Kana Nishino

To Love

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For her sophomore full-length album, pop ingénue Kana Nishino turned her voice to a series of love songs. Beyond the usual ballads, though, she took a turn at a number of genres for To Love, with mixed results. She tinkers with reggae's bounce a tiny bit in "Love & Smile", and a bit more (though a more modern Japanese version of reggae) in combination with Minmi in "Summer Girl." There are rock colorations in "Hey Boy" that briefly bring Nishino into a sound not far away from the sublime Tomoko Kawase. And of course, there are plenty of straightforward pieces of pop candy, allowing her to croon, bounce, and shout through a mixed-language set. The album is strong, easily on par with other entries in the post-idol J-pop scene. Her voice, both literal and metaphoric, is strengthening, and To Love is a fine showcase of that newfound strength.