Make Believe Melodies For August 1, 2022
Sweat Sweat Sweat
Guchon — Booty Paradise EP
God, getting outside to experience live music…can’t beat it. I went to the first day of Fuji Rock Festival this year, leaving the house at 4:30 am and sleeping in my own home bed nearly 24 hours later. The tired eyes and sore legs were worth it, though. Simply being around so many other people soaking in music…and sweating profusely amidst high temperatures…was exciting, especially in an environment that was both careful about current pandemic situations but also a little more relaxed. Mostly, it felt nice to hear music coming out of giant speakers, whether in a field or from a tent. I really missed this.
I’ve been thinking about that feeling while listening to the Booty Paradise EP over the weekend…even though that’s probably dumb on my part, since I should just be letting myself get swept up in the disco bounce. Guchon remains the best going in Japan, and the delirious dance tracks here feel destined to be on repeat alongside everything on Tropical Pizza and Pineapple Groove. Nothing complex either — vocal samples about derrière turned urgent thanks to some keyboard melodies on the title track, to sun-soaked filter house on standout “Hilton Disco Resort,” the closest you can come to having sunscreen melt down your body while dancing on the beach. There’s nothing complex — just pure radiance and fun.
And yet the only places I’ve experienced any of these releases is my home office or while walking to Seven-Eleven. Am I maybe not getting the full joy of these dance tracks, listening to them while sitting in a chair or taking a stroll? Probably, though it really speaks to Guchon’s magic that they work even in these hum-drum settings. After going back out to a big, joyful group setting for music, I think there’s even more waiting to be unlocked on an EP like this. Get it here, or listen above.
Reol — “Aogeya Toutoshi”
A huge stap at arena pop smuggling in nods to traditional Japanese culture. The video sorta gives that latter point away, but rather than go full UNESCO like “Matsuri” Reol works it all in subtly, from a few shamisen strums beneath the digital fury and her vocal mimicking summer festival singing come the chorus. It’s a small touch that adds a new dimension to her 21st century sound, without ever getting in the way of what she does best. Listen above.
Gimgigam And punipunidenki — “Lucky Drive”
Summer of Gimgigam confirmed. The producer has already helped out on the two best xiangyu songs of the year, and has their own full-length out later this week. I should probably just wait for that offering, but “Lucky Drive” is so good, finding Gimgigam and punipunidenki working in perfect unity to create an emotionally twisty funk number, where the music never gets too comfy and punipunidenki’s singing underline the intensity at the track’s core. Listen above.
That Fancy I — Poppin
New project from Tom-i offering up sweet-toothed garage for the club set. That Fancy I sprinkles in enough moments of ennui — see the piano lines on “I Want” — to make these two tracks a touch more complex without ever losing the propulsion that makes them jump out. Listen above, or get it here.
Gokou Kuyt And who28 — Cosmic Box
Previously seen celebrating Nakano Broadway and extolling the prices on snacks in Koenji, Gokou Kuyt wastes little time into Cosmic Box before shouting out “Aeon chu-hai,” a victory for fans of store brands. It’s a great detail on a collaborative album filled with them, with Kuyt and who28 taking turns balancing catchiness with lyrical flexing. I saw these guys live a couple weeks back, and they are pop stars to a certain subset of young tatted-up Tokyoites, with their ear for great melody and ability to capture youthful life in the capital (Aeon chu-hai!) coming across all five songs here. Listen above.
SERINA Featuring Loud Era And Lil Chill — “ideal??”
Given how much music in the general “hyperpop” lane — even the lighthearted and sweet — leans into maximalism, it’s always surprising to hear a creator in this space play around with less. SERINA works best when stripping away elements, evidenced on her first EP My Heart from earlier in the year, where she works best as straight-ahead rocker or mutant funk creator (“Nice Time With U” and its warped vocals should, in a just world, get her major label attention). Now she’s gone full lonesome R&B with “ideal??” Loud Era and Lil Chill drop by to add their own ennui-rich verses, but SERINA’s hook is the core of this lament, especially in how she uses electronic smears to bring out more feeling from her voice. That, and allowing plenty of space for it to hang out. Listen above.
