Single

Hold On by Junya Narita

Hold On album cover

Hold On

22.06.24 / Junya Narita

Listen Where You Like

Full Review

There are a lot of these cityscape covers in the J-Indie scene, but this has to be one of the better ones I’ve seen. The colors are really well done and the soft text of ‘Hold On’ at the top is definitely a mood. Let’s find out a little about the artist before jumping into the track.

The Artist

It’s hard to find info on Junya Narita in the usual places, but all his social pics point to him being a solo singer/songwriter based in Tokyo who’s had a lot of success on streaming platforms, but is still on his way up. His style is very mature, very ‘cool’ colors and fashion. Before I even hit play I’m guessing this will be a light J-Pop love song. It also seems like he’s joined by other musicians on this track, so maybe a three piece for this recording? I didn’t see many pictures of him playing with a live band though. OK, let’s get to the music.

The Song

Scariest opening lyrics I’ve heard in awhile! show me your skin Stalker-vibes aside, that was almost exactly what I was expecting, although less J-Pop and more alternative indie. Hold On is a pretty plain love song overall. The lyrics are stereotypical and the music has been done better before by thousands of other artists, which means that his voice is really the only thing unique about the song. And, luckily for Mr. Narita, he’s really pleasant to listen to. Bad English aside, the tone is fresh yet developed and gives the music some much needed emotion. I imagine that if he was singing in Japanese it would have more depth, but even here his skill is clear.

The harmony work is kind of a miss, and the overall arrangement is definitely simple. It sounds like he had some good ideas that just didn’t work out. Some sweeps and some solo melodic lines that just suffered from bad instrument choices and bad mixing. The mix itself is super boring and there are a lot of missed opportunities. The distance between this and The Fray isn’t as big as it would seem, mostly the scope of the song’s dynamics. So I hope he finds someone with a better ear and imagination to work with in the future.

The Verdict
Overall
2.5
  • Composition
  • Performance
  • Production
  • Presentation

Verdict

Hold On is a very solid, yet entirely average love song. Junya Narita’s singing is the only thing that stands out here, but his voice just might be worth the listen.

Reviewed: 22.07.11 / Reviewer: EB

Tony W. by Cutty Scooner

Tony W. album cover

Tony W.

22.06.29 / Cutty Scooner

Listen Where You Like

Full Review

I’m new to this artist, but the cover makes it look like a soap opera’s opening credit role theme song. I hope it’s a bit better than that…

The Artist

Cutty Scooner is a hard group to find info on. They’re a duo from Tokyo, and I think that may be the singer on the cover there. There’s not a lot else on the band available, so they are either very new or very underground. Happy to have found them though, now let’s see what kind of music they make.

The Song

There are a lot more instruments than I expected, and they all sound amazing and are well played. It’s refreshing to hear real players and not just midi parts (unless I’ve been duped). Tony W. is put together nicely in a very pensive, almost soft jazz arrangement. Beautiful singing as well, although they should really check the English in the lyrics. It seems I was wrong about the singer being on the cover, as the majority of the song is a male voice. I’m not at all sure who does what in this group. The cover does indeed have the right feeling for this track, the lyrics are like an ambiguous poem, but the general mood is like a soap opera theme from the 90s.

I really like the odd meter (5/4) groove of the song. The odd number matches well with the uncertain feeling of the music. It’s almost anxious in its melodic choices, and the trumpet solo that accents the last third of the track captures that emotion perfectly. And it’s a really good solo. It sounds like a seasoned jazz player. Overall I’m conflicted though, because as much as the track gets right it still feels very stagnant. That may be a problem in the mix more than anything, there isn’t a lot of dynamics in the different parts, so it ends up all feeling kind of right in the middle of expressive range. That being said, the song is really beautiful and I’ll definitely be keeping my eye on this group in the future.

The Verdict
Overall
3
  • Composition
  • Performance
  • Production
  • Presentation

Verdict

Tony W. is a beautifully crafted, semi-soft-jazz, indie song. The melancholic, surprisingly lush arrangements shine, but the mix is lacking.

