The internet, as I’m sure you don’t need me telling you, warps our worldview pretty fiercely. If you follow a bunch of people on a social media site who share a common interest, it probably looks like any news about said interest is a big deal that practically stops time. In reality, most people are more interested in talking about Poland beating the Swiss in soccer. That’s probably how Especia fit into my online life…it was announced late last week the group, which went on a break following this year’s Carta and saw a significant line-up change in that period too, and my feed went bonkers over the next two days, capped off with the release of a new four-song album called Mirage. Maybe this isn’t a big all-together-now moment, but it certainly warrants at least bullet points to some corners of the J-pop-leaning universe:
– Especia are now a trio, with returning members Haruka Tominaga and Erika Mori joined by new member Mia Nascimento (Especia Va Bien with the full breakdown). A lot of the charming aesthetic points return, as do some of the ones that make you tug your collar a bit (see new press photo in that preceding link). Probably unnecessary, considering the artwork for Mirage, entered around some Tatooine-ish world and, like, speeder bikes, captures the same vibe without any of the potential pitfalls.
– Speaking of Mirage…it’s pretty solid! Especia opt for the more mid-temp material they’ve dabbled in, and which appeared across Carta, and even though nothing on Mirage nails the big, attention-grabbing pop that tends to manifest itself on the group’s releases in at least some form, this short set feels more like a reaffirming “we are back!” than anything else. One full of great moments, from the breezy flute on opener “Savior” to, well, most of highlight “Helix,” which features an intriguing garbled bridge. As a return to the spotlight, it is a solid play to the fanbase, save for the unexpected switch up to English.
– So if the music isn’t any major departure for the group…thank goodness…how about the group’s image? Ultimately, the live video of their return performance says more about that than anything else…gone are the throwback jerseys, and instead they sport black dresses while performing in front of Hi-Fi City (who, we can assume, probably worked on Mirage). Some have speculated they are moving away from idol music with this return, which…well, let’s see what happens next (it’s tempting to see them playing in front of a live band like that and think maybe they want in on the whole “city pop revival” narrative…except they’ve already done just that, so….), and the English on the release is an interesting twist, albeit one that’s hard to peg.
– But overall, glad to see them back, and still mostly doing what Especia did best. Listen above.