of my sundered inspiration. I'm even considering moving everything over there (probably to Henkka's annoyance) and just leaving this place to rot in peace, a derelict monolith to the follies of youth. Another point in favour of that course of action is that Wordpress is decidedly less willfull than Blogspot, much as I disdain of the control panel in it. I've had to code half of this post fully, yet the other half was content with simple enters and Ctrl commands. I'm undecided though.

But anyway, enough lamenting. As some of you may know, 9nine released their new album CUE not long back, and this has given me the opportunity to further rack myself with tedium. As I did with Tokyo Girls' Style, I'll do a bit of a music retrospective, and review all of their albums, due to me being yet to review any of them. Of course, that means hours of listening and writing for me, and probably a lot of time reading and getting bored for you. Good thing the tedium cuts both ways, I guess.

Anyway, I'll touch briefly into 9nine's history. They're all on the LesPros agency, and formed at some point in 2005 and worked up to an indies debut called Sweet Snow in 2006. Then they released some digital singles (seemingly their preferred method of distribution), starting with Shine, and a few physical ones, alongside two albums on Victor, which endured until halfway through 2010. Then they redebuted under Sony, and released some actual singles. The Victor era was exemplified by weird release strategies and hardly any sales or promotion, the Sony era practically the opposite, though these reviews will decide on the most important factor: the music.

PVs are scarce. The indies stuff is nigh unfindable, the Victor stuff given but brief snippets, and the Sony stuff hidden behind SMEJ's great anti-gaijin firewall. Of course, pretty much the only PVs on youtube are the ones for the songs that aren't on any album. Great.

9nine - first 9


Preamble: Damn, this album is old. Released now more than 6 years ago. Black and white album cover gives a hint to the contents, certainly not your normal idol album. Umika and Chapon look so young. Uki looks the same still.

1. 白い華 ~White Garden~.


One of the few PVs you'll be getting today, courtesy of SMEJ's wonderful racism and Victor's seeming hatred of internet availability in general. Anyway. Starts off with soft guitar and drums, and talking, then we get a glorious vocal part with arpeggiated guitars. Then we start in earnest. The bass is brutal, the strings lush and keys awesome. Vocal melodies are pretty as hell. Chorus drum patterns seem to rush it along, but somehow it works. Haunting and peculiar, but oddly leaves one transfixed. It was written by Amano Tsukiko, who did her own version of it. Mid-8 strips down to some glorious minimalism. Then weird as hell keychange and final chorus. Then outro call and response with angelic voices on one side and lyrics on the other. It's fucking amazing. 10/10

2. パレード.  Complete change in tone. Happy synths blasting away with a pumping bassline. The verse melodies are cute, but not amazing. Prechorus has some interest, but builds up badly to the chorus, which is a rehash of the intro passage. Second verse has a nice deconstruction, the instrumentation sparser, which allows the vocals some more room for effect. This song is cute and fast, but still manages to fail to get one invigorated. The mid-8 is a nice alteration on the main phrase. Buildup chorus doesn't do much. Not the best. 5/10

3. チョコレート革命. This starts off amazingly, with a weird guitar phrase that, more than anything, reminds me of the intro to Sepultura's Attitude. Which is a passing strange shoutout for a idol group to make. But instead of transitioning into groove metal, it does so into a funky caribbean ska pop piece. In fact, it sounds like a slightly underproduced early TGS track. There are some Latin rhythms though, so my Sepultura fan isn't too put out. The basslines are strong, vocal melodies pretty enough again. The chorus is cute. Can imagine it being a good summer PV, but alas, was not to be. Interlude before second verse with bass and organ is pretty win. No mid8. Buildup chorus with only percussion and vocals is pretty fun. Lalalas at the end are random but not too annoying. 9/10

4. 悲しみはいつか羽になる. Some atmospheric keys, then acoustic guitar and melodica niceness. Then bongos and back into the funky ska pop. Melodies are again decent, if a little oldschool. Between the introchorus and the verse there's a brilliant use of a xylophone to counterpoint the bassline. This song has some crazy instruments just sitting at the side out of the way. A slide guitar on the right and the melodica on the left , just adding little accents where needed. The overall tone of the song, despite being somewhat happy, is tinted with a hint of sadness, as reflected in the title and lyrics. The title translates to "Sadness Will Grow Wings Someday" or something. Melodica solo! Mid-8 vocal melody is very good, actually. More melodica at the end. 10/10

