Tag Archives: Perfume

Preview A New Perfume Track Now: “Hurly Burly”

Perfume’s new single “Spending All My Time” comes out on August 15, but right now you can hear a sample of one of the other two songs that will come alongside it. This snippet of “Hurly Burly” takes the first verse and chorus and loops it, but what is there sounds very…intriguing. Eagerly awaiting a high-quality track of this, but for now check it out here.

The world has also gotten a peak at “Point,” listen to a little of that below.

Mid-Year Report: The Best J-Pop Of 2012 Halfway Through

The top of the J-Pop world remains cemented in place so far in 2012 – the best selling albums and singles have been from all the usual suspects of the Japanese music landscape. AKB48, Ikimono-gakari, EXILE, everything Johnny’s…with a few exceptions, the dominant music of 2012 has been pretty much the same as the last few years, and the back half isn’t showing any signs of bucking that trend. Taking stock of this world, then, would mostly be watching repeats, a non-story worthy of only a few sentences.

Yet bubbling just beneath the peak of J-Pop…and, in a few cases, rising up to the static top…are all sorts of fascinating developments threatening to push Japanese pop music into thrilling, still-accessible places. Friends who lived in this country around the time Perfume broke through into mainstream popularity recall a brief window of time where people though that THIS would usher in a new era of pop, of groups mimicking the techno-pop triumph of Perfume while simultaneously tearing down the statues of boring music mainstays in the process. That didn’t happen – soon after, Perfume simply became the only group doing that style of music at a pop-chart level. The status quo remained.

These six months, though, have seen a bunch of mid-level (and beyond) artists merge the future-obsession Perfume introduced to the J-Pop world with all sorts of different styles, none of these groups really sounding like knockoff Perfumes but rather applying the rules that trio introduced to their own work, creating great new material in the process. The top of the charts don’t reflect it, but Japan is experiencing a J-Pop renaissance, full of forward-thinking pop songs that sharply contrast with a large chunk of the nation’s independent music scene, which embraced indie-pop over the past six months and looked back. Below are some of Make Believe Melodie’s favorite J-Pop songs of 2012 so far.

Continue reading

Review: Perfume’s “Spring Of Life/Communication”

“Spring Of Life,” Perfume’s 20th single and first for Universal Music Japan, sold 49,448 copies on the day of its debut, giving the techno-pop trio their highest first-day sales ever. The song also saw digital release in 50 countries, and coinciding with “Spring Of Life’s” release, Universal gave Perfume their very own label, Perfume Records. All of this movement pretty much kicks off Universal’s attempt to turn Perfume into a global name. It is, needless to say, a big release.

What’s funny about all this hubbabaloo is that the song ushering in all of this change breaks no new ground for Perfume. “Spring Of Life” finds everyone in the Perfume universe – the three singers, producer Yasutaka Nakata, the people who decide what flavor of alcoholic pop to hustle the song out to – doing pretty much what they always do for the big A-side singles post Triangle (2009). And, even though many in the Japanese media (at least the English side, which is what I understand) criticize the group for clinging to the same sonic blueprint while edging closer to pure pop, it’s the right decision. Instead of altering themselves to maximize worldwide appeal…a decision that helped to torpedo BoA and Hikaru Utada’s forays into the Western market…they have decided to stick to what has already worked in Japan and just introduce it to a potentially larger audience.

“Spring Of Life” really does come off like a scientist-constructed song, featuring everything that makes Perfume sound like…well, Perfume. It’s a hyper-upbeat song packed with Willy-Wonka-colored electronics, all playing out over a beat midway between the pop charts and the dance club, Nakata flexing his populist songwriting abilities. The members of the group sing as they always do, flowing with Nakata’s digital wave and sometimes allowing it to envelop them in ones and zeroes. It has a killer chorus. It even functions as a seasonal treat in the same way “Chocolate Disco” appeared on Valentine’s Day, coming out around the time Japan transitioned from glum winter to spirit-boosting Spring, “Spring Of Life” not so much background for the entire three months but the sound of this specific moment when people can start peeling off layers. Some dude in promotions deserves a promotion.

“Spring Of Life” functions as a great gateway to the group’s digi-pop onslaught, but simply writing “standard-issue Perfume” over it comes off as a little unfair. One of the complaints aimed at the group over the last year has been the belief Nakata has been mailing in his production duties for the trio. I don’t necessarily agree with this, but “Spring Of Life” finds him trying out some new ideas right in the open. The most obvious comes late, when the sun rays vanish for a second and a throbbing bit of dance music overtakes the song. It adds a touch of tension to an otherwise candyfloss tune, and Nakata wisely lets it go long enough so that when the somehow-brighter-now music bounces in, the whole song becomes even more ecstatic. On a subtler level, check the squelchy lines of synth crawling down “Spring Of Life’s” side during the verses – a small touch that gives the track a little extra personality.

