Hello and welcome to another J-Music Exchange/Rate post! In case you’re not sure what this is about: basically me and my good friend/fellow Japanese music fan Leap250 pick out an album from our libraries, give them to each other and later review it on our respective blogs. It’s a fun little thing we’ve been doing for about two years now, and it’s a great way for both of us to discover brand new stuff within the Japanese music space. And hopefully you, the reader, are also able to find new music through our suggestions/reviews!
And as always, each month’s album suggestions are based on a specific theme/topic that we come up with. It was my turn for the month of February and given that a very popular holiday called Valentine’s Day occurs during this month, I figured we suggest albums that revolve around love and relationships. Valentine’s Day would’ve already passed once this post comes out but I hope you had a good time on the 14th! Whether you spent it with your significant other or just by yourself, I think both are fine ways of celebrating the holiday. And funny enough, even though I don’t have a special someone, I really do love this holiday since it’s just fun to see the festivities and the Valentines-themed tweets and photos from my favorite seiyuu/idols lol
Rambling aside, here are our picks for this month: Leap went ahead and gave me Palette, the latest album from up-and-coming pop singer/songwriter eill, while I tossed over good morning by the lovely Fujiwara Sakura.
eill (エイル) is a Japanese pop singer-songwriter based in Tokyo. At the age of 15, she started composing and performing her own music, being heavily influenced by many different styles and genres such as J-pop, R&B, soul and especially K-pop. In 2018, eill would make her indie (and impressive) debut with the release of her first single MAKUAKE.
Since then, eill has expressed her unique sound and fantastic vocals in several singles, EPs and albums. She eventually made her major debut with her new label, Pony Canyon, with the release of her latest album Palette. eill has also collaborated with various artists throughout the years like m-flo, SKY-HI, Takahashi Kai from LUCKY TAPES, and even foreign musicians like American R&B/soul singer Pink Sweat$ and Taeyeon (former member of the popular K-pop group Girl’s Generation).
And for the anime fans, eill was the one who performed “Koko de Iki wo Shite”, the ending theme to Tokyo Revengers.
eill – Palette
- Ikenai Baby / いけないbaby (Don’t Baby)
- Koko de Iki wo Shite / ここで息をして (Take a Breath Here)
- Hana no You ni / 花のように (Like Flowers)
- Plastic Love / プラスティック・ラブ [cover] – original song by Takeuchi Mariya
- Tada no Gyaru / ただのギャル (Just a Gal)
- Katappo / 片っぽ (One Side)
Leap’s Thoughts on Palette
This would be the first time that I recommended an album as part of the Exchange/Rate (and, well, in general) before it even came out. A lot of that has to do with the fact that said album is eill’s first full-length album. eill is an artist that I’ve been following for quite a while now, and after seeing the wholesale changes she has made to her music in that time, “PALETTE” very quickly became a much anticipated release for me as soon as it got announced. This ties into why I thought this album would be perfect for this month’s theme in that, one of the key things that eill has focused on in the past year or so (and subsequently where she’s now finding success in) with regard to her songs is her youthful and more modern take on Pop Ballads, of which this album mostly consists of. “hikari” and “Hana no you ni” are the key A-side tracks that signify this sort of paradigm shift for eill’s artistry, while songs like “Tada no Gyaru” and the title track “palette” show that she still keeps to her R&B roots and retains the playful nature of her sound. Her rendition of Takeuchi Mariya’s “Plastic Love” lies at the intersection of these styles, and is a nice little cherry on top of an already standout release.
Al’s Thoughts on Palette
Last time I wrote a review, I did it in a different format where I listed out my main points/thoughts regarding the album. And I figured I’d continue doing something like that with this album; we’ll see if it becomes my primary way of reviewing now.
That being said, let’s start!
1 ► palette and its interesting sense of variety
According to an interview she did with Asahi Shimbun Digital Magazine, eill mentioned that because she has experienced and been exposed to so many different music genres throughout her life such as hip-hop, R&B, K-pop and J-pop, she’s able to draw inspirations from all of them. While pop is the primary style she’s going for, eill also describes how she simply makes what she wants to make and generally has a sense of freedom whenever she creates new music.
And I would agree. In fact, I believe eill did a pretty damn good job at expressing so many different genres/styles throughout Palette, all while, kind of, maintaining a common pop theme. And you’re able to hear exactly what I’m talking about right from the get-go, as the opening track titled “Ikenai Baby” has a very chill, synth sound. But right after that song, you’re hit with the much louder and upbeat “Koko de Iki wo Shite”. And right after THAT, eill gives us a more Western pop song in “23”, something you’d hear here in the United States with its youthful vocals and catchy choruses.
So just from the first three songs in this album, I noticed it’s apparent that eill has the ability to convey significantly different styles and genres within her songs. While some may be turned off by the drastic differences between some of the tracks on Palette, I feel like she was still able to bring most of it all together in order to sound coherent. It most definitely had a general pop feel to it, with a lot of the songs sounding upbeat/catchy (“Palette”) and some even having a calmer/melancholic atmosphere to them (“Hikari”). There were times where one song did feel a bit strange compared to the previous one that was played because of how different some of them were to each other. Like, going from a low energy-sounding track such as “Ikenai Baby” to one that’s much more high energy like “Koko de Iki wo Shite”… not gonna lie, the quick change of styles and paces threw me off a bit between a few of these tracks. But I think she, sort of, calmed it down towards the end of the album, which felt a lot better and made for a pleasant finish.
