Review | Miyu Irino “Life is…”

Like life itself, Miyu Irino’s “Life is…” is filled with ups and downs, mood swings, introspective bits, and pure fun parts.

Regular edition
Title: Life is…
Label: Kiramune
Release date: 04/11/2020
Genre: Pop-Rock/Ballad/Funk

Tracklist:

1 - やってみればいい 
2 - 確かにそうだ (lyrics by Miyu Irino & Saeki YouthK)
3 - ユウランセン 
4 - どうしようもなく辛い夜は (lyrics by Miyu Irino)
5 - 優しさは誰のためにあるんだろう (lyrics by Miyu Irino & nikiie) 
6 - Alive 
7 - SKY 
8 - M-9.10
9 - Sunny Side Story 
10 - Tokyo
11 - グッド・バイ 
12 - S.H.E.
13 - だって愛は半端ないじゃない

Track by track analysis:

1 – やってみればいい

Smooth synth pads paint a futuristic soundscape yet with a retro touch to it.

Yatte mireba ii” brings old-school, synthetic drums, summery guitar riffs and a punchy bassline from both the bass and synth.

This blend of pop with synthwave and rock shines in this album. The verses are bouncy and bass-centric following a comfortable pacing that leads to the upbeat chorus that awaits you.

I love the whole retro 80s synthrock sound going on. It gives a laidback touch to the song itself and serves as quite the impressive intro to the album. It certainly has grabbed my attention from how unique and unexpected this song is in Irino’s repertoire.

My only issue lies with the vocals. It takes a little bit of getting used to the vocal manipulation in this song. There’s some pitch correcting (or just auto-tune to begin with) going on that, if you, like me, are not a big fan of that, will be put off by.

However, at the same time, I am aware of that being intentional to fleshing out that retro vibe going on in “Yatte mireba ii”, thus, while I’m not a fan of voice manipulation in songs – not even to give it a different flair – I ended up tolerating this quite a bit and find the song enjoyable to listen to.

Strong intro to the album, hopefully setting the tone for it all.

2 – 確かにそうだ

Tashika ni soda” brings funk and pop to the table, with sweet acoustic guitar and bright piano melodies creating a delightful summery soundscape that you’ll want to lose yourself in.

But there’s more to it. The verses are plenty of fun to listen to, with the guitar and piano work immediately sealing the deal for me about how awesome this song is.

The pacing of this song is quite intense – even if the song, ultimately, is laidback at its core -, something that ups the levels of enjoyment and, at the same time, replay value of this song.

Then you have those full, warm drums and punchy bassline in the backdrop, enriching the instrumental, picking Irino’s vocals and directing those to the front of the stage.

The chorus is an explosion of color and emotion, tying up all parts in the song in a tasteful and enjoyable way.

By the time the 2nd chorus enters, you’ll find yourself singing along to this song.

On the vocal end, Miyu Irino delivers a masterclass performance riding on his sweet mid-tones with a couple of instances of beautiful high notes + rock solid head voice notes

I particularly enjoy the vocals mixing in this song. There’s a clarity and warmth coming from Irino’s performance and that was well achieved thanks to awesome vocals mixing. His vocals were brought forward, adding a bit of a wet edge to it to create some dynamic and soundstage to it.

3 – ユウランセン

In a lo-fi fashion, “Yulansen” kicks off with a lot of static in the background as the song slowly evolves into funky goodness.

The pacing is slow and comfortable, conveying a laidback vibe that I absolutely love. In the background you have bright piano melodies, a groovy bassline and playful hi-hat driven drums giving life to this “feel good” song.

The verses are rather melodic and quiet, with a comfortable pacing being dictated by the ticking drums. When funky guitars take over it’s time for the chorus, with the song changing dynamics to welcome a more open, fun and addictive sound.  

And that bluesy guitar solo on top of those funky guitar riffs, rhodes piano and bouncy bassline in the background? Pure goodness.

It’d be an understatement to say that this is a good song; this is the best Irino has released so far. 

To top it all off, Miyu Irino sings this song in two completely different ways.

