Although I’ll primarily be reviewing singles, there are some albums that are too good to not cover. In this segment, I will be spotlighting those standout albums and giving my thoughts on each and every track
When asked about my favourite album of all time, few would expect me immediately respond with AAA member Nissy’s full length album, Hocus Pocus 2. Before my obsession with K-pop began in late 2017, I was an avid listener of J-rock and J-pop, which led me to discover this album around the time of its release in December of that year. Though I wasn’t immediately struck by the greatness of the album, over the last 2 years my opinion has improved immensely, to the point that I believe that its the greatest album of all time. In my mind, it’s the perfect pop album, filled to the brim with bombastic pop melodies and immaculate production. It feels extremely cohesive all through its 13 (+1 remixed) song tracklist, and manages to create one of the only full length albums I believe to be worthy of the phrase “All Killer, No Filler”.
1. The Eternal Live (Title)
Opening with the albums biggest and absolute best moment, The Eternal Live is one of the greatest tracks J-pop of the last few years. It’s big brass and delirious funk are a fantastic pair, infusing the track with an undeniable sense of groove. But it’s that absolutely epic chorus seals the deal, fusing Uptown Funk inspired brass samples with Nissy’s commanding vocals to create a show stopping centrepiece. The background vocals during the chorus provide the track with the necessary anthemic energy, and truly elevate the track into masterpiece level. It also uses real brass samples, which makes it even more amazing.
For a song essentially titled Love Tears, many would expect a moody downtempo or ballad, but Nissy flips expectations providing an uptempo dance track that takes equal influence from synth pop as it does 80’s funk. Though it is one of the more subdued dance tracks from the album, it’s addicting synth loop and chorus provide are enough to make this track an early album standout.
3. まだ君は知らない My Prettiest Girl
Initially my pick for the weakest track on the album, Prettiest Girl has since gone onto become one of my absolute favourites. It’s one of the albums most buoyant moments, bouncing along on a deliriously fun groove whilst still retaining a sense of anthemic pop melody. It’s chorus never fails to put a smile on my face, and once again features those background vocals that made The Eternal Live so great.
4. Don’t Let Me Go
The albums first mid-tempo, and an excellent one at that. Don’t Let Me Go strips the tempo back from the albums previous tracks and puts his gorgeous vocals over one of the albums best melodies. Though not a straight up ballad, Don’t Let Me Go conveys more emotion than many songs of the genre ever could. It’s a track that proves that sometimes all you need is the perfect melody to elevate an already solid track to masterpiece levels, and the lovetorn Don’t Let Me Go is exactly that.
The first true ballad on the album, 花cherie is one of the records most impactful tracks. Laid over a gorgeous string arrangement, the track is all about its show stopping chorus, which is carried almost entirely by the strength of Nissy’s rich vocals. However, the tracks standout bridge, where almost the entire backing track filters out before slamming back in with renewed vigour is what truely elevates 花cherie into a league of its own.
6. Love Gun
The transition from heart wrenching balladry to club banger might seem abit jarring, but works excellently in the context of Hocus Pocus 2’s endlessly exciting catalogue of tracks. The exhilarating club beats of Love Gun are another excellent example of Nissy’s versatility as an artist and how he can transform any genre into his own. The tracks verses are outstanding, propelling the song forward thanks to the unrelenting beat and Nissy’s commanding vocals. Though many other songs of this genre may have reverted to overused sample loops for their chorus, Love Gun knows the power of a fully throated chorus, absolutely exploding during this segment into one of the albums best and most euphoric centrepieces. Although its questionable English phrases are a ……. choice.
The albums second ballad, and by far its slowest song, Aquarium may not seem as vital as any of its preceding tracks, but offers many charms of its own. Chief of these is the tracks yearning chorus, which coasts along on a pleasant, yet emotionally effecting note. Aquarium truly excels however thanks to its snowballing nature, as Nissy’s vocals become much more desperate and the production more dramatic over the course of the song. This makes the track an extremely satisfying listen.
8. ハプニング (Happening)
Returning to the delirious retro funk found earlier in the record, Happening is another stellar track within the album ranks. Opening with delayed injections brass reminiscent of Nissy’s also stellar Never Stop from 2015, the track launches into its funk fuelled first verse courtesy of a riveting violin solo. The chorus, although not as instant as some of the albums is acts as an excellent centrepiece before the addicting post-chorus refrain slams in to create Nissy’s hookiest track yet.
9. 17th Kiss
Probably the weakest track on the album, 17th kiss completely revolves around it’s repetitive hook, which at some points can verge on grating. However, everything surrounding the chorus is fantastic, warping Nissy’s voice in interesting ways over a propulsive funk beat. If it weren’t for the lacklustre hook, it would have easily become one of the albums standout tracks.
10. Double Trouble
A fantastic dance track that makes perfect use of vocal effects to create a track thats bursting with character. Powering forward on a fantastic funk beat, Double Trouble is a song that never lets up as it powers towards its fantastic hook. The chorus on this one is one of the albums best, featuring a breezy melody that feels both potent, yet never overwrought or limp. It’s a soaring refrain that combines English and Japanese phrases to create a catchy as hell hook, and one of the albums best tracks.
11. Girl I need
The RnB influenced Girl I Need is the albums most inconsequential track, coasting along on a subdued blend of guitar and percussion. Though it would be easy to write off such a track as late album filler, Girl I Need has one of the albums most breezy choruses that invokes a rare sense of nostalgia rarely found in such tracks. It’s an extremely pleasant listen and easily acts as a late album highlight.
12. 恋す肌 (KoiSuHada)
Though its opening moments may point to something more subdued, KoiSuHada‘s disco funk Is an excellent anything but downbeat. It’s a fantastic album track, that pulses with delirious energy and groove. The inclusion of grandiose strings provide additional anthemic heft to an already fantastic track, but its that multi-refrain chorus that really steals the show. KoiSuHada is a track stuffed to the brim with addictive hooks and a fantastic melody, resulting in another show stopping track. The staccato bridge with delayed blasts of brass is especially riveting.
13. The Days
The albums most joyous and upbeat song, The Days is the perfect track to end the album; acting as an excellent distillation of what makes this album so great. It’s a song that pulses with energy from its opening bars, and one of those songs that just makes you smile uncontrollably. It’s a display of an artist just letting go and having fun, something that we need more in this current musical landscape. Nissy’s effortless vocals are on full display here acting as one of the main reasons why the song works so well. The Days over the top, stomping jubilance might not be for everyone, but it most certainly is for me.
Best Album Tracks
- Don’t Let Me Go
- Love Gun
- Double Trouble
- 恋す肌 (KoiSuHada)