Review | Shunichi Toki “True Gazer”

Shunichi Toki visits the glorious rock from 60s and 70s in his 1st mini-album. Exquisite and fun, “True Gazer” is a must listen.

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Title: True Gazer
Release date: 16/09/2020
Label: PONY CANYON
Genre: Rock / Pop-Rock

Tracklist:

1 - True Gazer
2 - Adolescence
3 - Mr. Innocence
4 - 明日の在処
5 - KEY

Track by track analysis:

1 – True Gazer

Playful guitar riffs, open, splashy drums and brass paint an old-school rock soundscape. The verses flow in mid-tempo fashion, with brass, organ and exciting drums stand out for their energy.

The chorus is swift and fast paced, adding up to the energy that is overflowing from this song.

And that guitar solo? Good stuff right there with quite the tricky parts.

The simplicity in this instrumental is something that suits Shunichi Toki’s vocals.

He gets all the spotlight to his vocals, feeding off the energy in the instrumental to deliver a powerful performance with a lot of flair. Awesome star to this mini-album.


2 – Adolescence

Adolescence” is youthful and bright within its cool rock sound. A groovy bass line makes it entrance, sharing the stage with a fancy organ and bright piano melodies.

Drums are simple yet an important part on making the whole youthful vibe in this song come to life.

Guitar work is, once again, off the charts. I am quite fond of the guitar solo although it is a pity that it was that brief.

The chorus is pretty simple but incredibly catchy. You’ll surely be singing along to it by the 2nd time it appears.

Toki’s vocals exude a fun, upbeat vibe from the get-go and he never missed a beat. Quite the fun performance on top of a highly addictive song.


3 – Mr. Innocence

Slow paced, emotional guitar riffs, much in the style of Eagles’ “Hotel California” paint a distant, melancholic soundscape.

Drums are complemented by warm percussion, electric guitars complemented by the raw touch of acoustic guitars, the bass is minimalistic yet impactful. The composition of “Mr. Innocenceis so nostalgic, it is a perfect nod to the classic 60s rock’s greats.

Now, let’s talk about the lyrics and performance. Shunichi Toki performed lyrics 100% in English, a first for him as a solo artist.

His effort with pronunciation is noticeable and, as a result, the majority of the song is performed in a pretty understandable way that never once breaks immersion when listening to “Mr. Innocence”.

Kudos to him for the effort and the awesome performance he delivered because, on top of tackling lyrics in English, the performance required a lot of emotion and a really good old-school delivery if he wanted to match the quality of 60s rock.

Surprise, surprise, he did all that and more.


4 – 明日の在処

If you’re in for an emotional ride, “Ashita no arika” is the song for you. The verses are stripped, counting with acoustic guitars, distant melancholic guitar riffs and a simple beat. Slowly, emotion starts welling up and with it, the bass makes its entrance, adding a soulful touch this song.

Strings add a delicate layer to this song. The chorus is filled with emotion, something that Shunichi Toki’s passionate performance further enhances.

The bridge has one of the best guitar solos I’ve listened in a while. I love the throwback sound it has, how raw it is, how much he goes for your heartstrings. It is a trademark power ballad guitar solo that you can find in 70s, 80s rock ballads yet it feels so right in this song.

As far as vocals go, Shunichi Toki is a perfect fit for this type of music.

His emotional range as a performer has always been something I deeply appreciate in him as he can make the simple of songs turn into a tearjerker just by the way he approaches the lyrics.

These small details are what make him one of the most exciting singers among male seiyuu. He can change the feel and tone of a song just by how he approaches the lyrics.

Best song in this mini-album and, dare I say, his beard performance to date as a solo artist.


5 – KEY

The mini-album wraps up with “KEY”, song that comes full circle and brings back fast paced drums, brass and jazz-inspired piano melodies.

Adding to that come elements from other songs in this mini-album. Warm acoustic guitar riffs give a gentle coat to this song while the groovy bass line adds a danceable touch to this pop-rock tune.

