After quite the hiatus, let’s have a look at PassCode’s new line-up and their new single.
Hey everyone, Mike here. Yeah, it has been a pretty large chunk of time since I have touched this site. I literally could have had a kid in the time that has passed. Sadly, it’s been nothing so wonderful. I might touch on it in a blog anniversary post I might write, but for now, let’s just say that 2021 has been a pretty awful year for me and my family. So much so that 2020 feels like a vacation in hindsight. I sincerely hope it has been better for you, but it feels like nearly everyone is struggling in one way or another. Anyway, for now, let’s talk about some music shall we? Oh, and when/if I ever came back, I wanted to change my format up a little. I’m moving away from a review-like template and focusing more on my thoughts on it. I’m hoping it will result in a more streamlined, personable, more interesting to read entry. Let’s find out, shall we?
PassCode is my favorite group in the “alt idol” genre. So many of my friends moved to this genre after the AKB48 monopoly finally broke for a lot of people, and I tagged along to a degree, but I’m not neck deep in it like a lot of people became. The music I enjoy the most has always been the more bubblegum pop that J-Pop of the 2000’s was well known for(and that K-Pop basically owns now), and after mainstream artists took a more subdued tone I definitely found sanctuary in Japanese idols. However, I’m also down for a good rock song so I have found some really cool things in the alt idol realm as well. You can never have enough awesome music to listen to.
PassCode is one of the best for me. Their musical mix of hard rock, 8-bit, and even a little pop here and there just “do it for me”, for lack of a better term. Their music is well produced, and their insanely energetic concerts are a thrill to watch. I’m so thankful I got to see them live in Japan during my 2017 trip. It was a fantastic show during their Zenith album era, which in my opinion is their best to date.
Unfortunately, life goes on and music groups change, disband, and so on. Back in 2017, shout vocalist Yuna Imada started to develop health issues that were impacting her ability to perform. She went on a hiatus for a while, but did eventually come back to the group in a diminished capacity. She was there for the live show I saw and I think it might have been her first show back, but she was clearly getting fatigued and had to take a few breaks here and there. It was great to see her either way and the girl rocked it regardless of her condition. She held on for what I bet were four long, hard years, but in August of this year, she finally decided to call it quits. I can’t blame her, but it was sad to see the line-up I knew best finally cut. I certainly wish her the best in her future, this group has brought me a ton of entertainment.
But time goes on, and PassCode was quick to announce that former Ladybaby member Emily Arima would join the group and take on the “shout vocals” role. I tend to be a little more flexible than some fans, and even though I was honestly not a fan of the Ladybaby thing for a variety of reasons, I decided to wait and see and just hope for the best in PassCode’s new era. A few weeks ago, we finally got a look and listen at what this new PassCode would be like.
I’m relieved to say that “Freely” turned out to be a great song. In fact, it’s honestly my favorite PassCode song since those glory “Zenith” album days. I feel like this song takes them back to their roots a little bit, away from some of the more experimental songs they’ve released since. It’s paradoxically nostalgic and refreshing. The energy is pretty much nonstop, featuring some really nice guitar lines that suddenly break for a nice vocoded vocal moment, and then hops right back into the action without missing a beat. Emily’s first run with the group gets off to a shaky start. Her first few shout lines feel just a tad off in the PassCode formula, but things take an abrupt, awesome turn for her by the 2:30 mark and her lines starting here begin a near-perfect transition into the group. Overall, the song is just really, really good. I may or may not have let out an audible “YES!!” after the first time I heard it. It was a huge relief to enjoy the song this much.
I have only more praise to offer for the music video. Simply put, this might be the best MV they’ve ever put out. It has a fantastic array of colorful scenes, very entertaining goings-on with the yakuza-like dudes, and just an overall vibrant, passionate energy that compliments the song perfectly. Everything is just so well done and pretty. The choreography and filmography are just the right mix of chaotic but discernible. You get a nice look at everything going on while being taken on quite the ride, like a perfectly designed roller coaster. Everyone gets a pretty decent amount of screen time and looks wonderful doing so. However, I do think they kept Emily literally in the dark a little too much, but I guess it can be pretty hard to light up the top of a building’s tower, huh? The shots toward the end where they’re rocking out on a cargo barge underneath what looks like the rainbow bridge is an amazing conclusion to the video.
Things wrap up on the single pretty quickly with just one more song for us to enjoy. “Flavor of Blue” feels like a decent middle of the concert song that keeps things going, but doesn’t overly push the envelope. It does have some interesting deviations in the main line of the song, some of which work for me and others not so much. The song almost loses me at the one minute mark with this weird lead-up, but luckily picks right back up after this stumble. Meanwhile, the tap-worthy shift in tone in the last thirty seconds sounds absolutely beautiful. The middle of the song is pretty much typical PassCode fare and sounds pretty good overall. While this one is more of a mixed bag for me, the good far outweighs the not so good.
So that’s the new PassCode single, and I’m so relieved to say that I not only liked it, but thoroughly enjoyed it to boot. I think the producers struggled a little at first to fit Emily into the formula, but found their way pretty quickly. Everything looks and sounds great, and gives a generous nod to the older PassCode formula that I love so damn much. I’m beyond relieved that I can continue to keep loving this group and can’t wait to see what they bring us next.