Wataru Hatano “Caravan wa Philia wo Kanaderu” (Review)

hatano

Released to commemorate Hatano’s fifth anniversary as a solo artist, “Caravan wa Philia wo Kanaderu” is a release that started off being a gift to his fans, turning into something bigger and better than most of what he’s released to date. This mini-album is loaded with treats for his growing fan base. But rest assured, this is a release that will please longtime and new fans alike.

Regular edition

Regular edition

Title: Caravan wa Philia wo Kanaderu
Release date: 21/12/2016
Label: AVEX
Genre: J-Pop / Rock / Dance

Tracklist:

01.流転流浪
02.リトル・レジスタンス
03.Never be too late
04.明日の篝火
05.You Only Live Once -everlasting-

Track by track analysis:

01.流転流浪

Hatano kicks off this mini-album with what is, hands down, his best song to date. The instrumental is stunning, simply breathtaking from start to finish. The grand opening is made by a solemn biwa melody that will guide us throughout the song, being added even more class with the help of strings, timpani, harp and carefully mixing it all with simple slow tempo drums, picked bass and melodic guitar. The orchestral touch mixed with the biwa makes this instrumental the best you can get. Literally. It’s impossible to talk about this song without talking about how haunting the biwa sounds together with his soothing, longing vocals. Packed with a lot of emotion, 流転流浪 (Ruten Rurou) is undoubtedly the best song we’ve ever heard from him. 5/5

02.リトル・レジスタンス

On a happier note, “Little Resistance” is an acoustic pop-rock song with a touch of melancholia to it. With the slow tempo drums, simple piano melody and acoustic guitar, we’re presented with a laidback, slightly old-school instrumental that doesn’t require us to be that emotionally invested as we were with the previous track. Its simplicity is what makes this song standout naturally, especially when we have Hatano‘s sweet vocals leading us in a sort of lullabying way throughout the song. 4.5/5

03.Never be too late

Never be too late” follows the same happy tone as the previous track. Enlisting the help of brass and strings, this pop-rock tune with a danceable touch is an entertaining treat for his fans. This track is pretty close to Hatano‘s debut days trademark sound – something that lately had been put aside to favor his own improvement. In comparison with the previous tracks it’s impossible not to notice the slight downgrade in terms of quality – especially when it comes to the instrumental track. If there’s something that was his achilles heel was the fact that his trademark pop-rock sound from his debut days was only preppy, nothing more, nothing less – it lacked feel and depth. That’s the exact feel we get when we listen to this song attentively. Vocally, this track doesn’t display anything as high quality as what we were presented with the first two tracks but it still fares considerably well. Maybe we’re a bit too spoiled by the previous tracks but this one can’t get any higher than this in our books. 4/5

04.明日の篝火

In the background the piano plays a fickle melody, the mood is completely introspective for a couple of seconds until we’re faced with an explosion of sounds and contrasting elements. Shamisen and shakuhachi go head to head with aggressive guitar riffs and powerful drums. In what is yet another East-West intemporal mix, Hatano manages to deliver a one-of-a-kind vocal performance that touches upon and merges two completely different styles into one – the power in his vocals during the chorus has some hits and bits of enka-ish vocalization to it. We can’t say that he’s straight out singing his vocals relying on power as well as we can’t also say that he’s focusing too much on the vocalization and intonation as if he was singing enka. It really is a mix of both worlds, making good use of Hatano‘s well versed and rich vocals. But if you thought that this powerful, mid-tempo song with traces from the present and past, East and West was pretty amazing then you will love what’s in store for you in the bridge of the song. The norm in rock songs is that one of the instruments will make its solo during the bridge, usually that task is up to the guitars, sometimes the bass. This time around the solo in the bridge is two-parted, and taking the front seat is none other than the shamisen laying down some pretty impressive riffs trying to not fall behind the airy shakuhachi’s melodies. All in all this song might sound a bit overwhelming, especially considering the previous tracks, but it really is an incredibly rich experience. 4.5/5

05.You Only Live Once -everlasting-

Fans know about “You only live once” not only because it’s featured as the ending song for Yuri!!! on Ice but also because of how unusual this song is when looking closely at Hatano‘s repertoire. He’s not a dance pop singer, never was. “YOLO” is his first successful incursion into the dance genre (Synchronic can be considered his first incursion but it really is a electronic pop-rock song to the core).

This song literally exploded in popularity as soon as it was featured in the anime. The original version of the song is dancefloor-ready, up-tempo, incredibly addictive, with that twinge of hype that all electronic music usually has. This version is only a bit different in comparison with the original, the fact that the instrumental is a bit toned down in the first minute certainly helps into setting a different tone. The instrumental is initially stripped off of its danceable elements, with the synths put aside, the full focus is on the vocal performance and piano, showing that this song would still shine even as a simple composition. With a longer intro, stripped down of some elements and addition of other instruments, this version of “YOLO” doesn’t fall short in comparison with the original edit, in fact, it sounds even better. 5/5

Final rating:4.5 stars

Hatano certainly tried to showcase everything and anything to his fans with this release. He went beyond what we could have expected with the stunning, jaw opening 流転流浪 (Ruten Rurou), a song that will need another strike of genius to descend from its throne as his best song to date. “Little Resistance” was a safe laidback track with some vintage touch to it. It was calm and not as emotionally draining as the first track which turned out to balance this release.

Revisiting his preppy pop-rock sound that used to put a smile on our face is a basically a wink to the longtime fans that have been closely following his solo career. “Never be too late“, although not a great song, especially after hearing 流転流浪 and “Little Resistance” is still a great track full of energy and a good melody.

明日の篝火 managed to be such a great song despite its misleading intro. After mixing powerful rock with the timeless beauty of the shamisen and shakuhachi, we couldn’t help but to be truly impressed with the overall feel of the song. It was strong and assertive where it needed to be as well as delicate and melodic in a nice contrasting way. And to complete this commemorative release we have “You Only Live Once“, Hatano‘s hit single with a slight twist. Putting aside the progressive dance beat (eventually replacing it with a better sounding one), extending the intro and modifying it plus adding an extra piano track might have sound like cosmetic changes, but the overall feel of the song changed significantly. Looking at the original edit and the “Everlasting” version we’re more fond of the last one – it packs much more energy and sounds much better with the new additions.

In the end Caravan wa Philia wo Kanaderu proved to be a fantastic release. We must point out that this was supposed to be a present to his fans to celebrate his 5th year as a solo artist (which is to say that it wasn’t supposed to be serious business like a normal release is) – turns out that it was only aimed for his fans and yet he managed to deliver something with such a level of quality that makes a lot of his previous releases sound blander and look paler in contrast. He showed us that he’s more than able to impress with whichever music genre you throw at him. He will pick it, understand it and make it his. The proof is this release. Pure artistry.

キャラバンはフィリアを奏でる” (Caravan wa Philia wo Kanaderu) is available for purchase on CDJAPAN for all overseas fans.

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