This single also comes with one other new song, called “Communication.” It’s a throwback to the trio’s earliest work, a time when Perfume weren’t signed to a major label and constantly on the verge of being disbanded due to lackluster sales. It’s a cute idea – hey longtime fans, remember this style! – except Nakata already did it last year, and did it a whole lot better. That song was “Have A Stroll” off of (the still-dominating-time-on-my-iPod) JPN, which mimicked the cutesy looping of stuff like “Vitamin Drop” while still being very much the product of Perfume circa 2011. “Communication” sounds cute in a way more annoying fashion, one where the group’s trademark digital vocal manipulation gets turned down a bit (DANGER DANGER) and the backing bleep-bloop pigeon sounds mirror the sounds of French children’s show star Pigloo. Tellingly, you can only download “Spring Of Life” from iTunes, “Communication” relegated only to the physical CD as a hook to convince people to spend 10 bucks. It is especially frustrating considering that the other new track teased, “Point,” sounds fantastic.

What’s refreshing about Perfume’s adventure into Western markets is the low-stakes game they are playing. Whereas Utada and BoA did a lot to try to get over in America – the latter did a collab with fucking Flo-Rida, for God’s sakes – and current K-Pop supergroup Girls’ Generation seem hellbent on making it in the States, Perfume seem to be approaching this with a detached approach that ends up being a swagger all its own. Sure, they launched a pretty website and are upping their social-media game, but they are pretty much (at least for now) just releasing songs they would have dropped in Japan to other country’s iTunes Stores and then sitting back. Besides being a good way of not getting hopes up, it also shows a strange confidence that feels wonderful in the face of relentless marketing – we are Perfume, and here is a Perfume song, hope you enjoy. “Spring Of Life” is one of the most significant singles they’ve released, but it’s Perfume just being Perfume.

Watch A Preview Of Perfume’s “Spring Of Life” Video

Here’s a brief clip of the official video for Perfume’s “Spring Of Lie.” Ya know how lots of people are all on about how the members of Perfume are basically robots and easily replaceable? Perfume runs with that idea in a nice touch of self awareness.

New Perfume: “Spring Of Life” (Hear Full Audio Now)

And here’s the first output from Perfume on Universal Japan…which sounds a lot like old Perfume. Which, if you have read this blog for a long period of time, know is an absolutely great thing. “Spring Of Life” wastes no time digging its teeth into the Cadbury Egg that is the chorus, a chirpy-and-bright thing. The one interesting wrinkle to this single comes in the middle, when the pastel electronics make way for a somewhat bass-ier segment that sounds like it tip-toed away from the new Capsule album. It’s a weird touch to an otherwise bubbly number, which you can hear this way.

Hear A Little Of A New Perfume Song, “Point,” Now

Listen to a little bit above.

The Perfume Department: Perfume Star In New Ad, Tease New Single “Spring Of Life,” Sign To Universal Music Japan, Launch Global Web Site, Plan To Go International, Cause Really Long Blog Headline

Usually, I stay up late on weekdays doing all sorts of work (read: watching YouTube), but last night I decided to read a few chapters of a Joan Didion book and go to bed at a reasonable hour for once. Turned out I missed a deluge of Perfume news – guess who won’t be sleeping in the near future – like a bunch of important stuff. So, let us break this down one item at a time:

News: Perfume stars in new Kirin ad – Watch a making-of video below, which also features the ad 25 seconds in.

Views: I drank that new flavor yesterday, it was alright. Lemon is better, and really why isn’t there a permanent lime flavor?

News: New Kirin ad features 10-second snippet of new Perfume single “Spring Of Life.” – Did you watch the video above?

Views: It’s tough to pass any sort of judgement on a tiny sample of music, so I’ll reserve judgement/gushing until the full thing comes out. From what is available, though, this sounds…like a springy (har har) Perfume. This isn’t immediately bad like “Kasuka Na Kaori” though, so that’s good.

News: Perfume transfer from Tokuma Shoten to Universal Music Japan. – The trio switched from Tokuma, where they have been releasing music since 2005, to Universal.

