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Yakusoku

New album from TGS packs quite the punch

08 February, 2013 by

Avex’s lovable girls’ dance and vocal group released their eagerly-awaited third album in end January. Fresh from their record-breaking concert at Nippon Budoukan, the girls face a challenge of living up to lofty expectations as the new year begins. How does Yakusoku (約束) stand next to the rest of their albums? We take a look.

Tokyo Girls’ Style has always been a group that differentiated itself from the rest of the pop sphere. Likewise, this comes through in their music as well. While I expected Yakusoku to continue on the usual path of catchy funky pop tunes of Limited Addiction and Kodou no Himitsu, it was a pleasant surprise to hear that the group went for even more experimentation in their new album.

Intro

While it would seem a little superfluous to write about the start of an album, I found this rather interesting tidbit while listening to the album for the first time. The intro track actually provides a pretty good description of the feel for the album; the intro of Yakusoku is in the outro of Limited Addiction. It is also a little reminiscent of Electric Light Orchestra, at the start.

Bad Flower

The first proper track of the album is their most recent single, Bad Flower. The transition from the Intro is a little haphazard, but it works well enough that you probably want to listen to them in order. I’m not particularly fond of the track myself, but it has a catchy hook and Ayano’s voice fits the song very well.

Tsuioku

The single version of Tsuioku makes an appearance in the album. The girls show off their well-honed harmonizing in this slow song, and each girl gets an opportunity to show off her solo chops. While not a bad song overall, there’s not much to note of it, other than being very pleasant to listen to.

Discord

The first thing anyone notices when it comes to Discord is the vocoded vocals at the start of the song. An uptempo guitar number, it’s also the theme song for the Transformers anime that’s currently airing. It’s a great song to get pumped up to, and the guitar has just the right amount of cheese to rock out to.

Sore de Ii Jan

The first of the new album songs is Sore de Ii Jan, a midtempo song with what I would term the ‘TGS sound’. Many I talked to loved this song the most on the album, mostly due to its great funk sound and great singing. There’s even a part near the end where the keyboard and guitar faces off in a short interlude.

Taisetsu na Kotoba

According to the girls themselves, this is the only ‘kawaii’ song on the album. I am not inclined to disagree myself. The melody and use of horns in this song certainly makes it rather uplifting, and it’s no wonder that this was the second A-side to accompany the slower Tsuioku when they were released as a single. Overall, it’s a track that demonstrates TGS’ youthful side very well.

Tsuki to Sayonara

Personally, this is the best track on the album. With music done by Hiroshi Matsui, the track sounds like it belongs more in a JiLL-Decoy association release than a Tokyo Girls’ Style one. The track is a brilliant example of great production; the infectious bassline is supplemented well by the horns and the girls do a good job of sounding mature as they sing for this one. This track would not be out of place in a jazz bar’s playlist.

Maboroshi

The jazz is thrown out for funk in Maboroshi; the jazzy lines are substituted for tight bass slapping, and the music speeds up considerably. In terms of exploring the girls’ ranges, Maboroshi definitely gives the girls in a challenge in that aspect, as they reach for the higher notes. While it perfectly complements the music, it remains to be seen how this song will song live, as good as it sounds recorded.

Overnight Sensation ~Jidai ga Anata ni Yudaneteru~

TGS cover avex seniors TRF on this particular track. They have been performing this at live performances for the longest time; before this it was only available on a compilation album, so it is nice to have this in CD quality. IRF leader Shoji Mei has several lines in this song, and in lives takes over the hype-man position from Arai very well.

Futarikiri

This track is Yakusoku’s W.M.A.D. Opening with a guitar solo, this track has moodmaker written all over it. It is a ridiculously effective earworm; after one or two listens there’s no way you’re getting the chorus out of your head. The parts where the crowd participation is supposed to be is made clear with the inclusion of ‘yay’ chants as they sing. While the description sounds a bit silly, it adds to the excitement when you listen to it, definitely.

Lolita☆Strawberry in summer

The mood of the album mellows out a little bit as the album draws near to its close. Lolita is a SweetS cover, and is quite the favourite amongst fans. This is a throwback to the rather stereotypical avex girlgroup sound; nevertheless, it is a good interpretation of a fan classic.

Yakusoku

The album comes to a close with its title track, Yakusoku. The mood of the song definitely fits the title – it’s a little slow and there’s a lot more group singing parts; the older fans of the group would definitely feel some pangs of nostalgia as the song goes along. While it’s a little off-kilter compared to the rest of the album, it shows the versatility of TGS and is a great closer to a great album.

Himawari no Hoshikuzu

TGS’ second non-Japanese track after the Chinese language Onnaji Kimochi is an English version of Himawari to Hoshikuzu. While it is a little weird to hear in English and some parts are near incomprehensible, the enunciation in the chorus is crisp and there is clear indication that the girls spent a lot of time practising for this. One is left wondering why it came after the outro instead of with the rest of the album, however.

The number of singles in between albums has lessened in between album releases for Tokyo Girls’ Style. While this would be a bad idea for most groups (at least those in the Japanese pop limelight), I feel like this is a good direction to go in for TGS. They have a versatility in their sound that is better exploited in an album format, and I feel like releasing singles (even if they’re all double A-sides) seeks to only narrow this.

Concerns aside, Tokyo Girls’ Style has done it yet again. Despite making a marked departure from the sounds of the previous two albums, they have managed to keep a firm grasp on their style, thus keeping fans who love their established sound happy. The experimentation and its subsequent success however, is what really makes TGS so interesting to follow.

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Mus

Writer who also doubles as the photographer during event coverage. Mus' interests in Japan lie in the language, literature, popular culture and underground rock bands. Having an academic background in Japan, Mus is also particularly interested in the study of Nihonjinron.