2wink “Ensemble Stars! Album Series 2wink” (Review)

2wink showcase their danceable and listener-friendly electronic pop in an album filled with highlights.

2wink consists of Soma Saito (voicing the Aoi twins).

Title: Ensemble Stars! Album Series 2wink
Label: Pony Canyon
Release date: 27/02/19
Genre: Electronic-pop

Tracklist:

01 - 2wink Introduction
02 - シュガー・スパイス方程式
03 - ハートプリズム・シンメトリー
04 - 歓迎☆トゥ・ウィンク雑伎団
05 - TRICK with TREAT!!(with UNDEAD)
06 - WONDER WONDER TOY LAND
07 - Play “Tag”
08 - 2winkle Star Beat☆
09 - SwEeT MeLlOw MeLoDy(Hinata Aoi)
10 - SPYCY BREEZE(Yuta Aoi)

Track by track analysis:

1 – 2wink Introduction

2Wink kick off this release with the summery 2wink introduction. The song rides on a deep bass sound and a dreamy synth melody that evokes summer to this release. The instrumental groovy and addictive much due to the tasteful way in which washy synths, bass-driven drums and bright synths were crafted. The vocal performance is as expected by 2wink: bright, colorful and with a warmth that is addictive on a first listen. 5/5

2 – シュガー・スパイス方程式

Joker Spice Houteshiki is an upbeat electronic pop tune that brings to the table washy synths, summery synth stabs and hits, a deep bass line and a simple beat. A warm lead synth melody is responsible for taking this song to feel good territory. The energy is constant throughout the song, with both verses and chorus sharing the same tone and pacing, making this song one of the most consistent sounding songs on this release. On the vocal end this is a performance that has aged well, sounding as good and entertaining as it did when we first listened to it back in 2015. All in all a strong performance. 5/5

3 – ハートプリズム・シンメトリー

Heart Prism Symmetry is another well known by fans of this duo. The song, released in 2016, takes pride on its danceable sound that brings fancy piano melodies, groovy beats and simple bright synths to the table to create an addictive sound. The song is fast paced and packs a whole lot of energy, something that Soma Saito, on the vocal end, further enhances with his colorful and skillful performance as the Aoi twins. Time might have passed but this song sounds as good and fresh as when it was release. 5/5

4 – 歓迎☆トゥ・ウィンク雑伎団

Kangei☆2wink Zatsugidan was featured on 2wink’s 1st unit CD, released in 2015. This song counts with an explosive chorus, addictive melodies and an overall fast paced beat. This song is still overflowing with energy and sounding fresh as if it was just recently released for the 1st time. The vocals follow the exact same high tension that can be found in the instrumental. Fast paced singing and smooth harmonies make this song stand out in the middle of this album. 5/5

5 – TRICK with TREAT!!(with UNDEAD)

[As previously reviewed] TRICK with TREAT!! is a playful pop song with a taste of Halloween’s typical eerie vibe but executes it in a sloppy way. The bulk of the instrumental consists of timpani, glitchy synths, simple bassy drums, some guitar bits and Halloween inspired piano melodies. Of course, there’s much more to this instrumental – playing in the background – but what stands out in the end is the mix between eerie and preppy that we get from listening to this song. These two contrasting tones/vibes don’t work that well together – at least in the way they were mixed for this song – and what we get is neither a bright song nor a dark Halloween one. It might have sounded better if some of the elements from either the dark or bright tones were toned down giving the spotlight to the other. With everything working at the same time, the song managed to sound a bit odd and confusing at times.

The vocal performances count with UNDEAD featuring. The tough rockers came to this song only to serve as backing vocals and spout some awkward lines in the middle of it all. We’d be okay with them as backing vocals, but those lines were just an overall bad decision to add to this already overcrowded song.

On the other side, Saito does his best to make both twins stand out on their own. His energy is felt throughout the song however, it isn’t enough to save this confusing song. 3.5/5

6 – WONDER WONDER TOY LAND

[As previously reviewed] WONDER WONDER TOY LAND brings to the table a quieter, simpler sound that shows once again why simple music works better than complicated, over-the-top songs.

The instrumental is the first thing that will standout on this song. It’s fresh, addictive, youthful and danceable from the get-go. A sweet piano melody leads the way joined by a mix of glitchy and saw synths, soothing synth pads, progressive bass leads and an equally progressive inspired percussion/beat. The song’s instrumental is, by itself, incredibly entertaining. The highlights are the chorus and outro. The chorus is an attention grabber with fantastic progression and pacing, as a matter of fact, this mid-tempo progressive pacing worked out perfectly on this song. I might have mentioned that this chorus is an attention grabber but that isn’t solely due to its instrumental. This chorus would be nothing without Saito’s performances. The sweetness in which he coats his singing (for both characters) stands out as soon as he sings the first verses. His execution, control and versatility are certain to impress you.

