Picks of the Week #29

  • VIDEOTAPEMUSIC – ‘Fiction Romance’

The avid traveller I am, I always picture geographic landscapes when listening to music that is naturally evocative of a distant city or terrain. VIDEOTAPEMUSIC transports one’s senses to an environment surrounded by palm trees, sand and beach with their song ‘Fiction Romance’, a throwback Jamaican-inspired tune served sunny-side up that both juggles the body in rhythmic sync and lays down a towel on the sand for the listener to indulge in its colourful melange of saxes, trumpets and tuned percussion.

Fiction Romance’ features in their album ON THE AIR. Find out more about VIDEOTAPEMUSIC on their website.

  • Alfred Beach Sandal + STUTS – ‘Horizon’

In a collaboration between solo act Alfread Beach Sandal (北里彰久 Kitasato Akihisa) and producer STUTS, ‘Horizon’ is a sensual collage of rock, latin and R&B vibes that is mellow and urban-cool in equal measure. Throughout the track, one can open their ears to a sumptuous sound world that is harmonically and sonically amicable yet at times elusive, but at the same time, one cannot help but bop along to the punctuating beats and grooving bass.

Horizon’ features in their album ABS+STUTS. Find out more about Alfread Beach Sandal here and STUTS here.

  • Ghost like girlfriend – ‘fallin’

For something a bit more urbanesque, ‘fallin’ by Ghost like girlfriend is the perfect track to play through your earphones while soaking in the cosmopolitan sights and neon lights of Tokyo. The song shines in its opulent electronic production, centred around a pulsating and soulful pop vibe, while spinning around a colourful mix of synths, melodic melancholy and refined, intimate vocals in orbit.

‘fallin’ features in their mini album WEAKNESS. Find out more about Ghost like girlfriend on their website.

© Isaku Takahashi

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New Japanese Vibes (145) – tofubeats ふめつのこころ ‘Fumetsu no Kokoro’

A week off in Rotterdam gave me the space to recharge my batteries, and also be inspired by the cool, modern vibes of the Dutch city. Now back in my hunt for new tunes to come out of Japan, tofubeats returned to my gaze with his new track ふめつのこころ ‘Fumetsu no Kokoro’ (‘Immortal Heart’). The great appeal about Kawai Yusuke’s music and this track is the way it achieves harmony with such a spectrum of musical ideas – its radio-friendly melodies inflected with oriental colours, woozy synths and vocals, its genre-bending style and blissful dance vibe makes this song universally loved by Japanese listeners.

Other Info

  • Fumetsu no Kokoro’ was digitally released on February 16th, and is available to download here.
  • Find out more about tofubeats in my blog post here.

New Japanese Vibes (144) – SEKAI NO OWARI サザンカ ‘Sazanka’

In Japanese floriography (more commonly known as 花言葉 Hanakotoba), the 山茶花 Sazanka means ‘overcoming hardship’. This is the inspiration behind SEKAI NO OWARI’s new song ‘Sazanka’.

Written especially as the NHK broadcast theme song for the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, the song speaks a simple yet powerful message for people chasing their own dreams and ambitions and resonates it with an anthemic ballad that gradually grows from a sparkling and serene opening with the electric piano to a grand and glorifying orchestral peak filled with glittering harp glissandos and belting trumpet riffs. I find a measure of a great song is how far the message touches people’s emotions – whether an athlete is chasing for an Olympic gold medal, or a student is studying hard towards their university entrance exam, ‘Sazanka’ is a song that relates to anyone around the world.

Other Info

  • SEKAI NO OWARI’s new single ‘Sazanka’ is available to download on their website.
  • Find out more about SEKAI NO OWARI on my blog post here.

© Isaku Takahashi

Picks of the Week #28

  • POP ART TOWN – ノンフィクション ‘Non-Fiction’

For a tune that oozes energy and positive vibes, ノンフィクション ‘Non-Fiction’ by Osaka-based quartet POP ART TOWN is one to add on your playlist. The band say that this song is “the perfect spell for when your heart and body feel separated and you want to take a breather”, but one also thinks the track tugs at the listener’s celebratory senses and rhythmic muscles with its heart-pounding beats, なるおさやか Naruo Sayaka’s vocal purity and an unapologetically ‘pop’ spark.

Non-Fiction’ features in their latest mini album Variety. Find out more about POP ART TOWN on their website.

  • Yellow Studs – ブーツ ‘Boots’

For a refreshing throwback to the golden ages of rock, jazz (perhaps even cabaret), tune your ears to ブーツ ‘Boots‘ by rock five-piece Yello Studs. Led by 野村太一 Nomura Taichi’s seductively hoarse vocals, the track will take you on a trip to the urban underground and entertain you with a sultry mix of voltage-laden riffs and solos, pulsating rhythms, infectious melodies and a frisky party atmosphere.

‘201’ features in their EP GRAB. Find out more about the twenties on their website.

  • the twenties – ‘201’

The cool rock energy of ‘201′ by the twenties resonates both an innovative and familiar sound world, where psychedelic colours meet the millennium-launching rock sound. Formed in the Kyushu region of Japan, the quartet bring the max out of their vocal and instrumental range in this track with its stratospheric vocals and guitars, booming bass line and clamorous drums that all shake the sonic tectonic plates. A particular hats off to ウルマヒロユキ Uruma Hiroyuki for enticing riffs and colours that pierce the sonic spectrum.

201′ features in their latest album GLIMMER. Find out more about the twenties on their website.

 

© Isaku Takahashi

New Japanese Vibes (137) – katyusha ‘I Like Me’

Katyusha, also known as えつこ Etsuko from pop trio DADARAY embarks on her solo project with ‘I Like Me’, the headline track from her new album of the same title. She proved to be a key name in the development of the handful of bands 川谷絵音 Kawatani Enon gave birth to, and while her solo music strays away from the relentless rhythmic propulsion of indigo la end or ゲスの極み乙女 Gesu No Kiwami Otome, ‘I Like Me’ radiates a feel-good vibe with its vibrant vocal harmonies, bubbly rhythm section and katyusha’s belting and tender voice.

Other Info

  • Katyusha’s new album I Like Me was released on November 22nd.
  • Listen to DADARAY on my blog post here.
  • Find out more about indigo la end and Gesu No Kiwami Otome here.

© Isaku Takahashi

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

New Japanese Vibes (126) – DAOKO x 米津玄師 Yonezu Kenshi 打上花火 ‘Uchiage Hanabi’

It’s not often that simply seeing the names of two artists sat by each other instantly grabs my attention. The chemistry between DAOKOand米津玄師Yonezu Kenshi vividly resonates in their blissful new track打上花火 ‘Uchiage Hanabi’ (‘Rocket Firework’), and provides the perfect musical showstopper for the upcoming anime film 打ち上げ花火、下から見るか?横から見るか?Uchiage Hanabi, Shita kara miruka? Yoko kara miruka?. After a poignant piano riff introduces the song, a galaxy of anthemic richness shines especially in the chorus, where symphonic strings and pounding drums echo towards the horizon, coupled with DAOKO’s honey-toned melodies and Yonezu’s vocal power.

Other Info

  • Uchiage Hanabi’ will be released on August 16th.
  • The film Uchiage Hanabi, Shita kara miruka? Yoko kara miruka? will be released in Japanese cinemas on August 18th.
  • Find out more about DAOKO. 
  • Find out more about Yonezu Kenshi.

© Isaku Takahashi