everyone likes by illiomote

Released: 23.03.15 | Label: SPILD

illiomote is a band we’ve looked at once before in 2022. That track, A.O.U, left me wanting but interested in the group so here we are checking out a song from their latest album HMN</3. Let’s see what they’ve made for us today!

Well, it’s a little bit more dynamically interesting than before. I really like the break down idea they went with, but overall the rest of the track was lackluster. I’m not a fan of the weird grooves they’ve mashed together here, and I think it might be the same copy/paste issue I saw last time. There are definitely some mix problems, but beyond that there’s just not enough work on the arrangements in the different sections. I had thought they were being minimalist before, but now I’m starting to think they just aren’t putting in the time. Disappointing. And probably the last time you’ll see them on this list for a while.

Verdict: Skip (1.4/5)

Stream or download the album

muse by YOLK

Released: 23.03.22 | Label: Tanukineiri Records

Hope you’re having a great week! Today we’re checking out a new track by the three-piece band YOLK. This is the first time I’ve heard them, so let’s see what they’ve cooked up for us.

Well that was a nice song. The band has definitely mastered the chill vibe. All the playing is good, and I really like the singers voice. They use a refreshingly large amount of sounds, but mostly as one-shot solo-licks and then they disappear. I think I heard a flute in there somewhere? It left me wishing they’d stayed around to flesh out the arrangement.

Sadly the mix really makes hurts the track. The vocals are a bit too far back in the mix and hard to enjoy, and the guitars keys and cymbals have all blended together into a pleasant but indistinguishable wash. Not a song I’d listen to again, but I wouldn’t change the channel or anything. Give it a shot if you’re feeling adventurous.

Verdict: Take it or leave it (2.1/5)

Stream or download the album

Journey by Czecho No Republic

Released: 23.03.24 | Label: mini muff records

Czecho No Republic is a 4-piece pop rock band who have been on the scene in Japan since 2010. Their current line up is:

Masami Takei on vocals and bass, Shotaro Yamazaki on drums, Kazuki Sunagawa on guitar, and Mai Takahashi pulling triple duty on guitar, synthesizer, and vocals.

If you’re a fan of Dragon Ball you may already know some of their music from the ending credits of Kai and Super. I however, have somehow never actually heard them play before, so this is a real treat. I have some idea what to expect after reviewing the side project Living Rita. But let’s give this track a listen.

Oh wow, I was not expecting a fade out. What an interesting track this turned out to be! The general structure and music is most definitely pop rock, but the sound is really something special. It’s got a roughness and playfulness I really enjoy. The break into digital drums in the second verse is also kind of out there, but somehow fits perfectly within the track. And then there’s the early-2000s style break-down that reminded me of Sum 41 for some reason. Great music here.

The lyrics are pretty forgettable, but I think the groove and energy of the track are the real heart of the track, so it’s forgivable. I can definitely see this going on to my work out playlist. What a great introduction to the band!

Verdict: Worth your time (3.5/5)

Stream or download the album

Take That ! feat. TENDRE by Tomita Lab.

Released: 23.03.08 | Label: Speedstar

Tomita Lab. has a new collaboration out! And it comes with a strange and honestly kind of creepy music video! Let’s watch.

This song is somehow way happier than it should be given what each part is doing. It’s got that signature wackiness that Tomita Labs. always brings to the music, (we’ve reviewed him before if you remember) but mixed in with the smoothest and calmest voice ever à la TENDRE. This is a combination I didn’t know I wanted, but hearing it together made it seem so obvious. Definitely worth your time, but be warned that this is a love it or hate it kind of situation.

Verdict: Worth your time (3.5/5)

Stream or download the album

Megaphone by BBHF

Released: 23.03.15 | Label: Ouchi Daisuki Club Records / Suzume Studios

What year is it?!? This song sounds like a mid to late 2000s summer anthem release about 15 years too late. Super catchy and ambitiously fun, with the weirdest music video I’ve seen in a while. Who is that man and why are we watching him dance around a nameless city? You’ll never know.

BBHF is a band I’ve reviewed before, and I really loved that track. I like this one ok as well, it’s just waaay noisier. I feel like they were going for something a bit cleaner and just added way too many plugins to the mix. It’s absolutely dance-able and super fun in an OK GO kind of way, but I don’t recommend listening to it on repeat with headphones. It’s a lot.

The band sounds great as always, the lyrics are playful, the riffs are dated but fun. Definitely worth your time.

Verdict: Worth your time (3/5)

Stream or download the album

Life’s A Game by Wez Atlas

Released: 23.03.15 / Label: HIP LAND MUSIC

Wez Atlas has been a busy man. We saw him in multiple projects last year but this is the first time reviewing a song off his own album. I’ve been really excited to hear his new album “This Too Shall Pass” which just dropped last week coinciding with his performance at SXSW. This is clearly an artist who is pushing hard to make it to the top, so let’s check out this latest single to see if the music lives up to the aspiration.

Man, I just love Wez’s flow here. The way he transitions seamlessly between languages in particular is something that I’ve been waiting for from Japanese artists for a long time, and he does it so well. His voice and lyricism are on point as always, but there are a few themes here that are commonly found in J-Pop lyrics. That’s not to say I don’t like it, it just struck me as a little off-brand. Methinks he’s hoping this track will be used as the ending theme for an anime?

