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Category Archives: Music

Comfort Food: Cookie Romance Nonsugar’s “Yoake Mae”

Been about five days since I last logged in here, and it has been busy to say the least. I went to Seattle to give a presentation, watched many smart music writers also give papers and worked in karaoke somehow. Then I visited family in Los Angeles during a day-long layover…and we managed to be hit-and-run while driving on the freeway. I and everyone else was fine, but our car was pretty much totaled and it was not a fun night. So I’m looking for something comforting for a post tonight, and Nagoya’s (wonderfully named) Cookie Romance Nonsugar’s “Yoake Mae” works wonders and making me feel a little more relaxed. The quartet’s song sounds a little too feedback-drenched to be put into the same indie-pop category as other Japanese bands, but the vocals add a sweetness to the sometimes harsh music, and especially push the chorus towards something memorable. It has an energy to it, but listening to it, I’m mostly struck by the comfort it delivers via singing. Listen above.

New Have A Nice Day! Featuring Oomori Seiko “Fantastic Drag” And The Idol Formerly Known As LADYBABY “Lady Baby Blue”

I have yet to listen to Oomori Seiko’s new album. There’s several reasons for this, with pure laziness being near the top, but I’ve also felt no rush to dive in because 1. I don’t have a reason to (nobody is telling me “listen to this and have a take” so why not wait a bit?) and 2. overwhelmingly gushing fan reaction makes me nervous (see: Fantome last year). Whatever my excuse, though, I’m going to take my time. And, as this week shows, there is plenty of Oomori material to go around. Have A Nice Day!’s latest single, “Fantastic Drag,” features her, and is a great reminder of her vocal skills. Though it also does a great job highlighting Have A Nice Day!’s delivery — over a familiar synth-centric blare, he raps and sings his heart out. But Oomoir Seiko steals the show because chaotic vocals is what she does best, moving from murmur to near shout. “Fantastic Drag” is Oomori at her purest…as a guest, she simply flexes her voice. Listen below.

More surprising, though, is “Lady Baby Blue,” a song Oomori Seiko wrote for the idol group The Idol Formerly Known As LADYBABY. The surprise mostly comes from the group itself doing it…they are the two Japanese women who previously were accomplices in some meme pop, who then broke off to form their own group delivering mostly forgettable uptempo fare. Yet “Lady Baby Blue” pulls off something far more complicated — if this was an Oomori-only song, it might be underwhelming, but the two singers who wrestle with the guitar-centric tune make it work for them, adding appropriate drama to the verses and pre-chorus. And that hook just adds so much shout-along melancholy to the song, it goes from pleasant surprise to forceful. This year has been full of surprises, and this one is near the top. Listen below.

New Wallflower: “Nowhere”

Note: I’m in Seattle for the next few days, which means posts might be less frequent than usual…especially accounting for the less-than-stellar wi-fi in my room.

Despite all the trends present in Japanese indie rock…how quickly scenes appear and vanish, how different non-Japanese acts end up being massive influences for stretches of time (today: Mac DeMarco)…indie-pop persists, rarely changing but always around. Osaka’s Wallflower do it prettier than most, avoiding the messy edges that often define the style in favor of shiny melodies and clear vocals. “Nowhere,” there newest single via Fastcut Records, highlights that polish well. It’s a slowly unfolding number, the mid-tempo guitar playing topped off by keyboard notes, the whole thing bathing in melancholy (“and get on a train going nowhere” goes the chorus…this is some defeated stuff). Listen above.

New Beef Fantasy: “Panty Stocking”

Some times, Beef Fantasy shows off his dazzling songwriting skills on songs about train lines, or virtual beaches. This time…a seemingly simple, borderline jokey number called “Panty Stocking,” which finds the artist repeating the titular phrase through heavy Vocoder over and over again. Yet despite the thematic simplicity, this song is a great highlight of what separates Beef Fantasy from most — the way the song twists and turns, remaining catchy (and funny!) while still going off in all sorts of directions. Listen above.

New Skip Club Orchestra: Groove 3

The latest in Polish label Outlines’ groove series — previously highlighting DJ Fulltono and CRZKNY — zooms in on Skip Club Orchestra, another long-running figure in Japan’s juke scene. The two grooves here allow an artist who mostly works in quick bursts to expand on their style, both tracks leaning towards the sparser side (especially the second one, downright skeletal)and allowing Skip Club Orchestra to show how a juke song slowly develops over the course of nine-plus minutes. Get it here, or listen below.