5. cotton candy. Weird percussion, then a very Hansen-esque chord progression, and an overdriven guitar with some kids music synths. Hints of 80s game music and 8bit stuff, then chorus buildup, and what a chorus! The vocal melodies are weird but effective. Chord progression is also good. The random cutouts of different instruments in the second verse works intriguingly. Then prechorus builds up epically again. Then, SOLO TIEM. I love this solo. It's insane, soloface jizzing everywhere. We get another awesome chorus and then keychange chorus. Ending guitar solo/riffing is also soloface as hell and the guy needs a nozzle fitted at the end of his guitar to shower any audience in all he's squeezed out. 10/10

6. 絆. This starts with an urban beat and some vocoding and acoustic guitar. That continues. The beat is intriguing, and the acoustic and piano and a really deep bass synth accompany the verse melodies. Prechorus increases the urgency a little, and I think I hear some electric guitar in there. And how! This chorus, once again, is fucking glorious. If all urban-tinted idol songs had chorus this good, I wouldn't dislike them so. Electric guitar in second verse is helpful and whiny, sounds like sex in my right ear. Melodies are decent. Except in the chorus, when they're amazing. The whole chorus is basically a mastery of songwriting. Mid-8 has some weird stuff and some spacey-synths. Then acoustic guitar and vocal duet. Beats return... Damn, I can headbang to this chorus. Even though it ain't metal. Have I sold you on the chorus yet? This chorus could drag any song up to a ten rating. 10/10

7. ピエロ. More organs, and another urban-esque beat. Then a funky guitar with flange. I love that word. Flange. Bass steps around the melody with care. And the melody is nice and minor key as fuck. The chorus sounds less like a chorus than a creepy-child singint to themselves in a horror film. This song verges on the vocal performance, and it is incredibly good. Creeps me the fuck out, but it's good. Some of the evil harmonising is glorious. Hammond solo is slow and mildly evil, I suppose. But it's a Hammond. I jizz after one note on the damn things. This song is frankly win. More Hammonds on the outro which are jizzworthy. 10/10

8. 眠れる森の少女. This song is freaky, creepy, and fucking amazing. I've honestly never heard a song weirder, in any genre. On my lists it's in honoured company, coming #14 on my Guitar Solos list and #2 on my Prog List. As I said in them, I'm still unsure as to the key, scale or mode, but it's probably not a human one. Demonic as fuck. Those guitar trills at the beginning. Then faux-happy music with creepy vocal melodies over the top in the verse. The random guitar accentuations. The prechorus is a dreamlike-wonderland-nightmare-made-flesh of arpeggiated strings, sustained guitar harmonics and more creepy vocals. Then there's no chorus. Just a guitar lead into the second verse, which proceeds happily in evoking a forest of visceral flesh and snarling trees. In fact, I could see this song being a good soundtrack to Funky Forest, practically the weirdest film ever to come out of a nation whose seeming sole raison d'être is the production of weird films. Then we get the prechorus again, and again no chorus, this time it's that bizarre as fuck and weird solo. But jizzworthy nonetheless. Then prechorus again, and shock fucking horror, we finally get the chorus. And hva faen it's creepy. Then bells. It was written by Rolly though. Even looking at him's creepy. Still, worth breaking the limiter on. 11/10

9. ハート型の涙. Luckily no more of the weirdness. This is a upbeat, pop rock number. Very light rock. Vocal melodies are strong, instrumentation is fun. Chorus isn't the strongest in the world in power, but the melodies are good enough. Mid-8 has some really horrible vocals, but it's cute. It's not the best, but it's passing listenable. 6/10

10. 風をおこして. Piano-driven ballad this time, with strings. Melodies are good. Vocals are good too. Harmonies are good. Shaker introduced in second verse. Bass and more percussion in second prechorus, and then second chorus is building up nicely. See, this is how you should build up a ballad. Slowly, throughout the song. Not buildup to one chorus, then go backwards and start again. Mid-8 has a woodwind (possibly clarinet) solo that isn't bad. Beautiful melodies though, especially in the chorus. 9/10

