The theme is music player mainstays!
Hello everyone and welcome back once again to yet another installment of J-Music Exchange/Rate, the tandem album review series between myself and my good friend Al over at Omunibasu, where we both trade albums from our own respective libraries for us to talk about on our respective blogs.
The Exchange/Rate has continually been a fun way to get me to listen to bands and artists that I don’t normally pick up on my own time, and I do hope these write-ups of ours have served as good primers for the albums that we have since featured as part of the Exchange/Rate. Of course, as these are albums that we ourselves recommend to one another, you can bet that these are albums that we recommend that you guys pick up and listen to as well. I mean, otherwise we wouldn’t be recommending them in the first place I would think. Unless our theme for the month would be something like ‘our least favorite albums’ or something (xD)
A theme for another time though, as this month’s theme (chosen by yours truly) is as it says right before the cut; music player mainstays.
See, I make it a point to be able to listen to music with whatever device I can, and while I do primarily use digital audio players to that end, I’m not beyond just using my phone or even just playing stuff straight from my computer. I also prefer having the copies of the songs in these devices over using music streaming services, just because I like having the actual files with me. As such, over the years, and after having gone through many music players, I’ve since found out that there are albums that I certainly must have on any device I choose to play music on.
The widely popular ZUTOMAYO‘s first full-length album “HisoHiso Banashi“ is one such album for me, and apparently so is Hayami Saori‘s “JUNCTION” for Al, which are both of our picks for this Exchange/Rate respectively 😀
Hayami Saori (早見沙織) is a renowned seiyuu, having lent her voice to a multitide of notable roles for anime over the years such as Oregairu’s Yukinoshita Yukino, Oreimo’s Aragaki Ayase, Mahouka’s Shiba Miyuki, Anohana’s Tsurumi Chiriko, just to name a few. She has since debuted as an artist with her debut single “Yasashii Kibou” in 2015, which was used as the opening theme for the anime Akagami no Shirayukihime, to which she also provided a voice for in the titular Shirayuki.
(Spotify link to the full album here)
０１ Let me hear
０２ メトロナイト/metoronaito (metro night)
０３ 夏目と寂寥/natsume to sekiryou (natsume and loneliness)
０４ 夢の果てまで/yume no hate made (until the end of the dream)
０５ 白い部屋/shiroi heya (white room)
０６ 祝福/shukufuku (blessing)
０７ interlude: forgiveness
０８ SUNNY SIDE TERRACE
０９ Bleu Noir
１０ little forest
１２ Bye Bye
１３ 新しい朝/atarashii ashita (new day)
１４ 温かな赦し/atataka na yurushi (warm forgiveness)
Ａ ｌ : While a lot of voice actresses-turned-music artists tend to base their discographies on the cutesy pop genre, one particular seiyuu didn’t necessarily go that route: Hayami Saori. Similar to the types of characters she portrays in various anime, Hayamin’s songs tend to consist of soothing and easygoing tracks; thanks in large part to her mature, elegant personality and voice. That being said, her 2018 album release, JUNCTION, is certainly a fantastic example of the kind of music she enjoys creating and performing. Of course, there are the upbeat tracks like “Jewelry” and its joyful atmosphere, and especially the soul-inspired “Let me hear” featuring some sick guitar riffs and a group of backup singers that perfectly accompany Hayamin. But her soft side is also excellently expressed with songs like “Atarashii Ashita” and “Shiroi Heya” that just show off her graceful and refined singing voice. If you enjoy the way Hayami Saori sounds when voicing certain characters in anime, I believe you’ll enjoy the way she sings even more.
And while I have a lot of albums from cutesy, high-pitched seiyuu idols in my library, having music from a more calm and mature voice actress/artist that I admire is the contrast I definitely need sometimes.
＜Ｓｏｎｇｓ ｏｆ Ｉｎｔｅｒｅｓｔ＞
01 Let me hear/let me hear
Well, for everything I said in the last Exchange/Rate, here I am back to talking about the first track off of the album (lol). Of course, and as with all the times I’ve done this in previous reviews, it’s not without good reason; and for JUNCTION in particular, talking about Let Me Hear actually ties in to my overall thoughts on the album, which I will slowly build up on as I go. Not to say that the song in itself didn’t prove to be fairly interesting to me personally at least, more so as someone such as myself who hasn’t had the pleasure of hearing Hayami Saori’s singing outside of anison (and even then I don’t think I’ve heard that much from her)
What stands out right away, almost surprisingly so, is just how well Hayami Saori carries a note. Now, I’m not trying to throw shade at her fellow seiyuu performers who have since gone on artist debuts of their own, but I honestly didn’t expect to hear such rich and resounding vocals when I started listening to this song. I would think it’s even doubly impressive when you think about how a quick background check on her wouldn’t really pull up anything with regard to her having undergone some sort of training in her youth. If anything already does a good job showing how talented Hayami Saori actually is as an artist… if not for the rest of the album that’s still to follow.
02 メトロナイト/metoronaito (metronight)
I had to do a bit of a double take when this second track kicked in after the first one. I think that over the years that I’ve been listening to Japanese music, I have since subconciously conditioned myself to think that the rest of the songs on an album would sound relatively close to the opening track at least in terms of its genre and overall tone, because, well, why wouldn’t it (xD). I mean, sure, it’s totally not unheard of for an artist to dabble in multiple genres, and Metronight‘s City Pop isn’t that much of a departure from Let Me Hear‘s more old-timey Power Pop in retrospect. That said, the fact that Hayami Saori even switched it up right off the bat I thought warranted attention.
