Close to two years ago (holy cow, time flies) my good buddy Al now of Omunibasu came up with the idea of a Japanese Music review series where we’d exchange albums for us to listen to from our own libraries, and then we rate/review each others’ picks. We ended up doing a full run of it way back when where I reviewed SHISHAMO’s third studio album SHISHAMO 3, while Al reviewed Uzu ni Naru by Kinoko Teikoku in turn.
We had another set of albums to review following that but, well, life got the better of both of us, and the series was out in the backburner for a while. …Until now! That’s right, we’re running it back with yet another round of J-Music Exchange/Rate! It’s funny because we both have these albums that we’re about to review for as long as this project has been put on hold, so we’ve both had more than enough time to really sit down and listen to ’em. Which we did, of course 😛
At the very least, in my case, I’ve had Ohashi Trio‘s THIS IS MUSIC in my music players for the longest time (lol). I assume ex Negoto by NEGOTO has been on Al’s too as these are the album’s both of us picked for the other to talk about 😀 (catch Al’s review of ex Negoto here!)
Ohashi Yoshinori (大橋好規), better known in the Japanese Music scene as Ohashi Trio (大橋トリオ) is a multi-instrumentalist and composer who made his artist debut back in 2007, who has since come to prominence for his contributions to various media such as commercials and movie soundtracks. Primarily a Jazz stylist, the Chiba-born musician boasts proficiency with the piano, guitar, bass, and drums, whose sound utilizes a Blues-y Folk Pop sound.
ＴＨＩＳ ＩＳ ＭＵＳＩＣ
*Spotify link to the full album
01. Happy Trail
02. The Music Around Me
03. We’re Waiting
05. The Ride
07. Things Have Changed
08. Blues in June
Ａ ｌ : “Being an avid fan of feel-good, mellow music (thanks to some artists I grew up listening to heavily such as Jason Mraz and Jack Johnson), Ohashi Trio was someone that I immediately loved when I found his music. His jazz-y style and soft vocals just lined up with the kind of music I enjoy listening to whenever I simply want to chill out. And I think this mini-album, THIS IS MUSIC, is a fantastic example of what Yoshinori Ohashi brings to the table. Whether it’s a more bright-sounding track like “THE MUSIC AROUND ME” or something on the somber side of things such as “JURADIRA”, Ohashi Trio does a nice job using his relaxing voice and vast instrumental expertise to express a variety of feelings throughout this album. Plus, it’s always interesting to hear a Japanese artist sing in English, especially when they’re pretty proficient at it.”
＜Ｓｏｎｇｓ ｏｆ Ｉｎｔｅｒｅｓｔ＞
01. Happy Trail
In hindsight, after now having gone through the entire album, I think the opening track “Happy Trail” does a good job in summarizing and letting you know what it is exactly you’ll be expecting to hear in the next seven tracks that follow it. Soundwise we are immediately introduced to the kind of instrumentation predominantly present across all the songs for the most part, as you are greeted by Ohashi Trio’s Folk-y (almost Bandolin-like) guitar work with a bit of a lighthearted Jazz piano accompaniment.
As someone who hasn’t really listened to his stuff prior to this review, I think the cadence in his vocal work ended up surprising me the most in how well it just blends with everything else. At the very least, the laid-back yet still melodic singing style just makes for an enjoyable listening experience, as well as a very promising one over all for the rest of the EP.
03. We’re Waiting (listen here!)
Easily my most favorite track off the entire album. In a bit of a contrast to “Happy Trail”, the Jazz hits a little heavier and darker here on “We’re Waiting”. This is most noticeable in the piano work present for this track which stands out compared to all the other songs on the EP as it comes across as a bit more aggressive-sounding (which I personally really like, especially after the break the three minute mark). Of course, this doesn’t underplay the guitars here which does do away from the Folk for a more straightforward Bluesy sound with marked emphasis bass plucking that just blends nicely with everything else in the song. I feel like I should mention too that one of a handful of surprises I ended up having while listening throughout the entirety of “THIS IS MUSIC” is Ohashi Trio’s language proficiency, as “We’re Waiting” (along with three other tracks in the EP) is sung in full English.