11. ありがとう. More piano, more minor key this time. More of a school graduation song, the mixing is awful, as if they're standing behind a piano, all singing at the same time and the mic is facing the wrong way on the far side of the room. Does sound more choral though, certainly more human than their earlier insanity. The piano melodies are beautiful. Still, probably required more than one take, and this does sound like they've just taken the first take and thought "fuck it". Cover of Ooe Senri. 7/10

Overall: I've never really hidden that this is a wonderful album, full of weirdness and wholly un-idol-like songs, structures and ideas. And why not? At the time they were young, unproven, and they just didn't sell. Releasing an album that would at least challenge listeners and get them talking may have helped in getting them better known; it might have delayed their breakout. Who's to know. Either way, I've always admired a creative streak, and on this album it's a mile wide and a league deep. For whatever shortcomings it does have, and there are many, mostly production related, the music shines through, and hell, that's all I could ever ask for.

8.9/10

second 9


Preamble: Certainly a more modern-looking cover for the second album, not a bad concept but would probably have worked better if there had still been nine girls at the time.

1. awake. This song is pretty damn good. The intro riff, which I love, is practically the whole reason it got onto my Metal List (which I laugh at now, as I flamed the first 9nine album quite mercilessly, proof that views, and tastes, do change). But anyway, yes. This riff is metal. The verse vocals are pretty lacking in melody, but that's made up for in the prechous. The keychange for the chorus is pretty decent, and it also changes tempo to be slower but more powerful. It's an interesting change of tone. And it's nice. Then speeds up again back to the main riff. Second time around is pretty much the same, unfortunately. The solo is played almost entirely in the lower register and follows the chord progression, but still stands out despite (or maybe because) of it. Still, a damn good start. 10/10

2. sky. Pop punk. It's good though. Drums are blasting away in front of pretty much everything, but the chord progressions are good, as are the synths. The verse vocal melodies are decent. Prechorus builds nicely into the chorus, which is, as the chorus itself posits, 眩しいすぎる. Too damn bright. Happy as hell, this song. Second verse is much the same, as is the prechorus. The chorus vocal melodies are pretty anthemic. Some tapping guitar solo, then buildup chorus is glorious. The bass starts wandering in the final chorus, which is an interesting sounding thing in pop punk, but it works. 10/10

3. メリーゴーランド. Funk. Heavy funk. Red Hot Chili Peppers in Japanese idol form. This really does channel the whole RHCP model, Flea-like basslines and Frusciante guitar licks. Unfortunately none of the girls can channel Kiedis, but still, close enough. The vocal melodies are good, in any case. I love it when they throw curveballs. The chorus is pretty standard, unfortunately. Not funky enough. Still, the rest of the song makes up for it in spades. The mid-8 riff is fucking amazing, just about manages a perfect crossover of RHCP's funk and Rage Against The Machine's violent groove, then a bluesy funk jam into the final chorus. I'm marking this down because of the chorus, and it still manages this. 10/10

4. 砂の城. Complete change of pace, this song is urban. Amano Tsukiko returns. With acoustic guitar, weedy synths and a huge throbbing mound of a synth bass. The vocal melodies in the verse unfortunately suck, especially in comparison to the urban bits on the first album. Luckily, however, the chorus manages to regain some measure of self-respect with some call and response and syncopated vocals, and a strong melody and intertwining harmony. The mid-8 has some piano scale descents, a bass pounding and not much of interest. Not the best song. 4/10

5. 漂流少女. Again a complete change of pace, channelling some 70s pop group whose name I can't for the life of me remember. The vocal melodies are good, syncopated guitars are fun. Bass guitar works, the synths are good. Chorus is fun, and the harmonies are a bit odd, reminiscent of the first album. Guitar solo is quite good. It's a good song, but not amazing. 7/10

6. MONSTER. Amano's back, and indeed, for the next three songs. Thankfully, they're better than Suna no Shiro. Good guitar riffs, verse with just drumrolls, clapping and vocals is cool. Vocal melodies are decent. Chord progressions too. Chorus is lacking in power, but the range-straining vocal melodies are certainly Amano's touch at work. Mid-8 drumming builds up into guitar spamming one chord with additional notes every bar. Not bad. 6/10

