Picks of the Week #25

  • WONK – ‘Midnight Cruise’

A comment by another user on YouTube pointed out that random clicks can lead to great discoveries. The moment I clicked and heard ‘Midnight Cruise’ by experimental jazz quartet WONK could not be a more opportune time to agree with the above statement. The track oozes a seductive warmth with its gorgeous fusion of modern hip-hop and soul vibes, sparkling jazz piano colours and rich, immersive harmonies, while picturing a deserted beach with the sun setting in the horizon.

  • Czecho no Republic – ‘MUSIC’

Surfing the indie-pop waves under a dazzling shoegaze sunshine, ‘MUSIC’ by pop-rock quintet Czecho no Republic is a youthful indie number that perfect to blast out on the radio for a bubbly start to a weekend. Personally, this particular track reminds me of Mark Ronson’s brief spell as The Business Intl with its perpetual guitar riffs, turbo-driven harmonies and drums that drive through the never-ending motorway.

My ears do like to be in tune with the odd unapologetic pop number. This time, it is the dynamic energy and sensual personality of Nissy (from pop group AAA) and his song ‘SUGAR’ that reignited my inner party soul. The track has all the ingredients to pierce the hearts of his adoring female fans – it’s punctuating bass line, orchestral hits and jazzy ensemble sounds coax a sultry, burlesque-like vibe that adds the extra dose of allure to Nissy’s seductive and tad flirtatious vocals.

© Isaku Takahashi

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New Japanese Vibes (120) – ハンバートハンバート Humbert Humbert がんばれ兄ちゃん ‘Ganbare Niichan’

Fresh from my recent travels to Prague (and the lack of decent wifi…), I stumbled across a charming number by ハンバートハンバート Humbert Humbert before boarding my flight back. がんばれ兄ちゃん ‘Ganbare Niichan’ (‘Come on Brother’) serenades the ears with its vivid folk and country colours, namely the twanging riffs, gently pulsating rhythms, and the duo’s caramel vocals and honey-toned harmonies.

Other Info

  • Humbert Humbert’s new album Kazoku Koushinkyoku will be released on July 5th.

© Isaku Takahashi

Picks of the Week #24

Distance was my first encounter with J-pop legend宇多田ヒカル Utada Hikaru. 15 years later from the rhythmic and synth-driven vibes of the album, the singer-songwriter returned to the spotlight, plunging into musical and emotional depths like never before in her slow-burning ballad 真夏の通り雨 ‘Manatsu no Tooriame’ (‘Summer Shower’). The sweeping strings, poignant piano and angelic vocals weigh down a reflective and crestfallen air, marking a new leaf in Utada’s musical palette.

  • LAMP IN TERREN – 地球儀 ‘Chikyuugi’

Riding between the sonic waves of 米津玄師 Yonezu Kenshi and BUMP OF CHICKEN, 地球儀 ‘Chikyuugi’ (‘Globe’) by LAMP IN TERREN ignites a display of anthemic rock fireworks fit for the concluding number of any summer festival. Simple yet refreshing, the quartet shines a sparkling mix of voltage-charged guitars, pulsating and clamorous drums, and 松本大 Matsumoto Dai’s herculean vocals that is sure to resonate with the young generation’s listening senses.

  • MONDO GROSSO – ラビリンス ‘Labyrinth’

大沢伸一 Osawa Shinichi, better known as MONDO GROSSO is a name that speaks volume in Japanese electronic music. With the help of 満島ひかり Mitsushima Hikari, the DJ/producer from Tokyo concocts an infectious and dreamy electro house number ラビリンス ‘Labyrinth’. Pounding beats keeps the track on the rhythmic locomotive without any room for musical diversions, while airy piano tones fall like raindrops creating ripples on the sonic lake and Mitsushima’s angelic vocals float above the stereo field with delicate lyricism.

© Isaku Takahashi

Picks of the Week #23

After a week of non-stop sightseeing and tireless walking around the traditional streets and hustle and bustle of Japan, I was craving a day to just chill. While the hotel bed provides the cloud to let my body wind down, Special Favorite Music soothes my ears with their gorgeous mix of indie, soul and funk colours in ‘Ceremony’. From tropical flute riffs to silky violin phrases and flowery vocals, this delightful septet is one to add to your playlist for any time of year. Listen to more Special Favorite Music in my blog post here.

  • The quiet room – ‘Fressy’

High in youthful rock energy, ‘Fressy’ by the quiet room is a welcome tune that calls the summer sunshine to rise. The band’s infectious juvenile personality is set to max from the turbo-charged introduction right through to the euphoric party coda, and their all-round positive pop-rock outlook certainly makes them a popular act in today’s young audience. ‘Fressy’ is the opening track of their new mini album Little City Films.

  • Never young beach – 明るい未来 ‘Akarui Mirai’

From one summery tune to another, 明るい未来 ‘Akarui Mirai’ (‘Bright Future’) by Never young beach oozes with rich retro vibes. Featuring in their second album fam fam, the song opens with a groovy guitar riff and shimmering chords before 安部勇磨 Abe Yuma croons on the microphone with his smoky vocals above rock/pop rhythms and harmonies that may well ride along the motorway by the beach.

