Category Archives: Music

New Namie Amuro: “Golden Touch”

New Namie Amuro: “Golden Touch”

(First off, the “interactive” element of this video is hilarious, but also sort of genius, like Google releasing Google Glass a couple years back and now settling on some cardboard specs. Put your finger here, and you can pretend it squirts mustard! Also, a furry relationship sub-story.)

Namie Amuro’s switch from Japanese to Japanese/English singing three albums ago has been weird, because of how it seems like she’s not willing to go all the way with it. When she first made the change, she told the media it wasn’t part of a foreign push which…is kinda strange, as that could only hurt her in Japan. She’s Namie Amuro, she ushered in the era of big ol’ R&B-pop artists! Stranger still, the songs on these albums have veered mighty closely to what’s trendy in the West — she has Zedd producing tracks, for goodness sakes. On one hand, explicitly trying to crossover tends to only end poorly for Asian-pop artists (CL pending), but at the same time Amuro’s refusal to go all the way with this sound has resulted in two hit-or-miss albums (here’s a review of the last one).

Her newest, genic, comes out next month and…maybe…just maybe…Amuro is really diving into this? The trailer for it featured another Zedd song, a track from SOPHIE (!) and a general shift towards all-out radio-ready pop (give or take an “Anything“). It isn’t her big American gamble, but it sounds way more focused, and way more fun.

“Golden Touch” is an immediate highlight and the sort of pop song that in theory is dead set on capturing “song of the summer” status, even though that’s not really a thing in Japan. It’s a follow-the-bouncing-ball (thanks video) electro-pop number, simple because it knows that chorus is really all it needs. This is grade-A, solid pop, which isn’t to dismiss it as pulling this off isn’t easy. It sounds ready to be blasted out of cars and shitty laptop speakers and those speakers lining the streets in Shibuya. Listen above.

Newish Territory: MCpero’s Kaitei Picnic EP

Newish Territory: MCpero’s Kaitei Picnic EP

This isn’t a new revelation, but one worth restating — I tend to avoid writing about Japanese rap music for several reasons (the key one being I just don’t know enough about it to sound remotely smart). This year, though, I’ve reached a dilemma — I’ve written about a lot of artists who rap, but aren’t really considered rap. Suiyoubi No Campanella is the clearest, followed shortly thereafter by Izumi Makura. And one of my favorite songs of the year is from someone I never got around to writing about, DAOKO. They blur genre lines…and, at least in the case of Suiyoubi, definitely doesn’t consider themselves hip-hop.

Don’t expect posts about KOHH anytime soon, but I feel a little more relaxed about writing a post regarding MCpero, a rapper who is part of the intriguing Omake Club collective. MCpero just released a new two song EP, featuring production from Yosa. Despite the artists listed in the above paragraph, MCpero seems a bit more easy to classify as rap, but she’s good at it. On the title track, she’s laid back and letting the music burble forward (and, quick aside, the production is stellar too, with even the bubble sounds that spring up adding atmosphere to a song that translates to “Bottom Of The Ocean Picnic.”). She’s a bit more downtrodden — but not too much — on the less-busy second song, one that puts even more of an emphasis on her voice. Listen above.

Small Scale Bangers: U-Z’s City Light EP

Correctly or not, I’ve always associated Tokyo imprint Flight as a destination for Jersey Club. Yet their latest release, via Osaka’s U-Z, serves to correct that image (that, honestly, maybe I just have), or at least remind they release music of all shapes. And most of it is great, including the City Light EP, which introduces itself as a headier affair on “Under Stream,” a jazzy number that head-bobs forward on a variety of samples and big bright synths. Yet there is a party lurking within — voices say “OK, party people in the house” while the whole atmosphere is that of a get-together just getting started.

From there, U-Z picks the party up, except it all plays out on a small level. The highlight — and, via title alone, best description of the EP — is “Bedroom Anthem,” a skittery track taking cues from juke but adding in sweet twinkly touches that give this a bedroom pop feeling. It’s a banger, for your apartment. “Blue” does a good job too of replicating this, albeit with more sounds that seem ripped from a New Age meditation CD (it works though!). Get it here, or listen below.

Taquwami Shares New Mixtape: Corrugation

Taquwami Shares New Mixtape: Corrugation

The mixtape occupies a weird space in music today. The most popular “mixtape” of the year belongs to The 6‘s own Drake…except it isn’t a DatPiff download, but rather an iTunes release that will set you back like $13 (well, that’s what I paid = / ). Elsewhere, people like Bastille have released mixtapes. I’m…not really sure what it means anymore.

I’m less sure of why producer Taquwami would release a mixtape called Corrugation…but honestly, I can’t care much because it means more music from one of my favorite producers in Japan (and, hey!, maybe that’s part of it — why wait to release new music via an album when you can just drop it as a mixtape. If the people get geeked, all the better). Described as “sugarless pop” beneath the track, the six songs (more like hyperactive sketches — if his last EP was like a journey, these are six vignettes) bounce all over the place, reminding just how playful Taquwami can get, highlighted by one of his most pop-ready moments in “Corrugation 2.” Listen above.

New Wallflower: Out To Sea

It seemed like Osaka indie-pop outfit Wallflower were keeping quiet for a bit, but turns out they were just releasing individual songs across various different compilations over the last few months. Out To Sea collects four of those tracks into one place, and makes for a very cohesive EP. That’s thanks to the groups sound, which pretty much knocks off all the boxes one expects from an indie-pop band — jangly,hooky, vaguely sounding like The Pains Of Being Heart except really that’s just because Wallflower’s lead singer kinda sounds familiar. Most of it, highlighted by the lithe “Butterfly Kisses” (off a Twee Grrrls Club collection), is nice and skippy, though closer “Looks Like Snow” offers a nice melancholy Christmas finale (from a Miles Apart Records seasonal offering) to close on. Get it here, or listen below.