A New Story / Kanon
|Composed by||Kanon / Кунихико Мурай / Нобуо Уэмацу|
|Arranged by||ACE+ / Kanon / Саори Кобаяси / Цутому Нарита / Ёситака Судзуки|
|Published by||Sony Music Japan International Inc.|
|Release type||Game Soundtrack - Official Release|
|Format||1 Digital - 11 tracks|
|Release date||April 27, 2011|
Few vocalists can hope to achieve anything close in sound to Kanon's voice. Clear and never muddied by overuse of vibrato, her vocals recall medieval liturgical singing filtered through a modern lens. Also, Enya. Of equal impressiveness to her singing voice is Kanon's dual-fluency in English and Japanese which leads to a flawless, and welcome, native pronunciation of both. Earlier this year, Kanon developed her collaboration with Nobuo Uematsu on Mistwalker Studio's The Last Story after a chance meeting during their independent work on Guin Saga.
With this in mind, it is strange that Kanon's name is not readily known to many fans of music from the Final Fantasy series outside of Japan. This began to change in April 2011 when Kanon took the stage in Sydney with Distant Worlds to sing "Suteki Da Ne" and "Memoro de la Stono ~ Distant Worlds". With the release of A New Story, Kanon's name should become even more well known to fans of the franchise, but whether it is in a positive light or not remains to be seen.
A New Story opens with the familiar Final Fantasy harp theme, the "Prelude", reimagined as a new age vocal piece. Kanon's singing replaces the woodwind melody normally heard over the harp, and is a very welcome addition despite some issues at the 2:00 mark when the syncopation stops just short of phasing apart. The lyrics added to the prelude are generic enough to be applicable to any Final Fantasy game ("Come take my hand / Let me hold you / There'll be no more sadness / Or Sorrow") or nearly anything else for that matter, which is a terrific way to use an iconic theme from the Final Fantasy franchise to reach out to fans of new age music. It's Final Fantasy music that you can get a massage to.
The "Final Fantasy Theme" follows next, and is every bit as evocative as its original 1987 incarnation was. The lyrics again are generic but encouraging, fitting perfectly with the mood of the cutscene from Final Fantasy when the Warriors of Light cross the bridge north of Cornelia. It is simply amazing to hear how well this theme, which has come to define the franchise, has endured over the past 24 years.
Two additional Final Fantasy pieces are featured on A New Story: Final Fantasy VIII's "Eyes on Me" and Final Fantasy VI's "Searching for Friends". "Eyes on Me" is a welcome addition to the album, being noticeably absent from soundtrack release currently available on iTunes, and recalls the lounge ballad feel of the original Faye Wong version but softens it into a more traditional love song. "Searching for Friends" is an interesting choice to represent Final Fantasy VI, and while I love the melody and Kanon's tonal singing at the beginning of the piece, the sheer amount of words shoehorned into the melody made the lyrics more distracting than inspiring.
Outside of music from Final Fantasy installments, A New Story features music from other popular game and anime titles. "Guin Saga Medley" introduces new elements to the album, featuring a synthesized harpsichord and a more full orchestral accompaniment. Still, it is as much ambient as it is epic losing its harsher edge about three minutes in when the lyrics begin to alternate between English and Japanese, once again highlighting Kanon's fluency in both languages. This is heard again on "Theme from The Last Story" which also features some of the most enjoyable tonal singing on the album.
There is one unexpected, and perhaps not altogether welcome, aspect of A New Story and that is the strong Christian themes behind "You are the Light" and "Blessed by the Light". Although both rather impressive musical tracks in their own right, the unequivocally religious nature of the lyrics ("You gave your life / To save our souls / You wash away all the sins / And make us new again") may alienate a great many listeners. "Shalom" shares the same message and musical style of the two "Light" pieces on A New Story but is predominantly sung in Japanese, which obfuscates its religious overtones to the majority of the international audience.
"Wings to Fly", despite its title, is not a religious-themed piece and is the closest thing to a single available on A New Story. As such, it is somewhat stylistically isolated from the rest of the tracks in terms of production and vocal stylings although it finds a companion piece in "Far Away" which shares a similar Enya-meets-Celine-Dion sort of feel. "Far Away" also highlights Kanon's higher register which shines through again on "Important Thing". Of these three freestanding tracks, I found "Important Thing" eminently enjoyable for its staccato Japanese lyrics, although "Far Away" would be my favorite, if only as a guilty pleasure.
At once ambient and progressive, A New Story is a masterstroke of new age music and will be a highly sought after companion album by fans of Nobuo Uematsu's music. The religious imagery present in a few of the songs may be a bit off-putting to some, but not every track needs to be imported into one's iTunes library for the album to be a worthwhile purchase. Kanon establishes herself as a formidable and versatile vocalist in A New Story and I cannot wait to hear her next release... provided that it isn't a religious rock album.
You Are The Light
Eyes On Me
Guin Saga Medley
Nakama Wo Motomete
Blessed By The Light
Wings to Fly (Remix version)