I first started paying attention to Natsuki Kiyoura after hearing her sing the OP to Sketchbook, and I haven’t gotten tired of her voice since then. Maybe because of that song itself, I like to think of her singing as soothing, regardless of how she’s been using it since, for power, for fun, or for awesome. That quality is something that I don’t usually hear in people who perform OP/EDs for anime, so it was captivating for me, especially after hearing the OP from Spice and Wolf for the first time.
I also haven’t met a song of hers that I haven’t liked in some capacity from the singles that she’s released. So after hearing from omo that she recently released her first album which also happened to contain a lot of her singles from anime, I jumped at the chance, bought the album, and decided to write about it (or at least my fanboying of her). I also know that the people that composed or produced some of the songs were a big part of what made them special. But her voice was what got me more than anything else. It was definitely at least 40-something bucks worth my time.
十九色 – Jyukuiro
- A lilting trio in ¾ time with a piano starting things off, joined by a flute (played by the artist!) and finally Natsumi’s vocalizations that provides a solid intro to both Natsumi’s soft, flowing voice and the rest of the CD. I enjoyed how the contrasting melodies from each part built upon each other as the song progresses, growing in complexity only to fade of to the starting piano melody and Natsumi’s vocals.
旅の途中 – Tabi no Tochuu
- As the OP of Spice and Wolf, this is the song that I think put her on the map to many people, and my favorite OP/ED of 2008. From an earlier post: “It has a simple, waltz-like melody (helps that the song has a ¾ time signature, or so I’d like to think) that I usually catch myself singing along with as it plays, especially at the chorus with the male accompaniment.” Still going strong, and I still want to go on a journey with Horo and Lawrences because of it.
アノネデモネ – Ano ne Demo ne
- As omo noted, this is the track produced with Yoko Kanno, and this is pretty J-Pop-ish. As omo also noted, in a way, it sounds at times as if it’s early Maaya Sakamoto singing the song rather than Natsumi. Maybe that’s where all the CDJapan comparison between the two was made. It’s not a bad song, but I know that Kanno can do better than this, and it’s an interesting “style change” for Natsumi that she deals with well, but it doesn’t seem like her home element. Still wish they put Obento Wo Tabenagara in the album rather than this. That one was d(“d). So much so that I listened to that song immediately after this one. 😛
銀色の悲しみ – Giniro no Kanashimi
- A more pop-rockish song that had a “let’s get moving!” sort of feel to it, but it didn’t really do too much for me. Maybe it was the talking in the middle that did it. It was sad alright.
ネバーランド – Neverland
- AKA Keroro Gunsou (Sgt. Frog) ED 12 B-side. When I first heard the song when the single was released, I liked how simple the song was, with it’s soft rock feel, and I enjoyed the brief key change in her vocals some measures before you head to the refrain of the song, as well as the end of the refrain itself.
虹色ポケット – Niji Iro Pocket
- The ending of Sasameki Koto. I think this is Natsumi at her playful best, and the music, starting off with what sounds like a childish march and continuing with fun strings, handclapping, the tambourine in the background and the electric guitar instrumental break, helps the same way. I especially enjoy the refrain with swinging violins and Natsumi singing the chorus in ascending and descending scales. It’s a jamming song, if that makes any sense.
悲しいほど青く – Kanashii Hodo Aoku (album version)
- The opening of Sasameki Koto. Differs from the show version by starting Natsumi off with a just a piano background instead of the string one, before adding the instruments in. I prefer the latter, but it doesn’t change much of this song to me. This song has her at what I think is her best, with her vocals being relaxing, comforting and flowing with the music. I always love the brief instrumental break just before the end of the song, as well as right before Natsumi repeats the last line of the song with what I call a music “wait a minute, the song’s not over yet” two-measure set.
- Ristorante Paradiso theme song for episode 3. A jazzy piece in 6/8 time that reminds of something that say, Mio Isayama would sing, but Natsumi nicely works it. Another one that I think has her in a playful mood.
風さがし – Kaze Sagashi (full-colored samba mix)
- The opening in Sketchbook, albeit if the instrumental during the chorus part was expanded to make the entire melody of the song. The original is my favorite of her songs, but this reworking of it takes the pace from just relaxing under the sun lying on the grass, but relaxing under the sun at the beach with not a care in the world, as does a fun job of it. Either way, it makes for some fun times to me.
僕らの合言葉 – Bokura no Ai Kotoba
- AKA Keroro Gunsou (Sgt. Frog) ED 12. A “having fun in the sun on the beach” type of song, and another playful type of song for 723. The handclaps and ukulele on the intro are infectious, and it’s hard not to get a good vibe from the song.
七色 – Nanairo
- Another soft rock song, that sounds sort of if “Neverland” had a bit more “punch” to it. The type of song that you could see as a closer to many a CD of this type of music, with it’s hopeful, happy tone, and the general “let’s wrap things up with a nice little jam” feeling to it. Of course, that honor goes to…
Midnight Love Call
- Which is a type of song I could hear late night at one of those bars from a couple of decades ago. Or to put it better, something like Choro Club playing one of their more uptempo songs (which still isn’t really that uptempo) as a background to Natsumi putting the lights out on another long, eventful, but fun night with her vocals of subdued soul (yes, I’m embellishing a bit, but I love her work that much). :3
The extra DVD with the studio performance from the Limited Edition version of the album featured “Kaze Sagashi”, “Tabi no Tochuu”, “Neverland” and “Bokura no Ai Kotoba” with Natsumi singing and playing the flute and piano with an acoustic guitar and one-man percussionist accompaniment. It was fun to hear alternate versions of some of my favorite songs from her, as well as to see a small figurine of Keroro on her piano as she played it while singing “Neverland”.
Overall, this definitely is a CD that’s a very nice debut effort for Natsumi Kiyoura, and I don’t regret buying this album at all. I would have liked some other B-sides from her singles though, such as “Sugu Soko ni Mieru Mono” from her Sasameki Koto OP/ED single (more Natsumi in her flowing element with piano), or “Natsu no Kioku” from the “Kaze Sagashi” single (a much more upbeat, rocking Natsumi that works well), but I don’t really have any problems with what was on this album. I only hope that I’ll be hearing more songs from 723 in the near future. And since she’s only 19 right now (may that be where the title comes from?), hopefully it will be a long future. 🙂