Ah, Suiyoubi no Campanella‘s Zipang, one of the most, if not THE most hotly anticipated album in the J-pop calendar this year. It has been discussed, hyped and has had five singles and music videos releases from it already. This bad boy has finally landed, and how do I feel about it? Well, lets see.
First up, lets get them out of the way. Those absolutely monumental singles. Three of them (Medusa, Ra and Nishi Tamao) create a trilogy of three of the most amazing singles of the year. (The last single released “Ono no Imoko” and “Shakushain” are the weaker of the five and compared to their three massive big brothers, are somewhat dull and breeze by with no real reaction from this listener.) Together these three singles created a formidable force and something truly worth getting excited about. Add to this, all had great music clips to back them up, Ra in particular was quite spectacular with it’s Egyptian themed costumes and crazy dance moves.
However, the singles with all their might do unfortunately loom over the rest of the album and nothing really stands out in that regard. It’s not to say that the non-single tracks aren’t good- there’s some great stuff there that will eventually come out of the shadows as deep cuts– but certainly on early listens, they will most likely be lost in the mix, particularly to the casual listener. The best of the non-single tracks in these early listens is the pulsing “Uran-chan” which leaves a hard impression and the very next track, Wright Kyoudai, which is a beautiful, smooth and ambient hip hop track that’s just delightful to listen to and is a truly inspired gem. Almost as good as the singles.
The album being so short (at a fleeting 32 minutes), flies by. This really is not a problem given how enjoyable it is as a whole. Some may be discouraged by already have heard a half of it’s running time before even spinning it (and that being the best half)- but the short and sweet approach gives the album an air of freshness for it’s entire running length. It’s easy enough to start it up from the beginning on conclusion and while there are weaker moments- there is nothing that you would really feel like ‘skipping’.
As far as production values, this is the best I’ve heard Suiyoubi no Campanella sound thus far. A perfect balance of vocals and music, everything in the mix sounds like it belongs- there’s not a beat, instrument, vocal flourish, ambient loop or sample put to waste here. There’s a tight level of control- and yet, it all manages to sound organic, warm and natural. Campanella may have not broken a lot of new ground with the sound of this album- but damn they’ve honed it in to near perfection at times. In the end though- it all just sounds “cool” and fitting of the times. Whether or not it will age well is up to time, but as of 2015, it’s the sound of now, at least where Jpop is concerned.
While it may not be the groundbreaking masterpiece/album of the year that I was hoping for, as a pop album it is still far ahead of the pack. By no means a bad listen (it’s a damn fine listen!), it’s worth the short amount of time it takes to spin it. With it’s godlike singles (which are worth owning the album for alone), it’s easy to forgive the few missteps and somewhat filler tracks (particularly the uncertain starting duo of “Shakushain” and “Cho Hakkai“), it is still ultimately one of the top packages of 2015. It will no doubt delight fans regardless, and has enough going for it for outsiders to get something out of it too.
7.5/10 A highly entertaining release with killer singles that just misses the mark from being something truly unforgettable.