Brand New, heidi.’s alpha Lights Up Your World

Review

by Sarah Jones, posted September 16, 2012

heidi. are reliable. Their jazz and indie-rock hits never fail to promise fun and a good live experience. However, while heidi. won’t exactly let you down, they don’t always light up your world, either–until now, that is. Their latest album alpha promises that comforting heidi. sound but with a few tricks up their sleeve.

alpha‘s dazzle kicks off with “Shoudou.” Nao’s stuttering guitar notes complement the smoother vocals of Yoshihiko in the verses before ‘la la la’s with the air of a football chant lead into a sparky up-tempo chorus. Following on is the hit single “Gekkou Showtime.” The music a fantastic whirl of fun, Yoshihiko’s spirited vocal line gives the piece such life that comparisons to similar past singles are forgotten in the excitement.

Another Fish” opens with Kohsuke playing a mesmerizing and funky dance beat. His bass continues to provide the heart of the piece while Nao’s guitar dances around the bass notes with a cool swagger. The chorus vocals do press the limits of comfortable vocal range but are bolstered by the instrumentals and well-matched lyrics. “Tsuioku” is equally interesting, contrasting the Eastern atmosphere of the preceding “Little Garden” with a distinct Western sense to the wistful guitar melody which rises into a stunning piece of emotionally wrought music.

More than anyth other aspect of alpha, heidi. prove their prowess at instrumentals, to the point where Yoshihiko, though a fine vocalist, can sometimes be forgotten in the midst. However, the ballad “Ao no Sekai” is a prime example of his skills. The repeating melody has a faint 70s air through which Yoshihiko’s vocals are appropriately subtle with a deep maturity. His urgently sung vocal line also carries the zippy “Monochrome Gradation” with powerful lyrics as Nao’s funky guitar brings a real cool retro swing to the verses, a feeling which is carried through to the glam-rock strains of the album’s music video choice, “Landscape.” Unfortunately, placed amid these, “Melt” is lost to the various attractions of the surrounding tunes and there is only one real moment of messiness found in the unusually raucous “Aware Haijin.” Clashes in the pacing and disordered guitars feel like an idea taken too far though the number invites frantic headbanging with its racing drums and excitable vocal line.

Suddenly released as a single immediately prior to the album, “Kumorizora niwa koimoyo” is a gentle delight. With subtly incorporated synthesized sounds to create an airy feeling of sky and space, it features an interesting music video at odds with pre-alpha heidi. full of symbolic animation and confusing existentialism.

alpha is closed by another ballad, “Kanata.” At first cluttered, it settles into gentle arpeggios and plucked notes with measured drumming from Kiri that enhance the deep monotone of the vocal line which then rises in a typically grand, soaring fashion into a chorus that reaches for the sky. Since heidi. refreshingly rely on very few enhancements to their music whether keyboard effects or strings, the ‘epic’ sound smacks of cliché but the music retains a certain rawness that gives “Kanata” an earthy credibility. It makes a fine closing note to the album.

Despite wildly new cover art and production elements influenced by mixing in America, there are times when the “heidi. sound” makes a marked appearance in alpha; a comfort to fans though also a restraint on new sounds. Yet, despite the appearance of the classic heidi. elements there is plenty to ascertain that they have pushed themselves and raised their game to ascend further above the general melee. alpha is yet another strong release in a year of strong releases.

Visit heidi.’s YouTube page in order to sample the entire album as well as view the short and long versions of the “Kumorizora niwa koimoyo” music video and “Landscape.”

12 Track CD

Track List

  1. Shoudou
  2. Gekkou Showtime
  3. Another Fish
  4. Little Garden
  5. Tsuioku
  6. Ao no Sekai
  7. Melt
  8. Monochrome Gradation
  9. Landscape
  10. Aware Haijin
  11. Kumorizora niwa Koimoyou
  12. Kanata

Sarah began her journey into the world of Japanese music courtesy of L'Arc-en-Ciel back in the year 2000. Since then, she has combined a love of music and music journalism into writing for European Japanese music magazines and assisting with Japanese interest events in the UK. After graduating in Law from the University of Nottingham, she put 'the law-thing' on the backburner to dive into the live scene in Tokyo for 3 years. Sarah returned to the UK in September 2010 to do that 'law-thing' and now works for a Japanese bank in London. Her heart is always in the music and fashion in Tokyo and her life is balanced between her time in the UK and Japan. When she has time, she also blogs at http://lifeismerodii.blogspot.com

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