May 13, 2014

After School Is Ready To "Dress To Kill"

Can you believe I almost missed that this was coming out? It's not really that surprising though, because it hasn't been promoted a lot in Korea (obviously, since it's a Japanese album) nor on various international Kpop-sites, but I am a big After School fan so there was no way I wasn't going to listen to it. Pre-release singles "Heaven" and "Shh" were both amazing, and I am seriously liking this new sense of direction they have taken recently. Additionally, they were both produced by Shinichi Osawa, a Japanese DJ who is absolutely huge. Having gone through some major changes in the last few years, such as losing the group's core Kahi, it's not so strange that the music have also changed a lot.

The album opens with 30 second intro Dress Code ~ Theme Of Dress To Kill leading into the first song sharing the same title as the album. What I find interesting about this song is how the vocals sort of take the back seat, as they are not as prominent as they usually are. For most songs, the vocals tend to overpower the the music, but this is not the case here. Because of the song's slightly slower beat, the song is not the strongest opener, but it still a very good one. Things pick up a bit more however in Ms.Independent, which opens with some strange kind of English rapping. I pick up a few words here and there but it's not crystal clear, and it also isn't the most logical lyrics either. The part where they sing "when I switch into a naughty" was just amazing and made me so confused I actually had to stop the song because I thought I might had heard it wrongly. The song is otherwise really catchy, and I really like the dynamics in it. It grows, builds up, the beat drops and picks up again and so on, making it a pleasant listening experience. I especially like the last bridge before the final chorus, it was really well executed instrumental wise.

The next song Triangle is one of my favorites of the album, and there are so many things I enjoy about it. It starts off quite quickly with a fast paced rap but it later drops quite quickly and starts slowly building up from a slow state to a faster one again. This whole song is very interesting musically because of the different contrasts between the beats in the various parts of the song, and the vocals are great too, especially the harmonies in the chorus. Crazy Driver just sounds so much like a J-pop song, or at least like I imagine how those kind of songs sound like. The over-edited vocals are obviously there for a reason, and I actually think they fit the vibe of the song really well. Yet again, the vocals are not the most important part of the song, but it rather focuses on the song as a whole, where everything matters equally. It might not be the most memorable song of the bunch, but it's great nonetheless.

Shh is the first song on the album produced by Shinichi Osawa, and it begins really promising with a steady beat and instantly intriguing melody. The entire production is just really well done, but if I had to complain about one thing it would be that the song is a bit too long and there are too many different parts to keep track of, especially if you're listening to it the first time. I do like the vocals on here though, and the song is obviously really amazing, but that was really the only tiny thing that bothered me about it. Next track Yes No Yes sticks on this heavily club-oriented album as a song that does not make use of excessive electronic sounds and effects. I would say it's more R&B inspired, and that's a genre that definitely works for this group too. There are some jazzy guitars in there, some sexy whispering and soulful singing, as well as really addictive melody.

Up next we have Heaven, which had already been released as a single way back in October last year along with a fantastic music video, and this song is easily one of my favorite AS songs ever. I wanted so badly to include this song in my "Favorite Songs of 2013" post, but it's a Japanese track and therefore I didn't. This is also a Osawa production, and beats out "Shh" by miles in my opinion. It's so lively and funky and reminds me a lot of Daft Punk's hit song Get Lucky, as it shares many musical similarities. The guitar line, bass and drums are just so relaxing to listen to, and the vocals are soft and gentle to go along with it. I could just talk on and on about this song really, it's just that amazing. In The Moonlight follows shortly afterwards and continues on with the same type of feeling as the previous one, but this song is not as memorable. There's absolutely nothing wrong with the song at all, but it doesn't stand out in any way either. I suppose it's because it starts out a bit quietly, but even as it grows more and more the song never really peaks. 

The two last songs are both fantastic closer tunes for the album, and really secured my love for it. Rock It is just such a dance track, and you feel all happy and excited inside while playing it. The entire album is very house inspired and influenced, but this song truly takes it to another level. The hard hitting chorus is infectious and energetic, with some solid vocal efforts as well. The final track is Spotlight, and already within the first 30 seconds you can tell it's going to be amazing. This song, too, is made to be played at clubs and to be danced to. The chorus has this wonderful pace that really picks up as the song goes along, and those adlibs at the end really took it even higher. 

This album concluded in three words: Pretty Damn Perfect. There's not a single bad or even generic song on this album, they all have their own charms and positives, and I think that's extremely impressive. Most albums tend to have some song that doesn't really do anything at all, but this album doesn't. Even the less memorable songs are still most appealing and I'm sure they're other people's favorites depending on your personal taste. I'm definitely bitter this album hasn't been very popular in Japan because it clearly should be, but even so, the girls can be proud of this addition to their discography. I know I would be.

Highlights: Heaven, Triangle, Rock It, Spotlight
Total Score: 4,8/5

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