Sir Vanity’s 1st album “Ray” appears with a twinge of nostalgia and a lot of hard-hitting, emotional tunes showcasing the band’s versatility.
Title: Ray Label: VANITY RECORDS Release date: 17/06/2022 Genre: Alt-Rock/Ballad/Hardcore
1 - Ray (lyrics by Yuichiro Umehara) 2 - 悠 -album ver.- (lyrics by Yoshiki Nakajima) 3 - Vanity -album ver.- (lyrics by Yuichiro Umehara) 4 - 紫陽花 (lyrics by Yoshiki Nakajima) 5 - rain (lyrics by Yuichiro Umehara) 6 - finder 7 - goldfish (lyrics by Yuichiro Umehara) 8 - 酔狂 (lyrics by Yoshiki Nakajima) 9 - HERO (lyrics by Yoshiki Nakajima) 10 - will (lyrics by Yoshiki Nakajima) 11 - マイペース・メイカー (lyrics by Yoshiki Nakajima)
Track by track analysis:
1 – Ray
Overdriven and reverbed guitar riffs lead the way for the uptempo pop-rock tune “Ray”. A fickle piano melody joins in the intro, adding a subtle layer of drama.
However, the verses do not feature that piano melody, instead focusing on a powerful guitar-driven sound.
Listeners can expect a bassy sound in which the bass drum and bassline are in perfect harmony, adding a bit of nostalgia and violence to this song.
The verses start off slowly but smoothly and swiftly pick up the pace and intensity, with the piano joining in the background as an accent and a reminder of the urgency and drama in the intro.
The piano then takes over the solo in the haunting bridge, slowly and delicately raising the tension and cranking up the emotions going on in the song.
You can expect the chorus to be all about the hard-hitting drums and bassline as Yuichiro Umehara and Yoshiki Nakajima’s emotional vocals power their way through.
All in all, “Ray” kicks off this album in quite the emotional way, perhaps setting a dramatic tone for what awaits us all? I don’t know but the nostalgia and passion going on in “Ray” is a good combo, especially for the song that opens up an album.
2 – 悠 -album ver.-
Electronica and rock meet for Haruka however, for this remix, fans can expect electronica to be more prominent in this version although only as accents.
Minimalistic, washy, and glitchy synths set the music bed for this track, slowly giving way for a groovy bass line and snare-driven drums.
The verses are quiet for the most part, leaving more than enough space for the vocals to take over and lead the way. There are some synth stabs and tones brought to this part and, in the case of the second verse, much about this song changes completely in terms of composition.
The buildup for the chorus is pretty smooth, barely noticeable, with it being rather straightforward and brief. In comparison to the original version, the tension is more intense but still with strong anisong vibes.
For Haruka we get Yoshiki Nakajima as the center and, as a result, this song was pretty mellow but not without bringing its rock edge into it with a pinch of elegance and now some elegance in the mix.
When listening to this track you’ll notice just how much in sync Nakajima and Umehara are. It is rather impressive at times, especially as they both tackle the chorus in completely different ways but the blend that comes from their voices is so pleasing. Their voice tones really complement themselves.
3 – Vanity -album ver.-
Fancy piano melodies and shredding guitar riffs set an exciting tone for Vanity. Now, while listening to this track, it is impossible to not notice the solid arrangement and mixing for this track.
This song features 2 distinct guitar parts, which both split between each of your ears (best listening to this song with headphones), at the same time, the drums are at center stage and, from the arrangement it even sounds like the listener is at the drums which is a pretty cool touch to this track.
Something about this new rearrangement that I absolutely love is the bassline + piano combo. The bassline is relentless – already was – but was enhanced for this version and the piano is more prominent in the song, adding a layer of emotion to this track that was missing from the original.
The verses are robust, with the bassline reverberating in your ears while the drums pound in your throat. Tension and energy overflow as we approach the chorus, one that is as high tension as fancy you could get.
The pacing for this track and the infectious + explosive chorus completely won me over.
When it comes to a great rock track, we need to talk about the awesome guitar solo in the bridge. Not sure if it was Nakajima or Umehara to tackle that part but it was pretty cool. The fancy piano solo that followed added a tasteful touch to this catchy track.
On the vocal end, Yuichiro Umehara and Yoshiki Nakajima take turns, splitting each verse into several parts, with each of them working together in a seamless fashion. Their vocals work well together, with the duo going for mid-to-high tones for this track and absolutely nailing those.
