Mariya Takeuchi “Trad” (Warner Music Japan)
There are few certainties in the Japanese music industry nowadays, but two trends are definitely sale-driving locks for major labels. First is the trick of turning CDs into glorified containers for more valuable items such as the AKB48 handshake-event ticket or the somehow-more-ridiculous high-five-a-guy-from-Exile voucher being golden examples that spike sales. The other is good ol’ nostalgia, which has been especially successful over the past month: Dreams Come True hit No. 1 on the album chart, Southern All Star’s “Tokyo Victory” did the same on the singles side and now 1980s J-pop staple Mariya Takeuchi’s new original album “Trad” has claimed two weeks at the top of Oricon — and still lingers in the top 10.
Those wanting to revel in J-pop sounds of yesteryear will love “Trad,” as Takeuchi has changed very little about her music from its heyday. Most of the songs are still arranged by long-time producer (and Takeuchi’s husband) Tatsuro Yamashita, and when the pair merge easy-going guitar playing and vocal harmonies on summer-vacation-ready songs such as “Yukari no Ito” (“The Ties that Bond”) and highlight “Aloha Shiki Renaishinan” (“Mentor of Love in the Aloha Style”) “Trad” feels like a lovely breeze. The bulk of the album, though, tends toward ballads. Takeuchi’s voice never oversells those slower songs — a good move — but there are just so many that her first album since 2007 starts to feel like a bit of a slog.
“Trad” is rounded out by fine-enough genre exercises — “Saigo no Tango” is a tango, “Shizukana Densetsu” is a folk number with harmonica — turning the album into a pleasant dose of nostalgia. Then again, you could also just find her better CDs from the ’80s at a rental shop. (Patrick St. Michel)