HYNA - TARATIKA (2011, Japan) Rating: 4/5
Favorite Tracks: TARATIKA, Kidzuite
Don't you love YouTube discoveries? Well, I stumbled upon this diva's music video for "TARATIKA" and was immediately intrigued, especially because I thought she was a...nevermind, not important. Anyway, the title track is clearly a rip from Lady Gaga's "Telephone", but it's still an enjoyable song. The vocal melody is different from Gaga's, so it can stand on its on. "Burnin' Up" is a slightly more aggressive electro-pop track that'll keep you moving. "Kidzuite" shows off HYNA's vocal talents (and imperfections) a little better than the previous tracks. It features a great instrumentation of violin, piano, and acoustic guitar that leaves a refreshing afterthought in your mind. I hope she reappears this year, because she has a lot of potential.
L'Arc~en~Ciel - XXX (2011, Japan) Rating: 2.5/5
Favorite Tracks: XXX
These old boys are still going and it's refreshing that guys like them can keep making new material every year, no matter if they're together or apart. "XXX" is a sensual, rock tune featuring alluring acoustics, powerful horns, strong basslines, and, the icing on the cake, Hyde's mature vocals. I really like this song more than the PV. "I'm so happy -L'Acoustic version-" is a softer song that reminds me of a retro smoky, jazz lounge. It's nice and mellow and shows off Hyde's vocal versatile to set the mood no matter the melody. The last two tracks of the single are voiceless version of the previous tracks.
DecoLa Hopping - 海賊たちの Wonder Adventure (2011, Japan) Rating: 3/5
Favorite Tracks: Toward the Shine
I feel terrible I haven't gotten around to promoting this awesome j-indies, female fronted band, but I suppose it's not too late to do so. "Toward the Shine" is a great example of what j-indies rock should sound like, raw and passionate. It's great hearing how much this band has grown from broadening their vocal range to prove they're not just a bunch of growls and cuteness and their musical abilities have grown as well. "Sweet Paradise (New Version Remix)" is a speedy track with slightly distorted, megaphone-like vocals. It has a catchy, fun melody that SuG wishes their "positive rock" had, minus the growls. "Wonder Adventure" goes back to their roots, but it also shows how much the band has grown with their happy rock. It's very basic, but still enjoyable.
DEV - The Night the Sun Came Up (2011, USA) Rating: 4.5/5
Favorite Tracks: Getaway, In My Trunk, Breathe, Bass Down Low
Everyone knows I've been looking forward to this album and now I can't wait until it is released in the U.S. "Getaway" is a simple track featuring great piano and violin work that entangles with DEV's lovely voice, then it breaks down to a dramatic musical point and she breaks it down into a low hip-hop beat. Perfect way to open a debut album. "In My Trunk" has easily become one of my favorite tracks with it's distorted vocals, hard hitting flow, and club driven bass with the smoothest bridge ever. "Me" is an airy, hip-hop piece featuring great vocal arrangement, strong drum lines, and keyboard effects to make the listener feel light. "Breathe" brings back that club feeling with a hint of Shakira Latin flavor. A nice little experimentation there, DEV. "Take Her From You" has a minimalistic sound with guitar and emphasized drums to drive the lyrics point across with extra attitude. The whistling is a nice little twist to this song as well. "Lightspeed" took me sometime to get used to, but I ended up liking it the more I listened to it with its near a Capella sound. I like DEV's vocal changes between singing and rapping and, of course, when she says the magic words, then the party's on! "Dancing Shoes" brings the album down on a softer, symphonic tone mixed with electro-pop and various keyboard vocal effects to make the song more interesting. "Perfect Match" smoothly transitions with an acoustic, near generic 90s pop love sound. "Bass Down Low" is the reason I fell in love with DEV. It's an addicting party track and the lyrics are very amusing. "Kiss My Lips" features a familiar sound that the genius producer Timbaland would create. It's sassy, sensual, and very well constructed from the beat to the lyrics. Very refreshing! "In the Dark" was a great choice to promote this album. It was different from her previous releases. It features a nice dance track, memorable Latin horns, and very confident, sensual lyrics that seduce you throughout the whole song as well as make you dance. "Shadows" is a dual vocal, acoustic, earthy piece that's suppose to cool you down some. The album closes out with a couple unnecessary repeats. First up is Tinie Tempah's remix of "Bass Down Low" which essentially sounds exactly the same as the original, except Tinie has a vocal part in it. Lastly, there is another version of "In the Dark" featuring Flo Rida, which is very unimpressive. I'm hoping when they release it in the U.S, they replace those two tracks with the Enrique Iglesias version of "Naked" (T-Pain version sounds awkward).
Wonder Girls - Wonder World (2011, South Korea) Rating: 3.5/5
Favorite Tracks: G.N.O, Me,in, Super.B, Stop!
Another anticipated comeback in South Korea and now we're free from the excessive "Nobody". >> I must admit I was quite excited about this album, mostly because of the previews posted on YouTube for "Be My Baby" and "Me, In"...actually...just the second song. "G.N.O" is the opener for the album with a female driven club sound with a hint of Latin sounds. Definitely an addicting track! "Be My Baby" was the main promo song, which I was very disappointed. Everyone raved and praised this song, but I honestly dislike this song. Music video didn't help with its influential "Single Ladies" visuals, but at least they're being consistent with their retro "dream girls" sound...I guess. "Girls Girls" smoothly transitions in with easy going, but empowering instrumentals and vocals. I was really looking forward to a music video for this electro-rock track "Me,in", but it doesn't look like my request will be answered anytime soon. Nonetheless, I'm surprised they experimented with rock elements in the first place. I guess we can't get away from the 70s, can we JYP? Anyway, "Sweet Dreams" is a modern take on disco with some autotune in the background. "Stop!" fuses retro synth with present day electro-pop dance elements. I must admit the chorus is unforgettable. "Dear. Boy" is a hollowed out electro-pop mixed with a R&B beat. For some reason, it reminds me of a better Beyonce song. "두고두고" really slows down to a pure R&B track, but it's good to have some songs for fans to recognize these girls' vocal talents. "Super.B" picks up some Euro-pop and brings the dance vibe back into the album. This is a track that always surprises me on how great it is every time I listen to it. "Act Cool" let's Lim show off her confidence in her skills as well as bring in San E for extra entertainment. "Be My Baby (Ra.D Mix)" tries to class it up with jazz pianos and horns, but I'm sorry, girls, I still don't like this song no matter what way you play it. "Nu Shoes" closes out this comeback album with trip electro-pop beat that seems awkward but works somehow, then turns completely pop around the chorus. Overall, I'm content with this comeback, but next time, don't tease me with awesome tracks you advertise and never make a video for it.
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