Lots of good music came out of Japan in December, but keeping track of it all can be a challenge. Plus there was the whole “changing over to 2018” thing. Don’t sweat it, we've highlighted a few Japanese releases well worth hunting down…
Dean Fujioka “Let It Snow! EP”
Singer/songwriter Dean Fujioka has been on a hot streak, and the artist behind the Yuri!!! On Ice theme song dropped one of the better J-pop EPs of the year at the very end of 2017. It’s anchored by the title track, a sweet pop number interrupted by a blizzard of bass and saxophone (!) at various points, which only ups the emotion. The other two new songs find Fujioka fiddling around with sparse electronic sounds, skipping over the synth hiccups of “DoReMi” and whispering between the blurred notes of “Speechless.”
DAOKO “Thank You Blue”
No artist rocketed up the J-pop ranks faster or higher than DAOKO did in 2017, and to cap it off she offered her biggest full-length statement to date. Thank You Blue was her first post-"Uchiage Hanabi” album, featuring all of the singles released before and after that dividing line. The end result is a collection that’s less fully formed statement and more like an artist stepping on to an observation deck and looking at all the places she could go. There are ballads, clappy pop cuts and even rumbling EDM depth charges. Yet the most intriguing moments are the ones that find her building her own identity, see the bouncy “Cinderella Step," or teaming up with bands such as D.A.N. or Tempalay to reveal new dimensions to her style. It’s a stepping stone, but an intriguing one all the same.
Chibi-Tech “Psycho Somatic Generation”
There is no shortage of chiptune artists in Japan taking the sounds of a Nintendo-centred childhood and re-imagining them in new ways, but Tokyo’s Chibi-Tech does it better than most. Her latest album Psycho Somatic Generation finds the sweet spot between 8-bit music apt for backing a side scrolling adventure game and more physical moments designed for the club (virtual or otherwise). These 10 songs offer plenty of moments hitting on both, sometimes in the same track.
The sounds of one’s everyday life can be more enveloping than you think. Just immerse yourself in Japanese sample-maniac Hercelot’s Slowalk, a breezy set of skippers that rarely overwhelm. Vocal samples get cut up into syllable-long splatters, and everything has a walk-around-the-block quality to it.
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