My thoughts on “BenjaminJasmine”, the debut mini-album from BenjaminJasmine.
Release Date: April 27th 2020
6. Brand New Me
I’m not really sure how you guys go about doing it, but I suppose I’ve got a “system” of sorts for when it comes to checking out new releases from groups I’m not familiar with. It usually starts with me clicking through one of the digital distributors looking for a cover that catches my eye, maybe a description that sounds interesting or things like that. I imagine that’s how most people do it too but maybe I’m wrong. In any case, there’s usually something about the release that catches my attention long before I’m hitting play…like an odd group name for example.
BenjaminJasmine are a 7 member Idol group from Tokyo, or more specifically Shibuya, who have been active for a little over a year at the time you’ll all be reading this. I’ve literally just found out about them so I don’t really have too much more to add than that, but they seem to have a pretty cool, slightly alternative look to them so I figured why not check them out. They also have a fairly unusual name as you can see, well I think it’s rather unusual but you can judge it for yourselves I suppose.
“BenjaminJasmine” is the group’s self-titled debut mini-album, which coming a year into the group’s existence is a bit of a wait but perhaps they’ve had some venue only releases in that time, I’m not sure. I honestly don’t know what to expect in general from this release really, I see it listed under “Rock” on a lot of online retailers but all of the flowers and stuff on the cover doesn’t really scream that to me. Open mind and all that though, but yeah this is very much another one of those reviews where I’m literally giving my first impression of a group I’ve never heard of before. Those are usually fun though, right? They are for me anyway, so let’s check this mini-album out!
Kicking things off is “Saibō”, which appears to be the main song being featured from this release given that each member has also contributed their own solo vocal version of it to the mini-album. After a fairly intense piano piece, the instrumental shifts into this fairly grandiose sounding symphonic arrangement that’s being heavily driven by a rather high tempo and also rather intense sounding drumbeat. Things mellow back out to a sort of in between of both styles when the first verse comes in, with piano coming back to the forefront a bit more but playing more of a supporting role to the orchestral elements being featured. Vocally things are very impressive, with the BenjaminJasmine members each being allowed their own opportunity to deliver some measured but quite powerful, both in tone and emotion, vocal performances. After a nice bit of build-up the song hits its first chorus and all of the members come together as their vocals soar in harmony and the instrumental becomes even more emotionally charged. Quite dramatic stuff and they also manage to work in some pretty catchy lyrics too which is a nice bonus. That’s kind of the story of the track really, it ebbs and flows from verses to chorus and back again, taking you on quite the emotional roller-coaster along the way. A good first impression as far as I’m concerned.
We’re once again treated to a very powerful, and this time rather soulful, vocal performance to kick off the mini-album’s second track “Wasurena-gusa” and even if it’s not really your style I think you’d be hard pushed to say it’s not technically very good at the very least. The instrumental is left to build itself up around this, slowly adding in different instrumental elements before exploding into another Classical-inspired, symphonic composition that I’m starting to assume is what BenjaminJasmine are focusing on as a key element of their overall sound. Not the worst style to pick in my opinion and they’re already showing a bit of variety too, as this instrumental has a darker, more brooding sort of tone to it than what we heard on the previous track. The vocals don’t quite match this energy completely but they’re definitely trying to compliment the instrumental while still giving the track a slightly brighter and more melodic element. The chorus is a much more vibrant affair by comparison, with the instrumental brightening considerably though sacrificing a little bit of definition in the process. The vocals more than make up for that though and the contrast in tone between chorus and verse makes the former pop very effectively. Maybe not the most interesting song for those of you out there looking for something a bit more high tension but there’s a lot of instrumental and vocal intricacies to pick out that, along with some nice melodies, make for an entertaining listen overall.
If all of that previous stuff felt a bit too stuffy and highbrow for you then perhaps rather unexpectedly the mini-album’s third track “Fanfare” decides to set off in a totally different direction entirely. How about a high energy Rock instrumental? How does that sound, because that’s what’s on offer here as the track gets underway and once vocals are brought into the equation both the guitars and drums become even more punchy still. The vocals don’t pack quite as much bite to them as all of that though, which is a little bit of a shame I must admit but their smoother tone does provide this sort of soothing effect that I found quite interesting. Not what you’d typically expect to be paired with this sort of instrumental but somehow not managing to sound too out of place either. The chorus is a bit more energetic on the vocal front, with a bit more urgency behind the delivery as it tries to keep up with the increased pace of the instrumental. A bit more of a Punk sort of vibe during these parts which was cool to hear and some nice, albeit subtle vocal hooks being worked into the song too. The overall energy slowly builds up over the course of the track and by the end I think it gets to a point that many could argue it perhaps should have started off from in the first place. I rather enjoyed the journey though and I get the feeling that BenjaminJasmine are a bit of a detail orientated group when it comes to stuff like this so in that context everything more or less makes sense.
