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New Lucky Kilimanjaro: “Hitori No Yoru Wo Nuke”

For a second there, it looked like Lucky Kilimanjaro was going to become the new Give Me Wallets. That outfit got some buzz with retro-tinged electro-pop material, and quickly found a way in to writing J-pop songs for artists like Yuki. A solid career choice and one resulting in good pop, but it also meant the original project just kind of stalled. Lucky Kilimanjaro has been working behind-the-scenes for major labels more in recent times, including for Tokyo Girls’ Style (with Haru Nemuri!), which…again, cool. But could result in less of what they do.

But they are back, with the bright conga-bounce of “Hitori No Yoru Wo Nuke.” Like their best songs from the past, the power of this one lies in how unrelentingly upbeat it is, the verses skipping along before ratcheting up to a big neon burst come the hook. It’s really pretty simple, but Lucky Kilimanjaro nail the part where you need to keep the pace up and make those moments of wonder hit hard. Listen above.

Inheritance: Ace-Up’s Footworkers’ Delight

It’s important to remember that a large part of the footwork community in Japan (and beyond…especially in Chicago, where it all came from) revolves around dancers. From my living room, it is easy to just focus on the music side, but whenever I go out to an event (even the ones that aren’t billed as giving space to juke proper) you see folks showing off their foot work. Footworkers’ Delight by Ace-Up is a pretty straightforward set of tracks, and while it’s fun to focus on the wonkier mutations of the style, a set like this reminds that the basics can be just as enjoyable and important for the style at large. Jazz gets flipped around on “Desert” while “Flying Heat” delivers one of the most uptempo cuts of the year in this corner of dance music. Voices pop up, sometimes to be looped and other times to be pitch-shifted into new forms. It’s a solid set, and one that serves a greater function well. Get it here, or listen below.

New Paellas: “Weight”

Sparse suits Paellas well. Rarely would I choose to describe the Osaka group as “maximalist,” but “Weight” (if it isn’t fixed by now, I assume the spelling on the video is a typo, based off of streaming site info) strips it down even more, to the point where this sounds like Paellas embracing the whole “modern City Pop” thing that gets tossed around. This is romantic, light guitar strumming rubbing against some vapor-thin electronics, all allowing the sweet nothings of lead singer Matton to come through clearly. Yet all that space isn’t played as pillow talk…this still feels like a late night stroll with a lot weighing on someone’s mind, but maybe with slightly less menace lurking around. And that melancholy still comes through clearly. Listen above.

New (Kinda) City Your City: “Chain”

Update: When you rush to get something up you just saw on YouTube, you’re gonna make mistakes! “Chain” came out a while back, so some of the below is a bit off. But the video, above, is new. Make Believe Melodies regrets the error, and thanks to @nsilvias for the heads up

City Your City have a knack for coming to sonic trends and putting their own warped spin on them. “Chain” dips into the (now passé?) tropical house sound, loading this one up with style-specific details (the main melody, mostly, plus the percussion come the chorus which…like that sub-style, is less about singing and more about the music taking over). Yet it also doesn’t sound particularly tropical, and it leans closer to unnerving territory with the way all the sounds jumble together, and how City Your City’s singing lurks in the back. Yet still, come that hook, something joyful crawls out. Listen above.

New Haruru Inu Love Dog Tenshi: “Machi Made”

It’s year-end-list season, and that means it is really easy to start glossing over new releases in favor of getting that best-50 list just right. But that would be a mistake, with so much good music still rolling out. Haruru Inu Love Dog Tenshi’s debut album came out this week, and it’s a gem, highlighting one of the more promising voices to come out of Japan’s underground rap community, one bridging the gap between whisper-rap and more Atlanta indebted. “Machi Made” is her in a particularly reflective mood, the song set against a twinkling backdrop produced by ORKL that plays around with City Pop ideas without going all in on it (see also her English description, which plays up her arrival at the end of the Heisei era…fit in all the nostalgia you can). But she sing-raps over it gracefully, adding in a fitting melancholy to the off-in-the-distance-neon vibes. And guest rapper Yungyu ups it even more with a great Autotune-soaked verse upping the emotion even more. Listen above.