Good couple of days for folks who like J-pop, but prefer the artists operating in the middle-class zone rather than the upper echelons (which is not to say Nishino Kana lacks solid moments). A few familiar mid-tier faces released new songs (and accompanying videos) over the last two days. One outfit was Sugar’s Campaign, the classic-pop-leaning duo of Avec Avec and Seiho, who shared the title track to their second full-length album Mamagoto ahead of its release next week (video above). A slightly misleading thing about Sugar’s Campaign were the songs they released ahead of last year’s Friends — “Netokano” set the table, and “Holiday” boosted expectations high up. Yet as the subsequent album — and “Mamagoto,” which features young singer Inoue Sonoko on vocal duty — proved, Sugar’s Campaign is really a chance for the pair to indulge in their ’70s pop dreams, as the making-the-song video hints at. With that in mind, “Mamagoto” makes a lot of sense, from the Tatsuro-Yamashita-indebted backing harmonies to the ’80s crystalline synth. It’s like comfort food and, though I’m not sure a whole album of it could work, they do it well on the title track.
Speaking of “making-of” videos, Shiggy Jr. are back with their latest, “Beautiful Life,” above. The clip riffs on numerous classic — and recent — Japanese ad archetypes, down to “vaguely offensive curry commercial.” It’s a fun little video, and the song finds Shiggy Jr. doing what they do best — making bouncy mid-tempo pop accented by synthesizer. Doesn’t reach the heights of their last single, but hints that their next album is going to sound mighty nice.
What the last two songs have had in common is they are groups doing what they do best, or at least what they think they do best. Dance-unit-slash-pop-outfit Tempura Kidz’ latest single is…ummmm, I can’t decide if it is a sudden stylistic shift or really just them doing what they do best. The hook with “I Like It” is the song was produced by AG Cook and easyFun of PC Music, and also Sarah Bonito of Kero Kero Bonito was involved somehow. Thinkpiece fodder, right? Even though all the usual PC Music signifiers are present, it actually matches up well with Tempura Kidz because…well, Tempura Kidz have embraced a sort of high-energy, vaguely wacky style in the past. For all the hand wringing over PC Music — remember 2015? Thank goodness we write about important things like Instagram posts now — their style matches up well with this group, squeaks and all. Listen above.