Kensho Ono returns with Take the TOP, an album that revisits past endeavors to rock all the while embracing a newer, funkier sound. This is Ono’s best work so far.
Title: Take the TOP Label: Lantis Release date: 26/02/18 Genre: J-Pop/Rock/Funk/Electronic
1.Take the TOP 2.TOUCH 3.Night Drivin' 4.Rain Dance 5.Wonder Train 6.Against The Wind 7.STORY 8.ZERO 9.to you 10.FANTASTIC TUNE
Track by track analysis:
1- Take the TOP
Take the TOP sounds like an upgraded version of Kensho‘s old tracks. With a mix of electronica elements, specially the progression before the chorus, and some guitar action going on we have the perfect marriage between the two genres the artist has made endeavors to. The synths and the powerful yet slow tempo drums’ performance bring up the power of the instrumental piece. The choice to add strings in the pre-chorus was an interesting and unexpected choice as it adds a little more jazz to the instrumental piece. 5/5
Starting discreetly, TOUCH kicks off with all the focus on the guitar provided by R.O.N, that has also worked previously with Kensho in his first single. This track is strongly backed up by the robust and perceptible bass and guitar, reminding us a bit, if we were forgotten, of Kensho’s debut single, where the guitars were owners of the spotlight at all times. We can also notice those small bits provided by R.O.N‘s guitar that make all OLDCODEX fans notice how similar those sound (R.O.N is a former bandmate of seiyuu Tatsuhisa Suzuki, now working on his own projects and helping providing guitar parts or even arrangements for some artists in the business) compared with some old OLDCODEX‘s tracks. Putting that apart, this is a upbeat, full-fledged rock track with some good moments, not that elaborate, simpler like the guitar solo in the outro that turned out to be a good addition to the track. 4.5/5
3- Night Drivin’
Funky summer instrumental is the first thing to pop in our mind when listening to this track’s intro, giving special attention to the guitar bu we cannot forget about the bass. Unlike any other tracks released before, Night Drivin’ really has a nice and new vybe to it without relying to much on the synthetic drums and the synths as Kensho has done in previous tracks such as Touch the Style, we still have a perfect track for summer making one even think about parties. Although the song doesn’t rely heavily on synths we still have some in the background, nothing like his previous tracks which sometimes even made people identifying his tracks with the k-pop genre. This laid-back genre is not Kensho’s usual but unexpectedly suits him quite well although we don’t really have a chance to say if his vocal performance has leveled up or not given the thought that this track isn’t very challenging, vocal wise. 4.5/5
4- Rain Dance
This track has all the potential for it to be funky and jazzy. This is Rain Dance, a track that takes the highway to the jazz genre while keeping the artist’s trademark “sound” intact. With a playful performance delivered by the wah-wah funky guitar riffs and the splappy bass, Rain Dance is blessed with a fascinating instrumental piece, one that suits Kensho very much. At moments, the vocal performance may sound different from the usual, but fear not as what we are witnessing is simply the artist showing that he owns this performance. 5/5
5- Wonder Train
Wonder Train offers us with an instrumental piece focused on a simple melody provided by the harp with minor percussion work so common in the R&B genre. The bassline and the synths in the chorus are certainly one of the genre’s must-haves. This track really brings back some late 90s vibes when the R&B genre was all the jam. Even though Wonder Train has a different genre than what we are so used to listen Kensho sing to, he does not seem to be out of place at all. It’s like he was born to sing this track. 5/5
6- Against The Wind
Right of the bat, we can say for sure that this track was really created for the Kuroko’s Basketball series. With all the most remarking/trademark instrumental performances, we can undeniably say that this will be a good track. Guitar riffs and the drums’ performance make one recall one of Ono’s first tracks FANTASTIC TUNE. At the same time, we have to admit that the artist has truthfully merged with the pop/rock genre unlike some of his previous releases., where we could still notice some struggling from Ono’s part in singing some of his tracks. Fast tempo drums and quality guitar and bass performances compose this tracks instrumental piece. To add a different twist to this track we have a melodic piano playing in the bridge. In what concerns the guitar at the ending, we believe it somewhat resembles OLDCODEX’s trademark guitar performance, which is not a bad thing at all. 5/5
STORY kicks off with the typical guitar we often listen to when checking out Kensho’s previous releases. A powerful instrumental is waiting for us when we pass the intro, the fast drums and guitar work alongside the bass will make some of you remember OLDCODEX’s instrumentals. The detail of the piano playing shyly on the background was a nice touch, because despite it being unexpected it still blended well with the rest of the instrumental. The chorus is a really good one continuing with the same spirit from the beginning of the instrumental piece and the guitar solo really makes it clear that this track is a rock one, the melodic guitar and fast drums are the main focus in this part. STORY is by far the best track in the single. 5/5
Kicking off this single we have ZERO, a powerful and more rock oriented than what we are used to listen from Kensho. The good guitar and great bass-line make us wonder who is the mastermind behind the instrumental of this track and the answer is R.O.N– former member of OLDCODEX and now assisting Lantis’s talents – so I think it is pretty self-explanatory to why the song is so good. The non-stopping drums are really awesome and actually put the whole instrumental together, of course the bass is also not to belittle, it’s on “solo-mode” throughout the whole track. Definitely worth listening to. 5/5
9- to you
Provinding us with a rock instrumental piece, to you sounds like a good old rock track, especially the guitar in solo mode throughout most of the track. With a simple yet perfectly combined instrumental piece, this track proves once again, as if we did not know already, that Kensho suits the rock genre like a glove. Even though, he is not singing any different than usual, there is something in Kensho’s vocal performance in this track that gives off more emotion, certainly because of the guitar solo. 5/5
10- FANTASTIC TUNE
“FANTASTIC TUNE” is the ending theme of “Kuroko no Basket 2nd season”. Starting with the raging guitars and the amazingly loud bass. This is certainly a mid towards a fast-paced song lead by the drums, making this an amazing rock song. The slightly perceivable piano in the pre-chorus gives this song a good touch. The aggressive guitar solo just asks for the listener’s attention, it’s not something otherworldly but is technical and fast as well as aggressive making this solo a pretty amped up one. Kensho worked with R.O.N. in this track hence some people with previous knowledge of R.O.N’s work, let’s say with OLDCODEX for example, will notice some of his trademarks along the track. His trademark guitar riffs are all over the place some guitar parts even sound a bit like R.O.N’s previous work with the OST from “Kuroko no Basket 1st season”. Kensho’s voice impresses in a good way. While you might think that his sweet mid-tones vocals wouldn’t fit a rock song well, Kensho proves you wrong. He is definitely a perfect fit to sing rock songs. 5/5
Take the TOP is by far the best album Kensho has released. This album is a diamond in the rough, with its tracks perfectly organized, telling us a story. Tracks like Fantastic Tune, Zero and Against the Wind really bring back some memories back of when Kensho had debuted and the experiments he has been carrying out in order to show his versatility when it comes to singing different genres.
Tracks such as Take the TOP, Wonder Train and Rain Dance certainly gave us a surprise as we could listen to Kensho bringing R&B instrumental pieces to the table and incorporating jazzy funky guitars in his tracks. Though for some Kensho has not changed much since his debut, we have to disagree on that. The artist has steadily been making his way, trying new genres in his releases and for the most part he does pull it off quite well. One thing we can say is that Kensho has finally started to find his “sound” abandoning the OLDCODEX‘s influences we so often noticed.
With this release we can confidentely say that if Kensho does not stray from this path we are in it for a long enjoyable ride.
“Take the TOP” is available for purchase at CDJAPAN.