Not to take anything away from Nanba Shiho, who boasts a light and bouncy voice that sounds completely fine in any context. Her voice is the cheddar-flavored rice cake of the J-Pop world, completely satisfying at the time but in no way a replacement for a nice dinner. She sounds just fine on new single “こどなの階段,” but she’s easily the least essential part of the song. A mere snack.
The production on this track is what really deserves all the attention. To continue this bad metaphor, the main course. “こどなの階段” dabbles in a 100-calorie version of Yasutaka Nakata’s work, less noisy overall but still relying on vaguely “retro” sounds to create a dancey number more interesting than 70 percent of J-Pop today. The big draw are those wispy synths, a few settings away from “Kate Bush” but modified just enough to fit in here. Save for the lack of vocal manipulation…you wouldn’t pour chocolate syrup on those rice cakes, would you?…the verses lean pretty closely to what Nakata does, nice beat complimented by various buzzing touches. It all comes together on the lovely chorus, but the best is yet to come. Late in the song, everything but those delicate synths get turned down, allowing Shiho to sing softly over them. It’s a nice moment of peace in an otherwise busy track, a sign that whoever is behind the boards knows what they are doing.