Album review: “ROCKBOUND NEIGHBORS” by Nana Mizuki

Nana Mizuki is a Japanese pop singer and popular anime seiyuu under the KING RECORDS label. ROCKBOUND NEIGHBOURS is her ninth album.

Release date: 12th of December, 2012

Track List:
1. Avalon no Oukan
2. Naked Soldier
3. Get my drift?
4. Lovely Fruit
5. Darling Plastic
6. BRIGHT STREAM
7. Hoshikuzu Symphony
8. LINKAGE
9. STAR ROAD
10. Synchrogazer -Aufwachen Form-
11. Crescent Child
12. Kiseki no Melodia
13. METRO BAROQUE
14. Happy☆Go-Round!
15. Sacred Force -Extended Mix-
16. Yakusoku

1. Avalon no Oukan
Quoting Kurayami Monogatari, “Avalon no Oukan is a very grandiose opening for the album with all that fanfare-ness. As the song goes on, it sounds like something that would’ve been epic to open Final Fantasy XII because it has that medieval, but also powerful setting.” I’d have to admit that hearing this for the first time definitely caught me off guard. It’s a such a gloriously bold track to start Nana’s ninth album off. There’s no vocals for the first 55 seconds of the song, only the magnificent sound of an elaborate orchestra filled with strings, pounding drums, dynamic brass instruments, and probably even more! When the vocals do come in, Nana’s voice, in terms of power, matches up to that arrangement, especially in the chorus! What a spectacular first track!

2. Naked Soldier
Onto the second track, Naked Soldier is more rock-oriented (dare I say it sounds garage-rock-ish?), with distorted guitars and an overall tough and harsh kind of arrangement. The intro is very loud and in-your-face, and the chorus is like that as well. The verses are significantly toned down compared to every other aspect of this song, but still quite rocking and all. There’s even a part during the bridge and probably 1/4 of the final chorus, where we clearly hear… *gasps*… piano… But it’s not like that slight break from all the aggressiveness lasted very long, so even if some people thought it was out of place and didn’t like it, it shouldn’t make much of a difference. Personally, I liked the addition of piano amidst the forcefulness of the whole song, and I’d like to give some of the credit to the fact that the genre transitions were handled well. Well, I’ve definitely heard better rock songs, but this is a nice effort from her! (:

3. Get my drift?
Third track in, and we first hear Nana singing in English with such charisma, it’s awesome. Get my drift? retains the rock style of the previous song, and adds electronic influences as well. I’d have to say that I prefer this to Naked Soldier already, as I think Nana suits better with this style of music, rather than the edgy and gritty sort of sound that the second track presents. Being the shortest track on the album, clocking in at 3 minutes and 15 seconds, I would have liked this one to be a bit longer. But even though I don’t have a whole lot to say about this song because it was so short and quick, I did enjoy it regardless.

4. Lovely Fruit
So this one was used as the ending theme for the anime, Toriko. Initially, I was like, “Omg, lol, what is this…”, which should be understandable, since after three pretty hard-hitting songs, we are treated to Lovely Fruit, which is a cutesy and candy kind of song. The arrangement is mostly made up of brass instruments, and the whole song feels so bouncy and full of pep. Nana’s vocals are so funny and cute. I’m so not used to this, but it’s kinda hard to not like it in the end. (And I thought that Haruka Tomatsu’s Q&A Recital! was all the pep I could take… I guess I can take a bit more… or is it just the effect that Nana-chan already has on me, hehe…)

5. Darling Plastic
After the super quirky Lovely Fruit, we get a mid-tempo pop-ish song with slight rock influences. So would that make it a pop-rock song? Perhaps a bland-and-super-toned-down-more-pop-than-rock song. Darling Plastic honestly has a pretty plain instrumentation — there’s nothing, really, that has that ‘wow factor’. I’m quite familiar with Nana’s voice now, and she sounds good, but not so good that it makes me go ‘WOOO’. That pretty much describes the song as a whole — nothing makes me go ‘wow’ or ‘woo’ or anything like that. There’s just no significant transitions or changes. It’s plain pop through and through, and there’s nothing anybody can do about it! So, I’d say that it’s okay, but just okay. Not bad, just… okay. (*cough* and bland *cough*)

