Vickeblanka – Fate

3 out of 5

Label: Avex Trax

Produced by: ?

Kicking off with an impressive run of upbeat tracks, Vickeblanka’s Fate has some noted enhancements to the artist’s growing discography – some really wonderfully nuanced mixing, warm production, and a welcome rawness to some of Vicke’s singing – but post this opening run, the album hits its midway ballads and then doesn’t quite recover from “safe” tracks until its conclusion.

Even at first blush, Fate’s more immediate, dance-y works are less single-bound than past versions, but repeated go-rounds prove out that this is in favor of allowing for a lot of depth in these works. Vicke has become a truly impressive composer – besides being a talented singer and skilled multi-instrumentalist – bringing in a full range of electronic manipulations and blending them masterfully with lots of organic additions, without it being overwhelming. This is what effects that lack of a standout song, at first, but then makes the music open up the more you return to it. I’d even say this is true for most of the aforementioned ballads, but the album still has a tough time transitioning to these more stripped down affairs, starting with ミラージュ – which does pick up impressively at is goes along – and then to the piano-and-voice ‘Divided,’ which is pretty baseline boyband sad stuff. This latter track is notable for, I think, being Vicke’s first wholly English track, but musically, it’s not very interesting, even if I guess he’s required to do at least one of these type of songs per album. Followup Little Summer – Standalone goes back to the electronic, bouncier fare on which we opened, but it follows the trend of Divided of being less dense and rather predictable, it’s programmed beat nibbed from a half-dozen other club-adjacent tracks. Things swing back positively, though, with オオカミなら, which leans into the album’s warm production and delivers something that reminds of some of Vicke’s earlier works (tuberculin, Fearless-era) – very shiny, with more of an influence of classic American pop to it. ポニーテイル is somewhat milquetoast, but 天 zips it up with Wizard-style strings and a wonderful beat, leading to the moody outro, which is interestingly suggestive of some kind of deeper concept album we might get one day if Vicke can step outside of the J-pop radio-single requirements.

I skipped over track by track callouts on the openers – 蒼天のヴァンパイア and Death Dance being standouts – because they’re all of a superior, layered quality that stands quite above most of the album’s latter half. The latter half is not bad, by any means, it’s just uneven in comparison, and feels more generic at points.

Fate, on the one hand, shows a lot of stylistic maturity for Vicke, and is produced / mixed quite wonderfully. But for each step off the typical J-pop path he takes, he balances it out with something safer, leaving the album in a more average range overall.