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

Advertisements

New Japanese Vibes (115) – little moa ‘Trampoline’ [Album]

Cute, heavenly and pulsating in equilibrium, little moa preview their slick new album ‘Trampoline’. Alongside tracks like ‘Stereo’ and ‘Lemonade’, which permeate the stereo field with tripping beats and radiant synths, an innocent musical spirit also shines within the album in the form of Sigur Ros-like rippling piano chords, transparent textures and sonic tranquility in ‘Outerstellar’, ‘46610’ and ‘Airport’. If a glimpse into their new music already takes me into sonic bliss, then one would love to imagine where my listening senses will be transported to when immersing myself in their seductive sound world.

Other Info

  • Little Moa’s new album Trampoline will be released on May 31st.

© 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

New Japanese Vibes (93) – Cuicks ‘blink,blink,blink,blink’

The past is a playing ground for the future – perhaps this is an inescapable idea that has lingered throughout the diverse pop world. ‘blink,blink,blink,blink’ by ambient-pop duo Cuicks is a potent reflection of this concept. Laden with hazy shoegaze colours, seductive electro-pop beats and ambient mystery, this track injects the listener’s eardrums with a sonic tranquiliser and entrances the mind in a woozy yet blissful cosmos.

Other Info/Context

  • Cuicks’ new album warp will be released on December 14th.

Picks of the Week #13

  • Miyuu – ‘Southern Waves’

Reminiscent of the honey-toned personality of YUI, Osaka-based singer-songwriter Miyuu makes her major debut with ‘Southern Waves’. A warm guitar-pop vibe shimmers after every harmony and strum on the guitar, tinged with a hazy ambience from Miyuu’s delicate vocals. From those days playing covers of Maroon 5 and Bruno Mars at temples and shrines around Kyoto, Miyuu has paved the way for what is surely a bright future ahead of her.

  • Fumika – アオイトリ ‘Aoi Tori’

Recently, 久保帯人 Kubo Tite said his farewells with the end of his popular manga series ブリーチ Bleach. アオイトリ ‘Aoi Tori’ (‘Blue Bird’) by J-pop singer Fumika is a throwback to the days I enjoyed watching (& reading the manga) the anime of Bleach. (For the avid fans, you will recognise the series of episodes this track was used as the closing theme song). Anime can often open people into a world of musical wonders, and ‘Aoi Tori’ is one of many songs I have had the pleasure to uncover.

  • サカナクション Sakanaction – ワード ‘Word’

There is just something about サカナクション Sakanaction’s music that draws many listener’s senses into a unique musical atmosphere within a blink of an eye. ワード ‘Word’ is no different. Its infectious rock motor married with a dazzling kaleidoscope of electro-pop colours stimulates every rhythmic muscle of the listener to get in sync with the track. Find out more about Sakanaction in my blog post here, and hear another track by them here.

© Isaku Takahashi

New Japanese Vibes (73) – Frasco ‘Saturday’

It’s a regular Saturday weekend, and I stumble on a new track that has the perfect vibes (and title) to liven up the day. ‘Saturday’ by ‘meta-pop’ project Frasco (タカノシンヤ Takano Shinya and 峰らる Mine Raru) coaxes an infectious ambience with its vibrant mix of groovy guitars, head-bopping rhythms, tropical synth colours and Mine’s feathery and charming vocals.

Other Info/Context

  • The guitar is played by けにち Kenichi and the track mixed by suppa micro pamchopp.
  • Listen to another song by Frasco in my blog post here.

© Isaku Takahashi