When I first went through the discussion after listening to the album, I was thinking about raising points in defense of the album, but I'm not going to do that. What's the point? Listening to it last night, having already heard 90% of the material and going in with no expectations as to how it's all going to come together, I was truly taken aback. This album really has been in the making all this time.
I'm just going to mention two things that come off the top off my head - the songs are in fact arranged symetrically and work in tandem, like all the previously released singles. "Kemono..." and "Menukidoori" make sense as a tandem, as do "Ma Cherie" and "Jiyu-dom". But I'm pretty sure that's just regarded as laziness here.
"Tokyo" is a showtune as much as "Shun" and "Ima" were, only both of those were highly praised and this one was pretty much dismissed immediately, when in fact they're all companion songs.
I feel like genuinely liking a new Shiina Ringo album is unacceptable in this fan community and there's never going to be a truly intriguing conversation, which actually could be had. If I went on with what I like about the album I would feel like a Holocaust denier at this point. thespidereggs mentioned the word "apologists" earlier and that's exactly right. It's crazy.
But one thing I'd genuinely like to hear is what album you all would like to hear. Musically, conceptually, track by track. Because whatever she puts out is just not up to some standard everyone has in their heads, but I'll be damned if I ever heard a real argument about that. I'm interested in constructive criticism and I'm just seeing cheap shots instead. It's been sixteen years since KZK came out and we all had plenty of time to reconcile with the fact that it's not happening again. Kate Bush's The Dreaming and Hounds of Love were once in a lifetime thing too, and I don't see anyone dumping on her for never quite reaching the same level of genius again.
There was a discussion about other musicians earlier too. If you want to hear another true musical chameleon from Japan, listen to everything Akina Nakamori put out between 1985 and 1989. That gives you seven full-length albums, two singles compilations (the second one qualifies as another full-length album by itself) and a bunch of b-sides. Skip the English album, let those records grow on you and thank me later. It's going to keep you busy for months.