7. Cherry. This sounds more like it, some 80s guitar and general sexyness. Some more of Amano's crazy melody lines in the verse. Then pretty straightforward rock for the prechorus and chorus. Not bad though. Anything I lack in words is because there's nothing much to complain about. I love these flangy sounds. Mid-8 is another one-chord affair. Still, getting better again. 8/10

8. 恋花. The last Amano song for 9nine is some crazy funk. Strong bassline and organs. Beat is weird. Vocal melodies are Amano-quality. Buildup into ska-esque feel in the chorus. Hammond solo. Jizzpoints. Mid-8 has a simple melody which then builds with harmonies to be quite beautiful and has a small haunting quality. Good, good song. 9/10

9. Show TIME.



Finally another music video eh. Umika looks fierce as hell in it, one of the reasons I've always considered her to be a closet sadist. The other is Heaven's Flower, in which she went around assassinating people. But anyway. This song is pretty crazy, bassline is all over the place most of the time, the riffs are good and the vocal lines also not shabby at all. The chorus vocal melody and harmonies are like a dischordant chorus, and it works oh so well. Anthem of the damned or something. It's not quite as weird as stuff on the first album, but it's certainly marked out by its sense of otherness. The rap in the mid-8 is weird but not bad. The guitar solo is jizzworthy. Then at the end there's another, just to wear you out before the album is up. Short but sweet and very good. 10/10

Overall: Started incredibly strongly, lagged in the middle then recovered at the end. Honestly, I do like this album, but it might have worked better as an EP. Cut out some of the crap and it'd be an amazing EP. The album's damn short in any case, only 35 minutes. Still, more fresh content than a Berryz album, so not complaining. Cutting marks for the shortness and the middle lag.

7.9/10

So, break time, for me, so I'll fill in some details. Between the second album and the third, Sony came in, and girls left in droves. Though one didn't bequeath the other. Three members buggered off in the large gap between the release of second 9 and the Smile Again single, and then another two ostensibly at the behest of Sony before the release of Cross Over, with which they replaced with two new girls. And then, I suppose, learned to dance, somewhere. Watching old 9nine PVs is probably painful if you're a dancer.

9nine



Preamble: Very white. Conceptually doesn't do much, except imply a clean slate, starting from scratch, all that type of stuff. Shame though.

1. Fly. Atmospheric synths at first, then dance-y beat with guitar. New style, new composers, pretty much all new. Vocal melodies are pretty boring though. Would that they kept Amano on just for those, she at least knew how to keep things fresh and mildly psychologically disturbing. Chorus is nice enough, but the power is all in the synths and Chapon and Uki's vocal power has dissipated under the production. Though Kanchan's strength is there, Umika and Hiroro let the side down splendidly. However, the switch from underproduction to overproduction takes some getting used to. I think I preferred the former. This takes some getting used to. Mid-8 has more boring melodies over an interesting chord progression, and then a synth section which is good. Still, the genre will take some reconciling. It's as if Pink Floyd suddenly started releasing Gangsta Rap when Waters left. Maybe not quite so bad, but still. Mind the gap. 6/10

2. 少女トラベラー.



More heavy synths. Synth chord prog and lead are pretty decent. Call and response in the verse using vocoders. Odd. Prechorus has some nice synths but terrible vocal melodies. Chorus is pretty much the same. I'm not minding the arrangement, in fact for synth-heavy beat-driven pop it's mid-high tier stuff, not quite up to Naka Riisa's moonlighting as Lady Gaga but certainly nowehere near as bad as the various H!P and AKB feelers in that direction. However, as in Fly, the vocal melodies are lacking in anything to draw interest. No random scale ascents that lead nowhere, no straining of their vocal ranges, nothing that hints at going outside of a very limited, one octave range in one scale. Would that I could give points to the arranger of this song, but unfortunately it's actually the same bloke who wrote the vocal melody, Takahashi Kouichiro. They must have reached the same conclusion as me at Sony, as looking through he does more on this album but nothing on the next one. Anyway, mid-8 has more vocoding to fuckery. Then buildup chorus. You should know the drill by now. 6/10

3. チクタク☆2NITE.



