Tag Archives: MFP

Aren’t In Kansas Anymore: MFP’s “Don’t U Cry No More”

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 Thus, it became the “lol this song” of the year, an outdated slice of over-the-top rock repurposed to be an inside joke that lasted way too long.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.

Truly Beat: New Okadada, MFP And Night Vision

If the artists gracing the covers of music magazines who make more aggressive strands of electronic music aren’t really your thing, here is a trio of Japanese producers whose latest tracks are relatively chilled-out affairs, the sort of stuff made for lazy summer days. Osaka’s Okadada released two new tracks this week – “Cee” resembles a slightly more in-your-face hip-hop beat, the shimmering synth and vocals being the only parts that feel relaxed. The track “Down To Nine,” though, moves at the same speed sweat does down one’s body. It’s a relaxed bit of noon-time disco, the sort of song meant to be played poolside – or, more timely, alongside Poolside.

Beat-maker MFP, meanwhile, kicks in the season with “Raw Shit,” which isn’t as exuberant as the big sample blasts dotting his Mindful Beats Vol. 2 release, but rather a content groove that doesn’t last long but feels homely for as long as it does.

Last, “Chromatic Love” from Night Vision. Of the three tracks featured here, “Chromatic Love” is the only one with a prominent vocal component, but Night Vision stutters the heck out of it and leaves it as a distant sound, which allows the smooth synths upfront to strut on without obstruction. For good measure, he adds some nice audio sparkles on top it to give it a dreamy late-night vibe.

MFP Posts Some New Music

Geez, it’s May already? Slow down, 2012, come on. As the year slips by like sand through our fingers…sorry, summer on my mind…lets take a quick moment to talk favorite albums of the year so far. In some order, my personal top three for Japan would be:

-Seiho
-MiChi
-MFP

…with And Vice Versa, Rayons and Turntable Films breathing down their necks. One of the names on that list just uploaded some new music that serves as a nice reminder of why he’s currently floating around in my favorite’s list. MFP put a few new songs up on his SoundCloud, which you should definitely go listen to. Check out “Clap & Stomp” below.

Music Alliance Pact April 2012

Last week, I reviewed MFP’s new album Mindful Beats Vol. 2. for The Japan Times. Read that here. Now, a few days later, the Osaka producer represents Japan in this month’s Music Alliance Pact, wherein more than 30 blogs from all over the world share a great track from their respective country. Check out a bunch of great tunes below.

Click the play button icon to listen to individual songs, right-click on the song title to download an mp3, or grab a zip file of the whole 35-track compilation through Ge.tt here.

JAPAN: Make Believe Melodies
MFPTheme For The Movement
MFP, the recording name of Osaka’s Masaki Konagai, named his latest album Mindful Beats Vol. 2, but the music within is more than rapper bait. MFP cites the late beat-maker J Dilla as a major inspiration, and album highlight Theme For The Movement carries the same this-does-not-need-rapping-over-it quality so prevalent in the best works of Dilla. It surges with more electricity, though, making it one of the most energetic tracks from an album brimming with them.

ARGENTINA: Zonaindie
DiosqueMelancolía Del Futuro
Diosque is a singer-songwriter born in Tucumán. Melancolía Del Futuro is our favorite song from his brand new album, Bote, in which Diosque enjoys playing with samplers and acoustic instruments like guitars and percussion. It was released by QQ Records on vinyl and can also be downloaded for free by visiting his website.

AUSTRIA: Walzerkönig
A Thousand FuegosNo Up No Down
“Don’t you know that everything we build up once will fall apart someday?” Time and religious metaphors are recurring themes on The Treachery Of Things, from which No Up No Down is taken. The album circles around the notion that we can never grasp the true identity of the things around us; they remain passive while we assign attributes to them. A Thousand Fuegos started out as a lo-fi project and these days focuses on beats, loops and spacey synths that create a mystical atmosphere.

BRAZIL: Meio Desligado
SibaCanoa Furada
Canoa Furada is one of the liveliest songs from Siba’s new album Avante, on which the unusual formation of his band stands out with a fanfare vibe and a cool feeling that combines contemporary music and regional rhythms. Avante is available to download for free at Siba’s website.

CANADA: Quick Before It Melts
Kalle MattsonWater Falls
Kalle Mattson recently racked up over a million views of their Thick As Thieves video, which is impressive for any indie band. The attention generated by the video shouldn’t be dismissed as hype. Kalle Mattson are impressive songwriters and musicians, and have fans across Canada eagerly awaiting their new EP (from which Water Falls comes from) at the start of May.

