"Always," by singer and actress Mika Nakashima, is the kind of inoffensive, sentimental ballad that you would expect given its provenance as a Japanese film theme song. With its gently percussive piano chords and gradually swelling strings as the chorus approaches, it's very much in the mold of the kind of J-pop balladry that has formed the cornerstone of Nakashima's career. "Baby Baby Baby" is another ballad, but in a style that draws on some of the jazz influences that have characterized her musical direction over the past few years. By far the most interesting track, however, is "Spiral," with its looping synths, understated electro-house beat, and Nakashima's cooing vocals combining to create an atmosphere that is both slick and smoldering with something quite mysterious and sensual. Lastly, it's worth warning that the final three tracks on the CD follow the traditional J-pop single's scam of simply repeating the previous three tracks in instrumental form, presumably for the purpose of learning the songs for later recital at karaoke, and as such are a pointless waste of money for any but the most insanely rabid fans.
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