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New Chelmico: “Balloon”

Chelmico’s switch to a major label has, so far at least, found the pair focusing more on more outright up-tempo material. “Balloon” offers a breather, finding the duo reeling back the energy for at least one number in favor of laid-back rapping (and a little singing) over a sparse jazz-inspired beat moved forward by keyboard and a beat happy to let them do their thing while it shuffles forward. It’s a good change of pace, and hints at next month’s Fishing offering some welcome variety to the mix. Listen above.

New PellyColo: “Solar Powered”

PellyColo covers a staggering amount of ground over the course of Solar Powered. The creator’s ambition came through clearly on the sci-fi-inspired album Universal Catalog, a number that turned spacecraft flight into jaunty synth-pop jogs. Solar Powered keeps the same star-bound imagery while pulling ideas from Gradius and house music among other places. It’s a lot to take in — at 21 songs and more than an hour-long playtime, this one really comes off as PellyColo’s retro opus — but he pulls it off. That’s partially because of the variety of sounds PellyColo explores across this juggernaut. He zooms from cheery synth-powered bouncers (“Vic Viper”) to new wave balladry (“Close In Your Eyes”) to something approaching a zero-gravity waltz (“Metropoliania”).

Simply dipping into different sounds doesn’t make for an interesting listen if the artist can’t make anything worthwhile out of them. Yet PellyColo proves to be adept at almost everything he tries on Solar Powered, creating catchy numbers and more interesting experiments into genres formerly unknown to him. A lot of the charm comes from PellyColo’s use of older sounds not as a nostalgia crutch but rather a set of tools to build with. Despite the ’80s movie album art and vague Lucas-isms running throughout, this one never feels too mushy about the past, but rather more interested in building something all its own from it. The slinky disco groove of the title track gets a little extra energy from the synthesized string swoops, while “Feel The Fire” and “Feel So Fine” recreates guitar-solo-heavy funk without any of the goofiness often attributed to it (let’s also take a moment to appreciate how, when he decides to, PellyColo can make a mean indie-pop number, with “El” and “Make You True” being worthy of Elephant Collective). It’s a lot to take in, but PellyColo manages to keep it absorbing without dropping off in quality across the journey. Get it here, or listen below.

New 80KIDZ: “I Don’t Stop”

Electro duo 80KIDZ have let their emotional guard down many times over the years, and those instances have always resulted in their best work. This is a group that came up during peak bloghouse days and gained attention in Japan’s club scene thanks to big blow-out dance cuts, but you can’t just post up at Club Asia for your whole life and expect to have a rich life. The pair have seen aware of this, complimenting the rave ups with more reflective dance number — see 2010’s Weekend Warrior for the best summary of this — and latest single “I Don’t Stop” reminds of how nice reflection works for them. They break out the Vocoder to coat their singing in a thick layer of electronic noise, which pairs nicely with the piano-guided melody. This isn’t total sad-robot territory, as 80KIDZ pair it with an energetic beat and later on some joyful string swells. Yet it works because of the sweetness they sneak in via those electronics. Listen above.

New Sappy: “Pathos”

Sometimes you just need to give yourself over to noise. Sappy have operated in a variety of modes over the last couple of years, but with “Pathos” they choose to stare straight down and embrace shoegaze. They’ve waded into this territory before, but “Pathos” finds them almost going to stereotypical with the sound, with ample guitar feedback blanketing every aspect, to the point where having vocals seems almost like a waste. But this is a genre designed for emotional hyperbole, and it really doesn’t matter that little comes through, because the way the words join the noise to create this intense sense of longing is all you really need. Sappy commits, and the result is worth letting wash over you. Listen above.

New Hirihiri: “Pennycandy”

Producer Hirihiri does cuddly with a welcome bump. The creator’s Hirahira album from earlier this year is one of the year’s best out of Japan thanks to their own personal touches put on familiar high-energy electronic songs. New single “Pennycandy,” put out through Deskpop, further underlines how potentially cutesy dance tracks can take on new life with a little bit of swagger in their step. “Pennycandy” features jazzy interludes and woodwind breakdowns that could be too twee in the wrong hands, but Hirihiri always keeps the energy up so that it always has some muscle coming through. Get it here, or listen below.