Tuesday, August 13, 2013

m-flo Neven Album Review




You remember that poll I had a couple of months ago asking the readers which album I should review? The majority wanted me to review EXO or EXO and m-flo....but I just couldn't bring myself to downloading EXO's album and actually listening to it. What crime did my computer commit to have that filth downloaded onto it? Exactly, which is why I can't review EXO's album. I had a hard enough time getting through "Oolf", so I don't see how I'd actually listen to the whole album without hanging myself by my fucking nuts. On the other hand, there were enough people interested in the m-flo review, so here we go.


m-flo returns in just one year after releasing the controversial album "Square One". Square One split the fandom in half, with all of the bandwagoners from the Loves era crying foul as to how m-flo refused to rehash their sound from the 2000s and with plenty of other fans enjoying the next evolution to m-flo's style. It was the first album since "Astromantic" that m-flo really deviated from their usual sound, fusing many different dance subgenres and hiphop.

With "Neven", m-flo dials it back, making this album feel like a bridge from "Cosmicolor" (their fifth album in 2007 before their hiatus) and 2012's Square One. If one could say Square One was experimental like Astromantic was for m-flo, then Neven would be the album where m-flo fine-tuned their sound for this decade.

After a prologue, Neven gets started off with "Yeah!" and "Tonite". Yeah! is a good way to start off the album, as it is a dance track that really sets the tone, but it is followed up by "Tonite", which is a Square One leftover. Minmi sounds pretty fucking terrible on this track, bringing it down a few notches. Verbal's raps flow much better in Tonite than in Yeah!, but Taku's production in Tonite is lacking compared Yeah!. Both songs clock in at six minutes each, making the beginning of the album feel like a chore to listen to, mainly because of Tonite.


The album stumbles out of the gate, but with a short intermission, the album kicks it into high gear, delivering great song after great song, as if m-flo were apologizing about how the album started. "No Way", "Das Dance" and "Butterfly" are remarkable improvements over Yeah! and Tonite. No Way brings more energy into the album, waking up anyone who may have nearly fallen asleep after Tonite. No Way features Kiko Mizuhara, a Japanese idol. Given with how much Taku hates Japanese idols, I was really surprised that she featured on the song. What I wasn't surprised about was her total inability to sing. Luckily technology makes her voice listenable, and the production of the songs works around her inability to sing. This is really a song where Taku shines the most. After No Way, Das Dance continues the gravy train. I love the beat to the song, and while Verbal's lyrics are bad in this song, at least they're hilarious. Butterfly is another solid track featuring Minami from CREAM, who was all over Square One and in quite a few tracks in Neven.


Another short intermission and we've hit the middle of the album, which is arguably the least memorable part of the album for me. I've listened to this album many times and yet I have a hard time remembering the songs playing here. It's not implying that this part of the album is bad, it's the contrary. It's just that the three songs before and three songs after are much more memorable. "Chance" starts off this section, and it's one of the better tracks on the album. This is one of the only two songs on the album that are just Verbal and Taku, and in the future, I would like it if they did more songs with just the two of them. Sure, Taku can't sing and needs to heavily alter his voice, but it's not like there are an ample amount of vocalists that can sing in Japan without me wanting to kill myself. At the very least, Taku doesn't sing in that annoying high pitch that is synonymous with Japanese pop. "One In A Million" is another track featuring Minami, and it's another solid song with her in it. At this point, it just feels like deja vu whenever Minami is on the track. She sings the same way in every track, and with the number of tracks she is on in both Square One and Neven, a different vocalist would have been welcome. Next up is the ballad track "Lover", which just feels out of place on this album. Sure, it's one of the best songs on the album, but it would fit much better on m-flo's 2005 album "Beat Space Nine" than in Neven. 



