New Especia: “We Are Especia ~ Naki Nagara Dancing”

Note: This will be the final regular update around these parts for a bit…starting tomorrow (hopefully!) we will share MBM’s top 20 Japanese albums of the year. And then we will go on a vacation where posts will be more infrequent. Fittingly, we end with Especia.

Osaka idol outfit Especia – who take cues from ’80s city pop and ’90s acid jazz sonically, and vaporwave visually – recently announced they signed a major-label deal with VERSIONMUSIC, under Victor, and will release their major-label-debut EP Primera this February. This is, immediately, good news – Especia have created some of the best J-pop of the last few years, capped off by this year’s Gusto. More exposure and opportunities…and budget…via a bigger label is an obvious plus.

Yet worries surface, as ridiculous as that seems (especially because we are talking about idols, built for mainstream attention). A bigger label means more micro management, and the first taste of Primera’s “We Are Especia ~ Naki Nagara Dancing” hints that this is already under way. Mainly, the video is only available through Yahoo! Japan’s Gyao! video service…only a major label in Japan would think “the best way to get this outfit over to a bigger audience is to limit them to one site.” The video, meanwhile, is a bit less wonky than what came before…instead of weather reports or glossy vegetables, we get faked live-show footage. The Parental-Advisory bit is good, but the rest of this is unremarkable.

If this sounds like goofy fan behavior…well, it probably is, as Especia is the only idol group going now where I’m willing to admit I start acting like your typical “stan” (ugh), give or take Perfume. But spirits remain upbeat…especially when I slap myself and remember “this is great for them! They probably get more dough! Good!”…after listening to the song. Which strikes a decent balance between major-label intro and Especia doing their thing. The first half is a slog – it is pure set up, introducing the group at the speed of a pre-credit info scroll – but then it opens up into an easy-going sway where the group do their thing over something that isn’t quite as brash as some of Gusto’s finer moments…but plenty good. And they introduce some central sonic ideas…the sax solo…and do throw in one exciting development with the rough-neck “what’s my *bleeeeeeep* name? section.

So yeah…who knows where this will go, but that’s part of the fun. And here’s Especia’s pitch for the mainstream listeners of Japan. Watch it here.

Premier: Jesse Ruins Remixes LLLL’s “Because Of My Eyes”

Here’s the final premier from the remix collection Paradice: Revisited By Friends & Lovers, an album featuring reworked numbers from Tokyo outfit LLLL’s debut album, out today via Zoom Lens. The finale comes from fellow Tokyo unit Jesse Ruins, who remixed “Because Of My Eyes” into a skittery number that would fit in just nicely amongst a CUZ ME PAIN night somewhere in the capital. Listen to it above. And get the album here.

New Tomodati: “Give Me Up”

Well, it’s more like producer Tomodati blurring a new fidgety number into an ’80s Japanese gem…but when your base is BaBe’s “Give Me Up,” you are off to a good start. Dude basically just loops the chorus over and over again and builds something new from there, featuring his fast-paced singing and various party-ready interludes. Listen above.

Kyoto Is The Place To Be: New Label Nenene Releases NE-01, Featuring Kai Takahashi, In The Blue Shirt And More

It feels like Kyoto has seen an increase in artistic activities in 2014, and here comes another new label to further drive that point home. Nenene Label is the latest upstart to jump in the game, and they are off to a nice start with their first release, which gathers three artists together to share some new songs. Kai Takahashi is up first, and his four songs here act as a snapshot of his 2014 in miniature – after getting attention as an electronic producer, Takahashi embraced surf-leaning indie-pop with Slow Beach, and then got even funkier with his Magic Tapes outfit…while still putting out loopy dance pop. The first two numbers here find him choosing a new route, embracing sunny-sided indie rock built for hazy afternoon strolls, like Of Montreal without the thesaurus. And then on standout track “Walk Away” – he gets all jelly-limbed and creates a funky strut song owing more to Toro Y Moi. And then it ends with a just-under-a-minute minimal bliss out featuring what sounds like an approximation of a sitar. Dude is always up to something.

