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Friday, July 24, 2009



Kimura Kaela "Hocus Pocus"

Is Kimura Kaela trying to bag Harry Potter as a boyfriend? First she dresses up as a pixie for the sleeve of 2006's single "Magic Music"; then a year later she names a single after Samantha Stephens, the foxy sorceress from American sitcom "Bewitched"; and now this, her fifth album, bears the name "Hocus Pocus." Bono got an honorary degree last year from Keio University; Kimura must be hoping to get hers from Hogwarts.

News photo

Perhaps her most impressive magic trick is making consistently engaging mainstream music. Her style — both sonically and visually — flits restlessly between singles, from rock chick to electronic chic and more. The mainstays are her melodies (simple but unusual), her voice (a natural set of pipes through which she belts with charm), the production (always tight and left of center) and her sales (a lot).

If you can ignore the fact that six of the 14 songs have been released as singles or B-sides already, "Hocus Pocus" is more solid than 2007's "Scratch." Right from the unexpected bagpipe intro (a reflection on her British father's roots?), it's an unpredictable and fun ride.

Standouts include the playful melody and background screams on "Otome Echo"; and the title track's shamisen samples and downright bonkers production. Since it's a J-pop album, it is of course infected with ballads, but the mock-elegant harpsichord line on "Butterfly" and OTT rhythm and horns on "Season" mean at least a couple of them are enjoyable.

It's not quite spellbinding, but it is a satisfying album. Here's betting that the next one features songs about caldrons and the torment of someone dropping a house on you and nicking your ruby slippers.

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