Review | Tetsuya Kakihara “Live in ToKyo”

Tetsuya Kakihara sings a love letter to Tokyo with a funky collection of songs in “Live in ToKyo”.

Regular
Title: Live in ToKyo
Release date: 25/11/2020
Label: Kiramune
Genre: Pop-rock / Funk / EDM

Tracklist:

1 - AM#DRIVE 
2 - エンドレスじゃーねー 
3 - コモンセンス・プロミネンス 
4 - たったひとつのモノ 
5 - Good time 
6 - Go to the top 
7 - GET STARTED 
8 - 東京 
9 - Looking up Laughing 
10 - 約束 

Track by track analysis:

1 – AM#DRIVE

A loungy piano melody, opens the curtains for “AM#DRIVE”, song that kicks this album spreading good vibes.

The verses are playful, bringing funk to the spotlight with a groovy bassline, delicate strings, classy brass, and warm snary drums creating an enjoyable sound that make you jam along to it in no time.

The slap bass in the song is crazy. Those low, bouncy notes feel so, so well in the middle of this song. 

The chorus is simple and addictive, with a big focus on the funky guitar riffs. And speaking of guitars, the solo in the bridge section is a delight to listen to. It is the right length and boosts by a lot the energy levels in this song.

Tetsuya Kakihara delivers performance with an interesting duality, performing the verses in those breathy mid-tones however, in the pitch vocals are his clean high notes, making a perfect contrast and standing out for the quality

Massive opening track wrapping up in the old-school slow fade out fashion.

The highlight medley is out.

2 – エンドレスじゃーねー 

An organ melody fades in to the groovy lo-fi hip-hop tune “Endless ja ne”.

The verses are simple and bassy, having quite the punch complementing the fat snare in those mid-tempo drums.

The chorus keeps that simplicity however with funky guitars making their entrance, adding a cool and fun twist to this song.

Where things get really interesting is on the vocals. Tetsuya Kakihara showcases his rap flow and shines. He never misses a beat and through his performance, you can feel his enjoyment performing this song.

Insanely clean performance in quite the unexpected tune.

3 – コモンセンス・プロミネンス 

Common sense prominence” changes gears to welcome “feel good” rock.

The verses have jazz influences with the drums and bass melodies going the jazz route for a brief period of time in the second verse.

The chorus is simple, making the best of its semi-acoustic sound. Acoustic guitar riffs add warmth to this song as loungy piano melodies paint a summery soundscape.

Kakihara delivers a performance filled with confidence, once again tapping into his range and showcasing his smooth mid-tones alongside those sweet high notes and, for a change rough riffing on his end.

4 – たったひとつのモノ 

Slowing things down comes “Tatta hitotsu no mono”. The tone for this song is emotional, something that immediately shows in the electric guitar riff brief intro solo.

The verses flow in a comfortable mid-tempo, with acoustic guitars leading the way at the same time that the bass paints the soundscape with a lot of gentleness. The chorus introduces organ melodies into the textbook rock sound going on in this song.

On the vocal end, Tetsuya Kakihara goes for a solid performance with his mid-tones shining. His vibrato is a nice touch to the performance as he gives a bit more emotion through there while still connecting sections with that.

5 – Good time 

Funk-rock is back to the spotlight with “Good time”. The verses are fast-paced and extremely punchy, with the bassline and bass-driven drums playing an important role in fleshing out this warm and cozy sound.

The chorus counts with splashy drums, playful brass and wah-wah guitar riffs on top of those fancy organ melodies.

Kakihara delivers a dual performance for this song. The verses and chorus have clean vocals, making the best out of his robust mid-tones.

Then, there’s a brief rap section where Kakihara goes off with a cool flow. Also worth mentioning are his transitions from singing to rapping and then back to singing in a seamless fashion.

6 – Go to the top 

Fancy strings, funky guitar riffs and a deep, slow-paced beat set an alluring tone for “Go to the top”.

The verses are elegant and groovy, slowly building up tension for the danceable chorus that welcomes minimalistic synths.

For the most part, this instrumental is pretty bare, leaving the spotlight on Kakihara’s riveting vocals. He goes crazy on ad-libs for this performance, is charismatic when performing in his trademark mid-tones, and shines for those falsetto sections.

A thoroughly enjoyable song with a tasteful take on funk and disco.

7 – GET STARTED 

Dirty synths paint this open soundscape. “GET STARTED” is an intense song riding on top of a hard-hitting beat,

The verses are downtempo for its first section, with triplets, synth scratches, and glitches painting a grim picture. The latter part of verses changes dynamics, counting with an ethereal and exciting pre-chorus in which washy synths and atmospheric synth pads melodies give this song a delicate twist.

The chorus is made for the dancefloor, carrying a whole lot of energy even while riding on a slow tempo.

The verses are a mix of singing and rapping, once again with Kakihara showcasing his versatility by the transition from one to another in a seamless fashion.

8 – 東京 

Tokyo” welcomes you to the delicate of Jazz-inspired brushed drums.

