Yep, you guessed it 😀 Welcome back to yet another installment of the J-Music Exchange/Rate! Glad to have you with us as always 🙂
If by chance this is your first time here and/or are only encountering this series for the first time however ー the Exchange/Rate is the tandem Japanese music album review series conducted by myself Leap250 and my good friend Al over at Omunibasu.Blog. Each month we give each other albums from our respective music libraries based on a certain theme that we then go and talk about. This project has been a fantastic way for us to expand our knowledge and tastes in music, and it is our hope that the Exchange/Rate does the same for you guys if it hasn’t been so already. If you’ve ever been curious about a particular Japanese album, feel free to check out older entries (sending you over to Al’s list which is better maintained, LOL) to see if either of us have already gone over it. We’ve done quite a few so there’s a small chance 😉
As I mentioned, the albums for the month are chosen based on a theme that we decide on prior to making our picks. Al and I take turns on who gets to decide, and as it is my turn to do so this month, I thought we’d talk about follow-up albums that we think are better than the album(s) that came before it. Doesn’t roll off the tongue as much as some of our previous themes (lol) but otherwise it’s pretty self-explanatory I would think. The idea came about when I realized that I reaaaally liked YOASOBI’s THE BOOK 2 much more than I did their first album THE BOOK 1, which oh so happens to be the album that I pitched over to Al for him to do a review on (check it out here if you haven’t yet). Meanwhile, Al went and sent SIRUP’s SIRUP EP2 my way to do the same. I do like how both our picks here incidentally have the number “2” on them 😛
SIRUP (formerly known as “KYOtaro”), is a singer-songwriter, known most notably for his style that combines rap and singing while also incorporating Hip-Hop and Jazz to his more Soul/R&B-oriented roots, which altogether make for an intriguing and unique blend of music styles. He made his debut with “Synapse” in 2017, followed by the release of his first EP “SIRUP EP” in that same year.
（＊Spotify link to the full album)
CDJapan Affiliate Link(s):
SIRUP EP2 / SIRUP
Ａ ｌ : While SIRUP’s first EP from 2017 was a fantastic showing of the R&B/soul/hip-hop/pop sound he’s all about, I personally thought that his next release, SIRUP EP 2, was a step up from his debut stuff. Mainly cause compared to the more ‘low-key’ atmosphere of SIRUP EP, I feel like he was able to be a lot more expressive this time around, both with his compositions and vocals. Songs like “Do Well” and “No Stress” had some upbeat energy, thanks to the livelier beats and keyboard performances; all of which was actually a nice change of pace. While on the other hand, the mellower style that SIRUP has done in the past is still apparent in certain tracks. In fact, I feel like he conveyed it even better in this EP, with super smooth songs like “Rain” and especially “LOOP” (which is arguably his most popular song, even to this day).
So while I enjoyed SIRUP’s first release, the different improvements and choices he made with his second one felt much more enjoyable, for me personally. It’s an EP that I’ve listened to many times over the years and is definitely one that I still put on whenever I’m in the mood for something easy.
＜Ｓｏｎｇｓ ｏｆ Ｉｎｔｅｒｅｓｔ＞
We’re going to start things off with undoubtedly the most popular track of SIRUP EP2 with LOOP here, with 33-million views on YouTube at present and with more listens on Spotify than all the other tracks of the album combined. This song is also how I myself came to know about SIRUP, following his appearance on the TOKYO SOUNDS Music Bar Sessions on the Spincoaster YouTube channel, which has featured a lot of favorites of mine that have then subsequently made their way on my Monthly Roundups (and have themselves gone on to recognize their own sucesses); with names such as Takeuchi Anna, eill, TAMTAM, and Furui Riho as a recent addition.
In a lot of ways LOOP, in name specifically, embodies a lot of the musical drive behind all the songs in SIRUP EP2 (at least as my personal take on the matter) in that it really does sound as though you’re expected to be looping them… (XD) Now, I know it sounds like a funny thing to point out or to even be saying, and in all honesty it does, even to myself as I type it. However I do also believe there’s some merit to that too with SIRUP’s constant use of loop sections in his songs (something that becomes more apparent as you progress through the album), and is itself a staple of more synth-based R&B which is the music space that SIRUP primarily occupies.
I should also mention that SIRUP EP2 as a whole reminds me of a previous album I had done a review on here on the J-Music Exchange/Rate in Blend by LUCKY TAPES (catch it here if you haven’t yet!). The similarity of SIRUP’s and LUCKY TAPES’ Takahashi Kai’s vocals aside (both in their singing style and even how they sound at times), the two albums also share the same sort of mellow Chill Pop vibe. Something that I eventually note as the main reason why Blend ended up being such an easy listen overall, and was what had ultimately made me enjoy said album as much as I did, and do so now continuously even to this day.
Really all the songs off of SIRUP EP2 exemplify the same things, so in that sense No Stress here is of course no exception. One thing that I would like to note here is SIRUP’s persistent use of English. Not that the titles for the tracks here wouldn’t have already been an indication of that already (lol), but I do find that doing so really does work for the genre specifically, seeing how other prominent acts like the aforementioned LUCKY TAPES or even someone like iri for example also do the same thing with their music. I surmise a lot if not the primary reason for why this has become somewhat of a staple is in R&B itself as a genre having more Western roots.