2 ► let’s talk about that “plastic love” cover
I included this as a main talking point because of how glaring and intriguing this cover was.
In the past few years, a 80s Japanese pop song titled “Plastic Love” by Takeuchi Mariya somehow got into everyone’s YouTube suggestions which prompted it to become a viral hit, decades after its initial release. I personally enjoy listening to that song, just like everyone else, but the incredible covers it spawned has interested me a lot more. There are so many good renditions of “Plastic Love”, with the one from the Japanese R&B group Friday Night Plans probably being my favorite. So when I saw “Plastic Love” come up on this eill album, I was both surprised and excited (lol). Surprised because I never expected to hear a cover of “Plastic Love”, and excited because I was looking forward to hearing eill’s version of it.
And I was not disappointed! Similar to many covers of “Plastic Love”, eill put her own unique spin on it but at the same time, she added in some 80s pop motifs and sounds to reflect the overall nature of the original. And what resulted was a bit of a modern city-pop version of “Plastic Love” that was very cool to listen to.
It seems like it’s uncommon to see an artist include a song cover in their album tracklist but whenever they do, I personally like it. I feel like it can be some sort of a break from their original stuff and/or it can fit extremely well with the overall composition of the album. Either way, I think it’s a great thing for artists to do and eill did a nice job doing so.
3 ► eill’s vocals are outstanding
The first time I heard of eill and her music was when I watched her sing one of her older songs, “HUSH”, on the Spincoaster YouTube channel. I absolutely loved her voice and how she sang, and now coming into one of her newer releases, I still feel the same way.
Her lower pitch and register are so nice to listen to, and it’s extremely smooth/soothing to hear at times. But what’s great is that she also has the ability to hit high notes when she has to and there were a ton of fantastic instances of that throughout this album. Songs like “Palette”, “Hana no Youni”, the beautiful acoustic guitar-based “Letter…”, and my personal favorite, “Honey-Cage”, really did showcase her singing abilities extremely well.
Heck, she even sounded pretty good in the… interesting “Tada no Gyaru” with her overall hip-hop/rap-like performance and background ad-libs 😛
4 ► the love/romance-filled lyricism
Like I said earlier, Leap and I chose albums that, we felt, fitted the overall theme of Valentine’s Day since it’s the month of February. When I picked out my album for Leap, I kind of based it on how love-filled and romantic the lyrics were. So that’s how I’m personally approaching this album; I’m not sure if Leap chose Palette because of the lyrics but even then, reading some of them, I’d say it fits well with this month’s theme.
“Ikenai Baby” starts out with a more melancholic feel to it, showing a person having strong romantic feelings about someone but at the same time, having trouble conveying their thoughts (“I want you even if you leave everything behind / I’m still playing with my first fever / Forgive me for being crazy about you” [lyrics from Lyrical Nonsense, translated with DeepL]). A lot of songs had a similar vibe such as “Honey-Cage”.
While on the other hand, some of the tracks had a bit of a ‘carefree’ opinion on love, with things like not giving a damn about what other people think or living in the moment rather than thinking about the past. The lyrics of “23” were intriguing to read, as the youthful themes felt fun and sometimes even relatable: (“We don’t live forever / What about eternity? / We don’t live forever / Let them say what ever / A revolutionary miracle / Let’s start here and now / We just 23” [source, translated with DeepL]).
While I’m still not someone who pays attention to lyrics all that much, having these various perspectives on relationships were nice to read about. I think eill did a good job conveying her thoughts and feelings, and given that she herself is pretty young (age 23), I’d say she has a good understanding about the joys and struggles of love and romance, especially in an adolescent perspective.
While I knew about eill years prior to writing this review, I’ve been, sort of, neglecting her and her music since then. It’s definitely not because I don’t like her songs or anything, my preferences and everyday taste in music just don’t coincide with these kinds of artists. But now that I got the opportunity to see eill’s newer releases, I can really tell how much she has improved as an artist and as a vocalist, which certainly made me enjoy this album a lot more.
Her expressions of different genres were super cool to hear and you can tell how much she appreciates all these various styles of music. And because of that, these compositions felt genuine to me, having an authentic and well-thought out sound. Whether it was a jazzy, anison-themed song or a beautiful acoustic guitar arrangement; eill nailed it with a lot of these tracks and gave us a nice, diverse tracklist. And obviously, her vocals were pretty much the icing on the cake.
Aaaaand that’s all I got for you today!
Sorry for the super late post; I kinda lost track of time and the shorter month messed up everything (lol). But I hope you still enjoyed reading it! Eill is a very talented artist and singer, and I hope to see more of her work in the near future. 👍
And with that being said, you should go over to Leap’s blog to read his album review for the month! I gave him good morning by the lovely Fujiwara Sakura, an album I’ve enjoyed for years now, so definitely go check it out by clicking here!
Lastly, in case you missed it and/or are interested in idol anime, Leap and I did a thing where we talked about a show called Selection Project. We had a pretty interesting convo so click here to read part 1!
Thanks for reading!! 😀