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As the image above indicates, “The Hidden Secrets” also doubles as the name for Tokyo indie-pop outfit BOYISH’s newest EP, one which was slated to come out on July 25 but as of 11:18 P.M. on that day isn’t anywhere to be seen (I guess check for an update if it appears by the time this posts). Still, BOYISH have served up a preview in the form of the title track. BOYISH tend to have two modes of twee – they either sound sorta explosive in their ennui or downtrodden and muffled. “The Hidden Secrets” is the latter, as the vocals sound mumbled and have been recorded as to me nearly unintelligible. The guitars and the beat, though, dash ahead and do an excellent imitation of 80′s indie-pop, which is what this group does oh so well anyway. Listen below.
Sit back, and let me tell you a tale of the year…2007. For a brief window of time, 70′s rock band Kansas’ song “Carry On My Wayward Sun” became the ironic/possibly-not-iornic-but-just-self-conscious song of choice for oh so many people going to my college. Thanks to the country-fried prog rockers appearance in the video game Guitar hero…and, just as important, being a middle-difficulty track, making it appear more challenging than like “Strutter” but still no where as difficult as a fucking song from Homestar Runner…everyone with access to a dorm’s X-Box knew the words to the song. Thus, it became the “lol this song” of the year, an outdated slice of over-the-top rock repurposed to be an inside joke that lasted way too long. I don not think back fondly on this song.
So all praises be to MFP, who manages to make “Carry On My Wayward Son” fresh. On the tellingly titled “Don’t U Cry No More,” he takes the opening lines of the song (also known as “the part everybody knows”) and is able to transform it from geeky prog excess into a memorable (albeit little too well known) vocal sample within a buzzing bit of extended electronic jamming. The song itself is good, not quite as thundering as his beats released earlier this year, but as a way of making me think good thoughts about Kansas, a miracle. Listen below.
This one’s all about tension. Whereas some of Pop-Office’s new-wave-brushed songs let the emotions bubble up right to the top, “Young Town Blood Turn” takes time to reveal anything underneath the surface, stretches of guitar playing that at first listen sound meandering ultimately being vital periods of noise that bolster the singing. Speaking of…the vocals sound a little understated, albeit a bit trembly, when they first enter, and they don’t stick around for long before the guitars and bass take control. What follows are passages jumping from minimal sound to louder times, the effect being that of being constantly jostled between peace and nervousness. Then the vocals, wordless this time, re-enter and the build lends them an air of drama that wouldn’t have been clear had this just been a no-nonsense pop song. And of course, it all ends with an appropriate climax, but I’ll leave that for your ears to discover. Listen below.
Hotel Mexico have so much exciting news to share with the world today, that a cover of a song by Ed N.Stead (an artist who, based on a Google search, released one album) isn’t the most exciting. The Kyoto group have launched a new web page which looks quite nice, and even better, they have a show lined up in America for this August. They will travel to New York to play The Knitting Factory in Brooklyn (look here), so if you are in the area you best go to watch them and make me immensely jealous. And yeah, a cover of a song from an obscure artist, which is fine and all too. Watch that above.
Ahhh, rejoice, for here is yet another slice of Japanese indie-pop from a year choking on the indie-pop to the point where I’m probably writing “here is yet another slice of Japanese indie-pop” at an annoying rate, desperately trying to think of some new way to present jangly guitar music that’s dominated my SoundCloud front page for six months now. At times I think I’m getting cynical about it, even though for the most part I like everything I’ve written about here on the blog (if you think I just fire up WordPress for every song labelled “twee” I see, the pile of songs I don’t think warrant attention is even bigger0. Even then, most of this stuff is just “very good,” most of this C86-influenced stuff being plenty pleasant but ultimately lacking the extra something to be “great.” There have been a few – but not too many.