This is the type of bright song that everyone can enjoy. Yes, it’s bright but it is executed in a way that its brightness is far from overwhelming to the listener. It puts a smile on the listener’s face while being incredibly entertaining at the same time. This is a gentle, laidback and danceable electronic pop song. The lyrics are easy to understand and relate to, the beat is addictive and the chorus will get stuck in your head in an instant. This song survived the test of time and still sounds as best as when it was released – especially its chorus. 5/5

7 – Play “Tag”

After a series of old tunes, here’s Play “Tag”, newest addition to 2wink’s repertoire. A progressive synth, EDM beat and ethereal synth pads set a warm and nostalgic tone to this song. The chorus features tropical house influences and the verses follow the duo’s trademark electronic pop sound we’re so used to. In the background it there is a stringed instrument sampled that is rather similar to a shamisen, this added a tasteful tone to this song. When it comes to the vocals this is a nostalgic performance but still with some hope or brightness in it. Saito manages to capture those feelings and completely aced his performance. 5/5

8 – 2winkle Star Beat☆

2winkle Star Beat☆ is yet another classic. Those playful piano melodies, progressive synths and hit-hat-driven drums that captured 2wink‘s fans back in 2016 are back to capture our attention once more. The song counts with addictive electronic-pop rhythms, a simple bass driven beat, fancy synths that being a bright, youthful touch to this song. There are some 90’s pop elements found in the main piano melody that add it an interesting touch that makes this song more than just a modern electronic pop tune. With an addictive chorus, energy filled verses and a strong vocal delivery, this continues to be one of 2wink‘s best songs to date. 5/5

9 – SwEeT MeLlOw MeLoDy

SwEeT MeLlOw MeLoDy is the first solo track on this release. The song takes pride in its bright, sound with easy melodies heavily rooted in peppy synths and a simple bass driven beat. The song really exudes a sweet, even endearing vibe that makes it a feel good addition to this release. On the vocal end, Saito is performing as Hinata, known for a brighter, higher key voice. He really brought Hinata’s quirks to the spotlight. Thoroughly fun song. 4.5/5

10 – SPYCY BREEZE

Spicy Breeze has an easily noticeable mature vibe in comparison with the previous track. Still following 2wink’s trademark bright, electronica driven sound, this song is heavy on synths, however the pacing is slower than most songs on this release, making it a nice change of pace in an album filled with high throttle songs. There are traces of dubstep in this song, something that has been, as of late, something quite common in 2wink’s that has been incorporated in a way that isn’t too heavy for the listener to enjoy. On the vocal end Saito tackles this song as Yuta, the older, feistier twin. However it was interesting how this song was calmer than expected and the performance much slower. Out of the twins solo songs, this one is the most surprising. Strong performance. 5/5

Final Rating:

2wink are Ensemble Stars!‘s resident upbeat electronic pop act and, as a result of crafty songwriting and composition, their songs exude a bright, youthful and fun vibe that is infectious on a first listen.

This album is filled with high tension, synth-driven songs with catchy choruses, fancy instrumental bridges and/or outros and vocal performances that, might not sound impressive at first but, as the listener digs deeper in this album and pays closer attention to its details, you won’t help but to notice just how technical and challenging the singing for this album was for the one on double vocal duty: Soma Saito. Performing the same song with two distinct vocals, unique cadences and quirks is no easy task but he nailed it in every performance.

When listening to this album in full, it was expected that some of the earlier 2wink songs might have aged badly and would sound dated when mixed with newly recorded songs, including the very first solo tracks. However, what we noticed was just how well the songs had aged – if at all – in these past 4 years. Joker Spice Houteshiki and Kangei☆2wink Zatsugidan are the oldest songs on this release and sound just as good, if not better, in comparison with the new additions 2wink introduction and Play “Tag”. The solo tracks made it possible, for the first time, for fans to explore the individuality of each twin. It was also a fantastic way to pay attention to the detail and technique found in Saito’s distinctive performances for those two tracks.

As a whole, 2wink‘s 1st full-length album is definitely a recommended listen. This is, of course, an album that will primarily pique the interest of those that fancy pop music or electronica however, it is a welcoming and easy-listen release even for those that aren’t familiar with the group, their trademark music genre or energy. Just like with all other albums released so far part of Ensemble Stars!‘s album series, this is a release worth checking out, an album unlike anything that has been released so far in the franchise.

Ensemble Stars! Album Series 2wink” is available for purchase at CDJAPAN.

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