I’ve all but dropped off the face of J-Pop blogging down a precipice into a cavern of internet silence… but this album makes me want to write about them.
Even the quickest of ganders around my blog shows that I love Perfume. A lot. I thought ⊿ was fabulous, even if not up to GAME’s standards, and I loved “Fushizen na Girl.” But I wasn’t a particular fan of “Voice”. Nor did I enjoy “Nee” as much as their other hits. That, coupled with real life worries (those pesky bills! troublesome jobs!) turned me from someone who checked the Tokuma Japan website to someone who would see Perfume on Music Station and be pleasantly surprised.
It’s not like I hated their new songs – they still got a fair amount of listens. But unlike some of their earlier songs I didn’t get that spark from some of those releases – it sounded standard J-pop, or standard Perfume. Still good. Just done before.
Is JPN a genre breaking, revolutionary album in the field of technopop? No.
But god, I’ll say it now – it’s good.
The album starts off with The Opening and it’s simple. Atmospheric. Rhythmic. It’s startlingly sophisticated and haunting.
Then follows is remix of Laser Beam that seamlessly flows into the remix of GLITTER. I wasn’t impressed with the latter as a single because it was somewhat standard – but the remix, even if it was just an extension of the instrumental parts, added some discord into the song structure and made it much more interesting.
The album then deviates into a string of what Perfume seems to be turning out more of: bubbly, happy songs. The laid back Naturally ni Koi Shite is followed by the slightly perkier new song MY COLOR, which I love – a cheerful and catchy tune backed with a driven beat and some heavy synth. Next is Toki ni Hari, which is simple and sounds like a children’s song, with snare drum, a repetitive and simple refrain, and almost no (and possibly, none) autotuning of the girls’ voices. I don’t like it as a song by itself – to be blunt, it’s boring – but if thought of as an interlude, it closes off the string of downswing songs.
Nee bursts in with energy, and is followed by Kasukana Kaori. I thought both of these were standard as singles – good, catchy, perhaps not a legendary song but enjoyable. The energy continues into 575 which I think is one of the more strangely innovative songs that exist in their repertoire (and possibly the reason it was included in the album, even as a B-side!) Strain refrains with a soft synth, great chorus tune, and sing-talk Perfume-style rapping. It’s gorgeous and dreamy. VOICE, which was the accompanying A-side, follows, and as the two songs have a similar atmosphere, it’s a good order.
Two more new songs follow: Kokoro no Sports and Have a Stroll. Kokoro no Sports follows in the footsteps of MY COLOR with a happy tune but less synth – catchy, but not as great as the previous new song. I find Have a Stroll much more engaging: instead of a easily navigable tune, parts of it feel more like sing-talking again. The style of the song reminds me of Triangle era, though I can’t place why – possibly the dreamy cold synth used? It’s an enjoyable new song.
Fushizen na Girl and Spice round out the album – incidentally, my two favorite singles on this album, blending a strong dance song with the more atmospheric Spice. I personally love Spice – I think it’s interesting, multilayered, beautifully composed, and manages to be romantically dreamy without being slow. I think ending the album with this last single is showing direction towards what Perfume will be going towards next.
I love it. It doesn’t contain my favorite singles of Perfume but still manages to be an amazing comprehensive package. It also manages to have its own album identity. I would say the overall atmosphere of GAME was powerful and strongly electronic. ⊿ focused towards a sound more futuristic, hectic, and full of cold synths. JPN seems to be simultaneously cuter and more sophisticated, with many of the newer songs slightly tending towards shibuya-kei of decade prior. It’s almost like they’re taking steps back from being the technopop darlings and into idol territory, except with a new sense of class.
Once again, Perfume releases an album with gems that add just a different shade of tone to their discography. Despite not containing the strongest singles, the album flows well and is interesting. Maybe one day Perfume and Nakata will have gone through every possible sound transformation – and with some of Perfume’s singles getting more cute and idol-like, that is definitely a possibility – but that day did not come with JPN. You’ve still got my ears’ full attention, Perfume.
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