Review – Silent Siren – 31Wonderland album

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Tonight I’m going to review a group that I’ve never properly listened to before but have always wanted to: Silent Siren! Affectionately known as “SaiSai” by fans, which is super cute. In my mind, Silent Siren look great, they are sweet as hell, play their own instruments and if they’re anything like Scandal I’ll be happy. This is their second major album (fourth in total), “31 Wonderland”, released on 12th February 2014. Here’s hoping for a good listen!

SaiSai was formed in 2010 and have so far had one member change (Yana on synthesiser for Yukarun on keyboard). All girls are magazine models and they had their major label debut in November 2012 with the single Sweet Pop!, the cover reflecting this. After that terribly tiny and not-so-informative introduction, covers time:

31wonderland picsTo the left is the Regular Edition, and right is Limited Edition. I like that they kept the covers in the same style, sometimes it can be frustrating when one edition has a radically different cover to the other. I have to admit that my favourite is the Regular Ed – the pink sits so much nicer in my iTunes library and I don’t think it looks as glaring on the eyes as the black/white contrast. The girls look very sweet and I like all the “props”. I also like that they’re wearing different outfits –  both on each individual girl and on the separate covers. It’s nice to  have a group that isn’t always fashion co-ordinated! My instinct tells me the busy, cute nature of these covers will reflect SaiSai’s music, I really hope so.

Tracklist:
1. 31Entrance
2. Ring Ring Ring
3. ビーサン (Biisan; Beach Sandals)
4. 「Are you Ready?」
5. LOVE FIGHTER!
6. アンチノミー (Anchinomii; Antinomy)
7. Delay
8. I×U
9. Limited
10. マイルストーン (Mairusutoon; Milestone)
11. 雨降りフリル (Ame Furi Furiru; Rainfall Frill)
12. ぐるぐるワンダーランド (Guruguru Wandaarando; Round and Round Wonderland)
*Pre-released songs in italics 

Kicking off, we have 31Entrance – which is really how an intro track should be done. It has a slow build up which launches into an uplifting string/cutesy guitar section. I half-expected there to be lyrics, but this remains an instrumental. Pretty neat start! Ring Ring Ring is quick to bring the action. This is ideal air-drumming music. Being my first ever foray into SaiSai, I was surprised at how childlike (in a good way) the singer’s voice sounded. It’s evidently influenced by greats like NOKKO and Isoya Yuki of JUDY AND MARY fame, but she’s added her own nifty little spin on it. It’s easy to discern all of the instruments: the bass can he heard clearly, so can the keyboard and of course the drums and guitar. A cute, attention-grabbing song. It’s so inoffensive it’s hard to be critical of the song – very sweet music. Next up is the first single of the album, Biisan. If it’s even humanly possible, Suu sounds even cuter here. The PV is here if anyone is interested (summer themed!). This sounds a little more “rockier” than the previous song, but the happy positive bubblegum theme remains. It’s incredibly difficult to imagine being sad listening to SaiSai, their music is so simply bright and lively.

The fourth track 「Are you Ready?」decides that it’s time to bring some attitude to the album. Definitely getting rockier, and there’s not the palatable sweetness here that was present before. It’s a bit more assured, a bit more ambitious. Suu still sounds adorable, but this time the intensity of the guitars dominated. Thankfully it doesn’t feel forced or try-hard given that the girls emanate an essentially “cute” image. LOVE FIGHTER! is a b-side of the I×U single, and I’m actually relieved – despite the fact I’m unfamiliar with their work before this – that the album isn’t a dish of solely b-sides and a-sides, with one or two new tracks thrown in. It’s better for the fans that way. Anyhow, this is definitely charming. There’s clapping and chanting and everything – what more could you want? I enjoy the chorus here a lot. It’s quite elementary but has a lovely singalong quality to it. The next song, Antinomy, is probably the rockiest one yet – however the chorus is so perfectly bubblegum pop I just don’t know how to categorise it. One thing is for sure: it’s really good! Songs like this have debunked my initial fear with groups like SaiSai – sometimes they can get stuck in a rut and create songs that, whilst they are enjoyable to listen to, they’re just that. The innocence and harmless nature of their catalogue can grow stale quickly and the feeling of ‘playing it safe’ becomes tired after a while. However, I feel like SaiSai have missed this by a pretty generous margin. Halfway through the album and there’s enough variety and catchiness to want to listen to the whole thing again – let’s hope they can maintain this for the second half.

Delay is another warm-sounding, carefree little number. It sounds a bit more “together” than the other songs, instrumental wise. In some of the previous songs it felt like perhaps they were trying to showcase each individual instrument, but this sounds like a much more “fuller” effort. Following this, we have the I×U single, released back in October 2013. And it’s a ballad! A Christmassy one too, by the sounds of the festive jingles. Driven by piano, the guitars and strings enter and push it into swaying-with-one’s-eyes-closed territory. It’s touching and gentle, if a bit uneventful. There’s a sweet sincerity about Suu’s voice here. As I’m sitting in a post-ballad haze, Limited jumps out of nowhere with arresting guitars and demanding drums. The addition of the keyboard here is great. We have a rock-themed dance track (or a dance-themed rock track?!) and it’s again proving my point earlier – SaiSai have much more than merely satisfactory tunes to offer us. Very effective placing this after the slower song, making it stand out even more!

Milestone begins promising us another midtempo tune, but it picks up from the chorus onwards into a refreshing, mellow pop song. It has its own unique melody and is just the right amount of wholesome girl-group bite. Not much more to add here. Ame Furi Frill is a saccharine offering that uses more synth, but the guitars are hardly an afterthought. My favourite thing about this song is the the way that Suu sings “ame hu-ri hu-ri-ru~“, I just love those gentle “f” pronunciations so much! She sounds absolutely precious. This might be my favourite track on the album instrumental-wise, it’s so fun and playful. And before I know it, I’m on the final song. Guruguru Wonderland seeks to see the album out with a bang – jumpy, bouncy guitars and drums. There’s a little retro feel that I’m unsure how to articulate properly, but this is really a sweet package of cheerfulness and liveliness. A fitting end.

So this was my first (and hopefully not my last) foray into Silent Siren’s music. And what a pleasant experience it was – maybe even a little too pleasant. I say this because as cute and bubblegum as the whole album was, there was quite a bit of repetition in the same head-bobbing drum beat, the same key changes, and just the nature of the style. I understand that there is a definite “theme” with SaiSai’s music, and there was unmistakably glimmers of pushing the boundaries of that theme in a few songs here. That being said, it’s a particularly enjoyable album for those reasons also. An easy listen that doesn’t require excessive attention to detail from the listener, and let’s face it – we could all do with that sometimes. SaiSai, 31Wonderland gets a 7.5/10 from me and I look forward to listening to you in the future!

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