Kou Shibasaki

Kou Shibasaki: Back Best

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The second of two compilations released on the same date for Kou Shibasaki, Back Best collects the B-sides from her various released singles over the years. The quality of the tracks is uniformly on par with the main singles, and they're perhaps just a little more interesting. While her singles stick more strictly to the formulas of J-pop success, the album tracks and B-sides give Shibasaki a little more room to try different things. There's a bit more of what might be termed J-urban music here as a result, with Shibasaki exploring more R&B motifs, more Westernized ballads rather than simply straightforward J-pop. The album opener, "Memory Pocket," turns itself from a ballad to a dance track, complete with some Autotune magic thrown in. The Autotune stays in place for a jazzier follow-up wit a cute little cascading vocal motif and some interesting harmonizations in "Graybee." There's just a touch of country steel guitar in "No Fear." These are colors of sound that simply wouldn't be heard much in Shibasaki's main catalog of singles. On albums, they get marginalized in favor of the hits. Only in a setting gathered together as B-sides do some of these songs get a chance to shine.