Rock vs. pop

I hate using first-person perspective in a review, but here goes …

My brother and I were comparing notes about Yaida Hitomi’s new album Candlize. He likes it better than her first one, daiya-monde. After listening to daiya-monde again, I still preferred it over Candlize.

Although my brother and I both follow the Japanese music industry with a fine tooth comb, our individual tastes couldn’t be any more disparate.

He listens to mainstream artists — Suzuki Ami, Sakai Noriko, Utada Hikaru. I’m more into rock bands and indies — Number Girl, Cocco, fra-foa.

Our respective backgrounds definitely influenced how we each perceived the album and so might yours.

Candlize is definitely much more of a pop album. The caffeinated exuberance of daiya-monde has been toned down to make room for big hooks.

That’s not to say Yaiko has lost all of her verve — “Buzzstyle” and “Look Back Again” possess every bit of energy as “B’coz I Love You” and “My Sweet Darlin'”.

But it’s the re-recorded versions of “Over the Distance” and “I’m here saying nothing” that shows how much Yaiko has pulled back.

“Over the Distance” was just a toned-down rock ballad, but on the album, it’s a sweeping epic complete with dramatic strings. “I’m here saying nothing” turns into a shade of itself with most the acoustic guitars stripped from the final mix.

Like her first album, Yaiko’s album tracks feel more polished and accessible than her singles.

“Zeitaku na Sekai” has a relentless backbeat and an incredibly catchy chorus. “Te to Namida” starts off with a great verse, then bursts into a loud, triumphant chorus.

“Maze” concludes the album beautifully on a quiet note.

There’s a lot to like about Candlize, but for folks who prefer to hear Yaiko at her most exuberent, the album might be a struggle to warm up to at first.

But eventually, Yaiko’s solid songwriting wins out at the end, and even if she isn’t belting her all, she still leaves a lasting impression.