Virgin Babylon Records has, in consecutive weeks, released two albums that have grabbed my attention and stand out as a pair of 2016’s best Japanese albums thus far. The first is anything but a surprise if you’ve read this blog for a while — Metoronori’s latest full-length is a disjointed, fizzling rabbit hole of an album, one where her off-balance approach to pop produces some of her most intriguing moments. Somewhat similar to Noah’s Sivutie from 2015, Metoronori’s new album is a retreat inward, into a world built by an active imagination.
The other album is a bit more of a surprise to me, and almost the polar opposite of what Metoronori does. Have A Nice Day!’s Dystopia Romance 2.0 is a proudly blaring collection of synth-backed rock where the band hold no drama back — it’s an often energetic, always romantic set that tackles emotions head on. I had assumed that celebration of being alive was primarily a live thing, but this album revels in the ups and downs of being. “New Romance,” which features World’s End Girlfriend, touches on a lot of what makes Dystopia work — it seems a bit silly (well before the rap breakdown comes in), with its pop-song vocal samples, but turns into an uneasy slink with a melancholy side lurking somewhere in there. Not quite as heart-on-sleeve as “Love Supreme,” but lively all the same. Listen above.