New Japanese Vibes (124) – Poor Vacation ‘F/E/E/L/S’ [EP]

While perfecting a particular track gig after gig and day in and day out may be satisfying for some, Poor Vacation has their own way of living life in the music scene. The six-piece band’s new EP F/E/E/L/S is an incarnation of their efforts to refashion their headline track ロンググッドバイ ‘Long Goodbye’. The latest version rides the waves of 80s city pop, yet still retains the tropical summer vibrancy of their previous takes and resonates the contemporary band sound of today. While we can indulge in ‘Long Goodbye’ as a weekend soundtrack, one must also not forget about the title track ‘Feels’, an infectious retro, synth-pop number that dances on the chequered disco floor and above the glistening mirror ball.

Other Info

  • Poor Vacation’s new EP F/E/E/L/S was released on July 20th.

© Isaku Takahashi

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Picks of the Week #11

  • South Penguin – ‘Alaska’

A new comet has arrived in the Japanese indie galaxy. Four-piece band South Penguin made their debut this July with their EP Alaska. Their title track ‘Alaska’ coaxes a hazy psychedelic/new wave sound world filled with winding guitar colours, pulsing drums and mellow vocals. A fleeting clamorous spell interferes the indulgent flow of the track, but all in an attempt to enrich the nostalgic vibes of South Penguin’s music.

  • ふくろうず Fukurouzu – うららのLa ‘Urara no La’

Laden with melancholy and floating sensations, うららのLa ‘Urara no La’ is a gorgeous number by J-pop trio ふくろうず Fukurouzu to fit into your summer soundtrack. Featuring in their latest album だって、あたしたちエバーグリーン Datte, Atashitachi Evergreen (‘Because, We Are Evergreen’), this track cocoons the listener’s senses in a beautiful mélange of heartwarming vocals and tranquil guitar harmonies while driving through the motorway with pulsating drums and fiery guitar solos.

  • Sugar’s Campaign – ホリデイ ‘Holiday’

Prepare to be let loose in a classic yet refreshing 80s/90s disco synth-pop universe with ホリデイ ‘Holiday’, a groovy number by Sugar’s Campaign from their debut album FRIENDS. Born from the vibrant souls of Avec Avec and Seiho, the duo coaxes a tingling dance sensation with luminescent synths, soulful vocals and a rhythmically infectious current, and is sure to bring their listeners with them to their discotheque.

© Isaku Takahashi

Picks of the Week #6

  • Awesome City Club – ‘Don’t Think, Feel’

Illuminated by the colourful cosmopolitan life of Japan, Awesome City Club released their new track ‘Don’t Think, Feel’ in collaboration with global chain GAP. The song tugs the listener’s senses to dance along to the refreshing disco vibes, filled with dazzling strings, an array of jangling guitars, foot-tapping bass and drum lines, and led by atagi’s seductive vocals.

  • Taiko Super Kicks – 釘が抜けたなら ‘Kugi ga Nuketa nara’

Taiko Super Kicks are equally captivating live as they are on record. 釘が抜けたなら ‘Kugi ga Nuketa nara’ (‘If the nail has fallen out’) is one of many tracks featured in their latest album Many Shapes released last December. Also featuring extra vocals and guitar from singer-songwriter may.e, the Tokyo-based four-piece beautifully strolls through the song’s wistful melodies, evocative guitar riffs and vivid psychedelic rock ambience.

  • Super Ganbari Goal Keepers – プログレッシブな愛 ‘Progressive Love’

Super Ganbari Goal Keepers takes listeners back a few decades with their nostalgic track プログレッシブな愛 ‘Progressive na Ai’ (‘Progressive Love’). Based in Tokyo, the four-piece rock band recalls the vivid sounds of 60s surf rock with twangy guitars, up-tempo rhythms and tuneful riffs and vocal melodies driving through the musical motorway.

© Isaku Takahashi

 

New Japanese Vibes (52) – Frasco ‘Dance’

Frasco’s new tune ‘Dance’ glows in its seductive production, blending the mainstream appeal of city pop, the futuristic imaginations of electro pop/house styles and the nostalgic vibes of soul and disco. It is sure to allure the listener’s senses in a magical sonic world filled with a groovy bass line, an array of dazzling synth leads and pads, sweet harmonies and feathery female vocals adding to the track’s delicate nature.

 

© Isaku Takahashi

パスピエ – Passepied

The conceptual background that lies beneath synth-pop band パスピエ Passepied is perhaps the key to their success. With a band name that refers to the final movement of Debussy’s Suite Bergamasque, the all-female five piece blends the musical aesthetics of impressionism and the retro but modern grooves of synth-pop/new wave/electro-pop to mould an entrancing sound world unmatched by peers.

Passepied plunged into the music scene with tracks like フィーバー ‘Fever’ from their debut album 演出家出演 Enshutsuka Shutsuen (‘Director who appeared’). Although one may argue that this is one of their modest numbers in terms of sonic interest, there is plenty to engage the listener’s audible senses. A quirky, exotic melody from the laser-coloured synths gets the motor going alongside an energetic rhythm section. The undeniably infectious marmite-quality of 大胡田なつき Ogoda Natsuki takes the driver’s seat for the greater part of the song, particularly the colourful chorus enriched by a wacky harmonic progression that exudes a slightly narcotic effect. (Perhaps the tonal ambiguity captures their interest for impressionist ideas).

Passepied’s sound has progressed dramatically from their debut. Attuned to the likes of Sakanaction, ‘MATATABISTEP’ glorifies in an unashamedly retro sonic universe. From beaming synth oscillations, rich harmonies, the rhythmic kick from the guitar, bass and drums, and the nostalgic-sounding melody from Ogoda’s sugar-coated voice, this track absorbs the colouristic qualities of 70s disco and new wave and radiates a sparkling and seductive musical explosion.

Equally enticing is the multi-coloured effects oozing out of とおりゃんせ ‘Toryanse’, named after the traditional Japanese nursery song. Delay-filtered guitar chords, a celeste-like hook, a ticking clock pulse and woozy synth harmonies cast a magical sonic cosmos until the incredibly kitsch vocal melody (infused with Japanese melodic inflections) and the rich rhythm section (that includes guitars, organ and drums) elevates the song’s catchy personality.

With an overriding interest towards impressionism, Passepied has built a strong relationship between the syrupy character of cutesy pop and the varicoloured overtones of synth, new wave and electronic styles to produce an inventory of fetching tunes.

Other Listening:

  • S.S
  • 裏の裏 Ura no Ura
  • トロイメライ Toroimerai

© Isaku Takahashi

New Japanese Vibes (15) – Special Favorite Music ‘Dribble’

Songs that burst “a flurry of warmth in the cold, bitter winter” seems to be a recurring theme in some of my recent posts. The same applies to the 9-piece ensemble Special Favorite Music’s new groovy number ‘Dribble’.

Building slight tension with EQ sweeps filtering the main groove, the song gently launches into a chilled and friendly soul/disco vibe with charming harmonies from the electric piano, bright guitar hooks, solid bass and drum foundations and the occasional elegant violin licks and funky piston actions from the trumpet and saxophone that exude a Curtis Mayfield-like quality. The colourful backdrop works well with the honey-toned vocals of Kume Yusuke and Lovin’ You, resembling the sweet vocal qualities of British duo Oh Wonder. The celestial synth in the latter half infuses a smooth atmospheric impression, preparing the listener for the final euphoric chorus that submerges the audible space in seductive disco sensations and soul/jazz sonorities.

Other Info/Context

  • Dribble’ will be released on December 16th.

© Isaku Takahashi