CHILE: Super 45
Poki TataneEsclavos Rumbo Al Virreinato
Behind the peculiar name of Poki Tatane hides one of the most interesting projects in the Chilean electronic scene. Esclavos Rumbo Al Virreinato is from his first EP, Breve Explicación De Las Partes (available for free at Discos Pegaos), which takes elements from a more organic dubstep, adding a particularly melodic sense to the compositions.

CHINA: Wooozy
XibanDrunk Ghost
Xiban is a contemporary world music band who describe themselves as being “fresh, wild, wandering, funny, and direct”, with the added tag of “folk music phoenix nirvana” thrown in for good measure. The musicians are from China, France and the United States. Combine Shanxi opera with Beijing and Jiangzhou drumming, add some Yellow River chanting, Tibetan long tune, Australian Aboriginal music, Indian organs and elements of modern electronic music and you have an idea of how eclectic their brand of music is.

COLOMBIA: El Parlante Amarillo
Crew PeligrososMedayork
From Medellín, we present you Crew Peligrosos – 16 people tearing up the scene with their urban sounds and mise-en-scène. Medayork contains the best flavors of old school hip hop with the song title paying tribute to two cities key to the development of hip hop culture in Colombia – Medellín and New York.

DENMARK: All Scandinavian
LydmorLamppost Light
This acoustic version of Lamppost Light was (and is) originally a video shot in a theater in Denmark’s second city, Aarhus. But since I really, really like Lydmor aka Jenny Rossander’s take on her otherwise electrofied pop self, I had my people tell her people to give all you people the song as a MAP exclusive. Oh, and if you want to watch the video here it is.

ENGLAND: The Guardian Music Blog
SeyeWhite Noise (Olugbenga Edit)
Seye Adelekan’s urgent floor-stomper gets held gently by the shoulders and told to take a minute thanks to a pitched-up, slowed-down remix by the Nigerian-born scenester’s older brother, Metronomy bassist Olubenga Adelekan. Seye, who’s been a gun for hire for Lana Del Rey, The Noisettes and Ellie Goulding in the past, is just coming into his own through an upcoming debut album of globe-trotting pop that had the Guardian’s Paul Lester hail the Bromley-based star as “like a younger, cooler Paul Simon around the time of his African adventure or Peter Gabriel circa So”. If Seye’s original suggests the woozy slip of a party on the turn, Gbenga’s remix is the regretful aftermath.

FINLAND: Glue
WeepikesWhat About
Weepikes was an alternative rock band in Helsinki that called it a day in 1997 after three intense years. A little wiser, a little older, the band reformed some months ago and recorded new songs with the help of American producer and musician Kramer. Now Weepikes are ready to deliver more of their characteristic blend of punk and progressive rock, or, as a journalist called it back in the day, PRONK.

FRANCE: Yet You’re Fired
PegaseWithout Reasons
Pegase, known for being the singer of the successful band Minitel Rose, started his solo project with the single Without Reasons. Its immediate appeal lies in the fragile emotion it emanates, the simple rhythm backed by airy and cold synths, and a superb, dreamy choir. Signed to the same label as Rhum For Pauline, Pegase will, without a doubt, be just as successful. Watch the wonderful video for Without Reasons here.

GERMANY: Blogpartei
HundredsFighter
The music of Hundreds is breathing, a bit like an asthmatic whose gasps always make a little swish. The Milner siblings tend to garnish their songs carefully, patterns of shivery sounds which texture warm rhythm beats, airy and clasping at the same time. Fighter is taken from their free Under The Icicles EP, which you can download via the lovely label Sinnbus.

GREECE: Mouxlaloulouda
Thanos AnestopoulosXanarthan Ta Sunnefa
After the blossoms of a long journey with Diafana Krina, Thanos Anestopoulos blazes his own musical trail with a beautiful, bleak and intimate solo album. Os To Telos (“To The End”) is brimmed full of personal memories and wrapped in warmth and emotional sincerity. It works best as a concise listen, as each song segues naturally into the next. Xanarthan Ta Sunnefa (“The Clouds Have Returned”) is a finely detailed hymn with a deceptively light touch, led by his soulful, baritone voice and brittle acoustic guitar.

ICELAND: Rjóminn
PrinspólóFostudagsmessa
This is the first new song Prinspóló has released since his debut album Jukk in June 2011. Fostudagsmessa most likely does not make sense to you, since it is in Icelandic, so let Prinspóló himself explain: “The song is about the place you don’t want to be at. For example, a dark and dirty nightclub where everybody is pretending to have fun and everything is great.”

