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New Kamisama Club: “N°5”

Listening to fidgety electro-pop duo Kamisama Club’s latest number, something in the back of my head kept telling me “doesn’t this sound vaguely familiar?” Not of anything specific, but the atmosphere of “N°5” reminded me of…something. But the more I listen, the more I’m thinking it was bossa-nova-guided neo-Shibuya-kei in the vein of EeL (OK, so maybe one thing specifically), as the percussion here and the generally laid-back vibe (save for a few sudden, skittery dashes and freakouts…the most EeL-ly detail here). Yet for all the details reminding me of the past, Kamisama Club add modern-day touches that lend this their own personal touch. Listen above.

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New Hiroki Yamamura: “Frosty Cake”

I’m always ready uncork the same adjectives with high-energy producers such as Hiroki Yamamura — like “high-energy” — that something like “Frosty Cake” is a total curveball that makes my go-to vocabulary worthless. It still rumbles ahead on a juke-inspired beat, which has been Yamamura’s base for so many lightspeed numbers. But here, everything feels a step slower, and the vocal sample — foggy like its surrounded by dry ice — don’t convey energy as much as reflection. “Frosty Cake” pushes melancholy more than pure sweat, while still being swift. Listen above.

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New KiWi: “The Christmas Party”

A Mad Decent Christmas album sounds like a horrible idea, but honestly — everyone has a Christmas album, so it feels pointless to get cynical about a Major Lazer song about fucking Christmas trees when the novelty holiday collection is such a time-honored tradition. It’s an extremely goofy affair, but far better than the label trying to be serious so…welcome the season! That said, theatrical electro-pop duo KiWi actually make sense within this context, and deliver the highlight of the silly stocking stuffer with “The Christmas Party.” Part of this is because they don’t go far off from what they’ve been doing — this mostly sounds like a Halloween song, with its musty string sounds and yelpy bass. Instead of ghosts, though, they are singing about building big snowmen. And they throw in a high-energy section, one with some glistening notes but hewing closer to the club than the chimney (sorry). If most of this Mad Decent comp is artist making novelty numbers, “The Christmas Party” is KiWi simply making a solid KiWi song. Listen above.

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New Kindan No Tasuketsu Featuring Imagawa Uchu: “Tomorrow World”

Kindan No Tasuketsu are a band full of detours — they’ve explored boogie-assisted rap, tropical instrumentals and fragile acoustic ruminations — but I’d argue they are at their best with the big, bright-eyed songs mixing melancholy with excitement for what tomorrow might bring. Like “Tonight Tonight” before it, “Tomorrow World” is a nervous electro-pop number moving forward on a bouncy machine beat and twinkling keyboard notes, tied together by guest vocalist Imagawa Uchu’s restrained vocal performance, which lends the song a contemplative air — of letting thoughts role out, and making pleas of “don’t vanish” and “don’t go”all the more heartfelt. And it all builds to a hook featuring lift-off, the unease hovering around the verses giving away to excitement about “tomorrow world.” This is the band in their best setting, and one highlighting everything that makes them stand out in the nation. Listen above.

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New Hiroyuki Tanaka: “Just Praise Your Inner Child” And “I Have A Pen”

Plenty to be thankful for today (though in Tokyo, it only feels like a holiday…probably should get on all this work…), but for now we’ll take the arrival of two new songs from hazy house maker Hiroyuki Tanaka. “Just Praise Your Inner Child” is the sweeter, more sun-dappled of the pair, a twinkling number featuring samples of kids lurking beneath the faded beat. Listen to that one above. “I Have A Pen,” meanwhile…well, it isn’t entirely referential of that other song, though a few sonic elements from the noted viral hit sneak in (can you find them???). But for the most part, it is a longing slow-burner. Listen below.

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