Picks of the Week #24

Distance was my first encounter with J-pop legend宇多田ヒカル Utada Hikaru. 15 years later from the rhythmic and synth-driven vibes of the album, the singer-songwriter returned to the spotlight, plunging into musical and emotional depths like never before in her slow-burning ballad 真夏の通り雨 ‘Manatsu no Tooriame’ (‘Summer Shower’). The sweeping strings, poignant piano and angelic vocals weigh down a reflective and crestfallen air, marking a new leaf in Utada’s musical palette.

  • LAMP IN TERREN – 地球儀 ‘Chikyuugi’

Riding between the sonic waves of 米津玄師 Yonezu Kenshi and BUMP OF CHICKEN, 地球儀 ‘Chikyuugi’ (‘Globe’) by LAMP IN TERREN ignites a display of anthemic rock fireworks fit for the concluding number of any summer festival. Simple yet refreshing, the quartet shines a sparkling mix of voltage-charged guitars, pulsating and clamorous drums, and 松本大 Matsumoto Dai’s herculean vocals that is sure to resonate with the young generation’s listening senses.

  • MONDO GROSSO – ラビリンス ‘Labyrinth’

大沢伸一 Osawa Shinichi, better known as MONDO GROSSO is a name that speaks volume in Japanese electronic music. With the help of 満島ひかり Mitsushima Hikari, the DJ/producer from Tokyo concocts an infectious and dreamy electro house number ラビリンス ‘Labyrinth’. Pounding beats keeps the track on the rhythmic locomotive without any room for musical diversions, while airy piano tones fall like raindrops creating ripples on the sonic lake and Mitsushima’s angelic vocals float above the stereo field with delicate lyricism.

© Isaku Takahashi

New Japanese Vibes (113) – The Wisely Brothers ‘Thursday’

After the first few minutes of listening to ‘Thursday’ by three-piece band The Wisely Brothers, you’d probably be forgiven to be swaying along to a gentle wave of indie rock tranquillity and dreamy vocals. However, the all-female trio unleash a sonic riot filled with clamorous drums, voltage-boosted guitars and anthemic vocals over an adrenaline-rushed pulse. Sumptuous yet sometimes manic, this is one song that you cannot let your ears drift away from.

Other Info

  • Listen to more of The Wisely Brothers in my blog post here.

© Isaku Takahashi

New Japanese Vibes (110) – club’89 ‘Folky House E.P.’

Indie-pop quintet club’89 give a snippet of their charming pop personality with a trailer of their new EP Folky House. The EP opens with vibrant number ‘Folky House’, a song fit for driving on the motorway with its jangling and round-the-clock guitars. From the shimmering nostalgia of ‘Mirage’ to the feel-good brass and bubbly rhythms and harmonies of ‘Coral’,Squall’ and ‘Okey-Dokey’, the EP makes the perfect soundtrack to liven up the spring season.

Other Info

  • Club’89’s new EP Folky House will be released on March 29th.

© Isaku Takahashi

Picks of the Week #20

  • The Wisely Brothers – 鉄道 ‘Tetsudou’

One has to admire bands that can turn ideas that are seemingly repetitive into a song that is tranquil and sumptuous, like 鉄道 ‘Tetsudou’ (‘Railway’) by indie-rock trio The Wisely Brothers. A sedate electric guitar ambles along a single note before Madachi Haruko dips into the mix with her honey-toned vocals. The band gradually spurs the song to a euphoric peak, only to dwindle down to a cosy ‘weekend coffee’ vibe.

  • カノエラナ Kano Erana – トーキョー ‘Tokyo’

Bubbly and vibrant – two of many adjectives that encapsulate カノエラナ Kano Erana’s lively number トーキョー ‘Tokyo’. The Saga-born singer sparks a dazzling fiesta of J-pop/rock fireworks, full of bouncing rhythms, gleeful vocals and a jamboree of brass. While much of the song gallops through a carnival pop atmosphere, Kano takes a brief and quirky detour with some unapologetic rapping before driving back on the country rock highway.

  • YOUR ROMANCE – ‘RUN’

In collaboration with indie-rock band PAELLAS, RUN’ is one of three tracks YOUR ROMANCE contributed to their split EP lute. The synth pop/rock quartet rides a surfboard of voltage-driven guitars and propelling drums, while they also indulge in a seabed of radiant synths and electric organ-like harmonies. The band’s sultry vocals add another zany dimension to the track, making this a worthy addition to my never-ending playlist of indie gems.

  • Sasakure. UK – ネジ巻き師と太虚鳥 feat. Lasah ‘Nejimakishi to Taikyotori’

The sonic universe and hypnotic sensations one hears and feels from Sasakure.UK’s track ネジ巻き師と太虚鳥 feat. Lasah ‘Nejimakishi to Taikyotori feat. Lasah’ is like no other artist or song in Japanese electronic music. Skittering drum patterns drive the rhythmic, drum ‘n’ bass-like propulsion of the track, and a galaxy of textures, colours and instruments orbit around the listener’s senses like oblique, celestial beings.

© Isaku Takahashi

New Japanese Vibes (104) – Ivy to Fraudulent Game ‘Dear Fate’

Featuring in their upcoming mini album 継ぐ Tsugu, Ivy to Fraudulent Game’s new track ‘Dear Fate’ sees the rhythmic aggression of hard rock, the intricacy of math rock and the soulful and introspective ambience of gothic rock and shoegaze collide and burst in sumptuous fashion. Once you hook onto the song’s bullet train, there’s no chance for a pit stop – voltage-charged guitars, soul-searching vocals and relentless drum rhythms strike a lightning of potent sonic power.

Other Info

  • Ivy to Fraudulent Game’s new mini album Tsugu will be released on March 7th.

© Isaku Takahashi

New Japanese Vibes (102) – The Rouges 海辺にて ‘Umibe Nite’

Perhaps the bleak February weather is not the perfect setting to indulge in some laid-back lo-fi and surf rock vibes, but I couldn’t help but rouse my curiosity for The Rouges and their new tune海辺にて ‘Umibe Nite’ (‘At the Seaside’). From the outset, clanking drums and jangling guitars drenched in reverb ooze premonitions of the glaring beach, and the trio’s juvenile personality comes to full bloom in their wonderfully frivolous vocals, and enriches the vintage backdrop.

Other Info

  • The Rouges’ new SWIM LOVE EP will be released on February 25th.

© Isaku Takahashi

New Japanese Vibes (101) – ぼくのりりっくのぼうよみ Boku no Lyric no Bouyomi ‘Be Noble’

A dramatic contrast to the mellow and soulful vibes of past songs ‘sub/objective’ and ‘newspeak’, ぼくのりりっくのぼうよみ Boku no Lyric no Bouyomi unleashes a fiery drum ‘n’ bass energy in their adrenaline-rushed number ‘Be Noble’. Now a mature university student, one listens to this track and feels as though it’s a coming of age in the singer’s musical visions. ‘Be Noble’ drives a locomotive momentum on the sonic railway with an infectious mix of dazzling synths and guitars, relentless drum rhythms and illuminating vocals.

Other Info

  • Boku no Lyric no Bouyomi’s new album Noah’s Ark was released on January 25th.
  • Hear more tracks by Boku no Lyric no Bouyomi in my blog posts here.

© Isaku Takahashi