Review | SparQlew “Daybreak”

SparQlew embraces a mature concept and the result is an intoxicating mini-album counting with a collection of hit after hit song.

Title: Daybreak
Label: Kiramune
Release date: 15/09/2021
Genre: Nu-disco/Funk-pop/Hip-hop/Acid-jazz/Pop

Tracklist:

1 - Dance in the Twilight 
2 - ALARM 
3 - アオシグレ 
4 - room vacation (lyrics by Takuto Yoshinaga) 
5 - Criminal (lyrics by Shoya Chiba) 
6 - レター (lyrics by Yuto Uemura) 

Track by track analysis:

1 – Dance in the Twilight

A loungy beat slowly and finger snaps introduce you to this intoxicating soundscape. “Dance in the Twilightis clear about its intentions, donning a mature vibe through its minimalistic dance sound.

The verses are simple, with atmospheric synths putting you in a dreamy, intimate, and ever-so-slightly alluring setting. Each part within the verse has a different twist to fit the vocal.

Hozumi, Horie, and Chiba’s parts all have something unique either in tone, tempo, or in the instrumental.

The chorus is intoxicating and incredibly bouncy, with a massive bassline leading the way, contrasting with the high vocals by the group.

There is some manipulation in the vocals but it’s not something that will take away your enjoyment of this song, quite the opposite, those sit really well with the overall feel of the song.

Now, let’s talk a bit about the vocals because this is quite an impressive performance by SparQlew. First off, Yuya Hozumi, Shoya Chiba, and Shun Horie take the lead for this performance mixing clean singing with some rapping.

Yuto Uemura doesn’t play a big role in this song, something that comes as unexpected but you can still find him with his high tones leading the way in the chorus.

On rap duties in Takuto Yoshinaga, delivering his parts with a lot of confidence and some swagger on top, with Yuya Hozumi’s vocals coming in to serve as an awesome contrast.

This is exactly the type of song to listen to time and time again. Absolutely flawless.

2 – ALARM 

Yuya Hozumi leads the way with the first solo song in this special mini-album. “ALARM” is all about its upbeat funky sound with guitars shaping a summery soundscape. On top listeners find a punchy bassline and strings hits much in disco style.

The transition to the chorus is quite fast and seamless, leading to a brief yet extremely fun part.

The intermission between the chorus and 2nd verse tones things down a little bit, enough to put the focus on Yuya Hozumi’s vocals.

And talking about vocals, Hozumi has an interesting performance ready for you. He goes high on his range – clean vocals – and with the help of vocals manipulation, he goes even higher. His delicate vocals serve as a good contrast with the bassy instrumental, adding depth to the performance.

All in all, “ALARM” is a fun song with quite a cool performance by Yuya Hozumi.

3 – アオシグレ 

Shun Horie turns things around with the melancholic “Aoshigure”, a song that kicks off incredibly cinematic with rain pouring down outside as you are cozy inside a jazz bar listening to the elegant rhodes piano melodies, punchy bassline, snary drums, and emotional guitar riffs.

The tone is pretty much laidback for the verses, with those being incredibly long – something unexpected – with the chorus only kicking off in the 1:30 mark, and what awaits you is quite possibly one of the most impressive performances in this album.

Shun Horie goes for a performance of 75% head voice. Clean head voice, never wavering. This is an impressive display of technique and talent by the raspy tenor singer owner of a one-of-a-kind voice tone.

Video review, in case you fancy watching me react to the song as I listened to it for the very first time

During the bridge he goes for high notes once again in head voice and, for a split second, he hits the highest note I’ve heard from him, sounding almost like Shouta Aoi (for that brief part).

Guitars scream in the chorus, the piano is no longer loungy, emotions overflow. Shun Horie took over this song and delivered an outstanding performance that continues to impress me no matter how many times I listen to it. Masterful.

4 – room vacation

Takuto Yoshinaga is the next one up, bring a downtempo, emotional hip-hop tune with a Latin twist brought by the legato brass. At the core of this song are a bouncy bassline, melodic guitar riffs, and a simple beat.

The verses are moody yet extremely addictive. You’ll find yourself vibing to “room vacation” following its beat.

The chorus doesn’t change much about the song, with the only noticeable difference being that Yoshinaga is half-rapping, half-singing in that part instead of full-on rapping.

The cozy, laidback tone to this song and the groovy rap flow by Yoshinaga impress.

5 – Criminal

Shoya Chiba carries over from that acoustic tone however the tempo picks up, the vibe is slightly more mature and the story at its core has a mix of romance and desire at its core – something that arrives as unexpected.

The acoustic guitar melody is key in making “Criminal” flow in such a loungy way yet still carry some melancholy with it.

The verses flow in a comfortable tempo, with synths adding a dreamy twist to this composition. In the background, you have a clap track going in a different tempo to that of the song. It is intentionally off-tempo but it is such a nice contrast to the acoustic guitars and bassline, not to mention that it adds an extra bit of power to the beat.

