Lots of good music came out of Japan in July, but keeping track of it all can be a challenge, especially for those living outside of the island. Don’t sweat it, in this monthly column, we highlight a few Japanese releases well worth hunting down...
The name reads like a mom trying to be with it, but the first album from five-piece J-pop outfit lol features a mix of styles bound to please everyone. The group mostly sails the “tropical house” seas, with “Perfect Summer” drifting along on resort-ready synths and beats, while “Shhh…” features a galloping beat apt for Summer evenings. Yet they are also capable of less beach-side numbers, such as the Auto-tune-soaked “fire!” and our personal favorite, the hyperactive dance-pop of “party up!!”
Maison book girl’s 412 EP
This might be the best gateway into the world of Maison book girl for those who haven’t kept close tabs on them or the idol scene as a whole in recent years. The 412 EP is brief, featuring only three songs, but each one offers a different angle on the group. “Rooms” (below) offers up the most immediate moment, as it is a pop song using the group’s sonic palette as a base. But it’s the other two numbers on the EP that show the depth of the group. “Last Scene” updates a 2015 song, retaining its acoustic guitar bounce, while closer “A-Shi-Ta” closes things on a bit of spoken-word mystery. For those wanting to dip their toes into this world, here’s a good place to start.
Monari Wakita’s I am ONLY
Formerly a member of the vaporwave-meets-funk group Especia, Monari Wakita’s career after that group has seen her exploring other retro styles. Her debut album, I am ONLY, shows she has staying power on her own, highlighted by the synth-pop hop-scotch of “Boy Friend” and the city pop homage “IN THE CITY.” Whatever decade you want to tie it to, Wakita’s songs have some of the gooiest choruses from a J-pop release you will hear this year.
Time to get a little sludgier. Metal-meets-drone trio Boris have been releasing some of the finest loud rockers for nearly two decades now, and latest album Dear is another strong entry into their catalog. It features six-minute-plus slow burns full of ominous singing and drums, along with even longer cuts that really know how to build up the suspense. Basically, if you could use less trop-house or retro-pop in your life right now, enter the tar pit that is this album.
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