Make Believe Melodies For December 4th, 2023
Can I Get The Best Of 2023 List Out In 2023? Stay Tuned?
computer fight — gushagushavinyl
Better late than missing out entirely — here’s eight of the best minutes of music I’ve heard all year from any band going. The perfect balance between nervy post-punk expression and the speak-sing chaos of Zazen Boys, always teetering on disaster but somehow keeping itself upright. I’ve spent the bulk of 2023 fascinated by the club concoctions and netlabel-indebted experimentation of the post-reopening electronic world (see: PAS TASTA, Templime), but something very similar has been playing out on the more pure rock side of things, with bands like computer fight, Texas 3000, the bercedes menz, SleepInside and many more (with plenty of overlap, all of these acts leaning towards the abyss that BBBBBBB resides in but never falling in). gushagushavinyl might be my favorite of the bunch, primarily because it compacts the pent-up energy of the last three years into under 10 minutes. Get it here.
4s4ki — “Continue”
A declaration of wanting to avoid settling set over a constantly mutating musical backdrop. 4s4ki plays around with her voice across “Continue,” layering choruses of herself to create disorienting verses, and then morphing her voice to reflect her desire to push pass the regular. That’s all fitting for an artist trying to find elevation through bedroom experimentation, but here she’s happy to tinker more than usual. Listen above.
Filix Wang — Shibuya Motion
Shibuya inspires charged emotions, whether positive or negative. Filix Wang attempts to verbalize them over the course of the Shibuya Motion EP, going as far as to sing in three languages (Japanese, Chinese, English) trying to capture the vibes of a night in Dogenzaka and the connection made / lost in those streets. It works best as a stream of consciousness, captured best by the title track, which finds the artist trying to work it all out and never really getting to the core of what Shibuya is all about…but offering a kind of rapid fire commentary on being out in it. Fittingly, at one point the lyrics sheet ends up looking like this:
Feeling trumps labored writing. Listen above.
Sakina Tonchiki — “U.M.A”
Pasocom Music Club can do sleek, oddball…and chipper. Here’s the latter on full display, backing up one half of femme fatale over a delirious chiptune-teasing bit of synthesizer giddiness. Listen above.
Sawa Angstrom — “QUEST”
In little doses, nostalgic blasts can work wonders. I love the little Pac-Man-esque squeaks popping up over the course of trio Sawa Angstrom’s “QUEST,” little Nintendo-era sprinkles put over a synth-pop bouncer. While not as indebted to game sounds as the likes of YMCK or Omodaka, that little bit of bits adds depth to the group’s electronic jam. Listen above.
monyuuu — “Kimi To Amai Parfait (Kusa Lie)”
Hesitant to admit this for myriad reasons…but according to Spotify Wrapped, my most listened to “genre” of music in 2023 was “Japanese HyperPop.” I mean…fair enough, even though I think nobody wants to be associated with that term anymore! But hey, I’m a sucker for stuff like this, a blown-out bit of synth-pop featuring rapping about sweets and heartbreak, uploaded straight to SoundCloud. This rawer recording fits the “style” best I find, because it allows the emo core to come through. Listen above.
Tatsuya Kitani — “Moonthief”
Tatsuya Kitani is one of the big breakout stars of J-pop in 2023, and someone gaining huge from anime. “Where Our Blue Is” teases angular math rock alongside Eve-appropriate singing, making it the perfect fit for a series like Jujutsu Kaisen…and thus making it a number that has climbed up surprisingly high on various streaming charts over the course of the year. “Moonthief” keeps the tempo and general sonic construction of his big hit but, free of Shonen Jump tie-ups, can indulge in every idea it has. Multi-tracked vocals turning into fever dreams! Start-stop electro hooks nodding to the good ol’ days of EDM! Pitched-up vocal samples that you would find on a Pa’s Lam System song! Everyone has to make a living…but it’s great to see someone hit the jackpot, and then use the newfound capital to get wild in a pop context. Listen above.
Oricon Trail For The Week Of November 20, 2023 To November 26, 2023
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.
NEWS — “Gifted” (128,689 Copies Sold)
Throwbacks all around with this week’s Oricon singles topper. One of the longest-tenured groups under the agency-formerly-known-as-Johnny-And-Associates umbrella, NEWS also offer up a slight throwback in not sharing a full-length music video on YouTube. Instead, we get a “short version.” Guess they read about the Y2K trend!