There’s a lead vocal track in which he’s singing using his comfortable mid-tones and then there’s the pitch vocals in which Irino performs in full-on falsetto. Both tracks are present in the intro and chorus, where they shine the most in my opinion.

This duality between the gentleness and warmth in his mid-tones and the delicate, pristine falsetto make Irino’s performance all the more riveting.

All in all, Irino has did it for me. This is the best song in “Life is…”.

4 – どうしようもなく辛い夜は

The tone changes in the album with “Dou shiyou mo naku tsurai yoru wa” bringing forward an acoustic sound in which acoustic guitars and a piano paint a gentle soundscape with lyrics by Miyu Irino.

Warmth overflows this slow-paced acoustic ballad. The verses are simple and cozy, giving off a friendly campfire vibe. The transition to the chorus is rather subtle, something deeply appreciated in acoustic tunes such as this.

When you arrive at the chorus, the emotions bottled in the verses overflow and Irino delivers those with a care and gentleness that further enhance this laidback, “feel good” vibe in the song.

Although a ballad at its core, it doesn’t really work as a traditional one. Don’t expect excessively dramatic parts.

Irino paced the song and his performance pretty well to the point that he’ll add a lot of emotion to it but the kind that you want to wrap yourself in (as opposed to those emotions that will make you weep in ballads), letting yourself being lullabied by him.

His performance is – as expected – flawless but I’d like to highlight his delicate falsetto in the bridge, as it was the perfect addition to the song, almost having the same effect as a guitar solo would have.

Top marks.

5 – 優しさは誰のためにあるんだろう

A melancholic piano melody paints the soundscape of “Yasashi-sa wa dare no tame ni aru ndarou”.

Irino continues to explore ballads and this time around, the listener is presented with a full-fledged one that will make goosebumps all over your skin.

The verses are stripped out of any distractions, with only Irino’s vocals, an atmospheric synth and those sweet piano melodies creating a beautiful and wide soundscape.

The song slowly changes dynamics, introducing a deep bassline, acoustic guitar riffs and slow paced, minimalistic drums.

By the time the song wraps up, strings have already joined in, enhancing the drama and longing in this song.

As expected, Irino delivers a heart wrenching performance, making great use of his wide emotional range and absolute control over his vocals. Those sustained vocals in the outro were there to deal a blow and what an emotional blow it is.

Just when you think Irino can’t surprise you more, he raises the bar again and delivers an absolute masterclass of a performance.

6 – Alive

A dramatic piano melody plays in an airy and massive soundscape with slow-paced splashy snare echoing in the background.

The verses are ethereal, with little to no distractions in the background. The Irino’s vocals + piano combo is one that keeps on giving. He’s the type of singer that can drive a song forward even with the littlest of elements supporting him in the background and you easily notice this in this performance.

With tension, drama, hopefulness, and even love, Irino conveys all those emotions in a natural way, something that makes it insanely easy to connect with his performance.

It’s safe to say that it’s been a while since Irino last performed an R&B-inspired ballad song like this one. “Alive” is not only a perfect song for this album but also a song that stands tall in Irino’s repertoire.

7 – SKY

Acoustic guitar riffs and pacing piano melodies paint a hopeful, bright soundscape that will put a smile on your face.

SKY” counts with warm drums – with awesome work on the toms -, inspiring chants, upbeat guitar melodies, and a sweet bassline. It progresses in a comfortable pacing that slowly builds up tension but, instead of that tension being released by the instrumental itself, it’s through Irino’s vocals that that is achieved. And it makes the song all the more emotional.

The beautiful message behind this song “You’re not alone” drives this song forward and when those chants make their big entrance in the outro, there’s a high chance you’ll be in tears.  

8 – M-9.10

Now in the second part of the album, things change quite a lot. “M-9.10” brings back those “feel good”, laidback vibes from the very start of the album, exploring those in a really fast fashion.

The verses are short, the chorus as well yet insanely catchy and tasteful. There’s a big focus on that deep, punchy bassline standing out as acoustic guitar riffs and a fast-paced beat try to keep up.