As soon as the chorus arrives, you know you’re in for a treat because Chiba goes bonkers on his head voice while the instrumental focuses on its hip-hop beat – with those triplets on the hi-hat leading the way – and the deep, emotional bassline. By the second time the chorus arrives, you’ll be deep into this song, already singing some of the lyrics.

Video review, in case you fancy watching me react to the song as I listened to it for the very first time

An interesting detail in the composition arrives with the brief intermission between the 1st chorus and 2nd verse. That only happens once in that specific part, lowering the tone of the song, bringing trap elements into the composition while Shoya Chiba goes for muffled vocals.

On the vocal end, Shoya Chiba is doing everything. Really.

From performing in his comfortable mid-tones to raising his tone into true tenor range, bringing perfectly clean head voice to his performance, and even rapping, he’s doing everything.

This is actually the very first-time listeners get to listen to Chiba’s head voice and thus, higher range – he’s never performed like this for 2D music projects – and while it is something tricky to pull off, he sounds incredibly comfortable and confident tackling those parts.

Also, while this may go underappreciated, props to Shoya Chiba that not only is performing a song 99% in English – mostly understandable on a first listen – but he also wrote the lyrics in perfect English (no one translated those for him). 

This is the kind of performance that arrives to steal the show.

6 – レター

To wrap up this mini-album comes Yuto Uemura’s self-penned “Letter”.

The tone is delicate, with a beautiful piano melody opening the curtains to this song however, soon, electric guitar and drums join in, adding an extra bit of emotion to this song.

The verses have a laidback vibe to the theme while being incredibly emotional. Strings and a punchy bassline – a really good, deep bassline – join in, raising the tension towards the chorus.

And the transition to that part is seamless, as the song doesn’t change much about its composition to accommodate the chorus. In charge of releasing the tension are the vocals by Yuto Uemura that steadily trails his way through this performance with his high tones.

Solid way to wrap up this mini-album, by thanking their fans with a heartfelt “Letter”.


Final considerations

SparQlew upped their game for “Daybreak”. This special mini-album not only presents fans with a matured group, now far away from their trademark peppy pop sound but also puts the spotlight on the various talents of their members via an interesting set of solo tracks.

As such “Dance in the Twilight” is the kind of song you’d never expect from this group. It is mature, the sound is loungy and there are some R&B influences in it, almost taking the song to nu-disco territory.

As a result, the song is incredibly catchy with an insanely addictive chorus and seriously, this is a song I’ll find myself listening to without an end. Nu-disco is a rare sighting in seiyuu music and SparQlew perfectly pulled it off in this song.

The solo tracks in this mini-album arrived as complete surprises for me.

First, each dives a bit deeper into the type of performer each of the members is. Hozumi has a playful sound in “ALARM”, Horie is emotional in “Aoshigure”, Yoshinaga is all about the good vibes in “room vacation”, Chiba brought a tragic romantic side to “Criminal” and Uemura is all about his gentle sound and appreciation for his fans in “Letter”.

Out of all solo songs, Shun Horie’s “Aoshigure” and Shoya Chiba’s “Criminal” are the most impressive tunes for me.

Easily the best singers within the group, both went on to deliver insanely technical performances in their own styles, with Horie being melancholic and Chiba being rather romantic yet with a bit of tragedy going on.

But seriously, all solo songs are of extremely high quality and the vocals are, most of the time, impressive. There is not even 1 song that I’d deem “weak” or “bad” in this CD.

All in all, SparQlew’s change of concept was exactly what they needed. A mature, masculine vibe fits them best and perfectly highlights their singing skills as opposed to their peppy, youthful pop sound in past releases.

Whether they will stick with this sound following Shoya Chiba’s graduation from the group is something we’ll all have to wait and see. But I see a lot of potential in this group waiting to be untapped if they choose to keep this concept for future releases. Looking forward to seeing what SparQlew pulls off in the future.

As it is, “Daybreak” is a near-flawless entry in SparQlew’s repertoire, easily their best CD to date.


Daybreak” is available for purchase at CDJAPAN.


Daybreak” is available for streaming on Spotify.


Do not support piracy. Remember to support the SparQlew by streaming via official outlets.

SUMMARY

SparQlew changed concepts from their friendly, "guy next door" vibe to a mature, intense, and masculine vibe that suits them like a glove. As a result of their change in vibe, their sound changed as well with their leading track "Dance in the Twilight" being the perfect introduction to that change. It is intoxicating, addictive, catchy will highlighting the singing skills of all members. Then, in the solo tracks, listeners find the different sides to SparQlew's members, with Takuto Yoshinaga, Shoya Chiba, and Yuto Uemura penning lyrics to their song. They showcased their talents as lyricists - something that they can and should explore in future releases, bringing the members in to write lyrics - and as far as the quality of the performances goes, all songs feature unique performances that highlight the singing skills each member has. All in all, SparQlew's change in vibe and concept ended up sweeping me off my feet and hopefully you as well. Stellar entry in their repertoire, their best to date.

REVIEW OVERVIEW

Dance in the Twilight
ALARM
アオシグレ
room vacation
Criminal
レター
Vanessa Silvahttps://www.handthatfeedshq.com
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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