New Japanese Vibes (119) – Sunny Day Service 青い戦車 ‘Aoi Sensha’

Enter the hypnotic and infectious sound world of 青い戦車 ‘Aoi Sensha’ (‘Blue Tank’) by Sunny Day Service. Featuring in their new album Popcorn Ballads, the alt-rock trio celebrate 25 years in the Japanese indie family in chic style -topped with a dreamy and nostalgic 90s coat, winding synths swim gauzily in the chorus, funk-infused guitars coaxes the listener’s senses to bop in the beat, and 曽我部恵一 Sokabe Keiichi’s languid yet alluring vocals struts a dapper look on the musical catwalk before the track comes crashing down at the very end with total sonic chaos.

Other Info

  • Sunny Day Service’s new album Popcorn Ballads was released on June 2nd.

© Isaku Takahashi

Picks of the Week #21

  • DATS – ‘Mobile’

Laden with vintage 90s colours, electro-pop and euro dance beats, ‘Mobile’ by DATS is a refreshing track that can rejuvenate any drained senses in my body. The song surfs the same sonic wavelengths of recent British bands like The 1975 and Disclosure with the quartet’s youthful vocals and the radiant spectrum of synths and beats that penetrate the listener’s eardrums.

  • AAA – ‘Jewel’

While finding hidden gems in the Japanese music scene is important to me, I also enjoy the odd sugar-coated J-pop number, including ‘Jewel’ by the female duo 宇野美彩子 Uno Misako and 伊藤千晃 Ito Chiaki from AAA. This infectious electro-pop tune filled with chic synth colours, seductive vocoder-shaded vocals and bouncing beats features in their latest album WAY OF GLORY, and marks the final chapter of Ito’s journey with AAA as she leaves at the end of March after announcing her pregnancy. Listen to more AAA in my blog posts here.

New York City’ by Tempalay is an absorbing and hypnotic number that may well put listeners in a blissful trance. From the opening perpetual chords to the spellbinding sonic colours that meander throughout the stereo field in serpentine fashion, the band’s signature psychedelic-rock personality comes to full bloom in this beguiling track. ‘New York City’ features in their latest EP 5曲 Gokyoku (‘Five Tracks’). Listen and find out more about Tempalay in my blog posts here.

© Isaku Takahashi

New Japanese Vibes (90) – OGRE YOU ASSHOLE – なくした ‘Nakushita’

Take your mind off the seismic shock that trembled from America to the whole planet with OGRE YOU ASSHOLE’s new track なくした ‘Nakushita’ (‘Lost’). Swaggering beats and guitars ooze with soulful confidence, while 出戸学 Deto Manabu’s languid yet warm vocals shimmer a hypnotic vibe that seeps through the listener’s reality. The Nagano-bred quartet has been dabbling in the psychedelic rock and post-punk world for 15 years – their name amplified by their close associations with Western bands like Modest Mouse and Yume Bitsu. For someone like me who is always keen on broadening my eyes and ears for new music, I’m intrigued to rummage around their back catalogue.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v44iuuZgaII

Other Info/Context

  • OGRE YOU ASSHOLE’s new album Handoru wo Hanasu Mae ni was released on November 9th.

© Isaku Takahashi

Picks of the Week #2

The groovy and soulful ensemble Special Favorite Music prepared for the release of their new album World’s Magic with another preview of one of their tracks, ‘Magic Hour’. A few months ago, this band first came to my attention with their song ‘Dribble’, a gentle yet up-tempo disco/jazz jam. ‘Magic Hour’ meanwhile, is a much more indulgent, tranquil affair with lush soul sonorities, jazzy melodic riffs, vintage electric piano and sax colours against a contemporary drum beat and a silky texture of feathery vocals. The album is out now from P-Vine Records.

  • Suchmos – ‘STAY TUNE’

Suchmos offer their slightly unusual take on hip-hop and acid jazz with ‘STAY TUNE’. Taking their name from ‘Satchmo’, the nickname of jazz legend Louis Armstrong, the six-piece band from Kanagawa prefecture coax a seductive sound world livened up by jangling guitar chords, iridescent electric piano riffs and harmonies, groovy propulsion, and alluring vocals that stretch from full-bodied to falsetto tones. If your Friday night is looking dull, then this may be the one to jam along to.

  • phonon – ゼロと白 ‘Zero to Shiro’

The Japanese rock scene is in good hands with youthful bands like phonon, who churn out appealing yet unique tunes like ゼロと白 ‘Zero to Shiro’ (‘Zero and White’). This track is exuberant rock at its finest, led by the husky yet strong vocals of イマイズミヒカル Imaizumi Hikaru. Then all of a sudden, the band plunges into filled out with celestial synths, glistening guitars and reverb-laden vocals before gradually climbing back to their trademark high-energy rock.

Beautifully lugubrious is how one may describe Taiko Super Kicks’ style of psychedelic rock. 低い午後 ‘Hikui Gogo’ (‘Flat Afternoon’) embodies their musical personality, plodding through a laidback beat, shimmering nostalgic guitar colours and melodies, and murmuring wistful vocals to immerse listeners in six minutes of sonic bliss.

© Isaku Takahashi

New Japanese Vibes (44) – Boys Age ‘Round and Round’ / ‘Rule of Rose’

A month since discovering Saitama duo Boys Age, their new tracks ‘Round and Round’ and ‘Rule of Rose’ has caught my eyes and ears, and grabbed the attention of underground indie enthusiasts.

Both tracks shroud clouds of mystery in the listener’s audible senses, brewed slowly by a mellow and tranquil blend of jangling guitar chords, sporadic chromatic colours and the crooning and growling vocal utterances of Kaz. Along with a shadowy and abstract black-and-white visual narrative, Boys Age manage to create music that is disturbingly seductive.

Other Info/Context

  • Boys Age’s new album TOWA will be released later in April.

© Isaku Takahashi

New Japanese Vibes (43) – ユメノマ Yumenoma 新緑の風 ‘Shinryoku no Kaze’

ユメノマ Yumenoma’s latest track新緑の風 ‘Shinryoku no Kaze’ (‘Wind of Verdure’) is another perfect soundtrack to fill your laid-back late weekend morning. The track is laced with a psychedelic/dream-pop undercurrent with her ethereal vocals and hums, languid but wonderfully reflective guitar distortion effects plowing through a calm, slow tempo. Against the meditative ambience is a strong piano ballad vibe enhancing the seductive power of the track.

Other Info/Context

  • Shinryoku no Kaze’ will be released on March 29th as a free download.

© Isaku Takahashi

New Japanese Vibes (33) – Boys Age ‘Neverchanging, Neverending (永遠)’

Saitama-formed duo Boys Age describe their style as “uncommon pop”, and regardless of any pretentious undertone people may discern from such a label, they certainly differentiate themselves from the pack with their new track ‘Neverchanging, Neverending (永遠)’.

Kaz and Takamasa, (the creative brains behind the track) meanders through a lethargic yet oddly seductive ambience, entwining tinges of indie, psychedelic, dream pop and lo-fi aesthetics. ‘Neverchanging, Neverending (永遠)’ speaks for the underground voices of Jandek or R. Stevie Moore, with liquid guitar chords and riffs, smouldering electric piano overtones and shadowy vocal tones drifting away at an eternal pace and brewing a rich and mellow sonic undercurrent and eccentricity.

Other Info/Context

  • Boys Age have released numerous records in the US, and are widely regarded there as the ‘Japanese DIY Master’.

© Isaku Takahashi