My thoughts on “CARRY LOOSE”, the self-titled debut album from CARRY LOOSE.
Release Date: October 22nd 2019
1. Yasashī Sekai
2. CARRY LOOSE
3. Modoranai Yōni
5. CHEER SONG
8. Tsume mo Kimi mo
9. ERASE and REWRITE
10. When we wish upon a star
13. Deep thorns
If you haven’t noticed, I’ve been rather out of the WACK loop as it were of late. I dunno, I guess part of it was me losing interest after being disappointed by so many of their collective releases in a row and also just because there’s so much other stuff out there that I do actually find interesting. I guess in my increasingly old age I’m learning that it’s better to focus on what you like and try not to complain too much about what you don’t. I’m dipping my toe back in this week though.
CARRY LOOSE are the latest project from the WACK juggernaut…I think. The group consists of 4 people including ex-BiS members Pan Luna Leafy and YUiNA EMPiRE, along with WAgg trainee Uruu Ru and total newcomer Yumeka Naukana?. The group is signed to T-Palette Records, because I guess they needed to be given something to work with after GANG PARADE went major and I believe there was a deal where they drip fed everyone the tracks from this album a couple at a time in the weeks leading up to its release. Standard stuff from WACK there then.
“CARRY LOOSE” is the group’s self-titled debut album and technically their first release if you don’t count all of those digital shenanigans. They’re produced by SCRAMBLES because of course they are, but not Matsukuma Kenta specifically. In fact a couple of these guys credited on the songs actually produced some of my favorite BiS songs back in the day so we might be onto something here. I honestly don’t know though as I intentionally haven’t listened to any of these tracks prior to writing this review. You’ve all probably made your minds up already but if you’re interested in my opinion feel free to read on.
Warm guitar tones are the first thing that greet the ears upon hitting play on the album’s opening track “Yasashī Sekai”. This is of course somewhat predictably achieved by way of using distortion but it’s not like I just irrationally hate any use of that particular effect. I’d say there’s enough to be getting by with here though I do have to mention the crackling sound that’s coming through in places. Is that an intentional thing to give the production a bit of a rough edge or poor engineering? I don’t know but it’s there either way. Outside of that it’s a pretty nice composition that’s warm and fuzzy, something I can actually get into which might come as a shock to some of you reading this. Vocally, things play out in a fairly simple Ballad style so they’ve done a pretty good job of dressing the song up and making it sound more interesting than it otherwise might have. The delivery and structure are pretty obviously in the WACK style which is fine but maybe they could have risked it a bit more with a new group. My only real complaint is the vocals do get a bit lost in the fuzz at times which while giving the idea of everything being mixed together sort of takes the shine off of what should probably be the feature act. Off to a decent, if not somewhat predictable start.
Up next is “CARRY LOOSE”, the self-titled song on the self-titled album. You probably know by now but my personal philosophy is that a self-titled song should probably be the best representation of what the group in question typically sounds like musically. It has your name on it after all. Well, things start out markedly different to the previous track with synthesizers leading the instrumental and creating a sort of dim atmosphere with the beat and their tones. We also get some pretty natural vocal lines which kind of add to that gloomy, melancholic feel. After a fairly short build-up the song suddenly bursts into life with the volume getting cranked up along with the emotion in the vocal delivery…as well as the distortion. I don’t want to harp on it too much because it’s not super bad but the washed out synthesizer covering up the, in my opinion, much more interesting symphonic elements of the song is a bit disappointing. They do get their moments to shine as the song progresses to be fair and the distortion does give the song this dense, overwhelming feeling which is kinda cool. Another pretty standard WACK vocal performance once things get into full gear with really nice melodies and impressive range and control. A casual listener could easily mistake it for a BiSH track which is good or bad depending on how you want to look at it. Again fairly predictable but a solid effort all the same.
