She’ll take you for a night flight.
While I’ll usually be found saying Shimatani Hitomi has one of the most beautiful voices Japanese pop can offer, I also think Sakamoto Maaya can claim that distinction as well.
Her voice isn’t powerful and passionate, leaving you with a feeling of being lifted; nor is it delicate and light, touching lightly on your ears before dancing away. Rather, it strikes a balance between the two extremes, and the fact that her breath intakes are often left in the final track add a touch of reality to her sound, contrasting against the ethereal or ethnic music she often works with thanks to composer Kanno Yoko.
While night flights can be associated with romance or tiredness, Maaya’s latest mini-album, 30minutes night flight, lacks both elements, instead offering an easy listening sort of sound. As advertised, the album clocks in at half an hour (.02 seconds under, if you’re seriously counting) with six tracks and one reprise, all featuring the same easygoing feel that makes it hard to not enjoy this mini-album. Unless, of course, you have an adversity to slow music. (Don’t worry, I don’t blame you.)
Even better (for me) is that it’s a mini-album – I have a ridiculously low attention span and have problems listening to a whole album in one sitting without falling asleep or wandering away to do something else. And while I’d like to say I appreciate good music – I admit it. I fall asleep at orchestra concerts, even ones in which my friends are performing. Within 10 minutes of the start of the show. Yes, I’m that bad.
With any luck, though, my attention won’t wander about too much here, since there’s only 7 pieces total. So without further verbosity… ladies and gentlemen, prepare for takeoff.
o1/ 30minutes night flight
The titular track is also possibly the best track this disc could’ve been started off with. It opens with a slow, rising sound amidst a harmony of light noise, and then builds into the gentle combination of guitar, drum, and synth melodies that make the music as lovely as it is. Maaya’s vocals shows her control, leaving her voice soft for the verses, but rising in power and volume for the chorus and maintaining her melodic flow throughout. The track ends on an acapella note that also blends into the next song.
o2/ ドリーミング [DREAMING]
Whereas the first song was somewhere nearing New Age, this song is pure elevator ambiance. Wait, that’s not a genre? Hmm… Bossa Nova? Regardless of my ability to distinguish musical styles (or lack thereof), the second track on this mini-album is a calm piece that would accompany a casual date or a walk through a park. While not one of my favorite styles to listen to, it’s a nice way to pass 4 minutes.
o3/ 記憶-there’s no end [Kioku-there’s no end]
Track 3 returns us to the light atmosphere from the first track, but with a more subdued feel. And as before, one of the highlights, if not the highlight of the song, is Maaya’s voice, especially if you don’t like calming songs that aren’t stereotypical ballads or pop.
o4/ 僕たちが恋をする理由 [Bokutachi ga Koi wo Suru Riyuu]
While the fourth song is a sweet lullaby that does happen to enter the realm of stereotypical ballads/soft pop, it does it with gentle grace, featuring just a piano and Maaya’s soft vocals. And I mean soft. It’s a quiet sort of song.
o5/ セツナ [SETSUNA]
After the last song, track 5 is quite a change. Well, it’s a bit of a change from the rest of the album, being an easy guitar pop song. Much like something YUI would release as of her second album, except in a higher register. (Can we tell my attention is wandering already?)
o6/ ユニバース [UNIVERSE]
Another ballad, there’s more power here thanks to a bunch of (what I assume are) violins in addition to the piano, and Maaya follows suit. It almost feels like an entire orchestra is backing her, adding more to the grand and vast feeling this song delivers. (Well, it’s titled UNIVERSE, what did you expect?)
o7/ 30minutes night flight～sound of a new day
The aforementioned reprise takes the music of the first track and gives it more of that rising feel with various synth additions, and the echoed repetitive “30 minutes night flight” add a bit of ethereal quality.
While this would be a great album to fall asleep to, it’s also nice as background music for just relaxing, whether in a chair, a car, or walking about. (Though you probably wouldn’t want to fall asleep with the latter two.) Maaya’s vocals have a charming quality to them that makes this nice to listen to even if you’re not too fond of the musical styles presented here. (Like me.)