© Isaku Takahashi

Picks of the Week #22

  • Iri – ‘Watashi’

It’s been three years since my last trip to Japan, and after the excitement of roaming around the night streets of Shinjuku and Shibuya yesterday, it got me inspired to pick three tunes that glow some great musical vibes along with the neon lights. ‘Watashi’ by Kanagawa-based singer Iri radiates rich electro-pop vibes with its shimmering synth chords and drives through with house and disco energy in the track’s bopping beats and hand claps, making it perfect to amplify the glitter ball atmosphere of the city.

  • ラブリーサマーちゃん Lovely Summer-chan – ‘202 feat. 泉まくら Izumi Makura’

To take things down a notch is ‘202 feat. 泉まくら Izumi Makura’ by ラブリーサマーちゃん Lovely Summer-chan. From her innocent vocals to the rhythm section’s lush harmonies, smooth bass line and groovy guitar riffs, the song oozes soulful warmth that can shine a more reflective neo-soul light in the night stars above the Tokyo skyline.

  • Yahyel – ‘Once’

For an immersive sonic experience, Yahyel is the one to direct your ears towards with tracks like ‘Once’. Meandering through dubstep, synth and dream pop realms, the five-piece band exudes an elusive and serpentine character that sucks the listener’s eardrums into a world of extra-terrestrial gravity with its whirling synth harmonies, heart-pounding drumbeats, seductive vocal colours and effects.

© Isaku Takahashi

Picks of the Week #21

  • DATS – ‘Mobile’

Laden with vintage 90s colours, electro-pop and euro dance beats, ‘Mobile’ by DATS is a refreshing track that can rejuvenate any drained senses in my body. The song surfs the same sonic wavelengths of recent British bands like The 1975 and Disclosure with the quartet’s youthful vocals and the radiant spectrum of synths and beats that penetrate the listener’s eardrums.

  • AAA – ‘Jewel’

While finding hidden gems in the Japanese music scene is important to me, I also enjoy the odd sugar-coated J-pop number, including ‘Jewel’ by the female duo 宇野美彩子 Uno Misako and 伊藤千晃 Ito Chiaki from AAA. This infectious electro-pop tune filled with chic synth colours, seductive vocoder-shaded vocals and bouncing beats features in their latest album WAY OF GLORY, and marks the final chapter of Ito’s journey with AAA as she leaves at the end of March after announcing her pregnancy. Listen to more AAA in my blog posts here.

New York City’ by Tempalay is an absorbing and hypnotic number that may well put listeners in a blissful trance. From the opening perpetual chords to the spellbinding sonic colours that meander throughout the stereo field in serpentine fashion, the band’s signature psychedelic-rock personality comes to full bloom in this beguiling track. ‘New York City’ features in their latest EP 5曲 Gokyoku (‘Five Tracks’). Listen and find out more about Tempalay in my blog posts here.

© Isaku Takahashi

Picks of the Week #20

  • The Wisely Brothers – 鉄道 ‘Tetsudou’

One has to admire bands that can turn ideas that are seemingly repetitive into a song that is tranquil and sumptuous, like 鉄道 ‘Tetsudou’ (‘Railway’) by indie-rock trio The Wisely Brothers. A sedate electric guitar ambles along a single note before Madachi Haruko dips into the mix with her honey-toned vocals. The band gradually spurs the song to a euphoric peak, only to dwindle down to a cosy ‘weekend coffee’ vibe.

  • カノエラナ Kano Erana – トーキョー ‘Tokyo’

Bubbly and vibrant – two of many adjectives that encapsulate カノエラナ Kano Erana’s lively number トーキョー ‘Tokyo’. The Saga-born singer sparks a dazzling fiesta of J-pop/rock fireworks, full of bouncing rhythms, gleeful vocals and a jamboree of brass. While much of the song gallops through a carnival pop atmosphere, Kano takes a brief and quirky detour with some unapologetic rapping before driving back on the country rock highway.

  • YOUR ROMANCE – ‘RUN’

In collaboration with indie-rock band PAELLAS, RUN’ is one of three tracks YOUR ROMANCE contributed to their split EP lute. The synth pop/rock quartet rides a surfboard of voltage-driven guitars and propelling drums, while they also indulge in a seabed of radiant synths and electric organ-like harmonies. The band’s sultry vocals add another zany dimension to the track, making this a worthy addition to my never-ending playlist of indie gems.

  • Sasakure. UK – ネジ巻き師と太虚鳥 feat. Lasah ‘Nejimakishi to Taikyotori’

The sonic universe and hypnotic sensations one hears and feels from Sasakure.UK’s track ネジ巻き師と太虚鳥 feat. Lasah ‘Nejimakishi to Taikyotori feat. Lasah’ is like no other artist or song in Japanese electronic music. Skittering drum patterns drive the rhythmic, drum ‘n’ bass-like propulsion of the track, and a galaxy of textures, colours and instruments orbit around the listener’s senses like oblique, celestial beings.

© Isaku Takahashi