Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Hocus Pocus: a real time overview

The following is being written as Lord Shockedelic listens to Kimura Kaela's new album for the first time:

Bagpipes. That's the first instrument heard on Kimura Kaela's new CD, Hocus Pocus. It's the intro to the first song on the album, Dear Jazzmaster '84. Not quite the instrument that you'd hear on any Pop album, let alone a Japanese album. Brian Wilson never used bagpipes, did he? Still, it's a refreshing decision like putting bagpipes in a driving Pop/Rock song that keeps me coming back to Kaela's albums. She's always slightly off center she's not afraid to try something that the average cooperate music label would immediately nix as non commercial.

The next song up is the Album version of Mustache. To be honest, there is but a slight difference between the Single version and the Album version; just a small detour of a few bars. Doko's B-side, Phone, follows. I'm not sure about this trend of placing B-sides on the actual album. I think it cheapens the singles and ultimately makes them irrelevant. It also seems like padding, but luckily, Phone is a quality song.

Otome Echo is a nice, light summery song that's heavy on the synthesizers and background interjections from Kaela. It's quite the playful song. Following that is the latest single from Kaela, Butterfly. I'm going to admit, as a single, this song falls a bit flat and I was initially disappointed by it. As part of the album, it fits perfectly, however. It's vibe is consistent with the tracks that came before and I actually have a new appreciation for the song. It's flower powery vibe has grown on me.

Doko, the second single released prior to this album's release follows and is another ballad. At this time, I'm willing to bet this album will never take off into the stratosphere, but I must say I commend the consistent feel of the songs. As of this point, this CD doesn't feel like it's slapdash, but it's of a piece. Hocus Pocus is up next. It's the B-side to the Banzai single (and is featured on the latest Shockedelic Radio Show). This album is staying right on course and this song is lot of fun, playing with the Asian musical scale.

For a second on the next song, Another World, it seems like Kaela is going to dive into some funk. Instead, she goes into a synthy ballad with dreamy echo chambered vocals. This song actually reminds me of Deep Blue Sky off of her Circle album. Towards the coda, the production begins to add layers and texture. I can say really like this song. Sounds good.

Season begins as a light, breezy guitar driven ballad but then swiftly builds in production with a great habit of switching it's mood, instrumentally. It's easily the busiest track on the disc thus far. Kaela shows off some great vocal chops on this one. The song bookends itself with an acoustic coda.

Things begin to rock with the uptempo Kimi Ni Aitai. I like the new wave-ish Power Pop sound with it's "Ooh, oohs" and a catchy chorus. Good stuff. Makes me wanna dance. Next, Jeepney. Ok, we're fully in Pop/Rock territory here. There is a great, driving Cars infused sound here. It has nice halting bursts that, well, make me wanna Pogo. Jump, dammit, jump! I wanna Pogo with Kaela!

Next up, the Album version of Banzai. Wow! It has a different opening and extended intro before going into familiar territory. This, I like. It's always nice to put an alternate version of a single on an album so the people who bought the single won't feel gypped, even if it's simply an alternate opening and extended coda. A long extended coda, by the way.

Closing the album is Super Girl. Nice to end the album on an up note. Full on driving synths, here. The chorus changes the attitude of the song and then goes back to business on the verses. It's a nice change up. Kinda reminds me of Swinging London from the Scratch Album. That's a good thing.

But wait! There's a bonus track! After a long pause, the music starts back up again. Don't know the title of this one, but it's a nice mid tempo alt-rock song with some studio chatter at the end. A fun surprise to round out this very well done album. But where's Memories? I suppose, since it's already on the Paco and the Magical Picture Book OST, it doesn't merit inclusion on this disc. Something strangely feels amiss without it, for some reason...

Overall, this is one of Kaela's best records of the 5 she's done. There's not one subpar song on it and it feel as if a lot of thought went into the album as a whole. It may take some listeners a couple of spins to let it grow on them, but I love the way Kaela always defies expectations. It's a great, top down lazy summer day album and I think it may well go into heavy rotation with some of my other current favorites this summer.

Furthermore: I suppose I should also mention that Hocus Pocus is not only her 5th album, but it's release marks her 5th year as a recording artist. Congratulations, Kaela! Thanks for all of the great music!

From Kaela Blog

You can buy the new album at CDJapan. Click on the link to purchase.

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