MooNs are back with “GO AROUND“. The talented quintet brought to the table their passionate pop sound and showcased improvement in some areas, even if with some hiccups along the way.
Title: GO AROUND Label: MAGES. Release date: 16/05/2018 Genre: J-Pop/Dance/Pop-Rock
01.GO AROUND (MooNs) 02.Daytime star (Kazuna Masunaga solo) 03.Movin' on (Momotaro Onzai solo) 04.Let's have Fun♪ (Hikaru Osari solo) 05.Never Surrender (Tatsuhiro Nome solo) 06.Breath (Mikado Sekimura solo) 07.GO AROUND (instrumental) 08.Daytime star (instrumental) 09.Movin' on (instrumental) 10.Let's have Fun♪ (instrumental) 11.Never Surrender (instrumental) 12.Breath (instrumental)
Track by track analysis:
“GO AROUND” brings to the table a fun synth pop sound with exciting guitar riffs. Initially, the synths might seem to be setting a fast pace for this song, however what we have in hand is a pretty slow paced pop tune but not without its fair share of enjoyment. Synthetic drums put a major focus on a bass-y sound, at the same time that a delicate piano melody adds a classy touch to the instrumental. On the vocal end, MooNs show yet again improvements, the biggest surprise being Yuto Uemura‘s growth. He’s now on par with the other members, able to shine on his solo parts and leading the way. But let’s not forget about Morikubo, Kakihara, Okawa and Masuda, the consistent quartet that always pushes MooNs‘ songs to greater heights. Once again they were present that had a melodic touch to this performance with vibrato and ad-libs. “GO AROUND” a fantastic addition to MooNs‘ repertoire. 5/5
A delicate music box melody kicks off “Daytime star“, a musical-esque tune performed by Yuto Uemura (as Kazuna Masunaga). Upbeat piano melodies, strings, brass, orchestral bits, timpani and simple snare-y drums bring to life this grandiose and playful instrumental. Looking back at previous performances, and comparing those with this one, is enough to notice just how much Uemura has grown as a singer. Although still far from being on equal footing with the other members in MooNs, he’s starting to show some stability, being able to hold his own for this performance. At times his performance lacked emotion but is certainly something he’ll be able to polish in further releases. 4/5
Shifting gears, “Movin’ on” brings to the table a pop song with a rock twist. In comparison with the previous track “Movin’ on” relies much more on synths – these being a bit out of place in some sections of the song -. Aside from those bright synths that are essentially the tone setters for this track, we find strings, simple washy synthetic drums, with some dubstep accents in the beat, something that doesn’t end up hindering the whole listening experience. The core of the instrumental relies on acoustic and electric guitars that give a band touch to this tune. The vocal performance is as comfortable as Tetsuya Kakihara can get. This isn’t a song that requires any fancy singing techniques nor flourishes, even though Kakihara now has a tendency to add some vibrato to his performances – something that always makes his performances shine. 4/5
04.Let’s have Fun♪
A groovy bass line leads the way for “Let’s have Fun♪ “, playful pop tune performed by Showtaro Morikubo (as Hikaru Osari). Funky guitar riffs, hi-hat driven drums, some washy synths, brass and the slap bass are the core of this entertaining tune. Due to being slow paced and heavily bass oriented, this instrumental sets the funkiest vibe out of all songs on this release. On the vocal department, we find Morikubo cruising throughout this song, ending up delivering a comfortable upbeat performance. 4/5
“Never Surrender” is an engaging rock tune that completely and successfully breaks the streak of pop tunes on this release. The instrumental was crafted around raging guitar riffs, a simple bass line and fast paced, splashy drums. This is an incredibly simple formula that more than serves its purpose: to stir up the listener, to engage the listener in the song. This release was in dire need of a spark, something truly exciting in the vocal department, aside from all the textbook, bland performances we’ve had throughout the solo section on this album. Genki Okawa (as Tatsuhiro Nome) is the right man for it. He brought to the table a raw and powerful performance that made this song all the more entertaining. Strong performance. 4.5/5
And MooNs wrap up this release with a sweet R&B song, “Breath“. Simple drums and a groovy bass line set a slow pace for this song, one in which acoustic guitars are kings, the piano impress with its sweet melody, and delicate strings sweetly envelop the listener. Its slow pace and sweet vibe are as infectious as relaxing for the listener, making this instrumental one of the easiest to listen to. On the vocal end the listener finds Toshiki Masuda (as Mikado Sekimura) delivering a stunning performance filled with vibrato and Masuda‘s trademark gentle touch. If you thought the instrumental was good, wait until you listen to his performance. This song has everything to be your next favorite R&B tune. 5/5
MooNs keep showing their trumps with this release. “GO AROUND” is an eclectic release, filled with a variety of tunes that range from pop to dance, rock and R&B.
