Single Review

Hanikami Filing Love by Who Do You Love?

Released: 22.05.18 / Label: NEW FOLK

I don’t know what I was expecting when I picked this track for the review list, but I didn’t think I’d be immediately transported back to the 60s.

Who Do You Love? has perfectly arranged this song for the period they’re emulating. The melody seems familiar but is totally unique as far as I can tell. If it is ripped from something please let me know in the comments. Even if it isn’t an original melody, the music they set it to is incredible. All of the instruments are played to perfection and the vocal harmony is just icing on the cake. I really like the little Japanese Showa-rock twist during the solo at the end, it’s a creative way to end the tune. It’s just a wonderful song all around.

The vocals are definitely a stand-out part of the track: passionate and the right tone throughout. The different instruments’ fills and solos have just enough character to add to the song without hogging the spotlight. I’d definitely buy a ticket to see these guys live just from hearing this.

The production is almost perfect, but is just a tiny bit too clean in some sections for my taste. I almost wish they’d recorded to a tape deck and cut it by hand. The panning also seemed a but out of place for the era, a bit too modern. But these are small nitpicks, the track sounds great overall. The cover is where they lost me, it just seems disconnected from the song. It’s such a weird color choice and good lord that font is awful. This song is not at all what I expected from looking at the cover, which definitely isn’t a good thing when there is a niche audience for this kind of song.

Verdict: Must listen (4/5)

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Chocolate by WANG GUNG BAND

Released: 22.05.18 / Label: Self-released

I’m not a huge fan of this kind of song, but you gotta respect the musicianship of WANG GUNG BAND. This song is definitely on my recommendation list as a must-listen for fans of the genre.

The track is well-composed with great band and horn parts. The doubled vocals could have been better, but they still work. The piece features really good linear lines throughout, but as the song progresses, the various parts add up and it becomes a bit crowded by the end. Stricter editing may have helped, as the song ends up losing some power due to its own weight.

Overall, the performances on the recording are wonderful. The large group showcases a lot of skilled playing, and the speak-sing vocals are particularly impressive. However, for a love song it lacks the strong emotion found in the genre. This may be due to the band’s lack of recording experience, they formed in 2020. Even so, I’m looking forward to hearing future recordings where they can relax and fully immerse themselves in the music.

The song’s lyrics are super cute, telling a love story through memories with the music taking over during the more romantic moments. It’s very well written. Between the lyric blocks, however, we get some weird ‘yeah yeah yeah‘s that seem unnecessary. With this many instrumentalists the vocals don’t need to stay center stage all the time.

For a new band the recording is impressive. There are a few sections where the room suddenly sounds gigantic, from experience I’d say that they need to learn how to phrase dynamics for the mics. But in general the sound is great. Unfortunately, the mix just doesn’t do the composition justice. All of the parts come off a bit flat, and messy. The climax of the song ends up muffled due to too many moving parts, and it has less impact than even the quietest part of the song. I would love to hear a remixed version of the song later on in the group’s career.

Verdict: Worth your time (3.2/5)

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OH HEY by Hitsujibungaku and Lücy

Released: 22.05.18 / Label: F.C.L.S.

This surprise collaboration between Japanese Indie-rock group Hitsujibungaku and Taiwanese singer Lücy has taken my local radio by storm the past few weeks. And I can tell you why, it’s a great song! While I think it’s coming at the tail end of Hitsujibungaku’s indie days (their recent successes have me convinced they’ll be moving over to a major label soon) I’m happy to be adding it to the review list while I can!

This song is a fantastic example of how simplicity and energy work so well together. The different member’s parts are extremely straightforward by themselves, but put together they create a track where something fun or interesting is always happening. I really love the guitar riffs throughout the chorus, just enough bite to push things forward but not so much that it takes over the song. The bass and drums add motion but they don’t steal attention from the vocals. And the shared vocals create just enough variation in tone that the repetitive lines they’re singing always seem new. Not to mention the backing vocals giving those powerful little ‘oh hey!’ nudges forward. Also be sure to pay attention to the use of rhythm in the chorus and bridge, the shortened lines adding all that tension and emotion. Chef’s kiss.

Hitsujibungaku’s vocalist Moeka gives a stellar performance here, her voice is well suited for these kinds of songs. Lücy is surprisingly bland in her delivery overall. This is the first time I’ve heard her, so I need to listen to her other work, but I don’t know if she has the right approach here. It works, but just barely, and I don’t think she could do this song solo. The lead guitar’s sound is expertly crafted for the song, as is the bass. And they both play their parts to perfection. The drums could have used a better choice of cymbals and perhaps a little bit higher tuning to blend better, but the performance is tight.

Sadly the bad English from Lücy makes most of the song impossible to understand. Which is strange, because there’s really only like five lines total, so you’d think they could have at least clarified them. It seems like they’d be pretty cool, too, which is annoying. The Japanese lyric sections work well, but I think the two parts are supposed to play off each other, so we really only get half the story. Definitely could have had a lot more impact if they had gotten this right.

