Music / CD Reviews | LISTENING POST

Takeuchi sticks to what she knows on 'Trad'

by Patrick St. Michel

Special To The Japan Times

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)

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