So, this one has the same arranger but a different composer, so I'm hoping at least the melodies are passably good. From the start it sounds like Perfume. Fitting, I suppose, given Chapon's older sister is in Perfume, but still. Immediately in the verse, the vocals are clear, not mired in eighty seven layers of synths, and the vocal melodies work. Likewise in the prechorus. Unfortunately the vocal effects return in the chorus, as do the limited melodies. Arrangement isn't as strong this time either. In fact the music is pretty weak. No real mid-8 to speak of, buildup chorus is pretty terrible. Unfortunately the improvement in vocal melodies doesn't mean this is even as good a song as the two preceding. 4/10

4. 夏 wanna say love U.



Back to fully Takahashi again, and fuck me does it suck. Beat is boring, synths are fucking awful. Vocal melodies even worse than before, and the autotune helpfully makes it even worse, along with every other vocoding effect in the book. Amazes me that this was released as a single. It's awful. There's actually something going on in the chorus. They briefly break out of the constrained octave. Briefly. Such a fleeting hope. This really is AKB-Synthpop level awful. Possibly worse. I guess Shoujo Traveller was his one crowning achievement at arrangement. Mid-8 is just more vocoder effects. Again. Buildup chorus is once again crap. That such a song exists, I despair. 1/10

5. koizora. Well, thank fuck that's out of the way. Only one more Takahashi song left on this album, and that's later. And he only arranges it. Anyway, koizora. Guitars! Violins! Pianos! Vocal melodies! Vibrato! No over-production! It's like heaven after suffering the slow removal of every rib without anasthaesia. It's still not as amazing as some of the stuff from the first two albums, but after that it's refreshing and most welcome. Melodies are good, instrumentation and arrangement are good. Chorus is wonderfully orgasmic. Synth solo and guitar solo at the same time. Not bad. This was most definitely needed. 9/10

6. オレンジ days. Guitars and synths this time, could be interesting. Slow paced, but not too bad. Verse has some pianos and arpeggiated guitars to good effect, vocal melodies are decent. Prechorus has some interesting mixing, and the vocal melodies are good, with some harmonies. The chorus isn't too bad. Post-chorus is quite cool. Buildups and mid-8 are pretty boring though. Listenable, even good, but mostly background music. Pleasant. 5/10

7. Cross Over.



The song that gave me hope for their Sony days, only to see it snatched out from under me by all that's transpired since. The bass, guitars and strings are beautiful. The vocal melodies likewise. The verse is restrained but very nice. The prechorus adds some urgency and strains the vocal chords a bit, into the chorus which does so even more. The chord progressions are all good, the arrangement lush and full of strings and chimes. This song certainly did stand as a crossover though. It's the epitome of their third period, after their first period of the indies, first 9 and associated things; and the second period of second 9 and associated things. The other notables of the third period are the singles Smile Again and Hikari no Kage, and the digital single Happy x2 Eyes. Then we have the electrosynthpop 4th era of this album, and the current 5th era stuff. Anyway, forgive that tangent. Mid-8 is pretty enough. Buildup is even decent, with piano and acoustic guitar instead of just mildly reduced pounding synths. Shocking, but amazing. 10/10

8. too blue. Some jazzy piano, heavy synths and a weedy synth lead. That's odd. But oh well. The verse vocals are nice and interesting. The bassline too is doing something. Prechorus isn't particularly amazing. Chorus is okay, it's not amazing but not terrible either. The mid-8 is pretty cool though, and the extended vocals in it quite delectable. Overall I'm not particularly fussed about this song, but it's decent enough. 6/10

9. Love me? The final Takahashi song. As expected, synth heavy, and not as good as Shoujo Traveller. Still, nowhere near as bad as Natsu... And the vocal melodies aren't by him, so they rise above the material somewhat. A decent attempt from the composer to make something even Takahashi couldn't fuck up. Unfortunately, Takahashi could probably turn even Mozart into something unlistenable. Still, at least the vocals are passable. And at least it's short. At least this time you can hear the vocals through everything. Buildup chorus is actually quite a nice vocal performance. I'll give it something just for the vocals. And thank fuck there's no more Takahashi. Ever. 4/10

