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More Than Ordinary: Passepied’s “Toriyanse”

EDITOR’S NOTE: Hey, look nobody is perfect. Below is some text that originally appeared on the Make Believe Tumblr yesterday, as that’s where I first heard an mp3 version of this song. The video, though, came out today and, coupled with the fact there is not much else to cover, I’m going to repost what I wrote here because…this is great song!

One of the more subtle trends of the year in Japanese music has been young artists (or, if you would like to be cynical/probably right about it, labels) embracing the style of Tokyo band Sotaisei Riron. That outfit aren’t exactly toiling away in the salt mines of the music industry – all three of their proper full-length albums (plus an EP) have appeared in the top ten of the Oricon Charts. Yet they are still quite a bit of an outsider group – they feature some of the most unconventional vocals and lyrics of any band capable of releasing a top-ten album in Japan. Not to mention a singer shrouded in mystery…the band famously doesn’t allow photos of them to be taken, especially at live shows. Their lead singer looks like she would rather be anywhere else than on stage. I saw them at a music festival summer and both of these points rang true…yet people still went wild for them. They are a bit of a strange band.

In 2013, though, more and more newish acts were starting to sound like Sotaisei Riron. One was fledgling Harajuku-tied pop star Hanae, who pretty much bit everyone of her moves from Sotaisei Riron…except for the part where her music is straight-up derivative drivel. The other act was Passepied, who have been around a bit longer but had a bit of a breakthrough year over the past 12 months. They are a bit tricky to write about – they are good band, but much of their previous work struck me as a bit too safe, a bit too much of a case of some kids taking cues from Sotaisei Riron and running with it a little too closely to the source material. The guitars were birthed from the same Showa-era records, and the vocals had the same whispery quality. Lots of good ideas, but not quite there.

Their new single, though, is a breakthrough through them stylistically. They haven’t reinvented themselves entirely, but Passepied sound way more confident in themselves here. The vocals show a bit more variety – and seem to now be taking cues from Shiina Ringo a bit more closely too – and their are great details, like the secondary voice that joins parts of the chorus like a cheerleader. And even moments where the lead singer’s voice approaches abandon, more than Sotaisei Riron ever have. Nice to see these guys leap ahead and be something more than just a trend. Watch above.