Review | Shunichi Toki “Another Birthday”

Shunichi Toki

From Latin Jazz to rock, pop, and R&B, in “Another Birthday” Shunichi Toki showcased just how versatile and amazing a singer he is.

Shunichi Toku Another Birthday
Regular edition
Title: Another Birthday
Release date: 24/01/2024
Label: PONY CANYON
Genre: Latin Jazz/Pop-Rock/Pop/R&B

Tracklist:

1 - ENVY
2 - Stand by Youth
3 - Re:Feel
4 - Treasure
5 - Another Birthday

Track by track analysis:

1 – ENVY

This mini-album kicks off stylishly with Latin jazz reverberating in the background.

You won’t even be able to take a breath as the song kicks off in media res – already after the chorus -, something that is not common in Shunichi Toki’s music.

The verses paint a beautiful yet dimly-lit soundscape in which legato strings play in the background, acoustic guitars take their seat in front, and the brass is explosive and fun while the drums are bouncy and warm – incorporating a lot of Latin-inspired rhythms.

This instrumental alone is addictive and so, so stylish and mature, something I love a whole lot to find in any take on jazz music by seiyuu artists.

The chorus is a continuation of that playful, danceable yet intimate vibe you get in the verses. I found myself jamming along to this chorus almost immediately.

One thing I love a lot in this song is the bridge section and the solo we get in there. What awaits you is a feel-good piano solo with a subdued instrumental around in which strings, drums, and bass are the only accompaniment. This section feels so good. It is peak Latin jazz goodness for me.

As far as vocals go, Shunichi Toki has all his weapons at his disposal. He delivers a powerful and emotional performance with a slightly dramatic twist – noticeable in the chorus as he opens those vowels for an extra dramatic delivery.

At the same time, he is performing in a comfortable mid-tone, warm and full but with the occasional visit to his higher range, with falsetto being a big feature.

Also, expect him to add a bit of tremolo to his vocals – not a full-on vibrato but enough of a wobble to have a unique dynamic.

Song and performance arrive to instantly sweep you off your feet.

2 – Stand by Youth

“Stand by Youth” arrives with a rock sound that heavily contrasts with the previous track. Muffled guitar riffs open the doors to this track, leading the way to a song that is all about its thunderous bassline.

Oh yes, the bassline in this song is the first thing you will notice given how punchy it is. The verses follow a normal indie-rock/pop-rock pacing, comfortable yet building up the excitement for the chorus.

When the chorus kicks off, I can’t help but feel a liberating vibe. The way the instrumental progresses, the airy piano notes, the hopeful guitar riffs, and the comfortable beat perfectly flesh out this inspiring rock tune. It is almost like running through the wind. It is refreshing, liberating, and carefree.

It feels good.

One thing that is going on in the instrumental is how gated – muffled – at times the drums are. The snare is quite tight, and the crash and hi-hat are not as splashy as you’d expect. It is almost as if the beat is not played on live drums but on synthetic ones (or is programmed).

This is an interesting choice that made the song more bassy and deep, especially when it comes to its rhythm and percussion. With the bassline alongside, the instrumental sounds really warm and deep, at times even quite close to the listener.

When it comes to the vocals, Shunichi Toki is energetic and passionate throughout, adding a lot of excitement to this performance. I love the quick shifts between the English and Japanese lyrics in the chorus. His back and forth is smooth and he never loses his focus and power in those changes.

This is yet another feel-good pop-rock tune coming from Shunichi Toki – something that I wish was more common in his repertoire.

3 – Re:Feel

The vibe changes around for “Feel”, song that brings to the spotlight a retro, groovy sound that I – and I believe you as well – was not expecting.

This song has a chill vibe, completely embracing its downtempo beat and emotional, deep bassline. What you get is a comfortable, warm, and sweet pop tune with an old-school vibe.

The verses bring a delicate piano melody, distorted, reverting guitar riffs, and synth hits, slowly building up tension for the stylish chorus awaiting you.

And what a chorus is this one! First, we have an awesome breakbeat in a late 80s hip-hop/pop style, then we have a really funky bassline in there with guitar riffs to match.

And those synths stabs in the background help create a loungy, stylish soundscape which I honestly don’t want to leave behind.

When it comes to the vocals, expecting Shunichi Toki to come forward with an elegant, charismatic performance in which both his comfortable mid-tones and his higher range shine – those high notes in falsetto are a treat.

Once again, he added a bit of wobble to his performance, using it as an accent for the ends of some of the words.

In a song so eye – and ear-catching as this one, I was not expecting Toki to go all out, yet he did. I love this.

4 – Treasure

“Treasure” enters the stage with a sweet and romantic R&B sound that will instantly grab your attention.

The beat is slow-paced, with a tight snare and hi-hat combo, creating a warm, deep backdrop for this song.

On top and around you will find a fancy piano, 80s-inspired synth stabs and a punchy bassline. In the background – especially noticeable in the chorus – you will find an atmospheric synth, setting the tone for this song.

As you listen to “Treasure”, you will feel yourself enveloped in this performance. It will feel like Toki is singing the song just for you, seeing how his voice is set at front and center with no element behind or immediately close to it. It is as if the room is dark and the spotlight is only on him.

And Toki takes all that attention and delivers tenfold with a sweet performance that will grab your attention.

Honestly, seeing how Toki has a sweet and gentle voice, his performing R&B is basically a match made in heaven for me. We’re talking about a music genre about is emotional and romantic and his voice is perfect for it.

Once again, his smooth shifts between Japanese and English are charming and, at times, had me gasping. Yes, this performance is this good, and if you love R&B music, especially Toki’s voice, this is going to be a show stealer.