“Modoranai Yōni” starts off in a generally similar way to “CARRY LOOSE” except instead of being a bit gloomy and melancholic they instead opt for something a little warmer and brighter this time out. An interesting contrast if you’re listening to both tracks back to back. I really like the repeating synthesizer tones at the beginning of the song and the soft guitar and drumbeat they bring in to accompany it is also really nice too. Throw in some nice, warm vocals and I’m finding very little to complain about so far with this one…shocking I know. After a pretty slow build up the song picks up a little bit with the tempo getting a little more bouncy and the synthesizer transforming itself into something a little bit more electronic sounding than where it initially started from. There’s a little bit of fuzz introduced too because I guess that’s going to be a thing whether you like it or not. Though I have to say that it was a tasteful amount and the warmth it added gave the song a bit more depth than it would have had otherwise. Throughout all of this the vocals remain largely unchanged, keeping their warm and fairly natural sounding tone. There’s a bit more energy when it comes to the chorus but for the most part they find a comfortable rhythm and stick to it. The lyrics don’t go out of their way to be super catchy but you’ll be humming the chorus in no time at all. I hope you’re sitting down because I really quite liked this one.
We go back to the more typical WACK style with the album’s fourth track “ANYBODY”, which opens with a rather impassioned vocal delivery that I’m never going to say WACK fail to do well. It kinda sounds like BiSH and I suppose previous BiS incarnations too but damn if they don’t know how to capture that emotion effectively. One rather enjoyable guitar solo later and we’re into what I would call the first proper verse of the song. There’s a vague BILLIE IDLE vibe to both the vocal delivery and the instrumental at this point which I thought was interesting though none of the CARRY LOOSE members are quite on that level vocally and most BILLIE IDLE songs don’t have quite this much fuzz on them. Again it’s a bit of a shame that the vocals don’t get quite as much breathing room as they probably need to really shine but I didn’t find it to be as bad on this track as it was on a few previous ones. For me personally, I think the verses actually outshine the chorus on this song which I have mixed feelings about because it should be pretty easy to have a pretty rocking chorus on a song like this. The instrumental throughout is pretty enjoyable though, not really trying to steal the show but perhaps inadvertently doing so due to the mixing at times. There’s a few pretty cool guitar riffs sprinkled throughout but otherwise it’s taking on more of a supporting role with its mid-tempo beat and fairly steady rhythm.
Well, “CHEER SONG” definitely gives you what it says on the packaging that’s for sure. If you were expecting the song to open with an upbeat, fairly cheerful sounding Rock instrumental with a bit of a Punk leaning then that’s what you’re getting with this one. It’s certainly not the most complex composition in the world, featuring a very well explored progression of chords chugging along with a nice layer of distortion on top to make them sound extra muddy and gritty. The drumbeat is pretty fun to listen to but I kinda expected a little bit more energy from it than we got, not a huge complaint but I just feel like there was an opportunity to add a little something extra to the instrumental there but they chose not to. The vocals sort of walk this interesting line between being appropriate for the style of instrumental used here but also getting a little too close to being too light and Poppy sounding. It’s interesting to listen to them try to fight it out with the instrumental here but they’re really fun and catchy while doing so. The song kinda suffers, in my opinion anyway, from similar mixing and production decisions as other tracks on the album but it’s still pretty good and probably even better if you don’t mind all that other stuff quite as much as I do.
Hey, you in the back! Stop laughing at the title of this album’s sixth track. Granted, “WEATHERCOCK” is a pretty hilarious name for a song but it is a legitimate meteorological instrument. Not sure what it has to do with the song though, as there isn’t a woodwind or similar instrument in earshot. Instead we’re back to exploring some warm and at times somewhat fuzzy guitar tones and there are certainly worse elements you could be using to form the basis of your sound. There’s a soft, vaguely dreamy quality to the vocals on this particular track too which I thought was a pretty interesting route to take given that this certainly isn’t the sort of thing that you would usually associate with a WACK group or a SCRAMBLES production. Vocals and instrumental both combine to create a really pleasant, mellow atmosphere and you almost feel like the song is floating along as you’re listening to it. There is so much going on at the same time though, with really cool drumbeats and rich guitar riffs from the instrumental side and great melodies and harmonies coming from the vocal performance. You wouldn’t be unhappy to hear a song like this from a trendy Indie band and I’ve enjoyed a few of those in my day. This might actually be my favorite song from this album so far in fact.
