Album: Steppin' Out Artist: Kirinji (Stylized as KIRINJI) Genre: #Jpop #IndiePop Sub-Genres:#SynthFunk Label: Syncokin Non-Airable Tracks: None, at least as far as I can tell, as all the tracks are in Japanese. Description: As a major fan of Kirinji, this album only made me an even bigger fan than I was before. Kirinji is a band to which I was introduced through the YouTube recommendation feed, like many other bands I now listen to. Formed in 1996 by two brothers, Takaki and Yasuyuki Horigome, the band currently has recorded 21 albums, with their 21st album being the subject of this review. Released on September 6th of this year, the album, Steppin' Out, has 9 tracks, 4 of which were released as singles, which also happen to be the stand-out tracks on the album. Rainy Runway, released more than a year before the album on June 22, 2022, Nestling, Honomekashi (feat. SE SO NEON), and Runner's High. The other 5 songs are Tips of Your Fingers, Persuade Me, seven/four, I LOVE KABUKI CHO, and strange constellations, which are all great songs in their own right, but do not have as much punch to them as the singles.
Runner's High is a song I can personally say is one of my favorites of this year and maybe one of my favorite songs of all time. Named after the euphoria which runners receive during running, the song feels like I am personally feeling the build up, moment of, and release of the runner's high. Starting off the album, the song begins the synth sound which we will hear on the rest of the album. I have no idea of the meaning of the lyrics, but the instrumentals and performance by Horigome is enough to convey the meaning and mood of this song. Kirinji has many great songs which I would personally call some of my favorite songs of all time, but I think Runner's high is Kirinji's best song. I have listened to this song, along with Rainy Runway
Nestling is another upbeat song, although it fits much more with the rest of the album, as its synth sound matches much better than Rainy Runway's sound. It's very energetic, very upbeat, and very much makes the listener feel motivated to be better. As with all songs made by Kirinji, the soft vocals of Takaki Horigome make the listener feel comforted and are generally pleasant to listen to. The vocals, alongside the name and some lyrics in english, make me feel like a bird ready to fly for the first time, and Horigome is my bird parent encouraging me to do it, to finally fly away.
Honomekashi is a collab between Horigome and a South-Korean indie-rock band, Se So Neon. I like this song well enough. It continues a spacey feel which the album has throughout. If anything, the vocals of the guest artist, Hwang So-Yoon (lead vocalist of Se So Neon), are the best part of the song. Her voice is very pleasant, but has a dryer tone to it than Horigome's. Her voice has a very spacey sound to it, which add to the spacey vibes of the album. I see why it was a single, as it is a collab, but I don't think it has the same strength as the other singles.
Rainy Runway is a song that I have personally listened to at least 100 times, although it's not even my favorite on the album. The song has a very light and upbeat sound to it. It feels optimistic, conveyed through some of the few English words in the song, "Step out, Though it keeps raining". The song conveys a sense of continuing even in spite of bad times in your life, and eventually, as conveyed through the other few English words in the song, "Step out. The rain has let up" the rain will let up. Rainy Runway, while great, does not really cohere with the other songs on the album. It sounds much more like Kirinji's EPs released around the same time as Rainy Runway and shares the same aesthetic as the cover art of the single. As a result, there is a disconnection between this song and the rest, and, although it's inclusion in this album is appreciated, it doesn't seem like the right track to end the album with.
The last song I want to mention in this review is seven/four, the second to last song on the album. seven/four is a song entirely devoid of Horigome's vocals, instead centering a saxophone. It has a much jazzier vibe than the rest of the album, something which I, a Jazz lover, greatly appreciate. The sound of the song is very much comparable to Jazz fusion legends Weather Report, and their Saxophone player, Wayne Shorter, who died just earlier this year. seven/four is a great divergence from this album as well as the rest of Kirinji's discography and makes the song stand out above other songs on this album, even if seven/four isn't the best song on the album. Sounds Like:
Pizzicato Five, a great Japanese band which have many upbeat songs, similar to those of Kirinji
Blu-Swing, although Blu-swing tends to run much jazzier
Flipper's Guitar, although this album definitely strays away from a similar sound.
Runner's High (obviously)
Reviewer’s Name: Dante Sebastian Gonzalez-Moore Date of Review:10/29/2023