fine return with a youthful and bright pop-rock imbued release. Fun, interesting and strangely addictive, this single stands out for its quality and solid performances.
A brief intro to this unit:
fine consist of Hikaru Midorikawa, Takuya Eguchi, Ayumu Murase and Kotaro Hashimoto.
Title: Ensemble Stars! Unit Song CD 3rd Series vol.3 fine Label: Pony Canyon Release date: 06/09/17 Genre: J-Pop/Rock
1.Miracle Dream Traveler 2.Tryst of Stars 3.Miracle Dream Traveler (off vocal) 4.Tryst of Stars (off vocal)
Track by track analysis:
1.Miracle Dream Traveler
A simple and bright upbeat melody envelop the listener, Strings, simply snary drums, a playful piano performance, noticeable bassline and acoustic guitars blend to create such a youthful and hopeful vibe, shining without being cheesy – which is a difficult task by itself. Miracle Dream Traveler might seem like the typical bright pop-rock tune – in its essence the structure is the same – but it’s the performance that makes this song standout. Everyone on this group delivered an energetic performance. We’re especially fond of their work in the chorus, we can’t help but feel that this group sounds great as a whole. The solo parts we incredibly solid with not one really standing out from the rest of the group. And overall complete performance of a song that will resonate with the listener. A magical song that will pull the listener to it in such a sweet way, a true gem on this release. 5/5
2.Tryst of Stars
Tryst of Stars quiets down a bit the energy of the first track. The instrumental lends the help from delicate strings, bright piano melody, slow paced paced beat, harp, mesmerizing bassline and simple guitar riffs to create a sweet, laidback vibe. The chorus explodes in emotion and instrumentalization in contrast with the mid-tempo, simple verses.
The performances impressed us. This group sounds great as a whole during the choruses. Individually, Hashimoto sounds a bit shaky on his solo parts but he makes up for it whenever he has to sing alongside another member. Even if Murase is clearly using a tone that isn’t normal for him – he sounds great on his solo parts. Midorikawa avoiding nasaling the song when there were more than enough opportunities for that to happen during his solo parts was impressive. His performance was clean and the fact that he went for those high notes before the final chorus surprised us, he’s not usually the type to tackle high notes of any kind – even if his vocal range does allow him that with ease. Eguchi goes mostly unnoticed on this song, at least when fine are performing the choruses, but if we pay attention to those parts carefully, there he is in the background, helping blending all the different tones together. Solo wise, his performance is more solid than on the previous song. Tryst of Stars does come close with the fantastic Miracle Dream Traveler but can’t match it completely. 4.5/5
This is the first time we reviewed an Ensemble Stars! release. It is also the first time we’ve listened to fine and the first time we’ve heard Hashimoto singing. So, a lot of first times for us with this release.
fine are an interesting group. Looking at the lineup we weren’t expecting much from them and looking at the label – Pony Canyon – we weren’t expecting much quality. It seems that thankfully everything exceeded our expectations.
fine are a pop-rock outfit that fits incredibly well within the Ensemble Stars!‘s franchise as well as among other 2.5D units. Pop-rock created/composed in such a way that the listener can relate to the song and its underlining feelings is hard to come by. And adding a bit of brightness while avoiding sounding the epitome of generic and cheesy is also commendable. The instrumentals for both songs avoided in most part synths – there were some synth parts, especially in Tryst of Stars but it was almost unnoticeable. Once again, for straying away from heavy synth driven instrumentals and still deliver two great songs, we need to praise this group and its composers.
The lineup wasn’t something we were looking forward too much. Midorikawa, Eguchi, Hashimoto – that we didn’t know of – and Murase didn’t seem like the best sounding group to us when we first noticed who was part of fine. Midorikawa has been improving but he’s still inconsistent. Eguchi is a versatile singer that, if trapped performing bubbly pop, as good as he might as a singer, he ends up sounding close to awful; Murase is great with his mid-tones but as soon as we looked at the cover art we noticed that it was certain that he’d be voicing the pink haired kid, so goodbye to his mid-tones. Hashimoto… We’ve never heard of him before and were curious how he’d sound. These were our initially impressions though, after listening to this CD those changed.
As much as we might enjoy Takuya Eguchi‘s performances and love his versatility across all music genres, it’s nice that there is a group out there in which he doesn’t stand out as much, giving the opportunity for others to shine. He still performs as expected but it seems that this lineup has some rather similar tones that don’t allow him to standout as much. Hikaru Midorikawa has been criticized in the past for his singing technique – something that is clearly connected with the nasal way in which he usually speaks, characteristical of Tochigi -, but in the past few years he’s been improving by leaps and bounds (even if there’s a bit of inconsistency here and there at times) and this release showed a confident Midorikawa leading the way for two flawless performances. Hashimoto has good control over his mid tones and has an interesting singing color, he proved to be an important piece in this group. We’re used to Ayumu Murase‘s powerful mid tones but what we get with this group is a different kind of performance. Even if his tone is clearly different, his singing skills are still one thing we need mention. He’s a great singer. He goes mostly unnoticed but he’s a great singer regardless of the tone in which he’s asked to sing.
Hands down the best song on this release is Miracle Dream Traveler, the whole feel of the song, the instrumental and the performaces were impressive, we kept wanting to listen to it again.
As a whole, fine performed incredibly well for the 3rd series of Ensemble Stars!‘s unit song CDs. They are a throughly interesting group with good vocals and a simple, easy to listen pop-rock sound that will grab your attention.
“Ensemble Stars! Unit Song CD 3rd Series vol.3 fine” is available for purchase on CDJAPAN for all overseas fans.