When Lisa left the M-Flo trio to pursue a solo career, many believed this immensely popular team would simply fold like many Japanese groups before them. Yet here they are, seemingly going strong with their album release, Astromantic. In this album, Verbal and Taku team up with various stars, replacing Lisa and recreating their unique blend of Japanese Pop and Hip-Hop.
Perhaps the main focus of this album is to show the world that the M-Flo duo can function without Lisa as vocals. This entire album is a collaboration between M-Flo and various artists. There are some big names, and some less famous ones, but one thing is for sure: this album will make you groove.
It begins with an opener called "The Third Impact." Here, Verbal simply raps, setting the tone for an 'astrodinary' soundfest. My favorite song of the album, "Miss You," follows. A song with Melody and Yamamoto Ryohei is a perfect way to start the album, with suitably dance track that will get your feet moving instantly. A duet with Heartsdales invokes a semi-retro style with the next song, "Starstruck ~ Return of the Luvbytes." While this song has a certain 80s charm about it, it isn't spectacular. Then there is "Vanessa," which features Bloodest Saxophone. I don't really know what to make of this one. The tune is a mix of big band and simple lazy music-making, in my opinion. Kenji Furuya of Dragon Ash joins in "Way You Move," a very fun and thumping dance piece. To hear Kenji and Verbal, two of the best rappers ever, singing together is really an exciting sound.
Renowned songstress Crystal Kay lends her voice to "Get On," a jumpy tune with Spanish/Brazillian flair. Think Mardi Gras, and you've sort of got it. M-Flo then partners up with Jpop sensation Chemistry in "Astrosexy." The opening song to the new Astroboy series, this song will get you shaking in no time. Being a great fan of Chemistry's smooth sounds, this song certainly got me singing along (badly, but that's not important). Korean/Japanese diva Boa stars in "The Love Bug," a very well-made Jpop song. It has everything: the groove, the voice, and the happy quality. It is certainly a tune to dance to. The tone changes now to something quieter. In "Life is Beautiful," Double and Toku create a jazzy soundscape with M-Flo, and it works. The background music is swinging, and Double's voice suits it perfectly.
"I wanna be down" showcases M-Flo's mastery in producing tracks. With Ryuichi Sakamoto as vocals, this song is slow-paced, and yet interestingly, it is danceable. I didn't really have much idea of what was going on because of all of the cutting and editing, but it is still pleasing to listen to. Next comes the most mischievous song yet, with Nomiya Maki and Crazy Ken. "Cosmic Night Run" has a party-like atmosphere, and it is very light-hearted and enjoyable. You have no choice but to sing along; I'm serious. A point to note: Crazy Ken has an extremely cool tenor voice that he uses to great effect. He raps as well.
Crystal Kay appears again in "Reewind!," a piece that reiterates how everybody loves M-Flo (listen for yourself if you don't understand). I loved this song, and it got me swaying in no time. Crystal Kay has the most amazing voice, and her attitude is simply the best! The last song is "Uchuu no Woah Woah." Keeping with the outer space theme, Boy-Ken and the Black Bottom Band blare out a fast-paced, reggae showtune. It is happy if nothing else, serving as a suitable end to a fantasexy songfest. Finally, to thoroughly finish it all off, there is the "Curtain Call," which acknowledges all of the many stars that have graced this performance.
This album really is out there. There are some very fine songs, and although one or two do not score high on my list, the album as a whole blows me away. Generating its patented unique mix of sounds, Astromantic is certainly the calling card for M-Flo to tell the world that they are here to stay.