We move away from the high energy Rock and Roll and back to the more sophisticated symphonic stylings we’ve heard quite a bit so far on the mini-album’s fourth track “Jikō”. Piano and a nice solo vocal are once again the opening gambit on this track, before moving into another sweeping symphonic composition that’s being driven by some rather harsh and intense drumming which I thought was a pretty interesting decision upon first hearing it. It makes sense for where the instrumental ends up going however, taking on this almost frantic and chaotic tone as the highbrow instrumental begins to fray at the edges and the vocals grow ever more emotionally charged and take on a more raw tone to their delivery. It’s quite a lot to take in and had it not been for the previous track this would have been quite the surprise to drop midway through the running order. Thankfully there are some calmer moments sprinkled in throughout the song, both to let us catch our breath as well as the members of BenjaminJasmine who put in one heck of a performance for the entire duration of this track. So much so that it almost makes me think everything ends off on a bit of a low note, but considering the emotion and energy that got poured into the other 4 minutes of the song I feel like bringing things back down to earth to wrap things up was probably a good idea here.
BenjaminJasmine (or their producers I guess) must really have a thing for piano openings because that’s what we’re being treated to once again as “Nimoji” gets underway. I wouldn’t hate for there to be a bit more variety here, but I guess that’s what the rest of the track is being saved for. We’re back to that more energetic Rock style on this one, though the softer orchestral elements are still there taking on more of a supporting role this time around. It makes for a pretty epic sounding composition with a lot of drive behind it and some really cool sounding riffs, melodies and other moments. A little flashy some might say, and sure it kinda is but not ever to the point of being overdone or obnoxious in my personal opinion. On the vocal side of things we get a pretty wide ranging performance but I’d say the overall tone is fairly upbeat and energetic, possibly the most we’ve heard like on this release so far but I guess that’s open to interpretation and what have you. I do have to say that I found the chorus on this song to be a little too on the simplistic and repetitive side, but it is pretty catchy and it’s fairly pleasant to listen to so maybe less is more here. I’m kinda nitpicking at an otherwise really good song so I should probably stop before I start looking for more problems that don’t really matter in the grand scheme of things.
Closing out the mini-album is “Brand New Me”, clocking in at a ways above the 5 minute mark. That’s always something that kinda concerns/intimidates me on a surface level as 5 minutes is a long time for most songs folks. A bit more piano here to get things going, though it is accompanied by guitar which fairly quickly takes over as one of the main instrumental features, along with a fairly muted but still very much effective drumbeat that’s pushing along at a pleasing kind of mid-tempo pace. Definitely not trying to be quite as intense or flashy as some other tracks on this release, but there’s still a few cool parts and the energy does get bumped up a bit for important moments like the song’s chorus and what have you. Vocally I was somewhat surprised at just how much singing there is on this track, given its length I kinda figured there would be more instrumental reprieves but compared to past performances this is a bit of a walk in the park by comparison I suppose. Don’t let me downplay it too much though because this is still a wonderful vocal performance from BenjaminJasmine, spanning a wide range of tones and octaves once again. The chorus could definitely have stood out a bit more in my opinion but they were kinda going for that anthemic Rock vibe so perhaps not their strongest suit but pulled off well enough to be getting by on. Definitely ending things on a very bright and positive note here.
BenjaminJasmine’s self-titled debut offers up a very interesting mix of Classical, Symphonic and more contemporary Rock elements…something that might not be overly apparent if we were to judge this book by its cover. They definitely have a fairly obvious crutch or two when it comes to songwriting but they do a good job of presenting things in interesting enough ways that it never really becomes that big of an issue, for me anyway.
As far as first impressions go, this is a pretty good one I must say. Not the sort of music I would normally be throwing on casually to listen to but I was very entertained by what’s on offer here. It’s unlikely that I’ll become a die-hard BenjaminJasmine fan now because of that, but I’ll definitely be checking out their future releases to see where things go from here. I think they’re pretty well positioned to potentially go in a lot of interesting directions musically and I’m looking forward to hearing that might eventually sound like whenever the time comes.