INDONESIA: Deathrockstar
MushafearMeats In
Even though most people in Indonesia only knew Kurt Cobain from television, magazines, CDs and the internet, there are a handful of devoted fans who still yell their angst to the establishment, family and social system. One of the best bands from the community are Mushafear, who are fronted by Mirantie Boreel, an angry young lady while on stage but a humble girl off it.

IRELAND: Nialler9
Wonder Villains33
The sense of exuberance and energy coming from the speakers when a Wonder Villains track is playing is almost too much. This pop punk band from Derry make music that could only come from young minds and (relative) inexperience, but that primal energy makes it so infectious. Revel in their youth. It’s a lot of fun.

ITALY: Polaroid
Drink To MeFuture Days
“Life is an experiment and that’s why it is interesting,” says the first line of Future Days, and it’s something that could fit with the music of Drink To Me as well, especially with their new album, S. Amazing percussions, a lot of spacey synths, echoes of Animal Collective and MGMT – you can never tell what’s going to happen next. “We’re wide awake and we’re working on the future days”, and judging by this song, Drink To Me appear to have a lot fun doing it. And us too!

MALTA: Stagedive Malta
MegaFunYou’re So Cool!
MegaFun is 16-year-old Daniel Abdilla. When not fronting his band Clandestines, he is churning out bedroom recordings under the MegaFun moniker. He forms part of a Maltese DIY scene which has blossomed over the past couple of years.

MEXICO: Red Bull Panamérika
CentavrvsEl Caudillo Del Sur
The Mexican Revolution started in 1910 and during the centenary festivities, a group of deviant jazz, funk and electro musicians from Guadalajara formed Centavrvs. Their cunning mixture of old “corridos” (speeches and folk songs) from the Revolution and contemporary aesthetics create a Mexi-tronica sound that departs adventurously from the roads explored by the Nortec Collective over the past decade. Viva la Revolución!

NETHERLANDS: Unfold Amsterdam
Aafke RomeijnStella XVII
Aafke Romeijn is no shrinking violet singer-songwriter. Having fronted the all-female folk-rock band Mister Blue Sky for six years, she recently released a pleasing debut solo album titled Stella Must Die! As a solo artist, she calls to mind Amanda Palmer, not simply because this record is based heavily on piano and accordion, but because the songs are as theatrical and lyrically conceptual as Palmer’s are renowned for. As Aafke says: “It’s a record about pretty girls, secretly making out during school lunch breaks, throwing kitchen knives and, of course, about Stella.”

PERU: SoTB
XilófonmáticoLa Aventura De Los Insectos
An album doesn’t require large studios to impress and excite. Take, for example, the home project of Xilófonmático (a compound of xylophone and automatic). His first work, La Aventura De Los Insectos (Ipod EP), mixes instrumental and sung songs with playful and surreal touches. The EP is a rollercoaster of emotions, with the same ups and downs.

PORTUGAL: Posso Ouvir Um Disco?
Walter BenjaminAirports And Broken Hearts
Walter Benjamin is the artistic name of Luis Nunes. He is a singer and songwriter from a new generation of Portuguese musicians, some of whom he has played with and/or produced (for instance, MAP alumni Noiserv, Minta, Julie & The Carjackers). His new album, The Imaginary Life Of Rosemary And Me, is out this month and we proudly present the first free download from it.

PUERTO RICO: Puerto Rico Indie
SimilarCíclope
Similar began as a studio project between Daniel Vicente and Ariel Hernandez back in 2009. Their debut EP showcased a mean pop sensibility with striking noise textures and was well received. The duo recruited musicians to perform as a live ensemble, but with the departure of Vicente to concentrate on his solo project, Pasajero, Ariel moved to consolidate a more psychedelic and aggressive sounding band. Cíclope is the first track recorded by its most recent line-up, which includes guitarist Gaby Vidal of local metal group Ongo. It will be part of the band’s first full-length, expected later this year.

ROMANIA: Babylon Noise
Mojo BarrelCatch The Devil
Mojo Barrel are a young band from Cluj who successfully merge rock with funk and blues. In their own words, they have the mojo – the magic, the charm, the inspiration, the creative trigger, the talent – and the barrel – the place where it all begins, blends, becomes and finally breaks through.