Worth noting that the power and excitement in their performance are infectious.
4 – 紫陽花
Sir Vanity makes a triumphant comeback with “AJISAI”, song that embraces a dual sound that makes the best of their rock sound while bringing to the table a delicate touch from the piano.
But don’t be fooled into thinking this will be a ballad or a slow tearjerker. This is quite the powerful track counting with a punchy low bassline that leads the way.
In a way, “AJISAI” draws inspiration from SID, something that I absolutely love about it. That contrast between robust rock sound and the refined melodies that a more traditional piano-focused sound has is something that suits the band well.
It’s that addition of “beauty” to an otherwise “dark” and “grim” song that makes the song stand out to me.
The verses have a comfortable progression while the chorus cranks up the tension in an interesting way in which nostalgia and love clash with a loungy, summery soundscape. The nostalgia of the rainy summer is yet another way in which you can approach this song.
On vocals, this time around, fans will only encounter Yoshiki Nakajima. This may be the start of a series of solo tracks in Sir Vanity’s repertoire, which would be interesting to follow.
Nakajima powers his way through the track with a lot of confidence, making the best out of his solid mid-tones but never straying away from those.
As a matter of fact, his performance couldn’t have been simpler and yet this powerful. The way he interpreted the emotions in the lyrics really stands out.
You can feel the nostalgia when he does a slight legato to his notes in the chorus. Those are deliberate and a really nice accent to a song that is a perfect addition to their repertoire not only quality-wise but also versatility-wise.
“AJISAI” will make you anticipate more music by Sir Vanity and will certainly be a good, nostalgic tune to add to your summer playlist.
5 – rain
“rain” arrives with a mellow and emotional sound with melodic guitar riffs, slow tempo drums, a sweet bassline, and bright piano melodies.
The pacing is comfortable, letting all the instruments sink in and impact the listener as Yuichiro Umehara delivers a stellar performance rooted first on his smooth mid-tones but then, for the chorus on both the mid-tones as well as his vibrato and head voice.
You’ll feel the laidback vibes in this song from the instrumental – with the guitars and piano making sure you feel that – but the lyrics have a bit of nostalgia on top, creating a pleasing contrast.
Yuichiro Umehara threw it out of the park with this awesome performance that shows just how much he has grown as a singer as well as a lyricist.
6 – finder
The tone is gentle for “finder”, song that brings heartbreak to the spotlight through its melancholic instrumental.
The intro is soft, with Yoshiki Nakajima’s vocals delicately trailing the delicate piano melody.
The song changes dynamics to its first verse, bringing bassy drums, a groovy bassline, and high-pitched guitar riffs, creating a soft stage for Nakajima and Umehara’s vocals. The transition to the chorus is swift and pretty much seamless, with a drum fill stylishly signaling that entrance in a new section in the song.
What awaits you in the chorus is a gentle performance by Sir Vanity while making regret, love, and melancholy take over through the instrumental, which raises its tension with the drums going splashy and the guitars bringing in some overdrive to its emotional riffs.
One thing that may go unnoticed in this song is the work on the piano. This is the constant throughout the song, it is a driving force for all the emotions going on in this performance. It opens and neatly wraps up this song.
And it’s incredibly beautiful throughout, playing a gentle melody and some arpeggios that add a charming layer to “finder”.
On the vocal end, this time around – and fitting the tone of this song -, Sir Vanity’s Yuichiro Umehara and Yoshiki Nakajima went for a sweet and gentle performance focused on a higher key than usual in their songs (but in reality not that far from both of their natural vocal ranges).
There’s also a focus on the harmonies and unisons, with the chorus having a neat unison part that doesn’t overstay its welcome and actually adds more emotion to the performance.
All in all, Sir Vanity’s “finder” is yet another showcase of the band’s versatility as composers, lyricists, and performers, not settling themselves with just one music genre, concept, or sound. And this sweet, melancholic side of theirs does shine a whole lot.
7 – goldfish
“goldfish” kicks off in a melancholic tone as distant guitar riffs lead the way.
The verses have a duality, with the first part being slow-paced and sweet whereas the 2nd part cranks up the speed and intensity, with guitars and drums blasting their way through to the chorus. In the background, a fickle piano melody and a punchy bassline add depth to the song, carrying themselves to the chorus.
