Naika Reviews T-SQUARE’S “Horizon” (2019)

tsquare horizon album 2019

It’s been a very, VERY LONG time since I jammed on a new album from T-Square, and let me tell ya, it’s totally AWESOME!  Hell, I’m listening to this album more than the last one I bought, and that’s Smile, from 2013.  It’s fun, funky and devoid of this ‘play-it-safe’ attitude that I felt was holding albums like Wings back.  Furthermore, it features some fine work from Philippe Saisse, who’s filling in on keyboards for Keizoh Kawano due to an unspecified illness.  Nevertheless, Kawano-san’s contributions are still felt in the song writing department, and it shows.  Here’s my personal rundown on T-Square’s latest album and why I think you should give it a go.

For starters, Horizon is simply a lot of fun.  The most dramatic tracks you’ll find here are Some Other Time and Tsuioku no Machi (追憶の街), where both give the album a nice hint of drama without derailing any party vibes.  Frankly, I was expecting Some Other Time to be more along the lines of MJ or Missin’ You actually, (y’know, heart-tugging jazz) but I was totally surprised.  It’s a song that settles your feelings with a smile, and I think that’s great.  Ending the album with a track like this REALLY makes me look forward to the next album.

Anyways, let’s backtrack to the rest of the disc, shall we?  It all starts off with SKY DRIVE, another in a long line of awesome EWI songs by T-Square where it’s all about adventure.  Don’t expect the kind of drive that you’d find on Truth or Faces, but it’s a soaring way to get the party started here.  Next up is Kawano’s Kasareria, which is another good track from our long-time keyboard king.  It’s a nice sax song that feels like you’re on the beach, where the pleasantries end on a very percussive note thanks to Bandoh’s drumwork.

And speaking of Bandoh, I have to talk about my favorite track on this album: PARALLEL WORLD.  Would you believe that I was on the fence about this album until I heard this one?  It’s a refreshingly funky track that makes my toes tap every time, and that EWI from Takeshi Itoh is just rocking all the way through.  There’s just lots going on for this track, and hell, there’s even something that sounds like a vibraphone too, but I could be wrong.  It’s a mountain of funk from T-Square and if it were up to me, it should be the first song you hear on this album.

My next two favorites would have to be Love Game and Samba de Bantha.  The prior is an Andoh-penned funk rock track featuring some nice slap bass with a healthy dose of trombone, while the latter is a Brazilian stroll under the sun.  I always love flute tracks from T-Square, and Samba continues this awesome trend thanks to Takeshi Itoh.  I personally think it’s a lot better than Wings’ subdued Natsu no Ashioto,  and has much more in common with the pleasant-yet-fast-paced Pioggia di Capri from B.C.A.D., a personal favorite of mine.

Though I’ve said nothing but praise about this album so far, it’s time for me to talk about the tracks that, unfortunately, don’t quite measure up for me.  The title track to this album is a nice one, but I don’t listen to it as often as I should.  It’s not a soaring EWI track like SKY DRIVE, but it’s a whimsy affair that’s there to make you smile.  I guess I only listen to it when I wanna feel happy about life I suppose.  Nothing bad, but nothing too amazing either.  However, the outlier for me would have to be Lonesome George.  I dunno.  I guess I should give it more of a chance, but I’m not always the biggest fan of T-Square’s hard-rock EWI tracks.  It has its moments, but, all in all, those hard riffs ain’t for me.

Despite my lack of love for Lonesome George, the album as a whole is still fantastic.  In many ways, Horizon is an album from T-Square that gives us a new…uhm, horizon for us to see them in.  It’s an adventurous ride, with Kawano and Bandoh leading the way in the songwriting department.  Furthermore, Parallel World, Love Game and Samba de Bantha are, for me, the big gems of this album and should not be missed.  For awhile now, I was always concerned that T-Square’s output from the 2010s would be less funky, but I’m glad to say that it ain’t the case here.  For those of you who are still into CDs, I would recommend that you go and grab the Limited Edition album since it comes with an All Region DVD that gives us a backseat view of the band’s recording sessions in L.A.  Overall, Horizon is a joy to listen to and should not be missed by any T-Square fan.  Hopefully, we’ll hear a lot more from the gang next year, and maybe we’ll see Kawano-san back on the keyboards again once he’s all better.  Until then folks, happy listening!

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