This album cover is just waiting to be vandalised with bukkake shots.

Eleven years into the business, it's ironic that Kato Miserableface's album is titled so when she's clearly not liberated from shitty album covers. You can try to distract us with the glitter all over your eyes, bitch. You can try.

This album sees Kato Miliyah stepping out of her comfort zone to venture out of conventional J-Pop standards and experiment with a mixture of genres. What's new and good here: title track LIBERTY, produced by m-flo's Taku (who I admittedly LOVE), is hypnotic with its ethereal opening, subtle trap drum beats over constant electronic build-ups that are explosive, yet in a relaxed, controlled manner, which adds a really good tone to it. FUTURE LOVER -Mirai Koibito- samples Daft Punk's One More Time but is far from sounding like a dated disco-house track. Typical of Miliyah to use samples in ingenious ways, this T.O.M-produced track brings a contemporary, refreshed EDM spin to it, albeit with some cliched songwriting, but is nonetheless a well-produced piece music-wise (Hey ho self promo – this song is also featured in my J-Pop KAMPAI! Valentine's Day 2016 playlist). BABYLON, with a more traditional R&B easy-listening beat, is also something radically different from her past discography, and is interesting in that manner.

Traditional pop upbeat numbers like WANNA BE and CLIMAX also win here – they're nothing lyrically new, but sound more Western-influenced than conventional J-Pop. Anthemic WANNA BE is littered with hypnotising background synths which, while doesn't really have a climax, makes for really nice easy-listening track. CLIMAX is more conventional J-Pop and dramatic, which runs in the same vein as The One from LOVELAND, but sounds richer and better-mastered in my opinion. Is this song explicitly about masturbation ("Hitori de CLIMAX – CLIMAX by myself?")? Megami no Hikari feat. Munetaka Maki and H.I.K.A.R.I. remain as pop songs that could potentially be growers, or would work better in live settings, because I'm not feeling them at all. Pop-rock Piece of Cake -Ai wo Sakebou- feat. Mineta Kazunobu also has absolutely no place in this album and sounds terribly flat. Wouldn't want to be caught dead listening to that. If only pleasing listeners like me were a piece of cake, huh?

"Ah! Someone liberate me from
shitty album covers!"
The ballads in this album are a pleasant surprise. Unlike some of her senior peers like *ahem*kodakumiandayumihamasaki this bitch is actually trying. Tengoku no Doa is probably one of the most beautiful ballads I've heard from her – an eargasm from start to finish with a beautiful grand piano loop, gradually building up in its grandiose with Miliyah's velvety vocals, before the dramatic drum beats come in in the later half to keep the listener captivated.

What "Tengoku no Doa", which means Heaven's Door, may actually be can be open to interpretation, but I am of the opinion that she's talking about her G-spot ("A secret place you want to feel, the heaven's door nobody knows OHHHHH~~~~"). My claim can even be supported by the fact that CLIMAX comes right after it in the track order too, but I digress.

While still on the topic of the ballads in this album, Memories perfectly portrays the feeling of emptiness and loneliness described in its lyrics with its searingly haunting guitar pluck loops ("The name of the flower you gave me / Will wither, unknown to anyone, forgotten" / "As I chase after people who look like you / The sun sets / And I feel even lonelier than before), similar to how classic  R&B ballad Lipstick paints a perfect picture of a girl with a melancholic desire for belonging ("Covering my lips with red lipstick, I hide the real me" / "I don’t want to compare myself to others, and yet (sigh), here we go again, I feel envious of that girl over there.") These two tracks demonstrate her stellar songwriting abilities here and I really appreciate that. The others like piano ballad Want You Back, acoustic guitar-heavy Utakata no Hibi and acoustic-folk Shounen Shoujo fail to impress.

Trap drum beats are present in many of the new album tracks, which Miliyah use in fusion with R&B and pop elements in songs like MIRROR MIRROR and This is my party, which, while interesting in theory, leave more to be desired in their execution. MIRROR MIRROR's repetition and dreary tempo doesn't really reflect well to the listener, while This is my party is bland, lacks any emotion (despite trying to show a certain attitude I'm not catching) and depth in its production, which is disappointing and should belong to a basic album like MUSE was. That is a party I'm not going to RSVP for. This lack of depth is also present in FASHION, which is superficial both lyrically and musically; an overall poor b-side choice for Miliyah to include.

LIBERTY is Kato Miliyah's longest record to date at 17 tracks, but would've been a tighter album by trimming some of the fat that wouldn't have compromised its varied offering, which is what I assume Miliyah tried to deliver, and succeeded – to a moderate extent. It is still an improvement from the largely homogenous LOVELAND, with it being more experimental and less traditional J-Pop / J-Urban which Miliyah has already done to death, and this is a sign of a good progression of her sound. Plus, despite its fallbacks, I will say that the album makes for a good easy-listening record.

Listen to previews here.


Album highlights: LIBERTY, FUTURE LOVER -Mirai Koibito-, WANNA BE, Tengoku no Doa, CLIMAX, Lipstick