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Foreigners Can Rock Too!: Motor City Ghosts And Nanbanjin

I won’t dwell on the negative, as I have made it my summer project to be slightly more positive. That said and with the official start to the season still a few weeks away, the two bands I’m going to write about in this blurb appeared in a feature about foreign musicians in Japan littered with some absolute garbage music. I mention this to emphasize how much of a miracle finding these dudes were, like pulling a dodo out of the Gulf Coast. Enough of that…I can still hear the idiot thundering in my head.

Nagoya’s Motor City Ghost’s specifically mention “punk, krautrock and indie” on MySpace, and all three of those styles (if “indie” constitutes a musical styling) get absorbed into the band’s music. On standout track “Medicine Ball,” though, MCG’s simply sound like The Sea And Cake, airy guitars and drums moving forward at pop speed in a very well blueprinted direction. If you were going to call the band out on anything…besides the sometimes weak lyrics, but the vocal pacing more than makes up…it’s that they sound way too precise to dub themselves “indie” in the sense of being slackers or not good at their instruments or whatever lazy critical shorthand that word represents now. None of MCG’s other songs come close to matching the swaying goodness of “Medicine Ball” – though “Let’s Get Trivial” comes pretty close – but sound plenty pleasant.

Like MCGs, Nanbanjin play up the indie angle online (describe themselves as “art rock” and just look at those bands they like!) but definitively sound indie. Mostly because lead man David Evans sounds like a deadringer for The Shins’ James Mercer with his higher pitch which he often shoots into even higher altitudes while singing. “Friendly Fire” fakes the listener out by opening like math rock, some angular guitar playing, before exploding into technicolor keyboard dots and letting Evans do his vocal thing that adds extra spice to Nanbanjin’s music. The almost indie-pop shuffle of “Lovespoon” showcases his pipes even better, as he stretches and spreads his voice along to the music in a way that elevates the track into something great. And a hell of a chorus to boot!