Category Archives: J-Pop

New Sakanaction: “Sayonara Wa Emotion”

A little bit back, Sakanaction released the video for “Hasu No Hana,” a slow-burning number that made the most of repetition. Now comes the other side of their most recent single and…it is pretty different! “Sayonara Wa Emotion” skitters from the start, both via the beat and the drippy-droppy synths that pass over it. All of “Sayonara” shifts more than “Hasu No Hana,” changing tempo frequently and adding in more background details. Together, it makes for an overall solid release.

But “Sayonara Wa Emotion’s” biggest strengths also happen to be Sakanaction’s strengths. Like a lot of their finest songs, “Sayonara” is an emotionally charged cut delivered on a stadium-sized level…Sakanaction are a band capable of headlining any Japanese music festival today, so all of the melancholy wrapped up here is packaged in a way built for biggie-sized crowds (even the title is pretty obvious about its intention…you don’t even really need to know Japanese at all to figure out what’s going on there). Yet the opening verse here is detailing a late-night trip to a convenience store to buy canned coffee…before turning into an inner-thrashing about growing cold emotionally. And, like many of Sakanaction’s other highlights, it builds to a big climax, the sort of thing they have gotten incredibly good at. Listen above.

Carpainter Remixes Yun*Chi’s “Wonderful Wonder World

Rising pop singer Yun*Chi is a fan of netlabels, and that fact comes through especially clear on her latest single “Wonderful Wonder World,” which features one song produced by Maltine act bo en (and hey, she’s had Avec Avec remix in the past so…). She’s probably happy Trekkie Trax wunderkind Carpainter remixed the aforementioned single into a more liquid affair, backed by his preferred, slippery beat pattern and synth work. It basically takes the wide-eyed sentiment of the original and turns it a bit more elastic. Listen above….AND read an English interview with Carpainter here, it is good!

New Sakanaction: “Hasu No Hana”

Point one – Sakanaction, despite being a very “serious” sounding band, deserve credit for tending to make goofy-fun videos. Just look at how much of a ball Ichiro Yamaguchi is having at the end.

OK, the actual song – Sakanaction’s latest single is now out (and has a video), so let’s talk a little about “Hasu No Hana.” The band have been relatively quiet in 2014, having released only one single (featuring two songs) back at the start of the year. They’ve also been reflective – “Eureka” remains one of the year’s best songs, a shuffling electronic number that knows just when to burst apart (probably Sakanaction’s best attribute, timing) and knows how to make one feel conflicted about Tokyo. The other side was the totally forgettable “Goodbye,” which was one of those “Sakanaction is super popular now, guess they have to make songs for TV shows too.” Accept “Eureka” was for the TV and “Goodbye” just was so…huh.

“Hasu No Hana” rests somewhere between those two, an understated number that is at its best when guitars, drums, synths and vocals lock together at the chorus to create an aching bit of repetition that sounds just wobbly enough. The verses are…fine, though nothing remarkable when not put through lyrical scrutiny. But I’ll take the chorus…and the little pick-up in speed near the end…which dominates overall. Listen/watch above.

New Yun*Chi: “Dancing”

English producer…and Maltine fixture…bo en was profiled on Pitchfork today, and of all the great details within also existed…his song for rising Japanese pop singer and Kyary-agency-mate Yun*Chi. The story of Yun*Chi’s music career thus far has been one of sounds being all over the place – she’s been backed by a bunch of producers, ranging from Avec Avec to Vocaloid-innovator kz to…many many more. “Dancing” isn’t her latest single, but rather it backs up the fine, straightforward-number “Wonderful Wonder World.” bo en’s approach to the song…one approved by Yun*Chi over Twitter, in a story I still can’t get over in its that-is-not-like-a-Japanese-label-ness…is to be all over the place, an approach that works well for an artist who has never really been allowed to find her own corner sonically. Like a lot of bo en’s solo music, “Dancing” zooms all over the place, from clap-along segments to ones featuring playful interpretations of Jersey Club (bed spring!) to a sax-out near the end. It is one of the more daring J-pop songs of 2014 sonically, and Yun*Chi adds her own charm to “Dancing” with her spoken-word improv (which is mainly meowing). Listen above.

Seiho Remixes Passepied: “Matatabistep”

The end of the year is creeping up on us, which means it is time to start thinking about the memorable albums of the past 12 months. One of the bigger surprises came courtesy of Tokyo rock outfit Passepied, who have been a perpetually pushed “next big thing” for the last few years, though none of their EPs or albums really delivered on the hype – they had their moments, but overall they seemed like an outfit that had a rough idea what they wanted to be (vaguely retro Showa-rock pop built for festivals) but weren’t there yet by a long shot. So this year’s MakunouchiIsm was a great development – anchored by three killer advance singles (highlighted by best-to-date-creation “Tokyo City Underground“) their latest saw them take their sound and get ambitious with it…while also coming across some killer hooks. It isn’t their masterpiece or even a real top-20-of-the-year contender…the biggest compliment and criticism of it is it solidifies Passepied as an outgoing Sōtaisei Riron…but it’s a huge leap in quality and has completely flipped my view on them going forward.

And now, new ambitions. They have a new EP coming out which finds them eyeing the English market…they’ve recorded thumper “Matatabistep” into English, and called up hip-as-heck producer Seiho to remix it for them. That rework is out now, and the Osaka creator turns it into a liquid-limbed Jersey-Club-ish slinker (!!!). It is fun as fuck, and a preview of their English endeavor (sounds alright to me). Listen above.