W is finally out! Wataru Hatano‘s first album shows us a wide variety of genres and exciting songs, bringing back a lot of the fans’ favorite singles released so far and introducing new tunes. With all that we have an array of 14 tracks that will show you how versatile of a singer Hatano really is.
Single: “W” Release date: 20/10/2014 Label: avex trax Genre: Rock / Pop-rock
The tracklist is the following:
01.はじまりの日に～Overture～ 02.はじまりの日に～Album Version～ 03..君はぼくが帰る場所 04.あなたへ 05.流星飛行 06.Hikari Unplugged 07.ブルーウォーター 08.Wake Up! My Heart!! 09.Mach 1.67 10.I'm a Voice Actor 11.君がいるセカイ、君のいない世界。 12.約束 13.Hikari 14.はじまりの日に～Reprise～
Track by track analysis:
The intro track to the “Hajimari no hi” version that everyone knows. The listener is invited to the show that is “W” through a subtle yet interesting short piece.
Wataru Hatano debuted in 2011 with this track. “Hajimari no Hi” was the perfect start to Hatano‘s solo career. It’s an acoustic track mostly focused on the piano and the acoustic guitar that brings out Hatano‘s vocals to their best. The instrumental suffers slight changes after the first chorus with the addition of strings, the bass and drums. This track just simply makes us get a grin on our face – it’s a beautiful, with a well executed instrumental and strong vocal performance. 5/5
Another track known to their fans is 君はぼくが帰る場所. This track was first premiered in 2013 and caused an impact. This track goes on the same line as the previous one, it’s a mellow, sweet and emotional track leaving a lot of room for Hatano to explore with his vocals. The instrumental doesn’t resort to anything fancy or way different from what we’re used to in Hatano‘s releases. Usually tracks that are mellow or acoustic tend to bore the listener but this track certainly isn’t the case at all. The over sweetness of this track, the vocal performance by Hatano with those velvety low notes and the instrumental piece complete this amazing track. 5/5
Continuing with the already known tracks and the acoustic trend we find “Anata he“. This track was first featured on Hatano‘s debut single “Hajimari no Hi” back in 2011. Kicking off with Hatano entering the studio this track gives off a bit country rock vibe – mainly because of the guitars in the beginning and the small electric guitar parts between the chorus and the verses – and keeps it going on until the end of the track. Things are simple and band-like as it should be and the overall result is an interesting track where the jazzy drums, the funky bass and the fabulous guitar solo give life to another laidback track in Hatano‘s repertoire. On the vocal side we listen to Hatano‘s powerful vocals delivering a solid performance without any hiccups. 4/5
Another known track in his repertoire is 2012’s 流星飛行. We stop that acoustic trend that was set from the very beginning of the album and give more liveliness to this album. Electric guitars, reverberating basslines, unstoppable drums lead the way in this upbeat track. The outro to this track is incredibly strong with all the instruments getting their time on the spotlight – which is something not that common – leading to another full throttle chorus. Vocally Hatano stands on top of his game delivering a performance full of highlights – be it his high notes or the lowest ones. 5/5
“Hikari” gets a stripped out version. There are no electric guitars, heavy drums or aggressive basslines. Things are put on a smaller and simpler scale in this short version of the song. With this version there’s more room for Hatano‘s vocals to shine and it’s precisely what happens in this track where Hatano goes all out with his vibrato and leading well with those long notes. 5/5
And in the middle of the album we find the first new track. ブルーウォーター is mid tempo pop-rock track with its main focus – instrumentally – on the bass and the strings that give this track a laidback ambiance adding to the energy given by the bass and drums to this instrumental. On the vocal side we don’t nothing out of the ordinary. It’s a solid vocal performance delivered by Hatano. As a whole the track doesn’t add anything new to his repertoire and simply fails to impress. 4/5
08.Wake Up! My Heart!!