RUSSIA: Big Echo
VideatapeCoastal Lights
Parad Planet, the debut album of St Petersburg rock trio Videatape, combines amazingly melodic songs both in English and Russian with soft lyrics, a great vibe and beautiful sadness.

SCOTLAND: The Pop Cop
JERCADHD
JERC is the alter-ego of self-confessed music obsessive James Campbell. The 22-year-old from Aberdeen started producing hip-hop tracks for local artists when he was a teenager before moving on to DJing in clubs, remixing and setting up his own label, Why Not Records. Most significantly, he is creating his own solo work and the pounding, delirious, sleazy-synthed electro house of ADHD is as intoxicating a debut track as you could ever hope to discover.

SINGAPORE: I’m Waking Up To…
WinterhalterSquirrel Land
Don’t take the music of Winterhalter too seriously. It’s great if you can name all the references in any given song, but doing so seems counterintuitive to what’s intended by Shaun Soh, the brains behind the project. Performing sporadic shows within Singapore’s shores, Winterhalter is a sort of myth, but recordings of the music are available if you ask nicely, just like we have. So go on, have a listen. A real treat would be the four-track EP, I Am Worthy of God’s Love, released as an entire song on Soundcloud.

SOUTH AFRICA: Musical Mover & Shaker!
SaintfearlessConventional Love Song
With their dynamic, rich sound and equally watchable stage performance, Saintfearless is making waves around the country as well as within the music industry. With a frontman to rival any other and talented musicians to back him up, Saintfearless offer fresh, catchy indie-rock songs.

SOUTH KOREA: Korean Indie
Byul.orgPacific
For as long as they’ve been around, Byul.org have been one of the most interesting entities in Korea’s music scene. Last month the collective had their first proper album Secret Stories Heard From A Girl In An Opium Den released in the US and Europe through Burnt Toast Vinyl, putting a decade’s worth of intriguing work on display. Though Byul.org are not usually afraid to experiment, Pacific (see video) is a retro pop number on the electronic side with an invitation to both dance and dream.

SPAIN: Musikorner
Evripidis And His TragediesTeeth
Evripidis And His Tragedies are a familiar face in Barcelona’s indie music scene. Led by Evripidis Sabatis from Athens, Greece, they deliver carefully handcrafted pop, inspired by 60s innocence. Evripidis opens up his heart in every song, as we can tell by the sincere, melancholic and emotional lyrics that most of us will feel like our own. Teeth may be the darkest but most necessary song they have recorded, and there’s also a video for it.

SWITZERLAND: 78s
Domi ChansornLeaving In A Gentle Way
A tragic incident brought Domi Chansorn to his first drum kit. His dad, also a drummer, died in a car accident. Now, 15 years later, he has won the m4music Demotape Clinic – Switzerland’s most important contest for young musicians – with his first album Bright Times Can Be Dark As Well (free download), which he recorded completely on his own. His singer-songwriter-approach is genuine, playful and brisk.

TURKEY: WEARTBEAT
FarfaraWater Air
Farfara is a dream-pop trio from Istanbul and Berlin. The members say the band invented itself with a psychedelic brew of kraut drums, shoegazing guitars, airy synths, ethereal vocals, lots of Love and a clear commitment to pop. They convey a simple though profound expression. Their second album is released this month – keep an eye on their Bandcamp page and drown yourself in the dreamy waters of Farfara.

UNITED STATES: I Guess I’m Floating
Alabama ShakesOn Your Way
We often try to give you some unearthed gems every month and who knows, maybe you’re unfamiliar with Alabama Shakes? If so, we’re gonna change that ASAP by introducing you to the soulful Southern rockers and their gem On Your Way. This band blew up from obscurity last autumn, signed to ATO Records and will open for Jack White on his solo tour. It’s good to know all the new fame won’t change their sound, though.

VENEZUELA: Música y Más
Alfred Gómez JrOn The Ground
Alfred Gómez Jr has changed everything with his new album Simple (name your price on Bandcamp). In his previous album, La Reina Peinándose, we could hear urban and Latin rhythms merged fairly harmoniously. This time he has incorporated elements of jazz and pop-rock that will take his music to a whole new audience.

New MFP: “Shining Innocence” And “Candle Light Blues”

The last three posts around these parts have been about INNIT-related artists, which might seem like overload unless, like me, you believe that what’s happening out in Kansai stands as the most thrilling music scene in Japan today.

