Music Review - Shiina Ringo Reimports ~Port Authority~ / 椎名林檎 逆輸入 〜港湾局〜

For today's post, it's time for my first music review on Rising Sun, and I can't think of an album that's more deserving than this one by singer-songwriter Shiina Ringo. I've been fan of hers since the early 2000s, and one of the main things I enjoy about her music is how she continuously seeks to reinvent herself by exploring new styles of music and blending them in unique and ingenious ways. Additionally, she's fully able to perform any genre of music that interests her, and listeners are guaranteed that she'll perform it with intensity and feeling. When these fine musical elements are brought together with the expert studio remastering that's standard for a Shiina Ringo release, the end result is beautifully polished without losing its soul or sounding pretentious. Without further ado, I present:

椎名林檎  逆輸入 〜港湾局〜
Shiina Ringo  Reimports ~Port Authority~

Shiina Ringo released her latest full length album, "Reimports ~Port Authority~" last month on May 27th. The images in this post show the limited edition hardcover-book version. This album is a compilation of self-covers, meaning that all the tracks she's performing are songs that she wrote for other artists, some of which date back to the late 90s, not long after her debut. Much like her other recent releases, this album is another genre-busting collection of works that challenges the boundaries of musical classification and showcases Ringo-chan's wide-ranging talent. The fact that the songs were first made famous by other singers makes it all the more interesting to hear Shiina sing them herself. It's also worth noting that the album is an even mix of Japanese and English songs, which might increase accessibility for overseas listeners.

1. 主演の女 ("Shuen no Onna" / Leading Lady, written for Puffy)
The opening track of Reverse Import ~Port Authority~ is an exploration of the soundtrack / show tune genre that Shiina Ringo has been frequently exploring recently. Combining a driving bass line with a big band swing musical sound, both in orchestration and vocals, is something really unique, and a sound that I personally have heard only on Shiina Ringo's albums.

2. 渦中の男 ("Kachū no Otoko" / Vortex Boy, written for Tokio)
Shiina's vocals on this track move into a sort of 90s trip-hop direction, which magically compliment the extremely intense if not chaotic and slightly discombobulating instrumentation which can sort of be described as a conglomeration of high-tempo classic jungle, dubstep and techno hardcore. I'm not sure I've ever actually heard a track like this before...one that I liked anyway. It demanded my full attention and left me in shock momentarily!

3. プライベイト (Private, written for Ryōko Hirosue)
In huge contrast to the previous track, "Private" brings us to a very playful, happy, pop sound. Even the lyrics are extremely lighthearted and j-pop-like to the point where I had to wonder if she was just toying with us, but then I needed to remind myself that this track was written with a different singer in mind. Indeed this is quite fitting for Ryōko Hirosue. (^_^)

4. 青春の瞬き ("Seishun no Matataki" / The Flicker of Youth, written for Chiaki Kuriyama [Side Note: Remember Gogo from Kill Bill? Yep, that Chiaki Kuriyama])
Shiina's vocals on this tune give listeners a nostalgic feeling of listening to early, classic Shiina Ringo which...what can I say?... feels good! Listening carefully, though, this track has some unique sounds hidden in the sound of nostalgia. The arrangement on this one is actually multi-layered and multi-faceted!

5. 真夏の脱獄者 ("Manatsu no Datsugokusha" / Midsummer Fugitives, written for SMAP)
This is another track that took me by surprise, especially considering that it was made famous by SMAP! In order to classify this tune, I would have to describe it as electro-funk pop rock! It's definitely funky and makes me feel like dancing! Fans of Shiina Ringo know that those are not words that come up very often listening to her music! Very kool!! Not being a fan of SMAP (Sorry) I think it's many times more enjoyable than their version.

6. 望遠鏡の外の景色 ("Bōenkyō no Soto no Keshiki" / View Outside of the Telescope, written for Eri Fukatsu)
"View Outside of the Telescope" is a unique combination of sounds that brings back elements of the show tune / musical soundtrack style I mentioned earlier, along with the sounds of traditional cool jazz as it would be if performed by a big band. This track is an instrumental which something quite unusual for Shiina Ringo, and it's pretty darned impressive!

7. 決定的三分間 ("Ketteiteki Sanpunkan" / The Decisive Three Minutes, written for Chiaki Kuriyama)
This is another track that has a sort of nostalgic feeling in the vocals, but the arrangement is decidedly anchored in the spy movie soundtrack, bringing in subtle element of mysteriousness.

8. カプチーノ (Cappuccino, written for Rie Tomosaka)
Bringing the listener back to the realm of pop,  this track seems straightforward enough, but Shiina's interest in the soundtrack is evident here as well adding a subtle richness to a lovely pop-rock tune.

9. 雨傘 ("Amagasa" / Rain Umbrella, written for Tokio)
When listening to "Rain Umbrella" I can't stop myself from hearing a tiny bit of modern American country in Shiina's singing style and intonations (not something I would have predicted myself ever saying). Any similarity to country ends there, though, since the music in this tune dances on the borders of both hard rock and punk without fully crossing over into either one! Leave it to Shiina Ringo to make a song like this one work and sound great!

10. 日和姫 ("Hiyori Hime" / Weather Princess, written for Puffy)
The sound of hard rock continues on in this track while preserving the feeling of a light and playful pop-rock-alternative tune... perfect for Puffy I think! (^_^)

11. 幸先坂 ("Saisakizaka" / Fortune Hill Road, written for Yōko Maki)
Something unique again! The musical arrangement is best described as provincial, and could easily be mistaken for something from the French countryside. The sound of scratched vinyl is blended in periodically, giving the feeling of listening to an old record. This is really quite a delightful way to end a great album!

Reimports ~Port Authority~ is another masterpiece, album added to Shiina Ringo's already impressive catalog of releases. My feeling is that even if you are not (yet?) fans of hers, you will enjoy it so long as you simply like music. This is an album that really has a lot to offer regardless of one's personal tastes.

On that note♫ I'd like to end this post by first linking to Shiina Ringo's official Youtube channel, and second by leaving you with yet another new Shiina Ringo track that's not on the album I've just reviewed, but was released even more recently as the official soundtrack for Japan's coverage of the 2014 World Cup, a tune that's aptly named, "NIPPON." Enjoy! (Now if only our team would pick up the pace and make themselves worthy of this song!)

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