We’re treated to a bit of piano in the opening sequence of “RAKUEN” which was a rather pleasant surprise for me personally. A little bit of a Jazzy, theater kind of feel to it which I can certainly get behind. Unfortunately it does rather get trampled all over by the pretty heavily distorted synthesizer that gets introduced shortly thereafter, along with a whole bunch of “Woah, Whoah, Woah”s. We then settle into this rather odd combination of both styles, with the piano providing the song with this sort of humorous but also kinda creepy melody. There’s a bit of guitar and drums to flesh it out some more, and the drums do provide a rather nice beat and mellow out the synthesizers a bit too which I think was definitely needed. The vocals are at times theatrical also, especially when they first get introduced and that’s something WACK have tried with the likes of GANG PARADE in the past so while not unprecedented it’s still not the most common of their party tricks. They become a bit more normal sounding when the choruses roll around and we’re treated to another emotionally charged vocal performance in what has become the traditional WACK style. I actually kinda like this one just for how off the wall it is, and some of the piano parts are really quirky and interesting too. It’s weird but in the end the chorus is the most normal but also the weakest part of the song in my opinion.
“Tsume mo Kimi mo” brings back the orchestral element that we heard a little bit of earlier in the album, though it was buried under quite a bit of distortion at the time. Well it gets top billing as the songs gets started, though they do forgo most of the traditional instruments in favor of comparable sounding synthesizer melodies. It still makes for a nice, flowing composition though and of course eventually they bring in a bit of guitar, a nice drumbeat and of course a little bit of that fuzzy distorted sound to both flesh things out and also keep with the overall theme of what’s been going into this album thus far. I’m going to sound like a broken record here but I really don’t think you need the fuzz on a song with this kind of instrumental because it takes away from the mood you’re presumably trying to create by using orchestral elements in the first place. The vocal performance is both powerful and emotional, giving the song even more of a raw edge though they are once again playing it rather safe by going with that tried and true WACK style of lyrical structuring and tone of delivery. Still, they do what they do really well and there’s some great vocal melodies on show and you can’t fault the emotion behind the lyrics. Kinda feel like this one started out pretty interesting and sort of faded off as it progressed. Not bad but I’m not rushing to write home about it either.
Okay, the screaming guitar solo that opens the album’s ninth track “ERASE and REWRITE” definitely made me sit up and pay a bit closer attention…not that I hadn’t been for the last song or anything. What can I say, starting your song off on that sort of footing is a bit of a statement maker, though was anyone else somewhat reminded of the Andrew W.K. classic “Party Hard”? Anyway, after the song has your attention it calms down significantly to make way for the first verse which almost sounds like it’s being delivered in an empty room by comparison. Granted there is an instrumental track, quite a pleasant one too, featuring light piano and a subdued but still rather catchy synthesizer beat. The vocals are nice and clean which is something I kinda wish we’d hear more of from WACK these days but I’ll take it when it occasionally comes along. The song eventually gets into full gear and we’ve got distorted guitars and synthesizers washing out the vocals and the more intricate parts of the instrumental. I’m trying my best here but it’s hard not to be a little disappointed that this seemingly has to be a feature of as many WACK songs as possible. There’s a nice little mid-song reprieve though so if you were enjoying how this one started off they do revisit it for a little while later on. I really like about 50% of this track and the other 50% I can take or leave for the most part.
I feel like we have to be on fairly shaky copyright grounds with a song title like “When we wish upon a star” but I’m not the one paying the lawyers to care about that sort of thing. I wouldn’t have minded a WACK rendition of that Disney classic, Christmas album anyone?, but we didn’t end up going down that particular avenue in the end. Still though, we did kinda get a song with that magical, fantasy element to it or at least I think so anyway. An incredibly beautiful piano piece leads us into fairly familiar sounding Rock composition that’s accented by what I would describe as a synthesized organ melody. It’s a pretty interesting blending of two rather different genres of music but it’s certainly effective and WACK have shown that in the past too on several other works that they’ve produced. I’m rather fond of this style personally as it gives me great instrumental melodies as well as a bit of Rock crunch so I am in effect getting the best of both worlds when it comes to my personal musical tastes. The vocal work is almost always top notch too, as is the case here with the CARRY LOOSE members getting…well, loose I suppose and providing an impassioned performance with a nice smattering of hooks and a fairly catchy chorus too. Nothing too wacky or experimental on this one, just WACK having another go at something they do really well and there’s nothing wrong with that folks. They also kept the fuzz to a minimum too so that’s nice.
