Loungy citypop and nu-disco guide you through empty neon-lit streets while taking the spotlight in Koutaro Nishiyama’s “Laundry”.
Title: Laundry Release date: 21/07/2021 Label: Lantis Genre: Citypop / Nu-disco
1 - Highway cruise 2 - ラストランデブー 3 - 消せない写真 4 - Lovin'You 5 - サラダの日には (lyrics by Koutaro Nishiyama) 6 - Sweet Lemonade
Track by track analysis:
1 – Highway cruise
A melancholic piano melody and atmospheric synth create a vast soundscape filled with neon lights. This is quite the interesting take on citypop pop, adding a new polish to it, almost taking this song to nu-disco/space-disco territory.
The verses are slow-paced and groovy, with a bouncy bassline leading the way. This is such a moody song, making me want to go on a late-night drive. It’s carefree and elegant in equal measures while keeping up a good rhythm and tempo.
The chorus is intoxicating and catchy, with pulsing synths joining in a bassy beat and progressive piano melodies. The result is an addictive chorus that you’ll want more and more of.
On the vocal end, expect an interesting performance by Koutaro Nishiyama as he goes for a mix of clean singing, heavily produced parts (at least with some auto-tune going on in there), and also low and fast rapping. And those vocals fading in and out of your ears are back as waves wash ashore.
2 – ラストランデブー
“Last Rendezvous” brightens things up with an upbeat piano melody, perky brass, playful guitar riffs, and a bouncy beat + bassline combo.
The verses are fun and cheerful, riding on top of a comfortable mid-tempo. You can feel the bounce in this song as the bassline takes over however, there is also time for guitars to take the spotlight, coming from the back to the front in the second verse.
Good vibes overflow in the chorus but I feel like the highlight in this song comes with that emotional guitar solo in the bridge, raising the tension levels for yet another exciting chorus.
This is surprisingly a good take on bubbly pop music without sounding cheesy. And that ending with the old-school fade-out is another detail I love to find in this song.
It may go unnoticed by Koutaro Nishiyama played around his vocal range in this song, bringing to the spotlight his gentle, whispery mid-tones but also high notes in some parts – however, used as pitch vocals only.
Complete and fun song with only good vibes on stage.
3 – 消せない写真
“Kesanai Shashin” kicks off with quick, blues-inspired guitar hits in the middle of a smooth, loungy soundscape created by atmospheric synths.
The focus is put on making the bassline shine, going for those deep, groovy notes that take you to this late evening, summery soundscape.
The verses are relaxing and slightly mature in tone, slowly accompanying you to the funky chorus.
The 2nd verse plays around with your sense of distance, with Koutaro Nishiyama’s vocals going far and away, slightly muffled, then returning to center stage to match the pounding bassy beat.
The lyrics are melancholic and the performance perfectly captures that, it’s as if you’re driving through your memories, revisiting those but there is that one, specific memory that you do not want to erase, you treasure it.
This song does capture that feeling from its instrumental to the performance that Koutaro Nishiyama delivers. And this is quite a simple performance. Nishiyama sounds completely comfortable performing it yet, it ends up being powerful enough to make you even stop to think about your memories.
I do love a good song like this, simple and evocative of more senses than just your audition.
4 – Lovin’You
Things change around a little bit for “Lovin’You”, a song that starts stripped-down, with Koutaro Nishiyama accompanied by a rhodes piano and snap-finger beat.
However, that changes when you get to the verses. In these, pizzicato strings join in a deep, intense bassline and simple bassy beat to create the type of song you’d find playing during a late night at a lounge or jazz bar.
And you have, indeed, jazz elements in this song, albeit not in the spotlight. The brief drums sections with those plays on the hi-hats are a good example of that.
The song carries itself well, with seamless transitions between sections and always with that bouncy, bassy sound present from start to finish.
Nishiyama goes low on his vocal range, matching those relaxing, loungy vibes with a dual performance that brings both clean mid-tones and whispery low notes.
For a moment, it seems like Nishiyama is, indeed, and in the context of the soundscape created, hanging out with you close enough to almost whisper into your ear those endearing lyrics.
5 – サラダの日には
“Salada no Hi ni wa” brings back citypop to the spotlight. The good vibes envelop you, slowly taking you on a stroll through the neon-lights painted city in this soundscape.