The instrumental by itself is already pretty entertaining. But it’s on the vocal end that impressive things are happening in this track.

Miyu Irino plays around with his singing skills and goes for a mix of rapping and clean singing. The verses feature rapping and he more than rises up to the challenge.

He’s got the flow and speed to match this warm, fast paced instrumental.

Then you have clean singing in the chorus, mixing mid-tones with high notes, something akin to what he pulled off in “Yulansen”.

9 – Sunny Side Story

Bright poly synths serve as the intro to “Sunny Side Story”, song that embraces funk and mixes it with pop to create and an upbeat and fun song.

The verses have a big focus in the funky guitar riffs and playful piano melodies – with strings in the background giving a retro touch to the instrumental -, and the chorus is a bundle of fun.

The bridge features what I reckon is a keytar – that or a sampled keytar on synths – delivering an exciting solo.

Irino’s performance matches the excitement and energy of the instrumental.

This is the type of song that, if you’re a fan of upbeat, bright pop songs with a bit of funk on top, “Sunny Side Story” is a perfect pickup. If you tend to be a bit on the fence when “upbeat” and “bright” pop is on the table, it might be a song with low replay value.

10 – Tokyo

A Rhodes piano melody and a bouncy beat paint an introspective soundscape. “Tokyo” embraces a slow-paced, dreamy R&B sound that gets under your skin in an instant.

You’ll find yourself jamming with this song and its loungy vibes as Irino smoothly cruises by the verses into the fancy, minimalistic chorus that has quite the moody edge.

The bluesy guitar riffs in the background, the slow-paced beat, the deep bassline, all these elements were spread across the soundscape in a way that you’re almost like sharing the stage with Irino.

This song feels intimate from start to finish, which is yet another new thing Irino brought to the table with this album, and that I absolutely love how tastefully it was embraced.

“Tokyo” has the perfect backdrop prepared for Irino’s vocals to shine and that’s exactly what he goes for.

On a first listen, his performance may sound simple, but there’s a depth there in the way he tackles some parts, his choice of delivery for some words, the melodies, the slight changes in pitch – with those subtle high notes making quite the impression for me – and the presentation as a whole.

This is a well-hidden gem in “Life is…”.

11 – グッド・バイ

Good bye” embraces a stripped-down acoustic sound. Strings slowly paint a melancholic soundscape along with tender piano melodies and a warm beat.

The verses are simplistic, tackling this ballad in quite a gentle way, with Irino’s vocals driving this song forward with a lot of emotion and power.

The strings solo carefully wraps up this song in a comfort blanket, making sure that everything is okay – despite the bittersweet lyrics you’re listening to and the longing you can feel in the instrumental.

12 – S.H.E.

Irino changes gears and brings the funky pop tune “S.H.E.” to the spotlight. This is a song that is welcomed after a brief intermission through a set of melancholic ballads.

There’s an 80s pop touch to this song that comes from the groovy bassline, lead synths and the sampled beat playing in the background.

The guitar solo in the bridge is tasteful and of a good length, perfectly setting the stage for the last upbeat chorus.

On the vocal end, Irino mixes clean singing with brief rap parts, changing between both seamlessly. At the same time, he’s overflowing with energy and good vibes, and that carries over to his performance, making this quite an enjoyable tune to listen to.

13 – だって愛は半端ないじゃない

Wrapping up this album is “Datte ai wa hanpa nai janai”, song that kicks off in cinematic fashion.

This is a playful tune that puts jazz back on the spotlight, cranking up the speed and flamboyance.

The bassline is punchy and fast-paced, leading the way for this instrumental as playful brass, fancy rhodes piano melodies, snary drums, and funky guitar riffs paint the colorful soundscape you’re greeted with.

Expect to find a fancy guitar solo in the bridge section of this song, setting the stage for Irino’s exciting vocals – with quite the impressive control over his head voice – and later a quieter section releasing a bit of tension before entering the final chorus section.