In the home stretch, Neven really goes out with a bang. This part of the album is my favorite part of the album, even with the lackluster "Transformerz" that closes out the album. Tranformerz is one of those songs that sounded pretty bad upon first listen (and that's rare for m-flo), but after going through this album several times, it sounds average at best, but it is really overshadowed by "FNKY ALGORTHM" and "Journey X". FNKY ALGORTHM is the lone song utilizing dubstep on this album, a welcome for the people who didn't enjoy the copious amounts of dubstep in Square One. However, the dubstep is used minimally and effectively, making this a really catchy track without getting weighed down by electronic fart noises. Lastly, there's Journey X, my favorite song on the album. This song really captures m-flo's true style, and it sounds like a direct evolution off of what came from "Expo Expo" before Lisa departed the group. The song sounds subdued due to the lack of loud electronic dance music, but I think Journey X's minimalism compared to other songs on the album really helps it shine.

All in all, I'm in the camp that believes Neven is a huge upgrade over Square One, and I even stated how much I enjoyed Square One in last year's review of the album. Square One was more ambitious and had better production from Taku, but Neven aligns itself with m-flo's natural sound. It is easy to compare this album to either Cosmicolor or Expo Expo and Neven really does feel like an evolution rather than a drastic change like Square One and to some extent Astromantic were. During the five years off from m-flo, Taku has really evolved and varied his style. During the group's first five albums, while Taku made a lot of great beats, a lot of the songs felt conservative and sometimes formulaic. It would be great if he kept up this change heading into m-flo's next album. While I think Taku has evolved over the past five-six years, Verbal has neither evolved nor devolved, but has changed his style a lot. He needs to stop hanging out with mainstream American rappers because the same laziness that has infected mainstream hiphop in America is infecting Verbal's lyrics. His flow is still there, and has adapted to m-flo's newer beats, but songs like Das Dance show that Verbal isn't the lyrical beast he used to be. Sure, I laugh every time I listen to Das Dance and maybe that was the intended outcome he was seeking, but Verbal can do better. My first suggestion would be to rap less in English and more in Japanese. The songs that were mainly in Japanese had better lyrics and better flow than the English songs. My last recommendation for m-flo's next album would be for there to be less Minami. Her songwriting ability isn't up to par to Emi Hinouchi, who co-wrote many songs with Verbal on Cosmicolor, and like I mentioned earlier, Minami's voice sounds the same in every song.

However, this album remains jjangbak and one of the few mainstream Japanese albums I have been able to listen to this year. God, I fucking hate Jpop, so it's always welcome when m-flo releases something to break up the monotony of the same 20-year-old song being released every week by idols.

19 comments:

  1. The first song sounds ok, and the rest doesn't really catch my attention.

    The only Japanese non anime or game song I liked was Ayumi Hamasaki's 'Blue Bird' (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dRt1IoXPRc8), 'Voyage' was good too.

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  2. A long-ass article... and I didn't write it! I feel less alone now.

    Some of this sounds good. I like Journey X. I should probably make the effort to check out m-flo more.

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    1. Their first two albums, Planet Shining and Expo Expo are by far their best albums. I'd start there.

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    2. Shut up, your articles are great. I'd bang you even if you were 80 and not loaded.

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  4. well this album was aight for me but I loved me Kaname's Zero, KEITA's Side by Side, Tommy's Candy Shop, Namie's FEEL and AI's Moriago as far for jpop this year for me some good releases if u haven't heard 'em check em out
    Also Sakanaction self titled album is the shit!

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    1. "Namie's FEEL"

      You lost all credibility right there. Amuro hasn't released an album worth listening to since Past<Future.

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    2. why her engrish was hella bad but but I enjoyed it for whta it is a generic edm filled album..loved Posion

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    3. I liked that song Amuro namie ft. after school, not really into it though

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  5. WO SHI ULF YI TOU ULF AWUUUUU

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  6. I didn't like journey X. Its way of teasing with tone of frequency and wavelengths through equalization, made me sit there waiting for an expansion of the sound, that never came. Its also far too long compared to its repetitiveness. A nice touch was the outro vocals, though.
    Not a big fan of the songs' bad habit of immediate flips into rap, with no drum lead-in, during songs with non-rap focus. No silver lining, just "imma rap nao", which throws the rapping, itself, off. The Korean school of composition, if you will.