5 – Another Birthday

And wrapping up this mini-album neatly is “Another Birthday”. This song slows things down and brings in pizzicato strings, sweet acoustic guitar riffs, and washy drums to create a warm and hopeful sound.

But don’t let yourself be fooled by the downtempo and more introspective tone of the verses because the chorus picks up the pacing.

You get an explosion of emotions and color as Shunichi Toki’s vocals open alongside exciting piano melodies, a punchy bassline, and beautiful strings.

The chorus is energetic and powerful however never stealing away Toki’s spotlight. You will find yourself jamming to the punchy bassline and jaunty piano combo in it.

Shunichi Toki is yet again doing amazing things on the vocal end. First off, the sweetness in his vocals matches not only the quiet, introspective tone of the intro and first verse but he also craftly and seamlessly adapts to the rise in tension and tempo in this song.

You can feel the excitement and hope in his vocals. At the same time, not only do you get a comfortable performance but he also adds an extra bit of shine to it with falsetto, high notes, and some flourishes.

What you get is a complete, rich performance that gently wraps up this flawless mini-album.


Final considerations

Now this was an impressive and confident display by Shunichi Toki! “Another Birthday” currently sits as Toki’s best mini-album given how cohesive – yes, even while changing music genres – and high quality it is.

Every single song works well within this mini-album but also as a standalone, which attests to the quality and variety of songs you get in this release.

From Latin Jazz to rock, pop, and R&B, it seems that Shunichi Toki was determined to showcase just how versatile and amazing a singer he is.

And truly, there is no doubt – at least for me – that Toki is among the best singers when we talk about male seiyuu. So it goes without saying that he delivered even more than what I expected for this mini-album.

His sweet and gentle tenor voice was put on full display throughout the 5 songs in this mini-album.

His emotional range was also a highlight, fitting completely different vibes, emotions, and music genres, tailoring his performance and conveying the lyrics most effectively for the listener to connect with them.

But he went the extra mile and went all out adding a lot of flair to his performances. A bit of tremolo – never a full-blown vibrato – and a lot of falsetto (and some head voice, especially in “Re:Feel”) made him shine like never before.

One of the highlights in this release was really his performance in “Treasure”, the R&B romantic tune that completely caught me by surprise but instantly stole my heart away.

Toki’s gentle singing voice is a perfect fit for this music genre. But also, something that I love about this song is its progression – especially the pre-chorus to chorus part – which is majestic. I had this song on replay for a while after first listening to it. The R&B tune by Shunichi Toki that I didn’t know I needed is here and honestly, I don’t want it to end.

All in all, “Another Birthday” is a flawless – yes, you read well – mini-album coming from Shunichi Toki. He has been growing a lot in the past CDs, maturing as a performer and bringing that maturity also to the type of music and performance he delivers.

Each song is a highlight on its own and as a whole, this mini-album delivers a cohesive and pleasing listening experience with a retro, emotional feel.

Although we’re still early in 2024, “Another Birthday” is already a strong candidate for album of the year.


Another Birthday” is available for purchase at CDJAPAN. You can also find this CD available at Amazon Japan (they ship internationally).


Another Birthday” is available for streaming on Spotify.


Do not support piracy. Remember to support Shunichi Toki by streaming via official outlets.

Vanessa Silva
Vanessa Silvahttps://www.handthatfeedshq.com
The Hand That Feeds HQ founder, content creator, and music reviewer. Basically, the only person managing everything at The Hand That Feeds HQ. Stumbling upon Mamoru Miyano's "Orpheus" in 2011 was the start of this journey. If music is thought-provoking or deep, you may find her writing almost essays (not limited to, but it happens a lot with Soma Saito's music). She's the producer and host of the male seiyuu-centric podcast, SEIYUU LOUNGE (see Spotify link in this profile).

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REVIEW OVERVIEW

ENVY
Stand by Youth
Feel
Treasure
Another Birthday

SUMMARY

"Another Birthday" currently sits as Toki's best mini-album given how cohesive - yes, even while changing music genres - and high quality it is. Every single song works well within this mini-album but also as a standalone, which attests to the quality and variety of songs you get in this release. From Latin Jazz to rock, pop, and R&B, it seems that Shunichi Toki was determined to showcase just how versatile and amazing a singer he is. All in all, "Another Birthday" is a flawless - yes, you read well - mini-album coming from Shunichi Toki. He has been growing a lot in the past CDs, maturing as a performer and bringing that maturity also to the type of music and performance he delivers. Each song is a highlight on its own and as a whole, this mini-album delivers a cohesive and pleasing listening experience with a retro, emotional feel. If you haven't checked it yet, this is your chance to give it a listen. It is worth it.

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"Another Birthday" currently sits as Toki's best mini-album given how cohesive - yes, even while changing music genres - and high quality it is. Every single song works well within this mini-album but also as a standalone, which attests to the quality and variety of songs you get in this release. From Latin Jazz to rock, pop, and R&B, it seems that Shunichi Toki was determined to showcase just how versatile and amazing a singer he is. All in all, "Another Birthday" is a flawless - yes, you read well - mini-album coming from Shunichi Toki. He has been growing a lot in the past CDs, maturing as a performer and bringing that maturity also to the type of music and performance he delivers. Each song is a highlight on its own and as a whole, this mini-album delivers a cohesive and pleasing listening experience with a retro, emotional feel. If you haven't checked it yet, this is your chance to give it a listen. It is worth it. Review | Shunichi Toki "Another Birthday"