New Japanese Vibes (119) – Sunny Day Service 青い戦車 ‘Aoi Sensha’

Enter the hypnotic and infectious sound world of 青い戦車 ‘Aoi Sensha’ (‘Blue Tank’) by Sunny Day Service. Featuring in their new album Popcorn Ballads, the alt-rock trio celebrate 25 years in the Japanese indie family in chic style -topped with a dreamy and nostalgic 90s coat, winding synths swim gauzily in the chorus, funk-infused guitars coaxes the listener’s senses to bop in the beat, and 曽我部恵一 Sokabe Keiichi’s languid yet alluring vocals struts a dapper look on the musical catwalk before the track comes crashing down at the very end with total sonic chaos.

Other Info

  • Sunny Day Service’s new album Popcorn Ballads was released on June 2nd.

© Isaku Takahashi

New Japanese Vibes (112) – DADARAY 美しい仕打ち ‘Utsukushii Shiuchi’

Halcyon pop and funk vibes radiate throughout DADARAY’s track美しい仕打ち ‘Utsukushii Shiuchi’ (‘Beautiful Treatment’). Featuring bassist 休日課長 Kyujitsu Kachou (from ゲスの極み乙女 Gesu no Kiwami Otome), the trio strut their musical magic on the catwalk with swanky and soulful licks on the electric piano, groovy bass lines and rhythms, rich vocal textures and sumptuous harmonies. With a trip to Japan coming up in a few days time, I hope to add this to my growing playlist of musical goodness.

Other Info

  • DADARAY’s first mini album DADAISM will be released on April 5th.

New Japanese Vibes (99) – SKY-HI アドベンチャー ‘Adventure’ 

SKY-HI cranks up the ‘cool’ カッコイイ ‘kakkoi’ meter up with his new tune アドベンチャー ‘Adventure’. From the opening punchy slap bass, Hidaka Mitsuhiro (real name of SKY-HI) and his musical entourage radiates a rainbow of vibrant brass colours and bubbly vocals. But it’s more than just a rich mix of nimble-footed rapping and funk vibes – SKY-HI also conveys a life-affirming message: “don’t turn your eyes away from negativity – take it, embrace it and move forward”. The sincerity that dances along with the track’s lively beat and melodies makes SKY-HI more than just a hip-hop/rap artist who simply aims for the top of the charts. He speaks closely to his fans and listeners with meaningful words and resonates a buzz that transcends a global audience.

Other Info

  • SKY-HI’s new album OLIVE will be released on January 18th.
  • Find out more about SKY-HI in my blog post here.

© Isaku Takahashi

New Japanese Vibes (86) – Caro kissa メリーゴーラウンド ‘Merry-Go-Round’

A nostalgic and gentle 80s vibe shimmers in Caro kissa’s new track メリーゴーラウンド ‘Merry-Go-Round’. Evoking the breezy sound world of ‘city-pop’ (a term or ‘mood’ genre used to describe the growing trend and popularity of Western popular music in Japan in the 80s), the Osaka-based duo’s craving for musical indulgence is conveyed to great effect in the track’s beautiful mélange of smooth jazz, soul, fusion and funk colours.

Other Info/Context

  • Caro kissa’s new mini album LaLa Luna Park will be released on October 30th.
  • Listen to another track by Caro kissa here.

© Isaku Takahashi

Picks of the Week #9

  • おとぎ話 Otogibanashi セレナーデ ‘Serenade’

セレナーデ ‘Serenade’ by four-piece alt-rock band おとぎ話 Otogibanashi is the perfect soundtrack for the dazzling summer weather that has finally arrived this week. The track is full of feel-good sounds that take you under the glaring sun and bright blue skies (get your sunglasses ready!) – jangling guitars, velvety harmonies and romantic vocal melodies evoke the nostalgic British sound world of 60s Merseybeat.

  • SKY-HI – ナナイロホリデー ‘Nanairo Holiday’

From one summery tune to another – SKY-HI (Hidaka Mitsuhiro) is back with a new disco/hip-hop number ナナイロホリデー ‘Nanairo Holiday’ (‘Seven Colour Holiday’). Bringing back the uptempo vibes of previous hits like スマイルドロップ Smile Drop and 愛ブルーム Ai Bloom, vintage-coloured harmonies, jangling guitars and SKY-HI’s seductive vocals entice a zestful ambience that gets listeners up on their feet. Stuttering beats in the bridge add a tinge of hip-hop edginess before the song plunges back into the guitar funk ocean.

  • yonige – センチメンタルシスター ‘Sentimental Sister’

All-female rock bands have always had a strong presence in the Japanese music scene, and for good reason. センチメンタルシスター ‘Sentimental Sister’ by yonige oozes with indie rock dynamism from its driving guitars and drums, but also trickles a tinge of wistfulness and melodious charm with牛丸ありさ Ushimaru Arisa’s rich and velvety vocals. This track features in their new mini album かたつむりになりたい I Want To Be A Snail.

© Isaku Takahashi

New Japanese Vibes (64) – LUCKY TAPES ‘TONIGHT!’

As the summer slowly approaches for some (maybe not in the UK), LUCKY TAPES brings some rays of musical sunshine with their new up-tempo tune ‘TONIGHT!’. Five months since they released their other new track ‘MOON’, the quartet announced a new album coming soon next month. ‘TONIGHT!’ sees them let their funk and soul personality loose with luxurious harmonies, carnival brass phrases, sumptuous strings, a vintage-laden rhythm section and melodious vocals.

Other Info/Context

  • LUCKY TAPES’ new album Cigarette & Alcohol will be released on July 6th.
  • Find out more about LUCKY TAPES in my blog post here. 

© Isaku Takahashi

LUCKY TAPES

Soul and funk music in Japan hasn’t been picked up that much in my blog, until another session surfing the Internet led me to the discovery of indie/soul pop band Lucky Tapes, led by Kai Takahashi.

The music of Lucky Tapes cannot get more seductive than ‘Moon’. This is one of their most recent tracks, comforting the listener with a soft and mellow groove rich in tranquil electric piano textures, jazzy riffs and smooth beats. Some elements of a Jamie Woon-esque neo-soul vibe ripple through the first half, until a sumptuous instrumental and final chorus section full of opulent string harmonies, bright brass piston chords and gorgeous harmonic progressions, bringing traces of the golden era of soul and motown sounds. If one thought the song wasn’t finished, a Santana-­like electric guitar solo raises the roof for the final time.

On the other hand, ‘Touch!’ is a much more buoyant affair. Groovy bass lines and drum rhythms, jazzy piano and brass hooks, jangling guitar strums, and ample syncopation lend a vibrant funk and pop sensation reminiscent of icons such as Jackson 5. Also, instead of unleashing an energetic vocal power, Lucky Tapes offsets this with a dainty falsetto unison vocal line, giving freshness and gently alluring the listeners to groove along with the band.

For anyone curating a soundtrack perfect for the late weekend morning, ‘In Paris’ is worth including in your playlist. This track wanders through a cool and sweet contemporary vibe, knitting together hip-hop, neo-soul and funk ideas with plenty of glistening electric piano and synth licks, a vivid electric guitar solo, a funky bass line, gentle yet seductive drumbeat and the silky, feathery vocals that soothe on the listener’s palette.

The rich musical ideas and soulful sound world of Lucky Tapes is worthy of attracting more excitement and interest from the Japanese audience, and perhaps they are essential for inspiring others to embrace the wonderful world of jazz, soul and funk in the country.

Other Listening:

  • Peace and Magic
  • Friday Night
  • Gun

© Isaku Takahashi