Key Sounds Label
August 31, 2005
Buy Used Copy
Shortly after the Japanese progressive rock group Eufonis was founded in 2003, their talented singer Riya lent her voice to a 13-track album, Love Song, from Key Sounds Label. Full of bittersweet ballads and optimistic anthems, all of the varied tracks of Love Song were composed, arranged, and produced by Jun Maeda and chart the course of a teenage romance from its inception to its (unhappy) conclusion. Although the lyrics are in Japanese, one needn’t have a working understand of the language to grasp the raw emotion themes of this excellent album thanks to Riya’s vocals and Maeda’s arrangements.
Teenage relationships are not easy. Whether paralyzed by insecurities or spurred on by burgeoning feelings mistaken for true love, the emotional toll taken on a young paramour as they pine for their beloved is one of the most raw and intense emotional experiences that a person will endure in the course of their lives. Love Song recounts one such romance and touches on themes familiar to all who have survived adolescence. Feelings of infatuation, blind optimism, cynicism, introspection, determination, and rejection are all laid bare through Riya’s tender vocals.
“The Hill Where Everything Began” opens the album with a minimalist arrangement of piano and vocals, capturing the nostalgic feeling of early love masterfully. Reminiscent of Regina Spektor or Michelle Branch, it establishes the vulnerability of the female character in Love Song with soft, uncertain vocals that grow with a subtle intensity throughout the piece. As the last note of “The Hill where Everything Began” fades, the album takes a hard right with the trance techno “Blue Dream”, an infectiously dancey piece of house music featuring Kendi Sato on electric guitar. Portraying the unabashed enthusiasm of a determined young lover with shades of Ian Van Dahl and a thumping, freestyle backbeat, this track drips with an energy that helps sustain some of the slower tacks of the album.
“The Stone That Became a Star” brings Love Song back down to a slower tempo with a simple percussion line that you’d easily find yourself slowdancing to at a relative’s wedding. A bit dated in sound, it alternates between supporting Miya’s vocals with either windchimes or a simple eighth note bass line. “Run” brings back the feeling of “The Hill Where Everything Began” with its more spartan musical arrangement but features a new contemporary sound represented by the grainy distortion of Miya’s vocals in the chorus. As the album approaches “The 100 Year Summer” it takes on a unique new age feel similar to a less ambient and more focused Enya arrangement. I found the overall length of this (and subsequent tracks) to be a bit of an overall distraction. Young love is, by nature, brief and fleeting, yet many of these tracks could benefit from a bit of editing to their introductions and musical interludes for the sake of pacing. This minor issue aside, Miya’s powerful vocals at the two minute mark of “The 100 Year Summer” were the highlight of the album for me.
“Our Love” is optimistic and bright throughout, although the simple piano line becomes disappointingly repetitious especially in light of the truly excellent piano melody that accompanies Weisswurst’s featured violin on “Gray Feather”. “Gramophone” marks the beginning of the downturn in the story, with tracks taking on a maudlin, sentimental feeling. Miya’s vocals swell with emotion as each note is used as a miniature stage to act out her character’s gradual acceptance of an unhappy outcome. “Myths” breaks away from the more sallow “Gramophone” but retains the elements of sadness and resignation, transforming them into a guitar driven pop ballad. In this sense, it is a logical extension of the theme — if not feel and melody — of “Gramophone”. “The Ice Clock”, ironically one of the shortest tracks on the album, resonates with feelings of impatience and frustration as well a truly excellent marimba track. Miya’s vocal melody at 1:02 is another highlight of the album and moves with a speed and focus that a listener wouldn’t expect given the gelid title of the track.
Kendi Sato’s guitar returns on “Unbreakable Wings” after an unnecessarily long and ambient introduction. More Paul Oakenfold than Ian Van Dahl, “Unbreakable Wings” is a by-the-numbers techno track from its “unn tss” beat to its predictable break halfway through. As the song builds back up to its expected loud, fast, and thumping conclusion, one can’t help but picture a dance club’s lights flashing in time with the music. Thankfully, “And Then, The Story Concluded” erases the missteps of “Unbreakable Wings” with its more emotional and evocative mood that draws on the elements of the preceding tracks of Love Song. As it captures the Enya-esque feel of “The 100 Year Summer” and recalls the melody of “Blue Dreams”, one can’t help but find themselves choked up by the excellent arrangement and emotional vocal performance. The eponymous swansong of the album, “Love Song”, is another keyboard and vocal track but replaces the piano accompaniment of “The Hill Where Everything Began” with a synthesizer, giving the piece an overall German pop feel. Miya’s vocals are at her most muted and tender on this track, and summarize the emotional rollercoaster of Love Song and young romance in a dulcet four and a half minutes.
Few albums have successfully captured raw emotion as efficiently and faithfully as Love Song does. Although a bit drawn out at times, the release must be appreciated as a formless gestalt — with the overall feeling of the album being more important than the individual tracks. Like many concept albums, Love Song will require an investment of time from the listener, but the emotional journey that it portrays is sure to resonate with anyone who has ever found themselves on the unhappy end of an unrequited adolescent crush. As rejection gives way to acceptance, the album matures in sound just as a young lover grows as the result of a heartbreak.
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Posted on August 1, 2012 by Matt Diener. Last modified on August 1, 2012.