6. BRIGHT STREAM
This song was used in Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha The Movie 2nd A’s, and was one of the two promotional A-sides for this album. BRIGHT STREAM begins with a fairly loud piano melody, and then is joined by strings, drums, and guitars for the bridge. The verses are pretty mid-tempo, but they’re certainly more interesting than Darling Plastic as a whole. I praise the arrangement, since it’s more exciting, and Nana sounds a lot more into the song. Overall, it has an anison feel, which definitely appeals to me. I mean, upon the first listen, I already really liked it. And this kind of thing is apparently what Nana commonly releases. That just makes me go, ‘yay!’

7. Hoshikuzu Symphony
Moving onto the next track, Hoshikuzu Symphony opens with twinkly piano and a soft choir. More instruments are added, such as drums and strings, and it sounds like this would be the album’s holiday-themed song. This is what you get when you put the feeling of Christmas in a song and add the Nana touch into it. It’s like a ‘symphony’ of all things glittery, sparkly, and holiday-ish. But minus everything holiday-ish, you’d probably get a pretty average song. So it’s good that whoever composed this song had utilized it so that it was holiday-themed. Nana uses slightly cutesy vocals without overdoing it, otherwise it would sound like some common idol group Christmas song. So I guess how she presented herself in the song would have been the deciding factor for whether Hoshikuzu Symphony was good or not… Nana did well (:

8. LINKAGE
As the theme song for PSP/Nintendo 3DS role-playing game, Unchained Blades Exiv, the eighth track of the album brings back ‘hard-hitting’ and adds ‘insanely awesome’ to the mix. There’s a lot of guitars, synths and drums present, and Nana’s vocals sound strong, but sometimes a bit overpowered (in the chorus, in particular) by the very dynamic arrangement. The whole song has a lot of drive and energy, and is like BRIGHT STREAM set on fire. And like that song, I already really liked this after the first listen. I think the fact that there’s a lot going on in this song makes it easy to both enjoy and write about for me. All in all, as previously mentioned, this song brings back ‘hard-hitting’, adds ‘insanely awesome’ to the mix, and that is basically what LINKAGE is.

9. STAR ROAD
Slowing things down, STAR ROAD would be the first ballad that comes up on the album. It starts off with a light piano melody, and strings and drums join in to make the arrangement sound more complete. Wait… is that saxophone I hear? An interesting addition… Ninth track in, and Nana still sounds as great as ever. Oooh, I hear her signature vibrato quite a bit here. I think she’s actually really good; her vocals really shine in this song. I think the arrangement would be kinda plain and basic without the saxophone, and since that was added, plus Nana’s great vocals, come together for a pretty good song. Yeah, so, it’s pretty good already, and if it had just a bit more to it, I would rate it higher accordingly.

10. Synchrogazer -Aufwachen Form-
Okay, so, I haven’t heard the original version of Synchrogazer, so I can’t exactly compare the two tracks right now. Nonetheless, the ‘Aufwachen Form’ fades in with a techno sort of intro that goes for about a minute long, and transitions into the rest of the song, which retains the techno sort of feel, just with Nana’s vocals. I’d have to say that I really liked the intro when it was at its most complete, and when Nana came in, I just thought, ‘woah, pretty cool’. I think this is a pretty crazy song, with an arrangement as busy and dynamic as LINKAGE, the main difference being the genre of music. It’s like you’re inundated with an insane amount of synths and techno beats, but it’s insane in an awesome way. ;)

11. Crescent Child
Next up is Crescent Child, which is probably a sped-up STAR ROAD minus the saxophone, sped up and with quite a bit more piano. For some reason, it also reminds me of Hoshikuzu Symphony, but without the full-on holiday feel, and with a lower vocal pitch instead of those slightly cutesy vocals. I guess that would make Crescent Child a mix of a few of the songs you would find on ROCKBOUND NEIGHBORS. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. I guess with this track, you get a sort of consistency. I can definitely say that I did not expect that guitar solo in the bridge. I think those guitars are meant to vary it up a little bit, which I thought was good. So while this song is quite common in terms of what we get on this album, consistency is always a good thing, right?

