Shiina Ringo has been quite busy last year. In May we saw the release of the self-cover album Gyakuyunyū: Kōwankyoku, in June there was NIPPON single which coincided with FIFA World Cup, finally on November 5 we got the first ‘proper’ full-length album from Ringo in 6 years, Hi Izuru Tokoro named in English as Sunny. Opinions among the fans varied, and it was understandable, as the singer included not one or two, but 6 previously released singles (Ariamaru Tomi dating back to 2009 and Sanmon Gossip recording sessions!), which left us with only 7 new songs.
So, is it as bad and bland as many try to make it? I guess it all depends on what somebody’s expectations are. I did not expect another Muzai Moratorium nor an utter failure of a record – I just wanted a decent CD, and it was exactly that – with few highs and lows down the road.
The album opener, a new track known in English as Quiet Counterattack is a blast with aggressive vocals and awesome horn section. It transitions smoothly into Jiyū e Michizure, which I came to like even more than I already did. Hashire Wa Number is a funky tune which grew on me after few listens. The next one called Sekidō o Koetara has a Latin music vibe, which is why I’m not particularly fond of it to be honest. Nonetheless, it segues perfectly into On Flight JL005, a new tune sang completely in English. It has sort of an intimate feeling to it, and it’s one of the album highs. Chichinpuipui is a pretty wild one, reminding me a lot of Jihen tracks. In song number 7, Ima, we can hear Saito Neko’s arrangements and prominent strings section which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Irohanihoheto is the one I despised when it was released, but for some reason I began to enjoy it with the release of Sunny. Arikitari na Onna – it got an MV but I must say this one is really boring and forgettable. Carnation is one my my least favorite Ringo songs ever and it continues to be such track. Skip. Kodoku no Akatsuki is an autotune atrocity. Kill it with fire! NIPPON is alright-ish as a stand-alone tune, but it was a wacky move to put it on this album, totally out of place. Ariamaru Tomi closes the thing and what can I say… For me it’s kind of similar to Izonshou which makes it badass and cool.
January 28, 2015 marked the release of a new single entitled Shijō no Jinsei – A Life Supreme which served as a theme song for drama Marumaru-zuma. Really, can’t say much about it as it hasn’t rock my socks off – I’m just going to write it off as a dud. On March 18, 2015 Ringo released a dvd/blue-ray live concert entitled (Nama) Ringo Haku ’14 -Toshionna no Gyakushuu aka RINGO EXPO ’14 which featured her December 10 2014 show in Osaka. It came with a real nice packaging including 3D cover and a photo book. I got to watch the concert in full only once by now, but I was really impressed with it. Visually it’s more reminiscent of Tokyo Jihen’s Bon Voyage rather than Expo ’08. Setlist-wise it consists of many of the recent tracks though it has gems like Ryuukou (nerdy Uki’s rapping) and magnificent version of Souretsu.
Just to top it off I bought a used copy of Ze-Chyou Syuu from Ebay for few bucks. It was a 2000 EP consisting of 3 8 cm CDs, with 9 songs total (6 out of em are live recordings). Pretty cool thing to own, really.