Pika Pika Fantajin is the third album from Japan's J-pop megastar Kyary Pamyu Pamyu following 2013's reputation cementing Nanda Collection. Famous for her twisted, satirical take on Japan's Kawaii culture, as well as her visually stunning and elaborate music videos; in my opinion she is also one of the world's most entertaining and interesting pop performers.
Pika Pika Fantajin (ピカピカふぁんたじん)
The album's title track and nothing more than a musical intro that acts to build-up anticipation for what is about to come.
Kira Kira Killer (きらきらキラー)
Here we have Kyary Pamyu Pamyu the cheerleader, gleefully shouting and chanting her way through this hyperactive opener and well and truly high-kicking the album open. It's another pop banger that is relentless in its energy. The bleepy synths have been pushed in to overdrive, everyone involved sounds like they've overdosed on E-numbers and Red Bull, while Kyary frantically shouts and sings with irresistible enthusiasm.
Yume no Hajima Ring Ring (ゆめのはじまりんりん -album mix-)
My thoughts on this utterly delightful song can be found elsewhere on this blog. Still very much my favourite Kyary Pamyu Pamyu track and proves that she can perform songs with depth and meaning, a route I would be interested to see her explore more as she matures as a performer. What I do want to say is that this is the album mix and adds more lush synth sounds to the original while also slightly changing the structure. I'm really not sure that it suits the delicate, thoughtful nature of the song to be honest and much prefer the original's more organic sound. I presume this has been re-mixed to be in keeping with the rest of the album's more electronic textures, but every time I listen to it it I think what have they done to this song? If you have both versions of Yume no Hajima Ring Ring I would suggest swapping out the album version for the much more rewarding single version.
Mottai Night Land (もったいないとらんど)
It feels like this song has been around for ages now; and it has, being originally released back in November of last year. The reasons for this is that, as with many J-pop songs, it was commissioned for an advert; which sounds wrong to many Western music fans because we are used to it being the other way round - adverts using pre-existing songs rather than commissioning artists to write a track specifically for an advert. This is classic Kyary Pamyu Pamyu - irresistibly catchy chorus that you will be unable to shake from your head, twinkling and playful pianos and glockenspiels, an overwhelming sense of hyperactivity as if the song is chasing its own tail, and with a bizarre dream-like quality to it all. An all-round, punch-the-air, great pop song.
Serious Hitomi (シリアスひとみ)
Blimey, where did this come from? Seemingly out of nowhere we've got Kyary Pamyu Pamyu channeling the B52s and making them sound like they were from the future. This is a monster of a chiptune powered new-wave pop song. That fuzzed-up guitar riff hits you from the off, it's completely unexpected, and pins you back for what is a rollercoaster of delight that screeches by pumped-up on its own adrenalin. She is dragging that classic 1960s girl group sound, via early 80s new wave, very much in to the 21st century. Surfy, garage rock guitars, wailing synths, and classic pop melodies all collide to make what is undoubtedly one of Kyary Pamyu Pamyu's best songs. It's stretched out to over 5 minutes, but the song just whizzes by it is that frantic; and by the time it's over, all you want to do is give it another spin. You can read an English translation of the lyrics on the Super Happy Awesome blog.
do do pi do (Capsule cover)
A cover of a song by her producer, Capsule. There's a lot going on here, but at the same time there isn't. Pretty one paced, but nevertheless a tight sounding modern dance song. Against a backdrop of 'housey' sounding pianos we hear Kyary gently singing, her vocals flowing in and out of the music, adding texture rather than being pushed up front as they would be on a more straight forward 'pop song'. This sounds like festival time in the robot factory. At first I pegged it as filler, but the more I've listened to it the more it has grown on me, and it's the relative simplicity and subtlety of the repetitive pianos and drifting vocals that make it work and turn it in to one of the best songs on Pika Pika Fantajin. You can listen to original here if you want to compare.
Family Party (ファミリーパーティー -album mix-)
Written specifically for a Japanese anime film it has the feeling of Kyary Pamyu Pamyu-by-numbers unfortunately. Although props must go to the epic sounding 8bit intro. She has performed and will go on to perform better songs. Family Party probably works better within the setting of the film, but as a track on an album that is full of well-crafted and intelligent pop songs, it just doesn't stand up.
Ring a Bell
Following Family Party another blip at the start of the second half of Pika Pika Fantajin. This is Kyary Pamyu Pamyu's first ever song that she's performed entirely in English. And it's a pretty big disappointment. It's evident that her non-Japanese speaking fans don't mind that she doesn't sing in English. They buy her albums, watch her videos and and pack out her shows even though the majority of them can't understand what she is singing. I don't think they are crying out for English language Kyary Pamyu Pamyu songs. But they've been given one anyway, and it's full of simple lyrics about going to the studio and ringing a bell. A pretty pointless exercise that I'm hoping she won't repeat again and uses it as a learning experience.
Tokyo Highway (トーキョーハイウェイ)
A classic sounding Capsule produced song. Slick electronica that bounces along locked in to a mechanized rhythm, with Kyary's high, wistful vocals cutting through the mix and taking the song skywards. It doesn't do a lot, but does what it needs to do, the song has been left plenty of room to breath and move along organically. Euphoric house that shows that Kyary Pamyu Pamyu is perfectly at home fronting slick, modern dance songs just as she is making frantic schizoid pop.
Koi Koi Koi (こいこいこい)
Kyary Pamyu Pamyu has a certain style or genre of novelty song that she does every now and again, and this is one of them. Over twinkling, playful, instrumentation, we essentially have her singing the song title over and over again. It has the feeling of a very eerie children's nursery rhyme. Far removed from her banging electro-pop tracks that she can do so well. Even if Koi Koi Koi doesn't exactly work, it's nice to see her putting her hand at something different and attempting to give the album texture and different styles of song.
Sungoi Aura (すんごいオーラ -album mix-)
Pika Pika Fantajin feels like an album of two halves. Whereas the first 6 songs are among some of Kyary Pamyu Pamyu's best songs and really get the album off to a flying start, the second half is very hit-and-miss, feels patchy, and the album loses its momentum because of this. I wonder though if this was a deliberate ploy: top load the album with the grade-A pop material and then leave the second half to the more odd and peculiar songs for those who don't have the attention span to listen to full albums anymore? Anyway, those people who don't pick their way through the second half are going to miss out on wonderful, playful songs like Sungoi Aura. Parping drums, tin whistles, rolling piano, and another hooky melody. It's a classic Capsule and Kyary Pamyu Pamyu combination and one of their more organic sounding songs in a similar vein to Yume no Hajima Ring Ring. This song isn't immediate and doesn't go out of it's way to smash itself in to your ears, but its gradually unfolding charms eventually win you over.
The final song ends on a hopeful sounding note. Against a military style backing, all marching band drums and whistles, Kyary Pamyu Pamyu sounds victorious and grateful. I have no idea what she is singing about, but it sounds like a thank you note to those of you who have listened to the album and have supported her career up to this point so far. It's elated, positive and poignant end to an album that will go some way to cementing her reputation as one of the world's finest pop stars.