[VAZZROCK] Futaba Kizuku “topaz” (Review)

topaz” introduces blues and funk-rock into the bi-color” series in the smoothest way imaginable. Be it with the solo or duet songs, the listener won’t stop being surprised with the instrumentals and vocals’ quality. This is yet another complete release part of what is starting to be one impressive franchise.

Updated intro:

VAZZROCK is the newest 2.5D project by Tsukipro. The cast includes 12 characters split into 2 bands: Vazzy and Rock Down. Those 12 characters represent different precious stones. Besides this and in regards to the interactions between this series and others under Tsukipro, it is mentioned that VAZZROCK‘s members are on good terms (some even friends) with some members of SQ and ALIVE. VAZZROCKSQ and ALIVE all share the same dormitory.

Title: 築 二葉-topaz-
Label: Tsukipro/Movic
Release date: 27/04/2018
Genre: Blues/Funk-Rock/Pop

Tracklist:

1 - DRAMA「慣れない人と、慣れてる人と」
2 - DRAMA「追いかける背中」
3 - もしも今すぐ神様が願いを叶えてくれるならもう決まってる (solo)
4 - LET’S GO TO HEAVEN!(duet)
5 - もしも今すぐ神様が願いを叶えてくれるならもう決まってる -off vocal-
6 - LET’S GO TO HEAVEN! -off vocal-

Track by track analysis:

3 – もしも今すぐ神様が願いを叶えてくれるならもう決まってる

Moshimo ima sugu kamisama ga negai o kanaete kureru nara mo kimatteru” kicks off where we left off with the previous Vazzrock release. Funk-rock and jazz-rock take over the instrumental and add to it a gentleness and groove that, so far, none of the songs released in the series had fully embraced. The instrumental sets a perfect soundscape that takes the listener on an evening drive during the summer. It has an 80’s vibe and its warmth and sweetness easily relax the listener. Acoustic guitars open the curtains for this song, however those are far from being the scene stealers. There’s a major focus on a groovy, blues-y sound, as we can tell by the melodic blues-y guitar licks and riffs, the guitar solo, that,even if it is extremely simple, it sounds incredibly well with this song and personally, it is a scene stealer. Adding to this rich and laidback instrumental are a funky bass line, simple washy drums and a rhodes piano. The instrumental was so well crafted that I can’t help but to find myself enjoying this soundscape, wishing for summer to arrive. On the vocal department Yusuke Shirai delivered a strong performance. He’s upped his game and tried to cover most bases for this performance. He had a groovier and sweeter approach to the lyrics, ultimately fitting like a glove with the instrumental’s vibe. Aside from this his vocals never faltered and we even get to listen to some – even if few – flourishes from him. Perfect vibe and clean, smooth performance. 5/5

4 – LET’S GO TO HEAVEN!

Masahiro Yamanaka joins Yusuke Shirai for a powerful performance. “LET’S GO TO HEAVEN!” introduces aggressive, gated guitar riffs and double bass drums to this release. There’s still some elements from the previous song that make their way into this one. Expect rhodes piano and jazz-y piano melodies to play a big role in the verses as well as helping setting the tone for this song. This instrumental is fast paced and bass-driven yet it never loses its focus on sounding classy and melodic, adding atmospheric pads, minimalistic accent synths in the verses to balance the edgy vibe from the electric guitars. The blend between jazz and rock made this song sound classy and if that wasn’t enough, instead of a guitar solo, the song went towards a different approach and delivered a stunning piano solo. The instrumental alone is as classy as it is exciting, the perfect representation of the characters’ contrasting personalities and vibes. Now, onto the vocal performances, easily what impressed me the most about this song. Yusuke Shirai delivers a steady performance, focused primarily in mid-tones. What I wasn’t expecting was for Masahiro Yamanaka to completely steal the show. His honeyed, vibrato-ed vocals completely owned this song, smoothing their way through the verses and powering their way in the chorus, in what is one of the best performances from VAZZROCK‘s “bi-colors” series. “LET’S GO TO HEAVEN!” is a stunner of a song with two contrasting charms that are certain to impress you. 5/5 

Final rating:

Up until now in the “bi-color” series, we’ve had a little bit of everything: exciting rock, alluring dance songs, acoustic tunes and R&B songs. Still in the same wavelength as the previous release in this series, we found “topaz” embracing jazz-rock yet, at the same time venturing to new territory: funk and blues. Although jazz-rock has been a trend in the past year (and it’s far from being something surprising to find in a rock release), funk and blues are not that common, especially when it comes with 2.5D idols/bands or even solo artists. Those are two refined, groovy, complex and emotion packed music genres that might not pique the interest of a younger fanbase. However, the way in which those two genres were incorporated and morphed into “Moshimo ima sugu kamisama ga negai o kanaete kureru nara mo kimatteru” will certainly make some people interested in both music genres. It’s a fun yet laidback song with a lot of funk and blues-y instrumentalization. The instrumental itself has a summer-y imagery that will certainly fit well the coming season. For those of you fan of groovy songs with major focus on technical and melodic guitar work, or just enjoy jamming to groovy bass lines, this song is a real treat.

LET’S GO TO HEAVEN!” changed the gears completely for this release. Masahiro Yamanaka joined Yusuke Shirai for this rocking duet, one that kept impressing me with how well the composers played with the characters’ clear contrasting vibes. While Futaba sounds gentle and laidback (the first song is a great example of that), Issa has a darker edge to himself. The distorted and gated guitar riffs as well as the powerful double-bass drums added a completely different touch to this song, and hinted at what awaits us in “ruby“. It could have been a recipe for disaster, however the way the jazz and hardrock instruments were mixed was really crafty, making it possible for the listener to enjoy both vibes in the exact same song without sounding forced or having weird transitions between them.

The vocals in the “bi-color” series keep on impressing as well. This time around, Yusuke Shirai tackled a solo song and aced it, delivering an all-rounded performance. I would have loved to listen to Shirai adding more vibrato to some parts in the song (especially when the instrumental practically begged for it), but this is just a side note for Shirai actually delivered an incredibly satisfying performance. On the other side, Masahiro Yamanaka participated in the duet song “LET’S GO TO HEAVEN!” but the feeling I got after listening to this release is that he completely stole the show.

What Shirai lacked vocally in “Moshimo ima sugu kamisama ga negai o kanaete kureru nara mo kimatteru“, Yamanaka brought with him for this song. Honeyed, smooth vocals filled with vibrato powered their way through “LET’S GO TO HEAVEN!” and made my jaw drop. After Masahiro Yamanaka‘s powerful performance, there’s no way listeners won’t be excited about the his entry, “ruby“.

The contrast between the summer-y soundscape of “Moshimo ima sugu kamisama ga negai o kanaete kureru nara mo kimatteru” and the powerful, headbanging “LET’S GO TO HEAVEN!” will impress you and make you anticipate further releases into the series.

All in all, “topaz” is a stunning and balanced entry in the “bi-color” series, one that introduced us to rich blues and funk-rock melodies, a first in this series. VAZZROCK is in peak form with yet another flawless under their belt.

築 二葉-topaz- is available for purchase at CDJAPAN.

"VAZZROCK" bi-color Series / Futaba Kizuku (Yusuke Shirai) & Issa Kizuku (Masahiro Yamanaka)
Futaba Kizuku (Yusuke Shirai) & Issa Kizuku (Masahiro Yamanaka)
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