New Japanese Vibes (131) – CRUNCH ‘Blue’

Swimming in a new wave and indie-pop ocean coloured with folk-like melancholia, CRUNCH embraces a solitary musical ambience in their new song ‘Blue’. Taken from their upcoming new album 天気雨 Tenkiame, the all-female trio from Nagoya drenches the stereo field in jewel-like guitars, distant glockenspiel tones falling like rain drops and timeless melodies and vocals led by 堀田 倫代 Hotta Noriyo.

Other Info

  • CRUNCH’s new album Tenkiame will be released on November 22nd.

© Isaku Takahashi

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New Japanese Vibes (114) – MINAKEKKE ‘Grateful Dead’

Enter the pulsing yet hypnotic sound world of ‘Grateful Dead’ by female singer-songwriter MINAKEKKE. Dabbling in new wave, shoegaze and punk to name just a few styles, the perpetual drumbeats offset the swirling synths and haunting vocal tones to concoct an utterly spellbinding yet rhythmically infectious vibe under a nocturnal sonic gaze. If you’re seeking an artist that roams about in a dark, mysterious musical fantasy, then MINAKEKKE is one to capture.

Other Info

  • MINAKEKKE’s debut album TINGLES was released on April 26th.

© 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

Picks of the Week #11

  • South Penguin – ‘Alaska’

A new comet has arrived in the Japanese indie galaxy. Four-piece band South Penguin made their debut this July with their EP Alaska. Their title track ‘Alaska’ coaxes a hazy psychedelic/new wave sound world filled with winding guitar colours, pulsing drums and mellow vocals. A fleeting clamorous spell interferes the indulgent flow of the track, but all in an attempt to enrich the nostalgic vibes of South Penguin’s music.

  • ふくろうず Fukurouzu – うららのLa ‘Urara no La’

Laden with melancholy and floating sensations, うららのLa ‘Urara no La’ is a gorgeous number by J-pop trio ふくろうず Fukurouzu to fit into your summer soundtrack. Featuring in their latest album だって、あたしたちエバーグリーン Datte, Atashitachi Evergreen (‘Because, We Are Evergreen’), this track cocoons the listener’s senses in a beautiful mélange of heartwarming vocals and tranquil guitar harmonies while driving through the motorway with pulsating drums and fiery guitar solos.

  • Sugar’s Campaign – ホリデイ ‘Holiday’

Prepare to be let loose in a classic yet refreshing 80s/90s disco synth-pop universe with ホリデイ ‘Holiday’, a groovy number by Sugar’s Campaign from their debut album FRIENDS. Born from the vibrant souls of Avec Avec and Seiho, the duo coaxes a tingling dance sensation with luminescent synths, soulful vocals and a rhythmically infectious current, and is sure to bring their listeners with them to their discotheque.

© Isaku Takahashi

Picks of the Week #8

  • MARQUEE BEACH CLUB – ‘eye’

It is not just the likes of Sakanaction making waves in the new wave/electro-pop scene. MARQUEE BEACH CLUB caught my attention with their track ‘eye’ from their upcoming album Flavor. The track instantly coaxes an infectious dance vibe with pumping beats, radiant synth colours and seductive vocal melodies, and is sure to persuade listeners to get up on their feet and feel the sonic energy from start to finish.

  • 雨のパレード Ame no Parade – ‘Tokyo’

Four-piece J-rock band 雨のパレード Ame no Parade has only spent three years in the business, but is fast capturing the younger generations of Japan’s pop/rock enthusiasts with their catchy and cool post-rock personality. ‘Tokyo’, from their latest album New generation glistens with a tinge of melancholy in the wistful bridge section, but also strides with verve in the euphoric chorus laden with glittering guitars and glorious vocals.

As with every song by パスピエ Passepied, an infectious energy lies at the heart of their new track永すぎた春 ‘Nagasugita Haru’ (‘The Spring that lasted too long’). Colourful synths pervade the sonic field to evoke the golden days of synth-pop, while the perpetual pop pulse, ‘kawaii’ vocals and sing-along melodies make the track as catchy as any other cute J-pop hit of today. Their new single will be released later in July.

