Volleyboys - Aoi
When you have the best summer vacation ever, everything else afterward pales in comparison. Whether its the summer of '69, '09 or '18, it feels like the rest of life is the come down as you struggle with everyday reality. Friends from those days scatter and settle down, you're either in a work routine or in need of one, and the days pass by in a flash.
In that sense, Volleyboys' third mini album Aoi feels like a natural extension of なつやすみ'18 猛暑, set in that slowly expanding period of time after graduation, and reflects the continuing maturation of the band. Produced by Soutaiseiriron member Nagai Seiichi, their progression is most evident in the "album versions" of ひがしのまち and タイトルコール, the latter of which evolved from a demo to an acoustic version and finally to this complete form. There's more polish and cohesion in the final cut, and that's the same for the tracks on this album in general. With a band of this size, including multiple vocals, there tends to be a bit of chaos, but on Aoi they've put a lot more thought into the recording and maximizing their strengths.
The bulk of the songwriting is handled by Negi, one of the guitarists, and the songs here reflect his own development as someone entering his 30's. While there are fun tracks like 渚のドライブ and 人間大好き, there's this undercurrent of melancholy as well. Being from Kyoto, the themes are familiar among small towns, of farewells to your friends and lovers leaving for bigger cities, then consoling them as they struggle to adjust (I presume ひがしのまち refers to the Eastern capital).
What powers these songs are Volleyboys' raw passion that makes their messages and emotions feel honest and genuine. You see it during their live performances, where they jump and dance, sweating and shouting themselves hoarse. That's what youth is all about right? Aoi puts you right in the middle of it, hoping your friends don't forget you, wishing them well while you support them from afar no matter what happens. Although it's entirely possible to support your loved ones quietly or politely from the background with an occasional postcard, Volleyboys do it at 110%, throwing both arms around your shoulders with a big smile and tears in their eyes, not letting go until you really really have to say goodbye.
Aoi is a great little album and another step forward for the band, it really feels like they're hitting their stride now with a more professional approach and clearly defined roles. At the same time, Volleyboys is so focused on youth and passion, what's going to happen as the years continue to pass? While I believe this is not the end, perhaps a reckoning (otherwise known as Real Life) is coming, and we'll see how they handle the challenge of growing up in due time. Godspeed, Volleyboys.