Views: OK, now we are hitting the big stories. This is a huge step up for Perfume, as working under the Universal name gives them all sorts of new opportunities…and resources. They probably didn’t need it in Japan, but by now being in the Universal stable they will probably get an extra boost in promotion for future releases. More importantly, being backed by Universal makes the next news item possible.

News: Perfume launch new global site and YouTube channel – Visit the trio’s just-launched global site (which is just a fancy countdown right now, but has a pretty social-network design) here, or Perfume’s new YouTube channel.

Views: So Universal will try to push Perfume internationally. At the start, they are at least approaching this push the right way. Whereas some Japanese labels work overtime to remove YouTube videos featuring their artists, Universal at least has established a YouTube channel gathering the group’s music videos in one place and a global website that could serve as a hub for international Perfume fans. The next step…

News: Perfume to release last year’s JPN on the iTunes store in over 50 countries, including America, on March 6.

Views: …is to release the music internationally.

OK, lets drop the glorified bullet points for a second and focus on why Perfume might be pushed internationally now and if they have any chance to succeed. The timing makes sense – thanks to an appearance in Cars 2, some year-end list love and just an increase in people writing about the group online, Perfume has a decent fan base in place in America. Not huge, but definitely high for a group from Japan that is mostly unknown. Universal probably also sees the current wave of K-Pop groups trying to make inroads overseas and see a chance to sort of hook themselves to that scene – considering no J-Pop acts are actively courting American audiences outside of anime expos, Perfume would be smart to sort of hover around the Korean artists gunning for foreign success. Not to mention that the American charts are dominated by maximalist dance-pop songs, the sort Perfume have been releasing for half a decade now.

Now, do they have a chance of doing well? Well…how do you define success? Like Wonder Girls and Girls’ Generation, I don’t imagine Perfume reaching Lady Gaga-like levels of popularity. Yet I think all of those groups could attract niche audiences, the sort of fan base that no Asian pop act has managed to draw in the States to date. Paired with the potential of becoming the sort of hyper-pop embraced by critics (writers love Max Tundra, and Perfume aren’t that different than him) and the eternal “if it’s from Japan, people will be interested” clause, I could see Perfume having moderate success. All hinges on how they are promoted internationally, though.

It’s also nice to any Japanese pop act shooting for foreign success, instead of playing it safe with domestic sales. This should be fun to watch.

Controlled Karaoke: Goosehouse Covers Perfume’s “Laser Beam”

Usually, I hate these sort of YouTube videos of people armed with acoustic guitars and sub-college-a-cappella singing covering pop songs. Yet, I am OK with Goosehouse’s take on Perfume’s “Laser Beam,” which you can watch above. I am not willing to go as far as one YouTube commenter who wrote “might just be better than the original” (wrong-o) but it’s a cute and catchy take on the original that stays true to the source material. Karmin, take note. Shouts out to J-Rock Explosion for posting this first.

This also serves as one final reminder that I spent a week of my life writing about Perfume’s music over at One Week, One Band. Check out my posts…in chronological order!…right here.

I’m Doing One Week, One Band This Week About Perfume

I’ve been mentioning it on Twitter and Tumblr, but might as well get it here too…this week, I’ve been given the digital keys to One Week, One Band, an excellent music blog where writers devote one week to writing about one specific band or artist. I’m going where no other contributor has gone yet – into the world of J-Pop, to write about a trio I regularly gush about here, Perfume. I started yesterday and have written four posts thus far, mainly about Perfume’s origins. Later today, the theme has sorta become “Perfume and the digital age,” as I’ll focus on the later singles found on Complete Best. And then…three more days after that!

So check it out if you can, especially because posting will be light over here for the week. I will still post a few things…expect something tomorrow morning and I couldn’t skip Station To Station…but for these next few days I am taking a small break from these corners.

Make Believe Melodies’ Top 30 Japanese Albums Of 2011: 20-11

20. Kido Yoji Call A Romance

On his debut release, Kido Yoji makes dance music for people who like spending significant amounts of time staring out on bright0lit cityscapes. Call A Romance certainly moves – check the easy-breezy disco shake of the title track, or the irresistible pop of “Hot And Cold” – but beneath the night-out-worthy sounds beats a particularly sensitive heart. Yoji jumps between ennui – the heavy-eyed opener “AM 3:33” – and longing – the talk-box powered “More Than Real,” which makes a strong bid for best robot slow jam since Daft Punk’s Discovery. Catchy and heartbreaking all at once, can’t wait to see what comes next.

