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Author Archives: Patrick St. Michel

Metropolis Reading: Futari No Bungaku’s “City Liner”

A little context…I’m listening to (and writing about) this one from downtown Shibuya, so seeing all of the bright lights and people wandering around (on a Monday! What a city!) is playing a role here. But Futari No Bungaku’s “City Liner” manages something not much city pop revivalists can, which is actually get some emotion into the smooth tempos and sleek guitar notes. Whereas other songs simply chill out, “City Liner” features something approaching longing, conveyed primarily through the vocals, though also driven home by the keyboard notes that pop up post chorus. Always nice to have some melancholy sneak into your breezy tunes. Listen above.

New Carpainter: “Orange Wind”

Given his presence in the harder-edged world of Trekkie Trax and the current Tokyo electronic music scene, it’s easy to forget Carpainter shines when he’s moving swiftly. “Orange Wind,” his new single released via Secret Songs, breezes ahead, Carpainter using space as a tool to bring out the sensuality hiding in the corners. Which isn’t to say this is a slow jam by any measure — Carpainter rumbles forward on the UK-garage rhythm he’s long fancied, and “Orange Wind” can get pretty busy. But even at its most crowded, it’s full of airy synth lines and light vocal clips, the affect being more sweet than overwhelming. Listen above.

New Crystal Featuring Matias Aguayo: “Kimi Wa Monster”

The current increase in interest around older Japanese music — especially from the individual members of Yellow Magic Orchestra — has been a neat development, and makes the music electronic outfit Crystal has been making this decade look all the more ahead of the curve (errrr, by looking back). Crystal Station 64 found the group channeling the playful, at times jagged sound of YMO. Like a lot of folks I imagine parked out on Discogs, they know their YMO family tree well. Unlike a lot of people who came after, they are also funny. “Kimi Wa Monster,” their latest single, features glassy vocal burps and a techno-pop groove that would make Haruomi Hosono nod. Even better — the incorporation of somewhat jagged elements, which adds some unease to the track. And that comes from guest vocalist Matias Aguayo, who sings in Japanese, lending this a strange element (again, to say his name, a little bit like Hosono singing in Portuguese). Listen above, or get it here.

New Boys Age: “Dēmiourgos”

I’ve been waiting for the actual album to drop, but Boys Age’s “Dēmiourgos” is so pretty and fragile that, hey, might as well wait a little bit until New World Pregnancy emerges. It has been a while since checking in on the group, and true to their spirit, Boys Age remain adept at introducing strange, new details to their sound. “Dēmiourgos” features the hallmarks of their sound — those submerged-Muppet vocals, mid-tempo guitar playing — but features a sparkly keyboard line lurking in the back, and the main melody brings to mind something that leans closer to enka (or, at least, Showa-era pop numbers about ennui) than anything on the Burger Records roster. Listen above.

New Snail’s House: Ordinary Songs #3

One of Snail’s House’s biggest skills on Ordinary Songs #3 is making intricacy sound so laid back. The five songs here unfurl at a mid-tempo bop, getting crowded at times (the springy “Bouquet” being a good example) but offering far more room to breathe than other contemporary producers in Japan. This is an album bound to be described as “chill” and which will see its songs land in a “peaceful beats for doing homework” playlist on YouTube. That isn’t wrong — Ordinary Songs #3 is really upbeat and calming — but it does blur how much is going on within to make it sound so peaceful. “Aloha” is full of blips, vocal samples and synth lines, but constructed in such a way to feel sparser than it actually is. “Bouquet” reminds of Snail’s House secret weapon — his use of piano as central moving force, while nearly every song here displays his clever approach to melody (the only misfire being the carnival yawn of “Lullaby,” the one song that almost makes you want to utter the words “kawaii bass thinkpiece brewing”). Get it here, or listen below.