The title track ranks easily as one of MooNs‘ best songs released so far. The balance in the instrumental, its progression, exciting chorus and consistent vocal performances impressed. This is a fun song that doesn’t need excess synths to make its point – something that we dread about the B-Project franchise -, the focus on elements other than synths, such as guitars and bass, make the song and engaging and great listen.
Now, let’s talk briefly about the solo songs.
Although “Daytime star” is far from being one of the highlights on this release, Uemura‘s performance deserves to be commended. Out of all MooNs‘ members – that either have solo, group or even both careers -, he was the one initially lacking in experience, presenting several inconsistencies in the vocal department. With each release, fans got to witness his continuous growth. He’s been steadily improving his control and consistency, with this song being an important step towards changing the opinions of those – like me – that still doubt his singing skills.
“Movin’ on” was also far from being the best song on this release. The simple pop-rock instrumental was met with a comfortable, by-the-book performance by Kakihara. While it’s true that his vocals are among, if not really, the best this unit has to offer, it would have been interesting if he had pushed the envelope with his performance. What we got was certainly consistent but far from standing out from the other solo songs.
“Let’s have Fun♪ ” is the resident funky song. If you’re looking for a song to brighten up your day, this one will do the trick quite easily. Its greeting card is the funky sound but there are a variety of elements on the instrumental that will spark your interest. As expected, Showtaro Morikubo delivered a fun, energetic performance. This song was the turning point on this album for the strong finish all of us got the opportunity to listen.
“NEVER SURRENDER” came as a breath of fresh air in the middle of what was, until then, a sea of pop tunes. A whole band sound took over in what is one of the most exciting tunes on this release. Genki Okawa nailed his performance, injecting a well needed bit of excitement and energy on this rather quiet release.
“Breath” embraces a quiet and warm vibe, breaking away from the passionate rock sound that “NEVER SURRENDER” had introduced on this release. No synths, no fancy beats and no ranging guitars. Interestingly enough, without those elements, this song easily stood out on its own. Its sweetness is infectious from the very first piano note to Toshiki Masuda‘s gentle, vibrato-ed performance. Masuda is working his way up to slowly claim the spot as MooNs‘ best singer.
I can’t shake off the feeling that there was something amiss in most solo performances that was rather concerning. Except for the title track, “NEVER SURRENDER” and “Breath“, all other vocal performances were too “comfortable” or “bland”. Textbook performances are okay from time to time to balance things up, or just because the vibe on a certain release demands something simple. However, knowing MooNs‘ vocal prowess, and knowing what this lineup is capable of based on previous releases, it felt like a waste of talent to not push the envelope for their solo performances. There was certainly passion and energy in most songs, but that came mostly from the instrumentals and not from the vocals.
But not everything is negative. Even if at some cost, MooNs have mostly strayed away from the heavy synth based instrumentals – something that, in my opinion, was hindering their vocals -, and gave us only funky and rich instrumentals instead. This is a major improvement. Even in the solo songs, only one fully embraced synths pop, the others only used synths – if used at all – as accents, nothing more. This alone enables the members with more opportunities to showcase their vocals and shine. Their music sounds lighter and matured. Some might argue that this sudden choice for rawer, acoustic and simpler instrumentals is the cause of the bland performances, however, if you listen closely, the songs that are supposed to be the most exciting are actually the ones that have the bland performances, not the other way around. It’s safe to say that this new route sound-wise actually benefited the group – “NEVER SURRENDER” and “Breath” being the perfect examples of that.
Regardless, “GO AROUND” is a solid release with interesting moments and some highlights worth checking. It showed the unique colors of the group’s members – even if it failed to fully showcase their talents -, and gave us one of the best group songs in their repertoire.
“GO AROUND” is available for purchase on CDJAPAN.