19. Friends Let’s Get Together Again

There are so many angles one could take when discussing this album it almost demands an essay. Like, Friends’ sound, which takes beach-pop and covers it in layers of feedback, a sort of lo-fi approach one often loves or hates well before they even here the record. Or how the band approaches nostalgia, a prickly subject in a year that gave us Retromania? You could also spend paragraphs debating whether Friends even need all that feedback…is it a vital aspect, or just a stylistic distraction from the pretty pop underneath? Heck, take this at an extremely surface level and just focus on the band name, a moniker the group has announced they will change in 2011 (and now we know that name…Teen Runnings) and zero in on how the Japanese Friends couldn’t out-hype American-based Friends and what that says about Japanese indie music.

To discuss why Let’s Get Together Again lands here, though, I have to ignore all those talking points and just get a little personal. When Second Royal Records first posted the album online here, I wasn’t blown away. I like Friends’ approach to pop, but initially this release didn’t floor me like I thought it could. Yet I stuck with it and Let’s Get Together Again grew on me, the snow-cone delicious melodies lurking beneath the noise hooking me in (check the sweat-soaked wonder of “Since I Made A Mistake” or the chilling intro to “Our Love Is True”). At this point I though “OK, #30 on the list.” Yet time revealed another layer to this album that struck me even harder than the pure-pop pleasure Friends can pump out. Not to get all New Yorker on you, but it’s important to remember this is past-obsessed music being made my a 20-something in 2011, an extremely turbulent time for people like Friends’ head honcho Syouta Kaneko. Or, cough, me. The noise cutting through all the prettiness is essential to me because that sounds like the present, slicing through these Brian Wilson inspired fantasies. I once wrote the lyrics to any Friends’ song weren’t important – I’ve flip-flopped on that now, because the lyrics Kaneko has made available shed new light on the album. Check the words of “When I’m Asleep,” which focus on choosing the girls one conjures up in dreams as opposed to the ones in the real world, made current-events worthy with a line about one’s mom asking when they are getting married. Let’s Get Together Again is an album about wanting to be away from the present, possibly transported to times one was better made for, but with the world of today reminding you that just can’t happen. Ultimately, I can relate to that feeling, which is why this album jumps up in the rankings and I’m looking forward to what comes next, regardless of what the group is named.

18. Boris New Album

In a year where a bunch of J-Pop acts crafted strong artistic statements worthy of praise, long-time critical darlings Boris went the other way. The trio, best know for loud droning rock music and an intimidating discography to swim through, teamed up with a subsidiary of J-Pop mainstream label Avex and made their most accessible album to date. New Album isn’t Boris morphing into Porno Graffiti, the band retaining the metal and experimental tendencies that to now has defined their existence. Yet, whether because they were getting bored or wanted to take the piss out of something or they just wanted some of that J-Rock money, New Album features two songs that could easily be rejiggered into singles for Dracula-knuckleheads VAMPS (“Flare” and “Black Original”) and an honest-to-goodness ballad in the form of “Pardon?” Most surprising of all is how well Boris pull off this look – that ballad trumps the majority of schlocky trash on the Oricon charts, while Album highlight “Hope” easily hangs with any of the year’s best J-Rock tracks. Boris have always been a group eager to try out new sounds, but nobody saw something like New Album coming…or how good they sound doing it.

17. Sapphire Slows True Breath

The most buzzed-about sound from Japan in 2011 was the shadowy, dreamy dance music hovering out of Tokyo like fog. The CUZ ME PAIN label came to be most associated with this style, but it looks like 2012 will be the year the projects in that stable get serious with albums. Instead, non-PAIN act Sapphire Slows released a brief album on American label Not Not Fun serving as an excellent introduction to Tokyo’s dimly lit scene and a strong statement all its own. Standout number “Spin Lights Over You” could be Slows’ business card, a simplistic club strut surrounded by vapor-light vocals and dizzying synths . Elsewhere, “Cosmo Cities” swelters while “Green Flash Mob” vamps by on particularly bright keyboards while a voice creeps around the edges. It’s unsettling but ultimately irresistible, like getting an invitation to dance from one of the Super Mario Brothers ghosts.

