Pictured Resort return with a new album titled Pictured Resort on July 3, and they are setting the summer mood a little early with advance peak “Someday.” The band bolster their breezy rock with a little more bluster, clearest through the inclusion of some guitar lines going all Tears For Fears. The coastal pace remains, but now they add a little more swing to it all. Listen above.
The success of “Yawarakai” isn’t so much in the fact rapper Tamana Ramen sounds sadder or downtrodden, but rather how the music backing her up allows her to play around with the mood. Moving in the same direction as many of her peers in a new Japanese rap community, Tamana Ramen embraces guitar playing better suited to a band wearing all black from, like, 2003, using only light percussion and some vocal samples that trail off to add to the mood. She starts the song by singing, giving this one a more traditional rock vibe, until she pivots into something more explicitly rap midway through. Throughout, she manages a melancholy mood from her sparse sound. Listen above.
First off, let’s acknowledge how strange it is to see Paellas prepping for an album on Universal Music. Perhaps I’m just getting weepy with this blog’s tenth anniversary coming in the near future, but seeing them go from playing 4 a.m. at a tiny Shibuya venue to this is pretty cool!
Paellas have locked on to a very specific groove at this point in their existence, and “Horizon” polishes it up ever so slightly as the spotlight widens around them. This one slinks ahead on sparse guitar and bass, letting a little keyboard fanfare sneak in to tease brighter vibes. The band though are still inverting the whole Suchmos-inspired “new city pop” sound, switching out chill Kanagawa vibes in favor of after-Midnight Shibuya bummers. It continues to work well, and leaning in as they prep for new ears is a smart move. Listen above.
Maybe one day I’ll indulge myself and make a hierarchy of things in music that just get me going, but pretty high up on that list would be “singing run through electronic/digital filters and/or other technology to make it sound less human (or, at least, more interesting). New Sheena Ringo…great the moment she starts singing and it comes out like a glitching text-to-talk program! Singer/songwriter Akitoshi Ito manages something similar with new song “Waves,” which also doubles as another example of how far genre walls have fallen for Japanese artists for better and for worse. This one moves from acoustic guitar melodies to a wordless stretch of beats and distorted voices, a move that could have been a misfire if it sounded more polished, but here has a roughness that gives a nice edge to the song (and works with the…wait for it…electric guitar solo that serves as a bridge). On top of all that, Ito works with a sing-talk-rap style run through a thick layer of Auto-tune. That’s a lot for one song, but leaning into all of it (especially that sweet, sweet Auto-tune) makes it work. Listen above.
While I respect how so much music in the digital-and-streaming age can help people focus or get various chores done, I’m also a little hesitant of how frequently songs simply become background music. Besides often being boring, it just feels like a cheap approach to art, to reduce it to room filler. Yuri’s Nijuuichi Seiki No Rinri doesn’t allow listeners to drift off, because every track here moves in way demanding attention. This comes close to being a beat tape, underlined by the two guests here being rappers (including Tamana Ramen on . But these aren’t songs to do homework too. Opener “Kyou Mimei” matches bell chimes with pleasant electronic notes…before letting clanging percussion rattle off in the back, disrupting the dream-like state Yuri initially creates. This ever-present disconnect between the relaxing and ruptured proves to be the album’s strength, with numbers like “Access” not even settling into a beat structure, but shooting off all over from rhythmic to uneasy. Get it here, or listen below.