Review | SparQlew “neon”

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“neon” is a fancy album showing a further matured sound, improved vocals, and overall versatility by SparQlew.

Regular
Title: neon
Label: Kiramune
Release date: 27/07/2022
Genre: Nu-disco/Funk-pop/Pop/Ballad/Rock

Tracklist:

1 - レジリエンス
2 - Future+
3 - Beauty Girl
4 - Sunrise
5 - LOVE SIGNAL
6 - Precious days
7 - 雨に踊れ
8 - 光
9 - white light/night flight
10 - Welcome to SparQlew

Track by track analysis:

1 – レジリエンス

SparQlew kicks off this album with “resilience”, song that brings to the spotlight funky guitar riffs, a punchy bassline, and an urgent beat.

Speed is a big feature in this song with the vocals being performed in the verses with quite the fast pace to them, following the speedy drums.

With a funky twist, the vocals carry that speed and technicality to the summery chorus. Ok here, the drums are no longer bonkers. 

The focus stays on the hi-hat and the rhythm normalizes to put the spotlight on the fancy vocals and funky riffs.

For this song, all members are on vocal duty with quite the tricky task in their hands. The fast tempo in the verses is not easy to tackle. At the same time, the group is harmonizing really well in the chorus, something that shows improvements in teamwork by the group.

Simple, fun, and groovy, “resilience” opens the doors to what is an eclectic album.

2 – Future+

Changing gears, “Future+” arrives with a fast-paced rock sound that is all about double-bass drums and shredding guitar riffs. 

The instrumental is intense yet extremely melodic, focusing on creating a solid background to the powerful vocals on top.

The first verse is all about that shredding guitar sound and the riveting drums. By the time the 2nd verse kicks off and Shun Horie is in the lead, the tone changes and you get to experience a softer side to this song, even if just for a couple of seconds. For the most part the song goes full-throttle from verse to chorus, in what is one of the most exciting songs performed by the group.

In the chorus you can find – well in the background – a beautiful piano melody – and although not the most impactful instrument in this song, the bass is on a really awesome groove throughout. If you want a good guitar solo, you do have it here as well.

As far as the vocals go, both individually and as a group, SparQlew is more than ready to take upon itself the challenge of performing fast-paced, intense rock. 

Solid harmonies, engaging vocals, and perfect line distribution make the song their performance incredibly enjoyable.

3 – Beauty Girl

The tone changes for “Beauty Girl“. Welcome to a punchy bassline, acid-jazz beat + synths, as well as funky guitar riffs, and a jolly piano melody.

The verses are incredibly elegant, bringing a cool mixing of electronica, funk, and jazz to the spotlight. The bassline is king, serving as the perfect contrast for the slightly higher-keyed vocals.

The chorus goes all out on the acid-jazz sound, mixing a sampled beat with trombone and jazzy piano melodies. You will find yourself dancing along to this song in no time.

The beat is addictive, the bassline insanely groovy and the touch from the piano and brass is more than enough to grab your attention.

On the vocal end, SparQlew goes hard on showcasing their vocal skills. 

The smooth harmonies in the chorus are tasteful, the solo parts exude elegance while the bridge to this song brings riffing and ad-libs going for head voice notes that will catch you by surprise when you notice who is doing those.

This is the type of song you want to listen to again and again… and again. It is that good.

4 – Sunrise

Sunrise” brings a delicate sound led by a bright piano melody echoing in a vast soundscape. Slowly, as Shun Horie’s vocals join the song, so do the strings in legato.

As each member joins in, new elements join in – either the simple R&B percussion or a strings quartet – and what you get is a sweet R&B ballad that showcases a sweet side to SparQlew.

The chorus picks up the pace, with the beat shifting from a typical slow-tempo R&B one to a hip-hop-inspired one. 

It is during the chorus that fans will get to listen to SparQlew’s members tapping into their higher range, bringing to this performance fickle, passionate high notes as well as beautiful harmonies.

Wrapping up on the same note as the intro is a nice touch that makes this song insanely loopable as well.

5 – LOVE SIGNAL

Funky guitars, groovy basslines, and strings stabs introduce you to the city pop-inspired “LOVE SIGNAL”.

