Next Level / Ayumi Hamasaki

Release Date: March 25, 2009

Track Listing

  1. Bridge To The Sky
  2. Next Level
  3. Disco-munication
  4. Energize
  5. Sparkle
  6. Rollin
  7. Green
  8. Load Of The Shugyo
  9. Identity
  10. Rule
  11. Love n’ Hate
  12. Pieces Of Seven
  13. Days
  14. Curtain Call

Review

Next Level Is Ayumi Hamasaki’s 10th album and is her first to be released on a USB flash drive. The flash drive costs about $68 and contains the entire album along with lyrics & videos for 6 songs. The drive itself looks really nice and I’m fairly sure that it sold out fairly quickly.  No, I didn’t get this version of the album (although it would have been sweet if I did), I just wanted to show how nice the USB stick was.

Ayumi Hamasaki USB Stick

As for the songs themselves? The majority of the material on Next Level are high energy dance or rock tracks. There’s not many lower tempo tracks to be found. Normally having an album full of similar sounding tracks gets old extremely quickly (i.e. Girl Next Door) but there’s enough variety in the productions here that it doesn’t matter.

I found the pacing of the entire thing to be great, but I can see how some might not agree. I guess it depends on whether you need a breather between songs I guess. There are short instrumental interludes between sections so I don’t see it as a big deal really.

There are only 4 previously released tracks on this album (which is surprising) & the rest are new.  Of the newer songs I didn’t find any weak spots at all.  Usually I find something to bitch about, but I can’t think of a single negative thing to say about the album cuts.  They’re all strong works.

Some of the more stand out tracks for me were Energize, Rollin and Identity  Energize has a touch of electro-pop along with a bouncy 80’s style beat.  Catchy stuff.  Rollin has a music box type of intro that just stops & transitions into a dance track.

Again, a bit of the electro influence can be felt on this track.  Ayu’s vocals are filtered a bit but the effect isn’t overused (thankfully).  Identity is a funky mix of pop and rock that has a hell of a hook.  I can imagine that this would kick ass in a concert setting.

All I can saw about this album is… Wow.  This is the most consistent Ayumi Hamasaki album I’ve heard & the best album I’ve had the pleasure of listening to this year… So Far.