I mentioned during the recent review of Tommy Heavenly6 that I'm much more drawn to the other side of Tomoko Kawase's solo work, February6. Let's have a brief look at Tomoko's pop-fuelled side.
Before we begin going through track by track, there is one thing I don't want to say for every single track because it rings true throughout the whole album. Tommy February6 has really full and warm-sounding synths that would alone provide a full enough sound, even without the album itself being excellent. Unless my ears deceive me, real analogue synthesizers were used to create this rich sound. If they weren't, then I'm even more astounded.
TRACK #01 - T.O.M.M.Y.
Introduction track. Serves to set the mood for the album. Nothing to really talk about here. Can be skipped and you would miss nothing.
TRACK #02 - Everyday At The Bus Stop
The first song on the album and we are immediately looking at a distinct improvement over 88% of Japanese pop music. A wide-sweeping synth across both the left and right channel, accompanied by a pleasant drum machine beat and sweet, cute singing from Tomoko. The singing is repeated and pitch changed underneath to create a false chorus effect, but it works splendidly.
The song itself is catchy and has some funny English lyrics that remain stuck in my head after a solo listen. Tomoko not only sums up the entire album with the first song in terms of style and what to expect, but has also created a peaceful sounding audio treat. The only issue I have with the song is that it fades out instead of ending properly.
TRACK #03 - トミーフェブラッテ、マカロン。 (Tomi Febu Ratte, Makaron)
This song starts with a small ditty played on some kind of keyboard, before leading into the main drum beat. The song has some quite nice sounding trumpet/synth strikes in the background of the verse, leading into a super catchy chorus that goes exactly where you expect it to.
After the first chorus, the track breaks down to a One Time Event (OTE) featuring male voices singing "Olé" over and over. The second verse contains another OTE, background chatter. After the second chorus and another awesome breakdown, the track cuts out for another ditty like at the beginning of the track, before swimming around the same great melody until the end, when the song cuts out with applause and a ridiculously silly sounding "Yes!" being repeated over a couple of times.
TRACK #04 - Bloomin'
Bloomin'! starts out with its strongest part, the chorus. The verse has an uplifting feel, with a nice bassline. The verse is kind of uneventful until the fantastic chorus returns. Then, the next verse is the same thing, just filler until the next chorus.
The section beginning "Pure love leads the way" is the strongest part of the song, which eventually leads back to the chorus. Not a terrible song but it does have relatively uneventful verses. How this scored a single release I'm not sure, but it is an excellent track backing up an already strong album.
TRACK #05 - Hey Bad Boy
The song begins with Tomoko saying "Hey Bad Boy" in what she probably considers her most seductive voice. The verse is almost rapped, and apart from the nice funky guitar licks, it isn't up to much. The chorus is once again the strongest part of the song and almost saves the track from being one of the weakest on the album. In one of the chorus sections, Tomoko tells me (in Japanese) that she wants me more than a $1,000,000 jewel. *sigh* If only, eh? A man can dream.
A weak song besides the chorus. The ending is sweet, I like how the voice is sampled and repeated leading into the "Hey Bad Boy" and the sound of smashing glass.
TRACK #06 - ♥KISS♥ ONE MORE TIME
My absolute favourite on the album. It starts with a robotic voice, leading into beautiful, rich sounding synth and the ultimate '90s drum beat like that of a club hit such as Saturday Night by Whigfield.
There is also a lot of English in this song, making it excellent to listen to and learn, and sing along. Although the way she sings "angel", it sounds like "in jail". Haha. "I wish you were here, in jail..." Hahaha...
TRACK #07 - Where Are You? My Hero
A relentlessly catchy pop number with no Japanese lyrics at all. The second verse and second chorus seem to relate to the Tommy Heavenly6 character — Tomoko referring to her shadow and threatening to kill her own shadow. The chorus has a subtle shift into macabre tones, suggesting that her lust for a "hero" isn't without some kind of dark ulterior motive.
Song ends with a fade out, which just seems weak.
TRACK #08 - Walk Away From You My Babe
The song starts with a sound not too dissimilar to what you'd hear on the Japanese and European Sonic CD soundtrack. The verse is fine, but the chorus knocks it out of the park. The song remains stuck in this simple limbo until a breakdown like something from a Plus Tech Squeeze Box song. She even swears in it, says the F-Word, quite clearly!
That's my Tomoko! ;) She needs more moments like that breakdown, though. It's fantastic. It's what I listen to the song for.
TRACK #09 - 恋は眠らない (Pure Love Leads The Way)
This song has an almost "Chris Hülsbeck" vibe, I know it's odd to draw comparison to a super-hero of the chiptune scene, but I can't think of any other way to describe it.
The chorus is the most pleasant part, yet again. The album is starting to wind down now. There is a cute section after the second chorus, where Tomoko sings "You and me, baby. Where are we going?"
Well, I thought maybe to go see a movie, perhaps loiter around the park for a bit...
TRACK #10 - Can't Take My Eyes Off Of You
It's a cover of the song made famous by Frankie Valli and by Andy Williams, among many others. This song is actually one of the most sung karaoke hits in Japan, having also been covered by heaps of Japanese musicians and groups including J-Ballad superstars "Tube", who nobody has even heard of.
This cover would be great if the section leading into the chorus didn't sound like a cat coughing up a trumpet. I'm sorry! But that's what it sounds like! Seriously! If it didn't sound so weak in that section, I'd love this track!
TRACK #11 - I'll Be Your Angel
The obligatory ballad. It is pleasant enough and has the added benefit of being entirely in English! I'm glad Tomoko sings in English quite a bit, because her pronunciation of English words, including the usually difficult L's and R's, is pretty solid.
If I had a complaint to make about this song, it would be how sugary sweet it is. Tomoko even sings "sparkling in our sugar world", it's like they didn't even bother to disguise how saccharine this whole affair is.
TRACK #12 - Candy Pop In love
Ugh, more candy! I don't think I've had this much candy since Halloween '97! I honestly don't have much to say about this song, because trying to listen to it is the exact equivalent to shoveling sixteen dessert spoons of icing sugar into your mouth and then sucking on all of it while it is in there until you make yourself throw up stars and rainbows.
This is a much stronger album than the knee-jerk reaction that is Tommy Heavenly6. Not only do I consider this album to be pretty much incredible, even if I have to drop the hyperbole, I can say that this album has at least seven songs I consider to be brilliant. I can also put on the February6 album and listen to it all the way through, unlike Heavenly6 where I find myself distracted by the urge to skip the less potent tracks.
A strong album with a full and righteous sound. Heartily recommended.