In The Blue Shirt follows with something more in his wheelhouse – sample-heavy, loop-loving music with stuttery vocal touches (see the particularly dizzying “Sevenson Screen”). Last is Parupunte out of Osaka, who deliver a great bit of cave-worthy indie-pop on their first song (those echoes!) and some dreamy shoegaze with the second. Listen to all eight songs above.

Music Alliance Pact December 2014

Ahhhh, another year in the books for the Music Alliance Pact, a monthly feature where blogs from all over the world share one song a month from a promising artist. To close out 2014, Make Believe Melodies swings the spotlight onto Kyoto’s There Is A Fox and his lovely “Sleep Well Sea Moon.” Listen to it – and many more great songs – below.

Click the play button icon to listen to individual songs, right-click on the song title to download an mp3, or grab a zip file of the full 17-track compilation through Dropbox here.

JAPAN: Make Believe Melodies
There Is A FoxSleep Well Sea Moon

Based out of the city of Kyoto, There Is A Fox has kept quite busy in 2014. He launched a label, Dear Ear Records, and collaborated with the Los Angeles electronic artist Spazzkid on a song. Capping off a busy 12 months is a new EP, highlighted by Sleep Well Sea Moon. It is a sparse, reflective number highlighting the vocals, which ache with sweetness and longing.

ARGENTINA: Zonaindie
Pablo Dacal y Fer IsellaLos Caminos

Singer-songwriter Pablo Dacal (MAP February 2009) invited fellow musician and friend Fer Isella to perform a concert together. In return, Isella proposed that they record an album. After years of conversations they finally got together, then the two artists visited Ulises Conti (MAP March 2009) at his Buenos Aires studio and invited him to produce the album. Right there, the newly-form trio recorded piano, vocals and other arrangements. The resulting album is called Los Caminos and here’s the self-titled first single.

AUSTRALIA: Who The Bloody Hell Are They?

Steeped in a love for fuzz and 60s rock’n’roll, Melbourne trio ScotDrakula transcend the novelty of their name with songs so catchy they make Gangnam Style look about as appealing as week-old haggis. The band has just released their debut album and it’s drowning in two/three-minute garage super-soakers. Shazon is irresistibly charming, enough to convert the stalest individual to a headbangin’ conqueror of the dancefloor.

CANADA: Ride The Tempo
LYONCut Me Loose

Cut Me Loose is the latest track from Toronto’s Lauren Malyon aka LYON. It’s a difficult one to get out of your head once you listen to it, like the girl next door you can’t forget.

CHILE: Super 45

The intermittent presence of Giancarlo Landini in the Chilean music scene is remarkable. From hardcore (Syndie), through indie-rock (Moreno), to pop and indietronic in his most recent project, SigObrilllAndo, Landini has proved himself as a restless and daring songwriter. Campeón, featuring Tessie Stranger (from Intimate Stranger), is a three-chord, clapping pop jewel with the perfect length: three-and-a-half minutes.

DENMARK: All Scandinavian
WaitressBeneath Our Feet

Danish/Swedish alt-pop trio Waitress will release a seven-track EP in 2015 and here’s the third single, Beneath Our Feet, as a MAP exclusive download. As it should naturally leave you wanting more here’s the video for lead single Young In Mind and, because Christmas is near, the video for Beneath Our Feet.

César PinedaCalma

A free soul roams around the city streets at dawn looking for a love to keep it tame. That’s the main feel we get from César Pineda’s debut EP, Alma Libre. The chillest vibes, soothing guitars and stories full of quiet feelings converge. Be sure to catch the rest of the EP, available as a free download on SoundCloud.

ECUADOR: Plan Arteria
Moshi MoshiBoat

In Japan, “moshi moshi” is an expression meaning “hello”. In Ecuador, Moshi Moshi is an interesting new surf-rock/post-punk band. Formed in Guayaquil in 2014 with former members of The Cassettes and MuTe, Moshi Moshi release their second EP, Hello Hello, this month. Here is their first single, Boat.

