ONIGAWARA — Seaside Mirage: celebrating the eternal summer fantasy
Summer songs are a pretty big deal in the Japanese music scene, with groups often releasing singles (and sometimes, in cases such as this, entire EPs) that tie both with the season and with the myriad of festivals that come with it each year. In this regard, things are not particularly different for not-band-neither-idol-group ONIGAWARA, whose latest release has them playing it by-the-book by putting out a summer-themed minialbum.
From its cover art to its six warm-sounding tracks, it is evident Seaside Mirage is a celebration of summertime. Taking a more band-oriented approach to this release, the EP opens with Kimi wa Mermaid, a song driven by lively guitars and fun piano melody that sets the tone to what will be the most energic half of this release, with my crazy taking this energy to a higher level by having member Satifour’s lively vocals be accompanied by snare drums consciously reminiscent of the Sega Genesis era of sound. These two songs are followed by Sweet Seventeen, a fun number that sees the project quickly shifting between seasonal-appropriate sounds that range from Shibuya-kei to surf rock (with member Saito’s vocal versatility being especially noteworthy here).
The energy in these songs, as well as their lyrics, are not only characteristic of ONIGAWARA’s musical output, but they also evoke different sides of a season the project has been singing about since pretty much its debut. This makes the release feel like a celebration of several idealized summer fantasies Japanese acts often sing about, which in the case of this mini-album include nostalgia-tinted romance, rock festivals, and eternal sunny days.
It is at this point that the release has a slight change in direction, with track Nokori ga exchanging the energy built by the three previous tracks for a more relaxed sound, which is complemented by vocal harmonies that perfectly fit the more mellow atmosphere this song is going for. Amping up the energy a few notches, Kimi to Slider sees the group once again using a piano melody as the base for a fun composition that gradually grows in liveliness thanks to the addition of synths, guitars, drums, and even subtly used brass instruments, additionally, the lyrics that combine the fun of summer with the nostalgic longing traditionally associated to the season add an almost cinematic charm to this song. As a nice little callback, the EP closes with a reworked version of Piiman, the project’s very first track, which showcases not only how much both members’ vocals have improved over the years, but how they are still able to inject new life into their most amateur ideas.
Fitting to the season it is themed around, Seaside Mirage captures some of the more lighthearted and fun sides of summer, all while serving as a testimonial of the way the group has reached a point where they can apply different sounds and ideas to the same concept. As a project that stands in the fine line between idol group and band, it does not seem like ONIGAWARA’s goal is to defy the status quo of the scene that has seen them grow as artists, but rather to celebrate it, and this release is proof of how much fun both members seem to have while doing that.