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Author Archives: Patrick St. Michel

New In The Blue Shirt: “Cast Off”

In The Blue Shirt’s speciality is digging into the DNA of existing songs and modifying them into something entirely new and totally dizzying. “Cast Off” revisits this formula ahead of a new album, and reminds just how effective it is. ITBS splices up some vocal samples from a song (or songs) I can’t put my finger on…maybe because it is so finely sliced and pitched around that it becomes a whole new tool to play around with. And they go ahead and let these syllables bumper-car off one another as synth notes burst around and a beat pushes everything forward. It’s joyful, language morphed into something that’s just a pure blast. Get it here, or listen below.

Comfort Time: Hasegawa-4200’s One Hour A Day EP

This marks the second release in the span of the month out of Japan that builds around samples from Pac-Man. One more and we got us a trend!

Omoide Label tends to release music that is pure comfort for me personally, the type of stuff that goes down like convenience store desserts after a long day. Hasegawa-4200 crafts three juke tracks built primarily about 8-bit sounds and samples…and that’s it! No huge leaps for Japanese juke but, damn it, this is pretty fun and a great way to come down after a long week. Get it here, or listen below.

New Izumi Makura: “Heroine”

Update: This is not a new song, just a new visual for a song that came out two years ago. Rushed to post this, and in the process failed to double check. Thanks to @nsilvias for pointing this out, I really just need to not blog when I have other things to do and can’t actually focus, ya know?

Have you heard this new Keyakizaka46 single? It’s 2019’s J-pop song to beat so far — speaking on purely like, top-level J-pop, the stuff that tops Oricon — and part of its appeal for me lies in the speak-rap sections popping up in the verses. Those remind me of “whisper rap,” a kinda-sub-genre of Japanese rap that had momentum a few years ago, but has now just become part of the bigger hip-hop ecosystem. And I’m struck how parts of the Keyakizaka46 number sounds like Izumi Makura, the Fukuoka master of whispers. And in a nice bit of timing, she just put out “Heroine,” a new number further highlighting her delivery. It isn’t much of a change-up — she’s had more pop-baiting moments before — but this is her working her strength, over a peppy but spacious beat courtesy of Nagaco. Her influence has spread, but nobody sounds quite like her. Listen above.

New Lullatone: Music For Museum Gift Shops

Let’s be clear here — this blog’s name comes from a Lullatone song, so a super-stuffed release that finds the duo re-arranging old songs for piano, including said titular song, is bound to get us thrilled. I had the chance to talk to them in Nagoya recently, and that features a lot of thoughts on this collection that help contextualize it. But listening to it more than a month after chatting about it, I’m struck by how the decision to revisit songs stretching as far back as their first album — check that effective “A Slow Waltz,” begging for some prestige TV montage synergy — reveals new perspectives on familiar tunes, sometimes in a playful way but oftentimes in just a more emotional approach. Get it here, or listen below.

New Yackle Featuring De De Mouse and Saki Misaka: “Feel Me”

This one works better as a study in musical styles colliding than as a fully formed song, though the sections where “Feel Me” just goes off are really something. Yackle, a name associated with Tokyo Recordings and who just dropped a new album called Frank Throw yesterday, teams up with De De Mouse and singer/songwriter Saki Misaka for this one. Misaka adds a light human touch to this one via her singing — and her voice also mutates into an instrument in the hands of these two producers, who chop it up and eventually let it vibe with whatever direction they take the fizzy sounds. But what is most interesting is seeing how Yackle and De De Mouse’s very defined approaches to electronic music work together, resulting in a meeting point between twinkling dance-pop and harder-edged festival stuff. It really takes off at the very end, when they just drop the idea of this being a traditional song of any sorts and just letting ideas bounce off one another, from warped-voice breakdowns to bubblier moments of jubilation. Listen above.