FRIENDS is Mano Erina’s debut album and it was released on December 16, 2009. It reached #33 on the Oricon Weekly Charts and has sold 5,804 copies.
1. Otome no Inori♠♠♠♠♠
2. OSOZAKI Musume
3. Sekai wa Summer Party
4. Itsumo Itsudemo
6. Hajimete no Keiken♠♠
7. Lucky Aura♠♠♠
8. Santa no Saxophone
9. Kono Mune no Tokimeki wo
10. Matsuge no Saki ni Kimi ga Iru
12. Manopiano (Album ver.)♠♠♠♠
I’m sure not everyone is a big fan of Mano Erina but you have to give the girl some credit. She’s worked her butt off like crazy this year and is one of the few artists that I can 100% honestly say that has improved since they debuted.
The album is full of singles, seven of them actually and while it only leaves us with five new songs(which is actually typical for H!P albums), at least they were, overall, above average. Of course there are the less impressive a-sides such as the ear-killing Lalala-Sososo and the forgettable and droopy Kono Mune no Tokimeki wo but every other a-side is great.
I didn’t care too much about the order of the track on the album as Mano’s songs all seem to flow into each other nicely, even from her best ballad Otome no Inori to OSOZAKI Musume, a song brimming with the seiyuu sound and a sparkling instrumental.
The album does have it’s more fun and upbeat songs that sit on the same boat as her summer themed a-sides(Hajimete no Keiken and Sekai wa Summer Party). Santa no Saxophone is the best example. It’s actually kind of fast paced and has an interesting brass line but for me, upbeat songs aren’t Erina’s strong point. Her voice tends to sound bland, flat and forced. Instead, I prefer her slower, lounge songs like Oyasuminasai which don’t force her voice to go anywhere it isn’t supposed to go and Itsumo Itsudemo.
Now this album to me is really like a double-edged sword. All but two of the seven previously tracks are great and the new tracks are also split across depending on which type of Mano sound you like: the typical upbeat cheerful H!P song or the “Mano”/slower piano songs. Overall, I prefer around half of the album.
Mano’s vocals disappointed me as well. I didn’t see any true effort in the new songs, nor any improvement. There is one exception however, the Album version of Manopiano. I truly was VERY shocked when I heard it the first time and literally crying tears of joy at how much better Mano has become. Compared to the original version, the song has new vocals from Mano and they are absolutely delightful. She sounds a lot more confident and tries new things out with her voice, breaking out of that vocal shell she was in during most of her career. If anything, it’s worth at least listening to this song just to hear how much she has improved.
So for her debut album I conclude that Mano has “done what she could”. I would have liked better vocals, but Mano fans should never really expect any kind of vocal hax from her. If your not a HUGE Mano fan, than don’t feel bad if you give this album a pass.