Thursday, May 26, 2011

Album Review: 59

59 marks the combined ages of Ami and Yumi at the mini album's release which was was a year after Nice and two years before Splurge. I do not believe 59 had particularly good sales as it peaked at 62 on the Japanese charts. This may be reflective of the ebb that Puffy seemed to be in at the time and 59 feels like something of a placeholder in Puffy's catalog consisting of left over material from Nice.

I have had my copy of 59 for quite a while. While on the trip home from Singapore I had a solid layover at Narita and hit the music/electronics/magazine shop between customs and my gate. I had stopped in before on other trips, but usually to check things out, my interest in Japanese music was very minimal before. I knew Puffy had this mini album out and decided to buy it if I saw it. They did, so I did.

59 marks the last time Andy Sturmer had a significant role on a Puffy album, but also the first time Tamio Okuda had nothing to do with an album. Ami and Yumi do affair amount of writing for the lyrics, which I think touches on their growth as song writers. I think in some ways having two albums produced by Sturmer was a detriment to Puffy, though I deeply suspect most of 59 was songs left on the shelf from Nice which was Sturmer’s baby start to finish and made for an easy release.

Here is the track list for 59:

Teen Titans Theme (lyrics & music: Andy Sturmer)
Sunrise (lyrics: Puffy, music: Andy Sturmer)
Joining a Fan Club (lyrics & music: Andy Sturmer, Roger Manning)
Kokoroni Hanao (lyrics: Puffy, Music: Andy Sturmer)
Kazemakase Futaritabi (lyrics: Puffy, music: Greg Camp & Andy Sturmer)
Forever (lyrics: Andy Sturmer, Puffy, music: Andy Sturmer)
So Long Zero (lyrics & music: Andy Sturmer)
Teen Titans Theme (Japanese Version) (lyrics: Puffy, music: Andy Sturmer)

I will cover the bookends of the CD in one go. According to Peace, Pop, Puffy the Teen Titans Theme is slightly different than other versions. Upon a closer listen, it does sound slightly less guitar heavy. Teen Titans Theme is not one of my favorite songs Puffy songs, so I never picked up on as this as I never seek out this song. Of the two versions I prefer the Japanese, which I feel Ami and Yumi better deliver. That said both tracks are at the bottom of the album for songs I liked.

Sunrise... I know my cohort Jeff is not a fan of Sunrise, but I have always liked it. It is fast and has a lot going on with instruments. The overall sound borders on being over engineered and I deeply suspect Sturmer threw keyboards at it to fix Sunrise. After hearing live snippets of Sunrise, I think this is a song Ami and Yumi could sing without being over processed but that said what is on the album I like. It is fast and has the unique vocals that Ami and Yumi deliver.

If you have heard the original version of Joining a Fan Club by Jellyfish (which I believe is slightly different) and recall what I think about Jellyfish’s musical stylings… You might think I hate this song. I will not go so far as to say I like it, but it is listenable and a better effort than the original. What has always impressed me about Puffy is their ability to take covers and make them their own. Sometimes the results are iffy (Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds being a better example) but the delivery is at worst interesting.

What I find interesting with Kokoroni Hanao is that Sturmer lets Ami and Yumi deliver vocals that are not exactly in tune and touch back more to prior albums where I think they were a little more lax with the technical details of singing. This is not a bad thing as I genuinely like this Kokoroni Hanao. If feels and sounds like a Puffy song. There are some synthesizer effects way in the background that do not really ad much to the song, I think they could have been replaced with faint guitars or taken away all together. This is a very minor thing howver and this sneaks in as my favorite song on 59 and Kokoroni Hanao winds up being one of my favorite Puffy songs.

Kazemakase Futaritabi starts off really slow and engineered… but then it starts picking up steam as more vocals and instruments are added in then it is rolling quite nicely and Ami and Yumi deliver some very nice vocals in the process. There is an experimental feel to the track but it came together and is my second favorite track on 59.

Forever is a romantic girl group throwback track and it has problems. Ami and Yumi’s vocals sound off both in regards to pitch and volume and it never quite feels right. Where Sturmer’s usual productions feel very engineered, the instruments on this track feel unfinished and the overall the sound on the track feels muted like a demo tracks a group lays out in pre-production.

So Long Zero uses the same instrumental track as Friends Forever and Invisible Tomorrow. Like Forever this feels like a take that was shelved in production as Ami and Yumi’s vocals sound a touch unpolished. I suspect they picked the best two out of three for Nice and shelved this version. Ami does, however, play the guitar solo on this track. I like the track, but that said it feels incomplete.

To me 59 feels more like a place holding release and filled with material that did not fit with Puffy previous album, Nice. What I said about that album holds for 59. Generally I like the work Sturmer has done with Ami and Yumi, but I feel he is at his best when it is a track or two and not entire albums, particularly back to back ones. There are a couple of genuine gems of songs on 59, specifically Kokoroni Hanao and Kazemakase Futaritabi. The rest is middling to below what I would expect on a Puffy album, be it a full release or mini album.

Over All Scores:
Singing: B
Instruments: B-
Production: C

P.S. I just reread Jeff's review he did a long while back, read that as well. That was one of the first blogs here I commented on.

(h/t to Peace Pop Puffy for album facts and being awesome)

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