This album is a definite must for any Hikaru Utada fan. With only a couple exceptions, the songs here are excellent examples of why Utada is so popular, even outside of Japan.
"Sakura Drops" and "Traveling" definitely carry the album as the best songs all around. They are just plain fun to listen to (even if you don't understand the Japanese), and the music and words paint amazing pictures in the imagination. If you've seen the music videos for either song, you can see the kind of imagination they can inspire. "Traveling" is my favorite of the two.
After the tempo of the first two songs, "Shiawase ni Narou" begins at a much calmer pace, and then goes into a typical Jpop hip-hop influenced style. The song is not unpleasant or bad, but it is not anything special, either.
The title track, "Deep River," moves at a contemplative pace, suitable for a deep river. Using the guitar in this piece makes for a more romantic sound as well. This song is perfect if you need to get yourself into a peaceful and relaxing mood.
"Letters" gives us a semi-Caribbean sound, bringing you out of the deep river back into everyday big city life. Just a fun song.
"Play Ball" shows some of the urban music influence on Utada when she was studying at Columbia University in New York. It's a great song to keep you going.
Utada pulls her influences from all over the world, and "Tokyo Nights" shows us just a peek. Spanish (as in Spain, not Latin America) with provincial French influences can be heard in this foot-tapper.
"A.S.A.P." features some interesting musical motifs, creating a sense of running out of time. Perhaps all the "tolling bell" sounds helped in that area, though the quick pace of the beat also helped create a sense of constant and necessary movement. The title fits this song very well.
On the down side, "Uso Mitai na I Love You," is a bit too techno punk for me. The music isn't pleasant to listen to for the most part except for the softer bits in parts (and I'm not necessarily opposed to harder songs--Janet Jackson's "Black Cat" is one of my favorites). Overall, though, this song is only average and didn't inspire me at all.
"Final Distance" is a pleasant break from the faster beats of the majority of tracks on the album. This song shows some of the inherited range of Utada (her mother is a very famous Enka singer in Japan). A plaintive love song, this is a great one for any slow dance with that special someone.
"Bridge (Interlude)" is exactly what the title implies: a bridge between the soft melody of "Final Distance" and the more upbeat "Hikari," which finishes off the album with Utada's signature Jpop sound. "Hikari" means "light," and that fits the song very well: a light and refreshing song that leaves you wanting more.
Overall, I definitely recommend this as a must-have album for any fan of Utada. If you aren't a fan, this album is a good place to start if you are curious to learn more about her.
Track Listing and Individual Ratings
1. Sakura Drops 2. Traveling 3. Shiawase ni Narou 4. Deep River 5. Letters 6. Play Ball 7. Tokyo Nights 8. A.S.A.P. 9. Uso Mitai na I Love You 10. Final Distance 11. Bridge (Interlude) 12. Hikari