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


New Japanese Vibes (107) – 白線生活 Hakusen Seikatsu 漂流生活 ‘Hyouryu Seikatsu’

漂流生活 ‘Hyouryu Seikatsu’ (‘Drift Life’) by Kyoto-based shoegazers 白線生活 Hakusen Seikatsu shimmers a sound world oozing with nostalgia. The river of tranquil guitar riffs, beautifully twanging tones and the band’s hazy glossolalia-like vocals is strongly reminiscent of the evocative minimalist-rock of Sigur Ros and dream-pop icons Cocteau Twins. Yet there’s something more as well – for me, the track seems to conjure a sonic universe that vividly pictures a blissful aurora-like landscape, bringing nature and music in harmony with each other.

New Japanese Vibes (91) – Balloon at dawn ‘Our Blue’

A vivid and sumptuous dream-pop/synth-pop rainbow gleams in my senses as I let my ears indulge in Osaka-based trio Balloon at dawn’s new track ‘Our Blue’. Often dream-pop and chillwave tunes have the tendency to wallow listeners in a sedative sonic experience – ‘Our Blue’ on the hand surfs the vibrant waves of synth-pop with an array of celestial synth colours while revelling in clamorous drums, shimmering guitars and 井口聖也 Iguchi Seiya’s blissful vocals.

Other Info/Context

  • Balloon at dawn’s new EP Our finder will be released on December 21st.

© Isaku Takahashi

New Japanese Vibes (89) – For Tracy Hyde ‘Favourite Blue’

My recent trip to Paris was a tale of new and nostalgic experiences – from watching tennis at Bercy to roaming around the streets of Paris, walking across the River Seine and embracing the wonderful Parisian cultural life. Perhaps this juxtaposition of ‘new’ and ‘nostalgic’ carries through in ‘Favourite Blue’, a new track by Tokyo-based indie-pop quintet For Tracy Hyde from their new album Film Bleu. Laden with shimmering guitars and airy synths, the song evokes a hazy yet turbo-charged dream pop/shoegaze vibe that is both evocative and fresh in equal measure.

Other Info/Context

  • For Tracy Hyde’s first album Film Bleu will be released on December 2nd.

© Isaku Takahashi

Picks of the Week #15

  • Nulbarich – ‘NEW ERA’

Jazz, soul, funk etc. have somewhat been a minority on my blog compared to other genres. That’s until I discovered five-piece band Nulbarich and their track ‘NEW ERA’, from their first album Guess Who? Right from first listen, the quintet cocoons the listener’s senses in a sumptuous, feel-good atmosphere with groovy riffs, rich harmonies, rocking beats and lead singer JQ’s charming vocals.

  • The fin. – ‘Night Time’

I first discovered Kobe-based band The fin. courtesy of an article by Aoki Ryotaro on The Japan Times. Since then, their ethereal mix of dreamy retro pop/rock and electronic colours in tracks like ‘Night Time’ has tingled my sensations for Japanese indie rock. A palpable British rock sound permeates their music, with hazy colours, dreamy harmonies and riffs, and enchanting melodies bringing back traces of 80s/90s bands like Cocteau Twins.

  • Gotch – ‘The Sun Is Not Down’

Gotch (後藤正文 Gotou Masafumi) , lead vocalist in J-rock band Asian Kung-Fu Generation showcases his talent away from the voltage-driven stage of his band in his mellow number ‘The Sun Is Not Down’. Laden with shimmering guitar colours and floating harmonies, the Shizuoka-born vocalist and guitarist carries the listener gently through a wistful indie rock ambience.

  • サカナクション Sakanaction – 多分、風 ‘Tabun, Kaze’

It was immeasurably exciting to hear the sparkling new-wave sounds of サカナクション Sakanaction back on the new music motorway, and they certainly don’t wane in creative energy as my senses dance away in their new track多分、 風 ‘Tabun, Kaze’ (‘Maybe, Wind’). An adrenaline rush of pulsating beats, radiant synths and sparkling melodies fan the flames of a burst of musical euphoria. Find out more about Sakanaction here, and listen to more of their tracks here.

© Isaku Takahashi

New Japanese Vibes (81) – The OXs ‘Candy of Youth’

Make way for the latest shoegaze/dream pop enthusiasts to launch their debut in the Dead Funny Records record label – Tokyo-based band The OXs. From the outset of their debut track ‘Candy of Youth’, the quartet drives through with brisk rhythmic energy, but also submerges the stereo field in a wash of dreamy harmonies, wailing synths, hypnotic guitar riffs and nostalgic musical richness. If the other tracks from their debut EP Candy of Youth is as impressive as this one, then they are surely ones to keep a watchful eye on in the future of shoegaze and dream pop in Japan.

Other Info/Context

  • The OXs’ debut EP Candy of Youth will be released on October 12th.
  • Find out more on Dead Funny Records here.

© Isaku Takahashi

New Japanese Vibes (44) – Boys Age ‘Round and Round’ / ‘Rule of Rose’

A month since discovering Saitama duo Boys Age, their new tracks ‘Round and Round’ and ‘Rule of Rose’ has caught my eyes and ears, and grabbed the attention of underground indie enthusiasts.

Both tracks shroud clouds of mystery in the listener’s audible senses, brewed slowly by a mellow and tranquil blend of jangling guitar chords, sporadic chromatic colours and the crooning and growling vocal utterances of Kaz. Along with a shadowy and abstract black-and-white visual narrative, Boys Age manage to create music that is disturbingly seductive.

Other Info/Context

  • Boys Age’s new album TOWA will be released later in April.

© Isaku Takahashi