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 (127) – AKLO×JAY’ED ‘Different Man’

AKLO and JAY’ED wind the clock back in a vivid homage to the 80s/90s chilled out hip-hop and R&B sound world in ‘Different Man’. Featuring in their first EP as a collaborative act, the track pounds the listener’s eardrums in a seductive sonic ambience with swirling synths orbiting around the stereo field, JAY’ED’s sultry vocals reminiscent of the likes of Chris Brown, AKLO’s bold rapping that offsets the smooth vibes perfectly.

Other Info

  • AKLO×JAY’ED’s new EP Sorry…come back later will be released on September 6th.

© Isaku Takahashi

New Japanese Vibes (116) – Dony Joint ‘One & Only Thing’

I confess that rap music has never been of great appeal for my musical palette (maybe with the exception of SKY-HI at his most verbal and lyrically confrontational). Having said that, there’s a brooding yet soulful spirit that one feels in ‘One & Only Thing’ by Dony Joint, which makes it such an intriguing and soothing listen. The rapping has a slick quality that glides with ease, and the neo-soul colours from the guitars, electric piano and backing vocals coaxes a feel-good atmosphere. A brief reprimand by Gottz (fellow rapper singing ‘Savoy’) changes the sonic gears before winding back into the nostalgic vibes.

Other Info

  • Dony Joint’s new album A 03 Tale, ¥ella will be released on 24th

© Isaku Takahashi

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

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 (98) – DJ OKAWARI ‘Midnight Train feat. Emi Meyer’

With a music video set in a train and what resembles a quiet night in Tokyo, I figured I’d write about DJ OKAWARI’s new song ‘Midnight Train feat. Emi Meyer’ during my commute home under the stars. The Shizuoka-based beat maker provides the perfect beats and melodies for any evening – ambient piano  octaves shine an evocative wintry feel that gently fleets away in the listener’s ears, the drums carry the cool hip-hop motor through the track, and Emi Meyer’s vocals are both rich and mellow in perfect balance.

Other Info

  • DJ OKAWARI’s new album Compass was released on January 11th.
  • Find out more about DJ OKAWARI in my blog post here.

© Isaku Takahashi

New Japanese Vibes (95) – STUTS 夜を使はたして feat. PUNPEE ‘Yoru Wo Tsukaihatashite’

The realms of jazz, soul and hip-hop have faced a revival in the past few years, including in the Japanese music scene. While my appetite for soulful neo-soul and chilled jazz/hip-hop mixes was rejuvenated by the likes of Hiatus Kaiyote and SoundCloud sensation Tom Misch, Japanese beatmakers like STUTS have captured my listening ears with tracks like夜を使はたして ‘Yoru Wo Tsukaihatashite’ (‘Use up the night’). With the help of fellow hip-hop artist PUNPEE, the song struts through the music video’s city nightlife with neon synth colours, seductive beats and harmonies and polished rapping.

Other Info

  • STUTS’ first album Pushin’ (new 2LP version) will be released on February 2nd 2017.

© Isaku Takahashi