In contrast to the verses, the chorus is slow-paced and clearly not as intense, leaving the emotions to pour in the piano stabs joining in the song in the latter part of the chorus.
Do expect a cool, overdriven guitar solo – albeit a brief one – in the bridge, building up the tension to a last run of the bright chorus.
This isn’t, by far, something new from Sir Vanity and much less something unexpected in terms of composition.
Simplicity and sticking to a comfortable brand of pop rock have served the band well and for “goldfish”, it’s not different however, with the composition being quite standard, the sound is pretty much by the book on what you could expect from pop rock, “goldfish” ends up being quite dull after a couple of listens as well as far from standing out, even within Sir Vanity’s repertoire.
On the vocal end, this time around Sir Vanity brings only Yuichiro Umehara on vocals (and lyrics).
This is quite the simple performance, led by his mid-tones but lacking anything – technique-wise – that he has been showing in the last couple of years for 2D music projects.
Steady and consistent but lacking any depth or emotional range, this performance is far from being Umehara’s best.
All in all, “goldfish” does sound a bit like a contained pop-rock tune (quite possibly intentionally to fit the lyrics + theme). As a result, the sound is simple and by-the-book, the performance is subtle, without an intention of leaving a mark and you’re left wanting something more robust from the band.
If you’re trying to get into the band, this may be a good time – and the perfect song – for it as the sound is pretty much accessible and easy listening and the vocals are not as intense as in previous iterations by Sir Vanity.
8 – 酔狂
“Suikyou” brings a mellow pop-rock sound with a touch of Jazz in the piano melodies.
Listeners can expect a simple, classic rock band sound – guitar, drums, bass, and piano – that is perfect to convey the “whim” behind this song and its lyrics.
The song includes a fantastic double solo with the piano first taking the spotlight, later on leaving an empty space for Yoshiki Nakajima’s guitar to shine in what is a short and sweet solo.
On the vocal end, Yoshiki Nakajima goes for a performance to make your jaw drop, at least when the chorus kicks in.
It’s not often that you get to listen to Nakajima tapping into his vocal range – he usually performs in a standard mid-tone for most songs -embracing the high notes, bringing that beautiful head voice to the spotlight.
You get a stunning build-up in the chorus that ends up with Nakajima delivering a spine-chilling, goosebumps-inducing head voice part that is so sweet and fickle to the point that you’ll want to hear more of it. I know for sure that since that part appeared, I was then expecting it for when the chorus kicked in. And time and time again I was in awe of his performance.
“Suikyou” shines even within its unique nostalgia.
9 – HERO
“HERO” is featured as the theme song for the Tokyo Revengers stage play.
Now, when it comes to the track it is worth mentioning that this one is nothing like the band’s previous releases.
Shredding guitars and intense synths-piano combo take the stage. You can feel the urgency in their sound as guitars power their way through the track, while the song brings forth explosive, bassy drums and a crunchy bassline.
The little details in this song are beyond impressive.
The brief intermissions bring a dramatic element to their music, with the piano being responsible for creating an exquisite, a rather theatrical soundscape in which Yoshiki Nakajima and Yuichiro Umehara’s somber vocals stand out.
“HERO” flies by with its intensity and fast-paced, something that couldn’t be found in previous songs of theirs.
The drama, the little piano, and bass accents, and the vocal performances are all at a higher level than the – already high – level that the band has displayed since day one.
This is a song to put you on the edge of your seat. This is rock music in its most exciting form.
10 – will
Urgent, dramatic strings paint the background to what is the heaviest song by Sir Vanity (so far).
The build-up is slow but quite intense, with the guitars blasting their way through the violent drums that take you to the first verse.
The tone is dark, and decadent. It almost feels like the moment before giving up. It is crucial. Raw and violent and the instrumental reflects that, going straight for your feelings.
There are strong influences of hardcore in this song – instrumental only – with some post-rock in the mix – noticeable in the slow, melodic intermissions within the song. This mix is a first for Sir Vanity, a sound that suits them surprisingly well.
For the second verse, things change slightly. Snare rim shots echo in the background, taking everything away from you before bringing in the heavy drums, insanely tricky bassline, and screaming guitars.
Slowly, the drums and screaming guitars bring you back to the despair and violence you could find in the first verse, and oh boy. The second time the chorus hits, it feels like it is even heavier than the first time.
