Japan isn’t facing a shortage of bands trying to recreate the sounds of 1986, plenty of young artists crafting dreamy twee-pop in the mold of The Jesus And Mary Chain. Throw BOYISH onto the every-growing heap of melancholy daydreamers – like Elen Never Sleeps and The Moments, BOYISH isn’t bashful in embracing his indie-pop love, his music sounding like a high-school notebook with Creation Records’ band names doodled on the front. BOYISH still needs to find a way to stand out from the pack, but “Cupid” is a good start. Whereas his other songs put to much emphasis on the singing – his voice gets a little too warbly at times, and detracts from the sounds around it – “Cupid” finds everything melting together into one lovely twee puddle. Like most of the outfits slipping into this sonic cardigan, the song is less of an evolution of dreamy indie-pop and more of a replica. “Cupid,” though, finds BOYISH nailing the sound just right for the first time. Listen below.
It’s super tempting to call Tokyo artist ELEN NEVER SLEEPS “shoegaze,” mainly because dude offered the world a cover of My Bloody Valentine’s “When You Sleep.”
ELEN NEVER SLEEPS certainly boasts characteristics of that sound, but even his take on the Loveless classic reveals something a bit more complex. There are traces of “hipster R&B” which is just an idiotic way of saying a lot of space for the vocals to do their thing, such as go off into sexy wordless “ahhhhs.” Yet it also brings to mind similarly tough groups to place like Wild Nothing or Twin Shadow, who dabble in big fuzzy distortion but also turn to the 80s for the bulk of their inspiration.
The new China Blue EP further makes the task of categorizing ELEN NEVER SLEEPS even tougher. The title track sounds like it could be a lost cut from Wild Nothing’s excellent Gemini, an overall hazy feel concealing a strong sense of yearning and non-chillwave love of a decade far gone. Follow-up cuts “Crescent Cry” and “Sherry” touch on similar ideas, ELEN’s voice especially prominent as it whisps between the dusk-lit sounds within. Clocking in at under ten minutes, China Blue EP is a quick but gorgeous introduction to an artist way more complex than a simple tag. Listen below.
Not to turn this into an oversharing Tumblr, but goodness gracious did I personally need a song like “BPM4” in my life. This is metallic repetition transformed into relentless brutality, military drumming backing up steely guitar darts. When TACOBONDS’ vocals creep in everything becomes even sharper, escalating into a stinging missile of music that runs through familiar cycles but isn’t afraid to strip elements away or let the guitars flip out if need be. “BPM4” declares that it is storming down the street and has no reservations about barreling you over if you don’t make some room. This is the sound of aggression being let out, and man I like how that sounds.
Heads up – this blog might be converted into a site devoted to avant Hungarian jazz sometime in the coming week just to throw you all off my trail.
Background – Neaux recently tweeted about the band LISTEN UP’s new single, saying it sounds like the sort of indie J-Pop I’d be into. And…he’s completely right! “小さな汽車と花」”春の声” does, in fact, do everything skinny-ass indie music needs to do to get me writing and feeling slightly whimsical about life. Which is to say – lay down a really simple guitar-driven melody and sprinkle some bloopity-bloop electronic noises over it to add some spice. Bam, welcome to my WordPress dashboard! The single’s biggest weakness is just plain genericness – this easily could be another easy-going bit of toothless rock from the latest magazine-ready J-Rock outfit with a few minor tweaks. Yet LISTEN UP deserve credit for doing a few tricks the mainstream types wouldn’t be keen to sell…did I mention the bloopity-bloops?….and crafting an overall nice, sweet bit of indie pop. Definitely fits nicely around these parts.
That is, until we become the NEW destination for all your frat rap needs.
Geez, I haven’t heard much from THE DIM camp in a long time. So long in fact these two tracks initially didn’t really phase me all that much…both “Game Hero” and “Rock’n Roll Baby” sound like serviceable albeit unmemorable rock numbers at first…until some part of my brain went “wait, something isn’t right here.” A little bit of past-memory digging, though, shined a light on what was off – THE DIM now sound nothing like they did about a year ago. Where once they played spazzy quote-unquote indie music drizzled with electro freakness, the band now makes straightforward, no goofing around music. These two numbers certainly aren’t bad – well, “Rock’n Roll Baby” sorta sucks thanks to grating vocals and a monotonous melody – but they lack any characteristic charm that made THE DIM sorta exciting in the first place. “Game Hero” comes closest of the pair to recapturing that initial rush, what with its escalating singing and guitars that sometime sound like they might consider going off the straight and narrow at some point maybe. Yet they never do, the whole thing comes off like a dressed-up version of what they once did. THE DIM once sounded dangerous. Now they sound like a boring knockoff of Yeah Yeah Yeahs. Here’s hoping it’s a phase and they embrace the wildness once lurking in their sound. Listen here.
Cleverly named house artists HARUOSEVEN’s new track “Feel It On” easily could have been just another bubbly jam floating around on the Internet. That wouldn’t have been a terrible thing, as “Feel It On” boasts big multi-colored blasts of keyboard surrounding an appropriate vocal sample. Cherryboy Function released an EP knocking out similarly dizzy wooshes of dance music and that’s been one of the year’s best releases yet. HARUOSEVEN though spices the formula up by dropping in a guitar line bordering on smooth-rock after the two-minute mark. It’s a gesture that doesn’t last all that long…only a brief minute and some odd seconds of “Feel It On’s” six-minute jog…but one so left-turn for what was expected that it earns respect. The guitar bit, along with a few other instances where individual instruments get a chance to stretch out, lend HARUOSEVEN’s latest with a variety-show-like vibe, every player getting a chance in the spotlight. Alternatively, it’s like house music sorta imitating Archie Bell And The Drell’s “Tighten Up.” Whether you come for the sneaky guitar or the propulsive beats, you’ll leave satisfied. Listen here.
Ho hum, another day and another Japanese band working in jittery rock full of group shouts and stuttering guitar. Kyoto’s CUSTOM NOISE join the likes of Africaemo and fellow all-caps users NOKIES! in making manic music almost seemingly ready to explode into a thousand different directions with each passing second. Unlike the previous two acts…and way way different than all the other unmedicated masses trying to do this…CUSTOM NOISE actually do sort of blast off into entirely different sounds in the middle of a song. The band’s “new” version of the song “Candy Girl” sums this up – it starts innocently enough, all chipmunk-ey chanting giving way to math-rock precision and goofy call-and-response vocals. Then, though, CUSTOM NOISE reel themselves in and drop the singing, opting instead to have only one voice sing and then shout it out. And then…they swing one more time into a Modest Mouse circa The Lonesome Crowded West to close out the track. It’s actually all over the place, and not just sounding like it wants to be. Listen here.