This is a song all about good vibes in a retro throwback.

Following a comfortable mid-tempo beat, the vocals in this song have at their disposal one of the warmest beats on this album.

Then, around those vocals come a melodic yet punchy bassline, strings accents, fancy synth stabs, and that massive bassline that seems like it begging you to go to the dancefloor and bust some moves.

The chorus is catchy as hell, with the bassline leading the way in such a cool fashion that it is impossible to ignore.

The vocals are stellar in this song. All members tap into their best and what fans get is a bundle of sweet harmonies, plenty of vibrato in the solo parts, fancy high notes in head voice, and plenty of good vibes.

When this song wraps up, your finger will be ready to hit that replay button.

6 – Precious days

The tone changes yet again as “Precious Days” enters the stage. Now, this is a song very much in the style of the group’s earlier material.

It is bubbly, upbeat, and uptempo, all about its simple EDM beats and bubbly, sweet vocals.

The tone is sweet and the message of this song is uplifting and overflowing with love.

This song almost feels like a dedication to SparQlew’s fans, showing their appreciation for them.

The verses are melodic and fairly contained, leaving space available for the vocals to bloom. When the chorus kicks in, the bubbly pop vibes go all out and you get an uptempo bubbly tune that will put a smile on your face.

In this song, only the beat in the chorus comes off as weird sounding. The hi-hat is quite high and centered alongside the vocals, something that helps shove the vocals to the background. 

When you notice the splashy sound is at the same sound level as the vocals however this isn’t a screaming case of bad mixing – because you can still listen to the vocals with some clarity – but the song would have easily sounded better if that hi-hat had been panned to the left or right.

As it is, I feel like it sounds quite odd to have the hi-hat and vocals at the center, fighting for the spotlight.

7 – 雨に踊れ

As we’re getting close to the end of the album, “Ame ni odore” or “Dancing in the rain” appears.

Jazz takes over the stage with syncopated beats, elegant contrabass rhythms, fancy trombone and trumpet melodies, funky guitar riffs and fabulous piano runs.

The tempo is fast in the first verse and carries over to the addictive chorus. However, things change around for the second verse, with a more contained sound embellishing the soundscape for SparQlew’s members to take turns in such a cool way.

They never miss a beat, their singing is full of life and their ad-libs and head voice notes? An absolute treat if you fancy technical parts on the vocal end.

When “Dancing in the rain” wraps up, you are left either with your energy drained or fully charged and ready for more. After all, this is such a fun, uptempo jazz tune.

8 – 光

“Hikari” brings us all back to ballad territory. 

This is a song that has an unusual vocal progression that almost instantly ticked me off, with brassy vocals leading the way; however, as the song flowed and other vocals joined in, that progression made a bit more sense and sounded more robust.

The tone is thankful and appreciative throughout. This is a display of love to their fans either close or far away from them. As long as they are there, they are SparQlew’s light, lighting up a path for them.

This is a sweet concept behind what ends up being a solid ballad with an R&B twist in the instrumental.

Vocally, there are a couple of issues with the vocals of Takuto Yoshinaga, especially in the intro stages in this song as he goes a bit off the tune – intentionally or not – which comes off as odd throwing me off quite a bit. That quality to his singing doesn’t change throughout this song, something that ends up dragging it a bit back for me.

All in all, “Hikari” is a sweet ballad with a couple of hiccups on the vocal end that, if ironed out, could have made this the best ballad by the group.

9 – white light/night flight

“white light / night flight” is hauntingly beautiful.

A dramatic low piano melody and atmospheric synths open the doors to this downtempo, chill-out EDM tune. 

Expect triplets on the snare, washy, glitchy synths, and a punchy bassline to greet you, painting the airy soundscape in while and black at will.

That duality between light and darkness shows in the bright vocals and the intense EDM instrumental.

As far as the vocals go, SparQlew’s members are all about their harmonies, head voice notes, canons, and ad-libs. This is a performance that shows just how good the group is as all members push the song forward with a lot of quality.

10 – Welcome to SparQlew

Wrapping up this album is the bubbly pop-rock tune “Welcome to SparQlew”. This song is crazy.

