By Paris365 on April 14, 2016

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Universal Music

It's hard to believe, but Cosmic Explorer is Perfume's fifth album already. This time around, they went three years in between albums, their last one being Level 3 in 2013. Of course, it's not like they ever went away. They've continued releasing singles, the biggest gap being nearly a year between "Sweet Refrain," which came out in November of 2013, and July 2014's "Cling Cling." The other singles from the album were the double A-side "Relax in the City" with "Pick Me Up," "Star Train" and "Flash." All of these songs appear on Cosmic Explorer, but writer/producer Yasutaka Nakata of Capsule remixed them and sometimes altogether re-wrote them.

With many of Perfume's past releases, I felt like we were listening to Capsule, just with different vocalists. They just sounded so much like Capsule. If you made a mix of their songs and Capsule songs and asked someone to pick out all of the Capsule songs they'd probably laugh and say that they all are. Of course, Capsule are highly successful and Nakata is thought of as one of Japan's best songwriters and producers, so there's the whole "if it's not broke, don't fix it argument." To that end, the first four Capsule albums basically adhered to that rule. Cosmic Explorer is different though, at least to my ears. This time around, Nakata employs heavier doses of synth and gives the music a futuristic, sci-fi kind of vibe, which I'm sure is why it's called Cosmic Explorer. I almost feel like I'm listening to pop music from another planet when I listen to songs like "Next Stage With You" and "Story." In fact, the first minute and a half of "Story" sound like a sci-fi movie, like you're hearing sounds from inside a spaceship. It could be cheesy, but I don't find it to be that way, personally. Cheesy would be if they made an album that sounded like most other J-Pop with synthesized strings that sound like shit, wimpy beats and lame guitar solos that sound like they're sampled from an '80s hair metal album. Don't get me wrong, I like plenty of that mainstream J-Pop music, but after a while so many of the songs sound so much alike that it's like the same person is writing and producing all of them. So, I have to admire it when artists think outside the box.

If there's one problem with Cosmic Explorer, it's that there are lengthy songs where we barely hear the girls sing. It's as if Nakata just wrote songs and then tossed in some snippets of the girls singing as an afterthought, which makes the long album -- 14 tracks -- feel even longer than it should. Still, that's a very small complaint. Besides, people who don't like the songs where there isn't as much of the girls can easily make a playlist and get rid of those tracks. Nothing to get upset about.

I enjoy this album from start to finish, so it's hard to pick favorites, but I'm quite fond of how "Next Stage With You" sounds like an artist from the future trying to combine '80s videogame sounds with '70s disco beats. So delicious, and it features some of the girls' cutest vocals on the album. I also love the handclaps and keyboards of "Baby Face," one of the songs that wasn't a single. Speaking of which, I love how the singles sound here. Instead of sounding like they were all from different releases, the way Nakata has changed them to make them blend with the overall sound of the album is brilliant. Plus, if you already bought the singles it gives you something different, so you don't feel like you're buying the exact same songs over again. Ultimately, it's an album that is sure to please you if you've ever been a Perfume fan. But, if they're new to you, it will make you fall in love with them. With Nakata's music behind them, they're downright irresistible. -Michael McCarthy

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