Tuesday, April 10, 2012
Album Review- Ayumi Hamasaki- Duty
So, I finally got to listen to Duty- Ayumi Hamasaki's best selling studio album.
Here's a breakdown of the tracks
Starting over- Something like an instrumental intro. It is dance/ rock influenced but doesn't stand out much especially compared to the track that follows.
Duty- The title track and easily the best one on this album. Duty has a mysterious 'Paris Thief' kind of atmosphere that Mirrorcle world had but is much more melodic. Ayumi manages the song pretty well but there are some shrill notes. The instrumental arrangement is fabulous. The enigmatic guitar and lush strings create a great atmosphere.
Vogue- The song is kind of high pitched and too sugary but the arrangement balances its negative traits well. It has an oriental vibe with lots of shamisen/koto kind of sounds in the background. It is quite pleasant to listen to.
End of the world- A good ballad/pop mix. This again faces the same problem as Starting over. Its fails to impress in comparison to the previous and next track.
Scar- Another great track comparable to Duty on this album. It is a poignant ballad that Ayumi puts lots of emotion into singing. Again, no very high notes so, it is pleasant. It seems very sophisticated like Duty, an atmosphere which many tracks in the album don't share. There is a feeling of pain that is very absorbing. Ayumi did a live of this one recently (2 years-3 years back in Next level tour, I think).
Far Away- I can't believe this was a single track when SCAR and Duty weren't. The arrangement can be a little distracting. Typical Ayumi stuff. It is fine to carry the album forward and manages some decent climax. Better than Surreal.
Surreal- I tend to get confused between this and audience. Starts well and heads straight for ruin. Not one of my favourite tracks. Ayumi sings it fine but it just didn't catch my attention. Has a heavy rock atmosphere with guitar solos.
Audience- Again, a heavy rock track but with high pitched and cheerful vocals. Not Ayumi's strength really. She tries to sound too cute. Didn't impress me. Sounds too distracted(all over the place) sometimes.
Seasons- Despite the substandard mv, this track stands out. Seasons has a good climax and balanced back vocals. The arrangement compliments it well. Ayumi manages to sing it well too. It's genre would be pop. I hear some DAI pop vibe in it.
Teddy Bear- A wonderful ballad. It fades out the previous track beautifully. Ayumi's emotive singing is evident in the track. Instead of distracting with electric guitars, this track leaves Ayumi to display her powerful vocals. The simple arrangement enhances the beauty of this track. It's simplicity is what stands out among the other heavily arranged tracks in this album. Ayumi did a good live of this one.
Key~eternal tie version~- If you ask me, Teddy bear should have been the last track. It has a nice fade out effect. This track is slow paced and pleasant to listen to. The chorus is powerful and convincing. I liked this a lot but the placing was not the best.
Girlish- Not such a great ending for the album. It sounds like something an idol group would sing, not Ayumi Hamasaki. That nasal opening sounds a lot like Yaida Hitomi's style. The back vocals salvage the song (la la and claps, which is most of it). Ayumi manages this one fine. Not the greatest ending to the album but has a pleasant vibe.
Conclusion: Overall, Duty is a nice album. All the songs were pleasant and have replay value (something that other albums from Ayumi lack). It is much better than the Best 2 Black I bought. I haven't heard her other studio albums to compare but this one is very good, a lot better than her recent ones. Her vocals were not fully polished but after this album, her ability to hit high notes diminished. So, in a way, this is a good combination of skill and control. I would recommend this album.
Some really god tracks (Duty, scar, teddy bear)
Most tracks are pleasant and have a nice sound.
Vocals are better than preceding albums
Not-so-good single tracks
Vocals get shrill and harsh on the ears sometimes