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Author Archives: Patrick St. Michel

New Villa!!: Pout Goddess EP

Folksy indie-pop duo Villa!! create easy-going music that is easy to relax to, but features enough of a kick to keep it from turning into snoozin’ music. They recently shared the four-track Pout Goddess EP, and its bookended by some dusty numbers, the previously released “Nut” and “Doom,” a spritely cut, what with that name. Yet what adds some intrigue to Pout Goddess are the moments of jarring unease — check “Pareo,” which features some warped piano recordings among its march, making for an out-of-time experience. Listen above.

Beach Bums: Sappy’s “Summer Of Love”

Sometimes, you want to compare an artist to a different act out there, and you worry that maybe…just maybe…you are wrong. And then you have the moments when bands are just like “yeah, this is what we are going for.” A minute or so into Sappy’s “Summer Of Love” video, the camera focuses on a copy of Mac DeMerco’s Salad Days, and yeah, it becomes clear who is being channeled on this song. Nothing novel there — as a sort of compliment to the slick, laid-back sound of the “city pop revival,” a hazier slacker-ish breed of psych rock has appeared, offering a smudgier take on soaking in the warmer months. Sappy feature a lot of the hallmarks of the style — extended guitar solo, easy-breezy tempo, uhhhhh an interest in Ted the vulgar bear — but really just do it better than anyone else in Japan I’ve come across (and also ending up to be more than just a DeMarco clone). Mainly, that’s because of the vocals, which add a sweetness and longing that usually gets abandoned in favor of goofball shit. Listen above.

Fogpak #16 Here For The Summer Holidays, Featuring Batsu, Yoshino Yoshikawa And More

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Just in time for summer holiday season, the 16th edition of the Fogpak compilation series has emerged, boasting the theme “vacation” and several instances of seagull samples. As has always been the case, Fogpak primarily puts the spotlight on emerging electronic artists, with a few familiar names popping in for good measure. So is the case here, where Trekkie-Trax-associate Batsu offers up a jittery cut in “XOXO” and Yoshino Yoshikawa creates an ever-changing number with “Levitating Castle.” Fogpak #16 starts on the faster side…highlights include Kotono House’s zippy, bass-heavy zoomer “Sweet Vacation In Lucid Dreaming,” and the footwork-by-way-of-Jersey-Club of Kanya’s “Female Pilot”…before settling down in the back half, with the restrained stomp of Gluon’s “Glued Myself” (nice!) and Midori Kida’s tranquil “When The Flowers Bloom.” Also of note…more rap! As ever, the best way to approach this is just dive in and see what you like. Get it here, or listen below.

Shibuya-A-OK: Mirai Tokyo Shibuya And Shibuya Tokyo Mirai

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Can anyone really recreate a scene or sound that existed at a very specific moment in time? Shibuya-kei worked for many reasons…but one of the bigger bullet points on that list would be because the internet did not exist in the way it does now, that the ’90s allowed artists associated with this scene to play curator and, at their best, gather those long-lost inspirations into something all their own. The internet as it now exists, though, sours that process…artists can no long play the curation role, because everyone can be on the same level with a little Googling. Making Shibuya-kei in 2016 is to be creating a diorama of a lost time…but you certainly can be inspired by it, to make music with a slightly different spin to it still owing a lot to that decade.

The pair Mirai Tokyo Shibuya and Shibuya Tokyo Mirai presents 36 songs of “Shibuya-kei,” but what makes it worthwhile is how they don’t sound like imitations of Pizzicato Five or Flipper’s Guitar. Rather, they are clearly children of that era, but not content with simple replication. Among the songs spread across here, there are high-speed dizzy-pop cuts featuring xylophone notes and Parisian flair, along with numbers loaded up with laser sounds (more neo-Shibuya-kei, but I digress). But among all these songs are moments of today — say, a voice with a digital edge like a Vocaloid, or a sample from Ocarina Of Time that never would have popped up in 1997. Ultimately, these two collections are ways to see how younger creators interpret a genre that could only thrive in a certain time…and show they can still inspire today. Get them here, or listen below.

New Omoide Label Compilation Nandaka Subete Wasurete Shimaune Featuring Takeaki Oda, Ghostlight ANd More

It’s easy to forget that one of the benefits afforded by the internet…at least in theory, not sure how this has gone down in reality…is the ability to just do what you want, without fear of existing boundaries and restrictions. Omoide Label has been one of the better netlabels in recent times exploring this maxim, releasing juke compilations and cuddly electro-pop compilations in equal measures. The imprint’s latest, Nandaka Subete Wasurete Shimaune, leans towards the softer side of things, opening up with an ’80s-inspired cut from Takeaki Oda, one featuring heavily compressed vocals and a synth-pop-ready drive. From there, the collection goes all over the place, from the slow-burning folk rock of Onett to an album highlight courtesy of rapper MC Bear (!?), who adds some energy to a pretty laid-back set with a rock-ish number finding him spitting rhymes loud and clear. It ends on a soothing note — Ghostlight’s twinkly indie-pop number “Week End,” which they actually shared earlier this year, but still sounds sweet as ever. Get it here, or listen below.