10. ダーリン、ダーリン. Somehow it's another third-era sounding song. It's good, vocal melodies, piano and strings intertwining nicely. Then bass and drums come in and prechorus is nice. Then chorus is incredibly good. Very similar to Cross Over, but different composer. Odd. The chimes are even back. Not much I can say really, except it's incredibly pretty and lush. Mid-8 is boring, but buildup chorus is long and full of win. 9/10

11. #girls. The first notes of this song reminded me heavily of Melt. Then it changed to remind me of horrible 90s Swedish pop. Not sure which is more disturbing actually. The chorus isn't bad actually, as much as the syncopation of the bassline is mildly distracting. Post-chorus weirdness is quite cool though. Again, no real mid8 to deal with. No buildup either. Not as bad as I first feared, but still not amazing. 6/10

12. SHINING☆STAR.



Ah, this is nicer. More of the end of the third era stuff, with real instruments and strings. Vocal melodies are glorious throughout, chord progression allow the accentuations to flourish and the general uplifting tone of the song helps phase out memories of some of the shit that's been so far. Guitar riff in the mid-8 with piano over is quite nice. Buildup chorus is wonderful, with strings supporting the vocals. Incredibly good song. 10/10

13. 9nine o'clock The bonus track, for lack of better terms. It's certainly like nothing else on this album, funky as all shit and self-referential. They each get a verse, sort of. Some weird as hell vocoding going on, and the music isn't too bad. Nearly two minutes in before it arrives at the chorus, after giving every member their due. And then some cool bass and random sounds. Then some more verses. Some of these lyrics are awful. But I have to laugh. tzk needs to learn about self-referential lyrics from Hyadain, he does it ten times better. Anyway, as far as self-referential things go it's not too bad. And I've no real problem with it. Some of the instrumentation is pretty good, actually. 9/10

Overall: Honestly, other than the third-era stuff this album wasn't amazing. I have a feeling that much of it was written by Sony's in-house composers, was told to sound a specific way and then mixed dubiously with overproduction and untalented songwriters and ended up sounding directionless. If they'd cut out all the third era stuff entirely, it'd have had a direction, but would have sucked. Would that they just continued the third era. I'm generally glad this album is over with, having taken me the better part of seven hours to deal with.

6.2/10

CUE



Preamble: Why apples, I don't know. It's a weird cover. Hopefully I'm not let down by the contents. At least there's no Takahashi though. I'm not reviewing all the tofubeats remixes because they're boring.

1. 流星のくちづけ.

There is a video for this song but I can't find it. Starts off with some nice guitars and strings, and synths, and it's actually quite nice. Not quite as good as some of the better songs of the third era, but pretty enough. The vocal melodies in the verse are good, the prechorus is nice, some good contrast and falsetto. Chorus is just nice. Cut/paste for the second time. Mid-8 isn't too bad. Buildup chorus is nice, especially at the end with the pinging vocals all over the spectrum. In general, a good start for the album. 9/10

2. 桜、ゆれる. Birds and toy piano. Then a nice ballad-esque structure in some Asian mode. Then the verse has nice acoustic guitar and good melodies. Prechorus has a quite intriguing vocal melody, the first in way more than an album. Chorus is quite pretty. The mid-8 has some piano descending scales which are nice. Buildup chorus is decent enough. Pretty, not amazing but good. 7/10

3. colorful.



Some a capella at the start which is a nice change, and then a good riff over a heavy synthbass. The verse has a nice piano phrase over a good chord progression and good vocal melodies. This album's already done pretty well on all counts, especially in comparison to the last one. The prechorus is good, vocals have actually improved now I listen more, even Umika and Hiroro's. Chorus isn't very anthemic but it works. Guitar solo is actually pretty sweet, good in listenability. Mid-8 vocals are good. Buildup chorus is awesome, mostly because of Chapon's miraculous vocal recovery since the last album. She once again sounds fucking amazing. Very good song. 10/10

