Tag Archives: twee as fuck

New BOYISH: “The Hidden Secrets”

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.

New The Paellas: “Following”

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.

Radio Friends Release EPs, Featuring New Songs

Radio Friends have released a few songs here and there over the past Spring, but now they’ve corralled those tunes into two (very brief) EPs. We’ve written about the indie-pop loving group’s songs “Sometimes” and “Want Of Order” before, and now both track have been blown up into EPs with one new song tacked onto the Want Of Order EP for good measure (the other comes with the previously posted downer “You Can Make Me Sad”). The freshest track is called “Anywhere,” and like “Want Of Order,” it leans heavy on the fuzz to mask the ennui-dipped vocals. Also like “Want Of Order,” the guitars dart through and do all the emotional punching, being just as wrenching as whatever the group is saying. I mean, just check that little solo after the chorus. Get both EPs for free here.

New Post Modern Team: “Heartbreak”

This one just plopped down over on SoundCloud – Kansai’s Post Modern Team have another catchy rush of indie-pop, this one titled “Heartbreak.” The chorus makes you think this one might be a bit more chin-raised-high…”I get over you heartbreak.” The next line, though, is “every single day,” which implies the titular feel happens way too frequently to our protagonist. The emotions might be tough to read, but the music is simple and delicious – in the same mold of the group’s first release “Never Let You Down” except taken to an even greater extreme, “Heartbreak” is one giant hook…the only sentences in this song are the two above, though the way this song unfolds you swear a lot has changed. Listen below.

Review: Wallflower’s Full Of Flowers

When New York band The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart’s self-titled full length dropped back in 2009, nearly every review of the LP confronted the fact that the group weren’t exploring any new sonic territory. The Pains embraced a very specific sound – indie-pop, especially the distortion-loving type all over the place in the 1980’s – and those writing about it had to either make peace with this fact or hammer the group for being too reverent. This critical situation presented an interesting question about approaching music that’s practically Silly Putty-ed a style – how do we approach new music so obsessed with the past?

Listening to Osaka band Wallflower’s debut Full Of Flowers pushes one into the same scenario, except slightly more extreme. Wallflower aren’t just taking cues from the same twee-loving bands The Pains did on their debut…Wallflower also have studied up on The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart (a band they’ve opened for in Japan, by the way), like putting Silly Putty into the copy machine. And so, with Wallflower, it all comes back to that question raised above – when does idol worship become a detriment to one’s art?

The answer is probably different for everybody, but personally I think indie-pop has long been a style of music full of imitation, of hearing a jangly guitar group and thinking “hey, I want to do this!” Thus, Full Of Flowers follows in that tradition, a brief collection of songs enamored with a fuzzed-out indie-pop sound. This isn’t an ambitious album, but a pretty one delivering some of the best indie-pop in Japan thus far in 2012.

Album highlight “Cure For Your Heart” remains the best summation of Wallflower’s sound – skippy guitar rock that contains hints of daydreaming, except always forced forward. The vocals are oftentimes unintelligible, coated in just enough gauze to be out of reach. And concealing some hip-worthy drums and bass. It sounds a lot like The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart – which means it sounds like a lot of other bands as well – but also comes off as incredibly catchy and starry eyed, perfect early summer indie-pop.

Opener “Dreamy Days” comes off as a bit of a “Cure For Your Heart” wannabe, but every other song here adds slight variations to Wallflower’s approach to keep the EP consistently fresh. “Stargirl” leans more toward the dreamy, the band allowing guitar notes to float around longer than usual and lend the track an out-of-time feel. “Adore, Adore,” on the other hand, shows off the group’s jangle. The song is at its best when it allows the guitars, usually drenched in sun, to get a little pricklier, like after the first chorus. Even “Friendly Yours,” the slow number that cuts out the group’s strongest asset (the pace), manages to be a charming sad-sack slow dance.

Full Of Flowers will most likely not surprise you – do you like The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart? The Field Mice? Jesus And Mary Chain? The Pastels? You will probably like this album, because Wallflower likes all of those groups as well an honors them through song. There are far more innovative albums out in 2012 – and probably yet to come this year – but there are few debuts as purely enjoyable as this one.

Get it on iTunes!

