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New Maison Book Girl: “Okaeri Sayonara”

Idol music isn’t a field geared towards innovation. The challenge in approaching it is accepting that groups — especially in the 2010s — tend to occupy a very specific musical (if not visual) niche, and expecting change from them is kind of a hopeless pursuit. One I still fall for, but I digress! This is all a way of saying Maison Book Girl hit a sonic sweet spot for me, and a large part of that is just personal preference for click-clacking percussion and violin swoops instead of another group leaning on chugging guitars. “Okaeri Sayonara” serves as a preview of the group’s next album, and leans on a familiar palette of sounds, albeit one that also seems a touch more spacious than other recent releases. Yet it’s a sound they keep finding new angles on, all while maintaining an emotional core that elevates the group up for me. Listen above.

New Grizzly Temple (Formerly YYSHIDD): 1990 EP

Well before it became an aethstetic reference point, YYSHIDD was getting in on a city pop revival here in Japan focused entirely on the actual sound of that ’80s style. Songs such as “Naomi’s Love Affair” nailed the gold-flake-coated bounce of city pop without leaning too hard into nostalgia. YYSHIDD re-named themselves to Grizzly Temple, and has shifted from 24K struts to a different memory-baiting style that they pull off just right. 1990 uses 8-bit sounds as a base to create springy dance numbers. Like the best chiptune, however, Grizzly Temple avoids simply reminding listeners of games they maybe played as kids — but rather using those sounds as a way to construct head-bopping beats on the title track and the strobed-out stagger of highlight “Night In Taipei.” Get it here, or listen below.

New Emamouse: Pigeon’s Point

It’s always a treat to step into Emamouse’s world and see what ideas they’ve got cooking up. Pigeon’s Point revels in simple, charming melodies and surrealist (and silly!) imagery that feels like welcome escape into fantasy. “PP2” opens up with a nice skip accented by chirpy singing bordering on human Vocaloid that sets the album off to a jolly start, before Emamouse runs off some instrumental numbers exuding the same upbeat feel, playing around with sounds the same way Foodman might if commissioned to make background music for a children’s TV show. But part of Pigeon’s Point lies in the moments the drama gets ramped up — “Mischievous Donut In The Garden Of Poptart Again” features pained singing over a chorus of dizzying Emamouses, starting a stretch of music that adds more tension to the collection (“Midnight Seen Before,” “Romou’s Meadow”). And it all ends on a softer, guitar-assisted note with the come-down of “All What Happened To You Is Just Particles. You Know It.” A fittingly nice note to exit this place, at least for now. Get it here, or listen below.

New Boogie Mann: Who Is Next

Who is next? Boogie Mann has been around in Japan’s juke community, even offering something approaching mainstream awareness a couple years back. But now here is a chance for more international exposure, via Traxman’s label Tekk DJZ. Who Is Next offers four sturdy tracks showcasing one of the Japanese scene’s most vital creators. The title track wastes no time getting to the skittery goodness, using vocal samples and electric guitar lines to generate a hyperactive little number. From there, its a showcase of Boogie Mann’s many sides, from the self-explanatory “Acid Track” (well, OK, it’s actually got a little more bounce to it, while also boasting plenty of the titular house sound) to the funk dissection of “Sleep Walkin.'” Get it here, or listen below.

New Carpainter: Orient

Last year’s Returning saw Carpainter make a big breakthrough with familiar sounds. It’s a strong argument in favor of sticking with a style and seeing what new paths open up over time rather than dashing off into something new and hoping it sticks — Returning saw the producer uncover woozy and emotional new depths to his 2-step, all while maintaining the same springiness that makes it work just as well in a club as out of headphones.

So how to follow it up? Well, by continuing to plug away at that bounciness and see where it takes him next. Orient tip-toes towards something separate from Returning, the two tracks included here moving at just a slightly slower pace and leaving more room for squiggly feelings. The title track whirls around, letting new elements sneak in over the course of the song, but dominated by a synth flutter that gives the song an aching feeling that has crept into Carpainter songs before, but feels more realized over these four-and-a-half minutes. “Mottled Pattern” prioritizes the physical over the fizzy emotions, but still approaches it with more sparseness, and incorporating a Chicago house indebted melody to it. Either way, it is continued poking at something Carpainter knows well, with more great results. Get it here, or listen below.