Soichiro Hoshi presents himself with a new album, his second since his solo debut, on full strength, this is an album not only for the fans to rejoice about it, but it’s also a celebration for Soichiro to commemorate his 42nd birthday in a complete different style. Titled “LITTLE WORLD“, this new mini-album tries to keep up with the pop trends in Japan resorting to big background work from ELEMENTS GARDEN, responsible for some of the most catchy and entertaining pop tunes handed and handled by Japanese seiyuu, take for example the work behind multitalented Miyano Mamoru and Nana Mizuki, between many other seiyuu. Soichiro brings us a mini-album not as “danceable” as some of his peers releases in King Records, but he delivers sweet, mild pop melodies, easy for the ear and still as entertaining as those heavy synth driven tracks. It’s a mini-album that has not only those dancefloor driven tracks but also those ballads that fit so well with Shoichiro’s vocals. An interesting addition to his repertoire so far.
Album: LITTLE WORLD Release date: 30/05/2014 Label: King Records Genre: J-Pop
The tracklist is the following:
7.Brave Heart ～輝きの彼方へ～
Track by track analysis:
The intro track gives this album the tools for us to prepare for what awaits us in this mini-album. Almost like a music box playing its music on a slow pace we’re taken along it, softly, slowly towards something bigger, louder and danceable.
It really does justice to its name. “Future” might be the leading keyword for this track. Heavy synths, voice manipulation and heavy guitars lead the way for a full throttle track in a style that we all known if we’re used to ELEMENTS GARDEN work. The piano makes its appearance in the quietest parts of the track in the verses leading for the chorus. The outro, leading to the final chorus has some of the solidest work I’ve heard from EG so far. Soft pads, aggressive guitar solo and, the perfect finisher, Soichiro’s vocals. Taking a look at the vocal track we have at least 70% of the track with Soichiro’s vocals manipulated, giving that robotic sound to it. On the remaining 30% we have a fabulous performance with high notes being delivered time after time, without problems, as well as those almost rough vocals in the chorus. “FutureDECIDER” is an interesting way to kick off this album. 4/5
An interesting turn of events is ファイティング!! (Fighting) . This track instantly kills off that heavy electronica sound that was the moving force in the previous track and goes in a completely different direction. A more “classic” pop sound resorting to short verses, simple chorus and instrumentalization. This time we have the drums and bass taking the lead in a track that even resorts to strings and trumpets to complete its sound. A fun track without being way too dancefloor driven. On the vocal track there are nothing out of the ordinary, it’s a solid performance delivered by one of the most distinguishable voices in Japan. 4/5
Heavy guitars, strings and fast drums provide this track with all the elements enough to make this track one of the most entertaining and overall solid tracks in the mini-album. STIRRING UP is a more alternative electronic pop/rock track with its foundations build up around the piano and strings, the perfect catalyst for this track that really delivers everything in a big, grandiose way. The chorus is fast and amped up with Soichiro delivering one hell of a powerful performance. The outro has textbook, trademark ELEMENTS GARDEN work with two great solos provided by both the guitar and the piano. The highlight of the mini-album without a doubt. 5/5
Breaking the pace once again, しあわせのあるところ (Shiawase no Arutokoro) is a slow ballad track, completely putting aside the synths and giving the spotlight back to Shoichiro’s vocal performance. A track so simple, yet so heartwarming lead by the slow jazzy drums with big focus in the strings, embellishing the background and provided the perfect setting for the vocals to stand out and impress. A beautiful, sweet performance in both the instrumental – that melodic guitar solo in the outro is something beyond amazing – and the vocal track delivered in a sweet tone totally befitting of Shoichiro’s mid-toned vocals. 5/5
Going towards a more traditional, Enka (Traditional Japanese music) sound, 悲壮の恋歌 is the second ballad in this mini-album. The Shamisen is the lead in this track taking the guitars spotlight, completely overshadowing the other instruments, in the end, showing us a more classic, timeless sound to Shoichiro’s music. The vocal performance is spotless. It’s a ballad and Shoichiro excels in ballads, whereas most singers tend to fails in the ballads (keep the tone and reaching for those high notes), since those tend to be the trickiest parts while performing a track, Shoichiro just simply goes through them like there’s not a single level of difficulty. His voice is almost like “tailored” to fit the genre. The outro is something incredibly unusual with the shamisen taking the lead in the solo, later giving way to the guitar to complete the solo. I’ve said it before and in other circumstances but, Japanese traditional instruments blend so well with contemporary instruments. It’s the perfect match, even a better match if what you’re looking to make out of the track is a ballad. 4.5/5
7.Brave Heart ～輝きの彼方へ～
Kicking off with synth pads, piano and the strings, giving this track a grandiose sound we’re once again presented before a textbook ELEMENTS GARDEN instrumental. A mid-tempo pop/rock track making good use of Shoichiro’s vocals, blending well with the instrumental piece. Once again this is a flawless vocal performance with high and low notes being reached without problems. On the instrumental track we have to point out that the guitar solo in the outro is incredibly powerful making us stay in the edge of our seats, leading to a rather mild pre-chorus where Shoichiro takes the spotlight for himself with good results. 4/5
And to complete our journey throughout this mini-album, we’re presented with the final ballad to add to this album’s ballad trilogy. A slow paced track solely resorting to the strings, drums and piano to deliver a heartfelt, mesmerizing performance. The guitar makes its appearance in the outro with a emotional melodic solo making way for a final chorus where Shoichiro impresses with his vocal performance. A sweet, emotional, slow paced track. The best way to say thank you for listening to this mini-album. 4/5
An isolated piano plays the same melody as in the beginning the music box played. It’s haunting, simple and beautiful. A goodbye with the same amount of sweetness that the mini-album exuded.
Final rating: 4/5
Shoichiro Hoshi delivers an interesting mini-album showing his LITTLE WORLD and we couldn’t be more interested about it. There are tracks for all tastes: the dancefloor driven tracks like “FutureDECIDER“, the ballad trio made of しあわせのあるところ, 悲壮の恋歌 and 希望のうた, the timeless sound of the shamisen that enchants everyone since it’s first played chords in 悲壮の恋歌 and to complete the mini-album, your basic pop tracks with ファイティング!! and Brave Heart ～輝きの彼方へ～. But the highlight of the album is without a doubt, the electronic pop-rock STIRRING UP.
With rich instrumentals not sticking up too much to the synths, playing more around with the strings and piano, ELEMENTS GARDEN have, once again, created a sound completely befitting Shoichiro’s sweet mid-toned vocals. It’s a strong second mini-album with several great songs and nothing really appalling that will throw you off on a first listen.
LITTLE WORLD is available for purchase on CDJAPAN for all overseas fans.