The track has great production value. Everything sounds great, so the recording session must have gone smoothly. The mix is also great overall. The twin vocals are balanced well against each other. I really love the guitars panned around us adding all that weight to the groove. The chorus parts are just far enough in the background to give the whole thing scale. I could have used a bit more polish on the drums, particularly the ride. It’s just so close to the vocals, and doesn’t need to be… But the bass drum, and bass play well off each other, so that’s the important thing I guess.

The fact that this was a surprise collaboration means it’s a stand alone release. The cover is super fun and VERY clear on the songs feeling. However things get muddled as to who’s song this is with the inclusion of only one artist name on the cover. The release has been heavily marketed here in Japan as a collaboration, and it was released by a Japanese label, so I’m not sure what happened behind the scenes. Best guess is that she’s the one who proposed the collab, so she gets her name on the cover. Still strange though. Maybe it’s being promoted differently in Taiwan.

Verdict: Worth your time (3.8/5)

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Parachute by Yuransen

Released: 22.04.29 / Label: O.O.C Records

Released as a lead single for Yuransen‘s new album MY REVOLUTION, Parachute is a solid song that knows how to create a chill vibe, although it may stretch on a bit too long for its own good.

The song starts off with a pleasant groove and mellow tones. The vocals add flavor and motion, bringing the song to life. However, because the song uses on layers that drop in and out for development, nothing stands out as particularly important. This makes the track feel about a minute too long and increasingly repetitive. A stronger solo or removing the overly-present piano octaves could have improved the overall structure. More likely though, the song would have worked better at a sweet 3:30.

The instrumentals do a great job of setting the tone. The relaxed phrasings and subdued melodies all hit that ‘chill’ sweet spot. But it seems like no one told the vocalist that pitch was important for feel. The wavering tones in the melody don’t match the clear sound the rest of the band is working toward. That isn’t to say the singer’s tone is bad, just not a good fit here.

The recording is excellent, and all the instruments sound great. However, when the vocals come in, the guitar seems to fade into the background. Better balance might have taken this song to another level, but what we do get is good. I feel like they may have run into time constraints trying to get this single out before the album’s the release, something I talked about in the FOG review as well. It may be worth checking out the full album to see if the quality differs.

Verdict: Worth your time (3/5)

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FOG by ego apartment

Released: 22.05.18 / Label: NihyakuWIND

FOG is the lead single for ego apartment‘s newest self-titled album, and I’ve got to be honest here, this sounds super rushed. Coming from a group that has some great songs in their catalog, this one is just disappointing in so many ways.

The track’s opening is cliché, but it redeems itself with a great pop melody in the verse and bridge. I love the use of ambient noise and guitar fiddling to add texture and motion, but the rhythm section is glaringly bad. The drums are lazily written and the general groove they’ve gone with is flat out boring.

The vocals are well-sung and emotive, something I’ve come to expect from the group, despite one singer not having any idea what he’s saying… The first verse is just unintelligible, which is a shame because the second verse sounds great. I don’t know why they had the tenor sing in English here, he clearly needed more practice. He usually just sticks to the Japanese parts and sounds great doing it. It’s confusing why they would shake things up on a lead single. The FX work is top notch, and it seems like they had fun crafting it, but the programming is very robotic and lacks dynamic nuance.

The recording and mixing process seem rushed. It sounds like they were working under pressure to get this single out before the album dropped, but I wish they had spent a bit more time improving everything. The drums sound like they’re in a gigantic room while the guitar sounds muffled, at the same time the vocals need to be re-recorded and tweaked in post. Whoever mixed this really did an already shaky track a disservice, the balance is all over the place and nothing pops. I don’t know why the song is called FOG, but they’ve certainly achieved that sound.

This is what happens when a group has no time to polish a track. What could have been a powerful driving pop song comes up short.

Verdict: Skip (1.6/5)

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Airride by YAJICO GIRL

Released: 22.05.18 / Label: MASH A&R

Airride has found moderate success with YAJICO GIRL fans, but has failed to attract many new listeners. And I think I have an idea as to why: the song is kinda just meh.

This is a case of a band doing everything a little bit too by-the-book, resulting in a track with a nice guitar hook, a decent overall arrangement, and some interesting rhythm in the melody, but nothing that stands out as memorable. The vocals wander aimlessly around the chords, while the chorus is repetitive with no real payoff. The songs whole structure seems like it’s cut and paste from the pop musicians handbook. I did appreciate the extended bridge section being turned into the outro, but that might be due to being tired of the chorus by the end of the song.

All of the band members are exceptional musicians, but something clearly went wrong during the recording session. I think they were going for a “chill” vibe, but the final product falls flat. What results are some pretty emotionless individual parts that don’t really mesh together.

The whole song is based around the concept of an “airride”, which seems to be the group’s term for “reminiscing about past love.” Unfortunately, thsee memories aren’t particularly interesting; going to a restaurant, going to a bread shop, sleeping next to someone, getting yelled at. Although liberally self-referenced as “poetry” in the chorus, the lyrics have remarkably little to say.

However, the production of the track is where they hit the mark. Everything is super clean, and they’ve clearly recorded in a high-quality studio. Given the band’s breakout success with earlier tracks, I’d guess someone dropped some real money in the hopes of riding the wave of popularity to fame. The mixing is superb and it gives the the track a great overall balance. I hope they recorded some other songs in that session.

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

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