The verses explore an elegant loungy sound courtesy of rhodes piano melodies and a punchy bassline. On top are fast paced funky guitar riffs and synths stabs.

The slows down a beat, focusing on triplets while channeling dubstep vibes (do not worry, this is just but an element, not a massive feature).

The chorus is funk goodness. The bassline takes over, giving a lot of bounce to this section while contrasting with Tetsuya Kakihara’s gentle high notes and fancy mid-tones.

A love letter to Tokyo in the form of a funky tune, quite the unique thing within Kakihara’s repertoire.

9 – Looking up Laughing 

Playful guitar riffs and fast paced drums take over in “Looking up Laughing”. This is the type of song that won’t give the listeners a breather as the tempo is, at all times, fast.

The verses are lively, changing from bass-driven sections to speedy, guitar-driven ones. This duality makes the verses intense, intensity that the chorus capitalizes in. For that part, drums go crazy, bringing to the spotlight a massive bass drum – snare combo that sounds insanely well.

There’s some cowbell in the last chorus, adding another layer of fun to the instrumental.

Kakihara’s performance is laidback for this tune. It doesn’t require any technicalities like previous songs nor any fancy chances between singing tones. It’s just pure speed in order to hype up the listener.

If you’re the type of person that loves an upbeat tune with the catchy chorus, this will certainly be the song for you.

10 – 約束 

Wrapping up this album is “Yakusoku”, song that kicks off with an introspective tone, slowly building up into an airy, hopeful tune.

On top of those guitar riffs in the intro come beautiful strings to paint this wide, mostly empty soundscape in front of you in this song. The drums focus heavily on the toms, with rim shots rhythms adding an interesting twist to the percussion.

This song gives off a grandiose vibe, something that the chorus perfectly accomplishes through its perfect mix of toms, strings, a dramatic piano melody, and orchestral stabs that raising the tension in the track.

Kakihara matches the lavish sound in this song with a strong mid-toned performance that made the best out of his rich emotional range. As a result, you’ll be drawn to his performance and, at times, impressed with his delivery.

It is the type of song that leaves a mark and certainly a strong closer for this album.


Final considerations

Tetsuya Kakihara’s full-length albums continue to be a blast to listen to. “Live in ToKyo” is a love letter to life itself by Kakihara.

It celebrates the city that has been his home for almost 2 decades, it’s melancholic at times, it celebrates the fun and good times while focusing on putting a smile on your face throughout its 10 tracks lineup.

Funk is the prominent music genre in this album. You can find it in “AM#DRIVE” and “Good time”. And there’s even mature takes on the genre in the elegant “Go to the top” and “Tokyo”.

Rock made its appearance both in its textbook 4-piece format or as semi-acoustic in “Common sense prominence” and “Looking up Laughing”.

Hip-hop and EDM made sure to be present as well. I wasn’t expecting hip-hop to be on a Tetsuya Kakihara album – even though he’s proven time and time again that he does have an awesome flow – yet EDM was to be expected in some capacity taking into account his most recent CD releases.

Endless ja ne” is a massive track that explores the coolness of lo-fi hip-hop with a minimalistic yet groovy instrumental. Kakihara rose up to the challenge and went for an impressive performance that had me jamming along to in no time.

Now, the EDM-meets-hip-hop tune, “GET STARTED” although an enjoyable song, ended up dragging a lot by the end of it.

The changes in tempo within the verses, the duality of tones within the song, how much the soundscape changed throughout, all got a bit boring by the time the 3rd chorus came and worse yet, when that 3rd chorus was just a repeat of what had happened before.

It is expected of EDM music that dynamics should, at least, change every chorus or, at least, every 2 repetitions of the chorus. This isn’t a rule but for variety’s sake, it’s something you’ll expect to some extent.

Going for 5 minutes of no surprises, with the same pattern repeating itself time and time again was a bit too much in my opinion. If you’re a big fan of EDM music with no massive changes in tone (i.e., trance music), this may actually be up your alley otherwise you’ll find yourself thinking that it is quite the long song. Had it been kept within the 3:20 – 3:50 mark, this song would have been a massive banger.

On a different note: Tetsuya Kakihara continues to improve on the vocal end. His mid-tones are stable throughout and are, as expected, extremely sweet thanks to Kakihara’s trademark breathy singing style.

Then you have his vocal range, the one that impresses day by day. For this album, Kakihara tapped into his vocal range to deliver ethereal falsetto and high notes while shine warming his performances with a reverberating vibrato.

Although far from a perfect album – it is far from being an upgrade over 2018’s flawless “I for U” -, you can feel the love in the funky “Live in ToKyo”, and that, when paired with Kakihara’s vocals make it quite the entertaining listen.


Live in ToKyo is available for purchase at CDJAPAN.


Live in ToKyo” is available for streaming on Spotify.

Do not support piracy. Remember to support Tetsuya Kakihara by streaming via official outlets.
REVIEW OVERVIEW
AM#DRIVE
エンドレスじゃーねー 
コモンセンス・プロミネンス 
たったひとつのモノ 
Good time
Go to the top 
GET STARTED
東京
Looking up Laughing 
約束
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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