夜明けはまだ (Yoake wa mada)/ヒカリ断ツ雨 (Hikari Tatsu Ame) is Soma Saito‘s newest single, an ecletic single filled with great tunes.
Title: 夜明けはまだ (Yoake wa mada)/ヒカリ断ツ雨 (Hikari Tatsu Ame) Label: Sacra/Sony Music Japan Release date: 06/09/2017 Genre: J-Pop/Rock/Jazz/Electronica
01.夜明けはまだ 02.ヒカリ断ツ雨 [Title track] 03.スプートニク 04.夜明けはまだ（Instrumental）
Track by track analysis:
Saito kicks off this release with the jazzy 夜明けはまだ, a song that is the very definition of a “feel good” song. Dreamy piano melodies mix with melodic guitar riffs a funky bassline, classy strings and brass. This song lends a bit of it’s class to “STAND ALONE“, song released on his debut single. It’s fun, danceable, addictive and relaxing, all at the same time. This song feels and sounds like a great summer tune. If the laidback instrumental wasn’t enough to put us in a good mood, Saito‘s performance is sweet and easy to the ears, a real treat even for those that don’t put that much attention to technical stuff like his gentle vibrato. Saito and jazzy music is such a great combo. 5/5
02.ヒカリ断ツ雨 [Title track]
This orchestral pop-rock song has stood out as one of the most exciting opening songs for anime during this summer season. The version that is being aired in Touken Ranbu has its problems with the voice mix that has its volume lower than the instrumental track’s, leading to a confusing song that completely put Saito in the background. And the single version that was available on online music stores in July suffered from the same issue. Thankfully the volume was sort of adjusted for the final version of the single, still we find some problems on it. Let’s start talking about the instrumental.
The instrumental takes to heart its dramatic tone courtesy of powerful orchestral elements, mainly strings and blowing instruments. But even if the instrumental is all about drama, it doesn’t forget to add a fiery build up and deliver a powerful chorus. More exciting was impossible, especially the chorus that put us on the edge of our seat.
Now onto the vocal performance. His vocals sounded weak in the very first mix attempts, it was like he didn’t have the power nor vocal talent to tackle this song. There was no place for him to shine and he was supposed to be on the spotlight. For those that have been following his career, you clearly know that this is a lie. It seems that after two failed tries, the third one made a little bit justice to Saito‘s powerful performance. Some issues were solved, although we still think he’s a bit overwhelmed by the instrumental during some parts of the verses and chorus. With this new mix we can finally enjoy his heavenly performance. It is powerful, energetic and emotional, a top performance in our books. Hikari Tatsu Ame could have had a better mix but that doesn’t take the merit away from Saito‘s memorable performance and the instrumental’s impressive orchestral power. Putting those issues aside, for us Hikari Tatsu Ame is currently 2017’s best pop-rock song. 5/5
Completely changing gears, Saito makes his debut as a lyricist with SPUTNIK. This song isn’t unlike anything he has released before. Instrumental, vocals, lyrics and overall vibe and performance, everything is unexpected. This pop/dance song impresses with both his futuristic and old-school vibes. Saw synths, simple drums, guitars and we dare say there’s a keytar there as well, take us to the golden era of French electronica. For Saito‘s first published/performed lyrics we’re actually surprised that he had this kind of song in mind. Now, onto the vocal department. With a voice as good as his, we think that the use of auto-tune wasn’t really necessary, if he wanted to give it an old-school French electronica touch it would have been better to use a vocoder, it fits best with this kind of music and would take the whole performance to new heights. Still on topic, we need to mention that when there isn’t auto-tune around, Saito‘s vocals sound the best on this release. Wait until the end of the music to melt with his sweet voice. SPUTNIK has the kind of old-school dance vibes that we love, the instrumental isn’t overwhelming, in fact it is rather minimalistic in the verses, only exploding during the chorus, and the vocal performance is to die for. This is a lowkey dancefloor anthem we have right here and the best one of its genre released this year. 5/5
Soma Saito is unstoppable. Kicking off his career with the right foot wasn’t enough for him and we can clearly notice his greed for more opportunities to perform and showcase his vocals. The problem is that when he wants to shine but isn’t handed a proper song or a proper mix to a great song.
