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New Young Agings: “You”

Side projects usually offer an artist the chance to experiment. For Syouta Kaneko of Teen Runnings, it is a chance to probe deeper into the fuzz-grazed surf rock he’s been exploring for nearly a decade now. Young Agings allows him to continue exploring that space, and “You” offers a catchy and breezy entry into his bittersweet seaside rock. It’s sung in direct words that don’t hold back, and Kaneko isn’t afraid of lifting his voice up to get the longing in his words across. Listen above.

Old Kicks Made New: The Fax’s “Cool Me”

Allow me to take you back in time for a second…when I moved to Japan in 2009, one of the most reliable labels in the Kansai region was Second Royal Records. Looking back on it, they boasted one of the most loaded line-ups of artists in Japan — Hotel Mexico, Halfby, Handsomeboy Technique, Turntable Films, it goes on. In recent years, though, they were a touch more quiet, putting out a smattering of releases but not quite at the pace of yesteryear, and not quite as apt at highlighting great new talent. But late 2018 has been a bit of a resurgence, and Kyoto’s The Fax deliver with “Cool Me.” If the dog barks at the start don’t give it away, this one’s a little on the wonky side, without devolving into pure goofery. It’s a bouncy bit of rock, springier than most indie-pop (even the stuff Second Royal has put out before) but retaining moments of reflection. Always nice to be introduced to a band that you are interested in seeing evolve from here. Listen above.

Out Of The Shadows: Hasami Group’s Atsui No Haru EP

Hasami Group is one of those names that comes up from other artists in Japanese underground music. Fuji Chao covered them on one of her 2017 releases, for example. Turns out they’ve remained active, albeit without much publication. Recent EP Atsui No Haru gathers songs recorded from 2011 and 2018, making for a kind of nice gateway into their music, which fluctuates between group_inou-style instrumental numbers (albeit with more strings, and sounding much more bedroom) to more catharsis-chasing numbers complete with vocals. And you get something like “Siren,” which is crud-encrusted rap over boombox beats. An interesting in to an intriguing veteran act. Get it here, or listen below.

New Stones Taro: Black Bread

Stones Taro has been on a tear this year, and Black Bread only adds to the winning streak. Released via Glasgow’s Johnny Johnny, the three-track set finds the Kyoto producer dabbling in a variety of house stylings, playing around with faded sounds and acid touches on the opening title track before getting a little thumpier on the disorienting “Living With Other.” The highlight, though, is “Merge,” which combines a persistent beat with synth wooze and samples of Michael Jackson drifting by. It is an out-of-time piece of jubilation. Get it here, or listen below.

A Day In The Life: Dove’s “Femm”

The debut song from Dove finds a space between daily life happenings and dreamier escapes. It is the first release from Pure Voyage Records, and the number is written and composed by Le Makeup, a fact that comes through clearly in most elements of “Femm.” The music sounds suitable for Hyper Earthy or other releases from their electronic documents of the everyday, featuring vocals often just out of reach and a slightly faded backdrop often interrupted by more dynamic bits of percussion (see the bridge). But the voice at the center is different, Dove providing a different perspective than Le Makeup releases, while still being captivating in how it captures everyday feelings and longings. Listen above.