Review | Tetsuya Kakihara and Nobuhiko Okamoto “trust and play”

tetsuya kakihara, nobuhiko okamoto trust and play

Tetsuya Kakihara and Nobuhiko Okamoto‘s trust and play embraces its quirkiness, featuring fun and elegant songs that will always remember you of summer.

trust and play
Regular
Title: trust and play
Label: Kiramune 
Release date: 15/04/2020 
Genres: Pop / Acoustic / Jazz / Rock

Tracklist:

1 - Kira Kira エデン (lyrics by Nobuhiko Okamoto)
2 - One Morning 
3 - Dear chooser (lyrics by Nobuhiko Okamoto)
4 - Real Me (lyrics by Tetsuya Kakihara)
5 - 友と共に (lyrics by Nobuhiko Okamoto)
6 - パラダイス

Track by track analysis:

1 – Kira Kira エデン

We kick off this release with Kira Kira Eden, song that bets on a fancy acoustic sound riding on laidback acoustic guitar riffs, a funky bass line and some sitar accents.

The song progresses in a comfortable pacing, slowly building up to the upbeat, bright chorus that invites electric guitar riffs and a minimalistic beat to leave its mark.

On the vocal end, the song is pretty fun. First off, the duo doesn’t take itself seriously. Okamoto leads the way – he’s also the lyricist for this track -, singing along to the peppy tune while Kakihara refuses, time and time again, to join in. This dynamic managed to steal some giggles from me as even Kakihara’s well known “Okamura” instead of “Okamoto” made its way to the final recording of the track.

When it comes to the technique, Okamoto is pretty stable, delivering a confident and entertaining performance rooted in his mid-tones. Kakihara however, as much as he bickers in the song, goes all out with his vibrato in the chorus, adding a nice touch to this track. 

This is a song that will certainly work well on live setting. It will be especially interesting to watch things develop on stage when it comes to the “I will not dance!” part. All in all, Kira Kira Eden is an entertaining track that opens this release in a rather unique way.

2 – One Morning

Things change around and we transition from a peppy pop track into a sexy jazz track.

One Morning follows a slow pacing with tan alluring bass line and washy drums leading the way into the sweet verses in which jazzy piano melodies, wah-wah guitar riffs, and minimalistic synths accents give life to one of the most elegant soundscapes I’ve come across in 2020.

The verses flow in a sweet fashion, putting focus on sounding groovy and alluring as the vocals glide through it into the funk-jazz goodness that is One Morning’s chorus. Top marks as well to the amazing guitar work, as we get a stunning bluesy solo in the bridge that leaves the listener with a want for more.

Vocally, this is an outstanding track.

The OkamotoKakihara chemistry on this song is off the charts. They tackle verses with confidence and go all out in their charms and technique in the memorable chorus, showcasing their falsetto and vibrato, also adding some R&B touches to their performance – especially noticeable on Okamoto’s performance in the chorus, prolonging the vowels to give off a sexier touch to it. Kakihara is on his element for this track

This is perhaps the track that best highlights Kakihara‘s colors as opposed to Kira Kira Eden that was clearly a song tailor-made for Okamoto’s style.

Memorable track with one of the sexiest bass lines in 2020. Easily the best song on this release. 

3 – Dear chooser

Things change around and get really dramatic, really fast.

Dear chooser brings fast paced drums, simple guitar riffs, quirky synth hits, accordion melodies and a reverberating bass line into the mix. Now this will sound like a big shock coming from a classy track into a completely different type of track.

Dear chooser takes me back to Okamoto’s 2017 Melty Halloween. It has the same theatrical vibe with the focus being more on the vocals and the lyrics themselves rather than the instrumental itself. It seems that whenever Okamoto is in charge of the lyrics, we all have to expect something theatrical and quirky to come from there.

The verses are intense and might seem a bit muffled.

This might have been a production choice but it sounds completely different in dynamic and recording quality in comparison with One Morning. While the later had a spacious soundscape, on Dear chooser everything is happening really close to the listener – especially noticeable if you’re listening to this song with headphones -, and is pretty much muffled  to the point that it is uncomfortable.

Once again, it might have been intentional but it does not sound good, especially when this is the only track with a such a subpar mixing and lack of a clear sound.

On the vocal end there are no issues, as the duo tackled those intense lyrics with a fun twist and never once felt out of their element.

This track had the potential to be pretty good but the weird mixing kills the song for me.  

4 – Real Me

The panorama changes once again as the duo tackles a full-throttle rock tune.

Real Me features lyrics by Tetsuya Kakihara and goes more towards what he’d do as a solo artist than what you can expect coming from Nobuhiko Okamoto – clearly more pop oriented as a solo artist.

Yet, it is interesting to find Okamoto holding his own pretty well in this track, going at it with Kakihara and delivering a strong, edgy performance.

Shredding guitar riffs serve as the greeting card, leading the way to explosive drums, a thunderous bass line and fancy synths.

The verses are overflowing with energy leading to an exciting chorus that welcomes the listener to sing along to it. I am particularly fond of the progression and build up in this track with strong pre-choruses and bridge linking this song, creating an exciting tune that will be a sure hit on a live setting.