New Les Glass Glacé: “Sumorsaete Daydream” And “A Piece Of Summer”

There are bound to be even more songs about the summer in the coming months – heck, Japanese indie-pop bands have released enough popsicle-smeared tunes to fill up an album, and we haven’t even hit the rainy season yet – so the novelty should go away pretty quickly, right? Welp, not so with Les Glass Glacé’s “Sumorsaete Daydream,” the latest sun-speckled bit of pop to emerge from the Kansai region. What helps this track out a lot is the space it allows – whereas other twee-worshippers fill every second of their songs with feedback-rich guitars. Les Glass Glacé aren’t nearly as aggressive, as “Sumorsaete Daydream” gets by mostly on a sparse beat and keyboard that sounds like it was lifted from a pleasant busy signal (with a few other additions, none of which overpower anything). It’s refreshing having room. It also helps that, without having to be drowned in noise, the vocals get to be heard clearly. “No ticket, it doesn’t matter/just close your eyes, there you are” goes the chorus, and it’s a simple but lovely line brimming with optimism.

Les Glass Glacé also posted the song “A Piece Of Summer,” which similarly doesn’t go overboard on noise, although it lacks the immediate sweetness of “Sumorsaete Daydream.” Listen to both below, and prepare for the nice months now.

Twee-kend Update: The Paellas

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.

New Post Modern Team: By The Sea EP

We’ve now reached the point where this new wave of Japanese indie-pop bands are releasing music at such a madcap rate where keeping up with it can be more challenging than actually listening to the music and getting lost in the sound. I guess this could be brushed aside by saying that it’s just indie-pop, the sort of jingle-jangle recorded and tossed out into the online ether in an afternoon. Yet that’s not fair, because a lot of the music coming out of this scene in Japan today deserves more than a cursory SoundCloud dashboard listen. Osaka’s Post Modern Team are one such act worthy of extended time, and their new By The Sea EP is a good gateway. The title track lacks the coastal catchiness of their first song “Never Let You Down,” but boasts a slightly harsher guitar sound and a structure resembling early Oasis. It’s a grower, but once it sinks its claws in, watch out. Plus, Post Modern Team throw on a nice cover of Another Sunny Day’s “Anorak City.” Spend some time with both. Listen below, and download here.

New Radio Friends: “Want Of Order”

This post comes with a big disclaimer – Radio Friends are very much a young band, the sort that shouldn’t be tossed into the musical wilderness before they are ready, the type that shouldn’t play a live show until they feel really ready to instead of forcing something that could make them look bad. Their newest song, “Want Of Order,” also happens to be a demo, meaning this track can and should evolve into something more. So when I say I really like “Want Of Order,” how the guitar melody following the singing is so warm and inviting and (most importantly!) catchy, understand I recognize what this song is – a sketch in need of detail from a band still trying to figure everything out. What a promising sketch though. Listen below.

Elfs In Bloom: Girl Meets Manifesto

One of the more interesting trends in Japanese indie music this year as been the influence of anime in various songs. We’ve already talked about a pair of artists who create Ghibli-like wonderlands, but other musicians have been literally summoning old Japanese cartoons in their tracks. From the submerged beauty of Shortcake Collage Tape to the twee of Daisyblue to the AKB-step of Maltine Records, more music makers are getting nostalgic for the animations of (presumably) their youth.

Add Hokkaido-band Elfs In Bloom to the colorful pile. Though this home-recording project only features anime samples twice on their EP Girl Meets Manifesto, Elfs’ placement of said samples end up influencing the vibe of the rest of this EP. They appear in the first and last song, both times graced with an echo effect that gives them the feel of being lost to the past, memories. What follows – noisy indie-pop that would have taken part in an exchange program with Creation Records back in the 80’s – aims at evoking a similar times-gone-by atmosphere, highlighted by feedback-rich exercises in indie-pop like “I See Your Face And Feel Ecstasy” and “Resurrection.” Even the more straightforward moments, like “Summer Of Love” and “Everything But A Girl,” choose the twee path of sun-dappled reminiscing, music that sounds good in the summer but isn’t necessarily about this present summer. Those anime samples might come off as a little strange at first, but they make perfect sense in Elfs’ world. Listen below, or download here.