This is the kind of song that is pure fun. Don’t take it too seriously, it’s meant to be entertaining and it does its job pretty well, wrapping up this album on a strong note.


Final considerations

Like life itself, Miyu Irino’s “Life is…” is filled with ups and downs, mood swings, introspective bits, and pure fun parts. However, the quality is constant throughout that emotional journey.

The album starts and ends on a high note, with “Yatte mireba ii”, “Tashika ni soda”, “S.H.E.” and “Datte ai wa hanpa nai janai” doing an awesome job at keeping the spirits up, first as an introductory note and then as the perfect closer.

This is a complex album that, more often than not, features introspective ballads and quite a few of those.

The middle section of this album features 5 ballads which, for those not that big fans of tearjerkers or downtempo acoustic music may be a bit difficult to navigate and keep that interest going.

However, if you enjoy ballads like I do, mainly because it’s in this type of songs that you get to listen to the singer’s range and control without many – or any – distractions in the way, then you’re in for a treat.

5 ballads, all exploring completely different themes, with different outlooks at what life is and the challenges you may encounter. I love how, in the middle of it all, there’s “SKY”, inspirational track that reassures the listener that they are “loved” and “not alone”.

This may seem cliché but it is a genuinely sweet message from Irino to his fans. Also, makes the whole ballads section in the album come full circle.

Life is…” is also an album overflowing with “feel good” music. You can those good, summery vibes in the funky tunes “Tashika ni soda”, “Yulansen”, “M-9.10” and “Sunny Side Story”. The basslines and guitar work are insanely good in all 4 tracks.

I enjoyed the return of R&B ballads to Irino’s repertoire with “ALIVE” being the best example out of the rich crop of R&B ballads in this CD.

R&B sure suits Miyu Irino’s gentle, full vocals and his range makes it possible to add a lot of nuance to his performances that make each performance unique.

The intimate ambiance in “Tokyo”, taking the listener to centerstage as Irino serenades them with the band surrounding them is a genuinely new element to his performances. Up until now he had not been as up close and personal as how you find him in this song.

Exploring 80s melodies or winking at those times with cool hits and bits within songs was also a thing that stood out in this album.

On a geeky note: I love how basslines in this album were always a driving force. Punchy and groovy, those breathed a lot of life into this album. Guitar work is off the charts at times and particularly tasteful whenever there’s funk or jazz involved.

Miyu Irino is known as one of the best singers among seiyuu. This is a fact. However, he always finds a way to bring something new to the table for each entry in his repertoire.

The mix of clean singing and rapping in “M-9.10” is quite striking, the pure careless fun in “Datte ai wa hanpa nai janai” stands out as something refreshing, although not necessarily new, it was nice to hear some R&B riffing from him in “ALIVE” or even how he’d tackle an intimate song such as “Tokyo”.

All in all, “Life is…” is a fantastic album that explores life from different prisms giving advice, reminiscing on the past, looking forward to the future, living the present with no care for both.

This is yet another impressive CD by Miyu Irino, artist that keeps pushing himself to continuously deliver entertaining yet meaningful music that will put a smile on your face.


Life is… is available for purchase at CDJAPAN.


“Life is…” is available for streaming on Spotify.


Do not support piracy. Remember to support Miyu Irino by streaming via official outlets.

REVIEW OVERVIEW
やってみればいい
確かにそうだ
ユウランセン
どうしようもなく辛い夜は
優しさは誰のためにあるんだろう
Alive
SKY
M-9.10
Sunny Side Story
Tokyo
グッド・バイ
S.H.E.
だって愛は半端ないじゃない
The Hand That Feeds HQ founder and music reviewer writing about Japanese music since 2010. Also, the only person managing everything The Hand That Feeds HQ related. In 2011, I stumbled upon Mamoru Miyano's "Orpheus". Since then I have been writing about male seiyuu music. You may find me writing almost essays whenever music is really good (not limited to, but it happens a lot with Soma Saito's music). I also host the male seiyuu-centric podcast, SEIYUU LOUNGE (see Spotify link in this profile).

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