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Friday, Sept. 15, 2006


Yuki "Wave"

With her Minnie-Mouse-on-helium voice and overt Bjorkisms, there's no denying that Yuki is one of J-pop's most colorful stars. But after her success fronting Judy And Mary, Yuki's solo sound was far from consistent until, after two dodgy albums, she hit her stride with 2005's "Joy," an out-and-out pop record with dynamic songs perfectly suited to her weird, squeaks-to-moans range.

Unfortunately, "Wave" fails to live up to its predecessor. While there are some great songs, several of which have already been chart hits, the album lacks anything truly unforgettable, and many of the tracks feel more like playgrounds for Yuki's gymnastic larynx to run riot in. The saving grace is the powerful imagery created by her lyrics.

"Fugainaiya" paints a bleak autumnal picture as she sings of pain, hatred and cowardice over a surprisingly jaunty guitar backing. Better still, "Yorokobi No Tane" drips with optimism as two people overcome tragedy -- clearly in reference to Yuki's loss of her first baby to SIDS and to her recent second shot at motherhood. Musically, the standouts include "Melancholinista," all disco stomp and handclaps, and "Hey! You!," which flirts with clipped, electronic new wave.

Overall, it's a good album, if not a great one. In the face of dreadful adversity, Yuki's come out on top -- and more power to her.

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