Fall into the gap

If something works in pop music, labels will try to ride its coattails before it becomes passé. (See Hitoto Yoo, Tsukitenshin.)

Utada Hikaru and Onitsuka Chihiro are two of the biggest pop acts in Japan, so it’s not surprise Yorico. sounds a bit like both.

Yorico.’s vocal style calls to mind Utada’s soulful earnestness, while her piano playing attempts to rival Onitsuka’s Carole King leanings.

And while namedropping may be an easy task in describing Yorico., she still possesses enough individuality to go beyond just mere copying.

Yorico.’s debut album, Aizenaha, was a scattered affair, a collection of barely-fleshed out ideas with an occassional token rock track thrown in. Her follow-up mini-album, gap, does a far better job surveying her versatility.

Sure, the six-track release doesn’t give much room to meander, but that length forces Yorico. to focus more on delivering a tight set.

The opening title track has all the sonic flourish of an Utada single. “Tori” spotlights Yorico. as an instrumentalist, something Onitsuka has yet to do. The track does smack a bit much of Enya, however.

“Life”, on the other hand, demonstrates Yorico.’s ability to handle heavy rock — not a single piano to be found in the walls of guitars.

(There seems to be an unofficial rule in J-pop that a pop artist must include one rock track. See Utada’s “Drama”, Hitoto Yoo’s “Inu”, and hal’s Mukai Shuutoku-produced “6kai no Shoojo”.)

The last half of gap features much of the piano balladry that mired Aizenaha but serves to round out Yorico.’s ability here.

“Kiyoraka na Doku” finds Yorico. aided by acoustic guitar and a drummer with an imaginative sense of timbre. Yorico. flies solo on “Nakunatta Chiisana Mori”, while a harp is her only accompaniment on “I love me no Komoriuta”.

If Yorico. can translate the tightness of gap to a full-length album, it’s quite possible she can compete against the top-selling acts she seems to be positioned for.

gap is a promising release from a pop artist with enough sense of herself to transcend comparrison.