MFP posted two new tracks online yesterday, each one reflecting a different mood. “Shining Innocence” sounds like the MFP we’ve become familiar with up to this point – chest-kick beats drizzled in big colorful glops of synthesizer with some other electronic flourishes trilling off at times, the whole affair one big sonic high five on a pleasantly warm day. “Candle Light Blues,” meanwhile, swings towards the more lonesome side of the emotional spectrum. MFP uses the same stylistic touchstones all over “Shining Innocence” – bright synths and beats – but slows the song down enough so those once jubilant sounds turn into something a touch more melancholy, a mood driven home by a piano line MFP works in for good measure. Listen to both songs below.

Dude also has an album out on Day Tripper Records really soon, check it out.

Reveiw: INNIT On February 11, 2012 At Osaka Nuooh Featuring MFP, Daisuke Tanabe And More

MFP. Photo by the author.

I’m moving to Tokyo in April. This decision came together thanks to a dominoes-line chain of events – looming unemployment, original housing plans suddenly up in smoke, convenient apartment options popping up at just the same time. It also came about within the span of a week, scrambling up the part of my mind that can sit down and think out a pros-and-cons list and instead forcing my brain to make a rapid-fire checklist. Good location? Check. Cheaper rent? Check. An actual kitchen? Check check check as my eyes look at the burn marks from a recent effort at making fried chicken.

So I spun my plans around and am now looking at moving company websites. Yet with this decision now cemented, my surroundings have now become sentimental landmarks doomed to become mental dust. Every class I teach is one less before I’m gone and this school becomes just another note. I visit my old home of two years every weekend now, fitting in time with good friends and playing basketball with a mix of schoolchildren and college students before I have to say goodbye. I’ve eaten at my favorite Osaka burrito restaurant three times in the last week alone.

I’m also going to miss witnessing the growth of Kansai’s music scene, especially the electronic music scene that has bloomed over the past year. INNIT, an event aimed at gathering electronic music makers from all around the region, held their fifth incarnation this past Saturday and this edition felt special, a step forward for a young scene. Whereas past parties drew moderate crowds, the fifth INNIT packed up the small interior of the basement-like Nuooh. Back in November, getting to the bathroom situated in the back corner of the venue was simple. Saturday night, though, featured gridlock as folks lined up to buy drinks, looked at array of CDs on sale and listened to CD-Rs folks brought to try and grab the attention of the folks in charge. Long-running electronic producer Daisuke Tanabe, who has had a heavy influence on INNIT, played the event and even gave a special lecture before the live portion started. It felt like he was giving his approval to all those in INNIT as they took their next steps forward.

Magical Mistakes. Photo by the author.

Despite bringing artists from all over the area together, INNIT doesn’t have a defined sound. Rather, each music maker brings their own style to the party, creating a little musical universe valuing individual creativity over anything else. Kyushu-based Magical Mistakes, for example, plays the headiest stuff within INNIT, music often seeking to recreate the movement of nature or incorporating samples of the outside world alongside electronic beats. He sounds nothing like Madegg, a Kyoto student still in his teens, who creates space-ier fare, jazzy touches and unorthodox percussion (sometimes it sounds like clanging spoons) floating in some far-off nebula. Yet both fit in comfortably in this young scene, the pair creating forward-thinking electronic music.

The fifth INNIT party featured some new nooks to their ever-expanding sonic galaxy. A guy named Tomato Soup served as DJ before the show started and, in the biggest musical departure up to this point for the event, featured a singer named Mei who sang over thumping beats while two dancers joined her. Finally, Daisuke Tanabe played a special guest set, seamlessly stepping into the INNIT universe.

Yet the most exciting stuff flowed from the artists who have part of the event for a long time now. Seiho played buffed up versions of tracks from his recently released Mercury, the most exhilarating album in Japan so far in 2012. Following him was And Vice Versa, who has his own release forthcoming on Seiho’s label Day Tripper Records, and who on Saturday delivered a thumping and colorful set that raised my personal interest in his album substantially, his music (which sometimes seems like some of the more straightforward within INNIT) injected with extra oomph and energy.

The best acts Saturday, though, were pure Technicolor wonder. Avec Avec, playing his first official INNIT party and recently signed to American imprint Mush Records, sounded like melting Saturday morning cartoons. He played all three tracks from last year’s Plastic Soul EP and they predictably banged, and those tracks were greeted with Ric-Flair-like woos of familiarity. Yet it was his new material that floored me the most – it’s built around the same Cornelius-like collage of sound meets Lifesaver-colored synths, yet these songs hit even harder while retaining a pop edge. The crowd went bonkers for this stuff.

