SHIN – Good Morning Dreamer

review - 11.11.2017 00:01

The debut album from ex-ViViD singer SHIN marks a new dawn in his career.

When visual kei band ViViD announced their split back in January 2015, disappointed fans were left wondering what would come next. While the band’s lead guitarist Reno wasted no time, declaring his future plans the day after ViViD’s final live and releasing a solo album within six months, fans would have to wait a lot longer for lead singer SHIN to reappear. He kept a low profile while he decided on his next step and figured out how to make the transformation into a solo artist. He freely admits that this process was a major struggle, and having also left his management agency, one he faced largely alone. The following months were spent slogging away at the gym, listening to its western rock music channel for inspiration, and on endless hours practicing playing the guitar and writing hundreds of melodies from which this debut, Good Morning Dreamer was born.

It was more than 18 months after ViViD’s break up that SHIN resurfaced with a sold out live on Christmas Eve 2016 which, in truth, he saw as his last shot at finding a new management deal. He was almost prepared to give up on music altogether after the show but for a chance meeting with Jun Utahiroba of popular "air band" Golden Bomber. This slice of good fortune led to SHIN signing with the Euclid Agency and becoming label-mates with Golden Bomber, on Euclid’s sub label Zany Zap, which in turn, allowed everything to finally fall into place.

SHIN’s first release on his new label came in April 2017, with the digital single jack the ripper, a fast paced emo-rocker that leads off the album. The track is emblematic of SHIN’s struggles to re-emerge as a solo artist. He has described himself as being murdered by the dreams and ambitions he couldn’t fulfil musically, and so he named the track after the infamous historical murderer. ViViD fans will be glad to hear his distinctive voice again. The familiar falsetto and vibrato touches are all still there as well as the harder edge, shown with a long rasping note. The vocals are beefed up with some well-constructed layering and harmonising too, effectively making SHIN his own backing singer.

The opener sets out where SHIN is heading as a songwriter, and the album is full of up-tempo rock numbers in the same vein. There are a couple of heavier tracks; why not powered by Led Zeppelin-style riffs and 4444 with its industrial percussion and more crunchy rock riffs, but the album never strays far from the melodic side of rock, with SHIN’s expressive voice always bringing a lighter feeling to the music. The bright and optimistic just going true side is a stand out track, but it’s not all galloping rock numbers, as the pace is slowed with the emotional WEAKEND.

SHIN has written all the lyrics and music and is showing that he may well have that happy knack for writing catchy tunes. The arrangements are handled by everset guitarist Tatsuo, who has worked as a producer, arranger and musician with a large and diverse array of artists, from alt-idols BABYMETAL to J-pop idol group Momoiro Clover Z. He also creates the arrangements for Golden Bomber and knows what it takes to put together successful records. Some of the songs here were previewed as teasers for SHIN’s first solo live back in 2016 but the new arrangements for this album have knocked the rough edges off of them and honed every track into lean, muscular shape.

Though this is a rock album, the flashy guitar solos are kept to a minimum, with just some tastefully low key examples on TERRITORY, dirty hurry and 2015.4.29. ViViD fans won’t find any Reno-style metal shredding here – this is a singer’s album and everything is aimed at presenting SHIN’s distinctive voice and the songs he’s created to best effect.

Drawing things to a close is 2015.4.29. A long pause and slowly ticking clock introduce the track while piano and strings amp up the emotion, giving the song a sound reminiscent of a visual kei power metal ballad. The title refers to the date of ViViD’s final live, which marked the official end of the band. The song’s sad yet hopeful sound and lyrics reflect on SHIN’s ViViD past, conveying sorrow at the end of that chapter of his life, but holding on to the happy memories it brought him and looking to the future. The track’s sentimental feel stands it apart from the other songs on the album, but SHIN clearly felt the need to make this heartfelt and sincere expression of his feelings.

The album’s nine tracks zip by in a brisk and upbeat 33 minutes, which belies the difficulties at the heart of its creation. SHIN hasn’t reinvented rock music here, but he has managed to successfully reinvent himself as a singer-songwriter and artist in his own right. His struggle and perseverance have been rewarded with a fine debut and for the fans, who propelled this record to the top of the Oricon Indie Album chart on release, it’s been worth the wait.

The digital album is available from iTunes and is also available to stream via Spotify.

The physical CD is currently available in two special editions. Type A comes with a DVD featuring live footage and the just going true side music video, while Type B is accompanied by a 20-page photo booklet.

Check out the album's trailer below.

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