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Category Archives: Music

New Mikazuki Bigwave: Hoshizora Romantic

A handful of artists dabbling in future funk are hitting their stride. The internet micro-genre started as “take funk or city pop song, speed up, add kick,” resulting in some catchy moments but mostly a lot of tracks that make you want to listen to the original. But plenty have played around with this format, warping samples into something new or bringing in singers and rappers to turn these fragments of the past into a backdrop for the contemporary. Mikazuki Bigwave tightroped between both sides over the last few years, but Hoshizora Romantic serves as a breakthrough both for the artist and where this style could go. Funny enough, they manage this with only minimal changes — this album is still dominated by swift dance songs built around vocal samples ripped from older songs (though, credit here to the move to draw just as much from like post-21st-cenury J-pop as ’80s anime soundtracks, which helps ripple up a familiar formula), but there’s way more happening in these songs. Along with Moe Shop’s Moe Moe, Hoshizora Romantic takes future funk closer to French touch, a natural connection working wonders from the stuttering opener “I Wanna Be With You” to the brassy stomp of “Bless You.” There’s also new wrinkles to Mikazuki Bigwave’s sound, such as an exploration of downtempo sounds on “Sea Princess” and an especially welcome take on UK garage with “Need You.” It’s the best collection they’ve released yet, and a wonderful argument in favor of opening the borders of micro-genre. Get it here, or listen below.

New (Kinda) Have A Nice Day!: “Bokura No Jidai”

Sometimes, a band moving up from an independent community does something like a movie theme song, and it can get people in a tizzy. I’m hoping that’s not what happened with Have A Nice Day! last year when they provided “Bokura No Jidai” for a film about millenials. The band, though, has always pretty much made soaring end-credit worthy electro-scuzz pop, the bedroom edge concealing all-together-now and outright earnest songs. “Bokura” wears its heart a little more larger on its sleeve — though only the new video, reason for posting, really pushes them somewhere new, using found online footage of the kids today doing stuff to underline its “living in the moment” theme. There’s something a bit more communal about it, and also something a little more marquee J-pop about it (weird comparison point: Perfume’s “Star Train“). But then again, that was always lurking in their DNA. Listen above.

Keep It Simple: Normcore Boyz And Zot On The Wave’s “Canada”

The rise of “Soundcloud rap” as primary inspiration for a certain corner of young Japanese rappers has been a mixed bag. For my taste, it has worked out much better than every other new artist trying really hard to be Future and failing, but it still has a pretty high miss rate in general, with like Sleet Mage and Gokou Kuyt being the big success stories for me. Normcore Boyz have been kind of a weird one to keep tabs on. Early numbers featured a woozy backdrop I could get behind, while they’ve had a few charming melodic moments with sneaky-clever diction in more recent memory. But they’ve also had a lot of trash-can trap, so the collective felt more flukey than anything else.

But they’ve been on a bit of a run recently! The Cityman’s Gift EP featured some of their best work to date, including “Santa Is Me,” an honest-to-goodness Christmas number that channels the goofiness of J-pop holiday songs into something really formidable (this is key — like, Sleet Mage stands out because part of their sound seems inspired by J-pop and even the more mainstream Visual Kei stuff). Now comes Normcore On The Wave, an EP-length collab with producer Zot On The Wave which ends up bearing some of their best songs yet (while also being some of the producer’s better overall numbers too). Not perfect — when Normcore Boyz imitate 6ix9ine, my hand goes for the skip button — but numbers like “Canada” reveal all sorts of potential in the group. The beat is part vapor but with enough punch to not get too lost, and every member of Normcore Boyz steps up to deliver more understated verses still overflowing with confidence and excitement at what the future could bring. And it’s marked by lyrics that could come from a Dreams Come True song, all about shining goddesses and seaside towns and the hook “Life is shooting star.” It’s so different than simple imitation, while still borrowing the best elements. Listen above.

New Moscow Room: Suna

Late last year, Moscow Room caught our attention with the claustrophobic creep of “Swim,” a number channeling the unsettling to create something absorbing and dark. Suna plops that right in the middle, and reveals “Swim” to be Moscow Room’s big calling card, a tension-filled number showing everything they have to offer. But the songs bookending Suna underline their shadowy vibe even further. “Melt” actually manages to be even more unsettling thanks to a more sparse structure and the repetition of the phrase “the universe is squalling down on the melting sea,” with gurgilng voices coming in every once in awhile to really get those hairs raising. “Last Call” follows a similar template, but builds to a big climax, to give this release something resembling closure (and…kinda joyful? In a spooky kinda way?). Get it here, or listen above.

New Memoryhook: Still In The Dream / The Letter For You.

Two songs, two chances for Nagoya project Memoryhook to show off their musical duality. “Still In The Dream” is the hazier offering, and pretty much delivers what you’d expect from a shoegaze-adjacent project. It never gets too noisy, but the group swirls together vocals, guitar strums and the machine-generated beat to create…wait for it…something very dreamy and easy to marinate in. It’s fine, but the kind of tune you just put on and kind of forget about despite how pleasant it comes off. “The Letter For You.” delivers something stronger. They pick up the pace and take it to warmer climes, and most importantly the singing doesn’t simply blend into the background but actually moves everything forward. It’s warm and melancholy, and catchy which is always a nice bonus. Listen above, or get it here.