Reviewed: 22.07.11 / Reviewer: EB

Dystopia feat. AAAMYYY by Tomita Lab.

Dystopia album cover

Dystopia

22.06.29 / Speedstar

Listen Where You Like

Full Review

Stained glass imagery as an album cover is usually a good sign. We’re approaching the upper limits of the indie classification again by reviewing this song, but judging by the lack of attention for this release, I think it still classifies as J-Indie. These artists have about 30 years combined experience in the industry, so I’m excited to take a look. Let’s see who’s behind Dystopia first.

The Artist

Tomita Lab. is the solo project of prolific Japanese producer Tomita Keiichi. 2022 marks his 20th year working in the industry, and even at 60 years old he’s still going strong. The majority of his work is as a producer, but he’s also contributed as a composer and arranger for many albums throughout his career. His most recent release “7+” features 20 guest performers and is where we get today’s track. Dystopia features vocals by artist AAAMYYY from the psychedelic rock band Tempalay. We’ll go into more detail about her work when we review her music, but she’s a force to be reckoned with in the music scene in Japan. All this to say that, with two powerhouses working together my expectations for this track are set pretty high. Let’s take a listen and see what they’ve made.

The Song

For a song called Dystopia that was an absolute joy to listen to. AAAMYYY’s smoky vocals are a perfect match for the percussive and almost frantic energy of Tomita’s track. The first half is off the wall in just about everyway, bubbly bass sounds, lo-fi piano parts, and sweeps shoved in all over the place keep the groove on its toes. The vocal line is simple, very pop oriented, and anchors the listener firmly in the pocket of the groove.

Then, out of nowhere, the parts switch roles completely in the second half of the song. The music calms down into a tight funk groove, restructuring themes and allowing the vocals to start exploring their full range. I absolutely love the change and was invested in where the track was headed, but the ending felt somehow lacking. They fake a return to the songs earlier themes but then hit the escape button and the track ends. It works in its own way as a surprise, but it felt like there was a better way it could have been done.

The only downside of this track is how overdeveloped it really is. The sounds and the melodic phrases are pushed to near breaking with complexity in some sections, which some listeners may find to be too much. It was a lot even for me. I usually listen to the songs on repeat while writing but I had to stop this one on my third pass so that I could concentrate. So it’s great for when you can listen actively, but it demands too much attention to work as background music.

The Verdict
Overall
4
  • Composition
  • Performance
  • Production
  • Presentation

Verdict

Dystopia is an energetic and creative track balanced perfectly with incredible vocals. Worth a listen, if only to marvel at its ingenuity.

Reviewed: 22.07.08 / Reviewer: EB

Munasawagi by NIKO NIKO TAN TAN

Munasawagi album cover

Munasawagi feat. Chi-

22.06.29 / NIKO NIKO TAN TAN RECORDS

Listen Where You Like

Full Review

So many capital letters with this track. NIKO NIKO TAN TAN is our main artist here, but you may recognize the name Chi- from the CHAMELEON LIME WHOOPIEPIE track we reviewed last month. I loved her stuff there so I am very excited to hear what she brings to the collab this time. I’m not as familiar with NIKO, so let’s learn a bit about them before we get to the track review.

The Artist

NIKO NIKO TAN TAN is a four member “mixture unit” formed in 2019. Two members do the music while the other two do video. So they really are more of a creative unit and less of a traditional band. They’ve been busy putting out releases like crazy the past few years, so they’re quite active. And I’m hoping that means they’ve got some really developed work here. Because half the band is devoted to the video side of things, I feel like it might be best to actually embed the music video here for you to watch rather than just listening. So give that a watch after you check out the review!

