A few years ago, Maron Hamada quietly unleashed her first album, Huryo Shoujo Elegy onto the scene. It was a smoky, sexy collection of jazz rock tunes that evoked the excitement of an affair- but also managed to pummel the listener with all the feelings of regret that comes from it. It was contagious and addictive- and like nicotine, was nearly impossible to stop listening to. It had its faults- occasionally it lost momentum and the production was limited. However, overall, it was one of the better releases in the genre for quite some time.
Now, in 2015 she returns with Seijuku no Marble, her sophomore album after a few standalone singles after her debut. It takes everything great about the first album, cuts out the fat and adds even more spice to the mix and turns out to be one of the most exciting listens of the year.
It opens with the groovy as hell Miren Batufurai, which instantly sets the album’s tone. Sexy, smoky and genuinely intense. The instrumental work is impeccable, and the audio
mix is gorgeous. Hamada’s vocals are as hard hitting as ever, not one note missed. The studio recording brings the power of her live performance to the forefront and it’s just an utterly compelling experience.
The highlight of the album, the lead single Mayakashi no Blues, still lives up as one of her greatest tracks. It’s perfectly welcome in the set and it’s hard not to repeat it the second it’s over. Brilliant, sad and poignant, noone delivers it quite like Hamada does here. From there the listener is treated to an ever exciting, varied and all killer-no filler mix of tunes that is ultimately as satisfying as the best lover.
If I have one complaint about this album- I could have done with a few more new songs (a constant complaint I have with Japanese albums in general), however that said, the songs we’ve already heard are so strong that it’s really just a minor complaint in this case. It’s a shorter album than her first, which might be a little off-putting to some, but for this listener, it just makes it far more easy to digest and just start it over at the end of it’s running time.
For the uninitiated, you’re in for quite the treat- highly recommended if you’re into the more cabaret jazz end of the likes of Shiina Ringo (think Assassin’s Assassin but as
an entire career sound focus), for those who are in for their second round- this album provides no new major revelations in Hamada’s sound- but does nicely expand and tighten up the screws on her tried and true formula, making for an even more compelling and satisfying experience than her debut.
Ultimately, if you’re really after something exciting to listen to, this is worth checking out! And don’t forget to check out the music videos too- pretty damn cool!
8/10 Maron Hamada really brings a constant sense of danger to the mix, it feels playing with fire and it bites hard. Unforgettable. Let’s just hope we don’t have to wait so long for the next release!