The backtrack here, though, leaves a lot to be desired. The sounds are good, but it’s very repetitive and doesn’t have much character. Luckily the track is only two and a half minutes long so it gets in out fast enough to not become monotonous, but I was definitely hoping for a little more style. The form is also super weird, with a long extended music break in the middle of the track that could have been half as long. Even the director of the music video didn’t know what to do whit it and just put in the credits early.

So, overall a solid solo piece that could have used a little more flare on the music side of things. But Wez sounds great and certainly makes an impact. I fully expect to be hearing this during the credits of whatever the next big anime is. Something with cowboys probably.

Verdict: Worth your time (3.3/5)

Stream or download the album


Released: 22.10.19 / Label: Self Released

TOKYO OX ISSUE is a newer electropop duo hailing from, of course, Tokyo. The duo is made up of model and actress Hinata Kohinata on vocals, and classically trained pianist Shu Katayama on keys. They made a bit of a ripple with their first album, it featured an impressive mastering engineer adding his talents to the lead single (which sounded amazing). But since then it seems like the going has been a bit rough. This track is from their 2nd, and latest, EP “cupola” but it hasn’t seemed to have made as much of an impact. Is it just bad timing, or is the music just not up to snuff? Spoiler: it was probably both.

This track is a bop in its own right, if a bit dated. I feel like the electropop duo thing has been a bit done to death in Japan, and while I enjoy the esoteric piano parts that make this group unique, it’s not enough to really set them apart. The track has got a nice pop groove and some really interesting melodies and solo sections. Hinata’s voice is spectacular here, clear and crisp with a cute tone throughout. It’s exactly the right style of singing for this kind of music. The keyboards are great as well, Shu is having a lot of fun with different pop phrases throughout. But the song suffers from a lack of focus, too many disparate sections and a sense of wandering that muddles the track’s flow. I feel like there’s at least two good songs worth of material here, and it probably should have been split up. The mix is a bit rough as well. Normally not a problem with indie groups, but this track pales in comparison to the lead single from their last album. So a bit of a let down with this release. But I’m looking forward to hearing them grow, and I can’t wait to hear what their next album holds.

Verdict: Take it or leave it (2.5/5)

Stream or download the track

Iruka to Suisei by Aivy

Released: 22.10.12 / Label: real future records

This high-energy track from the Tokyo-based band Aivy is definitely worth a full listen for all the J-pop lovers out there. Iruka to Suisei (translated: “Dolphin and Comet”), the lead single for the group’s second full album, was released in late 2022. To be honest, on my first listen I was ready to check out at the second verse. But what starts off as a typical pop song morphs into a thing of real beauty in the last third, so be sure to give the track a full listen.

The musicianship here is at an undeniably high level. The opening riff shows off the guitarist’s skill with catchy riffs, then the vocals come in clear and strong. The second verse is where the drums and bass have a real moment together with a tight and well crafted groove that shines. But the best part of the song starts at around 2:50 with a virtuosic music break and a beautifully crafted bridge that builds into the final chorus. The playing and the mix of this whole ending section are just stellar.

The song is well-arranged for the pop formula its in, but it’s definitely as by-the-book a composition as they come. I’d love to hear something from this group that’s not so genre-bound, just to see how far they could go. They may have already done that on some other tracks on the album…I’ll have to go check. But as an introduction, I’m already very impressed and want to hear more.

Verdict: Worth your time (3.6/5)

Stream or download the track

Last Night by the dresscodes

Released: 22.09.02 / Label: EVIL LINE RECORDS

The dresscodes is a solo project by multi-instrumentalist Ryohei Shima. What started out as a full band back in 2012 morphed into a solo project in 2014 and has featured a variety of guest players for recording sessions and shows. The project has had a lot of success over the years, with festival performances, a YouTube channel boasting close to 12 million views, and music featured in the CG film GANTZ:O among other achievements. So a seasoned veteran of the Japanese music industry who, while not quite independent, seems to be making a go of it on his own while covering a refreshingly wide range of musical styles.

Today’s track Last Night is a masterfully crafted dream-pop tune that has a great groove. The melody is smooth and easy to listen to, in fact the whole song is wrapped in a nice cushion of synth blankets that make it really soft on the ears. The mix is really incredibly well done. The soft, washy nature of the song actually hides some fantastic instrumental parts going on in the background. Every part is really well placed, and just active enough to work with the whole.

Ryohei’s vocals are very unique, and this song is a great example of the soft, breathy, almost-falsetto tone he approaches each piece with. It’s definitely going to be the area that divides listeners, though. I think it works well here (it doesn’t always) and it meshes well with the light feel of the song. I also particularly enjoy the use of percussion and synth effects, in particular the wind chimes. It’s rare to hear those used so sparingly when they’re present. I’d definitely consider adding this to a few relaxing playlists.

Verdict: Worth your time (3.6/5)

Stream or download the track

Site moved and slowly updating…

There were some admin things that got in the way of my regular review schedule, so sorry for the wait. Old reviews are slowly being reformatted and updated and once that’s done I’ll be working on the look of the site, so stay tuned! In the mean time, regular weekday reviews are restarting today with Dive by 0am. So check that out and share the site with your friends!

Also, if you have any review suggestions I’d love to hear them so send me a message.

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