HAMELN — Algorithm City
Salute to the artists taking big conceptual swings…and connecting. Algorithm City subverts nostalgia-stained expectations in 2022 by presenting a synthwave album with familiar retro-minded aesthetics (see the anime woman on the cover staring off into the distance against a city backdrop) all about rejecting developer-created experiences in favor of forging our own paths. Like Satellite Young’s first album, it’s a memory fake out saying more about today than inspiring fuzzy feelings for an imagined past. Even going beyond the theme…HAMELN just does this sound perfectly, nailing the driving drama and robo-catchiness of it all, while dropping in enough reminders of today (say, samples of contemporary news reports) to disrupt any “ahhhh remember the ‘80s” the mind might wander towards. Get it here, or listen above.
Oricon Trail For The Week Of July 18, 2022 To July 24, 2022
Back in the day, the Oricon Music Charts were the go-to path to music stardom in Japan. Acts of all sorts traversed these lands, trying to sell as many CDs as possible in order to land a good ranking on a chart choosing to only count physical sales, even as the Internet came to be and the number of versions offered for sale got ridiculous. Today, with the country finally in on digital, these roads are more barren and only looked at by the most fanatic of supporters needing something to celebrate. Yet every week, a new song sells enough plastic to take the top spot. So let’s take a trip down…the Oricon Trail.
NiziU — “CLAP CLAP” (131,647 Copies Sold)
Already written about, even though its funny imagining a song (perhaps a group) clearly built for TikTok also pushing physical units galore out of Tower Records across the country…until you remember there’s three versions of the single with “trading cards” included inside, so NiziU is just kind of the perfect fusion of early ‘10s Akimoto and contemporary K-pop.
How about the b-side though? Turns out its NiziU reflecting their generation through lyrics instead of just distribution strategy.
“Short Trip” is about taking a short trip with your friends to go camping (in a big enough tent where it feels like “glamping,” making this the first J-pop song I know of to directly reference “glamorous camping”). Our protagonists listen to birds chirping, burn BBQ, share secrets late into the night and generally feel refreshed by spending time together. It’s both a celebration of escaping the crush of daily life — the constant references to healing and bonding with pals standing in contrast to city life — and also a nod to the current youth-driven boom in nature-centric activities, like camping and fishing. Those are affordable and fun, plus they allow friends to grow closer together. NiziU, aiming to be pop reps for this cohort, finally imagines themselves in their listeners’ rubber boots, driving out to some far-flung camp space to enjoy the stars and conversation.
News And Views
As mentioned up top, Fuji Rock happened without major incident and…based off my own experience and what I’ve gleaned from friends / social media, it went pretty well! The first test of the Japanese live music industry’s tip-toe to normalcy at least felt great for those in Naeba, coupled with the continued importance of the event’s livestreaming presence on YouTube, which lead to chatter aplenty on social media. Lots of angles to take…Cornelius’ much celebrated (for better or for worse) return to live music, the boom in online-baiting moments like BE:FIRST coming out to perform with EDM create-a-character Jonas Blue, the hit or miss introduction of cashless payment at the event…but overall an upbeat start to the season.
Biggest surprise of Fuji for me, at least, was finding out Jack White uses the Miku Stomp pedal. He played the song featuring the familiar digital wobble from his headlining set on the Green Stage Saturday and my timeline lit up. Glad I wasn’t alone in ignoring his first full-length release from 2022, where it prominently features.
Seems small but it’s a bit telling about where we’re at with COVID-19 in Japan. Johnny groups, rather than outright cancel shows, will go ahead with live events minus any affected members, giving fans a heads up if someone won’t be there.
Perhaps the most important “now on streaming” announcement of the year happened last week, when The Idolmaster franchise upped its vast catalog of songs to platforms. A pioneering work of “avatar pop” and reality-bending performance, you can see that it was a decade ahead of its time looking at the landscape of global pop today.
Just Jared interviewed Perfume, including an all-timer quote.
Deadgrandma with a review of Plasma too, I imagine more Perfume content from around the web is coming soon.
YouTube does this program called Foundry where they feature young artists, and Haru Nemuri made the 2022 list! Thrilling to see her in the same tweet as Babytron.
Kang Daniel eyeing the Japanese market, will release a single featuring Miyavi later this month.
Honestly, an AI might have written this but…still charming to see an entire article about a recent Yorushika single obsess over the fact its called “Bremen,” which is also a city in Germany.
Are YOU a cool enough person to hail the Lux TWICE Taxi???
Written by Patrick St. Michel (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Twitter — @mbmelodies
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To venture into other artistic mediums…anime, once again, offers a great snapshot of this via series like Yuru Camp and Diary Of Our Days At The Breakwater. Animation shouldn’t be your textbook to Japan, but it’s a pretty good magazine capturing trends and cultural shifts.
Just a question, would you classify Reol as hyperpop?