By Paris365 on December 12, 2012

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Toshiba EMI

Singer/songwriter Kominami Yasuha's new mini-album is called 121212, in other words 12/12/12, which happens to be the date of the mini-album's release. Better still, it even features a song called "12月12日," or, as translated by Google, "December 12, 2012." I imagine that even the Mayans couldn't pull off -- or predict -- something this calculated. That said, calculated isn't a word I'd use to describe her music. On the contrary, it's raw, bleeding and rough-around-the-edges and that's part of her charm.

121212 gets off to a strong start with "視聴覚教室" (Google: "Audio-Visual Classroom"). It begins with Kominami simply singing along to one of her signature guitar riffs before the furious drums and thudding bass kick in. The tempo here is super-fast -- enough to rival AKB48 -- though what we have here is anything but pop. Call it rock, or call it punk, or call it metal -- none of these genre distinctions would be wrong. And the fact that it could be categorized as any of the above is one of the reasons it's so incredible. But Kominami's uber-passionate vocals are what really make it a winner. One second she's singing clearly, albeit with a distinct edge, the next minute she's screaming. Literally, screaming. Where other artists might go into falsetto mode, Kominami simply screams. And it's wonderful. It's gusty, emotive -- it's a battle cry. The same could also be said of her blaring, gritty guitars, which do something of a primal scream of their own. "「善悪の彼岸」" (Google: "Beyond Good And Evil") is just as loud and heavy, but she truly unleashes her inner monster here, the song having something of a growling vitriol, especially during the chorus, which is chock full of screaming and distortion. I don't understand a word of Japanese, but her emotional singing still hits me like a full on assault. It's easy to imagine that her lyrics are a peek into her intimate inner monologue. She continues to bare her soul, unleashing furious guitar chords and agitated vocals, on "絶望に棲むキダルト達へ/ 小南泰葉" (Google: "Kidaruto To Us Living In Despair"), though it begins with her singing softly accompanied by an acoustic guitar before the grunge-y guitars, bass and drums enter the picture.

There are also a couple of delightfully mellow tunes on 121212. "お蜜会/ 小南泰葉“秘蜜の花薗”蜜" (Google: "Meeting Your Honey"), the sole song that Kominami used a co-writer on, is mostly just her and her acoustic guitar, though there's a bit of what sounds like an accordion for less than a minute about halfway through the song. Instead of sounding like an undefeatable force to be reckoned with, her vocals sound pretty and even a bit fragile here. It's not any less emotive than the rock/punk/metal songs, it simply displays other emotions, revealing what a colorful artist she is. Finally, "12月12日" is a gorgeous ballad mostly consisting of piano and Kominami's vocals. Occasionally, she does scream a word or two, but the sentiment would seem to be sadness, certainly not a call to arms. Here, her enchanting, narcotic vocals call to mind Hitomi Yaida and the brutally honest Italian rocker Carmen Consoli.

121212 is easily one of the best releases I've heard all year. I predict that Kominami will soon become immensely popular; one can easily imagine her being the next Anna Tsuchiya. As long as she continues to wear her heart on her sleeve, it's obvious that more and more listeners are going to be drawn to her invigorating, sonorous music. -Michael McCarthy

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