12. Kiseki no Melodia
Oh okay, that organ opening was totally random… Seems like the consistency thing has disappeared for now. There’s this one bit that starts at about 15 seconds into the song, all the way up to 28 seconds. I think that was one pretty epic part. I have no idea how to describe it other than — ‘this erratic kind of part in terms of instrumentation (but that’s what makes it really cool… well, that and Nana’s vocals obviously!), that seems fit for the bridge, but sounds just as awesome towards the start, cause it sounds all high and mighty!!’ I think you’ll just have to listen to this for yourself — which happens to be the opening theme for the Shining Ark game for PSP — as I am very bad at describing that kind of thing. Anyway, most of the song is quite upbeat, and from the first pre-chorus onwards, I find the whole thing really engaging because of the range of notes and tones we hear!

13. METRO BAROQUE
Track 13 gives me BRIGHT STREAM vibes, with an instrumentation like Crescent Child. METRO BAROQUE is the second of the two promotional A-sides, released in her TIME SPACE EP, along with three other tracks not found on this album. This song is quite uptempo, with a mix of strings, drums, piano, and Nana’s usual great vocals. This one was used in Blood-C: The Last Dark, and I’d say this one is pretty easy to identify as a Nana song if heard in there. The arrangement and vocals are very her, so there’s not much else to say. As this is like a mix of BRIGHT STREAM and Crescent Child, there is even less to say about it! Nonetheless, I think this is still quite good, it’s just nothing we haven’t heard before.

14. Happy☆Go-Round!
With a title like that, it’s almost impossible to not assume a super cutesy, high-pitched party of a song… but it’s not! Well, it’s quite cutesy, but not to the extent of Lovely Fruit. Happy☆Go-Round! is a pop-rock song that features a higher vocal pitch, electric guitars, drums and piano. It’s really quite a feel-good track that puts a smile on your face, though not in exactly the same way that Lovely Fruit does. It’s more like the way LiSA’s best day, best way does. Hehe, I think this song is a really nice addition to the album, as it lifts your mood in a way that most of the other songs can’t!

15. Sacred Force -Extended Mix-
We are one track away from the end, and now we get the extended version of the second B-side of the BRIGHT STREAM single. Having not heard the original version, I’m just going to write about this without making comparisons to the original. Starting off with twinkly things, then with electric guitars, synths and techno beats joining in, the extended mix of Sacred Force reminds me of Synchrogazer -Aufwachen Form-, but seemingly a bit more toned down. I find this quite enjoyable, as there’s also a good amount of energy in this, but it doesn’t quite match up to the awesome synthy-techno insanity of Synchrogazer -Aufwachen Form-. Still, it’s an entertaining listen.

16. Yakusoku
Awww, so it’s the last track of the album now, and I can already guess it’s a ballad without having to listen to it yet. So, it opens with a pretty piano melody, and Nana comes in at the 14-second mark, with vocals reminiscent of the ones we hear in STAR ROAD, which happens to be the only other ballad of the album. Until the end of the first chorus, there was just an instrumentation of piano and subtle strings, and then the percussion comes in. Even though the beats are very light, I think it adds a bit more depth to the song. Though I’ve heard a stronger-sounding Yakusoku from pop-rock singer-songwriter, Rihwa, this is a nice and relaxing ballad to close ROCKBOUND NEIGHBORS.

I’d firstly like to thank Yuki Nagato of Japanese Melodia for recommending me to listen to Nana Mizuki! As my first official encounter with the music of the fab ‘Queen of J-Pop Anisong’, I was thoroughly impressed! Her style of music is really awesome, and there’s a lot to love in pretty much all the songs found here. The arrangements are elaborate and complete, and her vocals are very strong throughout the whole album. I think I’ll be keeping a look out for her upcoming releases.

Rating: 4.5/5

Top five favorites (in order of appearance):
Avalon no Oukan
BRIGHT STREAM
LINKAGE
Synchrogazer -Aufwachen Form-
Kiseki no Melodia Sacred Force -Extended Mix-

Least favorite song: Darling Plastic

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8 thoughts on “Album review: “ROCKBOUND NEIGHBORS” by Nana Mizuki

  1. I really liked Naked Soldier, it was the first Nana Mizuki song I really got into. Kiseki no Melodia was good, and Synchrogazer is just awesome!!! But seriously all I can say about Avalon no Oukan is WOW! It’s such an epic song! Can’t really remember BRIGHT STREAM and LINKAGE, I’ll have to go listen to them again.