Closing out the night was MFP, and his set stood as the other highlight. MFP – also with a new album on the way – takes the most inspiration from hip-hop producers like the late great J. Dilla (he honored him, one night after the sixth anniversary of his death, by closing the night out by spinning the Donuts’ track “Bye”). Yet he also dashes in huge, bright synths over his beats, giving his music the feel of coming from the most sensuous video game ever made. His closing set ended the night on an energetic, triumphant note.

I might be packing my bags soon and leaving the region, but I am lucky to have seen what felt like a particularly important event for this growing community. People who I normally only see hanging out at indie-rock leaning concerts, the type who count Hotel Mexico and Teen Runnings as top acts, showed up at this event, two music communities overlapping. Plenty of people I’ve never seen also showed up, making this in my estimation the most popular INNIT yet. Just as important, though, is that the music keeps evolving too, the artists playing that night continuing to create something that stands out in Japan. Up until now, it seemed pretty easy to compare INNIT to fellow forward thinkers Brainfeeder, the LA label run by Flying Lotus. Now, though, that comparison seems silly…INNIT is making music that sounds like INNIT.

INNIT It Great: INNIT Puts Out New Compilation, Avec Avec To Release EP On Mush Records, Life Swell

INNIT, the Osaka party/collective, will hold their one-year anniversary event on February 11 (as someone who went to the last one, I urge all Osaka-based readers to go, c’mon!), and in advance of that they have released an EP featuring tracks from the artists set to perform at the special show. The collection – available for hearing here – highlights the diversity present within INNIT, the music jumping from the jazzy haze of Madegg’s “Aqueduct” to the technicolor mudstomp of MFP’s “Dig It Now” to the soulful “Winter Again” by And Vice Versa. Alongside tracks from the likes of Magical Mistakes and Seiho sits a special appearance from Daisuke Tanabe, who will play the next INNIT show and deliver a special lecture (!). Check the whole thing out below.

Also on the new INNIT EP is Avec Avec, leading the whole shebang off with his “Plastic Soul.” He’s also got some other news worth celebrating – he will be putting out an EP on California imprint Mush Records, who have put out stuff by some pretty heavy hitters.

Oh, and don’t forget Seiho started a label that will release music from other INNIT mainstays…good times!

Make Believe Melodies’ Top 50 Japanese Songs Of 2011: 50-41

Another year draws to a close, but 2011 wasn’t just another run-of-the-mill desk calendar for Japanese songs. The past 365 days saw an abundance of great tunes from Japan-based artists, ranging from shadowy electronic movers from Tokyo to dreamy pop numbers born in Osaka to space-tripped clackers via Kyoto. Just as exciting, though, were how many of these songs rose above domestic attention and made ripples…regardless of how big or small…in various forms of Western media, be it music blogs or just some kid in Florida’s Tumblr showing his friends how trippy the “Pon Pon Pon” video was. As 2012 shapes up to be a possibly even bigger year for the world recognizing a whole bunch of scenes blooming around this country, lets take a look back at 50 of our favorite Japanese tracks of 2011. From the stuff that became Gorilla Vs. Bear mainstays to the tracks still waiting to breakout, all these songs meant something to us.

(Note: In order to offer as wide a variety of Japanese music as possible, artists were restricted to a maximum of two songs. Needless to say, you should buy the Perfume and Sakanaction albums.)

Top banner designed by Alan Castree aka A.C. Galaga. Learn more about him here.

50. Toddle “Shimmer”

Considering Toddle counts members of essential Japanese rock groups Number Girl and Luminous Orange as part of the band, the easy-going catchiness of “Shimmer” almost comes off as automatic for these guys. Just because Toddle could probably polish something like this off in an afternoon isn’t a detraction, though, but rather a sign of the experience going into the track. The guitars weave around one another in a deceptively simple way to lend “Shimmer” a good foundation, while Hisako Tabuchi’s airy vocals give the song – especially the chorus, where she pushes especially high – a pop edge.

49. Kou Shibasaki “Mukei Spirit”

Tough to imagine the same person behind “Mukei Spirit” also once played the role of no-regards-for-anything killer Mitsuko Souma in the movie version of Battle Royale. This sounds mostly giddy, the only bits even approaching a scrunched up face being the thudding guitars late in the song. Yet “Mukei Spirit” hides considerable depth, skipping from candy-colored pop segments early on to shouty rock-inspired passages down the line, nothing here sounding particularly repetitive but always catchy. Credit goes to Kou Shibasaki too, making like a good actor and changing up her voice to match the shifting sounds around her, flashes of Kaela Kimura’s zig-zagging singing style bubbling up.