Osaka’s The Paellas already submitted one candidate for the “best Japanese indie-pop song of the year” category with “Lights,” a skeletal number that stood out from the pack by sounding like a ghostly lounge performance. Their newest song, “Following,” also jumps out as something special in a very crowded year for this type of music, although for very different reasons than “Lights.” “Following” adds bite to The Paellas shambly rock, the guitars being more jagged than jangly and the vocals muffled just enough to sound mysterious but also loud enough to not be an afterthought. For the most part, it’s a beefed-up version of their “Distance,” taking the Strokes-like guitar chug and beat but making it sound a little angrier. Listen below.
What separates the 2012 incarnations manic noisemakers Polysics and EeL? Both made vital albums of spazzy rock in the early 2000′s, unpredictable stuff that kept you focused on the noises bam-powing into your headphones. Both acts also pretty much do the same thing now as they did in 2004. Yet whereas, at some point, Polysics unchanging love of Devo’s discography changed from thrilling appreciation to “oh, Polysics put out another album…hmm yeah I’ll pass,” EeL’s jittery blend of electro-powered cuteness remains captivating today. “Peekaboo” features the hallmarks of EeL’s sound – drum ‘n’ bass percussion, no-concern-for-anything charge forward, steel drums at the end – but it captivates because every song EeL releases has the potential to spin off into a new dimension mid song (where Polysics have become, well, predictable). “Peekaboo” is catchy, sugar-laced pop full of fun little details – catch the cartoon “sproing” sound effect, for one, or the various little sonic twists and turns – that doesn’t take EeL towards any new sonic direction, but she doesn’t need to because her entire style is built around controlled chaos. Listen below.
The fledgling Fantasing label really making this summer count – they’ve released two split EPs in about two months, both of which featuring music that seems designed for the scorching months and no other time. I can’t picture any of the songs put out by Fantasing’s main bands, Talon and Young Agings, hitting Bandcamp in December. It would be like pouring snowcone flavoring over all your food in a desperate bid to recapture the summer…ultimately a hopeless endeavor. The label’s planning yet another split in the coming weeks, and have a preview of it with Talon’s “Miss You.” It’s another fast-paced guitar song, lasting a whole minute and a half (long for Talon, actually) and featuring nothing more than fuzzy guitars, drums and slightly clouded vocals. It doesn’t wast time establishing itself as catchy, because Talon knows nobody wants to waste July listening to a five-minute intro. Quick, catchy guitar pop from a young group that proves Tokyo’s indie scene is moving in the right direction, what with Teen Runnings being the obvious inspiration. Listen below.
This, the latest track from Shiga-based artist Magical Mistakes, has been online for a little bit now, but it’s a laid-back number that matches up well with the season, the keybaords and wafting vocals just drifting by all lovely like.
“Bright Light” also was remixed by two California-based artists – San Diego’s Illuminauts makes it bass friendlier, but Los Angeles’ Matthewdavid shines with his remix, which stretches “Bright Light” into a seven-minute-long introspection, all the sounds slightly muffled and seemingly turned inwards. Listen to those two takes here.
Though this line gets rolled out anytime I write about Osaka’s 99 Letters, it’s still a vital disclaimer – this is not simple novelty, nor is it the sound of some kid desperately clinging to his youth by rocking out to the Kirby’s Pinball soundtrack in his room. Nope, this is someone taking a particular set of sounds (in this case, 8-bit audio) and transforming it into something that moves, music that’s meant to jog more than just memories of your first NES. Many of 99 Letters previous songs turned these noises into ragers, banging and bleating bashes to the skull reminiscent of Crystal Castles more fist-forward moments, good music concerned primarily with the physical. Lately, though, 99 Letters has been growing more complex – see the recent shimmering beauty of “Dexters Laboratory,” which this blog missed but warrants repeated listens. “Night Walker” builds on this by being a constantly morphing number, one still capable of moving bodies but now more thought out, showcasing more craftsmanship from the young producer. It’s a good step for him, and a great track. Listen below.