Wez Atlas

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

Mystery Train – feat. Wez Atlas by Helsinki Lamba Club

Released: 22.06.22 / Label: Hamsterdam Records, UK.PROJECT

Mystery Train is the lead single from Helsinki Lambda Club‘s upcoming EP “Hello, my darkness” and to see them teaming up with Wez Atlas is quite the treat. This is the first time I’m reviewing a HLC song on the blog, so let me tell you a little about them.

Helsinki Lambda Club formed in 2013 and their music has been described as having the spirit of garage punk, new wave, and psychedelic. They’re a Japanese alt-rock band that has a wide range and a lot of talent. Their name is well known in the J-Indie scene, and they’ve played festivals and large-scale venues across the country. They’ve also done a bit of touring in Asia, playing Hong Kong, Beijing, Shanghai and Taiwan. As for the song’s guest rapper Wez Atlas, I recently reviewed his track “Ghost” so check that out for more about him. Busy guy.
Ok, let’s see how the song sounds.

They had me in the first half, lost me in the second. Really great sound from the start, very electronic, which threw me until the band comes in with a tight pop groove for Wez to flow over. And he sounds great here, playful but with some great lyrics to back it up. The first verse is fully HLC backed and is a great contrast to keep things interesting. The second verse brings some electronic fun followed by a killer groove that Gorillaz would be proud of, and then we hit the chorus again. Sadly this is where the song just kind of stagnates until the end, but it was a fun ride while it lasted. I think they could have lost the last 40 seconds and had a much tighter song.

The stand out here is absolutely Wez, but also props go to the mixing engineer who somehow made the stylistic jumps work together so well. I have no idea where Helsinki Lambda Club ends and the programming begins, and that’s wonderful. The sound could have been a bit thicker at points, but I’m sure we’ll get that on other tracks in the EP. More than anything I can’t wait to hear the rest of the release.

Verdict: Worth your time (3.7/5)

stream or download the track

GHOST by VivaOla, Jua, Wez Atlas

Released: 22.05.25 / Label: HIP LAND MUSIC

Yes, the title does mean ghost as a verb.

This is the third collaboration between artists VivaOla, Jua, and Wez Atlas, and I hope they do a fourth because they sound great together. A basic breakdown is all I can give you here, so be sure to check the links above to hear their solo work. While still very young, the artists each bring their own unique life experiences to the track. They all have multicultural backgrounds: VivaOla was born in Korea raised in Japan. Jua was born in Hawaii and has Japanese, French and Cameroonian heritage. And Wez Atlas was born in Japan but raised in Colorado. It seems they met through music in Tokyo, although I’m shaky on the details. What I do know is that they represent and new wave of artists coming up in the Japanese music scene making some really great music.

This track is smooth as butter. VivaOla holds up the chorus sections while Wez Atlas and Jua take solo rap sections in the middle. The song is a call for self-love and positivity, and the lyrics do a really good job of getting that across. Each artist approaches the subject in their own way, and though they never sing together they all have the same message. The melodic sections are sung really well, very controlled vocals and a well chosen register for the voice make the part feel like a safe place to return after the lyric breaks. The rap sections are also really good. It’s refreshing to hear the younger generation of rappers in Japan treating the craft as the artform it is. English, Japanese, and French are all featured in the lyrics, giving it a very unique audience. Sadly the song fails to really bring the three artists together, each singer remaining primarily in his own section.

The beat is incredibly minimal and I don’t know if that was the best choice. The intro and outro sound cool but the rest of the song is pretty subdued. For any other R&B song it would be fine but given the message of these lyrics I think a more active arrangement would have been better. At the very least I think giving each artists’ section some kind of climax is bare minimum here. Well, areas for growth for the next collab. Or maybe someone will do a remix. The vocals really do sound great though, and the mix is really clean. So the production value is there.

The cover is a but weird. It feels more like pop somehow? I’m a bit disappointed that, given the message of the song is self-care, they’ve decided to erase the people from the frame entirely. I mean I get that they were probably just trying to play with the word ghost, but I feel like that would imply we’re the ones they’re ghosting…
Maybe it’s some deeper message that I’m missing, but it seems like a poor choice. The music video is also worth checking out and does a much better job of getting the message across.

Verdict: Worth your time (3.2/5)

Stream or download the track

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