New Dempagumi.inc: “Gidagida Da Zubuzubu Da”

New Dempagumi.inc: “Gidagida Da Zubuzubu Da”

There are very few J-pop albums that wouldn’t benefit from being sliced in half. The industry-standard dictating that every new release needs to be packed to the CD’s breaking point results in a finished product that’s bloated, and usually impossible to sit through without an itchy “skip” finger. This is, however, the model, and J-pop (heck, drop the “J”) has mostly treated the album as just another product rather than some sort of statement (and, hey, that might honestly be fine…Tiny Mix Tapes’ decision to focus on their favorite 50 releases of the year, rather than albums, sounds more appealing each day). Still, even if we reduce the CD as just another consumable good…lopping off twenty minutes most J-pop collections would result in a much more enjoyable product.

So it isn’t surprising that frantic idol unit Dempagumi.inc’s newest album WWDD suffers because of an hour-plus run time featuring a drag of a back half. Still, few albums practically beg to be trimmed down like this one* — lurking within here is a great eight-song set, capped off by one of their finest singles ever. But again, it sort of comes back to even having the expectation that a Dempagumi.inc album should be great in the first place, when they’ve mostly stood out as a killer singles band thus far. But WWDD feels like a missed opportunity of sorts, especially given that this is the album they released at the absolute peak of their mainstream popularity.

In a fitting Dempagumi-esque move (joke, in a fitting Japanese pop industry move), they are already zooming off into a new single that’s tied up with a pachinko machine, but let’s not dwell on that. There are two songs for this, one which sounds like someone trying to imitate a Dempagumi.inc song…and “Gidagida Da Zubuzubu Da,” a solid horn-guided skipper of a song. For large chunks of this, the group get as laid back as they can without stumbling into boring ballad territory…and even fit a rap in there. It sounds fun. And then the pace picks up, but never breaking a sweat, developing into a skittery rush but never overdoing it. It’s nice! Watch the video above.

*All of these complaints could also be aimed at Dempagumi.inc’s World Wide Dempa album from the end of 2013…again, a few of those songs need to go…but that one works way better overall and the highs are fucking atmosphere pushing.

New Cuushe: “Tie”

Cuushe kept busy over the last year and change, appearing on other people’s songs and penning magazine columns (and keeping up with her Neon Cloud side project). But now she’s preparing her latest solo effort, this April’s Night Lines EP via her main label Flau and Cascine, which she just signed to and is a neat development. “Tie” is the first peak into her latest, and like her best songs, it is one that gets better the more time you sink into it. Cuushe’s vocals are covered with a thin layer of electronics, creating a dream-like atmosphere where her singing works best. And it has enough of a thump to keep your attention from drifting off. Listen above.

More Than Beats The Mind: Stuts “Santa Monica”

One of the more fruitless corners of the Japanese online music world is the “hip-hop beats” realm, not for lack of quality but rather because everything sounds more or less the same. Dusty jazz samples looped over and over again, like they are auditioning for A Tribe Called Quest…I mean, it all sounds nice, but that’s it…just nice. So it is refreshing to hear someone like Stuts (the producer name of Yuya Kita) and his breezy “Santa Monica.” It is still build out of samples, but instead of smack you over the head with its “REAL HIP HOP SOUND,” it aims for something more mellow and nostalgic, slivers of violin and horn sneaking in to add a greater sweetness here. Listen above.

New Kyary Pamyu Pamyu: “Mondai Girl” (Short Version)

New Kyary Pamyu Pamyu: “Mondai Girl” (Short Version)

Kyary Pamyu Pamyu’s career is following a familiar (nay, predictable) arc, at least musically. She made a huge, viral splash with “PonPonPon,” achieved mainstream god-mode with “Fashion Monster” and went on a tear up until the release of Nanda Collection, and then sort of lost momentum a bit with subsequent singles and last year’s album (though sales remained pretty strong). And even then, Kyary has been and probably always will be fine, at least for the next five years…she’s Japan’s first social-media superstar, and her Twitter, Instagram and Vine are more interesting than dozens of other acts entire discographies. But still, the past year in Kyary’s life hasn’t felt nearly as exciting as those first two.

Will latest single “Mondai Girl” change that? I don’t know, and honestly am not sure I care because gahhhhh the song and video make me feel happy (which I’ve sort of needed in a very stressful, transition-filled period of my life). As of now, both are of the “short version” variety, but there is more than enough to like now. Let’s focus on the song, which builds off the chip-tune-leaning touches of last year’s “Family Party,” twisting it from wonky movie theme to a more pop focused song (that is also a TV show’s theme). Kyary’s singing has never been anything noteworthy…which is part of the point…but here she tries a few things out with her voice, and it works. Or maybe I’m just glad this stepped into my life now? Get back to me, and watch above.

New Soleil Soleil: “If I Could”

There’s a stretch of maybe 90 seconds where I am trying to figure out where the sample on Soleil Soleil’s newest song “If I Could” comes from. The Osaka producer has turned to samples frequently in the past — sometimes from Akon — so it seemed natural to think he was once again playing around with some vocals, pushing and pulling it like chewed-up gum amongst all those synth sparkles and the pounding beat. Then it clicked — “that’s not a sample at all.” It’s actually Bob from Osaka indie-pop outfit Ice Cream Shout/Cloudy Busey/Outdoorminer, who has been quiet for a while (or I totally blanked on something he did), but shows up here to deliver a great vocal that (mutated or not) matches up well with Soleil Soleil’s music. Listen above.