Review Summary: While some may get bored from the drawn-out songs, its easy to appreciate some of the simpler moments of Cinema Scope that simply sound really good.
Love is in the air again. Seasons are changing so fast that the windy month of March is practically air-drying the soggy grass from the winter snow, and before you know it, autumn leaves will get covered in snow before you even get the chance to rake them up. People are dropping like flies but you’re perfectly fine with the sense of growth and maturity that your peers surround you with. What’s another dead person but a resting soul free from having to rake leaves? There’s no raking in Heaven. You know what? Why the hell are we raking down here anyway? Let’s just make a huge pile of leaves and jump in it. Or pile them up in front of the swings and then swing into them.
During the fall I sometimes get drunk off the atmosphere. I romanticize things; I minimize thoughts of having to rake leaves and shoveling snow in a few months. Maybe it’s the color of the trees that does it; it’s a pretty scenic time of year if you ask me. All of nature’s ashes fall to the ground, where they dance in the wind and skip around like little people. It’s pretty organic to me, so I associate it with acoustic guitar. One song in particular, Bibio
’s “Bewley In White”, comes to mind often. This fall I looked back at albums I got earlier in the year that I think fit the mood. I played Cecil’s Cinema Scope
during a walk one day through the leaves for a celebration of autumn.
I picked Cinema Scope
that day because I fell in love with it over the summer. It’s a cheery indie/acoustic pop album from the Japanese band Cecil. It’s not a very innovative record, but enjoyable nonetheless. At the time, I fell in love with the vivacious instruments and Yukichi’s simple, swaying vocals. Looking past the simple catchiness, I found an excellent set of pop songs, some sad, some happy, but all of them had a slightly jaded feel to them that really reminded me of fall. Like I said above, the acoustic guitar really makes it a “fall” album for me, but Cinema Scope
’s lightly somber and sleepy melodies take me back to the gentle, carefree falling of the leaves, where they spun in the air before brushing against the ground. It just fit the season so perfectly; I put off listening to it until the leaves stared falling. Listening to Cinema Scope
again, however, I’m not quite as taken with it. I thought it would be perfect
to listen to it during the fall, but as you might know, it’s when you start looking for perfection that the flaws really show.
The thing about Cecil’s music that falls flat is the utter stagnancy of the songs. This is an album that gets you excited with a super catchy chorus in the beginning (and believe me, some of the hooks here are among the catchiest I’ve ever heard), and keeps the rest of the song relatively plain. This is usually done by relying too much on one element of the song (like the chorus) for substance, repeating the catchier parts to s**t, or just going through the motions, resulting in a wishy-washy song that never “blossoms”. It’s pretty disappointing how a song gets you worked up with a gorgeous melody or genuine emotion, and then drifts along for the duration of the song with nothing impressive left in store. The songs tend to twiddle their thumbs throughout overlong track lengths, not having enough new tricks to stay interesting. You’d probably sit through an entire song like “Super Shomin Car” for the catchiness alone, a prime example of one of the record’s overlong songs. It’s a song that repeats itself too often; the first moment (of quite a few) where you feel the song should have ended a minute or two ago. Hell, if most of these songs were cut to half their length, most of the repetition and dragging moments would be alleviated.
There’s good enough variety found here but most songs just follow a simple electronic backdrop with an indie guitar lead. The music is very happy-go-lucky and cheerful, and stays consistent in that regard. Some songs are a bit sadder than others, such as “Kaede Ju” and “Mainichi ni Mahou”, and others, like “Kuroobaa” and “Oyasumi ne”, are more gentle and folksy, but stylistically they don’t deviate much. Having the eclectic genre tag “shibuya-kei”, known for throwing a s**tload of different genres into a melting pot, Cecil’s style is actually a more limited one for the genre. In and of itself, her style provides an enjoyable listening environment, it’s just worth noting that Cecil plays things a bit safe compared to other shibuya-kei artists. The whole album is pretty gentle. It gets bouncy every now and then but it’s a calm listen. If the instruments aren’t calming you down, the vocals will, due to both her constant crooning and the soothing melodies that come with it. Sometimes her vocals are singing a soothing, laid-back melody that counters the lively guitars and drums, like on “Super Shomin Car” and “Jinkou Eisei”. Like in Serani Poji
, basically all of Yukichi’s vocals are croons, but they’re perky nonetheless.
Light electronic elements come into play every now and then too, and work in favor of the album’s cutesy appeal. A couple of songs use electronics more powerfully than others, most noticeably “Kirin” and “Kimi o Sagashi ni”, and the extended track at the end, “Syuusei no Ato”. During the easygoing acoustic track “Mainichi ni Mahou”, you can hear faintly industrial beats churning beneath the gliding vocals way up in the sky, and gives the sensation of being up in an airplane. On most other songs, electronic melodies are pretty minimal, but “Kaede ju” has a real “wooo” of one towards the middle that chimes ooey gooey nostalgia of the sweetest kind. It’s during those moments where the song feels whole that puts the listener in the carefree, vivid mindset the album strives for, and while some may get bored from the drawn-out songs, it gets easy to appreciate some of the simpler moments of Cinema Scope
that simply sound really good.
It doesn’t have what it takes to be perfect, because if you think about it, it sort of uses the s**tty pop formula of using hooks to keep your attention. This isn’t quite the case, however. Cinema Scope
’s biggest flaw is stretching the songs out for too long. Yeah the songs don’t really evolve into anything spectacular, but something like that isn’t needed to make the music blissful, it’s just expected
when you’re thrown 5-minute pop songs your way, especially when they prove so promising within the first few seconds. As a pop record, Cinema Scope
is great, particularly for fans of J-pop. It’s a cheerful, memorable listen, one that’s capable of putting your mind in a happy place if only for a while. Yeah, we have to rake leaves in the fall, but why can’t we find a way to make it fun and pass the time a little bit quicker?