Damn, how good was 2018 in Japanese music? Looking back at this top ten I made, I’m pretty stunned by how strong all of them have persisted for me deep into 2019. That said, only one of them has really shot up for me personally since then — if you really care, it would be a worthy #3. It wouldn’t be fun to write about music if you couldn’t take some wild swings every once in awhile, and I’d bet Tsudio Studio’s Port Island ends up being an album that really resonates with people in the decades to come, while also being a significant shift in the whole “city pop” thing that took hold this decade. The Kobe artist found the perfect middle ground between reminiscence for a past they don’t know and the sounds of today, with an album offering up nostalgia packaged in a way nobody else is doing.
So yeah, I’m pretty pumped for Soda Resort Journey, the follow up due this November (and, based on how it is getting an old-fashioned CD-centric push, some others are betting on this one too). First taste “Kiss In KIX” presents Tsudio Studio as a more urgent kind of pop act — a little less time spent playing around with sounds bordering the main melody, more building up towards that hook — though they retain the details that pushed this far beyond a bubble reenactment. The vocals are smudged ever so slightly, and the seconds right before the chorus give way to a little digital hiccup (well, a big one later on). Yet this one also features some of Studio’s most crowd-pleasing moments to date, including the guitar melody that shines through on the chorus and that sax, oh my god the sax. The city pop trademarks come through, but in their hands they can be played around with and turned into something new rather than be stuck in time. Listen above.