My introduction to Seiko Oomori’s discography proper was her multifaceted epic kitixxxgaia near the end of last year. A couple of tracks hooked me to the album, but the more I have listened through it over the past year, the more I have come to enjoy it as an album listening experience. Now, it’s one of my favorite albums to listen through – Seiko’s transitions between her different sonic dimensions is near seamless and riveting.
I also listened through Tokyo Black Hole, and it’s a bit more fine-tuned and cohesive in terms of stylistic range but I still enjoy the unbridled madness of kitixxxgaia slightly more.
So after listening to those two amazing albums, my first listen through Kusokawa Party back in July didn’t leave me super impressed – the sonic range wasn’t there, there just seemed to be a psychotic party pop side and a ballad side to the album – even though her emotionally drenched vocals in her ballads instantly floored me. Then, all it took was a couple more listen throughs and I began to see more layers in the pop songs, and the album felt much more versatile than I initially thought. I think I just had unrealistic expectations for the album.
The opening track Shinigami starts with some soft percussions and reaches a crescendo in the chorus where Seiko exhibits her amazing vocal range (not for the last time) and brings it down again. Then the tide rises up again, Seiko tone reaches an apocalyptic level. It’s a powerful start, especially with that guitar solo near the end.
It’s between track 2 and 5 where the tracks feel like they play off each other really well, at least sonically – which during the first listen I was thinking they all sound the same. They don’t, they just transition well and add positively to the album listening experience. ZOC Jikkenshitsu shares a lot of elements with a ‘conventional’ alt-idol song (hell, she even made a group featuring the song in September) with some great guitar layering, and the ‘korose’ chants (followed by its opposite ‘ikiro’) at the end reminded me why I love Seiko’s music so much. She often plays with polarity in her lyrics with great effect. Oomori throws up a psychotic ice-cream themed rave in Reality Magic where colorful riffs and samples are just popping out everywhere but there’s also some grime muddying the mix here and there.
GIRL’S GIRL amps up the psychotic elements in the mix from the last track and I love the ripping dance synth in the chorus. Now, this is a song where I was really curious about what it’s about, and thankfully I found someone (Lena from Kitty’s Blues) with a decent translation through a cursory Google search. And the lyrics are kind of what I hoped them to be – Seiko talks about her self-image and how she doesn’t want others to create that for her… she wants to be kawaii and a mom, she doesn’t want to see sacrificing stuff for someone else as this big, virtuous thing – and I completely agree. Speaking of which, according to another lyric translation from the site, of Shinigami, Seiko again brings up people’s image of her as an ‘unfit’ mother and it wears her out. In the chorus, she sings about turning sorrow into money and blooming flowers with rage – all originating from and squirming under love. Lines like these make me wish I could read more of her lyrics since it’s just really good songwriting.
Following up GIRL’S GIRL, Last Dance loses a bit of energy after its cool, shimmery guitar-led intro. Amoeba no Koi is the track that should catch everyone’s ears on their first listen, the raging storm that the instrumentation cooks up drew me in right from the get-go. But it’s Seiko’s scream in the chorus that froze my blood in my veins – I don’t understand Japanese, but the energy in her voice at that moment was overwhelming – and it doesn’t wear off even with repeated listens. 7:77 follows up from that, and I’m not overly ecstatic with the sped up Pokemon-like-chiptune instrumentation of the song, it’s not underwhelming enough to skip through – on that note, I don’t think I skipped over any track in my last couple of listen throughs.
Seiko ends the album with a trio of poignant-sounding ballads. Starting with an acoustic guitar-driven one, Tokyo Kyou highlights Seiko’s raw voice and that, in turn, highlights her ability to hold onto your attention despite not really knowing what she’s singing about – guessing nostalgia from her tone. Watashimi introduces more instruments in the mix, and Seiko’s delivery gets more tender. Kimoikawa continues with a similar but slightly more elevated melancholic tune on being tired of being called disgusting, and her proclaiming that ‘disgusting is cute’. Even without looking at the translation, the strings and piano make it sound like sunlight peeking through the cloud after a period of heavy rain. It’s a really great ending, Seiko stirs up a storm and unwinds it down perfectly.
This new album, obviously, isn’t as multifaceted (I know, vocabulary level over 9000 right here) as her longer albums and therefore not as compelling as those in terms of an album listening experience, rather it feels more like a collection of singles near the tail-end of the album. But a fantastic collection at that, since Seiko definitely plays to her strengths and that makes the high points of this album hit really high, and drowns the scarce low points under her tide of unbridled emotion.