The upbeat and rockin’ Wake Up! My Heart!! makes its way in this album but it’s not the first time that the fans have listened to it. This track was first premiered back in 2012 and is still one of the most upbeat and fast tracks in Hatano‘s repertoire. Fast drums, highly noticeable bass and a strong guitar make the body of work in this track while the finishing touches are given by Hatano‘s vocals – it’s an entertaining track that certainly has inverted the “acoustic trend” in this album. 4.5/5
Taking a different turn from the rest of the album we get a blues, jazz inspired track giving us hits and bits of that 50’s vibe. Smooth bassline provided by the contrabass, bluesy guitar and simple drums envelop a voice well worth of all this class. A great change in comparison with the previous track impressing not because it’s THAT track that makes you addicted at the first listen or because is something beyond comparison, it impresses just by how unpredictable and original it was this choice of genres and overall work on the vocals and instrumental piece. A song to enjoy with your scotch in hand and a cigar or if you’re not up for that you can just dance like there’s no tomorrow. Classy and memorable. 4.5/5
10.I’m a Voice Actor
With a retro feel “I’m a voice actor” kicks off. That 8-bit intro quickly goes from the past to the present and shows us an unusual twist to what we’re used to in Hatano‘s music. As the title indicates, this is a track that not only showcases Hatano‘s vocal prowess when it comes to music. It’s also a place to showcase his voice acting skills – from old ladies, strong people, kids, even some background dogs – there’s a little bit of everything in this circus. This is a track that will, hardly, come of as a good track – it’s silly and fun but lack the musicality and quality that is usually associated to his music. Good for some laughs and to brighten up your day, however weak as a song. 3/5
And back on track we are with this track. With a strong and speedy intro 君がいるセカイ、君のいない世界。gives us one of the strongest tracks in the whole album. The instrumetalization resorts to the rock triad – guitar, bass and drums – but also picks up some synths along the way to enrich the track. The bass is, without a doubt, the main dish in this track – it just keeps going and going strongly in the background giving more depth to the overall sound and adding more impact to the drums. Putting the instruments aside, Hatano‘s performance lives up to this tracks’ quality, sounding on tune and adding the needed emotion that the instrumental alone couldn’t deliver. 4.5/5
As we reach the end of this album we’re presented with yet another heavy rock track but we really strike gold with this one. It sounds close to what “Hikari” is if you first compare the two tracks but 約束 is as solid a rock track as we could get. It’s fierce, aggressive, melodic, emotional and extremely upbeat, a track that has a lot to offer and offers all of it in one go. The instrumentalization is one of the best sides of this track and one of the best in the whole album. The bass is, once again, the main engine, enveloping the remaining instruments in a well composed and arranged track. Hatano, on the side, delivers a strong performance befitting the instrumental. 5/5
“Hikari” is one of those songs that quickly make you want to join in on the song and sing along. The amped up chorus, the precise heavy guitar riffs, the fierce drums, the overwhelming bassline, everything is on its place and the pieces fit on this puzzle. “Hikari” is, from start to finish, an incredible precious piece of pop-rock; starting off with Hatano’s deep vocals, going through the instrumental piece, there’s not a single fail and, in the end, you get one hell of an amazing song. 5/5
And we close the album with yet another instrumental track and the music box completes our journey into “W“.
To put it simply, “W” is Hatano’s first album that almost doesn’t bring anything new to the table, but that was to be expected. It was already known that this album would feature a lot of already known tracks but featuring はじまりの日に in three different versions or even “Hikari” in two different versions seems a bit too much, almost as if the record label was trying to fill the album with something but had nothing left and so the best option was: “let’s remake this track a couple of times and put it in the album, maybe no one will notice“. Besides that annoying fact, the already known tracks are all good pieces, of course the big prizes go to “Hikari“, his best track to date, and to the freshness that is Mach 1.67. Of the new tracks we must say that 約束 really is a big winner on this one.
If you’re up for some acoustic time this album has the right amount of tracks for you, but if you’re not too keen of acoustic tracks then only the second half of the album as value for you. Like the cover of the album we have too polar opposites: the quiet and the loud, the gentle and the aggressive, “W” is just like that.
“W” is available for purchase on CDJAPAN for all overseas fans.