Final Fantasy IX: Melodies of Life - Emiko Shiratori :: Review by Resk
Emiko Shiratori introduced herself to the world of Final Fantasy when she provided the vocal piece for Final Fantasy IX. Astonishingly enough, the piece she contributed was not only the last vocal piece for a PlayStation Final Fantasy title, but also one of the best vocal themes to appear in the Final Fantasy vocal repertoire. Her piece is also the second longest vocal theme to appear in the series, just a few seconds shorter than "1000 Words". You might think that I'm being overly-positive for this vocal track because Final Fantasy IX is my favorite of the series. Well, that may be true, however I'm going to show you exactly why this album deserves the praise it has already received.
BodyThe album begins with the Japanese version of "Melodies of Life." In the game, this theme is connected to Garnet, and is personally sung by her while on the upper levels of Lindblum Castle. The musicality of this track is really fantastic, because even though it sounds very much like the traditional romantic ballad, we get extra instruments which provide some much needed variation to the track; the oboe especially is a great addition. Altogether, this track very much suits the setting of the game, in that it has sort of a light renaissance sound to it that is reflected in the aesthetics of Alexandria and the surrounding countryside. Shiratori's voice is also very soft, something that the Final Fantasy vocal pieces tend to avoid. However, the softness of her voice really brings the track to a whole new level. Her voice doesn't become screechy in the higher registers, and the lower octaves are well-rounded and pleasant to listen to.
We are also given the English version of "Melodies of Life" on this album, and in my opinion, it is the stronger of the two. Shiratori's voice has a very unique sound to it, and hearing her in English is a real treat. She doesn't stumble with the pronunciation of words, and the phrasing is natural rather than forced, further adding to the soft, almost spherical nature of her voice. I also really like the volume range that she has, in that she can be weak or strong where needed, while still maintaining a soft edge. An instrumental version of the song is also included on the album, and allows you to really hear how simple, yet complete the instrumentation of the track really is.
An extra vocal track is included on the album as well, titled "Galway." This is a sort of soft rock or pop piece which really suits Shiratori's voice well. The light, flowing lyrics contrast well to the flutes, strings, synth, and percussion of the background instrumentation. Her voice comes through clear, and the Japanese lyrics are without fault, despite all the instrumentation that you would think may drown out her voice. The best way to describe this track is unique. It gives you a real feel for how versatile Shiratori is, as this track is very different from "Melodies of Life." Instead of soft flowing lyrical lines, we get a melody which is very casual, yet comfortable for the style of the piece.
This album is very pleasant to listen to. While it doesn't have the power of Koda Kumi on the "real Emotion" / "1000 Words" single, or Angela Aki on the "Kiss Me Good-Bye" single, "Melodies of Life" is a very soft, luxurious album to play over and over. Some people may be turned off by this, but I think anyone who loves a great piece of music, regardless of the style, genre, or instrumentation, will enjoy these tracks.
Overall Score: 8/10