It has been about a year since Miho emerged as a solo idol and she has had our attention pretty much from the start. At first with her exuberant lives and then with her exceptional debut single, “Doubt”, the Idol Underworld-produced artist quickly established a unique presence with her signature smoky voice, leather jacket and focus on yasashii (kindness). We were very excited to be provided a preview copy of Miho’s first full-length album , LIFE, which will be released this Saturday, June 25th.
Replay value is one of the key benchmarks of album quality, and I can honestly say that I’ve been listening to LIFE just about every day since I got my hands on it a couple of weeks ago. There was a chat earlier this week on the Homicidols Discord server about the lost art of the cohesive album. It was a timely discussion as LIFE proves to be the rare recent exception of a record that tells a complete emotional story. From the instrumental opener to the hopeful closing track, the album takes the listener on a contemplative and sometimes turbulent journey through Miho’s view of the world.
The unifying elements holding the story of LIFE together are Miho’s raw, restrained voice and the vision she expresses through her lyrics. Miho’s vocal delivery has an understated urgency, compelling a close listen and making the surprising lifts or drops into emotional territory unexpected and all the more impactful. The lyrics that she has crafted for each song are remarkably heartfelt and effectively paint a picture of her pensive yet optimistic worldview.
The standout tracks on LIFE include “Doubt”, Miho’s debut single from last fall.
Miho’s vocals are deviously playful here, complemented well by music that is alternatively reminiscent of vintage The Cure and late stage Yukueshirezutsurezure.
“Knife of Words” is a haunting tune where Miho sings about the cruelty that can be inflicted by people online. It’s a blackgaze song but with almost post punk percussion, as if ALCEST invited Tré Cool to sit in on drums. The effect adds an urgent restlessness to the otherwise contemplative piece.
Miho shows her greatest vocal range in “Come On”, which is also the most musically complex tune on the album. Beginning with grunge guitar riffs the song ascends into ethereal shoegaze metal territory until, just as you feel the song melting into those dark, insubstantive clouds, garage punk drumbeats drop pulling it all back down to earth. This grounded nature is an essential element of the album as a whole as it navigates both musical and thematic complexities.
With lyrics contemplating the loss of her father, “Ito” is, appropriately, Miho’s most emotionally raw track on the album. The song starts out playing in noise elements but quickly pares down to a restrained post punk melody allowing Miho to take center stage. As the song progresses, her singing is poignantly paired by male vocals (provided by Dai of ZEROSHIKI) representing her father’s voice. The song gradually grows more complex with multiple breaks and tempo shifts turning into an artful representation of the jumbled remembrance of intense loss.
The final track, “Good Day”, is the closest Miho gets to a traditional idol song on the album. The tune is composed by Mr. Joe whose discography includes songs for AKB48 and NOGIZAKA46. The upbeat J-rock piece brims with wistful hope and provides an optimistic closer to an album that travels some difficult terrain. The tune is a perfect finale to leave us with a reminder of Miho’s positive outlook despite the sometimes painful challenges of life.
In conclusion, Miho’s LIFE is one of my favorite albums of 2022. It is adventurous, both musically and emotionally. Miho has clearly put a lot of her genuine self into this album and shows us an intimately vulnerable side that we don’t often see from idols.
LIFE will be released on June 25th. The album is currently available for pre-order with a bunch of different benefit options from Idol Underworld.
Tickets to view Miho’s record release party livestream with Kankaku Logic, Diablevoix, Tokyo Pien, Hana and more are also available.
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