The final two tracks off of SIRUP EP2 are arguably my two favorites ones of the entire album, both for differing reasons. Part of me does find it a bit funny (and Al lampshades this fact in a recent review that he did for the peggies’ The GARDEN) that the tracks we end up really liking end up having some of if not the least amount of plays/listens on Spotify and true enough both Last Dance and One Day do indeed pale in comparison to the other songs in terms of playcount. That being said I do have a bit of a theory regarding this peculiar occurence that also dovetails into my overall thoughts about SIRUP EP2 as a whole, so more on that later.
I think what I like about Last Dance specifically is the more agressive feel of the track in terms of its instrumentation. The droning synth in the chorus in particular that slowly gets more and more pronounced over the course of the song is a sound that I also just like hearing generally. It’s the kind that you’re more likely to hear in more EDM-oriented tracks like, say, HoneyComeBear whom we also talked about before rather than straight up Soul/R&B with synth elements. It makes sense too when you think about how the “D” in EDM does stand for ‘dance’, so there might actually be something to this connection in terms of sound as well.
While One Day also shares the same sort of synth elements as Last Dance in terms of how… punch-y they are compared to the rest of the tracks on the album, the thing that actually stood out to me the most for this song specifically is SIRUP’s singing. In as much as I noted earlier how similar SIRUP and LUCKY TAPES’ Takahashi Kai’s vocals when they start flowing on a track, One Day in my opinion kinda sets the former apart with how much it makes you realize that SIRUP can also sing naturally too. It’s almost jarring experience even, hearing SIRUP just flow over beats for the majority of the album, and here he is on the last track hitting some nice runs.
I’d be curious to know whether this was something intentional on his part when he sequenced the tracks as like a cheeky reminder that he can do vocal gymnastics like this just fine too (which, ngl, would be really funny if that were in fact the case). Something you also may or may not find humor in is this comparison I’m about to make (lol) but the more I listen to One Day the more SIRUP’s voice starts to remind me of Bruno Mars with the way he does his high notes (XD) Bruno Mars being another artist who I’ve also only recently come around to for their singing in terms of having this kind of natural vocal skillset in their back pocket, if that makes sense.
＜Ｗｈａｔ Ｉ ｔｈｉｎｋ ｏｆ ＳＩＲＵＰ ＥＰ２＞
Earlier I talked about how to me at least it felt like SIRUP EP2 was designed to be listened to in a vacuum (in terms of *just* listening to it and not anything else) on a continuous loop as per LOOP‘s namesake, and for the most part I do still find that to be the case. The album is the kind that you can just put on the background while you start doing something else and the next thing you know you’ve played through it like five or six times already without even noticing. Of course, it does help that the album in that regard is on the shorter side in terms of the amount of songs on it (being an “EP” and all), so in that sense it really does feel as though you’re meant to do just that.
Which is why I thought it was interesting that the final two tracks of the album don’t get as played (at least on Spotify). Like, if you were theoretically looping this album from the first track to the last, then the playcounts should be close by a reasonable margin, but for instance One Day gets played only half as much as Last Dance which is also the second-least played of the track. Something to note is that at a glance the plays actually trend less and less with each track (with the exception of LOOP as the A-side and Rain which appears on a subsequent album). What we can infer from that is that some people stop listening at some point midway through the album.
This can speak to a lot of other things, like how both Last Dance and One Day as I mentioned do sound tonally different from the rest of the tracks on the album, and as such aren’t listened to by people who were expecting the type of R&B that the first half of SIRUP EP2 offers. It could also be a show of fatigue, with people generally already having their fill before even reaching the last two songs. The latter if true would be something I personally would think of as unfortunate as again I did end up liking the aforementioned tracks the most. More so too when you consider that Last Dance and One Day don’t appear anywhere else in SIRUP’s discography.
４.２５ ｏｕｔ ｏｆ ５
８.５ ｏｕｔ ｏｆ １０
Though I say all that, more than half a million plays (One Day‘s current playcount at the time of writing) isn’t “few” by any stretch of the imagination, and judging SIRUP EP2 by its own merits, it does what it needs to do well enough in my opinion. As someone who likes letting full albums run on the background any chance I get, SIRUP EP2, short and sweet as it is, was fun to just put up and play in the weeks leading up to me writing this review for it. The replayability of an album always gets a nod from me personally so this would have been hard for me to not like anyway (lol), but yeah, if you’re the same as me in that sense then you’ll probably like it just the same.
Have you listened to SIRUP’s SIRUP EP2 before? What are your thoughts on it? If this was your first time hearing about the album, what were your impressions of it? Let us know down in the comments section below!
Likewise, what are some of your favorite follow-up albums that you think are much better than the albums that came before it. I’d be curious to know 😀
Lastly, don’t forget to check out Al’s review of YOASOBI’s THE BOOK 2 over at Omunibasu.Blog. As I mentioned, I do personally find this album to be much more enjoyable than YOASOBI’s debut album, so I’m interested to hear what he thinks of it too.