My review below - I wanted to take a few days and repeated listens to unpack my feelings about the album, even as they're still crystallizing...
Some general thoughts before I dive deeper below:
- The album sounds like a natural progression from Gyakuyunyuu, Vol. 2
- Does the album live up to the hype? Not quite
- Is the album a solid work? I think so
is an interesting case where the album context elevates virtually all of the singles, yet the album suffers as a whole because of their inclusion. A single like Kemono Yuku Hosomichi
might not be exactly a fan favorite, but it makes sense and fits both the theme and aesthetic of the album. Same with Menukidoori
, which makes for a satisfying climax. A song like Jiyuu-dom
sticks out incredibly however (although the jazz outro flows well into Menukidoori
), and seems to contradict Ringo’s statement that she’d written each single from the past few years with an album context in mind. It’s not Onna no Ko
-level left-field, but who thought this made sense?
This lack of flow exemplified by Jiyuu-dom
, as others have already stated, undermines the album’s cohesion every time it gets interesting and you think it’ll explore the thematic undercurrent at a more meaningful level. Certain songs clearly make sense here, even if they have their detractors: Kakeochi-mono
with its darker sound makes sense; TOKYO
makes sense; the opener and closer do a wonderful job of bookending the album.
It’s not necessarily the transitions at issue - I do think the Ma Cherie/Kakeochi-mono
transition is rather cool - as the track order and inclusion of singles that don’t fit. While Nagaku Mijikai Matsuri
’s presence isn’t as painfully jarring as (again) Jiyuu-dom
, who thought it would fare well preceding Shijou no Jinsei
, one of the most solid rockers here?
(In a larger sense, strange choices like this make me wonder how much creative control Universal has strong-armed from her, but I digress.)
Still, I’d be writing in bad faith if I didn’t mention the album’s stronger aspects. Tori to Hebi to Buta
still intrigues me as it’s steeped in an interesting arrangement and makes heavy use of the Buddhist theme to introduce the album’s lore (even if the rest doesn’t quite live up to the promise). A no Yo no Mon
is an obvious contender for best track: Its refined, relaxed sound reminiscent of recent Megumi Hayashibara collabs showcases Ringo’s sharp composition skills and tasteful use of the Vanya Moneva Choir. Ma Cherie
is quintessential Phase 2-Ringo at her best, even if it’s not groundbreaking territory. Kakeochi-mono
is a solid indication Ringo still has room to experiment with new sounds, and I’ve missed this aggressive energy for some time.
I can’t really say there are any genuinely awful tracks here, just ones that make less sense. Even with all the criticism of Isogaba Maware
I can’t hate it; it’s catchy enough (although slightly incoherent) and reminds me of Phase 1 Jihen with its darker sound. Call it a poor man’s If You Can Touch It
, but I’ll take it over Jiyuu-dom
. Speaking of which, I hate to throw this track under this bus again, but I still can’t say I hate Jiyuu-dom
- it just makes me ask, “Why?”...
Which may be my greatest takeaway from Sandokushi
: I come away with more questions than answers. Why phone in what could’ve been her strongest album since Sanmon Gossip
under the guise of a Buddhist concept? Why include tracks that clearly don’t make sense on the album? Why not channel the creative energy that allowed amazing collabs with Sayuri Ishikawa and Megumi Hayashibara into creating something novel for Ringo's own work? This is really all turning the same wheel though, and isn’t going anywhere new.
What we have here is a skeleton of an album, but without much of the meat to make it full-bodied. I’ll go out on a limb here though and say that I think this is a stronger album
than SUNNY. The first half of that album was very cohesive, but after Irohanihoheto
it falls apart only to culminate in the 5-year-old closer Ariamaru Tomi
. The fact that Sandokushi
has a proper closer does it a lot of good will in my eyes, even if it doesn’t have the same peaks as, say, Hashirewa Number
or JL005-bin de
With that said, I’m not even sure if SUNNY is the proper comparison to make here. This album most reminds me of Daihakken
, which had interesting songs that didn’t live up to the concept of its title (what happened to Discovery?) and mostly represented Tokyo Jihen going out with a whimper. Even so, I’d argue that Sandokushi
is proof that Ringo still has the old ambition and artistic flair within her, even if she’s not quite sure what she has to say.