Okay so it’s hard not to point this out but it kinda feels like every WACK release recently has featured a song like “Tantakatantantan”. You know, that one song that sounds kinda…”oriental” I guess. Surprised they don’t catch any flak for it but whatever. Anyway, this particular instance puts a Digital spin on the traditional compositions and progressions, by way of running them through a synthesizer and having some computer noises going off in the background. This gets faded out in favor of a cleaner beat and some more subtle, ambient synth tones once the first verse hits. Kinda giving off that throwback, 70s sort of vibe and I much prefer that to what the song decided to open on. In the end the instrumental tries to play both sides of the field and it works out well enough I guess but it’s just not really grabbing me. The vocals I feel similarly about, as when they’re more in that 70s Synth Pop style I really quite enjoy them but the bits where they’re putting a bunch of computer effects over them or where they singing the song’s title just feel a bit too hoaky for me personally. This song kinda feels like it’s from a bygone era, and not exactly in a good way either. If you long for the late 90s/early 00s then maybe this song will be your thing. It’s not doing it for me though unfortunately.
Another thing that WACK do really well are Punk Ballads. They’ve really got that mix of sentimentality and Punk energy pretty much perfected down to an artform at this point. As such, it shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise to see a song like that get featured on a CARRY LOOSE release. And that’s exactly what the album’s penultimate song “pretender” is, CARRY LOOSE’s take on this tried and tested WACK formula. You can tell what sort of song this is going to be as soon as it starts out with that part twangy, part chuggy guitar riff and that energetic drumbeat. Granted it is somewhat muted by the mixing, which is again fairly typical of this style of WACK song. That’s kinda the theme of the instrumental for much of the song, nice and consistent if not a little repetitive. It soars a bit and becomes brighter during the choruses, as do the vocals which weren’t exactly dull in the verses but it does sound like they get a shot in the arm when the chorus rolls around. On the whole though this song is going to sound pretty much how you’d expect it to sound vocally because as I said before they’re using a pretty well worked out template. You can argue if that’s a good or bad thing and both sides would probably have fair and valid points. It doesn’t change the fact that this song just is what it is.
Bringing it all home and closing out the album is final track “Deep thorns”. If you guessed that a Japanese music act was going to close out their album with something of a sentimental ballad then I guess you’re a pretty smart person because that’s pretty much what they’ve done here. The song gets off to a pretty nice start with piano accompanying a steady Rock beat and some light guitar, it’s pretty pleasant to listen to and the melody from the piano is great stuff in my personal opinion. The piano takes on more of a supporting role as the song warms up, which is mildly disappointing to me but I get it and it’s not like the rest of the instrumental suffers for it in any real way. I maybe would have liked a bit more definition on the guitars but I think they were going for a certain kind of mood with this song and if that’s the case then I think it was probably for the best that the guitars were a little less defined. The vocals on this one are actually kinda interesting, in that the two “new” members of the group get a ton of time to really show what they’ve got. Turns out they’ve got some pretty nice lower notes in their skillset, which is a great compliment to what the other half of the group are working with. This is a pretty good song by itself, perhaps a little bit typical of the style but the distribution of vocal lines definitely made it a lot more interesting than it could have been otherwise.
On the whole, “CARRY LOOSE” is a solid if not perhaps a little too safe debut from yet another group on the WACK roster. They definitely made use of a lot of the things they do well in other projects so there is an element of sameyness to several of the songs. There were also a few new elements incorporated though so while it might not be incredibly different, the group does appear to have its own sound in a way.
I’d say I’m interested in where CARRY LOOSE are going to go from here, but they’re a WACK group at the end of the day so it’s hard not to feel like I kinda know what to expect at this point. I’m not trying to say that in a mean spirited way either, it’s just WACK has their style and it applies to most of their groups most of the time. We won’t have to wait long to find out at least as the group’s first single is set to drop in mid-February.