Review | Swing Cats “Raining Cats”

Swing CATS

Swing Cats‘ “Raining Cats” is an elegant release with melodies that seep into your brain + performances that will have you begging for more.

SwingCats Raining cats
Title: JAZZ-ON! Sessions 「Raining Cats」
Label: UNIVERSAL MUSIC JAPAN
Release date: 25/03/2020
Genre: Jazz

Tracklist:

1 - ふたりのバラード
2 - Lonely Junction
3 - SwingCATS Drama Tracks #3
4 - SwingCATS Drama Tracks #4

Track by track analysis:

1 – ふたりのバラード

An ethereal soundscape opens before your eyes in “Futari no Ballad”.

Elegant piano melodies, a suggestive contrabass melody, slow-paced syncopated drums create an intimate vibe out of that ethereal intro.

Ride-driven drums, a melancholic trombone and alluring saxophone join in to give this song quite the unique touch.

After the first chorus, the song changes tempo, picking up the pacing a lot, evolving to a fast-paced, danceable tune in which saxophone melodies and drums are king.

Then, as fast you transition to that fast section, you’re back in a comfortable tempo, enveloped in that bassy, full instrumental.

Swing Cats brought Shunichi Toki and Wataru Komada to the spotlight on the vocal end.

The duo was absolutely mesmerizing in their performance, kicking off with Shunichi Toki – responsible for one of the best entrances in a song I’ve listened to so far in the JAZZ-ON! franchise.

He brought allure right off the bat, his presentation in this song is magnetic. His sustained notes are beautiful, his mid-tones carry a gentleness at all times while his head voice is powerful and engaging.

Wataru Komada was on top of his game as well for this song. He played a contrasting role to Toki, having a lower voice tone at his disposal – as well as a smaller vocal range -, yet approaching all parts with a lot of confidence. You can tell he was feeling this song from the emotion he added to his performance.

I sure do love it when you can feel that from a performance. When skill is involved, Komada never fell behind Toki. His sweet mid-tones shone throughout.

2 – Lonely Junction

Wrapping up this release is “Lonely Junction”, song that changes gears and embraces instead upbeat swing jazz mix.

The intro brings electric guitars to the spotlight, with an aggressive guitar riff opening the curtains to what is, in fact, a relaxed take on swing jazz music with a lot of bounce coming from the contrabass.

Those electric guitars make their appearance once again in the outro but do not expect rock music to be prominent in “Lonely Junction”.

Saxophone and trombone go all out for a crazy battle of solos on top of a beat that is constantly changing.

Arthur Lounsbery and Shinichiro Kamio are on vocal duty for this song, delivering an exuberant performance.

Lounsbery completely embraced jazz music, delivering a performance that mixed the genre’s decadence and elegance in the same place. His performance was strangely magnetic although he didn’t seem like he was doing anything out of extraordinary. Talk about a charismatic singer.

Kamio is another pleasant surprise for me. I’ve come across his singing with Akatsuki (Ensemble Stars!!) and rap with MAD TRIGGER CREW (Hypnosis Mic) but I’d never listened to him sing for this long, to the point that I can now say that I can spot his voice with ease.

This song gave him plenty of spotlight and surprise, surprise: Kamio, best known for his insanely low vocals, goes and delivers a performance filled with falsetto, something fitting of a tenor/baritone.


Final considerations

Swing Cats’ 2nd entry in the JAZZ-ON! franchise is filled with confidence and elegance, with melodies that seep into your brain, music that will make you tap your feet, and vocal performances that will have you begging for more.

Futari no Ballad” is such a good song. I’m particularly fond of jazz music that tones a bit and goes the intimate route. Yes, jazz is a fun music genre but it also has an allure, a sultry side. And that side works really well with the versatility in melodies, instruments, and voices in the genre more so than in other music genres that, at times, may sound a bit “forced” in making allure show.

The drums had me going. It is impossible to predict how a song will flow, from verses to pre-chorus, chorus to an intermission, chorus to a solo, verses to the outro, etc.. You can’t say that you expect any of these to happen because this is not pop or rock music. It doesn’t follow a formula. And the drums in this song do exactly that, put whatever preconceived ideas of song structure you may have and throw those out of the window.

That’s the stuff you want to find in your jazz music. Unpredictability.

The vocals were another positive in this song. Shunichi Toki’s impressive skillset and control teamed up with Wataru Komada’s unique nasally mid-tones were quite the pleasant listen.

Lonely Junction” brought swing back to the spotlight, with a bit of rock’n’roll in the intro and outro. What stood out the most in this song was the flamboyant solo battle between saxophone and trombone, instruments that were already adding a lot of flair to the song but, in that particular section, went bonkers and unpredictable, leading to a fun intermission within the song.

The vocals in this song were a new experience for me. Both Arthur Lounsbery and Shinichiro Kamio are voice actors I seldom listen to singing so I’m not familiar with their voice tones. However, they were easy to tell apart. Lounsbery was smooth in his falsetto and carried himself with a lot of confidence while Kamio was dazzling with his falsetto and ad-libs, something that came as a pleasant surprise especially knowing how his low singing tone – faux bass/baritone – is his trademark.

All in all, Swing Cats’ 2nd entry in the JAZZ-ON! franchise “Raining Cats” shows another side to the group, their versatility on the vocal end and the type of music and performances they can effortlessly pull off.

This is the kind of single you’ll want to put on replay, sit back and enjoy it in full time and time again.


Raining Cats is available for purchase at CDJAPAN.

REVIEW OVERVIEW
ふたりのバラード
Lonely Junction
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).

2 COMMENTS

  1. I’m scrolling through your reviews to find new songs to listen to and stumbled upon this article and I noticed you said that you don’t listen much to Arthur Lounsbery.

    Which brings me to ask, have you listened to any of Starmyu songs? I think Limited Sky from the Starmyu franchise is a noteworthy song you should check out! It’s sung by Arthur Lounsbery and it’s one of my all-time favourites!

    • Yeah, I didn’t up until recently. I’ve been following him with EROSION and Fantôme Iris (two bands in which he’s using a voice tone that doesn’t sound “natural”) so I can’t say that I’m familiar with what you can call his “normal” singing voice.

      I remember checking the anime and it didn’t really strike my fancy back then so I never really got into the songs however, as per your suggestion I checked “Limited Sky” and oh boy!
      I like that the song in question is quite subtle about its synths, with the focus being more on the vocals and bass (that serve as a cool contrast to his voice, a bit on a higher tone than I’d expected). It’s a really good song!

      Arthur’s tone in there is exactly the “vocals guide” I wanted to have in order to get familiar with his normal vocal tone so, for that, I thank you for the suggestion @akashiakaashi!

Comment