Written by Jax Figarola

Following shuichi’s well-received 2020 debut EP, “somniloquy,” he returns with “YEAR OF THE RABBIT,” a collection that invites listeners into a world of introspection and dream-like grief and longing. He presents a haunting blend of dream pop, bedroom R&B, and ambient electronic elements in music that creates a strong feeling of a bittersweet ache in your chest as you lie awake from grieving the loss of a person still living, distant and far away.

The EP opens with “COUNTRY,” a track that sets the melancholic tone. You are greeted with arpeggiated chords that resemble faded photographs, each note a fragment of a lost love. The lyrics tug at a familiar ache – the longing for someone who feels like a distant dream, and shuichi captures it with a poignant honesty. The overall vibe invites quiet contemplation, allowing listeners to immerse and drift away in shuichi’s world of emotions.

“SLIDE” throws its listeners into a disoriented spiral. The slow tempo and layered vocals evokes a deeper sadness – the desolate wistfulness that could be heard from the vulnerability in his vocal delivery. Yet, the solace of finding his lover only in dreams underscores the ephemeral nature of dreaming. Moreover, while almost unnoticeable, the tiny details of static sounds are a constant reminder that the images in dreams can be purely fantastical. And then, the despairing guitar line in the long outro builds towards a resolution that never arrives, as the track is abruptly cut off, transitioning into the next song. This abrupt ending could mirror the sudden shifts and unresolved stories that occur within dreams, because unfortunately, we all have to wake up eventually and face what we have lost.

Next, “TILL THE MORNING” reinforces the record’s theme of anguished dreaming. The light synths and distant layered vocals are reminiscent of a half-forgotten nightmare. shuichi addresses his lover as if there were a real confrontation, but everything feels like a hazy memory due to the ambient and lingering layered and sampled sounds of audio recordings. The distant voice recordings are a desperate attempt to hold onto a fading, or faded, connection as if sanity is lost.

The last tracks mark a shift towards a more meditative and romantic atmosphere. In “KEN’S TRACK,” unintelligible, dialogue snippets from a chillingly cold female voice, presumably his lover, against a lone piano melody evoke deeper sentimentality. This melancholic mood is continued with the seamless transition into the final song, “ILY,” which blends the dream pop, sound collage, and ambient elements that capture the feeling of bittersweet longing that define the EP. The lyrics express love for the other but also sound like a desperate plea to be loved back or be loved back again… It is a fitting conclusion that reflects the difficulty of letting go.

“YEAR OF THE RABBIT” might feel slow and melancholic to some, but the thematic unity and sonically cohesive soundscape elevate the record into a work of artistic merit, where vulnerabilities are explored in a linear narrative. The rabbit signifies vulnerability, and the record is for those seeking a deeply personal and introspective experience, an invitation to confront vulnerabilities and find solace in the catharsis of emotions. It is the year to be vulnerable, as shuichi’s music isn’t just a listening experience; it’s a journey through a whispered conversation with the ghosts of love and loss that linger in the dreamscape of memory.

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