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Yellow Tokyo Compilation 001 Featuring MPEG-7, Negami And More

The risk in writing about this compilation is that I’ll almost certainly not get out to the party it is meant to promote, which seems like a bit of a missed connection. Then again, Yellow Tokyo Compilation 001 also serves as a good intro to the world these folks are trying to create. MPEG-7 was the gateway in for me, and I think their “420th Century Ringtone” is the highlight, a squirmy number that blooms into a rumbler as it moves along. Negami keeps it simple with their opening track, but delivers an energetic cut from it, while Jiang-shi Academy goes full acid with their contribution. Get it here, or listen below.

Yoshino Yoshikawa Teams Up With ONJUICY For RPG EP

One of the failings of Japanese hip-hop in recent years, in my opinion, is a failure to develop a sound all their own. Most of the big hits — even the super fun ones! — are pretty much imitating American production. Which, hey flattery really is a compliment (and, hey, this isn’t just a Japan thing), but I always find it way more fun when people find something different, that helps them stand out.

So this collaboration, between producer Yoshino Yoshikawa and ONJUICY, jumps out for presenting something so different. Yoshikawa’s music has shown that it can blend in with hip-hop — and The Weeknd (or The Weeknd’s team) seems to like it — but still RPG shows that he can provide a great backdrop for a rapper. The title track is Yoshikawa’s playroom-pop made a bit more spacious for ONJUICY’s rhyming, the MC bouncing around like it’s an inflatable castle. “Green Hill” unfolds a touch slower, but still loads up on chimes and gives ONJUICY plenty of room to bob and weave through. It’s two familiar artists working in (slightly) new terrain, and shows what happens when you try something different. Get it here, or listen below.

Now That’s Indie-Pop!: Syanmonika’s “Nostalgic Blue”

Recently, I went to a music conference in Shibuya that was heavy on seminars focused on China. Turns out the Chinese market…it’s a big one, guys! Anyway, one of the presentations talked about how Japanese music can get over to China, and one of the most popular styles with listeners was listed as “indie pop (City Pop).” Which…huh? Those two things are so radically different, one being about glitzy maximalism (and having a lot of great equipment to work with) while the other is something you could record with your friends in a garage while feeling particular sappy. Syanmonika’s “Nostalgic Blue” is indie-pop, a chugging number built around guitar and a simple beat, featuring singing that conceals just a touch of melancholy for something. Simple, yes, but the best indie-pop tends to be just that. Listen above.

Modern Times: Utsuro Spark’s Static Electricity

Well now here’s a twist…a Local Visions’ release that actually reminds me more of today than yesterday (viewed through a really gnarly kaleidoscope). Utsuro Spark is a duo featuring a female vocalist and lyricist backed-up by a producer. This is the type of group becoming more and more common in Japanese electronic music, and Static Electricity is a nice addition to music coming from such projects in 2018. Nothing about the music itself is particularly retro either — opener “Neon” features plenty of synths, but it’s a twinkling number that doesn’t make specific reference to the past (save maybe for the title). The highlight, though, is “Seaside,” which lets its electronic bend around the edges, giving the whole song a dizzy feel while still holding on to a catchy melody. Get it here, or listen below.

New Izumi Makura Featuring Lovely Summer Chan: “Inochi”

Izumi Makura has come out of her room and into the daylight. The whisper-rapper started out barely rising above a breath and often sounded agoraphobic, OK to offer glimpses into her journal-rich world but without stepping too far out. Yet thanks to more opportunities — turns out, when people like your music, they want more of you! — she’s edged towards something a little poppier, all while still maintaining the ennui lurking in her words. “Inochi” is her brightest offering yet, finding her and guest Lovely Summer Chan rapping and singing over a skippy beat with a sampled bit of singing going “you did me wrong” breaking in every once in a while. It’s a pretty direct representation for what I described up there — the poppiness, the ennui — and it builds up to a chorus that delivers a subtle catchiness. Listen above.