Album Review: YUI – “Holidays in the Sun”

Tracklist:
1. to Mother
2. again
3. Parade
4. es.car
5. Shake My Heart
6. GLORIA
7. I do it
8. Please Stay With Me
9. Summer Song
10. Cinnamon
11. Driving Happy Life
12. It’s all too much
13. Kiss me

This is YUI’s fourth studio album, which was released on July 14, 2010. The album peaked at #1 on the Oricon Weekly Chart and has sold 184,952 copies.

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Single Review: YUI – “to Mother”

Tracklist:
1. to Mother
2. Tonight
3. GLORIA ~YUI acoustic version~
4. to Mother ~Instrumental~

This is YUI’s seventeenth single, which was released on June 2, 2010. The single reached #1 on the Oricon Weekly Chart for singles and sold 71,804 copies.

These covers are exactly what I expect from and love about YUI: they’re simple, classy and pretty.

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The wonderful thing about YUI is that she never fails to impress. After three exceptional rock singles, YUI brings us to Mother, a very personal and charming piano-pop song. Music-wise, I think this is one of YUI’s nicest singles in a while (again being the absolute best of this era), as it has a very simple, clean sound to it with piano, drums and guitars. She also delivers a mature performance on the vocal front and the end result is a really pretty song. I am now officially excited for her new album.

Wow, talk about opposite ends of the spectrum. Where to Mother was soft and pretty, Tonight is hard and strong. In the end, although YUI makes pretty ballads, rock is where she’s most at home, and it really shows in her vocal performance on this song. Although Tonight is pretty short (a little over two and a half minutes), it has a catchy melody and it’s very pleasant to listen to.

I really liked GLORIA, and so it’s no surprise that I like GLORIA ~YUI acoustic version~ just as much. There aren’t any surprises in this version compared to the original but it’s nice to hear YUI’s voice more clearly, ’cause she hits some pretty choice notes. Some may find this to be unnecessary as it’s nothing particularly new, but I liked it. That’s my opinion.

Summary: YUI is cool, YUI is versatile, YUI has a style all her own – all these things are true and this single is right there to prove it. Honestly, while listening to this single, I wasn’t able to find a song that I didn’t really like. And that’s saying something. I’ll be anticipating YUI’s new album on 7/14 and I totally expect it to be great!

Single Grade: A+
Recommended Tracks:
to Mother
| Tonight | GLORIA ~YUI acoustic version~

Single Review: YUI – “GLORIA”

Tracklist:
1. GLORIA
2. Muffler
3. It’s all too much -YUI Acoustic Version-
4. GLORIA -Instrumental-

This is YUI’s sixteenth single. It was released on January 20, 2010.

I like the wintry feel of these covers. YUI looks very pretty also.

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I’ve enjoyed the rock sound of YUI’s latest releases, but the upbeat pop feel of GLORIA was a pleasant surprise. There’s a lot of acoustic poppy-ness going on with the music in this song, and YUI remembers how to adjust her voice accordingly, which makes for a very happily listen-able performance. The yai yai yai yai thing she does during the chorus is pretty annoying, but it’s also the only real drawback to this song.

Muffler is a slower, but still cheery acoustic pop song that kind of reminds me of Michelle Branch from the early 2000’s. It’s a cute and feminine sounding song with a bouncy beat and keyboards. YUI sounds especially in control of her voice and vibrato in this one, which is pretty nice.

Next is It’s all too much -YUI Acoustic Version-, which is pretty much self-explanatory. I always tend to enjoy YUI’s acoustic takes on her own songs, and this is no exception. There’s something really charming about YUI’s voice, even after the bells and whistles have been taken away. I also really liked the simple harmonies in this song.

Summary: It’s nice to see an artist return to their roots after a period of trying something different. With releases like again and It’s all too much, YUI went for a more indie, prog-rock type sound, but GLORIA and its respective B-sides is a pleasant nod to YUI’s skills in simple and acoustic. Very nice single.