The twist is this really underlines how much the agency and the acts associated with it have changed. “Short versions” used to be the norm, but “Gifted” in 2023 exists as an outlier; most pop acts in this stable now embrace YouTube, and many are even creeping towards other streaming platforms. The J-pop ecosystem has changed, and moments like this that were once common are becoming rarities.
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News And Views
The New Year’s Eve programming rave continues to build. NHK’s Kohaku Uta Gassen has truly embraced its “borderless” theme by announcing that Queen (with Adam Lambert in the vocalist space) will appear at the Dec. 31 bonanza. Good reminder that Bohemian Rhapsody did bonzo box office in Japan when it came out, and Queen is one of those legacy Western acts held in eternal esteem out here. The real question is…do we get a Freddie Mercury hologram or something?
As mentioned in the past, Queen will not be sharing the bill with any groups from the agency-formerly-known-as-Johnny-And-Associates, as none were invited to appear on the national broadcaster’s show. Instead, individual acts will hold livestream events counter Kohaku. Snow Man announced further details regarding their livestream, which will feature a concert followed by the members just chilling and chatting up until midnight (honestly, smart content). Meanwhile, King & Prince announced they’ll also hold a livestream on New Year’s Eve.
While it’s tempting to default to “NHK Vs. (former) Johnny’s” as the story here (I’ve done it before, it’s juicy), it’s really a showdown between “perceived monoculture Vs. fan-focused fragmentation.” Kohaku persists because of its legacy and the idea that it represents something bigger than individual components — it’s a 20th century showcase trying to navigate the 21st century. These individual group livestreams, meanwhile, are hyper-focused on fans, to the point where simply watching them shoot the shit constitute a main draw. It’s a bit of a stretch to act like these two outfits are niche — people won’t want to hear this, but both Snow Man and King & Prince continue to dominate sales, and are appearing on TV a lot more once again after that initial posturing from networks — but their approach to Dec. 31st is a reflection of now, closer to like a Twitch stream than the pomp programming used to require.
Reol to tour Asia early next year…J-pop in its many manifestations making (literal) moves.
How the heck did this come together.
I remain fascinated by the failure of X-Con, which today revealed that its parent company had gone bankrupt. De La Soul plus VTubers plus K-pop equals big bills I guess!
Joysound released its 2023 karaoke song ranking based off ~ data ~ with Vaundy topping the list, followed by YOASOBI and Yuuri (geeez, what a joyless session that must be). I’m most wowed by “Marunouchi Sadistic” coming in at the 11th spot…it’s a jam, and a deceptively tough Karaoke Kan pull!
Japanese songs performed well on Apple Music’s year-end ranking (makes sense, given how the service is very popular in Japan and Asia), with “Idol” coming in at 7th place…and Official HIGE DANdism placing at 10th with “Subtitle.”
Honor hide with a craft beer. Future premium content?
Weeekly’s Monday covers Kenshi Yonezu.
Atarashii Gakko! dancing with the Japanese ambassador to Mexico. Shout out this account…I wrote a story for Newspicks last week about the Argentinian “Chainsaw Man” president and Crazy Ass Moments In LatAm Politics might as well have been the New York Times for my sourcing purposes.
Personal faves The Lethal Weapons baffling Timothee Chalamet.
Us Perfume fans are having a damn good week. Nocchi is out here flipping through binders of Pokemon cards for an article. A-chan is on the panel for this new Netflix show where Japanese women try to find their own “K-drama love” (haven’t had time to watch, but will because…A-chan is on the panel). And we got this photo.
imase was at MAMA, as were…many other people.
I wrote about the year in entertainment reckoning for The Japan Times, looking at the agency formerly known as Johnny & Associates, Takarazuka Revue and even the popularity of a show like Oshi No Ko.
Kyary Pamyu Pamyu shared wedding pics.
So I think Miki Matsubara’s estate has made a greater effort to celebrate / preserve her music, with a new official music video honoring her big viral hit, directed by Brazilian duo The Fridman Sisters, below. I’m a little thrown by the extremely basic site…but it all sounds legit, I think.
Written by Patrick St. Michel (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Twitter — @mbmelodies
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