Review | TOBARI “Jo – Hajimari”

TOBARI

TOBARI make a powerful and refreshing debut with their 1st mini-album, Jo – Hajimari.

TOBARI is a rock duo comprised of Shio Amagi (CV: Yoshiki Nakajima) and Kuroi Hashiba (CV: Tetsuei Sumiya). The duo is signed to the fictional label, SUNPRO (home to the pop-rock duo, ZIX).


TOBARI jo-hajimari
Title: 序 -ハジマリ- (Jo - Hajimari)
Label: Tsukipro/Movic 
Release date: 24/04/2020 
Genre: Rock

Tracklist:

1. 激情ノ彼方
2. Real in the dark
3. 孤夜の共鳴
4. ドラマ「誰が為に Side.K」
5. ドラマ「誰が為に Side.S」
6. ドラマ「帷における二人の距離 from outside」
7. ドラマ「帷における二人の距離 from inside」
8. 激情ノ彼方 -off vocal-
9. Real in the dark -off vocal-
10. 孤夜の共鳴 -off vocal-

Track by track analysis:

1 – 激情ノ彼方 (Gekijo no Kanata)

TOBARI kick off their debut mini-album with Gekijo no Kanata, song that brings to the spotlight a fast paced rock sound with intense guitar riffs, groovy double-bass drums, synths accents and a noticeable bass line.

The song flows pretty quickly, with brief verses leading to a electronic-rock infused chorus, with synths taking on a more important role in this section.

The chorus just calls for the listener to join in and sing along with the duo. It’s impactful in its simplistic powerpop / pop-rock approach.

On the vocal end, TOBARI are pretty tight, with this I mean that their vocals really do go well with each other’s.

Yoshiki Nakajima is singing in his tenor range – close to the comfortable tone he uses when performing with UMake -, at the same time, Tetsuei Sumiya goes for a mature take on his performance – a novelty, especially for those that have been following his career since the Readyyy Project days.

The duo is in their element for this track, tackling each section with an intensity and energy that you can’t be indifferent to.

Perfect start for this release.


2 – Real in the dark

Raging guitar riffs and glitchy synths create the music bed for this slow paced rock tune. Real in the dark is dark, slow paced and exudes a imposing vibe in the verses. Synths are also a part of this track, being one of the elements responsible for introducing the listener to this track.

The glitchy nature of the synths in this song add a gritty, broken twist to this song, which is something that, done as tastefully as it is in this track, ends up being a nice accent.

Although the verses create a pretty unique atmosphere about this song, the build up to the chorus is lackluster, going softer than the verses, leaving a lot of open space to be explored but, ultimately, only a small fraction of it was, indeed, explored.

Still, the chorus enables us with some pretty good harmonizations by Nakajima and Sumiya, tackling this track in a natural, almost effortlessly fashion.


3 – 孤夜の共鳴 (Koyoru no Kyomei)

To wrap up this release, TOBARI grace us with Koyoru no Kyomei, song that explores a playful, bebop jazz melodies. The instrumental for this track is incredibly bouncy, taking the listener to a classy jazz-inspired soundscape in which the bass is king and guitars are all about their funk.

Alluring brass and rhodes piano melodies add the perfect touches to make this elegant and mature soundscape come to life. The verses are led by the bass, with TOBARI’s vocals grooving on top of it.

This song comes as a surprise after 2 textbook rock songs but this is the kind of surprise that I actually love: an expected jazz song in the mix.

Yoshiki Nakajima goes a bit lower on his range for this track, bringing forth a certain allure. Tetsuei Sumiya sounds in his element, tackling this song with a charisma of a seasoned jazz-rock singer.

Be it in the back-and-forth of the verses or as a unit in the chorus, TOBARI are confident and overflowing with charisma, making this a mesmerizing performance.



Final considerations

TOBARI sure know how to make a great first impression! I find the way they tackle rock music to be quite refreshing.

Now, this is really subtle but, when listening to their songs, I do not get that “2D whatever” vibe that you always get from 2D groups’ songs.

TOBARI’s rock sound is legit, not gimmicky, but a robust rock sound that anyone can enjoy without feeling like the songs belong to “anime openings” or something of the sort.

Don’t get me wrong though, I really do love quite a lot of 2D groups/bands but, after years of listening to their songs, whenever something ditches “trademarks” or “gimmicks” common to the field/genre itself, it instantly stands out to me. In this case, TOBARI‘s Jo-Hajimari sounded like a legit rock album.

And I really love this release – even with its faults – because of that.

I don’t know if anyone else feels the same about their music but to me, they do sound different.

Jo-Hajimari has quite an interesting lineup of songs.

Koyoru no Kyomei instantly turned into my favorite song in this release. The way the atmosphere is created for the listener, how it slowly opens up, sharing more with you, further developing the sound, getting increasingly complex and, at the same time, more robust, is something that I thoroughly enjoyed in this track.

Add to the fact that you can never go wrong with jazz music’s mature elegance to raise your game – or in this case, the quality of the release – and you have vocals capable of not only tackling, but adding value to this music genre and you get the best song in this release.

Gekijo no Kanata is a solid introduction to the group. TOBARI’s intensity complements pretty well their fresh take on rock music. Bonus points for those shredding guitar riffs that had me on the edge of my seat.

Real in the dark came off as the weakest track in this release yet, it’s still a pretty solid song. Aside from the lackluster pre-chorus and chorus, the song counts with awesome verses that cash in on the instrumental’s slow pacing and dark vibe. A pity that the rest of the song softens a bit but other than that, it is still an enjoyable listen.

All in all, Jo-Hajimari is a rock solid introduction to Sunpro’s newest group, TOBARI. With a powerful lineup of Yoshiki Nakajima and Tetsuei Sumiya exuding confidence and charisma, plus clean and simple rock instrumentals and even their cheeky takes on jazz, this release is a must listen.


Jo – Hajimari is available for purchase at CDJAPAN.


REVIEW OVERVIEW
Gekijo no Kanata
Real in the dark
Koyoru no Kyomei
The Hand That Feeds HQ founder and music reviewer writing about Japanese music since 2010. Now also talking about male seiyuu via SEIYUU LOUNGE (see Spotify link in this profile). 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).

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