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.
Tokyo indie-pop outfit BOYISH will release a limited-run cassette tape called Waiting In Summer today, but you can hear the whole thing online right now. I wrote about it for International Tapes, so go over there to read my thoughts on it. Quickly – I think it is one of the better indie-pop releases of the year, and definitely BOYISH’s finest hour.
And while I’m here…check out this article I wrote for The Atlantic about Kyary Pamyu Pamyu, Momoiro Clover Z and “weird Japan.” Have a pleasant weekend.
Indie-pop ended up being the flavor of the April, from the C86 tape Moscow Club presented to the world to an endless parade of twee-leaning bands popping up on SoundCloud. This month’s Make Believe Mix represents this trend and, like the Moscow Club mix, attempts to expand the definition of indie-pop beyond jangly guitars. Which we’ve got plenty of, don’t worry – BOYISH, Wallflower and Lilacs give us traditional indie-pop from Tokyo, Osaka and Nagoya respectively. Yet Cloudy Busey takes the spirit of indie-pop and embeds it into a dance track, one more influenced by Stardust than Sea Urchins. Shortcake Collage Tape turn twee inwards on “Polaroid Full Of Kisses” while White Scooper…OK, White Scooper isn’t indie-pop, their “Winter Hawk” closing the mix out with some angular dance-rock.
Below is a list of artists and songs appearing in this month’s mix, in chronological order. Click the links to read more about them and find out how to buy/get their music. All artists featured gave me permission to include their music in this mix.
Cloudy Busey “Who Says They Love You” – Online song. Download here.
BOYISH “Waiting In Summer” – From the Gentle Breeze EP. Download here.
Lilacs “Walk The Path I’ve Laid” – Online song. Download here.
Shortcake Collage Tape “Polaroid Full Of Kisses” – Online song. Download here.
Wallflower “Cure Your Heart” – From Fastcut Records. Listen here.
White Scooper “Winter Hawk” – From the album Dazzle. Buy here.
Indie-pop artists aren’t necessarily expected to grow in their careers, at least not the ones adhering to the style first introduced in the mid 80s. Twee music, after all, is the domain of everlasting youth, a place where the troubles of the adult world get ignored for Indian summers and days spent thinking about crushes. It also helps that most indie-pop bands tend to not stick along very long.
BOYISH, up until now, had one pretty good song in “Cupid” and a handful of rougher demos that didn’t show much promise beyond being another bedroom-based songwriter in a country overflowing with them. Yet BOYISH shows tremendous growth on the recently released Gentle Breeze EP, a split work alongside another indie-popper named Daisyblue. His older recordings seemed like fragile sketches, the sort of skinny music that would be lost forever to a mild gust of wind. Opener “Waiting In Summer,” though, introduces a more thought-out BOYISH, one still clinging to the basic principles of twee (easy-peasy guitar strumming and basic beat) but now a bit braver when it comes to actual song construction. “Waiting In Summer” plays more with tempo and sounds fuller than anything that came before it. The other new BOYISH song here, “Sunshot,” runs much briefer but highlights BOYISH’s pop sensibility well. It’s not perfect – the vocals remain clouded by everything else, the Bandcamp tag saying “dream pop” but the effect shows a lack of confidence in singing – but is such a step up that BOYISH now deserves to have an eye trained on him.
Daisyblue, meanwhile, makes better use of the “dreamy” tag, the singing on the two songs from them on Gentle Breeze being light enough to melt away unlike BOYISH’s gruffer tone. “Framing” would be a very pleasant bit of pop if it ran two minutes, but wears out its welcome at six, making it the only obvious misfire on the EP. “Summery Film,” though, is pure prettiness. Daisyblue introduces a melted-popsicle synth and a violin to his swirly pop, and it lends the song a touch of psych-rock that makes it fun to get caught up in. Plus, it knows when to bow out. Listen to the EP below, or download it here.
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.