Higurashi Aiha’s work with Seagull Screaming Kiss Her Kiss Her can be described with a number of similar-sounding adjectives.
Gritty, rough, deadpan, punk.
“Tender” isn’t one of them.
So perhaps that’s why Higurashi opted to collect her most introspective writing for her debut solo album, Born Beautiful.
The cover of the album is somewhat sarcastic — Higurashi’s lifeless expression on a magazine cover obscured by a paperweight. But the title of the album makes for a good description of its contents.
Higurashi still dashes off a fair amount of swagger — “Cherry (Sakura no Saku Koro)” finds the songwriter giving a breathy performance over a classic rock-styled riff. And with a few more guitars, “Koibito” could have been a serviceable Seagull Screaming Kiss Her Kiss Her song.
But the majority of the album is definitely scaled back from the ambition of her main project. The shades of rock ‘n’ roll history cast a shadow over most of the songs.
There’s almost a bubblegum pop quality to the pre-release singles, “New Life” and “Fantasy”, but it’s a quality imbued with the world weariness intrinsic to Higurashi’s voice.
On “I’m your girl”, her performance falls somewhere between rock ‘n’ roll bad girl and blues storyteller.
Other tracks find Higurashi exploring a more confessional tone. “A rhythm like my heart beat” is already a telling title — the lyrics, in English, follow suite.
“Sin” finishes the album with a series of guitar overtones and sparse lyrics — nothing more.
With Seagull Screaming Kiss Her Kiss Her, Higurashi asserted herself as a rocker, a guitar-slinging woman who could play as loud as the best of them.
Born Beautiful pretty much dashes those expectations. Here, she asserts herself as a songwriter, one with enough nuance to rock when she has to but whisper when it’s suitable.