LISTEN HERE

48. Faron Square “Comes Around You”

Lets take a second to honor all the CUZ ME PAIN tracks we couldn’t cram onto this list – and there were a lot, because the upstart label had one prolific 2011. Like the woozy loveliness of AAPS’ “Invisible Sophisticated,” the radiant strut of :visited’s “Sunset Article” and the Flinstones-sampling groove of MASCULiN’s “Emmanuel.”

What earns Faron Square this spot, though, is how “Comes Around You” manages to stand out within the CUZ ME PAIN 2011 collection. Whereas the majority of the labels music could be described as “dark” and “shadowy” (I did it in the list intro) dance music, this cut from the Willys Anthology EP sounds defiantly bright, the dreaminess-via-keyboards touch of other CMP projects present but working alongside something that could play at a wedding held in someone’s bedroom (alternative metaphor: inspirational sports jam for someone about to play six hours of NES Baseball). CUZ ME PAIN grabbed international attention thanks to haunted house disco tunes, but “Comes Around You” hints at the variety lurking inside these dudes.

47. Aloha “ChinaTown”

Boasting an intro that sounds vaguely similar to The Beach Boys’ “Kokomo,” Aloha’s “ChinaTown” ignores the allure of tropical drinks melting in your hand in favor of Hawaiian Punch served at a lounge’s “Tropical” theme night. The extreme breeziness of this track, powered by horns and a particularly beach-ready sax solo, makes it hard not to enjoy, though Aloha isn’t just wasting his day away in a hammock. The chorus kicks everything up a pinch, the singing going from lazy to near speak-sing, the sudden change in tempo exciting but never a huge left turn. “ChinaTown” imagines the place to go being a cruise ship, and the charmingness on display here makes it hard to disagree.

46. Gellers “Guatemala”

The big draw of Gellers is that they are Shugo Tokumaru’s band when he isn’t locked up in his instrument room making Playmobil pop, and “Guatemala” was the groups big return single after a few years of no activity. Yet here’s the rub – “Guatemala” would sound painfully out of place on Gellers’ one album. That self-titled disc found Shugo and friends making music that was raw, messy at times, and full of weirdo twists and turns. “Guatemala” sounds like a leftover from Tokumaru’s (whimsical) Port Entropy, studio perfected and catchy as heck. Anyone expecting to hear a new side of Shugo probably should have felt letdown.

Yet, hey, just because this might as well be a Shugo-only song doesn’t mean it isn’t catchy as heck as anything the dude has ever released. “Guatemala” is pure indie-pop dazzle from one of Japan’s best makers. The fact it comes with a nice back story is only cream on top.

45. MacDonald Duck Eclair “Clarion”

The majority of MacDonald Duck Eclair’s Kono Tokimeki Ima Sugu album finds the trio playing around with EeL-like crazy pop, all cutsey vocals smashed up against aggressive noises. On highlight “Clarion,” though, MacDonald drop all gimmicks and just focus straight ahead, guitars and keyboards locked hand-in-hand as the group barrels forward. It’s uncomplicated J-Rock done right, simplistic structure leading to a sticky-sweet chorus, the whole time MacDonald unafraid to show their fangs a little bit. Sometimes a little reduction is all you need.

GET ON ITUNES MAN

44. RIP SLYME “Sense Of Wonder”

RIP SLYME gave Japan one of the worst songs AND marketing tie-ins of 2011 with “Jack Goes On,” an ad where the members of the group turned into living gold statues to shill a canned highball made by Jack Daniels a friend once described as the “worst experience of his life.” Keep in mind, he said this while watching Jersey Shore. To me, though, I hate “Jack Goes On” because the song and accompanying clip were inescapable at this year’s Summer Sonic festival. RIP SLYME probably deserved a lot of hate for everything about “Jack Goes On.”

But I’m not gonna be the one to crucify them, because they also gave us the lovely “Sense Of Wonder,” a laid-back nocturnal number that more than makes up for the Jack Highball in a can. The beat is an incredibly minimal creation, bongos meeting street-lamp synths and a few other neon touches, the whole thing sounding airy and free. the members of RIP SLYME never try to mug over this empty-street production, instead strolling alongside and blending right in. Think of this as the late-night pizza place serving you after a night of downing Jack – regardless of how ugly things could (or would) get, this moment is wonderful.

