No, I haven’t lost my mind and started listening to vocaloid albums (yet, anyway)! When talking about album covers that do disservices to the content- this surely has to be one. Misleading indeed. However, a cover does not make an album. And if any album isn’t to be looked over this year- this is it.
Hajimaru Magical is the latest album by singer/songwriter Mayumi Kaneko, and if you were to try to label it any single genre, you’d find yourself in for quite the struggle. It’s eclectic as they come- and offers quite the myriad of sounds, all backed by our host’s beautiful voice. While the similar artists are quite obvious (see the amount of comments relating her sound to Shiina Ringo, Seiko Oomori, Jun Togawa and even The Beatles) she never focuses on one particular artist’s sound- and instead goes for a delicious blend of everything. It could be a mess, but no, everything fits together like a Lego play-set. I don’t just use that analogy frivolously- the sense of fun here is always underlying whatever twist or turn it takes- and is a pure delight to listen to.
The amount on offer here will likely make the first listen more of an experience- and not much will really standout. However, on repeated listening, favorites will begin to appear- and those will all depend on the individual listener. There really is something for everyone on offer here. Do you prefer the rock of Mahou, the sweet acoustic balladry of Yasashii Hito or the 60s rock influenced Magical Konomi– or are you more of a full on Jpop bop such as Muboubi Tenshi kinda person? There are no duds to speak of- and this is a true testament to the songwriting going on here. The fact that there is so much to enjoy warrants many repeat listens, and makes it quite addictive and exciting. There is always a sense of discovery and things missed on one listen will be picked up on further listens.
Instrumentation throughout the album is a delight. The drumming is a major highlight- listen to those beautiful, restrained jazzy hits on Tsukuri Tsuzukeru. The guitar work isn’t too shabby either- listen to the gorgeous work in Yukinoshita for example, just wonderful!. Production wise it is on the bare end of things, but never sounds underwhelming. Nor does it ever sound like there’s too much going on. There are a few small gripes- some songs fade out just when you really get into them and the album does have a slightly slow middle section- but this is minor compared to the rest of the package as a whole.
Furthermore, if to hit the home run, the studio tracks are accompanied with live tracks that are truly wondrous to behold- and firmly solidifies Mayumi‘s standing in the industry- she IS the real deal and the word needs to be spread. In-fact, if having to use the anime cover to gain interest is something she needs to do- then so be it. This album is a must hear for anyone into the alternative/indie Japanese scene and is one of the most rewarding albums of 2015.