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Blowin’ In: I Saw You Yesterday’s Malibu EP

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Serving as a nice continuation of that Cairo post from yesterday, here comes Ano(t)raks latest release from Tokyo’s I Saw You Yesterday, the four-song Malibu EP. It’s a zippy set of feedback-tinged indie-pop, featuring half-submerged vocals and some nice moments of release to counteract the melancholy hanging over some of these songs (see “Daisy,” a song featuring the lyric “Our time is up” repeated over and over, but featuring a joyful little “woo” before hitting a guitar solo). It’s tempting to start looking at groups such as I Saw You Yesterday, Cairo and Pictured Resort, and start thinking “is there a trend here?” — an immediate brake-pumper is Ano(t)raks has been releasing this sort of indie-pop for their entire existence — but rather, I like to see it right now as similar outfits choosing an alternative. Whereas the last few years have seen bands spring up and try to hook themselves to the now full-steam-ahead “rock bands are back” train, groups like I Saw You Yesterday opt to avoid all that fuss (there’s a whole ‘nother article waiting to be written about their opting to sing in English…the easiest way to create distance between your outfit and the Japanese mainstream). I’m happy alternatives as catchy as Malibu exist. Get it here, or listen below.

Foodman Teams Up With Taiwan’s Meuko Meuko For “Wan Wan Wan Wan”

Turns out when another producer joins Foodman to make a song, the results are somehow more trippy than what he does on his own. For “Wan Wan Wan Wan,” he’s joined by Taiwan producer Meuko Meuko, and the pair create a woozy rumbler of a track, one that feels tipsy enough to pass out on the floor but which finds a way to stumble forward. Like a lot of Foodman’s work — and, listening to Meuko’s work, a lot of her creations as well — all of this shambling comes together to form an unsettling but intriguing number. Listen above.

Peeling Away: Cairo’s “Same As Before,” “Retrospective” And “Night Vision”

Any band saying they drew heavy inspiration from Hotel Mexico has my attention, as did Tokyo quartet Cairo in a recent piece by Ryotaro Aoki over at The Japan Times. And listening to the three songs they’ve shared online — all from the recently released Same As Before, out via Magniph — makes it clear they are carrying on a similar hazy dream-rock feel, one where the way words sound as they ripple off is far more important than the actual dictionary definition. “Same As Before” is straight ahead, all relaxed guitar playing and drums that might be a mirage, but from it Cairo create a melancholy afternoon stroll of a song, where the repeated line “everything is up to you” becomes more and more longing with each utterance. It’s blurry-eyed indie rock drifting on the same trade winds as Pictured Resort and Ykiki Beat.

It’s the other two songs that offer a glimpse at something a bit different, one taking more obvious cues from Hotel Mexico. “Retrospective” buries the vocals under fuzzy guitar waves, with the shapeless vocals beneath adding a tension to the driving number. “Night Vision” adds in some dance grooves to the mix (and is the one song where the falsetto vocals really approach Hotel Mexico territory), adding some new territory to their sound. Listen above.

New Boys Age: Pangea

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This isn’t the first album Boys Age released in 2016, and you sure can bet it won’t be the last, given the duo’s typically prolific output over the last few years. But Pangea finds the Saitama pair refining the hazy, easy-going rock they’ve been exploring over the past year, with the most up-tempo moments (“King,” “Lust For Last Of Life”) here more a skip than the psych-wonkiness that defined early offerings from them. The dominant vibe here is of being laid-back, maybe a touch zoned out, songs such as “So Long” and “The Clear Sky” trailing off like cigarette smoke, and even heavier instances (see the off-kilter “Limbo Of Rainbow”) still sound pretty chill. It’s all summed up well by the eight-minute-plus title track, an organ-accented wisp of a song. Get it here, or listen below.

New Boogie Mann: We Turn Up

I was thinking the other day about the trajectory of musical trends, especially after it was announced Tatsuro Yamashita and Takeuchi Mariya were writing a song for Arashi. It’s a moment that signifies the whole City Pop revival thing has reached a certain peak — not because the sound present on that song is even all that different from any number of mellower Arashi cuts, but because highlighting just who is writing it – the dude who is simultaneous with the term City Pop – is a clear move to jump on the bandwagon, even just a little.

It made me think of how elusive juke music has been, and how it hasn’t really had a moment of true commercial visibility (some would say “peaking”). It certainly came close, when some of the dudes from EXILE went to Chicago to learn about footwork on TV, but it never really mutated into anything bigger. It came sorta close last year, when producer Boogie Mann teamed up with Tavito Nanao for “Future Running,” but even that exists more on the arty edge of the J-pop mainstream than anything else. So Boogie Mann can drop something such as We Turn Up, a solid collection of juke that is simply solid – there are sliced up samples from other songs turned into something new (on “Every,” that would be Kendrick Lamar) and, on the title track, a fluorescent rush of electronic leading to the title invoked over and over again. The beauty here is there is nothing to unpack, it’s just an excellent set of juke from a top-notch producer. Listen below, or get it here.