For Ichiko Aoba, music remains a powerful way to breathe life into the ethereal. Whether she sings about the tiny petals of a flower or the edges of the infinite universe, Aoba’s ability to convey the abstract through whispering portraits of the natural world is perhaps her signature talent. The Japanese folk singer and songwriter continues to sew together similar sprawling scenes of warmth with the release of her newest single “meringue doll” Aug. 26.
In an Instagram post announcing the song’s release, Aoba stated that “meringue doll” was “recorded in one take, with support from the amazing members of Phonolite Strings,” a small string ensemble. Aoba also credited artist Hiroaki Mizutani for the arrangement of the song. Translated English lyrics were provided on her YouTube channel.
Momentarily departing from the serene solo guitar instrumentals that she is traditionally known for, “meringue doll” employs melodies from the string ensemble to transport listeners into a new world dreamed up by Aoba. Beginning with a prominent descending string melody and transitioning to gentle pizzicatos cushioning Aoba’s singing, the strings mirror and seamlessly play off of the cadences of her voice through the song.
Though her choice to bring in more instrumentalists detracts from the vulnerable intimacy that saturates her acoustic works, the additional layers of “meringue doll” allow listeners to ride a stronger emotional wave, pulled back and forth by the swells of the strings’ overlapping crescendos.
Despite a notable shift in her musical backdrop, Aoba continues to lay a blanket of peace over her listeners with delicate and breathy vocals. Even with the added instruments accompanying her, Aoba makes an effort to push her own vocals to the forefront of the song, her voice becoming an enchanting entity floating above the lush bed of notes. This push also allows for the meaning behind her words to be more deeply felt.
Aoba touches upon her trademark themes of otherworldly beauty in the material world through her lyrics, using vivid descriptions of natural scenery to convey her strong feelings for a special someone in mind.
“In the depths of my memory / there is a blossoming airship / As the seasons sprout / I travel, swaying in the wind,” Aoba sings slowly in the song’s first verse. The lyrics both evoke an image of hope for a new emotional journey and perpetual loneliness, as she envisions what it would be like to travel the boundless skies alone.
“meringue doll” reveals a raw portrayal of Aoba’s yearning at the start of its chorus: “Surely one day / I’ll find my way home / So, just wait for me.” These lyrics are not only a confession but a promise, as Aoba vows to one day find a companion whom she can call home — the culmination of all her voyages. The chorus extends itself near the song’s end with the added final lines, visceral in their depiction of an affection whose beauty can be overwhelming and even all-consuming: “The wanting for you / envelops me like a meringue / and for it, a flower.”
With “meringue doll,” it seems as if Aoba is painting a closer portrait of longing and the contradictory nature of human connection, offering a bittersweet image embedded within a hazy dream brought to life. Curled up in her own wistful meringue shell, Aoba reminds us that love and the experiences of being human are just as awe-inspiring as the physical world that surrounds them.