16. Her Ghost Friend Her Ghost Friend

DJ Obake always struck me as an odd musician, a guy capable of a straight-up catchy dance number one day but check in like a week later and he would suddenly have some avant track full of wacky touches up on his MySpace. This versatility manifests itself in the Her Ghost Friend project, a collaboration between Obake and Shinobu Ono, who handles vocals and also designed the cutesy album art you see on the side. Her Ghost Friend drifts through mostly poppy terrain, Obake setting his synths on a level so bright it would make a Ghibli animator think twice while Ono coos over the twinkling soundscape. The Her Ghost Friend album is above all a very colorful album, Obake’s flurry of synths complimented by graceful string sections and chirping video game noises. Yet this isn’t pure cotton candy – Her Ghost Friend flashes bits of Obake’s stranger side, like how several songs here see Ono skip singing in favor of just talking or how some of the instrumental tracks, loaded with spacey satellite transmission sounds, could have served as an opening theme to a 1950′s sci-fi show. Her Ghost Friend is a great display of Obake’s abilities, from his ear for catchiness to his more adventurous leanings.

15. She Talks Silence Some Small Gifts

Here’s the only album where I’ll say “just read my original review” because if I chucked up any words in this spot trying to touch on how this mini-album touches the emotions, I’d just be control-v-ing. So, in brief – She Talks Silence’s follow-up to 2010’s lonely masterstroke Noise & Novels finds the once-solo project grow into a duo, the overall sonic quality upped oh-so-slightly. The sound mostly remains true to our previous list topper, indie-pop diagrams designed by minds cloud by melancholy and Lynched-up with, appropriately, some small details. This is where the emotional stuff would start flowing, but just hit the hyperlink and I’ll sum it up by saying Some Small Gifts gives us more of the same She Talks Silence…which is very welcome considering how great that is. Oh, and “Some Small Gift” is the best tune they’ve penned to date.

Cherryboy Function Suggested Function EP #2

I’ve always had an uneasy relationship with nightclubs. Growing up in the middle of a desert (population: 10,000. Happening spot: Jack In The Box), I didn’t even see a proper concert until college let alone sneak off and spend a wild evening trying to sneak into a club. When I finally shipped off to university and found myself in Chicago, a whole new universe of nightlife options appeared before me…yet, once the initial giddiness wore off, I found myself finding annoying points. Sometimes the music being spun wasn’t really for me, and sometimes expressing this fact to friends resulted in nearby strangers loudly saying how fucking pretentious I was (this really happened, and pretty much ruined Chicago clubs for me). Sometimes in Japan, I’d go out for the night and sorta sour on the event…only to realize no more trains were running home and I was stuck until six the next morning. Most likely I’m just not much fun, but I always picture nights on the town as magical, woozy, drunken times, not exercises in killing time.

Basically, I wish going to a night club mirrored Suggested Function EP #2. Cherryboy Function crafted five delirious, rum-soaked dance songs here that are club triumphs, both because of Function’s professional attention to detail and because they just sound insanely fun. Like how “Distopia” opens with this pass-me-a-drink vibe that feels like seeing an elevator door open up to reveal a great party already bumping, or how the cowbell smacking of “Plan E” sounds like it wouldn’t be complete without shots of tequila. And this stuff does work in a live setting. I heard dizzying EP highlight “Pulse Of Change” between sets of a concert late in 2011, and tipsly danced without fear of missed transit or assholish reprimand from bearded jerk. Suggested Function is a perfect night out reduced into a sonic medium, these five tracks nailing the initial thrill of stepping out into the night to the drunken leg moving to the off-balance walk home.

13. Perfume JPN

REVIEW OF JPN PART 2: THE ONE THAT BRINGS IN EVERYTHING

“With Perfume, before I even start work on a song, it is already assigned to a certain commercial, so it’s all about getting a single idea or hook that stands out, whereas capsule’s music is more complex and part of the fun is in finding new sounds every time, or how different people can hear different sounds whilst listening to it.”

Yasutaka Nakata, the mind behind Perfume and Capsule, talking about the differences between the projects in The Japan Times.

Yeah, that’s all nice and good Nakata, bracing for the inevitable backlash against JPN by blaming THE MAN. Here’s the thing though – Nakata NEEDS the commercial pressure of Perfume applied to him to bring out his best, and it’s the reason JPN succeeds. I’ve already laid out why Perfume’s latest sounds good to me, but one interesting development has come along since that review…I’m liking JPN a lot more now. This album still dominates my iPod time, and even the singles that were monopolizing my time in 2010 continue to captivate me. This isn’t the best Perfume album, but I’m starting to think it might be a solid silver medalist.