04. そんなことがすてきです。/sonna koto ga suteki desu.
After now having listened to all eight tracks of the EP a fair amount of times over the course of however long I’ve been sent this (lol) I think that both “We’re Waiting” and “Sonna Koto ga Suteki desu” feature the best piano and guitar sections for “THIS IS MUSIC”, at least in my opinion. While both songs do have its moments with both instruments, where “We’re Waiting” shines with its piano work, I found the guitar work in “Sonna Koto ga Suteki Desu” to be just a real treat.
The Folk-y ‘feel good’ sort of strumming from “Happy Trail” returns for the majority of this track sans the Bandolin-like quality that the former had (where I personally would prefer the more natural guitar sound that this song has), but there’s a break right around the two minute mark in particular that’s just so so beautiful.
08. Blues in June (listen here!)
As much as I’ve been talking about the piano and the guitars though, I feel like I should talk about Ohashi Trio’s vocals a bit more before I close out at this review, and I think picking out “Blues in June” fits well for this in that regard. The song already stands out a bit already being the only track in “THIS IS MUSIC” to not have a percussion section in its instrumentation (where in lieu of drums we get some sweet harmonica action instead). While the drum work is very much consistent for the most part leading up to this song in the album, its absence here does bring Ohashi Trio’s vocal work more forward and thus make you appreciate it a bit more in turn. More than anything, “Blues in June”, with its otherwise very tame instrumentation, made me realize that his voice is really the glue that helps meld everything together
＜Ｗｈａｔ Ｉ ｔｈｉｎｋ ｏｆ ＴＨＩＳ ＩＳ ＭＵＳＩＣ ＞
I suppose my main takeaway from Ohashi Trio’s debut EP here is that tonally speaking I can definitely see it occupying some legit real estate in the Western music scene at least in the time it came out. What I mean by that is that it’s not too much a stretch of the imagination to picture Ohashi Trio on a display rack at your local CD store alongside artists like Jason Mraz or Michael Buble. That said, I’m hard pressed to remember the last time I saw such a shop, let alone go inside one. Likewise, it’s been a hot minute too since I last listened to a song by Mr A-to-Z or Mickey Bubbles in earnest, but I digress.
Suffice it to say, “THIS IS MUSIC” to me felt like a veritable throwback to the time before I started listening to Japanese music, odd as that may sound. I’m sure a lot of it is because he sings in near-perfect English half the time (lol), but I also think that it’s in the kind of music he’s going for here as well. The instrumentation for “The Music Around Me” and “The Ride” for instance reminded me a lot of the American S/SW style employed by the likes of the aforementioned Jason Mraz, or someone like John Mayer, or Gavin DeGraw (to a lesser extent); whom are all artists I listened to in the past.
The Blues-y Jazz present in this album ended up being a very refreshing listening experience to me personally as well (coming from someone who predominantly listens to Japanese female-fronted indie bands and idols), with tracks like “The Ride” and “Blues in June” being very reminiscent of songs by the likes of Michael Buble or Harry Connick Jr. in both structure and in the cadence to which Ohashi Trio sings.
３.５ ｏｕｔ ｏｆ ５, and
７ ｏｕｔ ｏｆ １０
All that being said, in practice, I don’t think “THIS IS MUSIC” tonally fits in my heavy rotation of albums now. It’s a solid debut release for sure, but I do personally value replayability a lot for when I listen to Japanese music, and I can see myself playing this occasionally if only to remind me how good Ohashi Trio’s Jazz is.
Are you a fan of Ohashi Trio? What are your thoughts on THIS IS MUSIC? If you’re new to his music, what did you think of the songs I ended up featuring for this review? We’d love to hear it 😀