INDONESIA: Deathrockstar
SnorgPlaces I Never Knew

Noise/experimental collective Snorg formed in 2002 and had been on hiatus for a very long time. They usually combine tracks sampled from anywhere with distortion, feedback and mumbling vocals. They’ve only performed live a few times and with some totally different members on stage. Their guitarist is rarely seen on stage with the band. This track might mark their return, but we never know for how long.

IRELAND: Hendicott Writing

Formerly secretive artist Unknown, now outed artist OneKnown (get it?), Chris Hanna’s latest grimy beat-laden dubstep is exactly the kind of stuff Ireland is starting to see buck its well-established musical trends/clichés. Seemingly inspired by the likes of Burial and Flying Lotus, Hanna’s work is a whirling yet slow-building crescendo for the more discerning clubber. Record label Champion Sound isn’t short of acts just like this Belfast gem either.

MALTA: Stagedive Malta
FraserBouboulina Sunshine

UK born and Malta raised, Fraser is not a name many people know in Malta’s music scene, but it ought to be. Following a brief stint with Beangrowers (prior to their album releases), Fraser Gregory set out to find himself – travelling, writing and performing in various parts of the world. His album, A Garden At The Top Of The Tree, is available for free download via Bandcamp.

MEXICO: Red Bull Panamérika
MAWPadre Nuestro

From Chihuahua in the north of Mexico, we introduce the quartet MAW. In the shoegaze/psychedelia of Padre Nuestro, MAW declares the universe as the one and only god and fills the space with this eight-minute piece full of hallucinative colours, dreamy vocals and mind-bending guitars. Check out their MAW EP for free on Bandcamp.

AmariyAAl Sur

AmariyA recorded their first EP, Al Sur, in 2012 and want to rouse listeners with their energy and positive messages. The band’s sound spans rock, pop, funk, disco and jazz. The song Al Sur features the powerful vocals of Pamela Fajardo.

PORTUGAL: Posso Ouvir Um Disco?
Old Yellow JacketThe Man Who Knew Too Much

Filipe, Guilherme, Miguel and Henrique make up Old Yellow Jack, a new band from Lisbon. The Man Who Knew Too Much is taken their debut EP, Magnum, out in January 2015. You can watch the vídeo for this track here.

PUERTO RICO: Puerto Rico Indie
Dada BerlinSiete/Trece

There is no better way to end this gut-punch of a year than with Dada Berlin’s snarling denouncement of misogyny, Siete/Trece, from their just-released debut split EP with Puerto Rico’s Hungary Hippos. Singer Pequeña Vera is a commanding presence, weaving her voice in and out of her bandmate’s punk riot, an operatic force soaring theremin-like above the noise one second and landing straight into full-on scream mode the next. It all pays off big time during the song’s explosive chorus, built out of the ashes of alt-nation to haunt listeners throughout our entire 2015.

New Year MemorialNoëlle

What a thrilling way to end one year and usher in a new one. New Year Memorial sprang up in the last week of November with an intriguing pair of songs on SoundCloud: Lovers, with its introspective piano interlude making way for full-on bombast; and Noëlle, a lush head-turner bristling with warm strings and keys which we are privileged to offer as an exclusive MAP download. Until now, it has been the studio project of Iain Thomson, ably insisted by musician friends including singer Nicky McManus. However, New Year Memorial’s debut live appearance in January 2015 promises a full-band sound that’s punkier than what we’ve heard so far.

SPAIN: Musikorner
NegrøNegrøJust Like

NegrøNegrø is a multidisciplinary project that mixes electronic music, visuals and generative arts. Their primary influences are Dirty Beaches, Dean Blunt et al. NegrøNegrø is the brainchild of José Venditti, an Argentina-born artist currently based in Madrid.d