43. Three-Weeks-Old Lovesick Puppy “Parachute Love”

“Parachute Love” neither exists in any form online nor as a downloadable commodity from the iTunes store, turning this blurb into more of a time capsule than a chance to say “click below.” Three-Weeks-Old Lovesick Puppy’s debut mini-album Tickle Tickle requires not a single listen through to hear cuteness oozing out of every corner, and though the whole disc sounds good, “Parachute Love” shines brightest because she tempers her Lisa Frank tendencies with aggression. It dashes faster than anything else on Tickle, the vocals still the audio equivalent of marzipan but with a no-second-thoughts chug propelling everything forward. You’ll have to take my word for it – it’s adorable and head-moving.

42. Ayumi Hamasaki “Brillante”

Good pop stars give the people something to follow, music that sounds like something the average listener could never hope to experience reduced to an experience they can. Huge pop stars make music that sounds like even they should have no part being involved in. “Brillante” comes off like a single built for an Egyptian pharaoh, not a pop singer boasting her own line of pachinko machines, but Ayumi Hamasaki has reached the point where going overboard seems like a completely rational choice. And she makes it work – “Brillante” is basically a typical Hamasaki ballad made big enough to fill Rome’s Colosseum, Hamasaki’s voice flanked by Western string sections and Eastern percussion, upping the chorus by adding a full-blown LITERAL chorus to turn this into something of pure decadence. Hamasaki fancies herself a queen, and instead of just boast about it in song, she went and got the sounds you would expect to turn royalty into epics. Nothing touches the pure scale of this, and thank goodness someone is still going to absurd lengths to prove how memorable they are.

LISTEN HERE

41. MFP “Steppin’ Into Changes”

MFP is part of the crew putting on Osaka’s INNIT event, and like a lot of the dudes getting together once every few months to melt minds, his take on beat-centric electronic music draws inspiration from a bunch of sources. Most clearly on 2011 highlight “Steppin’ Into Changes,” MFP turns to the cosmic blunts distributed by Brainfeeder (see the way it sounds like he’s projecting Nintendo games against Jupiter) and the soulful memories of producer J. Dilla (check the vocal samples, appearing in the back of the mix like wisps of smoke). Yet the most undeniable part of “Changes” is the joy flowing through its bouncy veins. Every time this song comes on I get teleported back to this past summer when I first heard it, and everything sounds alright.

A Great Introduction To INNIT, Featuring Madegg, MFP And So Many More

Osaka-based event night INNIT is a name you will be hearing a lot more about in the more future, but for now the good folks behind the most forward thinking electronic music in the Kansai region (if not possibly Japan) have offered up a good introduction to what the INNIT sound is. In advance of the November 12 INNIT party at Osaka’s Nuooh, they’ve posted songs from the various artists constituting the INNIT roster. Ranging from the space jam that is Kyoto’s Madegg to the thumpin’ beats of Osaka’s own MFP. What this compilation reveals is how varied the INNIT crew sounds, making blanket descriptions of their music pointless because there isn’t a way to cover them completely. The twinkling glow of Leggysalad’s “Girls’ Afternoon Appointments” sounds very little like the chilly strangeness of Seiho’s “I Don’t Wanna Be Lonely” which in turn isn’t all that similar to Magical Mistake’s appropriately pretty “Really Pretty Rainy Day.” We’ve highlighted two below, but listen to all of them here.

Space Invader Stomp: MFP’s “Steppin’ Into Changes”

Welp, officially a trend. The past few weeks have seen a sudden increase in electronic artists in the Kansai region (the area around Osaka and Kyoto) pumping out great stuff, ranging from the hometown sun-splosion Tokuma let loose to the spaced-out blips of MADEGG. Looks like there is at least one community trying to foster an electronic community in the area – INNIT, the Osaka Electronic Music Constitute, serves as a mental meeting room/live event where ideas get exchanged and tried out for means of “exploring the possibilities of electronic music.”

MFP constitutes one of the members of this community (as does MADEGG) and his new track “Steppin’ Into Changes” continues the recent boom in forward-thinking electronic music in the Kansai region. Like MADEGG and, to some degree, Takuma, MFP seems drawn to the all-encompassing madness that is Flying Lotus – “Steppin’ Into Changes'” 8-bit showers and glowing synths recall all sorts of moments scattered across the Los Angeles producer’s career, and manages to bridge sub-genre canyons into something bigger. Listen below, and expect more from this collective.