Excuses are boring, but I’ve had a really fucked up elbow issue over the last couple of days, so no posts. Still hurts a lot, but here’s a post fighting through the pain.
Hokkaido’s Qrion just released a new EP — well, more like a small physical release gathering various songs she’s released before in one place. One new addition, though, is “Nothing,” which you can hear above (and, uh, watch too). It’s a panting piano number. This also seems like a good place to mention Qrion also collaborated a song to a compilation called Hatsune Miku Dreams Of Electric Sheep, which finds her and producers such as Parkgolf and Quadrophenia (all Sapporo natives) making music using Hatsune Miku’s voice — she is, after all, also from the city. Listen to that below.
Greeen Linez — featuring Tokyo-based artist Matt Lyne (head honcho at Diskotopia and recording solo as A Taut Line) teaming up with Chris Greenberg of Hong Kong In The 60s — have a new album out on the horizon, and in advance of that they’ve shared a new song called “Findings” via Boiler Room. It follows in the footsteps of what the Greeen Linez project has been doing since its start a few years back, which is to draw inspiration from glossy styles of music (the go-to being ’80s City Pop) and play around with those sonic signatures to come up with something their own. Boiler Room writes that “Findings” is like “ambient new jack swing,” which seems a solid description, with a bit of a sweltering unease deeper in the mix. Listen above.
Before I write anything else, I should mention…I really liked Especia’s Primera mini-album from earlier this year. As someone who still listens to Gusto a lot and feels the same joy from it as I did in December, Primera pretty much delivered on everything the group has done well — glistening City Pop revival stuffed with saxophones and funk. Save for two songs (the eight-minute opener, the awkward rap skit), it’s one of the better idol pop releases of the year.
Yet…it still somehow felt like a letdown? The aforementioned eight-minute intro, acting as a single, set the group’s major-label adventure off to a rocky start, and that was before the hyper awkward rap (that somehow got censored on the CD version?). Coupled with a video that embraced all the eye-rolling elements of vaporwave — oooooo Arabic, how weird! — and what felt like sort of a shift towards something more idol-ish, where all the interesting wrinkles of Gusto ironed out. It probably says more about my “fandom” for the group — Especia are probably the only idol group of the current decade I’ve actively rooted for to do well, because of how good their music and image has been — but everything they did seemed to be moving away from every element that had made them stand out a year earlier.
A big reason why the double whammy of “Aviator” and “Boogie Aroma” sounds so immediately good to my ears is…actually because of my eyes. The songs themselves are really good in the way most Especia songs mining Bubble Era Japan are — both numbers are catchy pop numbers loaded with neon-tinted synths and sweet, sweet sax (“Boogie Aroma,” for the record, especially stands out — maybe because it is a little more reserved, which makes the chorus pop all the more, or just the way they sing “feel so good,” but it sticks around just a little more than the perfectly fine “Aviator”). Yet I’m flinging myself back on the bandwagon for all the reasons idol music fucked up the Japanese music industry…because the emphasis moved away from the actual music in favor of non-music stuff. The songs are great — and let’s take a minute to note that certain music magazines and music stores are pushing something called “new City Pop,” but that none of the bands associated with it (some of whom are very good and just the victims of marketing!) actually come close to what actually constitutes City Pop like Especia does — but I’m really charmed by the video(s?).
Please print this out and stick it in my face next time I roll my eyes at your favorite idols.
Would I have been more forgiving of that dumb eight-minute single if the video had been Especia dancing around with a fake deodorant? Or backed by visuals trying to sell me a made-up boom box? I’m really happy they are back to imitating the elements of vaporwave imagery that made for an interesting tension — part of their charm was how it was them playing around with the micro-genre’s obsession with Japan, but as actual Japanese people, resulting in a weird take on the aesthetic that feels off in its own orbit. Oh, and the music still sounds really good so that’s a plus. Watch above.
At MTV Iggy recently, I wrote about my favorite album of 2015 so far (spoiler: it is Noah’s Sivutie), and what drew me to my choice was the quiet it brought to a year that has been anything but. Silvanian Families “Piyohogen” pulls a similar trick, and I’m more than willing to dive into it and let the positive vibes wash over me. The producer usually leans toward the madcap, but “Piyohogen” has dust in its eyes from the start, and when the main portion comes in its a blippy wonder that leaves lots of space between those big electronic bubbles. This is relaxing, and I’m here for that. Listen above.
Kosmo Kat has proven he doesn’t need to have guests on his tracks to make them shine — the majority of the numbers on his very good Square EP find him providing the vocals — but he also tends to produce some really lovely work when he does team up with new people. “Ere Sora,” released via Marginal Records, finds the producer working with singer Lovely Summer Chan (Yoshino Yoshikawa, For Tracy Hyde) and rapper Cherry Brown. Sometimes, Kosmo Kat’s style can be packed and neon, but on “Ere Sora” he emphasizes space, his signature electronics now acting more like droplets and outlines rather than big, broad strokes. It puts the focus on the guest vocalists, and the airy backdrop is perfect for Lovely Summer Chan, who just drifts over it and provides the heart. Cherry Brown, prone to goofy fun, adjusts to deliver a rap that matches up well with the feathery lightness of the music behind him. Listen above.