Saturday, November 26, 2011

CD review: Ho-kago Tea Time (mini album)

Shortly after the first season of K-On! ended, and several Light Music Club / Ho-kago Tea Time CD singles had met considerable success in the music charts, it was finally time for a full album release… well, sort of. A self-titled Ho-kago Tea Time album was released, and a 2 CD album at that – containing all of four songs. Specifically, all four of the “canon” songs – that is, the ones that actually exist within the story as opposed to the opening and ending theme songs, B-sides, character singles, etc. – from the first season.
A limited number of songs didn’t hinder the albums success, though, and upon release it found its way to the very top of the Japanese album charts – a first ever for a fictional anime band. That was two years ago, but the album is still readily available for purchase for new fans – like, say, anyone who might have become acquainted with K-On! through this year’s US release of the series.
Don't worry, the real thing doesn't look like a photo taken with a crappy iPad camera
The album comes in a clear jewel case, with a largely pink and white cover design. The first pressing – which I don’t have – also came with a white slipcover that fit over the whole thing with a heart-shaped hole cut out in the front, exposing the faces of the characters on the cover.
The album actually comes with a few physical extras. Inside a sort of cardboard envelope – which is not physically attached to the CD case, but rather comes bundled with it – are paper foldouts with the sheet music for all four songs from the album.
Inside the CD case, in addition to the actual CD booklet, is a nice glossy picture of the four senpai (you may recognize the picture from the Fuwa Fuwa Time CD single cover) and a promotion for the (long since over-and-done-with) mail-in contest where they gave away the Fuwa Fuwa Time (Chorus Husky Yui version) CD.
The album itself, as I mentioned before, consists of the four songs HTT actually perform during the first season of the anime. Personally, I like to think of these particular songs as the “classic” K-On! songs, if there is such a thing. The first disc, labeled “StudioMix”, contains not the exact versions heard on the show but cleaner, professional studio recording arrangements.
1. Curry nochi Rice
Out of the four songs on the album, this is the one that got the least exposure in the anime. It’s easy to miss the fact it was even there – it’s only heard very briefly, and only the last few seconds of it, during their stage performance in episode 8 “Freshmen Reception!”. To be completely honest, this is one of my least favorite K-On! tunes, so I don’t particularly mind the fact that it wasn’t given a lot of time.
2. Watashi no Koi wa Hotchkiss
This, on the other hand, is one of my two favorite songs from the first season. Also known as “My Love is a Stapler”, this sweet tune was first heard during that same performance in “Freshman Reception!”, but was more the main focus as far as songs go. For the Studio Mix, Yui sings the first verse and Mio the second.
3. Fudepen ~Ballpen~
My other favorite song from the first season, due in large part to the very catchy chorus – and, I suppose, the very memorable scene in episode 12 “Light Music!” during which it was first heard. That does beg the question, though – Mio did the vocals in that scene, so why is Yui the one singing on the album? It sounds good, don’t get me wrong – but I do miss Mio’s voice here.
4. Fuwa Fuwa Time
Now, this version of “Fuwa Fuwa Time” is not the same as the one on the previously released single. The most obvious difference is that Yui is doing lead vocals on this version whereas Mio did them on the single, but the song has also been somewhat re-arranged to add a second guitar since the band now has one more member in Azusa.
The second disc, labeled “LiveMix”, contains the same four songs, but mixed to sound like live performances – in fact, these are the versions heard in the actual episodes with the main difference being that they are full length versions rather than the shortened ones actually heard in the anime.
“Curry nochi Rice” and “Watashi no Koi wa Hotchkiss” are from their performance in episode 8 “Freshman Reception!”, meaning the latter track has Yui forgetting the lyrics at the beginning of the first verse and Mio filling in for her. Otherwise, Yui is singing solo throughout both tracks.
“Fudepen ~Ballpen~” and “Fuwa Fuwa Time” are from the performance in episode 12 “Light Music!”, with Mio doing the vocals on “Fudepen” and Yui doing lead vocals on “Fuwa Fuwa Time”.
All in all, the two discs combined have a running time of roughly half an hour. Maybe not a terribly impressive duration, but for a K-On! fan who collects K-On! related music I can’t imagine it not being worth what it would take to get a hold of this album.

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