Nobuo Uematsu
Nobuo Uematsu's 10 Short Stories


4.5
superb

Review

by Irving Tan STAFF
November 1st, 2010 | 30 replies | 7,181 views


Release Date: 2010 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Nobuo Uematsu visits his Final Fantasy.

In 1947, renowned English author J.R.R. Tolkien (of Lord of the Rings fame) published a sixty-page essay within the confines of a festschrift volume entitled "Essays Presented to Charles Williams". The essay, entitled "On Fairy Stories", was Tolkien's attempt to explain and defend the genre of fairy tales (or Märchen) - a form of writing which he felt had been gradually and undeservedly relegated to become mere “stories for children” over time. In furthering his defense of the realm of Märchen, Tolkien presents three essential touchstones of the authentic fairy tale: he writes that derivative works of the genre are always a.) presented as wholly credible; b.) a form of escapist pleasure, and c.) wholly capable of providing moral or emotional consolation through their happy ending - an event which he terms "eucatastrophe". I will posit here that compliance to the archetype of Märchen is where Nobuo Uematsu's 10 Short Stories finds its final, eternal niche - even if it is in no way of the form that Tolkien intended to defend back in 1947.

10 Short Stories was initially conceived as a solo project to celebrate Uematsu's 50th birthday, and strongly reflects his (newfound) freedom to decide on the direction of an album of his for the first time. As Uematsu (who is perhaps best-known as the long-time composer of the Final Fantasy video game soundtracks) himself explained during an interview, "I am often expected to create serious classically-oriented works. However, this isn't really my true character and I wanted to create something that reflects my underlying enthusiasm instead. As a result, I took a very light-hearted and comical approach throughout 10 Short Stories". This purposeful intent of creating a ball of cheerful fuzz certainly looms large over several parts of the album: for example, during the final third of opener "Here Comes Conga Boy", a child who sounds like he's got his lips wrapped around the back teeth randomly appears and mumbles, "But how can you be so sure, my pretty?". It's odd to be sure; yet the truly remarkable thing is that the whole affair comes across as being wholly credible, and completely believable.

Apart from the odd guest contribution, Japanese singer CHiCO of ACE is the main person performing singing duties on 10 Short Stories. Her youthful voice is the perfect match for our enchanting ride through Uematsu's wonderland of conga beats, tinkling metal triangles, and Oriental swagger. She transfers from sombre to quirky to wistful without ever missing a beat, imbibing the songs' characters with a sensation that they are actually real - that they're actually there. With her help, we find traces of the escapism that Uematsu has so delicately packaged for us: in songs like "Every New Morning", the music is breathtakingly delicate, with an overall Asian/Celtic/Folk atmosphere gently strumming in the background, and occasional intersperses of the shakuhachi and the shamisen are also thrown into the mix to add some Japanese flavor. Ultimately, it all fits in very well with the everlasting desire for simplicity in every day. Then there are the more poignant numbers: take "The Incredible Flying Natsuhiko" - a tale of two star-crossed lovers separated by the length of the Milky Way. Perhaps the most solemnly introduced tale of the lot, our promised eucatastrophe finally comes in the middle of the story (in trademark Uematsu silliness) when we are told that our story's tragic hero has fashioned a "shiny, new spaceship" which will allow him to see his beloved "each and every day (and night!)". Yet again Uematsu and Tolkien find themselves in parallel circuits.

It should also be noted somewhere that this album does the world's perception of Japanese culture no favours, filled as it is to the brim with spasms of cuteness and a method of delivery that constantly threatens the usage of Anomalous Female Teenage Handwriting as subtitles. Indeed, the effect is so strong that at times, you half-expect a tambourine-wielding Hello Kitty to crawl out of your speakers a la The Ring. In addition, if one goes for the physical version of 10 Short Stories (I didn't), one will become the proud owner of an enhanced CD that contains animated videos to accompany each song; I've watched one, and the characters therein are barely more than sombrero-wearing potatoes with over-enthusiastic grins, with what looks like a fighting yam in the background.

Clearly, weird sh*t still comes from Japan.

But ultimately, how does 10 Short Stories fare as an album? Now, I am not entirely sure whether Nobuo Uematsu is in any way familiar with Tolkien's landmark essay, but it almost seems as if he was building this whole album up to finish in tandem with Tolkien's storied conclusion. In other words, 10 Short Stories is that rare thing - the oddity in your CD cabinet that you pick up and plonk in the player every time you need to be whisked away to a far-off land; it may just be the most delightful thing you hear all year - it is your personal eucatastrophy. The album captures the spirit of Tolkien's plea so perfectly that it may very well be the leading candidate to become the official score for "On Fairy Stories", should Hollywood ever decide to port it to the silver screen - so similar the two works are in fronting the three touchstones of Märchen.

