Ra*bits “Ensemble Stars! Album Series Ra*bits” (Review)

Ra*bits bring their bright pop sound back with their first album.

The unit consists of Yuki Yonai, Junya Ikeda, Shunya Hiruma and Kosaka Tomoya.

Title: Ensemble Stars! Album Series Ra*bits
Label: Pony Canyon
Release date: 25/04/18
Genre: J-Pop

Tracklist:

01.Joyful×Box* 
02.野うさぎマーチ♪ 
03.Hoppin' Season♪
04.Love Ra*bits Party!! 
05.Milky Starry Charm 
06.メルティ♡キッチン 
07.Dream Collection 
08.に~ちゃん応援団☆ (Nito Nazuna solo)
09.スタート♪ダッシュダッシュ!(Tenma Mitsuru solo)
10.Higher↑ Higher↑ (Masahiro Tomoya solo) 
11.Happy Coming*ティータイム (Shino Hajime solo)

Track by track analysis:

01.Joyful×Box*

A piccolo and playful piano in accapella give place to a noticeable bass and simple drums performance. Joyful×Box* is very keen on incorporating woodwind and wind instruments to the instrumental piece, and perhaps because of that we sort of get, alongside with the piano, an underlying jazzy vibe. There is quite more to this track’s instrumental piece than one can notice at first. Between a xylophone making a quick appearance at some key points and the drums that become jazzy brush drums we can say there is a lot to take in when listening to this Joyful×Box*, something that actually becomes taxing at some point. 3.5/5

02.野うさぎマーチ♪

Nousagi March♪ kicks off with music box playing with no other interference. Following up this simply intro, however, the instrumental piece gains quite a lot of energy and perhaps  even a hint of grandiosity. We certainly get  a march vibe provided by the brass and the drums. Although there is nothing much happening beside the march vibe that seems to be the main focus in this track’s instrumental, Nousagi March♪ has more to offer than that. The bright synths are back in this tracks with that we have the full package from Ra*bits. The vocal performance is on pair with the instrumental piece, though at moments perhaps a little to high pitched, which sounded a little unnatural in terms of tone choice. 4/5

03.Hoppin’ Season♪

Bright synths, piano and simple drums create Hoppin’ Season♪‘s playful mode. It is interesting how the vocal performance was approached differently as the members are singing in a stacatto like manner which brings us to the name of the track, and to the fact that it does sound like their are singing as if their were hopping, so the image we get is sort of cute and fluffy. The chorus has all the elements for which Ra*bits are known, the energy and youth mood, the bright synths and the piano. All in all, this track is playful and will definitely put you in a happier mood. 4/5

04.Love Ra*bits Party!!

Love Ra*bits Party!! has more energy than the previous track. With definite influences of quick step in their instrumental piece, this upbeat and bright track really has brought fourth the feeling of a party to the track. Quick drums and trumpets playing in the background as well as a not that noticeable piano make up the instrumental piece for Love Ra*bits Party!!. About their vocal performance, it was balanced with the instrumental piece, so all in all it was enjoyable. The fact that this track gives off the feeling of us, the listener, being in a party was well displayed by the instrumental piece, be it for its energy or the overall mood. 4/5

05.Milky Starry Charm

[As previously reviewed] “Milky Starry Charm” shines immediately as it starts playing. Laidback instrumentalization is the heart of this song. The intro is ethereal, the verses are funky and slow paced, resorting to minimal triplet drums and dreamy synths, all of this while the pre-chorus and chorus pick up the pace to deliver a danceable and relaxing pop tune. If the instrumental wasn’t enough to put us in a good mood, the vocal performances were sweet and consistent, with everyone shining without stealing the spotlight from each other. 5/5

06.メルティ♡キッチン

Melty♡Kitchen has definitely a bright instrumental piece. With a playful guitar and synths, this track’s instrumental piece is rather peculiar. Especially so, when transitioning from the intro to the chorus. The transitions sound a little brisk which makes us all the more aware of the different moments presented to us in this track. The pre-chorus of Melty♡Kitchen, for instance, has a different mood than the rest of the instrumental piece. Without the brightness found in other moments in the track, the pre-chorus has an interesting instrumental piece. At some point, a funky guitar makes its appearance and adds some more flavor to this track’s instrumental piece. When it comes to the vocal performance, there is some inconsistencies. 3/5

