Exile

Love

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    5
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Though they've traditionally been primarily pop singers, a standardized boy band among the many in Japan's saturated pop market, the boys of Exile have always done well with a variety of styles, from the uptempo pop anthem that's a mainstay of their genre to the slower ballads. Indeed, their fans are trusting enough of them that the Love album quickly garnered the highest first-day sales in Japanese history. Love opens with a bang, twisted and chopped violins and water drips leading the way to an odd mix of flights of solo vocal fantasy, harmonized choruses, and spoken bits. Hibiki shows off a bit of higher-range vocalization, and it works well. Otherwise, between the opening and the highly mechanical "Make Love," the album gets a bit monotonous, covering similar ballads and midtempo pop pieces alike. With "Make Love," the Auto -Tune comes out in full force, as do the drum machines and synths. The track never quite gets anywhere, but they're at least trying the dance route for a bit. While "Summer Time Love" marks a full return to their standard form, it fails to impress. While it never quite hits the mark, Exile's attempt at a jazzier format in "Sora Kara Ochitekuru Jazz" is a harbinger of good intentions. More lackluster ballads flow without notice from there, finally shoring up a bit at the end of the album for a tepid couple of R&B numbers. The band gets its chance to try more rap-infused rock here, and they don't pass it up lightly. The music starts to thump a bit toward the end, and though their vocals are clearly not made for the format, they try to harmonize in a more rhythmic form. The album closes with more rapping. It's forceful if somewhat unshaped, but again, the band is at least trying to expand its repertoire. Like the last songs themselves, the album as a whole is somewhat ambitious, trying to explore new territory and expand repertoires, but it falls into self-defeating traps of mediocrity, spending long periods just running through the same loops that Exile is used to.