New Japanese Vibes (100) – 阿佐ヶ谷ロマンティックス Asagaya Romantics 所縁 ‘Shoen’

Oozing with soulful and romantic vibes, five-piece band 阿佐ヶ谷ロマンティックス Asagaya Romantics glows a musical sunset picture in their new track所縁 ‘Shoen’ (‘Connection’) from their new album 街の色 Machi No Iro (‘The Colour of the Street). The song taps into the retro sound world of ‘city-pop’ with a rich array of silky harmonies, breezy electric piano colours, an unwinding sax solo and 有坂朋恵 Arisaka Tomoe’s charming and lovable vocals slightly reminiscent of AIKO. If you ever feel the need to wind down in your living room one evening, then decorate the space with some smooth jazz and laid-back pop.

Other Info

  • Asagaya Romantics’ new album Machi No Iro will be released on January 25th.

© Isaku Takahashi

Picks of the Week #17

Kicking off 2017 with an anthemic number by J-rock group BUMP OF CHICKEN. GO’ from their 8th album Butterflies glides through the musical stratosphere with sparkling energy and purity in equal measure. The sumptuous mix of euphoric vocal melodies, jangling guitar riffs, radiant EDM synths and resonant stadium-rock vibe awakens a Coldplay-like character and shines their distinct alt-rock personality to full bloom, just as the Japanese audience like it. Find out more about BUMP OF CHICKEN in my blog post here.

  • 星野源 Hoshino Gen – 恋 ‘Koi’

Arguably one of the biggest hits by singer-songwriter星野源 Hoshino Gen, 恋 ‘Koi’ (‘Love’) excited the nation last year with its buoyant, retro-coloured J-pop vibes and infectious choreography. The song’s foot-tapping beats, sumptuous strings, caffeine-infused guitar riffs and Hoshino’s joyful vocals provided the perfect companion for the TV adaptation of the romance shojo manga series 逃げるは恥だが役に立つ Nigeru wa Haji da ga Yaku ni Tatsu.

The rhythmic propulsion of rock and minimalism collides with the melodic intricacy of jazz in Fox Capture Plan’s new track ‘Acceleration’. Relentless drum and bass lines and perpetual piano riffs drive through the musical motorway at unstoppable pace, but the trio also experiments with hypnotic sample and timbral effects to immerse the listener in both familiar and different sonic realms. This track features in their latest mini album color and monochrome 2, in collaboration with fellow jazz group bohemianvoodoo. Find out more about Fox Capture Plan 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

Picks of the Week #15

  • Nulbarich – ‘NEW ERA’

Jazz, soul, funk etc. have somewhat been a minority on my blog compared to other genres. That’s until I discovered five-piece band Nulbarich and their track ‘NEW ERA’, from their first album Guess Who? Right from first listen, the quintet cocoons the listener’s senses in a sumptuous, feel-good atmosphere with groovy riffs, rich harmonies, rocking beats and lead singer JQ’s charming vocals.

  • The fin. – ‘Night Time’

I first discovered Kobe-based band The fin. courtesy of an article by Aoki Ryotaro on The Japan Times. Since then, their ethereal mix of dreamy retro pop/rock and electronic colours in tracks like ‘Night Time’ has tingled my sensations for Japanese indie rock. A palpable British rock sound permeates their music, with hazy colours, dreamy harmonies and riffs, and enchanting melodies bringing back traces of 80s/90s bands like Cocteau Twins.

  • Gotch – ‘The Sun Is Not Down’

Gotch (後藤正文 Gotou Masafumi) , lead vocalist in J-rock band Asian Kung-Fu Generation showcases his talent away from the voltage-driven stage of his band in his mellow number ‘The Sun Is Not Down’. Laden with shimmering guitar colours and floating harmonies, the Shizuoka-born vocalist and guitarist carries the listener gently through a wistful indie rock ambience.

  • サカナクション Sakanaction – 多分、風 ‘Tabun, Kaze’

It was immeasurably exciting to hear the sparkling new-wave sounds of サカナクション Sakanaction back on the new music motorway, and they certainly don’t wane in creative energy as my senses dance away in their new track多分、 風 ‘Tabun, Kaze’ (‘Maybe, Wind’). An adrenaline rush of pulsating beats, radiant synths and sparkling melodies fan the flames of a burst of musical euphoria. Find out more about Sakanaction here, and listen to more of their tracks 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

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

New Japanese Vibes (77) – やなせなな Yanase Nana タロー ‘Taro’

やなせなな Yanase Nana’s new track タロー ‘Taro’ is a luxurious wade into a charming classic soft-rock ballad vibe. Since her debut 12 years ago, the Nara-born singer-songwriter has captured the hearts of many generations. Her enchanting vocals glitters like candlelight within the tender sound world enriched with jazzy piano licks, shimmering Hammond organ harmonies and a rocking drum beat and bass line. This song features in her latest album 夜が明けるよ Yo ga Akeru yo (‘The Morning Will Come’).

Other Info/Context

  • Yanase Nana’s new album Yoru ga Akeru yo was released on August 24th.

© Isaku Takahashi