The Song

Chaos is the name of the game with this group in an awesome and creative way, but it’s all just a little too fuzzy. Chi- is a perfect match for this style, and, despite the craziness of the video, she seems more restrained than in her own music. The song is fun and the composition is solid, though nothing to write home about. It works well as a jam song. The lyrics are, just like with the WHOOPIEPIE track, not that great. They’re playful and not to be taken seriously, but even so they could have been a lot better. The video has way more story than the song does, and that’s not saying much.

Speaking of video, clearly a lot of work went into the shoot and there are a lot of fun stylish scenes, but I don’t think it adds anything to the music. Which is disappointing when you consider half of the group is working on video. I expected the two halves to work together better than they did.

Overall a lack of polish in the audio mix, and a lack of quality control on the video means that I probably won’t listen (or watch) this again. Maybe the group just needs a bit more experience to work things out, maybe there was a time crunch, or maybe there was a lack of funding. Whatever the cause, there’s a lot of room to grow, and I think I’ll be waiting a year or two before checking back in.

The Verdict
Overall
2.3
  • Composition
  • Performance
  • Production
  • Presentation

Verdict

Munasawagi is a chaotic collab that, while fun, could have used more polish. All the ideas are there, the execution just hasn’t caught up yet.

Reviewed: 22.07.07 / Reviewer: EB

Foolish Summer by Deep Sea Diving Club

Foolish Summer album cover

Foolish Summer

22.07.01 / Beacon LABEL

Listen Where You Like

Full Review

Foolish Summer seems like a kind of self-introduction for the band, as you might have guessed by the album cover choice. While I’ve not heard of this group before, we reviewed a track last month by an artist on the same label: BBHF’s Shinigame. That track was awesome, so I have high hopes for this song as well! But let’s learn a little about the band before we dive in.

The Artist

This “genre-less” four piece band hails from Fukuoka prefecture and they’ve been active on the scene since 2019. They’ve been busy as well with an EP, a full album, and several singles released so far. It seems they go by “DSDC” for short, so I’ll be using that from now on. I found this wonderful write-up on the band by realsound. You can translate that to read, or just click over to enjoy pics of the band and some music video links! Now, let’s listen to the song.

The Song

That was a really skilled performance mixing Latin stylings into a rather straight forward J-Pop song. It’s clear that these guys are some great musicians who really know their stuff. The bass player especially is absolutely killing it. He’s got chops. The individual parts are all really fun and, while segues are a bit abrupt at times, the composition has clearly been given a lot of care. I love this Latin groove mixed in with the J-Pop progression they’ve found. It’s unique and interesting. Sadly the instrumentals feel way overproduced, and not a lot of emotion has survived the mixing process. Every part has a weird flatness to it, and while it’s a clean mix, it’s very hard to really connect with the music. Interestingly if this were a straight pop song it might work, but the Latin elements lose their depth when they’re cleaned up this much.

This would be much better to see performed live, and the music video is already way more fun than just listening to the audio. There’s definitely something to be said about the importance of visual elements when dealing with J-Pop. So be sure to check that out if you like the track.

The Verdict
Overall
3
  • Composition
  • Performance
  • Production
  • Presentation

Verdict

Foolish Summer is a unique track that mixes together Latin and J-Pop. Great playing but a bit over-produced. A must listen for J-Pop lovers.

Reviewed: 22.07.07 / Reviewer: EB

Kink by Kent Ido

Kink album cover

Kink

22.06.29 / Kent Ido

Listen Where You Like

Kink – Full Review

Kink appears to be the latest single from Kent Ido’s recently released album “I’m here, where are you” and the album cover (featured above) is entrancing. I don’t think it’s supposed to be Sci-Fi, but those are the vibes I’m getting. Let’s find out a bit more about the artist before listening to the song.

The Artist

Kent Ido is a Kyoto based musician who, according to his website, does it all. He mixes, he masters, he edits, he plays guitar, he composes, and he sings. He’s also the lead of Kyoto band “super noah” who I’ve not heard, but am now interested in hearing. This is his second solo album following his first full release “Song of the swamp.” The man knows how to title his stuff. Now let’s hear what he has to offer.

