Behind DADARAY’s Jazz Act of Adulthood

After three summer EPs, the jazz-pop trio releases a musically elegant yet emotionally complicated debut album

“Let me play an adult” may be a contrary title for a song representative of Dadaray, a jazz-pop trio which began with the idea of making “high-end pop with an adult vibe.” The song in discussion also doesn’t belong to the band. The three smooths out the square synth-pop of Yume Miru Adolescence’s “Otona Yaraseteyo” into a breezy piano-and-bass tune for their debut album, Dadastation. But for all they try to dress the single with a played-down cool, they still don’t quite succeed in walking the line of full maturity. “A performance where I can’t act out an adult / you got a good peek,” they admit.

The choice for Dadaray to cover an idol-pop single should not surprise after checking the credits. The song and the band share a songwriter in Enon Kawatani, the musical mind behind not only the trio’s music but also Gesu no Kiwami Otome — a similar jazz-rock act that counts Dadaray’s bassist Kyujitsu Kacho as its member. Kacho formed Dadaray separate from Gesu around the aforementioned high-end jazz-pop mindset. Yet the more the three show their true colors in their debut, it becomes apparent the trio merely perform the idea of an elegant adult while actually struggling to gracefully live the part.

The sound that reflects the facade could not be better. Dadaray’s two main vocalists, Reis and Etsuko, give poised performances while together with Bancho, they bask in the sophisticated air of jazz music to build the group’s personality: impassioned yet polite in their presentation. The music sounds emotionally affected to a degree, but professionalism seems to come first. Upon the surface of “Dareka Ga Kiss Woshita,” the band spends time setting up a flowery atmosphere more than it teases out the more stubborn parts of desire sung by Reis.

And Dadastation outlines a series of some ugly truths inspired by desire which the band does best to hide from plain sight. Album kicker “Sukoshideiikara Nagurasete” drops listeners amid a couple’s argument with one of them ready to throw fists in frustration. More than a physical escalation, her begging to forego fault for the sake of a self-satisfying closure makes the scene not the easiest thing to stomach: “really, I’m wrong too / but please forget it for now/ be the weaker man,” they sing in a chorus furiously paced as the rage fueling the heated fight.

Elsewhere, both Reis and Etsuko present such abandon and self-obsession with a more stated delivery. Warmly as the pianos pedal, “Basue” hits cold as Reis looks upon one-night relationships as disposable experiences through one matter-of-fact voice. The sentiment upon relationships extends into more fatalistic ends in “Tomodachi:” “If they’re made-up friends, I like them all,” she goes right before she dismisses them as mere illusion. Impressively, Dadaray can’t help but to darken their sound for the latter.

Expendable as other people seem in Dadastation while they have a hold of them, Reis and Etsuko desperately yearn for a relationship they’ve yet to claim. Dadaray’s songs often show the rather messy contradiction of desire with people wanting what they can’t have. “Utsukushii Shiuchi” and “Darekaga Kiss Woshita” shade the flawed reflection darker as the narrators look upon people who they used to have by their sides. They become unlikable characters, through their stubbornness to admit their true feelings, but more so their hunger for attention.

That hunger lies as the crux of “Woman Woman,” the best single from Dadastation. It inspires nasty envy, but it also inspires a particular, exhausting lifestyle of young adulthood. “Scooped the success of another / let’s spill it all to this man I like,” they scheme. The women depend upon emotional validation from someone else even if that comes from matters not concerning them. It’s no surprise then to find a few other songs here with Reis saying “hey, listen,” as if she senses she’s not given full attention.

As much space Dadaray uses to vent within Dadastation, the music dances around the issue at hand. The near-collision of the fists-out chorus in “Nagurasete” soon derails into sparse verses and a meandering instrumental section. The momentum of the music cools off a little too much for its own good. But the last-minute walk-off from the situation stays true to the spirit of this band full of passive-aggressive energy. The songs don’t exactly see them willing to take action to relieve their problems. They are only playing the part of a mature adult after all.