Opinion Prone

My opinions, let me tell them to you.

Christmas Gift

Kokia’s 8th album
12th November, 2008

I’ve not heard much about Kokia… most likely because I haven’t seen all too many series she’s done music for. She did a song for Origin: Spirits of the Past, but it must not have left a very big impression on me because I can’t remember it at all. In any case, I was looking for Christmasy music and came across this album, so I figure I’d give it a shot. I love my Christmas music, and I love my j-pop, so this has to be good, right? Here are my thoughts from an hour of just sitting and listening to music:

TRACK 01: Amazing Grace (YouTube it)
Kokia’s voice starts off eerie and soft, but it really does have a beautiful quality to it. Her notes are high and very sustained — her trademark ability, apparently — giving it an even more surreal quality. There’s a soft echo in the back, almost like a canon, but it fades out too quickly… oh, wait, there it is again after a brief silence. It still fades in and out, but it’s really interesting sounding when it’s there. Beautiful violin solo, keeps the mood nicely. It’s creepy, but it’s pretty soothing too. Good music for a quiet evening.

TRACK 02: Hallelujah (YouTube it)
Soft voice and piano intro. The lyrics are… in English? Very, very beautiful voice. Soft and controled. Wow, I’m really loving this voice. I’ve heard a good number of songs called “Hallelujah,” but this is definitely different from all of them. It doesn’t feel like a church song; hell, it doesn’t really even feel religious to me. Just hopeful. The piano melody in the back is really pretty and the general feel of the song reminds me of some American indie folk stuff… or perhaps even a less dramatic version of Regina Spektor? Kokia’s English is flawless as well. No stumbling, no accent. It’s gorgeous.

TRACK 03: I’ll be home for Christmas
Gentle piano and strings into, sounding more like traditional Christmas music now. English lyrics again, but her accent’s starting to show just a little. There’s still a pretty Western feel to the song though, and the accompanying music probably plays a big part in that. For some reason, I can imagine this song playing in time with an old 80’s or 90’s cartoon Christmas special. Something sweet and quaint. Or perhaps an oldschool Disney movie? Something out of Pinnochio.

TRACK 04: We three kings of orient are
Saxophone~. Familiar melody, familiar lyrics. I can’t get over how perfect her voice sounds. English is crisp, and if I didn’t know better, I’d just say it was an American singing. This is music to wait for Santa Claus to. It’s been a long time since saying up late was a rare occurance for me, but if I was going to fall asleep waiting for someone, this would be pretty damn good music to do it to. There’s a mystical kind of urgency to Kokia’s tone here; it works really well with the song. The sax and piano are great together, and I can imagine this being played in a classy lounge late at night, after most of the patrons have left. Don’t you love it when music gets you imagery like that?

TRACK 05: Christmas Medley
Hmm, starts with children laughter. Kind of creepy… oh, shit. Wow. Bouncy piano. Bouncy, cheerful singing. Quite a contrast! It’s still soft and kind of muted, but it’s definitely upbeat. Her accent seeps through a bit more for “Santa Claus is Coming to Town,” but it’s not very distracting. Easing into “Let it Snow,” still very cheerful. Very cutesy, child-like voice. It’s almost disturbing how young she sounds here, but there’s a weird… lack of innocence kind of feel to her tone, if that makes sense? She almost sounds like a little boy in “The Little Drummer Boy”! My mind! It’s blown! “The First Noel,” has a nice echo/pseudo-canon in it, along with some sweet bells in the back… goes into “Jingle Bells,” rather abruptly. Definitely a subdued kind of tone to a normally very upbeat song — kind of weird, but it works with the rest of the songs here. Transition back to “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” is a little better, but maybe because I’m expecting this weird, muted bounciness now. Pronunciation of “Santa Claus” is kind of like “Santa Clothes,” lol. …Or, she’s pronouncing it with a British accent, which I guess is completely feasible. o_o; “Silent Night” on a marimba or something now. Good ending, good collection. :3

TRACK 06: Teo Torriatte (Let us cling together)
Japanese lyrics for the first time on the entire album! Goes back into English again though. More and more I’m getting a British tintkind of feeling here. I like the steady piano beat in the background of this song though it doesn’t sound particularly festive… but then it disappears and her voice gets a little livelier, goes back to that hopeful kind of mood. Very pretty voice — love those sustained notes.

TRACK 07: Ave Maria
Kokia’s voice demonstrates some really strong, opera qualities here. Notes are clear and beautifully sustained. Piano and violin sound great in accompaniment. The general mood and feel of the music is similar to that of the previous song, but the vocal range is much more impressive. Can’t really tell what language this is in, but the song is supposed to be in Latin, right? Not all too familiar with it, but that seems about right to me. Her voice is fantastic regardless.

TRACK 08: It came upon a midnight clear
Funny thing. I’m having a hard time associating this song with “religious” just because I can’t really imagine this being performed at a church? Perhaps it’s just the solo nature of it. To me, church = choir. Kokia’s accent is showing again, but it’s easy to just focus on the music rather than the words. I’m not religious myself, so that’s mostly what I usually do anyway, lol. I always did like the melody to this song though. Kokia’s voice is somehow secularizing it even more for me.

TRACK 09: Seinaru Yoru ni ~holy night
Japanese lyrics return! And an oboe! I love hearing band and orchestra instruments that don’t usually show up in songs like this. :3 Kokia’s voice is very high for most of this song; this makes lyrics hard to pick out, so I think the overall sound is more important as a result. A variety of instruments definitely helps with that. I want to say there’s a harp in here too, but I’m not sure…

TRACK 10: Kokoro no Rouzoku
Soft piano opening. Quiet, almost indistinct voice. Reminds me a bit of how “Amazing Grace” opened. This doesn’t really feel seasonal or festive to me (the last song didn’t really either), but it’s still very pretty. I suppose I could imagine gentle snowfall to this song, but I might be trying too hard.

TRACK 11: Remember the kiss ~Dedicated to ‘new’ NY~
Very slow intro. Hm, this might be the first song that kind of annoys me… I dislike it when there are long pauses between words. I’m ADD and lose interest pretty past, so if thoughts are connecting in a timely manner, then I get bored. Song speeds up a little after a while, but even though the lyrics flow a bit smoother, there’s this lingering feeling of… “get on with it.” Kokia’s voice also feels a little plainer to me here — there’s an absence of high, sustained notes, just a lot of dragging words. A chorus rises up in the background at some points, but it never stays long, which is pretty disappointing. Ending is kind of repetitive, another pet peeve of mine. Don’t repeat a line more than five times!

Since I didn’t have much of a previous impression of Kokia, I didn’t really know what to expect from this, but I was surprised all the same. The style and mood of Kokia’s music doesn’t really fit with what I think Christmas music should be like, but it’s still really, really beautiful. I really, really love her voice — it has a really pure quality to it that I don’t think I hear often enough. So! If you’re looking for some holiday cheer, this might be a bit too much on the somber and eerie (well, the medley track might pass), but if you’re just looking for some soothing vocals accompanied by deliciously haunting piano ensembles, then this is a great album for that.

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  1. Asuka on December 13, 2008 2:11 am

    I used to listen to Kokia a couple of years ago and fell in love with her voice. These days I haven’t really been keeping up to date with her releases, so I was surprised to have found out about her Christmas album through your blog. I should check this one out.

  2. Anonymous on January 10, 2009 11:16 pm

    if thats the case then i suggest listening to her album “remember me” and “the voice” these album are soo great, you’d be crying all night!!