The Song

Wow. That was an incredibly well written and polished track. It had me grooving from the top and just kept getting better. The man knows composition and style. I really love all of his choices here; the instrumentation of each section, the effects on the voice, the simple musical ideas fully explored in each instrument. It’s really well done all around. I was equally impressed with his mixing and mastering. I would assume given the info on his website that he mixed this one himself, but I’d need to do some research to find out. Whoever did it, they did a fantastic job.

It’s finds like this that make the whole blog worthwhile, and I’ll definitely be doing a review of the full album later this month. If this song is any indication I’m sure that the rest of the album is great. I’ll also be reviewing some of his band’s music in the future as well.

The Verdict
Overall
4.5
  • Composition
  • Performance
  • Production
  • Presentation

Verdict

Kink is a wonderfully crafted and well polished pop song. Kent Ido has written a banger here and I definitely recommend giving it a listen. 

Reviewed: 22.07.05 / Reviewer: EB

Kuchibue by OSTRIP

Kuchibue album cover

Kuchibue

22.06.22 / OSTRIP

Listen Where You Like

Full Review

I love me a city skyline, but the song name ‘Kuchibue’ means lips in English so I’m a bit lost here. Love that logo in the bottom right though.

The Artist

Ostrip is short for “Ostrich Trip” and boy does this band love that bird. They talk about it at length in their band bio, but the gist of it is that their music will give you the energy to push on in life like an ostrich runs. Something probably got lost in translation there but you get it. The band is brand new, this is only their second release following their first single ‘bitter’ and from what I’ve found it looks like it’s just a three-piece band. So let’s hear how these bird-lovers sound.

The Song

Funk! They’re a funk-rap group! That’s actually a surprise given the what I found during my research. Not only that but they’re good! I love the dual singers. The girl’s rap is super cute but really funky, and her singing voice and the guy’s voice are a perfect match. The guitar has some great rhythm, and while the rhythm section is super simple it totally works with the song. I could have done without the guy’s rapping, but it wasn’t awful but his singing voice is much better. The solos could also use a bit of polish and creativity, but it’s only their second single so they get a pass. This time…

Speaking of which, for being a second release the recording and mix sound fantastic. I don’t know if they put a lot of money into this or just know what they’re doing, but it works. Definitely an indie group, but high quality for the amount of experience they have. I’ll definitely be coming back to review their next release, and I might just give that first single a listen, too.

The Verdict
Overall
3.2
  • Composition
  • Performance
  • Song Meaning
  • Production
  • Presentation

Verdict

Kuchibue is some great poppy funk from a relatively new group. I can’t wait to hear what they make next. Definitely worth a listen.

Reviewed: 22.07.03 / Reviewer: EB

No.8 by Ribet towns

No. 8 album cover

No.8

22.06.22 / Ribet towns

Listen Where You Like

Full Review

Am I about to listen to a perfume commercial? I don’t know what to make of this cover or this song title. I love the use of color though. Ribet towns is a new name for me, so let’s learn a little about the band before we listen.

The Artist

Ribet towns is a 12 member pop band hailing from Kyoto, and from they’ve written in one of the bios I read that they also have a bit of Celtic flair. This is my first time listening to their music, so I don’t know what to expect but just looking at all the instruments they’ve got in their group I’m excited to find out. The band has been around since 2016, so with six years under their belt I’m expecting some quality arranging. Let’s give the track a listen.

The Song

Well that was straight J-Pop with a bunch of toys added on top. The song itself has nothing really unique or innovative happening, it’s certainly not a bad song by any means, just average. The extra members outside the basic four-piece band just kind of stack on top of the song. Unfortunately they’re actually kind of distracting most of the time. I don’t think they’ve worked out how to compose shared melody lines within the group, and there are parts with three or four separate independent melody lines playing at once. It reminds me a little of Gamelan music. The only part where it felt like they got it right was at the ending of the song, literally the last 2 seconds. So, kind of a let down.
The mix is pretty messy, but I think that’s probably due to all the extra instruments playing in the same range as the vocals. Actually given that fact, it was probably a challenge working on this song. So, good work Mr. mix engineer.