The tone is upbeat and playful for the most part, having shouting parts to introduce the members of the group. 

Uemura, Hozumi, Horie, and Yoshinaga get their time to shine in parts inspired by their technicality or style. The members will be singing about the specific member mentioned in any of the 4 parts dedicated to introducing them. Pop-rock, disco, jazz-rock, and hip-hop represent the members and show the possibilities that the group has moved forward.

Regrouping you have a crazy fast pop-rock, an indie-rock-inspired sound that serves as the chorus.

This is a song that signals the start of a new era for the group and serves as a perfect introduction to the lineup that will be here for you from now on. 

Welcome back, SparQlew. Everyone missed you, guys.


Final considerations

Eclectic and funky. That’s how you can describe “neon”, 3rd album by SparQlew and the first one as a quartet.

This is an album filled with highlights. An album in which jazz and funk are a constant, creating an addictive and mature sound for this matured and improved group.

When listening to this album, in a way, you can feel that something – someone – is missing in SparQlew but at the same time that loss for the group has made it so that new possibilities are available on the vocal end. At least, I like to think of it this way. 

Changes come for a reason and that helps everyone involved grow.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m enjoying the lineup as it is (and I enjoyed it as it was) but I also recognize that there is something lacking right now with Shoya Chiba’s departure. 

I can certainly notice that there is an edge missing from the vocals as the raspy lows and mids, as well as the bright clear highs, of Shoya Chiba are no longer present. In a way, SparQlew lost that edge on the vocal end, the unique singing style and voice tone from its music.

Regrouping as a 4-member outfit with “neon”, an eclectic album that aims at showcasing their versatility at the same as hurriedly looking for a music genre that perfectly suits the vocals and styles of the current lineup was an interesting idea.

In one way, the group was pushed towards showing their cards further, especially after “Daybreak” was a flawless album. On the other, the group got to experiment and find what works best for itself. It seems that funk, disco, and jazz suit their vocals the best but the group can tackle rock and pop with the same quality and energy.

What fans get is an eclectic album that will please both fans of bubbly pop and fast rock. 

It has both sides of the spectrum and for each of the songs in this album, all members rose to the occasion showcasing their improved teamwork as well as every little bit they grew individually as singers.

Whether it was rock, pop, jazz, ballads, dance, or hip-hop, SparQlew shows that the change that happened in tone and concept in “Daybreak” only brought good things to them. 

Matured, improved, showing their skills without the restrictions of bubbly pop, the group shows that it is ready to take that crown of best seiyuu unit to itself.

“neon” is another awesome entry in the group’s repertoire. A must-listen.


neon” is available for purchase at CDJAPAN.


neon” is available for streaming on Spotify.


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

REVIEW OVERVIEW

レジリエンス
Future+
Beauty Girl
Sunrise
LOVE SIGNAL
Precious days
雨に踊れ
white light/night flight
Welcome to SparQlew

SUMMARY

What fans get is an eclectic "neon" that will please both fans of bubbly pop and fast rock. It has both sides of the spectrum and for each of the songs in this album, all members rose to the occasion showcasing their improved teamwork as well as every little bit they grew individually as singers. Whether it was rock, pop, jazz, ballads, dance, or hip-hop, SparQlew shows that the change that happened in tone and concept in "Daybreak" only brought good things to them.  Matured, improved, showing their skills without the restrictions of bubbly pop, the group shows that it is ready to take that crown of best seiyuu unit to itself. "neon" is another awesome entry in the group's repertoire. A must-listen.
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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What fans get is an eclectic "neon" that will please both fans of bubbly pop and fast rock. It has both sides of the spectrum and for each of the songs in this album, all members rose to the occasion showcasing their improved teamwork as well as every little bit they grew individually as singers. Whether it was rock, pop, jazz, ballads, dance, or hip-hop, SparQlew shows that the change that happened in tone and concept in "Daybreak" only brought good things to them.  Matured, improved, showing their skills without the restrictions of bubbly pop, the group shows that it is ready to take that crown of best seiyuu unit to itself. "neon" is another awesome entry in the group's repertoire. A must-listen.Review | SparQlew "neon"