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The Shape Of Things To Come: Harunemuri’s “Yume Wo Miyou”

Harunemuri doesn’t represent a new standard in Japanese pop music, but she does point towards a direction where a lot of things are starting to go. Last year’s Atom Heart Mother (really!!) offered a great introduction into what she’s all about, placing her rap-sing delivery in the spotlight against a mix of wonky beats and one instance of what sounds like an attempt at recreating Gesu No Kiwami Otome. She has creative and left-field-ready ideas for days, though the album could use a little tightening up, but if Daoko’s ascension to J-pop limelight left you letdown, that album should soothe the pain.

What’s striking about that album and now new song “Yume Wo Miyou” (off her full-length debut out next month) is how a lot of trends bubbling up in J-pop over the last few years collide here. As mentioned, Harunemuri’s most defining characteristic is how she sings, in a rap-crashing-with-sing-song style bringing to mind Daoko or — especially over the zippy piano lines here — KOM_I of Suiyoubi No Campanella. Yet then she barrels into the chorus, where she ramps up the intensity, approaching a shout. Not to get too comparison heavy, but it’s a bridge between Izumi Makura and Oomori Seiko. A lot of modern touches appear, but Harunemuri still manages to get her own personality through. I think a lot more artists are going to be doing the same in the near future. Listen above.

Drizzle Over: Browned Butter’s “Fall”

For all the internet niche genres and buzzed-about artists blurring the line between electronic music and J-pop, one constant in the Japanese music world is a never-ending supply of indie-pop. And a lot of it hits a sweet spot, even if the influences come through clearly. Kyoto’s Browned Butter deliver one such rush on “Fall,” their first uploaded song online. It’s a galloping number featuring vocalist and guitarist Naoko Yutani’s English lyrics, with the best parts coming from the intersection of softer section smashing into ones where feedback drizzles in to add some roughness. Listen above, or get it here.

New Mondo Grosso Featuring Aina The End (BiSH): “Itsuwari No Sympathy”

Mondo Grosso appears to be here to stay, rather than just be a one-off comeback responsible for a solid album and a song-of-the-year contender. “Itsuwari No Sympathy” — out on streaming services for at least a month now, but finally blessed with a video today — finds Shinichi Osawa continuing to explore the electronic wisps defining last year’s Reborn Again and Always Starting New, building the song up slowly before letting it break into a gallop. Yet, as was also the case in 2017, it’s the guest vocalist who really shines brightest and turns this into an early 2018 J-pop highlight. Aina The End of BiSH glides over the softer verses, delivering vocals that take the dreamier words of “Labyrinth” to a more intimate (and at times uncomfortable) place. But that all sets up the chorus, a delirious repetition of words that is basically a moment of release in a song that is mostly of controlled build. Good signs for Mondo Grosso’s newest album out…next week. Listen above.

New Mountain: Overheat

Osaka’s Mountain has been creating some of Japan’s best drum ‘n’ bass over the last few years, and their most recent release through Soulvent Records marks a particular energetic high for the project. “Overheat” starts things off nicely, featuring a zippy pace joined by some vocal stutters of varying pitches. It’s a nice setter, but the breakthrough is the b-side, “Poseidon.” Here, the often-times reserved side of Mountain breaks away, revealing the most energetic track they’ve ever produced. After a little drip-dropping and piano, everything picks up and “Poseidon” just zooms ahead, powered by a gorgeous vocal melody of syllables lending the track an a melancholy edge. Get it here, or listen below.

New Erik Luebs: Cycle 1​.​3 | March

Tokyo-based producer welcomes in Spring…well, early Spring, but who’s keeping tabs that closely…with a new cycles of songs to get listeners moving. Like previous releases from him, the two songs on Cycle 1​.​3 | March match rumbling beats up with more uneasy details. That’s most present on opener “Mirror Room,” a sweltering number marked by sharp bass daggers that add menace to the track — even during the phases where it actually lets go and gets limber. “Seething” is a little more relaxed, opting for a skittery start that builds to a more energetic release, with a little unease lurking. Get it here, or listen below.