Van. was Van Tomiko’s 2nd studio album. It was released on December 10, 2008 and reached no. 28 on the Oricon Charts and has sold over 8,852+ copies. This is her first studio album since her debut in 2006.

Van. - Van Tomiko

1. Flower
2. Utopia
3. manacles
4. Brave
5. Yumeji
6. carry out
7. Senkou
8. message.
9. Tokyo Biyori
10. Refrain
11. Van.

Van kicks off her newest album with the rock empowered Flower. It’s very reminiscent of her DAI works and evokes a sense of nostalgia. The song is quite up-beat and rather impressive when it comes down to the instruments. The use of the strings, electric guitar, and percussion makes this rock song memorable. One of best parts of this song though has got to be the chorus, mostly because Van’s vocals are pretty up-beat and the synth line following is just amazing. No doubt a refreshing opening for her sophomore studio album.

One of the five new tracks follows shorty, yet very fast, and it’s Utopia. The first thing that came to mind when I heard this was fast. Compared to her previous works it’s fast paced and just moves to quickly. There are some constant beats along with the tambourine and the occasional synth line, which makes it pretty nice. The guitar riffs were short and sweet, just like the chorus oddly. There’s something about this song that just makes me smile, it might be the fact that this song sounds so happy and so innocent. One of her best songs to date for sure.

Apparently the next track entitled manacles isn’t so new. It appeared as an edited version on the soundtrack for the anime Reideen, where it was the theme song. Anyway, this song has a heavy jazz feel. The brass is pretty strong, along with the piano and the occasional percussion. Van’s vocals are drowned out just a little by the music, but they’re incredible for the most part. The rhythm is pretty catchy and the music has somewhat of a magical quality to it, it might be from a harp, or the strings. It sounds a little aggressive and edgy from the guitar I’m assuming, but it’s still amazing.

Another old track is the b-side to Flower entitled Brave. This song is just like its a-side in that it’s pretty rock oriented. Van’s vocals are pretty strong in this song, which is one of the reasons why I liked it so much. This song also had some great instrumentals including the guitar, strings, and the percussion, which oddly enough made for an epic song. I still prefer the a-side though.

Following is one of Van’s most beautiful ballads to date. Yumeji has got to be one of her highest quality works, and most flawless too. This ballad is filled with the harmonious sounds of the epic strings, the solemn acoustic guitar and even the calming percussion. The vocals are just mesmerizing and fit so well with the music. The music overall is just so calming, so relaxing, and has a dream quality to it. And if that wasn’t good enough, Van really shows just how talented she is with her vocals. Although there wasn’t much power in her vocals, there was some emotion. This is another stunning track on Van’s sophomore studio album.

Finally another new track is up next, this time it’s the aggressive carry out. It’s pretty heavy with the electric guitars and distortions, although it works for the song. And for some reason, it felt as though there was an Indian sound to it, very faint though. With the guitar riffs, this song sounded pretty powerful and just mind blowing. And despite being so aggressive this song was incredibly catchy, I might even go as far as infectious. Her vocals were distorted for a bit, which made the song sound nice. The synth in the song was awesome, but it was so random, the arrangement was so odd and hectic. And one of the odd features is that this song just ends after a drum beat.

The dark and shadowy Senkou lit. Light Flash makes its entrance on the album. This song sounds like something from back in her DAI days and falls into the rock genre. That being said, it’s no shock that this song utilizes the electric guitar and some percussion. All of that is good and all, but I love this song because of Van’s powerful vocals. The shear strength is intense, and with the music, it’s one hell of a combination. Even the bridge was memorable, dark yet memorable. And to top it all off, the song is catchy as can be.

Another one of my favorites from Van is her very first composition message. And for her first composition, she has done a great job. There’s a light rock feel to the song, and the song itself sounds rather up-beat. Van displays some nice vocals that are relatively light and calm. Although I can honestly say that it could use some work.

The final song released prior to the album was the song Tokyo Biyori. It’s a relaxing laid back song that has a ballad quality to it. The acoustics were magnificent especially in this song. The percussion was light and still refreshing, while the strings were calming and a little classical. I guess I have to commend Van on her vocals in this song, they weren’t all that bad, and they did sound rather wonderful. But the song overall has lost its appeal, it seems to have become rather dull since the last time I heard it. It’s a little too repetitive for me, but as far as ballads go it will do, but Yumeji is still better.

The final “true” new song however is Refrain. Honestly this song really took me by surprise. I didn’t expect another ballad from Van, but I’m glad that she did have one final one. There’s still a rock vibe like most of her songs, but with this song it’s different somehow. The song still has a strong ballad feel, even with all of the rock instruments. I fell in love with the chorus, mostly because of the “Are you ready to fly?” line, that and that it was so simple yet beautiful at the same time. And this time her vocals were really impressive, such power and emotion. She’s outdone herself with this song.

Now the final song is the title track, which happens to be an instrumental, entitled Van. At first I was surprised that it was an instrumental, it kind of mad me sad that there were only really four new tracks, but I got over it quickly. This instrumental is so outstanding. The opening with the strings and the woodwinds that followed later were pure pure genius. It created an ambient atmosphere that’s surreal and very calming, and nostalgic in a way that’s very reminiscent of Ireland. A lovely and beautiful way to end her album.

Overall Review: Van. might have taken two years to arrive, but it was well worth the wait. I have to admit that Van has done an incredible job with this album. It defines her as a solo artist, and not just the vocals of DAI, which still isn’t bad. It’s a little sad though that her solo career will most likely be put on hold, but at least DAI is back together again. This album was incredible though and so impressive. There weren’t many flaws in this album, most of them though came from her final single though. Her new songs for the most part probably could have been released as a single, that’s how good they were. She’s got on prosperous career ahead of her now that she’s back with DAI, but then again she’s done pretty well with this album. Now I’m really excited about their new material due to be released in the spring!

Final Grade: 96A


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