Thursday, March 13, 2014

“Sakura Gakuin 2013 ~Kizuna~” Review

A track by track review of the new Sakura Gakuin album.  Ratings are from 1 (awful) to 10 (classic), based on my personal tolerance for each song.

01. “Mezase! Super Lady -2013-” is the fast paced synth-horn heavy start to this exciting album.   Each girl has a short spotlight, apparently saying something representing their personality.  Their teacher Mori-sensei has speaking parts throughout, which is sort of amusing.  I never heard the original, which was released on the Limited B Edition of “My Graduation Toss” with a different lineup (hence the “2013” added to this version), but this is a mistake I will have to correct soon.  I like the chorus, “Jump! (High!) Jump! (High!) Jump, jump, jump! (High!)”  This song is lots of fun!   Rating: 10.
02. “Makeru! Seishun Hizakozou” is a bit slower, but still fast enough to please fans of Sakura Gakuin’s energetic rock.  There’s some pretty good singing and guitar playing on here, but the song is slightly above average.  It’s something I like to hear but it’s not my favorite track on the album.  Rating: 7.

03. “Hana*Hana” is a lot better!  There was a short version of the music video uploaded to YouTube in July 2013, but this is the full length song.  It’s a very cute synth heavy song and has some great vocals from all the girls.  Because the song is about flowers (hana means “flower”) I originally thought the girls were singing “bloom bloom”, but the lyrics page prints “boom boom” in English.   Oops!  Rating: 9.

04. “Ganbare!!” is a high energy rock number that was released as a single with three versions.   The single version began with the sound effect of a coin dropping into a machine (jukebox?), which is inexplicably missing here.  (See “Welcome to My Computer” for more on this.)  I guess this is why you need to buy at least one version of the single.  It’s a fantastic guitar heavy song that fans of hard rock will love.  Rating: 10.
05. “Shanari Hannari Dorayaki Hime” is the Minipati song on this album, and it’s very Japanese sounding, if you’ll pardon the phrase.  When you hear the song I think you’ll understand. It’s very cute with lots of synth, and I have to admit that I like it better than last album’s Minipati contribution “Miracle Pattyful Hamburger”.  Rating: 8.
06. “Welcome to My Computer” is another fun science oriented pop rock song from Sakura Gakuin’s most creative sounding subunit, Kagaku Kyuumei Kikou LOGICA?  The song has parts where the sound fades and gets muffled and then come backs to normal in a matter of seconds.   It’s very catchy and fun, although perhaps not as instantly catchy as “Science Girl Silence Boy”, nor is it the bona fide masterpiece that “Delta” is.  Still, this is my current favorite subunit featuring three of my favorite Sakura Gakuin members, Horiuchi Marina, Sato Hinata and Isono Rinon, and I love every one of their five songs.  My only complaint is that it’s missing the 70 second coda that was on the version on the “Ganbare!!” Limited A Edition single.  This is the music you hear at the beginning and end of LOGICA?’s live performances.  I guess if you want to hear the full version you need to buy the Limited A version of the single.  Rating: 9.
07. “Yosoijo no Smash” (“Smash More Than Expected”) is the Pastel Wind song, originally released as a B-Side on the “Jump Up ~Chiisana Yuki~” Limited B Edition single.  For those who have lost track, Ooga Saki has replaced Horiuchi Marina on this song.  It’s cute and has a nice, soft intro with bells, but overall it’s unexceptional.  I don’t hate this song, but it’s even less interesting than “Makeru! Seishun Hizakozou”.  Rating: 6.

08. “FRIENDS ~Unplugged 2013~” is an acoustic song performed by this year’s graduates, Horiuchi Marina, Iida Raura, Sugisaki Nene and Sato Hinata, and it’s very good!  Not only do the four girls sing on this song, but three of them are playing instruments!  That’s Raura and Hinata on acoustic guitar and Nene playing the tambourine.  I still prefer the more rockin’ original, but this is a great start to what I can only hope will be a new beginning for these girls.  What I mean is, I really, really hope that after they graduate Sakura Gakuin these four girls will form a new group and continue playing instruments on their future songs.  One can hope.  Rating: 9.

09. “I・J・I” starts of with some really heavy guitar chords, which is not typical for Sakura Gakuin.   The great news is the song rocks from start to finish and thankfully there’s no death metal backup growls to ruin things, just the sweet vocals from the Sakura Gakuin girls.  This is the closest thing to an actual metal song I’ve heard from Sakura Gakuin, not counting the songs from that popular subunit BABYMETAL.  Awesome!  Rating: 10.
10. “Mikansei Silhouette” starts off with what sounds like a music box playing before the mid-paced guitar rock kicks in.  It’s another fun and interesting song with parts where everything stops and restarts, and it has some interesting vocal effects, some piano parts and plenty of toe-tapping music.  I can’t find anything bad to say about this.  Rating: 10.
11. “Jump Up ~Chiisana Yuki~” is the other single on this album, also released in three versions.   This one incorporate some classical music in a fun pop rock song.  While primarily a mid-paced rocker, it’s sweet and it has a very relaxing feel to it.  A great group song to end the album….or is it the end?  Rating: 10.

12. “Non-stop ☆ Go Home Club Heave Ho!!” is the final song on the album, a “bonus track” of sorts that remixes the three sleepiece songs, “Suimin Fusoku”, “Hashire Shoujiki Mono” and “Medaka no Kyoudai”.  Although I usually hate remixes, this one is more than tolerable.  Of course, I love sleepiece and their songs, so that probably helps.  Although the song fades at 4:39, wait a few seconds and you’ll hear the three sleepiece members talk, extending the song to 6:15.  A fitting tribute to a great subunit, featuring three of the four 2013 Sakura Gakuin graduates.  Rating: 9.

I only purchased one version of the album, although I really wanted all three of the Limited Editions. I bought the “Ra” Edition with a DVD containing the music video for “Ganbare!!” and “Unplugged Live” with the four graduates performing two songs, The Monkees cover song “Day Dream Believer” (sic) and “FRIENDS ~Unplugged 2013~”, along with some tearful comments from each girl.  The “Unplugged Live” portion of the DVD was my favorite part.