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Release date: October 21st, 2015

Tracklist:

  1. Tommy’s Halloween Fairy tale (OPENING)
  2. LIVING DEAD DINER GIRLS (Tommy heavenly6)
  3. The Sparkling Candy Man† (Tommy heavenly6)
  4. Follow the White Rabbit! (INSTRUMENTAL)
  5. LITTLE RED FOREST (Tommy february6)
  6. Frozen Raspberry Snow (Tommy february6)

Review:

Just in time for Halloween, Tomoko Kawase has released another Halloween-themed Tommy release, like she has a few times in the past. Despite being a little less active the last few years, she still manages to get out the Halloween releases fairly consistently, and this year is no different, with this mini-album dropping one week before everyone’s favorite spooky holiday.

Though she was one of my absolute favorite Jpop artists in the early 2000s, I haven’t been the biggest fan of Tommy’s material since around 2008 when her activities slowed down a lot and her sound changed in many ways, but her Halloween material usually manages to stand above the rest in quality, so I’m glad to be delving into this, even if my expectations are pretty low.

On to the album itself, consisting of six tracks in total, this one contains two instrumental tracks, two heavenly6 rock tracks, and two february6 pop tracks. Here’s a comprehensive look at all the tracks.

Tommy’s Halloween Fairy tale (OPENING)

This is just a short intro, clocking in at 1:20, and only consists of some creepy Halloween sounds with a little musical motif of horns, percussion, and xylophones. Pretty much what you’d expect from something of this nature. Sets the mood a little bit, but there’s not much to it.

LIVING DEAD DINER GIRLS

This first heavenly6 track starts off in full force, with heavy distorted guitars playing a heavy yet emotional chord progression, and soon some high guitar harmonies and synth strings come into the mix to complement the heaviness, making for a great opening that makes you bang your head with it’s punky metal arrangement.

The verse kicks off with a similar chord progression, with the arrangement scaled back to just one guitar and the drums backing up Tommy’s voice. The vocal melody is a rapid-fire quick delivery with a sweet yet slightly dark/angsty feel about it. This is maybe the fastest singing she’s ever done on any song to date, and it works really well with the beat behind it.

The pre-chorus comes in fairly expectedly, with the heavy rhythm centered on the tom drums with a lo-fi guitar backup changing the chords a little while the vocal melody slows down just a little bit before blasting into the chorus after a few measures.

The chorus sees the return of the full band backup, including heavy bass, multiple guitar layers, and a punk/metal drum beat with another fairly quick and aggressive yet sweet vocal melody. The drums slow down to a heavier-hitting pace half way through the chorus, giving just a little extra variety instead of just repeating the same arrangement for the whole chorus.

After the chorus, we get a new guitar riff that leads back into the opening instrumental section with guitar leads and strings again, before starting the second verse. The verse/pre/chorus structure repeats again with a little more backup vocal harmonies than the first time.

Next we get a new, super heavy interlude part with a new vocal melody that leads back into a quieter version of the chorus for a few more repeats of the chorus before the end of the song.

This song follows the classic heavenly6 formula that carried her through her best period of work, and I’m glad to see it make a return. It’s not reinventing any wheels, but the song makes for an entirely enjoyable experience from start to finish and doesn’t over-stay its welcome.

This is the stuff I’ve missed from her work for many years, with a high-energy mix of pop, punk, and metal, where her recent heavenly6 material was mostly just gloomy for the sake of being gloomy, and was missing the spark that her early material had in spades.

The Sparkling Candy Man

Next comes the second and final heavenly6 song on this record, and this one is a lot more goofy, with a silly circus-style arrangement, lacking of distorted guitars and normal band instruments almost entirely. There’s a light non-distorted guitar playing a bit of a country-western style progression very low in the mix and lots of synth organs, percussion, and other sounds you’d expect from Tim Burton movies or children’s Halloween soundtracks.

This calls back to the sound of the “Halloween-y” part of her previous Halloween release “Lollipop Candy BAD Girl” without the awesome heavy rock follow-up afterward. The whole song is pretty underwhelming and has a silly male voice talking in the background and even backing up her vocals for a lot of the song, and it makes the whole track less listenable than it would have been otherwise.

Follow the White Rabbit! (INSTRUMENTAL)

Not much to mention here, it’s just a 30-second transition track between the previous track and the next one. It has the same male voice from the previous song making some strange Alice In Wonderland references before quickly fading out into the next track.

LITTLE RED FOREST

This is the first february6 track on the album, and this also goes back to the original 80’s style formula that made her early career so successful and unique at the time. The song features the powerful and nostalgic 80’s synths carrying the song through and through, with sweet yet melancholy vocal melodies from front to back.

The composition is also calling back to the Tommy Airline-era songs with the high production value and conciseness. No part repeats too long; it just gets out the musical ideas and then moves on, which I’ve always thought is a rare and admirable trait in J-pop.

If you’ve heard anything from the first two Tommy february6 albums, this will satisfy your craving for a return to that sound that’s been missing for a number of years since her style changed. A wholly satisfying 80’s synth-pop track that calls back to the early days of february6 and does every element of that style the right way.

Frozen Raspberry Snow

This february6 track is a bit of an oddity, and is actually a Christmas song instead of a Halloween one. It references back to a 1950s-1960s American style of sugary pop with high strings and bells backing up her sweet vocal melody.

This is actually a really enjoyable and cute song all the way through and reminds me of a lot of the classic American Christmas music that we hear every year around this time from the likes of Bing Crosby or Brenda Lee, but with a touch of Jpop style added in. The track also has a lo-fi filter on it so it sounds like an old record playing on a record player and as if it was recorded with older equipment, which is a nice touch.

Summary:

With 3 of the 4 real songs on here being near-perfect in their execution or style and all being unique from each other, this is hands-down the best output from Tommy in quite some time. If you just forget about one lackluster song and non-musical interludes, this basically equates to a really strong single with three great songs that are enjoyable no matter what time of the year it is.

It’s a nice surprise to see a return to her original roots from her early career without some of the unsuccessful experimentation or changes that have been made in her sound more recently. Definitely check this out if you’ve ever been a fan of her music before or are just looking for a solid and diverse Holiday-themed J-pop release.

Tommy’s Halloween Fairy Tale

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