Category Archives: Music @ja

New Especia: “We Are Especia ~ Naki Nagara Dancing”

Note: This will be the final regular update around these parts for a bit…starting tomorrow (hopefully!) we will share MBM’s top 20 Japanese albums of the year. And then we will go on a vacation where posts will be more infrequent. Fittingly, we end with Especia.

Osaka idol outfit Especia – who take cues from ’80s city pop and ’90s acid jazz sonically, and vaporwave visually – recently announced they signed a major-label deal with VERSIONMUSIC, under Victor, and will release their major-label-debut EP Primera this February. This is, immediately, good news – Especia have created some of the best J-pop of the last few years, capped off by this year’s Gusto. More exposure and opportunities…and budget…via a bigger label is an obvious plus.

Yet worries surface, as ridiculous as that seems (especially because we are talking about idols, built for mainstream attention). A bigger label means more micro management, and the first taste of Primera’s “We Are Especia ~ Naki Nagara Dancing” hints that this is already under way. Mainly, the video is only available through Yahoo! Japan’s Gyao! video service…only a major label in Japan would think “the best way to get this outfit over to a bigger audience is to limit them to one site.” The video, meanwhile, is a bit less wonky than what came before…instead of weather reports or glossy vegetables, we get faked live-show footage. The Parental-Advisory bit is good, but the rest of this is unremarkable.

If this sounds like goofy fan behavior…well, it probably is, as Especia is the only idol group going now where I’m willing to admit I start acting like your typical “stan” (ugh), give or take Perfume. But spirits remain upbeat…especially when I slap myself and remember “this is great for them! They probably get more dough! Good!”…after listening to the song. Which strikes a decent balance between major-label intro and Especia doing their thing. The first half is a slog – it is pure set up, introducing the group at the speed of a pre-credit info scroll – but then it opens up into an easy-going sway where the group do their thing over something that isn’t quite as brash as some of Gusto’s finer moments…but plenty good. And they introduce some central sonic ideas…the sax solo…and do throw in one exciting development with the rough-neck “what’s my *bleeeeeeep* name? section.

So yeah…who knows where this will go, but that’s part of the fun. And here’s Especia’s pitch for the mainstream listeners of Japan. Watch it here.

New Cubismo Grafico: “World Is Yours”

Cubismo Grafico has gotten reflective plenty of times in the past, but this new cut is especially rich in ennui. It’s a slow stroll of a song featuring some looped samples (lending this some “Shibuya-kei in the twilight” vibe) and sung in…French, at times. Perfect for an end-of-the-day beer. Listen below.

New Diane Halls: “A Pain That Is Felt”

Diane Halls don’t release too much, but when they pop back up on the radar, it’s always with something pretty solid. “A Pain That Is Felt” offers a pretty good hint of its mood from the title alone – its a guitar-centric drifter featuring very, very little vocals (the ones that do show up mumble deep in the haze), relying instead on the cloudy but ultimately focused guitar work. If you wish Real Estate just made instrumentals, here’s a keeper. Hopefully, more pops up from them soon. Listen below.

New Traffic Light: Clocks

Indie-pop outfit Traffic Light have a new two-song set out, highlighted by the Sunday-morning-church-session-turned-pop-hop-a-long “Clocks.” It is a solid bit of indie-pop, though the most interesting element are the lyrics, which mention Jesus and actually seem to be commenting on the Holy Trinity one a little bit. There seems to be more going on…but that’s the most striking thing. It’s finished off by the sweet, prom-night-read “Just More Close To Me.” Get it here, or listen below.

New The Paellas: “Golden Eye”

Osaka’s The Paellas have sounded like a lot of things in the past – a dreary-eyed lot playing sad lounges, aggressive indie-poppers, shadow dwellers. Yet on new song “Golden Eye” they sound incredibly…smooth. This easy-going cut still contains the slight muffled vibe that has always given them a mysterious, late-night edge…the vocals still sound like they are coming from a decades-old stereo…but now the band just sound incredibly laid back (listen to his voice). Listen below.

Programming Note: Make Believe Melodies is going to America next week! Posts might be a bit more infrequent, though if anything big/great catches our attention, I shall try my best to share it with you!