Album review: “Delight” by miwa

rsz_miwa---delight

miwa is a Japanese pop singer-songwriter. She made her major debut under Sony Music Records in 2010 and is managed by Tristone Entertaiment Inc. Delight is her third album.

Release date: 22nd of May, 2013

Track List:
1. Delight
2. Hikari e
3. 321
4. Sayonara
5. Sparrow
6. Whistle ~Kimi to Sugoshita Hibi~
7. Miracle
8. My Best Friend
9. LOUD! ~Yuutsu wo Buttobase~
10. Napa
11. Nukumori

1. Delight
The album opener was used for the drama Rich Man, Poor Woman in New York. This was also miwa’s fourth digital single; it was released a week before the album. The title track, Delight, is made up of quirky synths and dance beats through and through, slowly building up to a chorus that’s full of liveliness and spirit. The addition of background vocals made everything really whispy and lovely. It’s something quite new for miwa, as we’ve always known her songs to be centered around guitars — whether they be pleasant acoustic pieces or electric guitar-laden rock numbers — and, is it just me, or are there no guitars in this? This is exactly what the feeling of delight is when composed as a song. A nice way to open the album; it sets the mood for the rest of the material we will hear!

2. Hikari e
One of miwa’s more well-known songs because of its tie as the theme song to Rich Man, Poor Woman, comes up as the second track. The album’s first A-side begins with acoustic guitar strumming and steady waves of synths, which are soon joined by pulsating dance beats that become quicker and more pronounced once they reach the chorus. Definitely more pop-oriented than her previous releases, her vocals are under auto-tune, which we hear a lot of at the start, and then it becomes less noticeable as the song progresses. The bridge is an opportunity for more instruments to come in, such as strings and faint electric guitars. Overall, still sounding happy and full of energy, which makes this a great follow-up to the title track.

3. 321
A zippy, techno-synth wail and handclaps make up the intro of the song, before drums and electric guitars are brought in to form a fun pop-rock song. It’s kind of like Arienai!! from her first album, guitarissimo; fun like Nana Mizuki’s Happy☆Go-Round!. miwa sings the verses without the need for auto-tune or any kind of filters, but are supported by background vocals in the chorus to add a bit of layer. I’d say there’s a nice balance between the lively arrangement and her ebullient vocals! miwa genuinely sounds like she’s having a great time, and that’s a good thing for us listeners. It’s always really enjoyable for me to listen to this, I’m sure you’d agree!

4. Sayonara
Opening with miwa’s vocals straight away, and once again, to add more layer, background vocals are present, but I think it’s in the form of a ‘second miwa’ this time. Along with her wistful vocals in the chorus, there’s piano, clean-sounding beats, and even guitars in some places. The verses give way to her unembellished and quite plain singing, which the chorus makes up for anyway. The bridge is a time for her to slow things down and show us a bit more of her vocal ability, and though she does sound very pretty, I know she is capable of a lot more than that. It’s different from what we’ve heard so far, and while Sayonara sounds quite nice and peaceful, it’s a bit plain and doesn’t stand out very much.

5. Sparrow
The song starts off with miwa’s auto-tuned vocals, guitar strumming and bursts of synths. What we hear at the start does not compare with what the song actually is. Who would have guessed that this is actually a rock-oriented track? After the ring of an electric guitar, the inclusion of heavier-sounding drums and guitars makes for a track that reminds me of hys- from her first album, so a concept like this is not entirely unfamiliar to her and her fans. Throughout the song, she incorporates techno elements as well as the bursts of synths heard in the beginning, which adds variety. Sparrow is a powerful song, burning with her desire to share her music, to be heard, and to be accepted (You know… according to the English translation…) A fantastic track, right here!

6. Whistle ~Kimi to Sugoshita Hibi~
The album’s second A-side is next, and it’s the first real emotional ballad that comes up. Opening with a tender piano melody, miwa starts singing, and we are thankfully given a break from all that auto-tune from the previous songs. The first verse is piano-driven, but more instruments are gradually added, such as strings, drums and the rhythmic strums of a guitar. Like a lot of ballads, as the song progresses, the arrangement builds up and becomes more intense, and then gets toned down for a while to a lone piano melody during the bridge. This has a similar structure and atmosphere to Haruka Tomatsu’s Yume Sekai, and can also be compared to miwa’s very own Kataomoi from her second album, guitarium. The song’s simplicity makes it a gorgeous ballad.

7. Miracle
The atmosphere brightens with the album’s third A-side, which, according to the mood ratings on JpopAsia, is a happy and relaxing song… and I agree. Starting off with miwa’s muffled la la’s, sounding like something from a old, broken radio (not that it’s bad thing, that’s just how it was filtered!), the arrangement following the introduction is made up of percussion, strings, acoustic guitars and piano. Miracle gives me Chasing hearts (from guitarium) vibes, and I really like that song, so this is also quite nice in comparison. There is more going on in the arrangement, and miwa sounds more or less the same as she did in Chasing hearts. It’s fresh, warm, invigorating, and puts a smile on your face like YUI’s Laugh away can.

