Hello, it’s been a while! You know, given that I’ve been stuck at home for the past three months, you’d think I’d have the motivation and will to write more posts with all this free time… yeah. I apologize 😛
Today’s write-up is actually another installment of a recently-revived segment on the blog, J-Music Exchange/Rate! In case you don’t know what this is about, my good friend/fellow music fan Leap250 and I started this thing in 2018, where we both give each other a Japanese album straight from our own libraries and review ’em on our respective blogs. Last time we did this was a month ago when Leap gave me NEGOTO’s first studio album ex Negoto while I tossed over an EP of one of my favorite artists, THIS IS MUSIC by Ohashi Trio.
You may notice that the time gap between this review and last month’s is significantly smaller compared to how long it took us to write our reviews the second time around. That is because Leap and I both decided to make this a monthly segment on each of our blogs! That means there will be an album review every month on omunibasu, which not only introduces me to some brand new music on a consistent basis but I think it also helps me develop my understanding on how to review music albums (lol). I’m sure Leap has hundreds of amazing albums to suggest to me so hopefully I can keep up with him haha
Another cool thing to mention is that within the J-Music Exchange/Rate segment, we’ll sometimes be suggesting to each other albums that correspond to a specific theme/genre/mood/etc. Like I said, I’m not too sure if we’ll do this every month but I thought it would be an interesting thing to do in general. That being said, this month’s theme (…or genre, more like) is ‘pop music’!
So, I went ahead and suggested to him Shall we☆Carnival, the most recent album from the popular seiyuu idol group i☆Ris, while he gave me Kuroki Nagisa’s Remon no Toge.
Let’s jump right into the review!
As you may expect at first, the name Kuroki Nagisa is probably just a normal name for a solo musician. However, ‘Kuroki Nagisa’ was actually the name of a band consisting of Nagisa herself and two other musicians in Satoshi and Motokawa Kenji. The group got their start in 2010 and released their first single, “Atashi no Shinzou Ageru” in 2012, when it later became a favorite on the nationwide Indie charts. After a surge of popularity and potential, festival appearances, and the release of their second single, Satoshi and Motokawa Kenji decided to leave the group just one year later, with Kuroki Nagisa transitioning into solo work under the same name.
Since then, Kuroki Nagisa, with her strong vocals and literary-like lyrics, has released three albums, a mini-album and four singles.
Leap’s thoughts on Remon no Toge:
Kuroki Nagisa’s “Remon no Toge”, chronology-wise, is a bit of an odd album. Despite its being a fairly recent 2019 release, you’ll find tracks on here like “Fuzaken na Sekai, Fuzakeru yo” that date as far back as 2016. This is of course largely due to the brief hiatus Nagisa took as she underwent treatment for a throat condition, which made her sit out the remainder of 2017 moving forward. She has since come back, and while the album now functions as a bit of a time capsule to when we last heard from her, it doesn’t really feel like a stale release in the slightest. I say as much because Nagisa, for the most part, remained the same even before her hiatus. Her quirky and unique singing style of putting emphasis on her syllables is ever so present, whether it’s the heavy-hitting “Genten Kaiki” also from 2016 or the techno-balladic album original “Sick”. Her wild rhythmic instrumentation is also still on point, with her penchant for including math-y percussions and melodious classical ensembles acting as steady constants throughout all the tracks. “Remon no Toge” sees an unfazed Kuroki Nagisa back from adversity, trying to show the world that her signature sound is still as good as it ever was, and I think she did a bang up job.
During my time as a Japanese music fan, the genre combination of pop rock has been one that I tend to lean towards. While I absolutely love the kind of music that each style brings to the table on their own, taking those two and mashing them together just fits so well for my tastes. The combination of the brightness from pop and the loudness/roughness of rock, to me, mixes together really well.
Kuroki Nagisa’s 2019 release, Remon no Toge/檸檬の棘, is one of many examples of a nice pop rock album. Especially ones that are based around the instrumental combination of piano/keyboard and electric guitar, they just bring both styles of music together in a great fashion (another good example is the last album I reviewed, ex Negoto). And that’s pretty much what we see here in Remon no Toge, as a lot of the featured songs here have that brightness which complements the louder elements of rock music such as the electric guitar, bass and drums. You can definitely see it in action immediately, as the first few tracks like “Fuzakenna Sekai, Fuzakeroyo” and “Rock Musician no Tame no Étude Dai 0 Gakushou” express exactly that. The latter especially, with how resounding her distorted vocals and the rock instruments are, yet you can still clearly hear the accompanying piano playing in the back.
Other than that enjoyable style of music shown throughout most of the album, Kuroki Nagisa adds a bit of variety within the tracklist; some songs even being completely different from the usual rock sound. A couple of notable instances of this are the two tracks “Sick” and “Tiger”. “Sick” completely goes towards an electro-style path and is significantly more mellow, while “Tiger” is almost like something you’d hear in a children’s television show with its uplifting and easy melody (some of the featured instruments in that song could also be the reason, as you can hear a marimba among others). While those two songs seemed a bit out of place compared to the rest of the album (although to be fair, they could fall towards the pop side of this album), I didn’t really mind it and it almost felt like somewhat of a breather.
Obviously I don’t know a lick of Japanese and finding English-translated lyrics of most of these songs was not easy, but even from the loose translations I got from Google, I can tell why people enjoy Kuroki Nagisa’s song-writing. With songs like “Remon no Toge” and “Genten Kaiki”, she expresses troublesome moods a lot of the times while making things like nature or the environment a metaphor for the emotions she has. Again, take this with a super small grain of salt but just from that, it goes to show how ‘literary’ her lyrics can be.
And finally, one of the first and most notable things I observed within this album was Kuroki Nagisa’s vocals. I absolutely love her voice; it sounds very deep and mature but at the same time, you can definitely tell she can hit high notes if necessary. There were a ton of instances where her strong voice was shown really well but tracks like “Kaihouku e no Tabi” and even “Shi-chan He” where it was just her doing spoken-word, I just enjoyed hearing her sing. I also would suspect that the way she sings helps convey those insightful lyrics of hers. Lastly, my thoughts on her vocals would not be complete if I didn’t say it absolutely paired together well with the accompanying instruments. It didn’t matter if there were loud rock instruments or something as bright as a marimba or a banjo, I think Kuroki Nagisa could excellently sing in a wide range of genres.
In closing, Kuroki Nagisa’s Remon no Toge was a nice listen, as a fan of the pop rock genre. While it’s not exactly much different from other artists, the way she combined the two genres, especially with the instrumental compositions, was still super enjoyable. I absolutely love when a piano/keyboard is thrown into a rock-style song and I think a lot of the tracks featured in this album did a great job in doing so. Combine that with her really solid voice, perceptive lyrics and a bit of variety within the music styles, and you got an amusing album.
Aaand that’s all I got for you today!
Have you listened to Remon no Toge? Feel free to leave your own thoughts in the comments, I’d love to hear them.
If you haven’t checked out Leap’s review on the pop album I gave him, Shall we☆Carnival by i☆Ris, click here to read it! And as a reminder, J-Music Exchange/Rate will now be a monthly segment on both omunibasu and Leap’s blog so we’ll see you all again in July around the same time. 🙂
Thanks for reading!! 😀