The bassline is massive in this song, punching its way through in the chorus and perfectly complementing the funky guitar riffs in the verses. A rhodes piano and brass add an elegant makeup to this song, making you not want it to end.
The song has lyrics by Koutaro Nishiyama, and he managed to create a beautiful world you’ll want to lose yourself in. His performance is steady for the most part with only some slight high notes sounding a bit sloppy but it’s not something that messes up the performance as a whole.
6 – Sweet Lemonade
Wrapping up this mini-album is “Sweet Lemonade”, a song chosen as the title track to promote this release.
So, why wrap up with the song that best represents all the good vibes and fancy music genres that you can find in this mini-album. Well, this is the interesting part.
“Sweet Lemonade” is, in a way, a spiritual successor to “Mahiru doki no Stella” however with its funky vibes cranked up to the maximum. If you love a good bassline, this song more than provides that.
The verses are groovy and warm, with that bassline putting an arm around your shoulders as you head towards the chorus.
The pre-chorus takes that comfort off of you and, as a result, the soundscape will weirdly sound cold for a couple of seconds before the bassline makes its return.
The mixing in this track is tight and close to the listener, something you can easily notice if you’re listening to this song with neutral headphones (attention that if you use bassy headphones with a really low impedance, then this song will sound murky as there’s too much bass going on).
Brass joins in the chorus and an overdriven, reverbed guitar delivers a stunning long solo that capitalizes on the groovy, playful tone of this song.
On the vocal end, Koutaro Nishiyama goes for a gentle performance with some whispery parts and beautiful pitch vocal harmonies in the background.
Koutaro Nishiyama’s sophomore mini-album “Laundry” is a vast improvement from “city”, and it was already a stellar mini-album, to begin with.
Citypop’s melancholic, dreamy vibes are back, bringing as well with their funk and bubbly pop, creating a unique, punchy set of addictive downtempo dance tunes that also serve perfectly as loungy music.
The bass and guitar work in this mini-album is off the charts. It is fun, groovy, and extremely funky, capturing memories of a past some many have never lived, fleshing those out, and taking everyone for a ride.
More often than not, I found myself wanting to hit that replay button instead of moving to the next song to review it.
“I found a new song I love! Perhaps I should stop the review here to avoid coming across a song that ruins the experience for me.”, but as I continued to check the album, there were more songs I fell in love with, so yeah, “Laundry” is a highlight in form of an album, overflowing with good vibes, songs that are evocative of a late-night staring at the neon lights in the city or just sitting back and enjoying a late evening in the summer as waves wash ashore.
It has a classy sound and elegant performances by Koutaro Nishiyama that, once again, shows that he knows exactly what he is doing, making his unique singing tone and skillset as a singer shine. He may not be the most technical singer but hell if he isn’t a smart singer, making sure his strengths are highlighted, making himself sound good at all times.
I do appreciate it when singers do know what are their skills, what they can and cannot do on the vocal end. Not everyone belts, not everyone has falsetto, vibrato, or is even able to perform head voice notes. And as a singer, Nishiyama certainly lacks some of those skills but when you listen to this album, you won’t even miss those.
There’s no song in this album that requires any of those skills. It’s just his whispery low notes and slightly nasally mid-tones and he’s ready to go. And it sounds genuinely good.
That is smart from Nishiyama and his producer.
I’ve got a soft spot for “Highway cruise” and “Kesanai Shashin”, two of the simplest songs in this album yet the ones that carry the most emotion for me. Their loungy vibes are intoxicating, the bounce from those deep basslines is so good, the performances are genuinely flawless. I found myself replaying these two songs as soon as the review wrapped up.
But even if I do have a soft spot for those songs truth is that every single song in this mini-album is so much fun to listen to.
You’d be right to think this mini-album suits really well a late night, as most of its songs do have that imagery. But you also have “Last Rendezvous” brightening things up and giving you, for a change, a song that is not as quiet and loungy, bringing instead a bit of energy to the forefront while perking you up.
If you haven’t had the pleasure of listening to “Laundry”, I do thoroughly suggest you do so. If you’re into punchy basslines, retro vibes, quality guitar work, and lyrics + vocals that will sway your emotions, Koutaro Nishiyama achieved just that with this perfect mini-album.
Laundry is available for purchase at CDJAPAN.
Laundry is available for streaming on Spotify.
Do not support piracy. Remember to support Koutaro Nishiyama by streaming via official outlets.