4. I am... Really interesting piano and string counterpoint at the start, and then joined by some synth bass and vocals. The verse is incredibly minimalist, which then builds up slightly towards the prechorus. The vocal melodies are decent, but not amazing. The chorus is quite interesting, some nice guitar arpeggios and synths intertwining, but the vocal melodies aren't amazing still. Mid-8 is quite spacey and cool. Buildup prechorus is decent, with some mid-word vocal changing which is interesting, then buildup chorus is okay. Overall, not bad. 7/10

5. CANDY. So, the only original tofubeats song on this. As I said before, I won't be reviewing the remixes he did because as far as I'm concerned, they're rehashes and thus not worth my time. Anyway, this song. Piano and synths and a boring vocal melody. Then some weird fading between instruments. Very minimalist verse. Club synths build it up. Verse vocal melody is crap. Chorus is terrible. Post-chorus has some piano and an annoying synth. Luckily in these verses I can hear each member clearly without instruments. For a while. And shame they're not being tested at all with the melodies. Random keychange for the last chorus. Worst song on this album yet. And damn it's annoying. 2/10

6. Sparkling Days. Kanchan's solo song. Slow ballad, with guitar, piano, bass and an urban beat. And a beautiful voice. Damn, forgot how good she was. The verse has a nice vocal melody, but the chord progression is a bit dull. Prechorus builds nicely, and much better. The chorus has the bass come in properly, and the vocal acrobatics are good. Kanchan's quite easily in the top-tier of idol vocalists, and there aren't many of them remaining now. For a ballad, it's not the best, it does all pretty much hang on the vocals, which as I've mentioned, are amazing, but still could do with a better song and arrangement to put them on top of. The mid-8 luckily rescues it somewhat, by being rather nice. Still, all the marks are for Kanchan's voice. 8/10

7. One Kiss. Some weird synthpop this time, very major key and mildly 8bit sounding. The verse melodies are okay, though the vocal production is awful. Dunno what they did but there's basically no mid in the mix. Prechorus is decent. Chorus has some good vocal rhythms and a decent melody, so it's passing good. Mid-8 isn't bad, with some call and response and Christmas bells, which is quite odd sounding with those synths. 6/10

8. Precious. Chapon's solo song. Acoustic guitars and a more upbeat vocal melody, the strings and synths adding nicely. Chapon's vocals are also top-tier, and she fits into this song perfectly. The verse melodies are good, prechorus nice, and the chorus does a good job of exploring her limits, both in pitch and rhythm (some of the lyrics are almost worthy of me, trying to fit 18 syllables in 2 seconds). The mid-8 is upbeat and has some nice string melodies, then a sexy lead guitar. Good song. 9/10 9. 3three. Hyadain's first ever 9nine song, and this features the three members without a solo song: Uki, Umika and Hiroro. Also known as the ones who aren't quite as good at singing. Pretty Hyadain from the start, with weird instrumentation and an offbeat 4/4 beat. The vocals and melodies are vintage Hyadain: he emphasises their relative vocal weaknesses and turns them into musical qualities by virtue of inputting dialogue and semi-melodic, semi-spoken prases. The music is also (as usual for Hyadain), fucked up. The prechorus has some haunted-house type whining reminiscent of a theremin, but far too digital to be so. The chorus is helpfully keychanged and just as screwed up. There aren't many times that Hyadain writes an idol song I'm not happy with, and this is no exception. Mid-8 has a harp and orchestral percussion. Just to change things up. It's mad, but I like it. 10/10

10. White Wishes.



I love this song. I loved it from the moment I was watching the first episode of Tonari no Kaibutsu-kun, the first shoujo anime I'd managed to not hate in years, and I didn't even know who sang it. I actually listened to the whole ED. I usually skip them. When I found out it was 9nine I was shocked, mostly because after the whole Natsu Wanna Say Love U crap I gave up on them. So I have this song to blame for this post, really. Anyway, to review it properly, tambourines, strings, real instruments and bells, and very Chrismassy. But one of the rare amazing ones. Kanchan and Chapon's opening lines caught me like a fishing hook and then wouldn't let go. The vocal melodies are good, much as Hiroro and Uki manage to fail a bit on theirs, the quality of the writing makes it not matter too much. The chorus is both rhythmically amazing and melodically pleasing in the vocal line, and the arrangement around it works well too. In fact I probably have this song to thank for my current interest in using bells melodically. Though in my case it's certainly a bit less aesthetically pleasing. The mid-8 has some nice scale ascents and then a built up multi-layer harmony, then a very Darkness guitar solo. Then more bells. Then a good buildup chorus with arpeggiated strings. Really, best idol Christmas song ever? Maybe. It's a toss up between this and Aitaiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii no niiiiiiiiiiii by C-ute. Still, awesome. 10/10

