Gakuto Kajiwara’s “Jinsei no Life” is good as it is. Life is not perfect and the CD perfectly illustrates that, flaws and everything.
Title: 人生のライフ (Jinsei no Life) Release date: 25/10/2023 Label: AVEX Genre: Acoustic Pop-Rock / Ballad
1 - はじめちまったんだ (Hajime chimattannda) 2 - そこに恋が落ちていた (Sokoni Koi ga Ochiteita) 3 - 灯りと妄想 (Akari to Mousou) 4 - 夢現、夏風薫る (Yumeutsutsu, Natsukazekaoru) 5 - アメノチハレ (Ame Nochi Hare)
Track by track analysis:
1 – Hajime chimattannda
Gakuto Kajiwara kicks off the mini-album with the carefree “Hajime chimattannda”, song that quickly brings nostalgia to the spotlight.
Electric guitars reverb in the background supporting the groovy bassline and consistent snary drums. A hopeful piano melody plays in the background, being complemented by the warm acoustic guitar riffs.
In a comfortable tempo and with a sweet yet nostalgic vibe, Gakuto Kajiwara carefully trails his path through this song, reaching the liberating focus. Expect overdriven guitar riffs but the biggest change of them all in this part is on Kajiwara’s vocals, with him bringing his clarity through several falsetto accents to the performance.
When the second verse kicks in, the song changes its structure just enough to make almost all sound like a different side of the story, a new start with more energy and excitement while keeping the feet on the ground throughout. This can be felt by how slower and more deliberate the bassline and acoustic guitars are in this part.
Building up hype to the final chorus, listeners will find the instrumental to quiet down a bit to give way to claps. Those accompany Kajiwara’s vocals, raising the tension for the final chorus.
In a live setting, this will be a moment to have a call and response with the fans, fitting well within the song.
As “Hajime Chimattannda” wraps up, nostalgia has taken over. It feels almost as if I am being taken back in time to my teenage years. It is liberating, hopeful, and laidback. It feels good.
2 – Sokoni Koi ga Ochiteita
“Sokoni Koi ga Ochiteita” is all about its stripped-down acoustic vibes. The song kicks off with warm acoustic guitar riffs carefully plucking their way through the track as Gakuto Kajiwara sings.
Slowly, the instrumental brings in more and more elements into the mix with a delicate piano playing in the background, simple drums, and a bass joining in.
The chorus is made to put a smile on your face. Not only did the instrumental open, changing its dynamics from a sound closer to the listener to something bigger on a soundstage but also Gakuto Kajiwara performed with a lot of emotion, professing his love for you.
As the second chorus arrives, the instrumental is warm and busy – but in a good way – and there’s also an old-school synth adding a bit of drama to it.
The song will go by in a flash – being under 3 minutes – and you will certainly feel like you could listen to it to no end.
3 – Akari to Mousou
We’ve reached the middle of the mini-album. “Akari to Mousou” leads the way with a longing sound lending a lot of influences from post-rock with its reverbed guitars in minor key in the intro.
However, things change as the song gets to the second part of the verse.
Acoustic guitars, bass, and drums join in the instrumental. Those shift the tone from longing to relaxing as the electric guitars get a bit funky – even if you have one guitar to your right side that is all about those distant riffs.
The chorus is brief and doesn’t sound like a massive build-up in energy or tension in comparison to the verses.
On the vocal end, Gakuto Kajiwara is showing a lot more of his technique, delivering clean long notes, and playing around with his falsetto while performing with his trademark warm mid-toned vocals.
While “Akari to Mousou” didn’t leave that big of an impression on me within this mini-album, the vibes and the vocals are well worth checking this song out.
4 – Yumeutsutsu, Natsukazekaoru
“Yumeutsutsu, Natsukazekaoru” tones things down, leaving Gakuto Kajiwara alongside a nostalgic acoustic guitar and a gentle piano melody for its intro.
The pacing is slow, making the song give off an introspective vibe.
Carefully and following its slow pacing, the song turns into an emotional acoustic rock ballad.
And this is where the song goes from good to outstanding quite fast for me.
