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Synthesized Bounce: Mameyudofu’s Kouiu No Hajimete Nansuyo

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Vocaloid is a weird tool and oftentimes a tough instrument to build songs around. Yet one realm where synthesized speech tends to do well is electro-pop, and Hyogo-based producer Mameyudofu shows just why on the bouncy Kouiu No Hajimete Nansuyo album, released recently. The vocals on each of the four songs are clearly that of Vocaloid, but whereas in some settings (cough rock cough) they would be awkward, on this set of Nakata-ish pop they blend wonderfully into the bright and bubbly synthesizer around them. Opener “Time Capsule” is the immediate pop rush…and, all credit to Mameyudofu’s programming, that digi-voice at the center actually sounds both upbeat and melancholy at the same time…though the real treasure is the next song, “Awa.” That one practically swelters, and has more in common with Kosmo Kat, save for the sweet signing at the center. Get it here, or listen below.

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New Naola: “Enter”

Naola’s music always comes along at times when a little relaxation…or, at the very least, something calming…is in order. “Enter” is a hushed acoustic number pushed forward by a very delicate drum beat and her faint vocals, which offer a sweet longing that never overpowers, but gets its point across all the same. This isn’t purely a sonic futon to fall onto after a long day, though — “Enter” slowly shape shifts throughout, rising in intensity until it reaches an ending that offers some really lovely optimism in. Great for getting prepped for tomorrow. Listen above.

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New MCPero: MCPero No Hitoriasobi

End of June means a steady stream of “best of the year…so far!” lists, but don’t expect one from me around these parts (because this already exists). Yet one album that has come on strong for me as July looms over the horizon is one I expected to enjoy when it was announced…MCPero’s MCPero No Hitoriasobi her first full-length album released via 2016 label-MVP-candidate Omake Club. But, for various reasons, it took a bit of time to click, but now that it has, it feels like a 2016 highlight. The young rapper has been showing off her skill over all sorts of wonky beats over the last year, and her proper debut acts as an appropriate highlight reel of what she’s capable of. MCPero moves swiftly over more traditional beats, such as the sparse backing of “Skip” and the dustier “Amanogawa,” but she pushes herself all over this album. Some of it can feel a bit of a stretch — the reggae vibes of “Every Day Is A Journey” is a little too much — but then she tackles a beat from off-kilter producer Foodman (“Live!”) and speed-bounces between it just right, while she delivers one of the outright better pop songs I’ve heard out of Japan this year with “Spring Runway.” Like all the good Japanese rap of recent years, it is less an imitation of American trends and more about an artist using the genre as a way to explore the sounds they like, regardless of how oddball they can be. Buy the album from the links here.

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Shiny Parade: N-qia’s “Glitter”

Let’s just jump right into the imagery — listening to N-qia’s “Glitter” made me think of a fantastical parade marching through some forest glen located in a far away land. Her use of a vaguely march-appropriate beat…picking up intensely in the song’s final stretch..and some flute certainly adds to it, while the whole thing carries a natural twinkle bringing to mind the early work of Cokiyu, but with a slightly more wild spirit courtesy of her vocals. It’s an absorbing number, and one with a surprisingly strong stomp. Listen above.

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New Cuushe: “Spread”

It’s only a snippet of a new song, but any new Cuushe is something to celebrate. In conjunction with the NHK program Techne and director Yoko Kuno (who has worked with Cuushe before), “Spread” soundtracks a brief clip of rotoscoped babies, albeit ones transforming into various things (we approve!). The song itself is a twinkling little number, one that blurs around the edges and features Cuushe’s enchanting vocals. Watch above.

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