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New 80KIDZ: “I Don’t Stop”

Electro duo 80KIDZ have let their emotional guard down many times over the years, and those instances have always resulted in their best work. This is a group that came up during peak bloghouse days and gained attention in Japan’s club scene thanks to big blow-out dance cuts, but you can’t just post up at Club Asia for your whole life and expect to have a rich life. The pair have seen aware of this, complimenting the rave ups with more reflective dance number — see 2010’s Weekend Warrior for the best summary of this — and latest single “I Don’t Stop” reminds of how nice reflection works for them. They break out the Vocoder to coat their singing in a thick layer of electronic noise, which pairs nicely with the piano-guided melody. This isn’t total sad-robot territory, as 80KIDZ pair it with an energetic beat and later on some joyful string swells. Yet it works because of the sweetness they sneak in via those electronics. Listen above.

New Sappy: “Pathos”

Sometimes you just need to give yourself over to noise. Sappy have operated in a variety of modes over the last couple of years, but with “Pathos” they choose to stare straight down and embrace shoegaze. They’ve waded into this territory before, but “Pathos” finds them almost going to stereotypical with the sound, with ample guitar feedback blanketing every aspect, to the point where having vocals seems almost like a waste. But this is a genre designed for emotional hyperbole, and it really doesn’t matter that little comes through, because the way the words join the noise to create this intense sense of longing is all you really need. Sappy commits, and the result is worth letting wash over you. Listen above.

New Hirihiri: “Pennycandy”

Producer Hirihiri does cuddly with a welcome bump. The creator’s Hirahira album from earlier this year is one of the year’s best out of Japan thanks to their own personal touches put on familiar high-energy electronic songs. New single “Pennycandy,” put out through Deskpop, further underlines how potentially cutesy dance tracks can take on new life with a little bit of swagger in their step. “Pennycandy” features jazzy interludes and woodwind breakdowns that could be too twee in the wrong hands, but Hirihiri always keeps the energy up so that it always has some muscle coming through. Get it here, or listen below.

New Sayohimebou: “Shenzhen Diva”

With the end of the decade approaching fast, reflecting back has been taking up a lot of time in my noggin over the last month. Part of that has been trying to sort where netlabels such as Maltine Records fall in the “narrative” of “the decade,” but then said online imprint comes through with a release as giddy as anything put out in 2019 that reminds they remain as vital as ever and that I’m a dummy for even trying to imagine this as some sort of story with a point A and point B. Sayohimebou’s “Shenzhen Diva” is breathless elevation, with the producer using vocal samples as the main ingredient in this non-stop giddy romp. The key is Sayohimebou never reels it back, but rather lets it just keep getting more and more ecstatic until the end. No need to put a bow on things when they keep on delivering. Listen above.

Happy Sea Day!: Rosskeyy’s “Sai Summer Koh” Featuring nsn

Let’s hear it for Japan’s nature-themed holidays. Sea Day has arrived, and while going to the beach probably is out of the question — Tokyo has had something like 5 hours of sunshine total this whole month, I’m doing great I swear! — there is still a chance to enjoy some city-pop-inspired music to conjure up resort vibes. Rosskeyy has been dipping into this pool for a few years now, with a few offerings being especially vibrant (especially in our half-decade of more chilled-out interpretations). “Sai Summer Koh” is the latest blast of funk-tinted pop from Rosskeyy, featuring a nice vocal contribution from nsn. The whole thing is a solid blast of pep — anyone already missing Shiggy Jr. can find some refuge here — but the highlight comes with the chorus, where nsn just goes hard on the “saikoh” to drive home just how delirious this season can be. Listen above.