Meat Dreams: Beef Fantasy’s “O.K.U.” Featuring Marina

There exist two Oku stations in Japan…one in Okayama prefecture, and one right before Ueno station in Tokyo. Given that Beef Fantasy hails from Saitama, it feels safe to say that “O.K.U” — and the sample opening up the song — comes from the capital. It appears to be a pretty boring station, which might explain why Beef Fantasy and singer Marina turned it into an acronym (“Oblivion Knows Universe”) and made the actual track a bouncy hip-hop-inspired song, complete with rap interludes. It’s an extremely playful song — Beef Fantasy throws in all sorts of nifty sounds to complete the summery skip, while Marina talks underneath the track and, at one point, breaks down laughing after trying to rap. It’s a charming little detail, but this isn’t pure goofing around. “O.K.U.” sounds focuses on being laid back, and even the little smudges on the edges seem deliberate (and this song features lyrical contributions from may.e, one of Japan’s finest going). Sorry titular station, but this one is a definite improvement on its namesake. Listen above.

New Tofubeats: “Stakeholder”

Kobe’s Tofubeats is a child of the internet, and the EPs and albums he’s released thus far in his career…both as bedroom uploader and major-label signing…have reflected this attention-deprived upbringing, one where you are always a “related video” away from falling down some new hole. His full-lengths jump all over the place, zipping from synth pop to rap to dance tracks, an approach never clearer than on last year’s First Album, which was a whirlwind of styles and sounds. Tofubeats still resides on the edges of mainstream J-pop, but that he’s there at all is incredible and a welcome, wild addition to the aisles at Tower Records.

His Stakeholder EP, out April 1, is a big leap forward from Tofubeats, and even though I’ve only had a copy of it for about a month, I think it is the best overall release he’s managed yet. Last Album and the year prior’s Lost Decade were wonky and fun, but featured moments that felt alright to skip over…if you get bored of one YouTube video, you just go find something else, right? Stakeholder packs the pinball-like nature of Tofubeats’ albums into individual songs, every track here (even the silly “Sitcom” intro) hitting on a bunch of ideas but in a way where it all clicks just right.

The title track — a video for it was released tonight — highlights this step up well. It goes from cheesy intro to a laid-back bounce before hinting a drop…that is far sweeter than expected. Tofubeats has never been shy about dropping in as many sounds as he can into a song, but I’m not sure they fall into place just right as they do on “Stakeholder.” And come the chorus, he’s drizzled himself in an especially warm bit of electro manipulation. I don’t know if the Internet is destroying are collective attention spans or whether all those people older than me are just old, but “Stakeholder” shows a scattered mind can be corralled into something fantastic. Listen above.

Predictable Goodness: Youthmemory’s Dreamin’ EP

Never judge a band by its name, sure…but also, man, watch out when you have a horrible band name. Here are the three levels of bad names:

1. Just Super Shitty: Like, why would I ever want to write about a group with a super stupid name? Oh cool, your called Cerebral Ballzy, I bet you make great music (nope).

2. Problematic!: Viet Cong has been the hot-button group as of late, but there are no shortage of groups boasting names that make you raise an eyebrow when they say what their band name is but you also see what everyone in the group looks like. Trick here is outrage over the name results in a cycle where the band actually gets tons of attention…like, Viet Cong has been and will be written about more than they ever would have before, so good job everyone.

3. Lazy: Remember Chillwave? Remember when a bunch of bands popped up after the first exciting rush and had names with “chill” and “sun” and whatever vaguely summery adjectives in their name? You can play this game for every genre ever.

Youthmemory fall under category three — they are an indie-pop quartet out of Tokyo, and their new EP Dreamin’ is full of wistful songs with titles such as “Darlin” and “Sunday Afternoon.” It’s like they Google “twee” and wrote as many words in the definition as possible.

BUT hey…the EP is actually really good! There’s no shortage of indie-pop in Japan, but Youthmemory actually mix some muscle into their melancholy. “Darlin” features downtrodden singing, but a catchy guitar melody and a solid beat, giving it a surprising amount of force. Even “Sunday Afternoon,” which teases being a “There She Goes” retread, introduces some feedback bursts at various points. And the catchiness of songs such as the title track more than justify the name…it is a confident song featuring the group’s strongest singing. Don’t let the name fool ya, and listen above.

New Ghostlight: “Kamen”

Look, I’ve been sitting in Houston’s lame-as-hell airport for six hours now waiting for a flight, and things were getting kinda rough mentally for a bit. But this new song from Ghostlight…it is bouncy and hooky and made me feel better. For now, that’s all I need to say. Listen above.

Taquwami Remixes Jesse Ruins: “Truth Of D”

The structure of most of the songs on Jesse Ruin’s 2014 Heartless, in theory, lend themselves well to remix work. Many of the duo’s track were jittery, disruptive creations full of vocal skitters and suddenly jarring noises…they are a few creative tweaks away from being transformed into something more lively. Whether that’s actually a good thing, though, is harder to tell — part of Heartless’ charm lies in how disconcerting it all sounds. Taquwami has it both ways on his rework of “Truth Of D,” keeping all the steel-cold percussion while also adding in a livelier thump and playing up the woozy dream pop side of the Tokyo pair. Taquwami doesn’t make it his own — the Jesse Ruins imprint is all over it — but offers a shimmery new perspective. Listen above.