8. My Best Friend
The next song is so short, being only 2 minutes and 13 seconds long, but it’s so cute and cheesy! Featuring instruments like the acoustic guitar and the banjo, the eight track of the album is of a country folk style of music. It sounds like some of the earlier material from America’s sweetheart, Taylor Swift… maybe something like Our Song from her eponymous album… miwa’s vocals this time around are not filtered, thankfully, otherwise the song would sound like some weird country/electronic hybrid. The second verse allows some piano to enter, as well as an assortment of sparkly-sounding embellishments. My Best Friend is quirky and absolutely adorable; it’s quite an enjoyable little tune, despite how short it is.

9. LOUD! ~Yuutsu wo Buttobase~
I find it peculiar that the hardest rock song on the album follows the very cute My Best Friend. LOUD! ~Yutsuu wo Buttobase~ opens with an awesome legato articulation on an electric guitar, and it’s only a matter of seconds before we get straight into the song! Like the song title suggests, the whole track is very loud and in-your-face, which is definitely because of the impressive power of the instruments, as well as miwa’s fierce and fiery performance. In terms of the arrangement, the electric guitars are mostly put in the spotlight, pulling off piercing riffs here and there, while the drums add a forceful edge to the song. Everyone knows, or has at least heard of miwa’s chAngE, right? LOUD! is like that, specifically because of the strong and prominent guitar lines. If you like that, you’ll love this! (:

10. Napa
Calming things down once again, we now come to the B-side of the Hikari e single. If you’re in need of a song that’s reminiscent of what miwa has released before Delight, this is your song! Napa begins with an unbelievably pretty acoustic guitar melody, and bass lines and percussion similar to the ones heard in Sayonara enter the song within a mere ten seconds from the start of the song. Another 20 seconds go by, and piano begins to play, which adds some depth to the arrangement, but keeps it sounding mellow and natural. In general, this is a mid-tempo acoustic track, and that’s what makes it stand out from the rest of the tracks on the album. It wouldn’t be that case if it were on miwa’s guitarissimo, though! :p

11. Nukumori
The last song of the album is, as anyone could have guessed, a ballad. Beginning with a combination of soft strings, acoustic guitar and piano, miwa starts to sing with a nostalgic kind of tone. The occasional light synthy wails add to the sentimental atmosphere. Things pick up as we reach the chorus, as a steady drum beat is included, which becomes stronger once we actually reach the chorus. This kinda reminds me of Maon Kurosaki’s hear.., except Nukumori sounds a bit brighter. How the drums and the bass guitar were used and presented in this song makes me think back to Otoshimono from miwa’s first album. I just wish there were two or three more tracks to match up to her previous album efforts of 14 songs each, but this is probably the perfect song to close something like Delight

I see miwa’s third album as a chronicle of a young artist experimenting and branching off into new musical directions. I love that she utilized synths, dance beats, techno elements and voice filters this time around, so as to give a clear sense of diversity and variation when compared to her previous efforts. I was a bit wary at first, thinking that it’s a bold and risky move to put out something as different as Delight, but it turned out to be even better than what she has released in the past. Overall, this is a creative and refreshing enterprise on miwa’s behalf, and the whole feel of the album corresponds to what it’s called — Delight! (:

Rating: 4.5/5

(If there were an additional two or three songs — provided that they were just as entertaining as every other track — this would have gotten a full rating from me!)

Top five favorites (in order of appearance):
Hikari e
321
Sparrow
Whistle ~Kimi to Sugoshita Hibi~
LOUD! ~Yuutsu wo Buttobase~

Least favorite song: Sayonara

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14 thoughts on “Album review: “Delight” by miwa

  1. Kind of unrelated, but I had a listen to Hikari e and was sussing out the cover art and I was like “sniff… how come she gets such an awesome guitar :-(“

      • I know right! I mean, I can only play acoustic, but that is very cool to me too, haha. (☆^_^☆)
        You listened to Hikari e? I know your tastes are more rock-oriented, but how is it?

      • It was nice. I’ve only listened to it once so I can’t really say but nothing wrong with it plus I like her voice. I’ll probably have a look at a few of her other songs sometime.

      • Little miwa update? I got the top five songs you recommended. I really like Hikari e, it’s been growing on me each time I listen to it! Whistle ~Kimi to Sugoshita Hibi~ and 321 were nice but I can’t remember them as much. Sparrow was good – actually it sounded kinda familiar, does it have an anime tie-in? I liked LOUD! ~Yuutsu wo Buttobase~ of course with its rockiness. Is that miwa playing those fast guitar licks?

        Yeah so you can probably expect a review of her next single from me :-)

      • Omg, yay! So glad you like the songs! You even thought Whistle was nice, which is evidently not for everyone from the reviews I’ve read on it. Hmm… I don’t think Sparrow had a tie-in as far as I’ve heard, otherwise I would have mentioned it… And I just knew you’d like LOUD!, lol. I have no idea if she played those really fast guitar lines, but if she did, I would have even more respect for her, haha.

