Noriyuki Makihara

Kanashimi Nante Nan No Yakunimo...

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He's been on the Japanese pop scene for decades, but Noriyuki Makihara continually reinvents elements of his sound, combining his omnipresent singer/songwriter ethos with new ideas and new compositional concepts. Keeping himself relevant, his 2007 release carried a flood of different stylistic elements, as though Makihara was simply sampling from a smorgasbord of musical ideas. The surprising part, though, is that the various elements were used well, incorporated into songs that sound like Makihara's work but with whole backdrops from other cultures. The opening track is largely electronic, but could just as well be an Irish instrumental. He follows this immediately with a lively flamenco outing and a jazzy, brassy bit of classic R&B. With "Green Days," one of only two singles from the album (a low number by J-Pop standards), there's a strong influence of the overly melodramatic balladry common to much Asian contemporary music. But just a couple of songs later, "Lose No Time" comes off as a thick bit of electro-funk somewhere between Jamiroquai's vocals and Daft Punk's beats. Before he's done, he touches on his own past work, and throws a soft ballad in front of an austere string arrangement, juxtaposing cold with warm for a haunting effect. Makihara's become something of a division point in contemporary Japanese pop, with some fans adoring his work and others ignoring it completely. The range and proficiency shown on this album though are good reasons to keep paying attention to the star -- he's got plenty left to show off as long as there are listeners.