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Studio Power: Metafive’s “Don’t Move”

Leo Imai has found himself fronting two super groups in five years, following up his turn in Kimonos by joining up with the generation-hopping outfit Metafive. The names featured in this relatively new project — they’ve done live shows over the last couple of years, but only recently announced a debut album set for January — are among the most honest-to-goodness influential in Japanese music history: Yukihiro Takahashi (Yellow Magic Orchestra), Towa Tei, Keigo Oyamada (probably better known as the brain behind Cornelius and half of Flipper’s Guitar), Yoshinori Sunahara (Denki Groove) and Gondo Tomohiko (OK, not everyone here deserves a chapter in a J-pop history book…but good musician nonetheless!). And then Leo Imai up front.

That’s a lot going on, and with it comes a lot of inflated expectations. “Don’t Move” — released as a “studio live version” today — offers the first real look of Metafive’s forthcoming debut and it’s a mixed bag made all the more confusing by what to make of this project. The song has its moments, establishing a nice groove and a few nice twists and turns (good use of horns!), but suffers from what so many of these supergroup projects end up hurting from. The line-up looks stacked as hell, but who wants to hear Keigo Oyamada just play guitar when you can hear him star in his own projects? The names here sound great, but they are just playing the role of a regular band…with the spotlight falling on Imai. He’s made plenty of good songs, and his work with Kimonos was solid, but on “Don’t Move” he seems to be trying a little too hard to channel David Byrne (or, uh, James Brown) rather than show why Leo Imai should be upfront. This remains an intriguing idea and the album has plenty more tracks to wow, but “Don’t Move” makes the proposition seem a little shakier. Listen above.

New Lulu And Mikeneko Homeless: This Christmas Lovely Day

Welp, the holiday season is officially going, because Maltine have a Christmas-themed album for us. Keeping up with what is turning into a proud tradition, Mikeneko Homeless teams up with another artist for a joint effort. In 2015, that would be the singer Lulu, and the end result is the sweet This Christmas Lovely Day album. The sound dominating the collection was already hinted at on advance track “Watermelon,” wherein Mikeneko Homeless tuned down their wild approach to electronic music in favor of a sentimental electro number that places the emphasis on Lulu’s singing, and letting their normal hectic touches charm on the borders. It carries over to the other three songs on the album, and the pair get downright sparse on “Koko,” a pure piano ballad. It’s an interesting display of Mikeneko Homeless’ music making variety, and Lulu commands the songs with her voice. Rounding it out are four remixes, which offer a far more manic reading of these tunes. Get it here.

New House Of Tapes: “Mirage Mirage”

House Of Tapes tends to operate in two modes — the first is a thunderous, pounding approach where dance music turns suffocating and somewhat apocalyptic. The other is a more vapor-like dream-pop mode, where percussion all but vanishes in favor of pure vibe. New track “Mirage Mirage” is not the meeting point of the two, though traces of both approaches bubble up within it — it is certainly “dreamy,” but features a persistent (but not crushing) beat that propels it forward while voices blur together except for a few joyous moments of clearness. It’s the first trippy thing the Nagoya artist has come up with, and a nice one to get sucked up into. Listen above.

Jukin’: Teddman’s The Only Dance EP

The news hook — the way this release would be timely, beyond it coming out just last week — for the new EP from BootyTune and Battle Train Tokyo artist Teddman would be an appearance from DJ PayPal, who just put out a (very good!) new album that has gotten some good attention. Yet that undersells how good The Only Dance is on its own, as it is a strong collection of juke music jumping from retro samples to Gucci Mane. It’s at times icy (“Slow It Down”) and unsettling (finale “The Only Dance,” featuring a spoken-word sample which is quite a doozy!), but above all else energetic. Get it here, or listen below.

New The Neon City: “Chinatown” And “Summer Memories”

Osaka’s The Neon City explores blurriness from two different angles on her newest pair of songs. “Chinatown” (above) revels in wooziness, voices layered over one another a la A Sunny Day In Glasgow, with the end result sounding like a drunken skip down the street, every good thing spinning around together. It is far different from “Summer Memories” (below), which uses a similar (albeit less manic) approach to blurry electronic sounds to create a sweetly nostalgic song, one where the good memories are still fresh but already fading away.