The dynamics change as you get to the chorus, bringing drums, bass, and electric guitars into the mix. The guitars are overdriven, the drums drag to the crash and ride and the bassline goes really deep for this part.
Kajiwara maintains his calm throughout this part, with the warmth in his vocals taking this song to new heights emotionally.
The bridge introduces a reading part – something I was not expecting – but soon after everything quiets down to give the spotlight to Kajiwara’s vocals.
And that’s when another surprise arrives and this one I am absolutely in love with. The key in the instrumental changes for the last chorus of this song. It is subtle but that change from minor to major key, gives hope to the song, makes us root for the protagonist, and, for some invested in this song, cry.
“Yumeutsutsu, Natsukazekaoru” is hands down, the best song in this mini-album.
5 – Ame Nochi Hare
And wrapping up this mini-album is “Ame Nochi Hare”, a song that brings to the spotlight fast, overdriven guitars and a carefree vibe.
The song kicks off strongly and quickly turns into a bass-driven tune – yes, fellow bass lovers, this song will make you jam along like crazy – with snary drums in the backdrop.
The pacing is fun and the beat quite addictive but where this song really shines is in the chorus. It feels like running with nothing holding you back. It is liberating in a way. And the chorus completely capitalizes on that.
And let’s talk about this guitar solo. It feels so good and I love how the composers opted to gate it – muffling the sound – instead of overdriving it. That resulted in a guitar solo that while powerful sounds slightly fragile. I find this dynamic quite interesting and refreshing, giving a different vibe to the whole song.
On the vocal end, don’t expect Kajiwara to be on top of his game. This is a performance in which he seems to be relaxed, and not too focused on giving you a show. It is almost as if you’re watching an indie performance, you’re here for the fun and that’s a load of fun you get in his performance.
One thing that ticked me off in this song, and a big reason it doesn’t get full marks is the “la la la” filled part in the outro. It drags for too long and given how hyped up the song is when that part arrives, it ends up crowding the song as a result, making it too busy for my taste. Once again, you may feel differently so please check the song even if my assessment is not as positive as you’d expect.
All in all, while not perfect, “Ame Nochi Hare” is a fun song, wrapping up this mini-album on a more upbeat and fun note in comparison to its nostalgic opening.
Gakuto Kajiwara continues his streak of feel-good acoustic rock releases. “Jinsei no Life” is more human in tone, with lots of stories to tell you and for you to take in.
As a result, many of the songs in this release have an introspective or even nostalgic tone, something I wasn’t necessarily anticipating but that ended up being an interesting surprise.
The full focus on acoustic rock brings forth a warmth that is unique to Kajiwara’s music, a mix of his crystal clear yet warm vocals and the melodies he usually has played by the acoustic guitars.
That combo is more than enough to make his music have that “feel good” vibe I talked about earlier. To top it all off Kajiwara showcases his emotional depth as a performer, with his performance in “Yumeutsutsu, Natsukazekaoru” shining brighter than anything for me.
In a way, this song reminds me of Aimer’s “Rokutousei no Yoru”. While not the same song, the tone and its build-up is fairly similar. That’s where the similarities stop but hell if this song didn’t give me a flashback of that song, a song I haven’t listened to for years.
“Yumeutsutsu, Natsukazekaoru” had me on the edge of my seat as I followed the story in the lyrics, as Kajiwara continued to add more emotion to his vocals, as the guitars screamed in a fragile way. This is a beautiful song and a refreshing entry in his repertoire given how most of it, if not all of the ideas in this song had never been explored before in his music.
There are some highs and lows in Gakuto Kajiwara’s “Jinsei no Life” with the lows not being critical – actually, I believe many people will appreciate those songs I didn’t click with as much.
Still, I feel like “Jinsei no Life” is good as it is. Life is not perfect and the CD perfectly illustrates that, flaws and everything.
“Jinsei no Life” is a solid entry in Gakuto Kajiwara’s repertoire and a must-listen for fans of acoustic pop rock or indie-rock.
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“Jinsei no Life” is available for streaming on Spotify.
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