It's going to sound mean but I wasn't expecting much from this, as Hello! Project's releases have been lacking lately in style, structure and flair, but this is a perfect mini-album in a lot of ways. Including the singles 'Zassou no Uta' and 'Natsu Dakara!' and one of the B-sides for Zassou - 'JUICY HE@RT' - which were all great songs, so it's a good start. The filler tracks are very high standard for current H!P and fit Momoko, Miyabi and Airi's voices very well.
The album tracks are really good and varied, and the balance of hyper songs to slower songs (although not slow enough to call them ballads) is perfect. The quality of this mini-album is the highest I have heard from a H!P release since 10 My Me, and since 2007, quality has been slowly declining in H!P as any fan who has been around for a while would recognize.
The songs that have been released by Buono! S/mileage, Berryz and to a lesser extent C-ute (whose songs this year haven't been very good, bar 'Kiss me Aishiteru' which was fantastic) have been better than Morning Musume's releases by leaps and bounds. Whether this means Tsunku is trying to push MM back or re-assign someone else as the main draw for H!P, I'm not sure, but it is probably a good thing, as many H!P fans see MM as a bit old hat and they have been declining in popularity for a while.
I'll be buying this mini-album with my next pay as I think it really deserves our support with the quality it has. Which again, absolutely surprised me in a very good way.
Track by Track Breakdown:
1. Partenza ~ Lets Go!!! - A synthpop song complete with autotune and a starting that reminds me a little of the first few bars of MM's 'Only You' - A really interesting way to start the album, it's a different and upbeat track. The whole thing is autotuned though, so it will be interesting to hear how this sounds live. Miyabi's voice is quite suited to this. B-U-O-N-O Lets Go! A mini radio rip is here: LINK
2. Zassou no Uta - A recent single by Buono! With really interesting and different lyrics, and an uplifiting message (check out the translation on projecthello.com http://projecthello.com/buono/zassou.html) Airi sounds great in this, and it's a fun PV too. With a quite rock-like sound, Buono are getting back to basics here. It sounds fantastic, and it continues the trend of Buono! pretty much only getting very good songs, I don't think I've disliked a song of theirs so far. Official PV Here: LINK
3. FrankincenseΨ - This is a great song, with an awesome repetitive guitar riff the whole way through that keeps the cool beat of the song. Again, individual and unlike any other H!P song I have heard, this is good enough to be a single. There is still a bit of autotune, but it works here and it's only done in specific spots, and not the entire track. Miyabi sounds excellent here! For this album it's almost as if they were given extra vocal training, as they sound better than even a year or two ago. LINK
4. My Alright Sky - an Airi Suzuki solo song, the English at the start is not by her, it is by the composer of the track (credit to mm-bbs for this information). Airi's voice is often forced into high pitches that makes it squeak slightly and doesn't suit. This song is in a lower range, and it is just beautiful. A slow, ethereal sounding song that's a perfect halfway mark for this standout album. Airi's voice just keeps getting better. She does attempt some English in this and it sounds very cute. Mp3 Tube here: LINK
5. Natsu Dakara! - Buono's most recent single! A great summer song. A slightly slower song than recent releases, but a very good one nonetheless. I don't like the talking in the middle though, talking in a song usually weakens it (like a lot of No Sleeves's releases, if you want to compare..stop talking!). This isn't really a song you can dance to, but it is definitely one you could nod and sing along with. It's not my favourite single release from Buono! though. Official PV Here: LINK
6. Kia ora. Gracious. Arigatou - This is a great upbeat song that picks the album up again. This is Momoko's lead song, and she sounds fantastic. A high-pitched, fast moving track that works with Momoko's voice. This isn't as good as some of the other upbeat songs on the album, and it's a little generic, but it still works, and it's another song that I think would be good live.
7. JUICY HE@RT - A B-side to Zassou no Uta, an awesome rock-like song with hard riffs (I say rock like, as it's still quite poppy, and their vices are still pop...it IS H!P..) there is still a great rustic guitar feel with this, mixed with some synthpop overlay, but not enough to take away from the great old-school rock-pop feel of the track. They are wearing Union Jack jumpers in the PV...COME TO ENGLAND BUONO! Stop teasing us! Official PV Here: LINK
8. 1/3 no Junjou na Kanjou - A lower-range song, which I am always thankful for, as I think H!P is a bit of a squeakfest at times. This is a cover of a song by Siam Shade, which I will include the original here. It is an interesting cover for a girl group to do but it really shows their vocal range, I'd love to hear them do more songs in this range. It sounds fantastic. Which is not something I would expect from Momoko, Airi and Miyabi, who all have higher ranges, but their voices are so much better than we usually give them credit for, and this song shows it. The ORIGINAL by Siam Shade here: LINK - The Buono version is not available on youtube yet, but I am sure it will be soon so keep searching!
This is a great, great album, that any H!P fan would love, I have not heard any bad reviews so far. Hopefully, if H!P releases can start going back up to this kind of quality for regular singles and albums, it will bring a lot of disollusioned fans back, and new fans in. But, I don't know if it is just years of being let down, but I doubt that MM's new album or single will be anything like the quality put into this. Prove me wrong H!P! Prove me wrong!