Garnet Crow

The Best History of Garnet Crow at the Crest

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On the surface, Best History of Garnet Crow at the Crest looks like a scary preposition -- a two-CD retrospective (three-CD if you shell out the money for the limited edition) of a Japanese folk-rock band just spells overkill, threatening to drown the listener in waves of background music with melodies so sugary you'd be risking a sort of musical diabetes. Luckily, Crest is still fun, even if Garnet Crow were never the ones to break the paradigm. The group dutifully churns out sweet and positive tunes built around acoustic guitars and Yuri Nakamura's heartfelt voice, but the bandmembers also realize that just playing an overdone romantic harmony isn't going to get them far, and so they actually try to go for some hooks and take their rhythms seriously. Sounds shamefully simple, sure, but it's impressive what a little dynamic can do to enhance a pop ballad. In fact, this dynamic approach is the very thing so many J-pop artists lack, and so Crest can actually be considered a "how-to" guide, to be distributed at label exec meetings and young pop band contests. Of course, some warnings will have to be included: sometimes Garnet Crow slip into mediocrity, offering plodding tracks that are all sappiness, no substance. But those are few and far between. Certain cuts on the album, strangely enough, answer a completely unrelated question about why ABBA were inducted into Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2010: this inclusion raised some eyebrows, but Garnet Crow demonstrate the huge debt that soft rock owes to the Swedes with their larger-than-life female vocal harmonies. Garnet Crow are never as bombastic as ABBA -- or as catchy, for that matter -- but they still pack enough skill and emotion to make Crest an enticing listen, loaded with positive moods with an almost therapeutic, but never dull, effect.

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