    A basic album. It's...quaint. Like picking up a flower, or hitting someone being a bitch.

    And nice to see you've improved in your writing.

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    1. "Its also far too long compared to its repetitiveness."

      I think that's a problem that plagues Japanese music in general. The average song is about five minutes in Japan compared to three minutes elsewhere. That's why I didn't really like the beginning of this album because it starts off with two songs that are six minutes apiece. If the songs were jjangbak, it would have been a different story.

      I was also wondering if you wouldn't mind giving me your opinion on m-flo Planet Shining. All of the songs are on YT (except the interludes). I honestly think it's one of the best five Japanese albums released there, but then again, there's very little I like from Japan. You don't have to if you don't want to, but I'll list the songs (in the order they play on the album) anyway just in case you feel like it.

      Ten Below Blazing - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NkXAO-qURIA
      Planet Shining - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TR82To_iJ5I
      Come Back To Me - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v7TgQRMxUZ4
      Chronopsychology - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D2H9LIAOP18
      Hands - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P0sjNXRcvDk
      saywhatchugotta - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TH9_MfJCmNI
      Just Be - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HIeA-ZV7v_w
      Quantum Leap - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MTD6pCxLpqA
      L.O.T. (Love or Truth) - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gk5df_mcGEY
      Deep Within - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B4DB2nLH6GY
      been so long - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wg1r9qa9JN0

      Kpopalypse oppar, if you're reading this, feel free to share your opinion on the album too.

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    2. Actually pretty damn good, considered. A lot more urban in sound. Kinda of like "Old school gets taken for a spit-shine" It makes Nevan sound like the day after fajitas night.
      Highlighted drums that totally complements the rap, which for once doesn't just sound like circle-jerk west-coast. Especially Ten Below Blazing, takes me back, when drum'n'bass started out, but with interesting focus on vocals rather than soft synths. Basically, Still Grey before Still Grey was made.
      Planet Shining in itself is great. Sort of lounge highfive'ing triphop. Eased vocals in complementary blues patterns, with the highlighted beat that makes it easier for Tak to just get in and do his thing. Good song.
      I could go on and on.

      Come Back To Me and L.O.T. seem out of place, and the beats doesn't change up much throughout the individual songs, but anything other than that, it's a sweet album.

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    3. Overall didn't like. Most of it reminded me of the 90's "acid jazz" movement which I didn't like at the time either. Exceptions: title track is excellent, wish there was at least one other track in that style on it or that stood out as well production-wise instead of just sounding like a lightweight acid-jazz rehash. Quantum Leap was not bad, saywhatchugotta is ok but a bit cluttered with the light-speed raps, slim picking apart from that. Strongly dislike the R&B vocal focus on at least half of the tracks, "Come Back To Me" in particular I find almost impossible to listen to, sounds like a filler on an SM album. Overall certainly quite accomplished and nothing really "wrong" with it as such but just too damn soft for my listening taste. I actually prefer their newer material you linked in the blog itself because it's got more of an electronic edge and the R&B and acid jazz influence isn't so prevalent.

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    4. You should look up SHE, kpopalypse. The album 'Orion' to start with. He does the whole "thematic female singer coupled with electronic productions" a lot better than m-flo.
      'Computer Music' or 'Atomic', is probably up your alley.
      It'll help get perspective on Neven, if nothing else.

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  7. Test. Did I finally manage to sign up?

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    1. Fuck my anus with a 10 inch baby jesus butt plug, it actually worked. Gonna squirt all over myself to celebrate this.

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  8. I really do not think EXO's album was that bad. Wolf actually seems out of place on it because all the rest of the songs do well in their own way.

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