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Category Archives: J-Pop

New Shiggy Jr.: “Ghost Party”

Buried in the Make Believe Melodies post graveyard is a very very long-winded entry about Kyary Pamyu Pamyu’s “Crazy Party Night.” The not-600-word version — I get what it is doing and I think it is a smart move commercially, but woo boy is it so clearly her worst single to date. Part of me wanted to nail the forced Halloween theme for that…but hearing Shiggy Jr.’s “Ghost Party” reminds that, actually, the problem with “Crazy Party Night” is that it is just a phoned-in song. This is every bit as ghouled-up as a seasonal single can get, yet it remains stupidly catchy come the hook. They even sing the word “zombie” and it isn’t an embarrassing bit of baiting, it actually sounds nice. Japan’s pop scene, ultimately, demands numbers like this, the sort of thing that can be tied to specific themes and sometimes dates. And there are plenty of masterpieces tied to solitary days to back this up — a great pop artist doesn’t mail it in even when they have to do something, they find a way to make it memorable and not be corny.

So yeah…if you need a big Halloween pop song for Oct. 31st, consider Shiggy Jr.’s “Ghost Party.” Listen above.

New Sakanaction: “Shin Takara Jima”

1. Sakanaction’s music-video game remains near the top level of contemporary Japanese music, goodness gracious the bubble-era beauty of this.

2. It isn’t like Sakanaction went anywhere, but 2016 felt more like a celebration of the band’s rise up the rungs of the Japanese rock scene than…well, a glimpse of whatever was next. Mainly, the summer was spent revisiting music from a few years ago via a special compilation collection. The band got up to various activities — lead singer Ichiro Yamaguchi’s Night Fishing events have been particularly cool looking — but no new releases.

The wait is over with “Shin Takara Jima,” Sakanaction’s latest single (technically out this week, for those still paying about ten dollars for singles). It’s a welcome return — the song does what Sakanaction have done so well in recent years, which is build a groove that explodes into a big, emotionally charged hook, all while subtly changing over the course of its playtime. It’s not the band’s most daring look in recent years, but as a return-to-spotlight number, very good. Watch above.

3. Sakanaction are also getting in on another J-Pop trend…they are launching their own label, called NF Records. I mean, more on that later, but the key is a new NF Records YouTube page launched alongside “Shin Takara Jima,” which features all of the band’s older videos re-uploaded in good quality. Most importantly, you can now watch the video for 2011’s masterclass “Rookie” in non-garbage quality.

New Yun*Chi: “Jelly”

For the most part, Yun*Chi’s singles and advance songs have been relatively upbeat affairs, produced by the likes of kz and Taku Takahashi and an assortment of netlabel types. They’ve been overall good showcases for her voice, and have done a good job of separating Yun*Chi from AsobiSystem’s ranks. “Jelly” adds some welcome pre-release intrigue advance of this month’s Pixie Dust, which sounds like a solid, electro-pop affair based on the teaser. It is a slower, sparser affair, but not the sort of momentum crushing ballad that seems required of all J-pop albums. It’s produced by Chara, a long-running artist all her own responsible for some big moments in the past and still trucking today, and who here gives Yun*Chi an appropriately watery backdrop to drift through. And she shows she’s capable of moving at half-speed in a way just as charming as when she’s in zippy pop mode. It’s a very welcome new dimension for Yun*Chi. Listen above.

Bo En Remixes Negicco: “Let’s Meet At The Festival”

No stranger to remixing for J-pop acts, England’s bo en remixed Niigata trio Negicco’s song “Let’s Meet At The Festival.” The original version is a solid bit of pop — better than the leak-backing group’s newest songs, but not touching the material on this year’s Rice & Snow, one of the favorites for 2015’s finest idol-pop collections — but as he does so well, bo en dissects it and ties it back up in all sorts of new shapes. This runs from quiet passages to hyperactive ones to stretches featuring a lot of cheering. Listen above.

New Sakanaction Video: “Slow Motion”

Sakanaction are in promotion mode, and off the heels of the video for “Years,” they’ve gone and released another video off their forthcoming B-sides and remixes collection. It’s for “Slow Motion,” which was a b-side for the (still transcendent, still tear-evoking) “Rookie.” The video is the real gem — throwback TV show motifs, full of goofy costumes, yes please! — as the song is both 1. very much of the Documentaly period, a funky number building up to an emotional-release of a chorus, and 2. not nearly as good as the songs that actually made the album. In particular, this reminds me of “Monochrome Tokyo,” but sandpapered down significantly, lacking the about-to-burst element that made Documentaly so special. Though the breakdown on this is pretty intense. Basically, it would have felt a bit of a weak redundancy on Documentaly, and works best as a b-side…which is how it worked out. Great video though, watch above.