11. Brave.



Another good single, piano and guitars and synths and awesomeness. The first song really on this album with a true dance beat, but it's good and not Takahashi-written so it doesn't suck. It's pretty damn good melodically too. Some decent melody lines in the verse and prechorus, and the chorus has a decently anthemic eurobeat melody with hints of harmony. That's actually what this really reminds me off, more than anything. Late-90s Eurobeat. Can just imagine Folder 5 singing it. And for those idol fans too new or young to remember Folder 5, you're missing out. Of course, this is a very updated Eurobeat, but it's close enough for me to be happy. Sometimes I wish more people would make Eurobeat. Mid-8 is very nice. Buildup chorus is more a lurch-from-nothing-to-half-to-everything chorus, but it's as unsubtle as the genre I guess. In any case, I'm happy. 10/10

12. SMILE & TEARS. This is written and arranged by the same team that did White Wishes, so I'm expecting awesomeness. Acoustic guitar, piano, strings, and the same instrumentation, minus the bells. It's pretty. Some intertwining vocal lines in the verse are interesting, prechorus is a decent buildup. Very ballad-y. The chorus vocal melody isn't amazing, but the chord progression is nice and the arrangement holds it all up. Some nice guitar licks before the second verse, which starts with some acoustic-guitar-and-vocal-only phrase, which is cool. Not quite as good as White Wishes, but good enough. The mid-8 has a weird synth and handclaps, then a decent chord progression, then a lead guitar following the chord prog. Buildup chorus is nice with strings and guitar. Ending repetition is cute. Nice. 8/10

13. イーアル!キョンシー feat.好好!キョンシーガール.



If you think that PV (or the song) is weird, you should try watching the drama it spawned out of. I've never had so much fun (or moments of sheer wtfness) than I did watching that drama. All of 9nine are in it, with Umika (obviously) being the main character. To a Western mindset, the song sounds utterly fucked up. That's because it's written in a Chinese mode and they're all pretty weird to explain but it's not based around the European 12-tone system so it will understandably not make any sense to you if you've only ever listened to pop or rock. I'd advise trying out some Chinese classical, and then listening to this. Might still make no sense, but at least you'll have heard something good. Here, I'll link you to my favourite. In any case, it's the first 9nine song since Nemureru Mori no Shoujo to be in such a screwed up mode and it gets points just for that. However, as a song it isn't something you could ever put on repeat. It is pretty annoying. But fun once or twice, I suppose. Uki's highpitched voice bits are funny. Second verse has some full-on 8bit game music, just to keep things fucked up. It's certainly a departure from anything they've ever done. Or probably any other idols. Structure wise also screwed up. No mid-8 or third chorus run. Oh well. It's amusing. 8/10

Overall: A huge improvement over the third album, sat as it was over the juncture of two distinct sounds and suffering for it. This presents a more coherent album and generally a much higher standard of songwriting. Vocally they've improved somewhat, and the weirder songs show a slight return of the ability to experiment that the last album seemingly forgot. The production has returned to an acceptable level, that is to say, it's not overproduced to fuck. So yes, I enjoyed it. Of a rarity, certainly of late, it's an album that actually gets a whole number as a score.

8/10


So, after 6500 words and nearly two days of effort, that's it for 9nine. Next up on this blog, I don't know. If I do let it go the way of the dodo, I'll make a new post. Sometime.

1 comments:

  1. Thanks for making a review of 9nine's discography so far. I've always kept an eye over them since I discovered their first album, I was relieved enough LesPros didn't abandon the group when there was a graduation en masse among the original members.
    After their amazing first album, I have to agree that the next couple of albums don't quite hold up to the same standard. I'm relieved enough that their latest album is more cohesive than the previous ones.

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