Yet some people hate this album and what Perfume have become, and look everyone gets an opinion blah blah blah, but some of the reasons for dismissing JPN strike me as silly. Mainly, those not fond of this album frequently mention the same thing Nakata highlighted in that top quote – the advertising ties. I’ve seen Tweets call this album a collection of “advertising jingles” while even Ian Martin’s otherwise good review takes time to talk about the Kirin connections. This post – written long before JPN, but about the “fall” of Perfume – seems almost obsessed with Perfume’s marketing ties, from the Cars 2 appearance to something about how new Perfume tracks don’t have good sci-fi names. Look, I love reading Neojaponisme too, but judging music shouldn’t involve what ads the band has appeared in or what Pixar movie they lent a song to or what the song titles are…it should focus on the music.

And when I focus on just the sound, I hear another colorful pop album from a trio that might be as prevalent in commercials as the Aflac duck but a group still ahead of the J-Pop curve. I also hear Nakata, seemingly over the restrictions placed on him by Perfume’s status, accidentally making some of his best music yet. In that top quote, the part where he mentions Capsule also implies he’s talking about World Of Fantasy, an album that most people who didn’t like JPN loved…but one that I personally didn’t like at all. Sometimes being “complex” can be a burden…and as for “finding new sounds,” Nakata might want to revisit some blogs circa 2008…and the simplicity of pop music (“make something catchy”) trumps what World Of Fantasy tries to do (“be catchy AND cool”). In the intro to “Glitter” alone I hear more ecstasy than I do anywhere on that Capsule album. As much as Nakata wants to distance himself from it, the restrains of Perfume bring out the best in him, and make JPN a stellar release regardless of how many cell phone ads the songs on it appeared.

12. Canopies And Drapes Violet, Lilly, Rose, Daisy

The break-up of Tokyo’s Nu Clear Classmate back in July was a sad moment. The under-heralded duo gave the world one superb EP in 2010′s Lick The Star – a release that in retrospect was a top ten album that year – and seemed capable of even greater art. Yet the project ended after a live show in their native city this past summer, and that was that. Sometimes cliches can be true though, and opportunity can arise from bad news. Out of the ashes of that group came Canopies And Drapes, the solo project of Classmate lead singer Chick, and eventually the EP Violet, Lilly, Rose, Daisy. Her excellent debut establishes her as an exciting young face in the Tokyo scene, one taking cues from her previous project but unafraid of new directions.

Nu Clear Classmate treated emotion like black and white, their songs either sounding extremely happy or crushingly depressed. Canopies And Drapes approaches them with subtlety, though, the best songs on Violet almost coming off as short stories. “Sleeping Under The Bed,” backed by a dreamy pulse reminiscent of Grimes, tells a story fluxuating between devotion and longing, ending with a slightly sad line leading to vagueness. The jittery “Perfect Step” is a lovely character sketch, while “Live In The Snow Globe” tells a story of unrequited love peppered with details about eating french fries at McDonald’s and discussing Snoopy. As our narrator discusses her “sickness” and reveals her wish to live with him in a snow globe forever, the music matches the mood and features a climax worthy of Banana Yoshimoto. Violet carries on the emotional tugging Nu Clear Classmate were so good at, but does it in an understated, almost literary way. Bands and artists can close up shop at anytime, but here’s to hoping Canopies And Drapes sticks around a while.

11. Nuxx Lettre Mois

Sorry to get a little sappy, but it has been nice watching Osaka’s Nuxx grow up right before my eyes. When I first arrived in Japan, I had this habit of choosing random concerts featuring only Japanese bands to go to, and one night I ended up seeing a trio called Bang Bang Balloon who blew me away with their fusion of club-ready beats and Perfume-esque pop chops. They eventually renamed themselves Nuxx, released a very good debut and this year dropped Lettre Mois, their best work to date. Prior to it, Nuxx mostly dealt in huge, singles-worthy pop hooks, which sounded phenomenal but also sometimes made the surrounding songs on their releases pale in comparison. With Lettre Mois, Nuxx have crafted a consistently great album, one featuring few sags to the point this almost feels like a well put-together DJ mix of Nuxx tracks rather than a proper release. The group haven’t lost their knack for crazy catchy moments – “Born To Walk” has a little of “Journey To The West’s” DNA in it, while “Ring Of Pop” lands on a shortlist of best Nuxx song yet – but now those moments aren’t left towering above the rest. Everything else either keeps the frantic floor-worthy pace going or slows thing down just enough to feel like a breather (the blinking “Stereotype”). Nuxx even turn “Happy Birthday” into a banger on “Your Day,” one of the most surprising musical feats of 2011. That’s almost impressive as them putting together this album, a stride forward for them and one of the year’s finest.