Genki Rockets - Heavenly Star
Coming to prominence on account of two catchy singles featuring in the hit videogame Lumines II/Live, Genki Rockets is the creation of videogame designer Tetsuya Mizuguchi of Q Entertainment (also responsible for REZ and Space Channel 5) and producer/song arranger Kenji Tamai, both of whom also co-write lyrics alongside Kaori Fukano. The band as such is led by lead singer Lumi - a virtual 17 year-old (credited as vocals by Rachel Rhodes and Nami Miyahara, the former who appears in their videos). Lumi is the first person to have been born in space, yet she has never set foot upon earth. She knows not the joy of rain on her face, nor the sensation of wind blowing through her hair; the rainbows, clouds and the smell of the sea are all a mystery to this curious angel in the stars. And way up there are no borders, and the earth spins around and hangs like all the other heavenly bodies. But Lumi dreams of that breeze which surrounds us all, and she’s here to sing her heart out about it.
Released on July 2nd, just in time for summer, Genki Rockets debut album “Heavenly Star” follows up two previously released maxi-singles, both of which are included here for what comprises a total of 13 tracks, three of which being bonus offerings. Also included is a DVD featuring three music videos: The a-ha “Take on Me” inspired “Heavenly Star”, “Breeze” and rock/pop hybrid “Star Line”, with additional concert footage taken from their headlining appearance at last year’s highly publicised Live Earth event in Japan.
At little under 2 minutes in length “Prologue -Earth Rise- ” gently kicks things off with a sample from the band’s Live Earth gig; a mixture of ambient noise and verses from “Heavenly Star”. Admittedly it is a bit of an oddity, especially given that the title track does make a later and far more memorable appearance. But with this intro out of the way comes the original itunes hit “Breeze”, storming in with a punchy bass line and up-tempo synthesizer, which becomes the album’s main signature. Lumi’s voice - a melding of Rhode’s prevailing American tones and vocoder effects - adds much of the charm here and goes a long way in keeping the fantastical aspect of the album alive and well, which is rather inspiring given that that the distortion device can be a constant irritant if overdone. Suffice it to say it‘s one of the best tracks on the collection, serving well as our first proper introduction to the band.
“Smile” takes the tempo down just a little notch as we’re given something of a pop ballad. In all honesty though Lumi’s voice is about it’s only saving grace; the lyrics do get a tad sickly, the main chorus isn’t instantly memorable and the musical arrangement never quite reaches the height of the album’s bigger hitters. Which brings us to the power trip that is “Star Line”. The Rock-influenced, previous Maxi-single immediately kicks into gear with a thumping bass, spangle-y guitar riffs and reverberating vocals as Lumi sings of cinematic lights and systematic time. The lyrics are simple and a tad broken - the latter reflecting many of the tracks - but they’re overshadowed by a belter of a hook and pure passion behind the delivery of the main chorus. Similarly the title track “Heavenly Star” continues the tradition, and as with “Star Line” this is without a doubt one of the most beautifully arranged songs on the album, and in fact might just be its masterstroke. Sometimes the lyrics make sense and on occasion they’re a tad ambiguous, and while Lumi’s voice is fairly difficult to follow (unless you have taken the lyrics to heart) her wonderful chorus chimes are about as uplifting as you’ll find in any pop song. I’d have said last year that this was THE summer single and today I still feel like saying the same thing. A damn fine pop anthem punctuated by fantastic rhythms, which I’ve a feeling may become something of a timeless one.
The album takes a breather with its sixth track “Intermediate -Orbit Swimming- ”. Going back to more ambient roots, it’s another piece which accumulates sounds from the Live Earth event; almost entirely instrumental it’s a nice sample piece, featuring some indecipherable backing vocals. Curiously the lyrics to the next song “I Will” are not included in the accompanying sleeve notes, though certainly they’re about the oddest translated so far. The backing track is lively, but it’s about on par with “Smile” - not a dud so much, but one which you may find skipping on more than one ocassion.
“Star Surfer” leads us in with crashing sea waves as our ambience turns to fun electronica with an already well familiar percussion. If it’s instantly notable then it’s because Lumi’s voice is distinctly vocoder-free, which, although a slight diversion from the character that has already been set up, allows for an instantly accessible track. And if we’re to ponder then perhaps this shift is simply an evolution process that the producers have afforded their deserving idol. A strong chorus and dazzling acoustics leaves this as another highly recommended offering. “Never Ever” is perhaps the surprise track on the album; doing away with the trippy synth-pop altogether, it takes us into proper ballad territory with nothing but wispy piano strokes and a subtle synth lift. Lumi continues to sing in her more “human” voice, with some of the most poignant lyrics relating to her dreams of experiencing more outside of the stars she frequents. Additionally it’s the first time we’re given a bilingual song, as Japanese takes over for the second half, but continues to echo earlier sentiments. It’s a nicely flowing track that briefly takes us down from the high we’ve enjoyed so far.
The final song is “Fly!”, and if ever there was a ‘grower’ on the album then this is surely it. Immediately jarring it has Lumi singing in - compared to the other tracks - a substantially heavier American accent. But hell, how can she not win us over with lines like “I’m feeling fresh in the clear crispy air”? It ends up being a perfectly hummable closing piece. The final three bonus tracks are welcome inclusions, even if they’re not essential listening. The Japanese version of “Star Line” is most noteworthy, while the “Breeze” Summer Afternoon and Star Breeze remixes hold little flame. These are efforts better suited to the single releases, which already included half a dozen or so variants.
In summary we’ve a wonderful debut outing from this curio act. The simplicity of the songs and the somewhat awkward lyrical structure adds a certain amount of charm; reading them off the page their verses come across more like poetry in fact. A couple of the tunes find themselves repeating verses other than main chorus lines, but thanks to some brilliant arrangements for the most part they are never a chore to sit through. I’ve been championing the Genki Rockets since I first got to hear them on Lumines last year and the wait for their debut album has been well worth it, though on the whole I find so very little fuss being made over the band. Perhaps they are an obscurity, so I hope this helps spread the word a little. If you want the perfect summer album (though admitedly time is moving on as I write this) then look no further at this mini masterpiece. Take heed of Lumi’s words, then, and take a step now, out to the world never seen before. And if you need help convincing then simply check out some of their videos at the band’s Official Website, or listen to a few tracks at their Official Myspace Page.
You can purchase the CD from a number of Japanese stockists, but I'd like to personally recommend CD Japan and Amazon JP.
Last updated: 18/04/2018 22:26:03