Headbanging wasn’t on my list of things to expect in this release but I am glad that the duo wanted to showcase their versatility and added this tune. Top marks. 

5 – 友と共に

And we are back with an acoustic tune to wind down a bit after a couple of intense tracks. Tomo to Tomoni features lyrics by Nobuhiko Okamoto and it is a slow paced tune with some ballad touches to it.

Distant guitar riffs, slow paced snare-driven drums, minimalistic bass line and sweet acoustic guitar melodies complete this gentle track with a rather nostalgic undertone.

Vocally, the Okamoto and Kakihara take turns in singing, going towards some canons in the verses. This dynamic works well, making it sound like it is a conversation between the two of them. The chorus features consistent harmonies by the duo, further enhancing the emotional tone in this track.

Sweet and gentle, Tomo to Tomoni is one of those tracks that might go under the radar for some people however, it is one of the best tracks on this release. 4.5/5

6 – パラダイス

The mini-album wraps up with Paradise, a track that goes full circle, tying up with Kira Kira Eden. Paradise brings the playfulness of surfer rock to this release, wrapping up this release in a funny, happy-go-lucky tone.

A groovy bass line, playful guitar riffs, simple drums, fancy brass and strings make this track a blast to listen to. The verses as entertaining and funky, leading to an addictive chorus that will refuse leaving your head.

On the vocal end this is such a fun song. The duo flaunts their chemistry with a confident performance filled with flair and cool harmonizations. The mix between Okamoto‘s gentle vocals with Kakihara‘s powerful vocals created a unique dynamic that makes this song shine.

Paradise wraps up this release in the best way possible. Fun and memorable without being cheesy.

Final considerations

Tetsuya Kakihara and Nobuhiko Okamoto might seem like they are in polar opposites as solo artists but when teamed up, they ended up complementing each other.

trust and play is one of those mini-albums that knows well how follow a concept and come full circle. This is something that I appreciate when listening to a release, that the songs on it are exploring a common theme or that share a similar vibe. Kiramune isn’t particularly known for having releases that feel like a story developing – recently their artists have gone this direction – so this came as a surprise.

Is this mini-album a recommended listen?

Obviously, yes.

trust and play is quirky, fun, daring and while at it, delivering some cool summery tunes to brighten up your days. If that is not enough to make you interested in this mini-album I highlight the fact that the vocals on it are pretty awesome. Nobuhiko Okamoto and Tetsuya Kakihara worked pretty well together and the chemistry shows in their performances. What happens when there was chemistry between the singers and you can tell they had fun performance by the way they conveyed the lyrics?

That excitement rubs off on the listener. When you notice, you have a wide smile plastered on your face.

This is exactly that kind of a release.

It doesn’t take itself too seriously at times, it is serious and melancholic at others and can be insanely sexy if need be for it.

The highlights in this release are One Morning, Real Me and Tomo to Tomoni.

One Morning is an elegant jazz tune that gives off a classy and sexy vibe that is so fitting of those laidback summer evenings hanging out with friends at a lounge. It is also a mature vibe that fits incredibly well with Okamoto and Kakihara and their vocals. Candidate for sexiest bass line in 2020 (is there a top for this out there?).

Real Me added a rock edge to this release, serving a good contrasting point in a release that, otherwise, would be filled with bright, pop tunes. While neither Okamoto nor Kakihara are strictly rock artists – both have dabbled in the genre -, it was nice having both vocals in such a powerful setting.

Tomo to Tomoni isn’t the type of song that I’d normally choose as the best in a release. However, there is something about that this track that made me click replay time and time again. It is emotional but nor overly. It is melancholic but not overly. It is toned down in its tackling of those emotions but that doesn’t make it a lackluster song, on the contrary, it managed to catch my attention. It is a well executed song with sweet vocals on top of it.

There is a chance that some people out there aren’t fans of one or another seiyuu in this release. So I’ll add a couple of words.

If you’re a newcomer or if you are only now trying to get into either – or both – Nobuhiko Okamoto and Tetsuya Kakihara‘s music, this is a good one to start that journey.

However, have in attention that Okamoto’s repertoire is much more eclectic – pending more to theatrical pop, rock music – than this release is. Okamoto has improved on the vocal end and is a bit more consistent than back when he made his solo debut.

On the other hand, Kakihara’s repertoire has been pretty consistent in its themes and sound – more rock, ballad and jazz oriented – in the last couple of years + he is currently one of the best singers in Kiramune.

Regardless of whom you decide to check out, you’ll be in for a cool, entertaining journey.

All in all, trust and play is a release that surprised me positively. I didn’t have high hopes for it – the summer theme could easily go south, I wasn’t sure Okamoto would be consistent enough to match Kakihara’s powerful vocals, etc – but it ended up being a delightful listen for me.

The chemistry and quality is pretty much everywhere in this release just hit play and have fun with this release, as it will certainly put a smile on your face.

This review was possible thanks to a sponsored copy of the album by THTFHQ’s reader, Snowflake. A big thank you! 🙏

trust and play is available for purchase at CDJAPAN.

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