|shame it's a one-off single|
Shiina Ringo - Carnation
When contemporary music from Japan is the topic of conversation there hasn't been anybody or anything more relevant, respectable and truly irreplaceable than Shiina Ringo since 1998 (which may as-well be forever). In that time she's written and recorded numerous outstanding original works, and among them what many would consider consider classics that defy genre classification, other than something vague like pop/rock/jazz. I once heard a writer from Time magazine liken her 3rd solo album to Radiohead's OK Computer and The Beatles' Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club, and quite rightly, if I'm brutally brutally honest. It might seem irrational to mention X artist in the same breath as the most influential band of the 20th century, but (and that's a regrettable but btw) unless your ears have been in the direct firing line of Ringo at the height of her powers (most likely pre-Jihen) you shouldn't be so quick to doubt her talents.
Written by Ringo and arranged by composer, Neko Saito (斎藤ネコ), Carnation marks her first appearance as the musical musicle behind NHK's morning do-ra-ma. This isn't the first time the Ringo-Neko pairing has seen the light of day. Pre-dating 2007's Heisei Fuzukou, her only fully orchestrated album as of writing, Neko lends his extraordinary violin to tracks like Meisai on 2003's Karuki Samen Kuri No Hana, and their partnerships have produced some great material.
Carnation might seem like your regular watery-eyed Disney-esque composition, and it sort of is, yet isn't. On closer inspection you'll notice a distinct lack of a cliché climax. Instead there's smaller, craftier builds that hold your attention as the song moves towards it's conclusion, making it feel a little shorter than it "ought to". It's a far more subtle piece of writing than I imagined; She's emphasizing the rasp of her mature singing voice by doing so with her mouth only half open - the complete opposite to the likes of Salyu or Hamasaki Ayumi's tendency to over-annunciate. It's all very textural, adding to it's subtlety; as cleanly plucked harps offer a natural contrast to Ringo's electric guitar of a voice. Sweet, sour, beautiful, with the slightest hint of epic thrown in for good measure.
Maybe it's time she had another solo album...
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