My thoughts on “Astra”, the second digital single from Hikikomo Teikoku.
Release Date: December 8th 2020
It takes quite a bit to capture my imagination these days when it comes to Idol, but every so often a group will come along with some kind of gimmick or story behind that makes me sit up and go “You know what? That’s kinda cool”. It hasn’t happened too much lately but that’s partly down to me not being able to get out there into the real world and experience any of this stuff in person for more than a year now. I guess you could say that we’ve all become…shut-ins when it comes to our Idol fandom huh?
Hikikomo Teikoku are a group that I’ve written about fairly recently on the site, when I took a look at their debut digital single “Shelter” a few weeks ago. I really liked the story behind the group being that all of the members had been hikikomori in the past and that their agency was trying to show people that shut-ins can be turned into productive members of society. There was also the added bonus of there being a PLANCK STARS connection with now former member Hikiko Ricca being the group’s manager. Probably not the sort of thing most of you would expect to catch my attention but the world works in strange ways, doesn’t it?
“Astra” is Hikikomo Teikoku’s second digital single and like I mentioned earlier it comes hot on the heels of their debut single “Shelter”. I thought the latter showed quite a bit of promise, especially in the vocal department, and it went some way to giving us an idea of what the group’s sound was going to be but I ended up concluding that I needed to hear more before forming more of an opinion. Well I’m going to hear a little bit more today it seems, with another song falling out of the digital sky and into my lap. I’m not expecting huge leaps in terms of performance or anything like that but getting more of an idea of the Hikikomo Teikou sound should still be pretty cool so let’s give this one a spin and see if we do end up getting that or not.
The tracks kicks things off with a bit of an orchestral vibe from the instrumental which I kinda figured probably wasn’t going to be the main focus of things here and I was proven right fairly quickly as the song transitioned into a punchier synth tinged Hardcore style. It’s pretty popular with a lot of groups right now and Hikikomo Teikoku are sort of in that same space so it’s not super surprising to hear this sort of thing out of them. I do kinda wish that there was a bit more bass going on in general though as while the instrumental is hitting reasonably hard it could have pushed things to the next level I think. Still, there’s a very nice energy to everything and the beat is very catchy and ear pleasing which never hurts. Vocally we’re getting something of an emotionally charged power Ballad, which maybe doesn’t sound like it would mesh too well with the instrumental on paper but in practice it actually does sound really good and the members of Hikikomo Teikoku are putting in some really impressive performances for what is only their second song thus far. The lyrics aren’t quite as instantly catchy as the instrumental is but there’s some pretty good hooks throughout the track so it should only take you a couple of listens before you’re humming along to it, at least I was anyway. The track’s soaring choruses are another highlight and while they do reveal a few slightly shakier spots in the vocal department I think on the whole they’re really well executed and while the style they’re performed in isn’t likely going to be something that you haven’t heard plenty of before, once again for a new group it’s some pretty solid stuff.
It is of course still early days for Hikikomo Teikoku as a group but even from their first digital single to this one I can hear some positive progression taking place. Sure they probably recorded both tracks close together but I think I was right in my assessment that while there’s still a few things that need work, there’s also quite a lot of promise for this still ridiculously young project. I still think I need a couple more songs to really round out my opinion of this group but so far I’ve liked what I’ve heard and the fact that I still want to hear more can’t be a bad sign, right?
Who knows where things go from here though. Given the past year it’s about as likely that Hikikomo will go from strength to strength and have an awesome 2021 as it is that they’ll have disbanded before I even get to hit publish on this review. That’s the times we live in, and always sort of have when it comes to Idol to an extent. I’m here for the ride though as I want to see how story unfolds for this oddly compelling group. Hopefully it’s a much happier one than it was for a lot of their peers that we’ve lost over the last 12 months.