Although barely noticeable, in the background there is a beautiful piano arpeggio going on, adding a layer of raw beauty to this song. A beautiful spot in a song that is pitch-black.
The bridge glitches the guitars and puts the drums and bass at center stage as strings give a grandiose scale to this song.
It’s goosebumps all over me as the double-bass drums, the melodic bass solo, and the strings kick in.
“will” goes loud and straight for your heart, with Yuichiro Umehara and Yoshiki Nakajima making sure to hit the final nails in the coffin, performing this song with an obvious rawness – as if baring their heart – but with an underlying gentleness and care.
Umehara and Nakajima have quite the technical performance in this song, mixing clean vocals with melodic, low parts, falsetto, harmonies, and vibrato. This much variety on the vocals has led to one of the most interesting performances I’ve heard this year.
Rich, full of color, intense, and heartwrenching.
That’s the stuff I look for in rock performances and Sir Vanity certainly delivered.
This is, hands down, Sir Vanity’s best song to date.
Listening to the band tackling a sound this heavy – and it fitting the band right from the start – makes me wish the band further explores this sound in the future.
This introspective, “screaming your heart out” type of performance and sound is something that has been lacking from rock bands in the seiyuu industry, and hell if Sir Vanity didn’t arrive with a much-needed song to fill in that gap.
To headbang to no end. To floor you. To play with your emotions. Outstanding song.
11 – マイペース・メイカー
“My pacemaker” wraps up this album in an upbeat tone, with a sound that is reminiscent of watching a band rehearse a song.
The song kicks off with a countdown on the drums leading to an upbeat instrumental in which guitars are melodic, drums are playful and hard-hitting on that bass drum, and the bassline… it is bonkers how low and presents it is in the instrumental being, for example, essential to the bouncy feeling you get in the chorus and even how it hypes you up for the chorus.
Yet again, listeners get a beautiful piano solo going for those sweet, delicate high notes, slowly trailing its way, creating the stage for Yoshiki Nakajima and Yuichiro Umehara’s head voice parts.
The tone is gentle and cozy, something that is rarely found in this album yet it suits the band incredibly well.
As far as album closers go, “My pacemaker” is a strong one that makes it feel like we’re wrapped up a story and are ready to go for the next one.
Sir Vanity’s “Ray” appears with a twinge of nostalgia and a lot of hard-hitting, emotional tunes.
Wrapping up 2 years of activities, the band shows how much it has grown and how versatile it is, experimenting with music genres while adding those to their alternative rock/pop-rock sound.
With double vocals and double guitars, listeners can expect Sir Vanity’s songs to be impactful but with different yet complementary charms.
Yoshiki Nakajima and Yuichiro Umehara do have awesome chemistry and when it comes to sharing vocal duties they more than cover for each others’ weaknesses, ending up delivering performances that may make your jaw drop in awe.
Although it is not common, there are times in which, when performing solo songs, each vocalist gets to show something else from their skillset like what happened in Yoshiki Nakajima’s “Suikyou”.
But not everything is perfect as Yuichiro Umehara’s “goldfish” can attest to it. So while the band sounds rock solid, when it comes to the solo tracks there is still a lack of balance left honing for further releases. On a good note, “rain” is a fantastic display of the talent that Umehara has and how much he has grown both as a singer as well as a lyricist.
As far as the instrumentals go, Satoru Kuwabara doesn’t spare anyone with his lethal combo of melodic piano and violent, punchy basslines that steal the spotlight time and time again.
The most impactful songs in this album are “will”, “Vanity” and “Ray” for how powerful and aggressive they sound in comparison to all other songs. And yet again, if you check the tones, tempo, and subgenres, you notice that Sir Vanity has in those songs 3 completely different approaches to rock music, and all work + suit them.
All in all, Sir Vanity’s “Ray” appears as a solid album, a perfect introduction to a band that is ready to take the spotlight to itself, now that there is a big void among rock bands fronted by male seiyuu to be filled.
From the performances alone, the band is moving in the right direction yet far from perfect. From the compositions alone, the band already deserves to be in the conversation as one of the best and most exciting bands currently active.
If you haven’t checked this album yet, please do so as it is something completely different from what all other seiyuu-fronted rock bands are doing. It is bloody awesome.
“Ray” is available for purchase at Amazon Japan (it ships internationally).
“Ray” is available for streaming on Spotify.
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