Tuesday, January 5, 2016

A.B.C-Z - A.B.Sea Market RE album review

Artist: A.B.C-Z
Title: A.B.Sea Market
Release date: 13 MAY 2015
Type: album
Version: RE

Packaging: Being a regular edition I was not expecting much and Pony Canyon did not disappoint. It is a standard jewel case with a plain back cover, for both sides. The disc has the logo of the album and a little drawing of a market on it and that is about it. The jacket booklet with the lyrics does have a bit more going for it. I like the use of borders in it, especially with the member colors for the pages that have solo shots of the members with the lyrics. But each of the five have one full body shot then a waist up shot that is spread across the booklet with each being on a page with lyrics.

I did manage to get a first press edition so I have one of the alternate covers, mine is of Kawai Fumito. I honestly prefer the group cover but it is a nice little first press bonus that probably is better appreciated by fans that have a strong favorite, provided they get the one with that member on it.


1. Shower Gate
The lead track of the album and the one used to promote it on music programs. Like most of their songs it has a throwback sound to it, but for the group it works and helps separate them from other Johnny's groups. The song took a bit to grow on me but I enjoy it now. It is a simple pop song with some nice brass instruments thrown in to give it something special. I also love that it has proper backing vocals, as not many Johnny's groups do that with their songs. The chorus is one that sticks with you and I find no trouble in recalling how it goes off the top of my head long after listening to the song.

2. In The Name Of Love ~ 誓い (In The Name Of Love ~ Chikai)
This has a bit more of a contemporary pop sound to it and it has become one of my favorite songs off the album. It has a nice beat that runs through the verses and moves it through the chorus. The chorus is easily the highlight of the song though I do like the break near the end as well. I also appreciate that the song never overpowers the vocals so it is easy to hear what is going on with the vocals and figure out the solo lines.

3. どこまで Happy!!! (Doko made Happy!!!)
A fun bouncy pop song that sounds like the perfect song to be listening to driving around in the summer, especially with "sunshine" repeated often in the chorus. The chorus itself is rather catchy and is really the heart of the fun sound of the song. The few moments where it slows down really stand out, but in a good way as they seem natural and give your ears a bit of a break before moving into the more energetic parts of the song.

4. Stay with me / Hashimoto Ryosuke
The first of the solo songs on the album. It fits quite well after Doko made Happy!!! as it another light pop song. In fact it even has something of a summer vibe to it as well, though nothing as prominent as the previous track but its sound just fits so well. As lead vocalist of the group it is no surprise that Hasshi sounds great in this. And I appreciate the fact that even though it have been easy to have given him a ballad he instead has a fun pop song instead.

5. 僕らのこたえ ~Here We Go~ (Bokura no Kotae ~Here We Go~)
The first track to have a rockish sound to it which has been one of the group's staple sounds since their Junior days. It is a change up from the previous two tracks but works with the instrumental introduction to lead into the harder sound. One thing I love about Ebi's rock sounds is that they tend to have an epic sound to them and this song is no exception. The only minus I will give it is that it does not stand out too much, except for an instrumental break just past the middle of the song. Though I am certain this is a song that has one of the more outstanding performances attached to it for concerts.

6. DARKNESS (LOVEです☆ver.) (DARKNESS (LOVEdesu ver.)) / Tsukadarkness Feat. Tsuka Rika
This is one of those songs that either you love it or you hate it. The key to loving it is being able to realize that this is not meant to be serious whatsoever and just enjoy the weirdness that is Tsukada Ryuichi. The song is all over the place though starts with a rock sound to go with Tsukadarkness while a whimsy pop tune enters for Tsuka Rika. The two go back and forth and a bit of a storyline plays out between the two characters before they have a "duet" to end the song. I am certain the greatest highlight of this song is seeing it performed live but it is a fun listen.

7. 未来は明るいかい? (Mirai wa Akarui kai?) / Kawai Fumito
This song brings us back the throwback sound of earlier songs on the album. I am not a big fan of Kawai's voice but for the most part he sounds fine as long as he stays within his range. At the start of the song he seems to be out of it but for the rest of it he stays in and it is a much more pleasant listen. The song itself is a fun pop number with some brass that helps make it stand out. Outside of the start I do like it, though it is not a favorite even though I do like Kawai.

8. 特別な君へ (Tokubetsu na Kimi e)
A ballad that works as there seems to be a general winding down with each track on the album at this point. It also has that bit of a throwback sound to it that helps tie it with other tracks on the album. I love the build to the chorus in this song and how it moves to an uplifting sound. It is a really pleasant ballad without getting sleepy.

9. メクルメク (Mekurumeku)
Kicking the energy levels back up again comes Mekurumeku with a big band/swing influenced pop song. The brass in this is front and center to help give it that retro feel and they just shine in general all throughout the song. It is another song that is just fun to bounce around to and good for lifting your mood.

10. We're Fighters / Goseki Koichi
The next solo that takes a more serious turn with a pop song that is probably the most electronic sounding of them all. It actually sounds like something KAT-TUN would have released in their early years with the rock elements and harder sounds. The switching back and forth from the sung lines to the spoken lines with a voice filter works well in giving the song the right atmosphere to match the music. And it stands as a song that has just the right amount of auto-tune/voice distortion to it.

11. ドラマ (Drama) / Totsuka Shota
The song was an uplifting sound to it that takes the album back to the more standard pop sound. I love the driving beat that runs through the song and Totsuka sounds great in this. The change up hits just at the right time to continue the momentum of the song while breaking it away from its set pattern to transition to the final chorus repeat. It is my favorite song of the solos and a favorite song from the album in general.

12. Legend Story
The final track on the album before the bonus tracks and it works very well at the end. In fact I'm not surprised at all that this is one of the final songs in the group's setlist for their concerts as it does start bringing the energy down for that usual final run of songs. I love the use of strings with the instruments as it gives it a gentle feel while the brass that kicks in about midway livens it up. The transition works well as the overall slower pace of the song could easily bring it into the sleepy territory but instead it feels like it wakes up just in time to bring it all together.

13. SPACE TRAVELERS (album ver.)
With this being my first A.B.C-Z purchase I cannot say I am familiar with the single version of this song to know what was changed up for this version. I do enjoy the song, especially with the jazzy sound to it that really helps it fit in with other songs from the album. Really like the chorus of this one and it comes off as the strongest part of the song. There are a couple of parts that I wish the mixing had the vocals a bit stronger as it sounds like the instruments, especially the brass, are drowning them out.

14. Finally Over
Easily my favorite track on the entire album and as a bonus track for the regular edition I am very glad this was the version I picked up. The rock sound to it goes well with just how epic in sound the song is and the rap portion works well and helps drive the song forward avoiding it feeling out of place. While most of the songs on the album follow the same pattern of solo lines for the verses and full group for the chorus there is a real impact when the group sings together in the chorus in this one, elevating it just a bit more than some of the other songs on the album. The different elements just all work so well together to bring out the energy of the song.

Overall: I am so glad I decided to give this group more of a try as I enjoy this album quite a bit and the members keep winning me over the more I see of them. I really like the fact that the group has a general sound to them that helps set them apart from the other Johnny's groups. The retro and rock-pop really makes them stand out musically. And it just fits the group's image with how they have presented themselves so far.

A rather solid album with the most questionable song being Tsukada's solo, which again I am certain is a love or hate thing depending on if you care for those types of songs in the first place. I definitely have plans on getting their first album now and I am happy that I did get their first CD single that I will be reviewing latter.

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