  • Analogfish – ‘Baby Soda Pop’

Dreamy, propulsive and anthemic, ‘Baby Soda Pop’ by Analogfish is a totally unique musical experience more listeners should encounter. The three-piece alt-rock band is no stranger in today’s music scene – they have been active for more than 15 years, and perhaps best known for providing the ending theme for the big anime Naruto with their song ‘Speed’. However, ‘Baby Soda Pop’ is a considerable shift in style – ethereal synths shimmer seamlessly to coax a magical ambience, while sumptuous vocal melodies, harmonies and pounding beats liven up an anthemic pop vibe.

© Isaku Takahashi

New Japanese Vibes (49) – CTLYA ‘WINTERREISE’

The new tunes from independent record label Dead Funny Records just keep on coming. This time it is the turn of Kyoto-based post-punk quintet CTLYA (pronounced ‘Catoleya’) to grab the attention of indie enthusiasts with their new tracks ‘WINTERREISE’ and ‘PERSONAL LIFE’ from their new record PERSONAL LIFE. The band draw strong influences from Joy Division, coaxing a post-punk, new wave sound world with an array of mellow and gritty guitar effects, synths that sound as though they came from high above the stratosphere, driving drum propulsions and android-filtered vocals in ‘WINTERREISE’, and sporadic vocal samples coloured with various effects in ‘PERSONAL LIFE’.

Other Info/Context

  • PERSONAL LIFE was released on March 16th.

© Isaku Takahashi

パスピエ – Passepied

The conceptual background that lies beneath synth-pop band パスピエ Passepied is perhaps the key to their success. With a band name that refers to the final movement of Debussy’s Suite Bergamasque, the all-female five piece blends the musical aesthetics of impressionism and the retro but modern grooves of synth-pop/new wave/electro-pop to mould an entrancing sound world unmatched by peers.

Passepied plunged into the music scene with tracks like フィーバー ‘Fever’ from their debut album 演出家出演 Enshutsuka Shutsuen (‘Director who appeared’). Although one may argue that this is one of their modest numbers in terms of sonic interest, there is plenty to engage the listener’s audible senses. A quirky, exotic melody from the laser-coloured synths gets the motor going alongside an energetic rhythm section. The undeniably infectious marmite-quality of 大胡田なつき Ogoda Natsuki takes the driver’s seat for the greater part of the song, particularly the colourful chorus enriched by a wacky harmonic progression that exudes a slightly narcotic effect. (Perhaps the tonal ambiguity captures their interest for impressionist ideas).

Passepied’s sound has progressed dramatically from their debut. Attuned to the likes of Sakanaction, ‘MATATABISTEP’ glorifies in an unashamedly retro sonic universe. From beaming synth oscillations, rich harmonies, the rhythmic kick from the guitar, bass and drums, and the nostalgic-sounding melody from Ogoda’s sugar-coated voice, this track absorbs the colouristic qualities of 70s disco and new wave and radiates a sparkling and seductive musical explosion.

Equally enticing is the multi-coloured effects oozing out of とおりゃんせ ‘Toryanse’, named after the traditional Japanese nursery song. Delay-filtered guitar chords, a celeste-like hook, a ticking clock pulse and woozy synth harmonies cast a magical sonic cosmos until the incredibly kitsch vocal melody (infused with Japanese melodic inflections) and the rich rhythm section (that includes guitars, organ and drums) elevates the song’s catchy personality.

With an overriding interest towards impressionism, Passepied has built a strong relationship between the syrupy character of cutesy pop and the varicoloured overtones of synth, new wave and electronic styles to produce an inventory of fetching tunes.

Other Listening:

  • S.S
  • 裏の裏 Ura no Ura
  • トロイメライ Toroimerai

© Isaku Takahashi