LEO Imai’s major label debut in 2008, FIX NEON, held a lot of promise. Capturing the feel of New Wave without ripping it off wholesale, the album demonstrated Imai’s keen ability to synthesize the essence, not the sound, of a style.
He just sang too many "Oh oh oh"s while doing so.
He’s mitigated the wordless vocalizing on his second major label album, LASER RAIN, while also performing a major upgrade to the music. The music goes deeper into the dance roots of his refracted ’80s sound, dipping into some of the ’70s better moments, while maintaining a foothold in rock.
The opening single, "Synchronize", gets excessive with the Autotune, but with the spare disco bass and the space age effects, he’s more Sam Sparro than Duran Duran.
On "Connector" and "Time Traffic", Imai falls back on the New Wave central to his sound, but on "Fit of Love" and the title track, he gets a bit funkier. Rie Fu sweetens "Time Traffic", in particular, providing a nice contrast to Imai’s husky bartione.
On the second half of the album, Imai’s rock side comes out, with guitars buzzing through "You Me Electricity" and "Taxi", the latter sounding like Is This It-era Strokes with better production.
"Word" brings the album to a near finish, the heavy reverb, ethereal keyboards and minimal drums splicing pre-Unforgettable Fire U2 with post-Achtung Baby U2.
LASER RAIN combines the hit potential of FIX NEON with the bravado of his independent debut, CITY FOLK. Although CITY FOLK had some difficult hooks, Imai already displayed a mastery of melding rock music with dance music.
LASER RAIN brings that agility further, marrying it with some of the strongest hooks he’s so far produced.