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

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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

New Japanese Vibes (80) – bonobos ‘Cruisin’ Cruisin’’

A rainbow of colourful musical vibes glimmers in ‘Cruisin’ Cruisin’’, the latest track by five-piece band bonobos from their upcoming album 2323Ku (23 ward, referring to the 23 districts of Tokyo). Although they are regarded as a Japanese dub band, the kaleidoscope of musical colour that dances throughout this track belies their simple band setup. From soul to electronica, samba, folk and many more, bonobos takes strands from a rich array of styles to sew a musical story that is simply gorgeous.

Other Info/Context

  • Bonobos’ new album 23Ku will be released on September 21st.

© Isaku Takahashi

Picks of the Week #12

  • 片想い Kata Omoi – パーティーに殺される! ‘Party Kills Me’

Where gentle blues, jazz and folk vibes meet a NHK educational program-inspired video, パーティーに殺される! ‘Party Kills Me’ by片想い Kata Omoi is a strangely fascinating experience. Taken from their latest album QUIERO V.I.P, the eight-piece band showcases their mellow yet rich ensemble sound – from yearning brass harmonies to a fleeting rap interlude and melancholic vocals sung by a humorous entourage of puppets.

  • EVISBEATS と PUNCH & MIGHTY – 夜風に吹かれて ‘Yokaze ni Fukarete’

A gentle hip-hop breeze flows in 夜風に吹かれて ‘Yokaze ni Fukarete’ (‘Blown by the night breeze’) by EVISBEATS (a.k.a. AMIDA as an MC), featuring fellow hip-hop duo PUNCH & MIGHTY (Michel Punch & Mighty Mars). The Wakayama-based track maker has built a reputation as an emblem of today’s Japanese hip-hop spirit, and this track lives up to his name as he entices a cool, nostalgic ambience with chilled vocoder-filtered melodies, feathery harmonies and a mild rhythmic groove.

Watching the Tokyo 2020 presentation (which incidentally椎名林檎 Shiina Ringo helped produce) at the Rio Olympics Closing Ceremony brought back memories of the Japanese singer-songwriter’s eclectic solo catalogue. ‘NIPPON’ was actually the theme song for the 2014 World Cup, but the track’s anthemic rock vibes driven by voltage-laden guitars and Shiina’s razor-cut vocals rumble an energy that may well hopefully reflect the atmosphere of the Olympic Games in Tokyo four years time. Find out more about Shiina Ringo in my blog post 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 (70) – ぼくのりりっくのぼうよみ Boku no Lyric no Bouyomi ‘Newspeak’

ぼくのりりっくのぼうよみ Boku no Lyric no Bouyomi is back with another seductive hip-hop number ‘Newspeak’, from his latest EP Dystopia. The track spawns an attractive blend of ebbing and flowing rapping, silky melodies, sleek harmonies, pumping beats, and a gorgeous chorus that is enough to grab the musical heartstrings of Japanese soul/hip-hop enthusiasts.

Other Info/Context

  • Boku no Lyric no Bouyomi’s new EP Dystopia will be released on July 20th.

© Isaku Takahashi