It's always difficult for me to figure out if I like an album or not. Usually, I'll listen to something, and it'll have no effect on me, and I'll happen to hear it again later, and again, and eventually I'll realize that my life is incomplete without it.
So it was with Sun Flower Field's "Ortensia"
, which I put on my music player on a whim and listened to a couple of times without a note of it sticking in my head. I can't even figure out when I decided I really liked it, but I do, and even now I'm not totally sure why.
Start with the easy stuff. It's rock, or maybe "hard pop", a genre which I'm defining by its catchy pop melodies and crunchy drums and electric guitar. To be honest, the genre's among my guilty pleasures.
It doesn't hurt that the album starts immediately with an "Ancient Temple" arrange, one of my favorite tracks (if only because I've thrown a lot of lives at Youmu.) And you can hear the style from the first beats -- guitar pop, radio-friendly, fun snare drum. mineko does the vocals for the entire album, and her voice is perfect for Youmu -- a little slight, but determined.
The second track's a "Nuclear Fusion" arrange, and it's much harder, as you might expect. You know how Nuclear Fusion has those bits where the melody just seems to pound at you? You know, when Okuu's doing her attacks and the klaxons are going crazy? It's got that. But the song also flows into the melodic bits from the original -- the bits that I associate with her normal attacks, where she dashes across the screen and streams bullets at you. It's not my favorite track on the album, but it's good. Both in itself and as a new perspective on the original track.
It's funny. I like Touhou arrange music a lot, but for me it's always best seen through the lens of the games themselves. Like I said, that's why I like Youmu's theme so much. For me, Touhou arranges are most worthwhile when they make me reflect on how I felt when hearing the tune in game. If you like the Touhou fan universe but haven't played it, or haven't played it much, I really recommend throwing a few dozen hours at it.
Next track is 「河童ツイッター」, an arrange of Nitori's theme. Now this one's interesting. Really prominent guitars and a lulling rhythm -- just the thing for a river kappa. Some would call it repetitive, but it really works for me. mineko sounds like she's looking for something, and the distorted guitar gives it an almost underwater feel. Also, even though I don't usually notice this sort of thing, I think the bass part is fantastic. Really pulls the song forward.
After that, almost blending into it, comes a "Last Remote" arrange. Koishi arranges tend to be lyrically interesting -- she's among the more tragic Touhou characters, and probably the only one that I'd use the word "despair" in connection with.
Track 5 is probably my least favorite, and I haven't got much to say about it. It's an "Invisible Full Moon" arrange, and it's got some nice bits, but it's a little too relaxing.
Track 6. . . Ah, this is kind of interesting. I really like the melodic hook at the beginning. It owes nothing to "Septette", but it drives the entire song. It makes me shrug and say "no shame in Beatles-style melodies." I think they integrate it well with the vocal melody, which of course follows "Septette's" closely. You can hear traces in the background throughout the song, and the drums and bass tie it together nicely. Also, drum solo. Short but sweet.
"Don't Look Back in Hourai", as vgmdb helpfully informs me, is a combination of "Legend of Hourai" and Oasis' "Don't Look Back in Anger". It's funny. I knew there had to be something, but I couldn't figure out what. I'm not swearing that I've ever heard the Oasis song before, but that intro was too distinctive to not be alluding to something. Something non-Touhou, even.
And like I said, nothing wrong with Beatles-style melodies. This song works well with it. It has a real sense of finality, of something complete and finished. Perhaps it's the vocals. I do love the way she sings the chorus, almost like an anthem.
"Flower Party" makes a great close to the album, with trumpets that I have to describe as "exuberant". It's an arrange of "Phantom Ensemble", and it's just a fun song. Plus, where would we be without the ZUNpet? I'm glad they resisted the temptation to add handclaps. It's the sort of song where you might, but that would have been just too much.
Finally there's a hidden track. It's about Rinnosuke, and I'm just going to leave it at that. (Partly because I haven't found lyrics, and I'm pretty sure that there's more going on than I can recognize.)
Overall, I really like this album, and I think people who like this style of pop will feel the same way. It's catchy and radio-friendly in most parts, with some solid rock DNA that counterbalances the exuberance of many of the original tracks. It's got a decent emotional range and well-structured pop ballads. Solidly recommended.