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New Lucky Kilimanjaro: “Kaze Ni Naru”

The thing about being upbeat is that you really need to commit to not come off as phony. Lucky Kilimanjaro occupy just the right corner here, creating bouncy dance-pop topped off by shout-along hooks that never get too twee and mutate into an I’m From Barcelona group hug. “Kaze Ni Naru” offers up joy in a way that never feels cloistering, always keeping some space even as the band fills the song up with synthesized string notes and side twinkles that offer a little wide-eyed wonder to this. It never goes too far, but it never holds back on offering up a little brightness in a dance-pop shell. Listen above.

New HoneyComeBear: “Calling”

HoneyComeBear’s calling card has been the ability to take familiar EDM stompings and find a way to turn them into something closer to a J-pop ballad without sacrificing the banger qualities. “Calling” offers the latest example of the duo’s balancing act, featuring skittering drum beats and bright keyboard melodies wrapped around tender verses just really leaning in on the emotion. But thankfully, instead of a swell of strings come the hook, HoneyComeBear let a sharp metallic swarm of synths buzz off as the center. Always here for tension between the sweet and the stinging. Listen above.

New Mom: “Himitsu No Futari”

Let’s call this one a softer side of Mom. The artist’s best work, for me at least, has always been about energy, often giddily jamming genre together or simply finding his own perspective on hip-hop and running with it. “Himitsu No Futari” keeps things mellow. It’s the closest he’s come to approaching that neo-city-pop sound, here backed by whistling and light guitar playing. It’s pretty sedate, and feels more like an interlude than something to really dwell on, though entire bands have made careers out of a similarly snoozy sound so here’s hoping this is just a detour. But even then, credit to Mom’s singing, which brings an unpredictable energy to a predictable backdrop. Even when a song misses the mark, Mom at least reminds you why he stands out. Listen above.

Pick-Me Up: Toti’s “Lost”

I’m just so tired recently…the latest release from Omoide Label serves as a real nice shot of sonic caffeine, an upbeat trio of dance songs from producer Toti that really just go for pure energy over any evolution of the “future bass” sound that has been kicking around for a while now. The title track comes closest to being something signaling a way forward, as Toti embraces space and a slower build to create something that hits harder. But look, I’m burned out, so the familiar lightspeed dash of “Neo” sounds incredible to me, and is just the bucket of water splashed on my face at this moment. For all the other sleepy folks out there, embrace the energy and get going. Get it here, or listen below.

New Haruno: “Broadcast” And “Terminal Center”

Haruno steps towards the spotlight on these pair of recent releases. The artist has previously used Vocaloid singing as a base while in recent months has switched up to more beat-oriented instrumental chill outs. But now Haruno is making their vocals (presumably) go to the center on numbers that opt for mid-tempo pop. “Broadcast” came out last week, and offers something approaching slink from Haruno. Over a beat and some synth squiggles, Haruno delivers an English-language verse darted with regret that gets obscured by the generally bouncy music around it. Listen above.

“Terminal Center” unfolds at an even slower pace, Haruno going for lazy-day R&B allowing plenty of space for their voice to take off…although they ultimately choose to keep it a bit on the muted and fuzzy side, accenting it with piano melodies and a few well-timed anime samples. It’s as easygoing as a 2 p.m. riverside stroll, but also comes a little too close to replicating the inert instrumentals serving as their weakest work to date. “Terminal Center” is background, while “Broadcast” shows a way to move forward towards something interesting. Listen to “Terminal Center” below.