After some delays that made “F.A” shift from an early release in January to mid March, Unicorn Jr.’s new single has finally seen the light of day. This single takes the unit to unexplored territory, still the consistency this group is starting to show is more than enough to keep all the skeptics at bay.
Let’s kick off this review.
Single: F.A Label: Rejet Release date: 13/03/16 Genre: J-Pop
1 - F.A 2 - Unlimited Saga 3 - in my youth 4 - ヒトカケラ
Track by track analysis:
1 – F.A
Bringing back their dance pop polished, Unicorn Jr. present us the loungy “F.A” (or Fallen Angel), a track that has a nice build up with minimal dance elements. Dirty synths and synthetic drums lead the way in the verses, leaving more than enough space for each of the member’s vocals to shine. Nothing is overcrowed or annoying in the instrumental piece, the transitions make it impossible to stay irrelevant to this track. The instrumental alone ranks among the best ones this unit has on their repertoire. It has everything you need to be entertained without overcrowding you with loads of elements that you won’t notice without a few extra listens. Simple with things put to a minimum, F.A manages to shine and be a solid greating card for this single. The only put off lies with the auto tuned vocals in between the verses, that are excessive making the lyrics barely clear to the listener. It might sound cool for some but it really threw us off. Other than that, the track is entertaining and catchy right from the very first note. 4.5/5
2 – Unlimited Saga
If you thought that Unicorn Jr. wouldn’t repeat the feat they made with “Stranger” from their previous single “After Burner“, you’ll be surprised. This track takes a bit of inspiration from the later, toning down the synths to a minimum and bringing a band sound along. The core of the instrumental is lead by the contrabass as well as the jazzy piano. The track has a decent build up to the chorus, staying true to a simple approach – there are no hyped, overly ridiculous parts throughout the whole track making it quite enjoyable to listen. Still it lowers a little bit the momentum “F.A” had brought to the single. Vocally everyone is on point, Aoi and Sawashiro shine everywhere with their contrastant voice colors, Someya has some issues here and there that are quite possibly due to lack of control but nothing that will stand out much. 4/5
3 – in my youth
The brightest track on this single is “in my youth“, a track that kicks off with a kind of ethereal feel, resorting to minimal synth pads, but as soon as we enter the first verse, it turns out to be a fresh, youthful upbeat track fitting with the group’s main concept. Technically this instrumental, besides a few synths in the background, is consistent, in the end delivering an entertaining experience to the listener but failing a bit to shine for us. Vocally this isn’t a hard track to tackle and every single one of the members performed to their best. Knowing Unicorn Jr., we know that they can do better than this easily. 4/5
4 – ヒトカケラ
A delicate piano, strings and minimal synths build this dramatic intro to “Hito Kakera“, the top song on this release. In a soft pop fashion the track resorts also to a melodic guitar, bells, splashy drums and a smooth bassline. Besides the fact that it might sound like a track ready to explode in the chorus, the song has a structure built around a stable progression and build up, with the chorus only rising in tension, not exploding as usual. It’s a nice change of pace although it gives more of a old school Marginal #4 vibe than Unicorn Jr.‘s trademark sound. In terms of the vocal performances: everyone seems to be on point and without any kind of flagrant errors, executing the song solidly on both ends of the scale. As a whole, “Hito Kakera” is the strongest song in this single, giving us glimpses of what we can expect for next releases. Easily ranking high as one of Unicorn Jr.‘s best tracks. 5/5
Unicorn Jr. show us that stability and consistency are just some of their strengths. The unit is growing slowly but steadily, improving in terms of vocal execution and presenting us with fresh instrumentals.
Vocally, it’s nice having someone else to deal with low notes besides Chiharu Sawashiro. Listening to Shouta Aoi tackling lower notes and sounding sexy at it is one of our joys in this single as it is with Sawashiro‘s always smooth lower notes. Someya still struggles to hit high notes and sustaining tones, he shortens notes, misses some higher ones and doesn’t seem to blend well with the group during the choruses. This is something that we only hope improves given that both Aoi and Sawashiro are sounding the best among Rejet‘s vocalists right now.
Instrumentally this single brings a lot of old elements back but tries new things – adding dramatic intros instead of pumping high throttle parts has proven to sound better and making the overall sound more polished, it was also nice seeing MIKOTO exploring further jazz elements to enrich this groups’ sound. To put it short: the unit has grown quite well in these past few months and “F.A” is just a glimpse of what we can expect next.
“F.A” is available for purchase on CDJAPAN for all overseas fans.