Hikari Tatsu Ame was met with mixed reviews as soon as it was aired in the anime. People praised Saito for yet another amazing song, others said that it brought to light a cooler side to his solo career but at the same time there were people that noticed the mess within the song itself. In the way the song first ended up being shipped (anime insert song and pre-release in July), we could only say that if you wanted to listen clearly to Saito‘s vocals you had to mess with your music player’s EQ to virtually unlock this song’s full potential.
Right now, the song might not be on its ideal state but it’s heaps and bounds better than those two initial versions. If you have any of those versions please consider getting rid of them and purchase the new version. The new mix is not fantastic but his vocals at least can shine during the chorus, a feat that was far from possible back in July.
Saito almost got the short end of the stick with that song thanks to the initial sloppy work the mixer in charge did. Our only explanation for those two “mistakes” is simply a recording close to the deadline to the anime premiere or the simply total negligence by the mixer. It’s in the artist’s best interests to have clear vocals and a crisp instrumental that goes along with those. We’ve seen these kinds of issues happen with some frequency in Japan. But it fazes us just how could everyone that were involved – producer, arranger, composer, mixer and anime producer – say Hikari Tatsu Ame was “okay” in its first two versions. As someone with previous producing/music composition/mixing experience, it really disappointed and surprised me that the final mix was sounding like that. You don’t have to be a professional in the music business to understand this. Anyone that enjoys listening to music will automatically notice that something is wrong with it. It was that noticeable.
We don’t know if people voiced their concerns about the song’s arrangement or if the song even hadn’t been mixed at all (it’s far worse than no mixing at all) and only recently was properly mixed, but something is certain: the song sounds more powerful with Saito‘s vocals taking the front seat.
Putting this issue aside we need to mention just how great “Yoake wa mada” and “SPUTNIK” are.
“Yoake wa mada” is the perfect opening track for this stellar release. This is the very definition of what a feel good song is. Sweet vocals, relaxing, well crafted jazz melodies, everything was on point with that song. There’s not much we can add to explain just how amazing and engaging this song felt. Totally worth a listen even if you’re not a fan.
“SPUTNIK” shows a completely side to Saito‘s music. His lyrics were addictive with pop-ish hooks and a catchy chorus. The instrumental is certain to make everyone dance along to it. It’s the good kind of retro French electronica throwback – a respectful take on a music genre that people think is long gone thanks to today’s EDM plague. Like we’ve mentioned above, we’d have loved if there wasn’t any auto-tune on it. Saito‘s vocals are incredibly good – there’s no shortage of good examples of that on this release, his debut single or even on this very song – that ending just shows how great his vocals are now. Still we understand what he/composer/producer wanted with this song so we won’t complain much about the auto-tune – especially when it isn’t excessive so we can deal well with it.
Saito really tried to show 3 different colors with this single and all are impressive in their own ways. “Hikari Tatsu Ame” brought to the table Saito‘s powerful, emotional performances; “Yoake wa mada” put everyone in a relaxed mood, showcasing his sweet vocals; “SPUTNIK” is an incredibly addictive 80’s dance tune that is certain to get stuck in your head.
All in all, this release could have used some minor fixes here and there but it is pretty close to perfect. This is a strong 5 out 5, a single that stands out among 2017’s seiyuu releases (so far). Saito doesn’t want to hand his his title of “best rookie singer” of 2017 to anyone.
This review was possible thanks to mallard084’s sponsored CD.
“Hikari Tatsu Ame/Yoake wa mada” is available for purchase on CDJAPAN for all overseas fans.