Single Grade: A

Single Review: YUI – “It’s all too much / Never say die”

Tracklist:
1. It’s all too much
2. Never say die
3. again ~YUI acoustic version~
4. It’s all too much ~Instrumental~

YUI’s fourteenth single was released on October 7th, 2009. It reached #1 on Oricon and has sold 75,047 copies. Both songs were used in the live-action film Kaiji.

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I actually really like these covers! I think they’re interesting and unique. The floating cards sort of remind me of Alice in Wonderland, which is pretty cool to me.

It’s all too much is an upbeat, driving prog-rock tune, not unlike YUI’s previous single again only not quite as in-your-face. Even though it’s definitely a rock song, I enjoyed the occasional ballad-esque elements that were added in like strings and light piano. I thought these were pretty cool. I also got more of a chance to appreciate YUI’s vocals since she’s not spitting out a thousand words a minute like she was in again. Overall, I feel like It’s all too much is a really well-put together rock track and I enjoyed it a lot.

The next song, Never say die, is a LOT more pop than its fellow A-side. It retains the same rock feelings but it has a bouncier beat and a sunnier overall sound. For these reasons, I’m not a huge fan of the song as a whole, but from a vocalist’s standpoint I really dig YUI’s control over her voice. I normally wouldn’t describe it as being cute, but the whole vibe of the song combined with YUI’s upbeat performance make it seem that way.

For those who liked again for what it was, again ~YUI acoustic version~ is probably not the best. However, if the original’s forceful bluntness was not your cup of tea, I highly recommend this version. It’s basically what the title infers, plus some new, more reserved vocals from YUI. The result is very pretty and feminine-sounding.

Summary: By this time in her career, YUI has established herself as having a brand of pop-rock that’s all her own. In this single, we get the best of both worlds: a cool song that leans decisively toward YUI’s rock tendencies (It’s all too much) and the oh so rare but nonetheless nice-to-hear-from-time-to-time pop song (Never say die). The only B-side, an acoustic rendition of YUI’s rousing prog-rock single again, is a great addition to the single as well. However, I can’t help but feel a bit unaffected toward the single after hearing it – in  other words, it was unmemorable. Next time, I’d like to hear something truly spectacular.

Single Grade: B+

Single Review: YUI – “again”

cover Tracklist:
 1. again
 2. Sea
 3. SUMMER SONG ~YUI acoustic version~ 
3.
again ~Instrumental~

 YUI’s thirteenth single, titled again, was released on June 3, 2009. The single peaked at #1 on the Oricon. The A-side for this single was used as the opening theme for the Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood anime series.

again is a song unlike any other I’ve heard in recent memory. Starting off with a subdued, almost haunting verse, it keeps building up into the slightly faster second verse, lightning-speed pre-chorus and gigantic chorus. I’m still a little iffy on YUI’s actual voice – it’s a bit weak for my tastes – but I was very impressed at her execution of the extremely fast-paced sections.  The colloquial style of her lyrics threw me for a loop a little bit, but overall I think all the elements of the song work well together.

The title of Sea is perfect because it immediately brings up memories of the beach. As far as acoustic rock ballads go, this is probably one of the poppiest and prettiest you’ll find. YUI’s voice sounds actually very beautiful which is why this is a great B-side by any standards.

SUMMER SONG ~YUI acoustic version~ is proof that anything that sounds good will sound just as good unplugged. As far as being better or worse than the original, there’s really not that much difference beside the obvious difference of acoustic guitar. I do like the laid-back feeling of it, but I honestly would have preferred a new original B-side.

Summary: YUI is definitely the most unique of all the Japanese artists I’ve listened to. She’s got a certain way about her and I wouldn’t change it for anything. With again, I can definitely see that her vocal technique, though not the most mainstream-sounding, works on many levels with her rock music style. But I shouldn’t be surprised, since everyone says wonderful things about her. 

Single Grade: A-