The end of winter signals the approach of one of the most important two-week stretches on the Japanese calendar. Spring equals cherry blossoms, and with the blooming of these white-pink beauties means an opportunity people to drink beneath the petals and get nostalgic about yesteryear, friends and colleagues now lost to the march of time. It also means the arrival of “sakura songs,” a brief period of time where tons of J-Pop artists release music about the cherry blossom season, and all the goodbyes/memories that come with it.
Problem is, most of these songs sound the same as they did the year before, and the same as the year before that. Sakura songs usually take the form of goopy ballads that go heavy on the Disney cheese. This annual style, which you can set your watch to, needs an upgrade. Erectricmole seem like a group that could shoot some new life into this type of song. The dreamy electronic unit created a pastel-heavy wonderland on last year’s Houka No Hirune, a lovely daydream album where the scenery would feature cherry blossoms in bloom all year. It wasn’t perfect – all maps of spots featuring nothing of interest – but the highlights (“Nekoyanagi”) felt like the best possible escape from the real world. A style as wilted as the sakura song could use a trip to a fantasy land.
Erectricmole’s new single “Sakura” arrives a few weeks ahead of the cherry blossoms, but offers a nice electric take on the season. The title track retains the blanket-warm vibe the group established on Houka No Hirune, the fragile vocals surrounded by sunny electronic touches. Though the structure isn’t that radical from something AKB48 or Arashi would push out, “Sakura” also never overdoses on the grandiose. The single comes with two other songs of varying quality. Despite a lovely minimalist intro, “Haru No Ogawa” quickly transitions into something too straightforward (and too bland) for a group specializing in fantasy escape. “Furusato,” though, stands above everything on this release. It is minimal throughout, allowing Erectrimole’s vocals to take center stage. The music and singing evokes a not-always-content wistfulness that matches the title of the song (translation – “Hometown”), a nice counter to the usual sap of sakura season. “Furusato” looks back and sees the past in shades of grey. It’s a wonderful end to a three-song set better than the usual cherry blossom offerings. Get on iTunes, or listen to a sampler below.