Key + Lia Best
Key + Lia Best
Key Sounds Label
June 24, 2011
Buy Used Copy
While Kanon featured some fine theme songs, it was Air that gave Key widespread recognition. In addition to excellent compositions from Jun Maeda, these theme songs featured incredible performances from Lia, then a newcomer and now an established artist. Maeda and Lia went on to create numerous other vocal themes for other visual novels, animes, and original albums. Key + Lia Best celebrates their ten year collaboration with a compilation of these songs, both familiar and obscure. Not all the songs here originate from the company Key’s work, but all were composed by Maeda (whose alias is confusingly also Key).
Lia’s voice is magical and Maeda’s songwriting always tends to emphasise this. Take “Natsukage”, a cover of the instrumental “Summer Lights” from Air. Maeda’s arrangement creates spiritual aura, using ethereal synthpads, echoing vocals, and sonorous strings, all of which project Lia’s voice. The vocalist brings so much humanity to the melody with her distinctive semi-operatic voice. Even more impressively, she ensures the transition from instrumental piece to vocal ballad is a smooth one. Likewise, Lia is the star of the show of “Birthday Song, Requiem”. She adapts her voice wonderfully to Maeda’s rich phrases and penetrates the hearts of listeners. The build-up that culminates at 3:11 is especially liberating.
For the most part, Key sourced material from the fringes of their discography when creating this album. Material such as the two aforementioned songs are sourced from obscure singles, while “Karma” emerged from Lia’s own original albums. There are also the theme songs from two externally produced animes that Maeda worked on, “My Soul, Your Beats!” from Angel Beats! and both “doll” and “human” from Gunslinger Girl -Il Teatrino-. While these songs aren’t what most typically associate with the singer, most are excellent. The soft accompaniment of “Karma” allows a complete focus on the vocals and Lia seems completely liberated when singing this soft. “My Soul, Your Beats!” meanwhile is an excellent example of the artist handling jubilant beat-heavy material.
While the unexpected inclusions on this album offer opportunities for new discovery, the notable omissions here are not forgivable. Air brought the first collaboration of Maeda and Lia, “Blue Skies”, and its theme songs were major breakthroughs for both artists. Their rejection here, in favour of relatively obscure material, means this release is hardly a ‘best’ album. Other unfortunate omissions include “Saya’s Song” and Lia’s cover of “Last Regrets”. In fact, the only theme song featured from Key’s visual novels is the relatively generic “Life is Like a Melody” from Tomoyo After, while the animation Clannad: After Story‘s opening theme also made the cut.
There are a few noteworthy exclusives here. There is a brand new recording of the original song “Hanabi”, with a much more polished recording than the original. Its counterpart “Spica” also received a new arrangement for this album, featuring anthemic trance beats, but the new additions detract from the soft pop flavour of the original. More notably, “Pierrot” is a new composition created exclusively for the album. The phrasing of this piece is delightfully whimsical and provided Lia with an opportunity to reflect her classical training. However, the track was still be highly accessible to most fans and takes a more pop-inspired direction at the chorus.
Lia’s voice is one of the most incredible in the Japanese games industry. While she made her breakthrough with Key, she has gone on to produce numerous albums and feature in Grammy-winning releases such as Calling All Dawns. Key + Lia Best reflects her talent and versatility throughout, while demonstrating Maeda’s flair for creating songs for her. That said, it isn’t the album for the casual Lia fan, given it omits her breakthrough hits in favour of obscurities. However, the songs here tend to be excellent and are well worth the time and money of more established Key listeners.
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Posted on August 1, 2012 by Chris Greening. Last modified on August 1, 2012.