Tokyo Jihen - 'Sports'

Title: Sports (スポーツ)
Artist: Tokyo Jihen (東京事変)
Date: 2010
Genre: Jazz Rock, J-Pop

Total length: 47 minutes, 13 tracks
Top Chart position: 48 (yearly Oricon album charts)

Main personnel:
Ringo Shiina (椎名・林檎): Vocals
Ukigumo (浮雲): Guitar, backing vocals
Ichizo Izawa (伊澤・一葉): Keyboard
Seiji Kameda (亀田・誠治): Bass
Toshiki Hata (畑・利樹
): Drums

Rating: 8/10 - Very Good
Tokyo Jihen never stayed in one place, three years after the unorganized Goraku comes this well-structured concept album. This album has been my introduction to the entire world of J-pop, and I was oh-so-wrong to assume it was representative of the humongous Japanese pop-scene. Like TJ's previous albums and Shiina's solo works, this one doesn't quite fit in with the conventional J-pop scene. 

This album is perhaps the most polished of TJ's releases. Shiina's English got better, as is evident on Kachiikusa and Sweet Spot. While it may still disappoint any English speaker, it is miles better than Shiina used to be, or better than most J-pop artists in any case. 
Unfortunately the album is lacking some of Shiina's masterful composing skills found on Shouso Strip and Karuki Samen Kuri no Hana, as well as the band's raw musicianship found on Goraku and Kyouiku, perhaps you could say that this album's signature is balanced between them.
The album opens with a 2:30 long a cappella turning right around in a fast rock track showcasing Shiina's trademark squeaky voice, and it ends with a droning, piece of psychedelic rock; something you'd absolutely not expect on a J-pop album.
For people more used to the band's sound on Adult will find TJ's trademark bass lines throughout the album, but in particular on the smooth jazzy Kachiikusa and Sweet Spot. This album also features some fun Jazz-rock-meets-folk tracks like Zettai Zetsumei that listeners of Goraku and Adult may enjoy.
What I'm slightly disappointed by on this album are the energetic but jazzy Season Sayonara and Noudouteki Sanpunkan. These tracks give a new look on my favorite side of TJ's sound, but unlike earlier albums ,it lacks that fun sound and instead starts sounding more pop-like and generic; it sounds exactly like TJ normally does, but lacks the fun vibe.
On the other hand the punky F.O.U.L.moves right back in the rough TJ found on Kyoiku. In that sense, this album is all over the place genre wise, not unlike Goraku. In contrast to Goraku however, this album feels more organized, as if following a central theme, though I can't quite find out what.

One thing this album does do incredibly well is keeping the listeners attention hooked. All the songs feel structured, and each new songs offers the listener something completely different to the previous. It may not be as good as Shiina's solo works, and it may take a while to appreciate, but as a whole this album is a very solid piece of Jazz Rock with a slightly experimental character.

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