The Verdict
Overall
1.7
  • Composition
  • Performance
  • Song Meaning
  • Production
  • Presentation

Verdict

A massive 12 piece band whose member’s are tragically underutilized. The music gets a pass from me until they figure out how to play together.

Reviewed: 22.07.03 / Reviewer: EB

Sad Vacation by naomi paris tokyo

Sad Vacation album cover

Sad Vacation

22.06.15 / Virgin Music Label And Artist Services

Listen Where You Want

Full Review

I love the impact this cover has, very mysterious and almost spiritual with the art style. It’s the jacket for the full EP “22SS” that just came out this past month, so while it doesn’t work very well with the title Sad Vacation, it doesn’t need to. It certainly got me interested in hearing the song.

The Artist

naomi paris tokyo is the oddly international name for indie musician naomi. He’s better known as one half of the duo jan and naomi but began doing solo work back in 2020. I’ve heard a little bit of the duo’s work, but this will be the first time I’ve listened to his solo material. I’ve no idea what to expect, but I’m interested to see what he brings to the music. Let’s give it a listen.

The Song

Right off the bat I’m impressed with the use of space and atmosphere of this track. A lot of beauty in the intro with beautiful strings and effects creating a lush soundscape. However. the mix kind of falls apart as soon as the guitar comes in (you’ll know) and then it all seems a bit too big spacious. The melodic and chordal ideas are simple but beautifully done, and the care put into the dynamics and arrangement of each section is obvious. It does feel like he bit off a bit more than he could chew in terms of depth. It seems like he wanted to go both cinematic and pop, a real challenge because those two genres are at odds with each other. A good attempt though, and some really beautiful moments that I’ll definitely listen to again.

Sadly I wasn’t able to find the lyrics to this song anywhere, and they’re very hard to make out on the recording, so I’m not sure what he’s singing. If you know where to find them please do let me know.

The Verdict
Overall
2.9
  • Composition
  • Performance
  • Song Meaning
  • Production
  • Presentation

Verdict

Sad Vacation is more beautiful than it’s name lets on. A track with its faults, but with some serious potential as well. Worth a listen.

Reviewed: 22.07.03 / Reviewer: EB

girl by suya suya junction

girl album cover

girl

22.06.22 / suya suya junction

Listen Where You Like

Full Review

girl is the lead single from suya suya junction’s new EP “hometown” and has there ever been a more spot on album jacket? This is a new band for me so let’s find out who they are.

The Artist

suya suya junction is a four-piece indie band that started in Tokyo just two years ago in 2020. They’ve released three singles before this one, and now they’ve got a full EP out. The band seems young, but looks can be deceiving. They say on their website they’re into shoegaze, indie rock, and post rock styles. So I’m hoping for a refreshing hit here. Let’s see what they’ve created.

The Song

What a charming song. The band has that young J-Indie sound that’s a bit rough around the edges, but also a clear confidence in the music. The form is decidedly pop, but the guitars have a rough sound that grounds the somewhat shaky groove in the post-rock genre. The vocals are the stand-out here, really natural singing with a great tone and the harmony work is outstanding. I’m very excited to see what other songs are on this EP, and it’s on the list to review for sure.

The lyrics are calm and loving, although the narrative isn’t clearly defined. Each instrument is played well, perhaps a bit shakily, but in a charming way. The mix is also very indie, lots of space and untreated sounds. A lot of focus was given to the vocals here and for good reason. Everyone gives a great performance that conveys a lot of soul. I hope the rest of the EP sounds like this, it would make for great driving music.

The Verdict
Overall
3.3
  • Composition
  • Performance
  • Song Meaning
  • Production
  • Presentation

Verdict

girl is a subtle yet confident song that makes me want to hear more. I’m excited to see where they go from here. Worth a listen.

Reviewed: 22.06.30 / Reviewer: EB