        Oooh, it’s great that you’ll start reviewing her! Looking forward to your review of her upcoming single! :)

  2. I was really delighted (sorry not sorry) to read this review, because it’s like I’m reading my own thoughts written out coherently and cleverly. I agree SO MUCH about how good most of the tracks are and that the album really should have been a little longer because a) miwa is clearly on a roll, b) a little more meat to the album would mean that filler like My Best Friend would impact the album’s enjoyability less and c) it just feels like it ends too early! Still, this is probably my second-favorite J-pop album of this year at the moment.

    But I have to say I really liked Sayonara! The sound and melody of the song is so different for miwa, but she pulls it off really well. I really like laid-back songs like this and I think the song has a slight mystical quality to make it a bit more fascinating. On the other hand, I don’t like 321 that much, though most people seem to love it. You win some, you lose some, I guess.

    Also, love seeing love for Whistle. I’ve always thought it’s a gorgeous ballad and totally deserves to exist but once again, the rest of the world begs to differ.

    • Heehee, reading your comment makes me happy! Thanks for the compliments! (*^▽^*)

      I’m so glad that we agree on many points! I don’t think I’ve seen a review for Delight written in a rigid song-by-song structure as far as I’ve explored in the J-Pop-reviewing blogosphere, so I’d be delighted (haha, yes, I just had to do that too) if people gave miwa and her latest album some more love, since it’s so well done.

      I certainly agree that Sayonara has a slight mystical quality to make it a bit more fascinating, and since reviewing this, my appreciation for the song has been slowly developing (:

      Also, out of curiosity, what makes you not like 321 that much? ):

      From the reviews I’ve read about Whistle, some people find it plain and boring, and that disappoints me, since it’s such a pretty song overall.

      Oh, and since you mentioned it, which is your absolute favorite J-Pop album of the year at the moment, if this comes in second?

      • I also haven’t seen many reviews of Delight in general. It’s a bit sad, really, I wish more people would give this album a chance. :|

        321… Okay, this is in no way solid reasoning, but the reason I didn’t like the song from the first listen is the beginning of the chorus. It sounds a bit like the whole song goes out of rhythm there for a while and it just… drives me up the wall for some reason. It’s a small detail but every time I listen to the song it keeps bugging me and I just can’t get into the song when a stupid thing like that won’t stop bothering me. Aside from that, it’s just… not the most original thing in her discography. She has many other, better fun, energetic pop-rock songs that don’t have some crazy detail that drives me mad lol.

        My favorite thing to come out this year has been GILLE’s first original album “GILLEsound Vol. 1”. An amazing collection of songs bursting with energy, passion, fun and a bit of melancholy. GILLE is a captivating singer with a great voice and I think her personality really shines through in the songs, which are, without exception, crazy catchy and just really well put together. The album also has enough variety to satisfy my tastes, with pop-rock, electro and r’n’b all getting covered, not to mention some fantastic ballads rounding out the package. Would recommend to anyone!

        This turned into a huge ad, sorry. ‘OTL But yeah, that’s my favorite album! Delight doesn’t come far behind, but with two songs I tend to skip (321 and My Best Friend), it just doesn’t hold up to GILLEsound, which I always listen to and enjoy all the way through.

      • I think I get what you’re referring to in saying that 321 sounds like it’s going out of rhythm at the beginning of the chorus. Haha, I’d hardly think that anyone needed to skip My Best Friend, since it’s so short anyway. Ehhh, oh well.

        Ha, that’s okay. That whole thing you wrote about GILLEsound Vol. 1 sounds like something out of a review. (^.^) I might check out it then :)

  3. I was going to write a tweet but then this turned into an essay :-). So I thought I’d just dump some miwa-related thoughts here.
    I finally got around to listening to guitarissimo. To be honest, I wasn’t expecting all that much but it turned out pretty good. I liked that there were a decent amount of rock-ish songs, but most of the tracks were good. I think miwa’s voice has improved in Delight compared with guitarissimo. It seemed a bit more rough around the edges in this album, not bad or anything though, just a few bits here and there. If her voice was a bit deeper, I would probably like it more but I like deep voices so that’s what I think with lot’s of artists lol. Yeah so that’s my first listen impressions, quite a good, solid album.

    • Yeah, totally agree with your comments! While I also think her vocals have improved with the release of Delight, I think, though, a good track that demonstrates her vocal ability in guitarissimo would be Otoshimono. (:

      Speaking of which, which tracks did you particularly like? ^.^

      • Ah, I only got around to listening to it on the weekend so I’ve only heard the songs once, So I can’t really remember what they sounded like but I wrote down some that stood out a bit: Arienai, Don’t Cry Anymore, Hys-, Otoshimono and ChAngE, There was one that was kind of a funky rock blend, maybe Hys- or Change? Can’t remember. Anyway it was cool.

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