    Eagerly awaiting the next review…. :)

    • Mmm, I think that Naked Soldier is very good, but if sang by someone else more suited to that genre, it would be even better! Don’t get me wrong, Nana did a great job, but yeah… (:

      I was originally going to put Sacred Force -Extended Mix- instead of Kiseki no Melodia, but in the end, I liked the variety we hear in the latter, so I chose it instead. Though Sacred Force was close to getting into the top five because of its similarities with the awesome Synchrogazer!!

      I know right, Avalon no Oukan is like, the definition of epic, hehe!

      Yeah, you should listen to BRIGHT STREAM and LINKAGE again. Though if I picked between those two, I think LINKAGE is the better song. You?

      And thanks! The next review is Butterfly Effect by Maon Kurosaki, and it will be a collaborative review with the other author, Austin. :)

  2. You’re welcome! I enjoy recommending great music.
    I think everyone who has reviewed this album agrees that Avalon no Oukan was mindblowing, while Darling Plastic was definitely the worst song. Nana is now getting more and more popular, so songs like Get my drift? are bound to come in larger amounts, hopefully reducing the number of ballads (which this album has already less of compared to her other releases).
    Regarding the remixes, Sacred Force wasn’t much different that it was in the Bright Stream single, I think only another chorus or so has been added. Synchrogazer -Aufwachen Form- (literally meaning “Awakened Form”), has the intro added and is quite more upbeat than the original, so you aren’t really missing on anything – I like the Aufwachen Form better as well.
    Since you enjoy the likes of Avalon no Oukan and LINKAGE, you absolutely must listen to Scarlet Knight (her single released back in 2011). I am completely torn between Avalon no Oukan and Scarlet Knight as to which one is better – I leave it upon your review of it to decide.
    Looking forward to Butterfly Effect, of course :) I think you will find quite a few great songs in there.

    • Oooh, you definitely to know your stuff when it comes to Nana Mizuki!

      Ahhh, Get my drift? was pretty cool, so it would be equally as good if there were more songs like that for future releases.

      Oh, good. I really liked both of the remixed songs, so it’s good to know that the original versions aren’t that much different and are just as awesome. (:
      ‘Awakened Form’, hey? I didn’t know that… sounds fitting!

      Yesss, I really did enjoy Avalon no Oukan and LINKAGE, so I will definitely check out Scarlet Knight and review it too! ;)

      Yay, hopefully you’ll enjoy reading our collaborative review for Butterfly Effect! :D

  3. For myself, I consider Nana Mizuki to be ‘Queen of Anisong’ rather than ‘Jpop’ since the majority of her songs and releases are of that genre but there’s no denying she’s definitely one of the most popular female artists around in Japan atm.

    My personal favorite of her albums thus far is probably ‘Ultimate Diamond’ (it was also the first seiyuu album to reach no.1), I’m also a big fan of ‘Junketsu Paradox’ too (which was put on her best album instead of this one for some reason) so I’d definitely recommend those to you if you’re looking to listen to more of her stuff.

    Anyway, nice review, I really like your site!

    • Ohhh, ‘Queen of Anisong’ she is then. :p

      Ahhh, Ultimate Diamond… her seventh studio album, if I am not mistaken. Oh, I was thinking of getting her second best-of album, The Museum II. So if I do end up reviewing that, I’ll be writing about Junketsu Paradox, as well as a few (three, I think…) songs from Ultimate Diamond :)

      Anyway, thank you very much for reading! Stay tuned for more! :)

  4. I now consider Rockbound Neighbors her best album. Many of the songs are in my top of favorites. Ultimate Diamond is cool as well but songs like Brand New Tops and Trickster made me like it less.
    About Junketsu Paradox, you can hear the similarities of it in Metro Baroque, even Nana mentioned something about it.
    I will need to start reviewing the missing Nana albums but I don’t which one first D:

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