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

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Picks of the Week #19

  • in the blue shirt – ‘toward morning’

Groovy and chilled in equal measure, in the blue shirt (real name 有村陵 Arimura Ryo) coaxes a sound world of meticulous sonic precision in ‘toward morning’. Juggling a rainbow of soulful vocal samples, bitpop-esque beats and hypnotic synths, the track brews a jumble of musical nonsense fit for my lazy Sunday afternoon soundtrack. ‘toward morning’ is the title track of his EP Toward Morning.

  • 宇多田ヒカル Utada Hikaru – 忘却 ‘Boukyaku featuring KOHH’

After six years hidden away from the public eye, 宇多田ヒカル Utada Hikaru returned back into the spotlight last September with her latest album Fantôme. The influential singer-songwriter employs the help KOHH in the track忘却 ‘Boukyaku’. The Japanese rapper delivers a sermon-like narrative over shimmering synths and booming drumbeats, while Utada’s resplendent vocals re-echo the ethereal ambience that glints in the backdrop.

Behind the merry march and Irish folk fiddle vibes of ‘Hey Ho’ by SEKAI NO OWARI lays a message of solidarity. The quirky pop quartet wrote this song in support of the Bremen Project, a campaign to stop the unlawful slaughter of stray animals in Japan. With a charming melange of sunny melodies, march rhythms, folk merriment and a colourful array of instruments, the band sends an uplifting vibe for a cause that they hope will grow for the good. Find out more about SEKAI NO OWARI in my blog post here.

© Isaku Takahashi