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New Yunovation: “Hogaraka Ni”

On the one hand — it remains incredible how much Yunovation can pull off with a melodica. The Osaka artist’s calling card is her proficiency with the instrument, and first album Hogaraka Ni shows just how deft she can be with something most people view as a toy foisted on easily distracted pre-schoolers. “Roki Store” remains a sunny-day charmer featuring a skippy melody refusing to settle down, while “Town Fair” pairs her melodica notes up with a stroll-ready beat and some guitar splashes to create something a touch more reflective in its emotions. Best of all is “Nanba Night Out,” where the instrument manages to capture all the ups and downs of an all nighter when matched up against some swift electronics.

On the other hand though — Yunovation is so much more. Last year she revealed loftier ambitions via one of the year’s stronger outright pop offerings, with her singing pushed right to the center. Hogaraka Ni builds on this, with one of the first sounds coming through on the album being her own voice talking about the sky. She even strips down “Aruteido Aru” so that her words play a more prominent role, replacing the hop-scotch rhythm of the original with an airy electronic backdrop unfolding at a slower speed. It’s a risk — especially considering how fantastic the original recording was — but she makes it work, revealing a new perspective on the song while also showing she can hold her own.

Both sides, though, are connected by Yunovation’s love for music. Hogaraka Ni is an album focused mostly on celebrating sound itself, with the words appearing on “Constant T” and “Wannasing” offering odes to the feeling having music as personal safety blanket or vessel for expression brings on. Though even the ones focused on just her melodica carry the same vibe, with her entire approach here being so upbeat as to cut through any of the cynicism the modern music landscape can bring on. Get it here, or listen below.