Kou Shibasaki

Love Paranoia

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After a massive rock opening worthy of an Aerosmith concert intro, Kou Shibasaki kicks off Love Paranoia with a large bang of pop. The excitement might not come from sheer innovation, but the energy level is way up for this one, and a fine way to wake the listener from a stupor of pop-induced complacency. With "Love Minority," the tone becomes more fractured, more constructed, and Shibasaki's vocals become far more tinkered with, à la vocoder. This is perhaps one of the high points of the album early on, showing off some intriguing compositional ideas. There's a bit of Brazilian bossa that morphs into a brass-laden romp without any real direction, and then the first major ballad of the album in "Hyakunengo," a pretty little piano-accompanied bit that centers on Shibasaki's voice in a fairly unadulterated fashion. It's a very nice track -- maybe underwhelming in its composition, but a nice showcase for Shibasaki. The album makes a move for the middle ground and standard formats for contemporary pop and balladry for much of the album, never really exceeding expectations, but living up to them ably enough. Only at the very end of the album does the quality pick up again, with the acoustic ballad "Kimi ga Nokoshiteitta Mono." Paired only with a guitar, Shibasaki takes another shot at showing off some outstanding vocals. A limited release with an included DVD adds one final ballad to the mix, though a relatively forgettable one. Overall, it's a nice album. Shibasaki runs around fairly mediocre territory for much of the proceedings, but when she shines, she really shines brightly.