The grizzly mane that Peter Jackson calls his facial hair has just turned my way, ears cocked and looking all sprightly -

I'd best get out of the way.

Author's Note: This review may also be found on my personal blog (at the address http://snuffleupagush.wordpress.com/2010/11/01/whistle-a-song-ill-sing-along/).



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user ratings (2)
Chart.
4
excellent

Comments:Add a Comment 
Irving
Staff Reviewer
November 1st 2010



7136 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Number 10. Double-figures for me, finally.

The review is long, yes I know, but I wanted to try out something new with my style of writing. Also, Uematsu needs more attention on this here site.

I'd very much appreciate criticism and comments. Please feel free to let yourself loose on this review.

Cheers!

maidenpmcc
November 1st 2010



1424 Comments


Pretty good review, even though it's long. It's very descriptive, pos'd.

Check out my review, it's on the homepage - Fightstar Grand Unification. It's about 350 words shorter than this review so it's also long enough.

Irving
Staff Reviewer
November 1st 2010



7136 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Be right with you - I'm trying to shorten this review a little for now.

Hang on =)

SowingSeason
Staff Reviewer
November 1st 2010



15332 Comments


great review; after a while I wasn't sure where that intro was going but you tied it in nicely. i pos'd

Digging: Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds - Abattoir Blues/The Lyre of Orpheus

Irving
Staff Reviewer
November 1st 2010



7136 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Thanks man. Mind my asking how far you had to read to have that intro finally make sense?

Irving
Staff Reviewer
November 1st 2010



7136 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

The more I read into it, the more laboured this review feels =(

Jebull
November 2nd 2010



1340 Comments


Hmmm. I might have to get this. Always a big fan of his work. Oh and nice review man!

Irving
Staff Reviewer
November 2nd 2010



7136 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

@ Jebull: Thanks a lot! Glad the review made you want to pick up the CD - I certainly enjoyed listening to it, and am quite sure you will too =)

For your reference, there are three versions out there: English, Japanese, and karaoke/instrumental. Although it's never really explicitly said, this review is on the Japanese version - you should be aware that there are several options though yeah?

Irving
Staff Reviewer
November 2nd 2010



7136 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Public thank you to Xenophanes and SowingSeason: your respective criticisms (especially on the intro) helped a lot; I am very appreciative for that. I certainly feel that the review struggles less now, so thanks guys =)

And now it's your turn, O rest of Sputnik!

Jebull
November 2nd 2010



1340 Comments


Thank you! :D I'll keep that in mind. You are awesomely helpful by the way. I'll definitely try to check out your reviews from now on.

Liberi Fatali
Emeritus
November 2nd 2010



1588 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Oooh a Nobuo review, praise be to you sir!

McCopper
November 2nd 2010



1367 Comments


Can't wait to listen to this.
Nice review, pos'd.

omnipanzer
November 2nd 2010



21418 Comments


This album is not my bag but I really enjoyed the review.

Digging: Grant Lee Buffalo - Fuzzy

Irving
Staff Reviewer
November 2nd 2010



7136 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

@ Jebull: Glad to be of service! I hope to see you on my review comment boxes more often! =)

Enjoy 10 Short Stories - I sure did!

@ LiberiFatali: YUP! :D If all goes well, there will be another one coming up in the next couple of weeks (wish it could be sooner but I'm up to my ears in schoolwork LOL). In any case, I hope the review does the man + this album justice though; let me know if you see anything that could be improved on yeah?

And finally, Nobuo needs more love on this website!

@ McCopper: Thanks! Do let me know if there's anything on the review that could be improved - am always on the lookout for new ways to improve my writing.

acorncheese
November 2nd 2010



7119 Comments


I need this.

Irving
Staff Reviewer
November 2nd 2010



7136 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

@ Omnipanzer: Sorry to hear about the album not being to your liking. What did you not like about it though? I'm curious.

Thanks for the compliments on the review - do tell me if you spot any errors/improvements that could be worked on yeah?

@ acorncheese: You do indeed =) EVERYONE DOES!

Xenophanes
Emeritus
November 2nd 2010



10585 Comments


I should really get this....and like I said, superb review.

Digging: United Nations - The Next Four Years

Irving
Staff Reviewer
November 2nd 2010



7136 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Are you a fan of Nobuo, Xeno?

Burn2Burn
November 2nd 2010



2378 Comments


Really good review man, very descriptive and thorough.

Irving
Staff Reviewer
November 2nd 2010



7136 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Thanks Burn2Burn - I appreciate it. Have you heard the album yourself?

Do let me know if there's anything in here which you feel could be improved yeah?



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