The verses are filled with energy and fly by in an instant, seamlessly morphing into the exciting chorus that adorns this song.

Brass take the spotlight in the brief bridge section, something that I think is a good touch to a song that already has a lot of flair and, basically, couldn’t get any better.

On the vocal end, Shunichi Toki showcases a lot of control as he tackles the upbeat lyrics in a rather fast paced tempo.

He never missed a beat and keeps adding more energy with each repetition of the chorus. By the time “KEY” wraps up, you’ll be a bit drained but with a massive smile plastered on your face.


Final considerations

Shunichi Toki was finally put in a comfortable environment for him. If “PARTY JACKER” hadn’t been enough for everyone to understand that he thrives and shines when performing jazz and rock, then “True Gazer” set it in stone.

Shunichi Toki should venture more towards rock or jazz (or a hybrid of both). In comparison with previous releases, it is noticeable just how much fun he was having performing those songs.

At times it does seem that the way some words were enunciated was with a cheeky smile on his face, which, must I tell you, is something that listeners – although some may not notice this – will be affected by. A performance that is genuine and comes from a genuine fun place in the singer, always resonates with the listener. It rubs on you.

At least it did with me.

I was reviewing this mini-album with a smile on my face and reacting to his cheeky small touches on the vocals that give off the fun he was having singing music that actually suits him, his vocals and his background (as someone that grew up singing 60s and 70s rock and jazz).

Plenty of awesome songs can be found in “True Gazer” although the obvious winner is “Ashita no arika”.

It is the rock ballad that I didn’t knew Toki could pull off.

Its nostalgic, emotional rock sinks in and plays around with my memories of listening to 70s and 80s rock music and basking on those melancholic power ballads.

That sound was captured perfectly in this song and I got goosebumps as that raw guitar riff played after Toki delivered his performance with such emotion.

Masterful performance. Toki’s best.

Mr. Innocence” was quite the surprise for me. Although aware that Toki likes and is pretty comfortable performing songs in English, this was actually the first time he’s performed a song fully in English as a solo artist.

His massive effort in getting the pronunciation right to some words made his performance flow well, never breaking my immersion in the song.

His pronunciation is not the cleanest I’ve heard by male seiyuu but it is among the best. He’s pretty clean in his performance and you can understand the lyrics without having to check the booklet to make sure what was being said.

Once again, massive kudos to Shunichi Toki for the effort in delivering quite the stunning performance performing in a language that is not his native.

When I reported the news that Shunichi Toki was going to release a mini-album that explored sonorities from the 60s and 70s, I was pretty excited but, at the same time, feared his fans – most in their teens or younger – would not enjoy nor understand the quality of the music from those eras.

The mini-album ended up being well received, something that I will attribute to the fact that “True Gazer” features quite the balanced and easy-listening batch of songs that, although still complex and paying a beautiful homage to the greats from both decades, are appealing to younger generations.

So, if you are on the fence on whether you should check “True Gazer”, do it.

The rock in it isn’t aggressive, the ballad “Ashita no arika” is not too sappy and certainly isn’t cheesy. The pop is fun and with a retro touch.

This is quite the complete and consistent release, Shunichi Toki’s best to date.


True Gazer is available for purchase at CDJAPAN.


True Gazer is available for streaming on Spotify.

Do not support piracy. Remember to support Shunichi Toki by streaming via official outlets.

SUMMARY

Shunichi Toki's "True Gazer" is a massive leap in quality from previous releases. The mini-album explores 60s and 70s rock music and delivers quite the nostalgic set of songs, yet giving all of those an easy-listening twist. His vocals are overflowing with energy and there's a cheeky touch to his performances that makes all songs quite the attention grabbers. All in all, "True Gazer" is Toki's best release to date. An absolute gem that deserves more love.

REVIEW OVERVIEW

True Gazer
Adolescence
Mr. Innocence
明日の在処
KEY
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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