Tetsuya Kakihara “United Star” (Review)

Tetsuya Kakihara keeps pushing himself, polishing his vocals and exploring sonorities that bring out the best in his vocals and his 6th mini-album, United Star, is the perfect proof of his hard work.

Regular edition
Title: United Star
Label: Kiramune 
Release date: 17/04/2019
Genre: Jazz/Funk/Rock/Ballad

Tracklist:

1.オンリースター 
2.前進アッペンダン↑^_^↓ 
3.ray 
4.メッセージ 
5.WALK ON 
6.夜が

Track by track analysis:

1.オンリースター

Only Star kicks off with an upbeat, jazz pop sound that brings a whole band sound to the table. This song is big on its acoustic, bass-driven sound that creates a warm, inviting soundscape for the listener. Everything in the instrumental, from its structure to the way the piano melodies play alongside the fancy brass or how the soothing strings add a lay of class to this song, make Only Star a must listen.

To top it off, Kakihara‘s vocals are as fancy as the instrumental itself, delivering a delicate falsetto as well an overall mid-toned performance in a what is the perfect opening to this mini-album. 5/5

2.前進アッペンダン↑^_^↓

And the jazz influences continue in full force with Zenshin Up and Down. Brass, rhodes piano, ride-driven drums, funky guitar riffs and a mesmerizing bass line instantly grab the listener’s attention. The rhythm is addictive, with uptempo, feel good verses. The chorus is among the best in his career as a solo artist. It begs for the listener’s participation, it is a part that will work incredibly well on a live setting but it already extremely good for casual listeners to enjoy.

On the vocal end, Kakihara makes sure to keep up with the instrumental’s energy and even fuels it with more excitement, making this song the resident energizer. A thoroughly fun song with a top performance. 5/5

3.ray

Slow paced guitar riffs and a melancholic piano melody introduce us to ray. Straying away from jazz and funk, this song embraces a simple rock sound that takes pride on its big guitar riffs and powerful snare-driven drums. As mentioned, the instrumental is simple, including in the mix a groovy bass line for its final touches. This song will sound, to some, a bit nostalgic as it brings that classic pop-punk sound from the 00s to this release and is, to top it off, extremely well executed.

As far as the vocals go, Kakihara has no issues tackling a song as rough as this one on his vocals. He nails every single section, from the raw chorus to the sweet melodies by the end of the song. Solid performance. 4.5/5

4.メッセージ

message brings to the table the first R&B ballad. The pacing is slow and the instrumental heavily rooted on the melancholic piano melody leading the way. Acoustic guitars and minimalistic percussion is added to this song as well as melodic guitar riffs. However, it is easily noticeable that this song’s focus is on the vocals rather than on the instrumental.

Kakihara showcases his control by delivering a smooth performance filled with flair in his falsetto, high notes, R&B imbued backing vocals and those breathy, sweet mid-tones of his have been his trademark. Another great performance for the books. 5/5

5.WALK ON

After a slow paced intermission, we’re back to funk music. WALK ON brings on funky wah-wah guitar riffs, groovy bass lines, fancy brass melodies and playful drums, creating a throwback 70s/80s soundscape. The verses are filled with energy and the chorus is an explosion of fun, addictive melodies. Its pacing is infectious, inviting the listener to join the fun and dance along.

Tetsuya delivers an energetic and fun performance, matching the song’s funky vibe. Fun, fun, fun. 5/5

6.夜が

An inspiring piano melody, warm acoustic guitar melodies and a simple, snare-driven drum beat lead the way for Yoru ga. An unexpected highlight is slight Latin vibe we get from the looping piano melody (not the lead piano melody) together with the acoustic guitar. If that wasn’t enough, the acoustic guitar solo in the outro was Spanish-inspired, in a way tapping into the rasgueado technique but not completely make use of it. We wrap up this mini-album with a laidback vibe, toning down the energy after a couple of uptempo, fun songs.

The vocals are of outstanding quality. Kakihara tackles this performance with an inspiring ease, going for falsetto and high notes, delivering stunning harmonies, tackling tricky phrases and rising up to the challenge and tapping a bit on his vibrato to add another layer of quality to his performance. We come full circle. Starting and ending on a perfect note. 5/5

Final rating:

Tetsuya Kakihara is back with a new mini-album, further experimenting with the sound he has been developing in the last couple of releases. And impressing while at it.

United Star plays around a lot with Jazz and Funk, music genres that Kakihara has been incorporating in his music as of late. This is a mini-album filled with highlights. With each song we find something new and something nostalgic, with Kakihara adding his unique spin to it.

The fast paced, playful jazz in songs such as Only Star and Zenshin Up and Down add an element of fun as well as class to his repertoire. The crafty jazz melodies, the funky guitar riffs and those groovy bass lines are meant to make the listener dance and enjoy the moment.

ray introduced pop-punk in this release, yet another genre that he has experimented with before but doesn’t sound the same as previous iterations.

message served as an intermission between the fast paced intro and the slower paced, quieter ending to this release. At the same it is one beautiful acoustic ballad.

WALK ON brought those disco/funk vibes to the spotlight and we thanked him for it. If this release wasn’t fun enough to begin with, Kakihara made sure for everyone to be satisfied by adding the definition of fun and groovy: disco/funk music.

The mini-album wraps up on a fantastic note, opting for a slower paced, melodic sound, Yoru ga is one of the best closing tracks in Kakihara‘s repertoire. It has a feel good vibe that perfectly ties up every single song in this release into a perfect package.

United Star is yet another perfect release by Tetsuya Kakihara, solo artist that keeps pushing himself, polishing his vocals and exploring sonorities that bring out the best in his vocals. A must listen.

United Star is available for purchase at CDJAPAN.

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