Hai Fidelity Orange Range: Panic Fancy
by Rachael Carothers, Oct 21st 2008
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Despite forming only seven years ago, Orange Range is insanely popular. Besides having songs featured in numerous commercials, they have also provided theme songs for Naruto, Bleach, Fire Boys ~Megumi no Daigo~ (the live action drama based on the manga) and many other shows. Almost all of their albums, as well as many of their singles, to date have topped the Oricon charts. On July 9, 2008, the band released their fifth studio album titled Panic Fancy.
The first track on the album is the slightly weird rock tune “Beat It.” Each instrument seems to be off doing their own thing yet, somehow, they manage to come together well. Perhaps it's the mixture of the various vocal ranges in the chorus that makes the song so catchy. The rest of the song does seem a little bland in comparison and there are parts where the vocals get lost amid the drums. In the middle of the song, the volume is drastically lowered, giving the impression that the song is over. It's a confusing song to use as an opener.
As the opening theme song for the live action drama Hana Zakari no Kimi-tachi e, “Ikenai Taiyo” (“Bad Sun”) is a rather bouncy song. Once again, the chorus is catchy and makes you want to sing along. While there is a slight hint of pop here, the rock side has not been forgotten. The guitar stays with a rougher sound, backed up by the bass and drum. Even after all of this, the song still sounds a bit nostalgic, as if it were coming out of a 1960s beach movie.
“Sekai World Uchinanchu Kikou ~Shiimii-hen~,” the third track, roughly translates into “The Okanawan's World Journal ~Ancestor Edition~.” A tribute to their ancestors, the song is a little spooky, a little pop and a little rap all in one. It is definitely an interesting song, even if the music doesn't seem to really know what it wants to do. Really, that is what makes the song good. If the music was closer to a standard pop tune, it would be boring. Instead, you aren't quite sure what to expect next.
A rock ballad, “Kimi Station” (“Your Station”), appears next. This mixture of sweet softness and hard rock was used as the theme song for the drama “Loss:Time:Life.” The lyrics match the theme of the show, trying to figure out where you want to go in the journey that is life. As a whole, the song isn't anything special. However, as rock ballads go, this is one of the better songs out there.
One-third of the way into the album comes “Soy Sauce VS Petunia Rocks feat. ORANGE RANGE.” Sometimes it seems like the whole point of this album is to confuse the listener. Here we are given three bands singing three different songs in one. It starts off with an older staticky-sounding verse before turning into a sort of hip-hop verse then ending with a pop verse. There isn't any cohesion at all. It really sounds like three completely different songs got mashed together. At the end, it just left me confused.
Our confusion is off-set by the date song, “Sunny Stripe.” Using a very pop instrumental, this is a peppy song that one would listen to while getting ready for an anticipated day out with your boy/girlfriend. The lyrics solidify their cuteness with the use of ‘uki uki,’ an expression of excitement, in the chorus. Too cute!
Surprisingly, the seventh track, “Genjitsu Touhi” (“Escape From Reality”), features a single violin as the lead instrument. It's fairly easy to get lost in the song as the lower-ranged vocals aren't completely off-setting the high-pitched violin sound. As a result, you find yourself either tuning out the vocals, making them mere background noise, or attempting to ignore the semi-screeching violin sound to focus on the vocal. There isn't a single point in the song where one piece compliments the other. Instead, they fight throughout the entire song. I think this may have been avoided if they had used a bit more of the lower range of the violin.
Settling into the second half of the album, the first ending theme to Code Geass: Lelouch of the Rebellion R2, “Shiawase Neiro” (“The Sound of Happiness!”), appears. A little pop, a little hip-hop and a little orchestra, this song has all of the elements to be absolutely epic. While it doesn't quite reach epic proportions, it is a fabulous tune. The orchestra pieces are loud enough to be heard yet they pull back so they aren't overwhelming. Even the pop pieces could have shot themselves over the top but chose to stay low-key instead. Keeping all of the parts from overshadowing the rest is the key that makes this not only a great theme song but a great song overall.
In the ninth spot, we have “5.” One of the longest songs on the album, it is a strange, eclectic combination of sounds. Just when you think the song is over, you are hit with a completely different type of song. Unfortunately, what results is a partially decent song. Separately, each piece is good. Together, it's a big confusing mess.
With perfect lyrics for the show, “O2” was used as the first opening theme song for Code Geass: Lelouch of the Rebellion R2. As the song talks about fighting for your loved ones, the instruments bring a powerful feeling to the tune. It even manages to keep the bounciness that anime theme songs tend to have. While it's probably not the best song on the album, it's definitely not one of the worst.
“Ika Summer” (“Fake Summer”) was made popular as the theme song for the Kanebo Allie makeup commercials. Despite being released as a single in April 2008, the song has a very summer feel to it. Horns mix with the drums and guitars to form a fresh sound, which makes you feel like you should be running through the water on the beach. Of course, it is this pairing of a summer song being released in the spring instead of summer that gives the song its name. It's easy to see why this was picked for a makeup commercial.
Continuing the summer theme, “Taiyou to Himawari!, Mawari Nanka Ki ni Sezu ni…Nazu” (“Sun and Sunflower, Somehow Surround Us Without Realization…It's Summer”) slides into the twelfth slot. Another song with that fresh summertime feeling, there isn't anything that stands out as special. It is a good tune with freely flowing lyrics and appropriate instrumental. The sad part is that, despite being a good song, the album really needs something spectacular to pull it out of mediocrity. This just isn't it.
Breaking out of the fun summertime feelings, the depressing “Fuyumi” (“Beautiful Winter”) comes next. While the slow song has a beautiful sound to it, the lyrics are fairly bleak. They talk about being alone, empty feelings and goodbyes. Sometimes the sad songs are the best. There is a long instrumental introduction, which may or may not bore some people. However, once the vocals chime in, the song comes together to bring the desperately lonely sadness to a head. As a whole, it really is beautiful.
“Doremifa Ship” bounces us back into the perky mood just before the end of the album. An extremely upbeat song about friendship, this would be that special song that is different. The fun lyrics are a little bit rap, a little bit pop and the instruments keep a fast pace that highlights the party feeling. This is the song that you'd tell your friends to listen to in order to turn them into Orange Range fans. Of course, you'd give them the other stuff later but this is the one to start a new fan off with.
The album ends with “Happy Birthday Yeah! Yeah! Wow! Wow!” Another song featuring horns, “Happy Birthday” is upbeat and a good song to use as an ending. I think, of all the songs on the album, this one is my favorite. The horns mix well with the fast paced vocals, punctuating the important parts instead of trying to take over. Also helping are the bongo drums that make a hidden appearance. You can't help but smile while listening to this one.
I am mostly familiar with Orange Range through their anime theme songs. While there are some very good songs on this album, there seem to be far too many bad or mediocre ones to really fall in love with the entire CD. The few pieces that shine just don't seem to have the strength to carry the weight of the album on their shoulders. Far from being terrible, I'm sure the band is capable of much more than what they've given us here.
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