YOASOBI launched in 2019 with a simple concept: a producer and singer J-pop duo making songs inspired by short stories. To bring the narratives to life, producer Ayase creates a colorful swirl of bouncy pianos, buzzing synths, and frenetic bass lines, arranging the sounds into an ornate synth-pop production. He chose Ikura for the project’s vocalist after finding her covers posted online. Her love for big, sentimental pop singer-songwriters like YUI and Taylor Swift shows in her expressive yet tender vocals throughout THE BOOK, YOASOBI’s 2021 debut album. As Ayase doubles down on spectacle in the music, Ikura is there to ground the lyrics so the duo can still hang at the same level as their listeners. YOASOBI makes the most complex songs a joy to hum along to. Debut single “Yoru ni kakeru” (“Racing into the Night”) was the duo’s pivotal breakthrough thanks to its success as a mega hit on streaming, laying the groundwork for the best YOASOBI tracks to come. Over Ayase’s tricky yet hypnotic melodies, Ikura sings through the lines as if it’s a breeze. Lyrics spill over on “Harujion,” rhymes zigzag on “Gunjou,” and yet the singer barely draws attention to the busyness of the songs’ instrumentation. The duo’s focus on musical clarity is their intention to foreground the emotional essence of the short stories that inspired their songs. Several tracks on THE BOOK are informed by the comfort found in human connection, with Ikura expressing gratitude for happier times on “Haruka” or yearning for lost love on “Harujion.” Ayase’s brisk music helps the depressive memories to go down easier, while Ikura presents herself as a warm, approachable presence through her sparkling vocals.

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