「PASSAGE」, Miyano Mamoru’s 4th album is another major hit album to be released by the prolific seiyuu. A strong yet smooth album where Japanese and Western cultures meet flawlessly.
Album: Passage Released: 18/09/2013 Label: King Records Genre: J-pop/R&B
1. UNSTOPPABLE 2. ULTRA FLY 3. Identity 4. THANK YOU (reprise) 5. 愛の詩～Ulyssesの宴～ 6. GOLDEN NIGHT -futuremix- 7. カノン 8. 辻の華 9. スーパーノヴァ 10. Calling 11. passage. 12. 未来
Track by track analysis:
1 – UNSTOPPABLE
The opening song of the album is an electronic hit. We’re in for a joyride with this album. A drum & bass to the core. Clearly, a song where Mamoru wanted to incorporate the western flavor to it, drum & bass and dubstep are the genres that best categorize this song. The song in itself is incredibly addictive.
The lack of guitars might put some people off at first but the drums and haunting vocals compensate for that loss. 4/5
2 – ULTRA FLY
A song that is already known to the fans since it was part of the single “ULTRA FLY” released in 2012. Written by Miyano himself this song is a complete change from the last one since it’s a more rock-oriented song. Ranging guitars, strong vocals on a song that is full of energy.
The guitar solo is amazing and the outro shines with Mamoru’s angel-like voice clearly showing that he is, without a doubt, a talent to be reckoned with. 4.5/5
3 – Identity
The shamisen opens one of the best songs on the album. Eastern and Western cultures meet to make this one a flawless song.
Haunting lyrics, perfect vocal work, and the instrumental are one of the most catchy/addictive I’ve heard in a long time. This right here is a dancefloor hit, a mix between pop and R&B, traditional and modern, reminding us a bit of Miyano’s first album “Break”.
The addition of the shamisen gave the song that “oriental” touch that, in my opinion, is one of the best things that was brought to this song. This song was written when the album was already finished and added in the last moment since Miyano was trying to make this song incredibly remarkable and if he failed he wouldn’t include it on the album.
Lucky enough this song turn out to be one of his best songs so far. The lyrics were written by Mamo-chan himself. The strongest song on the album, a clear trump card to showcase the album’s strengths. 5/5
4 – THANK YOU (reprise)
Another song that is no stranger to the fans. “THANK YOU” was featured on the 2012 single “カノン”. This song is being used as the ending theme for Miyano’s radio show for almost a year but nevertheless, it’s still a pretty fresh song. The reprise arrangement of the song is clearly more R&B than the original. A slow song more focused on the vocal work. Miyano is on top of his game on this song.
Slow, humble, and beautiful, a good addition to the album. Compared to the single version this one stands out more and sounds better than the later. 4.5/5
5 – 愛の詩～Ulyssesの宴～
Right of the bat comes a jazzy song. The drums and vocals are simply perfect. The taiko drums join the song giving the eastern touch to the song. Trumpets and drums guide us through the song.
A good change of pace in the album also proves Mamoru’s vocal versatility, he can sing about any genre out there and still sound incredibly well. A surprise in this album but still a good song. 4/5
6 – GOLDEN NIGHT -futuremix-
And we’re back to a dance song right here. Interesting guitar riffs and robotized vocals dominate the song. The chorus is pretty catchy and builds up to an amazing drop provided by the drums.
Rock and electronica at their best. Besides the robotized vocals when Miyano’s voice is at its natural he simply plays with the higher notes like is no problem at all. Good song overall. 4/5
7 – カノン
Kanon (romanji) or simply Canon is another song that is already known by the fans since it was released this year. The song was featured as the opening theme for the shoujo anime “Uta no prince-sama maji love 2000%” in which Miyano lent his voice to one of the characters.
This one is one of the best pop/rock songs that are on Miyano’s repertoire. The piano guide us through the song, the bass, drums, and guitars parts are incredibly well-executed (we’re talking about the guys from ELEMENTS GARDEN so that is to be expected from their work) and the vocal work is top-notch with highs and lows being hit by the flawless vocals. Still, this is a different version from the original since the latter was more focused on the strong bassline and this one disregards a bit of that strong point of the single version. Still, it’s 5 out of 5.
A clearly eastern instrumental intro. A slow song and a nice change of pace from the last energizing songs. A ballad through and through and Miyano’s best fit for his voice. The slow, sweet songs are the best to show how great his voice really is and his ability to reach the higher notes flawlessly. Great job with the strings guiding us throughout the song providing the angel-like vocals on the stage to stand out even more. 5/5
9 – スーパーノヴァ
Another pop song right here is very electronica-oriented. This one starts off with a mix between synths and eastern instrumental. The chorus is incredibly catchy but the excess of electronica on this song might put some people off at first. The chorus almost makes up for the fact that the rest of the song is a bit weak in comparison with the later songs. Still, a bit of a letdown with this one. 3.5/5
10 – Calling
Written by Miyano Mamoru “Calling” is introduced to us by the piano and guitar riffs. This one is a very strong rock song by itself. Great work with the drums that literally go crazy on this song making up for the letdown of the previous song. Good addition on this album and yet again a surprise for those expecting the album to go completely “pop”. 5/5
11 – passage,
The title track “passage,” was also written by Miyano Mamoru. This song goes back to the first album’s R&B. A feel-good song given by the smooth vocals and the acoustic guitar. A sweet song with beautiful lyrics. Mamoru hits the higher notes beautifully. Impressive job on this one. 5/5
12 – 未来
And to finish the album here is another ballad. The synth pads and guitars introduce us to a song that shows Miyano’s strongest point: his smooth voice is able to catch all the high notes he wants to without a single problem. A beautiful and sweet song once again and a good choice to end the album. 5/5
Final rating: 4.5/5
The album is once again a surprise in itself, ranging between a multitude of genres that you’d normally think wouldn’t fit together.
From rock to pop, jazz, drum & bass, or even electronica this album has it all. His voice is at its best on this album. Strong 4th album showing that Miyano Mamoru is more than established as one of the best singers in Japan owner of one of the most versatile voices in the business.
Regarding the lyrics: it’s interesting to have Mamoru writing more of his songs’ lyrics. He’s a pretty good lyricst and it would be even better to have him write more for his next singles/albums.
Regarding the instrumental: STY’s arrangements are pretty interesting but Jin Nakamura gets the, more than honorable, mention because of the amazing work arranging and composing “Identity”, the trump card on this album. Guitars, drums, bass, and even the shamisen all have their spotlight moments throughout the album. It’s also good to see more incorporation of typical Japanese instruments adding richness to the sound (the case of the shamisen on “Identity” or the taiko drums on ” 愛の詩～Ulyssesの宴～ “.
Overall: it’s a totally recommended album. An allrounder to boot. Miyano’s best work so far, at least overall. A j-pop/R&B album is full of twists and turns and an incredible joyride from start to finish. An album that will top the charts like no other.
The album is available for purchase at CDJAPAN.