The X Lied series comes to a close with SQ’s final volume. Sexy performances and summery dance tunes complete this series on a good note.
Title: SQ X Lied Vol.4 Label: Tsukino-Pro Release date: 29/09/2017 Genre: J-Pop/Rock
1. Phantom Drive 2. 虹 3. Phantom Drive -off vocal- 4. 虹 -off vocal-
Track by track analysis:
1. Phantom Drive
“Phantom Drive” is a textbook SolidS song. It’s funky, upbeat and jazzy with dark undertones. Still, this song especifically doesn’t sound anything alike what the group has released so far, but if you are afraid the group’s trademark sexiness or risqué lyrics aren’t there, don’t worry. Those are just worked in a completely classy way this time around – much thanks to the jazzy instrumental. The listener is immediately enveloped in a rich bassline, up-tempo hi-hat driven drums, funky guitar licks and riffs and brass – this last one has only been common since 2016 on SolidS‘ releases. Umehara‘s performance exceeded our expectations – once again. He’s improving his singing skills at an impressive rate and lately it’s been hard to find something to be picky about his singing. Polished vocals allowed him to own the song completely, delivering a performance on the same level as the best ones from the X Lied series across all units. 5/5
虹 (Niji) has a lingering summery vibe due to its synth based instrumental and hyped chorus. Don’t expect guitars nor drums (at least live ones) because this song goes all out EDM. This is a fun instrumental that required a simple vocal performance but what we got, although simple, was not satisfying. Nishiyama‘s performance is not his best ever, in fact it’s very far from it. EDM doesn’t require that much vocal effort (as there’s always synths and other tricks that abstract the listener from the vocals) but even with that in his favor, he couldn’t deliver anything we’re used to when he’s with QUELL. The song was fun to listen to but vocal performance needed way more work to impress us. 4/5
We complete SQ’s X Lied series with this release.
SolidS sent Umehara as their representant and what we got with “Phantom Drive” was more than we could have asked for. The instrumental was fun and sexy at the same time, we got more of SolidS‘ trademark funky basslines and we got a throughly entertaining song in which Umehara was a star. We’ve said before that his vocals needed serious work if he wanted to be on par with his SolidS‘ mates. The work has been there and we can easily notice it when we listen to this song. He had already impressed us when he performed the stunning Squall -冷たい衝動- back in 2016 for the Katchofugetsu hen series, but that performance pales today in comparison with “Phantom Drive“, that shows an upgraded version of his vocals. His growth in the past year has led us to bet that maybe next year, SolidS will have a monster lineup full of powerful, versatile vocals. Up until now what they lacked was a powerful baritone with total control over low notes, Umehara was clearly the one for that position and has contributed with his low vocals countless times but wasn’t reliable to lead a song, couldn’t support the group or harmonize well. Now, with improved control over his vocals, falsetto and vibrato (even if just a little bit), and already showing some ability to hit high notes in his arsenal, we can only anticipate SolidS‘ next song to impress with the vocal performances alone. For this release he did extremely well, completing SolidS‘ side on a good note after some hiccups.
On the other side, QUELL sent Nishiyama but all our excitement went down the drain when he managed to deliver a bland performance that was far from what he’s known in QUELL.
While Umehara showed improvement, Nishiyama showed the opposite.
He doesn’t sound like he can do much besides what we got with “Niji“. He might not be the singer with the best skillset among all Tsukipro‘s groups, but he certainly has done great work with QUELL. He holds well the group together, is there for the harmonies and doesn’t mind tackling both lower and higher scaled sections. Coming from a monster rookie group with an extremely complete and versatile lineup, we had high expectations for Nishiyama‘s performance. But with this song it seems like Nishiyama‘s vocals have regressed to his Animarus days (2012). Weak, lacking in emotion, his vocals failed completely to impress or at least satisfy us. If that wasn’t enough, he sang the whole song with a different tone from what we’re used to, it didn’t sound like him at all and we’re not saying this in a good way.
Much alike what we said about Umehara back in 2016, Nishiyama needs to work on his vocals if he wants to keep up with his skilled QUELL mates (that keep on improving). We think that avoiding altogether changing his tone would do wonders to his singing, also working on his control would greatly improve his performances in the future.
All in all, this release wasn’t perfect but we can still take a lot of good things from it. Umehara‘s improvements, the funkiness in “Phantom Drive“, the summery vibe from “Niji“, all showed that there’s much more to each group’s music than what we know so far.
X Lied series Vol. 4 is a solid release to close this series with. Now that the X Lied series is complete, we can say that it was interesting to see different sides from all members. Embracing new music genres, delivering unexpected performances, showing improvement, we also got some hiccups from both groups but those can only serve as lessons to improve from there. It’s exciting times for fans of both groups (or even all Tsukipro’s groups). An anime series kicks off next week and more music is on its way before the end of the year. The X Lied series might end today but we’ve got lots of good things coming our way. It’s safe to say that, when the anime series ends, all groups will return for a series alike X Lied or Katchofugetsu hen.
SQ “X Lied” vol.4 is available for purchase on CDJAPAN for all overseas fans.