07.Dream Collection

[As previously reviewed]  “Dream Collection” follows a completely different structure. Presenting us with an acoustic driven sound, incredibly slow paced and quiet in the verses, this song feels more personal and emotional. Acoustic guitars, slow paced snary drums and a simple piano melody complete this quiet and natural instrumental. However, the vocal performances were a bit inconsistent. For the most part, the choruses were performed comfortably but whenever there was a need to go higher on the scale, almost everyone would struggle, it’s safe to say that Yuki Yonai and Shunya Hiruma’s performances were the most complete as they were, from start to finish, showcasing vibrato, leveling everyone during the chorus and covering for the other members’ minimal mistakes. For a song that focused more on the vocal performances as opposed to the instrumental, it was a little bit disappointing to have such inconsistencies on it. 4/5

08.に~ちゃん応援団☆

Niichan Ouen Dan☆ brings pop-rock vibes with the drums and guitar riffs but it does not take away from the bright and upbeat mood that the instrumental piece gives off, courtesy of the synth pads and triangle. Since the track is more on the pop-rock genre, its energy is on its maximum, to the point that the chorus will most surely make you want to jump while singing along with YonaiNiichan Ouen Dan☆ brings fourth bright synths that have a high pitched and at times a scratchy tone to them, which give this track a feeling of “youth” for which Ra*bits are known.  4/5

09.スタート♪ダッシュダッシュ!

Vibrant piano performance, fast tempo drum performance and a noticeable bass shining bright make the intro of Start♪ Dash Dash!. This track’s instrumental is quite interesting as it mixes guitars and a drum performance that one would find in a full-fledged rock song and incorporates it in the bright and energetic mood that Ra*bits exude in their tracks. The playful piano, Ikeda‘s vibrato throughout the track make up for an interesting performance in Start♪ Dash Dash!. To our surprise there is a small piano solo, but once again that just added more to the track’s mood, so all in all, it was a right choice. Although not as noticeable as in other tracks, the synths also make up a great part of the instrumental piece in this track, even though they do not play the main part in it. 4.5/5

10.Higher↑ Higher↑

Higher↑ Higher↑ takes on a more intimate and funky mood displayed by the noticeable bass and the playful and funky guitar riffs that overtake the main focus of this track’s instrumental piece at all times. This track shows on a different take on the bright and upbeat concept Ra*bits have and instead of relying solely on the synths, Higher↑ Higher↑ makes use of the funky vibes and manages to create just the same mood as other tracks released by the unit so far. Hiruma‘s vocal performance was on pair with the mood present in Higher↑ Higher↑. The fact that this track has a few seconds dedicated to a showoff season for the guitar is actually a positive surprise. Regardless of any other elements added to the instrumental piece, the funky guitar and bass are on the spotlight and they are what make the chorus addicting. 4.5/5

11.Happy Coming*ティータイム

Happy Coming*Tea Time takes on a whole different turn. A harpsichord would normally be a strange choice when the way Tomoya is singing leaves us with no choice but to believe that this track is cute and gives off a fluffy vibe to it. Much to our surprise, it sort of added a different flavor to the instrumental piece, almost like giving off a fairy tale like mood. The music box and piano just added more to that idea. The violins and piano are the cherry on top of the cake. Far from the upbeat and bright mood, this tracks has some of that idea behind but the way it is portrayed is completely different from the previous tracks. Instead of synths and funky instrumentals we have a simple and laidback instrumental piece, a formula that seems to have worked out fine. 4/5

Final rating: 

Ra*bits bring forth their brightness and energy with “Ensemble Stars! Album Series Ra*bits“. An interesting album, all things considered. With instrumental pieces on pair with the theme of the track in tracks such as Nousagi March♪Hoppin’ Season♪ and Love Ra*bits Party!!, this album displayed the unit’s talent in doing so and in creating soundscapes with their instrumental pieces. Milky Starry Charm and Dream Collection are the two tracks that have already been previously released and they fit in as far as everything is concerned.

When it comes to the vocal performance, there were some moments in which their performance was inconsistent but aside from those occasions in tracks such as Melty♡Kitchen and Dream Collection, there were no issues on that note, in fact, in the remaining tracks the member’s performance was pretty balanced.

The member’s solo tracks were on the same page with the character’s personalities so in that aspect, they were a hit. On that note, Higher↑ Higher↑ deserves the spotlight as it was the track with the best instrumental and vocal performance.

All in all, “Ensemble Stars! Album Series Ra*bits” was an interesting release with many tracks, each one with a different theme behind which was thoroughly explored and in a satisfying manner.

Ensemble Stars! Album Series Ra*bits” is available for purchase at CDJAPAN.

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Author: Nadine Silva

Reviewer and News editor at The Hand That Feeds HQ since 2012. Based in Portugal. Translation graduate. Hobbyist piano player.