We already know what a breath of fresh air Sofi Maeda is, Ashita was proof enough of that, a punk-pop single which left all of the usual locker-room bravado and frat boy nonsense behind and laid out a new template for the genre in the 21st century.
But of course, one great single does not an album make and so it is what else Stages has to offer which is the real test. But even within a few songs, the energetic and inspired opening salvo, suitably titled Feeling Alive, the slow-burning rock ballad of Because Just Love You and the aforementioned euphoric punk-popster, it is easy to see that Sofi Maeda is able to navigate herself effortlessly through any number of genres.
Ray of Hope is an optimistic pop-rock gem, He Was A Guy is a punchy, staccato rocker and Some Days is the perfect way to end the album, one of those fist in the air, end of the gig anthems which sends the crowd into a frenzy and the sends them home happy.
Ashita was a great single and Stages is a fantastic album, one which shows Sofi Maeda branching out into all manner of rock and pop sounds and styles. We have all been missing live gigs for a while now, Stages is exactly the album that you need to get you back in the mood for a live show, especially now that some sort of normality looks to be not that far away.