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.
Osaka’s The Paellas’ best releases this year have been able to strike a good balance between noise and silence. See the lovely side-swaying “Lights,” which found the group using vast amounts of space to build up tension for the big mid-song release, one of the better moments in Japanese indie rock this year. Now along comes “Distance,” and The Paellas have stepped out of the shadows in favor of something more in-your-face. “Distance” surges ahead, all electric-guitar chords and slightly distorted vocals, the song presenting a new side of The Paellas. Yet “Distance” still fits in a moment of surprise, as the sudden burst in noise found in “Lights.” A sweeter guitar line sneaks in early, and sews its way across the song, adding some softness to an otherwise prickly number. Listen below.
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Tagged the paellas
Lot of great stuff in the mix this month – it starts with Canopies And Drapes’ sparse “The Door Into Summer,” warm but hiding a mysterious side. More outright joyful is Post Modern Team’s “Never Let You Down,” blessed with the sort of chorus that makes good weather even better. Tokyo’s LLLL and their warped take on J-Pop follows, and then it’s nothing but good vibes on Soleil Soleil’s “To Night.” Then a bit coming down with Lera Rae, before closing out with Osaka outfit The Paellas gorgeous “Lights.”
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.
Canopies And Drapes “The Door Into Summer” – From the And Putting Love Away EP. Buy it here.
Post Modern Team “Never Let You Down” – Online release. Listen here.
LLLL “Because Of My Eyes” – From the LLLL EP. Get it here.
Soleil Soleil “To Night” – Online release. Listen here.
Lera Rae “After The Beach Trip” – Online release. Listen here.
The Paellas “Lights” – Online release. Listen here.
Japan’s indie-pop spring looks to transition into an especially twee summer, as more and more bands inspired by 80’s indie-pop pop up, forcing people like me to enter “jangly” into Thesaurus.com in hopes of not burning out on that adjective. Osaka’s The Paellas add to this vocab challenge, as they are certainly…hold on, “clinking?” How about “strident?” Hmmmmmm, I guess that’s better than “grating.”
So yeah…The Paellas, formed in 2009, aren’t breaking new ground in a crowded Japanese indie-pop scene, but they do pull the sound off well. Their best moment so far is “Lights,” a seemingly minimalist number full of space. Whereas a lot of twee bands in Japan sound suitable for soundtracking picnics, “Lights” actually sounds a bit stuffier – the swaying vocals, also benefiting from some nifty echo that sounds less like amplifiers and more like a spacious room, would fit in well at a lounge that has seen better days. The Paellas’ big trick on “Lights” is how the thin structure suddenly pivots into a driving segment that teases drama – suddenly, all that empty room is full and it looks like the song is heading towards some sort of climax. But it doesn’t – it draws out the new-found tension longer by returning to the turning back to the minimal bit. Which, naturally, leads to a chugging outro. “Lights” showcases some songwriting smarts from The Paellas.
Newest song “Long Night Comes” isn’t as alluring – it’s far more straightforward, a simple structure that The Moments or It Happens also could have put together on a lazy afternoon. That said, The Paellas lead singer adds a touch of mystery to the track, singing in a lower register and prone to drawing out words. Listen below.