Switch “Ensemble Stars! Unit Song CD 3rd Series vol.9 Switch” (Review)

Switch struggle to impress in a release plagued with flaws in the vocal department. Switch‘s new Unit Song CD takes a little bit of time and a couple of listens for it to actually be enjoyable.

The unit consists of Kenji Nojima, Kaito Ishikawa and Kazutomi Yamamoto.

Title: Ensemble Stars! Unit Song CD 3rd Series vol.09 Switch
Label: Pony Canyon
Release date: 06/12/17
Genre: J-Pop

Tracklist:

1 - イースター・カーニバル
2 - Galaxy Destiny
3 - イースター・カーニバル (off vocal)
4 - Galaxy Destiny (off vocal)

Track by track analysis:

1 – イースター・カーニバル (Easter Carnival)

Switch welcome the listener with a fast-paced classy jazz imbued sound. Uptempo bass driven drums, brass, melodic guitar licks and a playful piano melody create this energetic instrumental, one that is certain to brighten up your day. The instrumental’s fast pace is infectious as it is the vocal performances that go along with it. In the vocal department, if we’re talking about a melodic song that requires some technique, Nojima is the man to ask for. His smooth touch to every single part and note he sings continuously impresses us. Unfortunately, the same can’t be said about the performances by Ishikawa and Yamamoto. A great instrumental that lacked vocals on par. 3.5/5

2 – Galaxy Destiny

This song will instantly envelop you in a sweet vibe. “Galaxy Destiny” is a slow paced, synth pop song with a plethora of synths: washy, dreamy, bassy and even some hits here and there. However, don’t be started by this description. The synths are incorporated in a way in which they sound cohesive and not at all out-of-place or overwhelming to the listener. Adding to this instrumental are delicate strings, a peppy piano melody and a simple kick and snare beat. Aside from this sweet instrumental, what do we find? The vocal performances for this song are far more superior than the ones on the previous track. Ishikawa holds himself surprisingly well for this performance. Although he still struggles with some notes and clearly lacks technique, we can tell that he put in the effort. Kazutomi’s singing tone although off putting at times, fit this song well. Nojima adds his smooth mid-tones, making this song more enjoyable to listen to. If you’re looking for a song that will have you singing along to it in no time and exudes a sweet vibe, this is the one for you. 4.5/5

Final rating:

Switch‘s instrumentals are fun, ranging from a blend of pop and jazz to sweet synth pop songs that will leave you with a smile on your face.

The contrast between the fast paced jazzy pop in “Easter Carnival” and the slow paced synth imbued pop in “Galaxy Destiny” was rather interesting. While “Easter Carnival” is more focused on sounding classy and fun at the same time, “Galaxy Destiny” puts that focus aside and invests everything into sounding sweet and warm. We felt that this contrast is one of the best points on this release.

Now, onto the bad points. We found that this group takes a big hit in the vocal department. There are inconsistencies everywhere and despite some bright spots, the performances were, for the most part, forgettable not being able to keep up with the instrumentals’ quality.

It’s easily noticeable when you listen to this single (especially after listening to all other previous releases within the franchise) that Switch is one of the most unbalanced units part of the Ensemble Stars!‘s franchise. On one side we have Kenji Nojima, that is well known for his top tier vibrato and control over his vocals. Even if his vocals are on a completely different level than his group mates, he isn’t enough to take the whole group on his back because the lines are equally distributed between the members, ending up not giving the spotlight to anyone specific. Kaito Ishikawa, despite being unexperienced, shows signs that he’s working on improving his singing skills. He fared better than we’d expect on “Galaxy Destiny” however, he still lacks control and his tone sounds too raw at the moment. More work will certainly fix this in no time. Kazutomi Yamamoto‘s tone is off putting most of the times but it had its bright spots on “Galaxy Destiny“. His performance on the title track was shaky and too bland to be enjoyable. It doesn’t help that his character requires that specific tone, so even if Yamamoto wanted to sound good, he couldn’t because the character’s voice isn’t good to begin with.

All in all, it takes a little bit of time and a couple of listens for this single to actually be enjoyable. It’s difficult to ignore some of the flaws on it. This is far from a release we’d recommend from the Ensemble Stars! franchise, especially when, so far, the quality displayed by the other units within the franchise has been quite high for the most part. Switch’s take on the 3rd unit CD series ends up leaving a sour aftertaste, one we hope they can redeem themselves from in an upcoming release.

Ensemble Stars! Unit Song CD 3rd Series vol.9 Switch” is available for purchase on CDJAPAN for all overseas fans.

Ensemble Stars! Unit Song CD 3rd Series / Switch (Natsume Sakasaki, Tsumugi Aoba, Sora Harukawa)
Switch (Natsume Sakasaki, Tsumugi Aoba, Sora Harukawa)

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