I think it’s because she went and sang a City Pop type of song that this track stood out to me, if only because it’s a genre of Japanese music that I’m genuinely fond off, and is a style of music that not a whole lof of seiyuu performers hitch their wagon to (where generally they otherwise tend to gravitate towards Anison or J-Pop, though you do have the quaint exception every now and again). It does help too in that regard that Metronight is as good as it is, and that likewise Hayami Saori is proving to be as versatile as she is, that she can pull off this curveball of a track (and we’re only just two songs deep into the album at this point, my Go-).
06 祝福/shukufuku (blessing)
Roughly around midway through the album is Shukufuku, which is a Shoegaze track. I’m gonna give you a moment to let that sink in….. All good? Okay. Now, a couple of things; first off, why is there a Shoegaze song in this album (lol); and secondly, well, I guess why not if it sounds legit? (xD) In all seriousness though, where Let me hear and Metronight still largely remained Pop-sounding for the most part, this track is just absolutely jarring in comparison, albeit in the best possible way for me given how much of a fan I am of Japanese Shoegaze. I mentioned City Pop not being the most popular choice for artists to go for in general, but Shoegaze is probably as niche as it gets.
Interesting to note is that Hayami Saori is credited as both the lyricist and composer for ten of the fourteen songs off of JUNCTION including Shukufuku here, and considering how many genres and music styles have already been put on display in just this first half of the album (without even mentioning the Yume no Hate Made and its Traditional J-Pop influences or the Chamber Pop in Shiroi Heya), its nothing short of impressive in my book. Everything about this song is just textbook Shoegaze, from the grainy guitars down to the wispy vocalizations, that give the song that atmospheric sort of vibe. It feels like I’ve been duped thrice over now (lol), but again, Hayami Saori surprises me.
08 SUNNY SIDE TERRACE/sunny side terrace
I didn’t really know what to expect at this point in the album when I first listened to it, but at the same time I did start to get this feeling that I’m probably better off just expecting the unexpected, seeing as how that has been the going theme for my initial listening experience. True enough, after a nice little interlude in between this track and the last one we are greeted with yet another sound that’s wholly different from the ones before it. This time around, Hayami Saori shows us what she can do with Jazzy Folk Pop in SUNNY SIDE TERRACE, and I suppose not really to anyone’s surprise by now (at the very least not mine’s, lol), she has it down pat.
That said, Hayami Saori does come across as quite prodigious in that regard, seeing how she’s able to perform uniformly decent (if not surprisingly well) across the many genres and music styles mentioned thus far, but I think it was around this time too where I felt I had a good grasp of what the narrative behind JUNCTION is, which I’ll get to in just a moment down below in my overall thoughts about the album as a whole. SUNNY SIDE TERRACE is actually very reminscent of songs by previous Exchange/Rate featured arists in OhashiTrio and sumika which I thought was nice, and yet again shows another avenue to Hayami Saori’s musicality.
＜Ｗｈａｔ Ｉ ｔｈｉｎｋ ｏｆ ＪＵＮＣＴＩＯＮ＞
The dictionary definition of the word “junction” is that it is “a point where two or more things are joined” and I think that in itself is a good summation of what JUNCTION is. Contemporary J-Pop, Traditional/Old School J-Pop, Power Pop, City Pop, Chamber Pop, Folk Pop, Dream Pop… and that’s only the genres I could identify just going by ear listening to the songs on this album. JUNCTION, to me, felt like a sampler almost for what Hayami Saori is capable of in that it almost felt as though each song was meant to showcase the fact that she can both create (again being the main lyricist and composer for the majority of the tracks in the album) and perform these different kinds of music.
While I was most certainly impressed many times over in that regard, I couldn’t help but feel that the album ended up lacking a certain sense of coherence as a result of it being the way it is. I mean, sure, it’s not totally unheard of for multi-faceted artists like Hayami Saori to come out with an album that reflects their repertoire (we talked about ‘omote’ and ‘ura’ sounds in our Exchange/Rate for sumika’s Chime for example), but I don’t think you get one with more than handful of styles quite like this all that often, more so from a seiyuu performer such as herself. Granted, the album does sort of normalize towards the latter half of the album, but the point still stands.
The crazy thing really is that these are all perfectly serviceable songs in their own right and for their respective genres, which is definitely an upside in most cases. These showcase tracks are immensely promising and on the whole prove to be a real eye-(or, well, ear)-opener for Hayami Saori as an artist to me personally (and I’d surmise to a lot of people as well who may not be familiar with her work outside of anison). However, the more times I listen to JUNCTION, the more it starts to leave me with feelings of ‘I wish there was another song like this on here’ or ‘I wish the album was just this genre or that’ because Hayami Saori does such a good job at them.
３.５ out of ５
７ out of １０
I honestly believe I would have cherished JUNCTION more if it turned out to be a straight up City Pop or Shoegaze album instead (and not the mix of styles that we end up getting from it), not just because those are the kinds of songs that I like, but also because I would have absolutely loved it if Hayami Saori knowingly decided to be a face for these otherwise niche genres. Like, for example, I can totally see the Japanese Shoegaze community be in full support of her if she went out and dropped an album that was purely that. Not to say that that’s off the table now, but doing it the way she did, it does feel like she was merely experimenting a bit to see what sound works for her, rather than pursue a sound that she really believed to be her own, and I can’t fault her for doing that. At the very least, it was a very promising showing by Hayami Saori.
Have you listened to “JUNCTION”? What are your thoughts on it?
If not, what do you think about it based on what you read here?
Lastly, what are some of your music player mainstays?
Let us know down in the comments section below!