Long albums are always a daunting prospect. Double albums can either be masterpieces or fall apart under their weight. A triple album then, is a mighty risk. A triple JPOP album is like betting your life savings on black. Sayonara Ponytail have done just that, and I couldn’t resist but see how it all holds up.
The album gets off to a surprisingly gentle and pretty start with disc one. Usually when making a long album like this, you wanna grab the listener right in, but not this time round. Disc one is a very contemporary pop affair, music you’d feel safe playing as background music. Nothing jumps out or surprises- and for that I was at first admittedly underwhelmed (perhaps even bored– that last stretch was quite painful) and slightly worried about the rest of the album. Production is light and fluffy, and the vocals are suitably gentle. Very old fashioned and inoffensive. Instrumentation is, on the whole, beautiful- and nothing (suitably in this case) particularly stands out- there is a great sense of unison and communication between all players. I have noticed that on multiple listens however, that many of the songs are slowly starting to reveal themselves and grow on me– this is always a good sign in the long-run, but its subtle and laid back approach may be a bit of a turn off to some listeners on early spins.
The second disc picks up a little bit. Sure it’s still very much in the world of adult contemporary, but songs seem to compel this listener a little more than the first disc, and it seems to be much tighter. There are tracks and passages in here that really are quite pumped up and show off the instrumental skills of individual players. Neat little guitar flourishes break through the sheen. Production is still very gentle and soft, but this time it seems to be pushing things a little further, just touching that next level but never ever going into the ‘idol‘ sphere of sound either. There is a nice disco groove through quite a few of the tracks here and the male backing vocals throughout add a nice layer to the whole thing, without sounding tacky or distracting. The ballad songs are the most impressive however, all are well thought out and have gorgeous choruses. They are never dull or dry, and this is quite a testament to the songwriters. Sure, it’s not a perfect disc by any means, but to this listener, its far more enjoyable than the first- particularly on initial spins.
The third disc, for someone with the tastes I have, is where things really shine. This is a more acoustic set- and the stripping down of the sheen works wonders and elevates the group to emotional highs the other discs just don’t touch. It really shows off the vocal skills that these girls have- proving they’re more than just cute faces. There is some great harmonizing here- all played with a nice level of subtlety that is just gorgeous to listen to. The instrumental work here is near impeccable– and the production choices are great. It’s the shortest disc by quite a bit, but this decision makes it the most enjoyable disc to listen to on initial spins (at least for this listener). A fitting closure to this album.
In the end though, each different listener will rank the discs in different ways. It all depends on what you want. No disc is perfect, in fact no discs are really anything special (but the third disc definitely provides the most excitement). If they were sold separately, I don’t think I’d be too impressed by any of them, but considering the triple album undertaking that has gone on here- it works pretty damn well. It never seems too bloated or wanky– which a lot of multi disc albums do, and it never feels pretentious or showy either. It’s just a really good value for money package for Sayonara Ponytail fans- which really just gives a good outline of the group’s varied skills and musical approaches. It’s a noble attempt and I can’t fault it for that. I don’t imagine being able to sit down and listen to it all the way through often, but it wasn’t too much of a strain when I was in the mood either.
Overall, if you’re a hardcore Sayonara Ponytail fan, it’s an essential purchase. For everyone else, it’s a ambitious, creative and massive work, that despite it’s flaws is still worth a listen (or ten). 3 discs will always seem daunting, particularly with today’s busy lifestyle– but Sayonara Ponytail have made it as easy as possible to consume without feeling too bloated at the end. Think of it as a light 3 course meal and you’ll be just fine.
7.5/10– Sayonara Ponytail’s triple album is an imperfect, but satisfying three course meal that everyone should indulge in at least once.