Hip Land Music

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)

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Deepest Ocean by The Fin.

Released: 21.01.22 / Label: Hip Land Music

After reviewing the remixed version of this track by BowAsWell I thought I’d give the original a proper listen and see what the source material was all about. But first, let’s talk about The Fin. a bit.

The Fin. began as a four member band back in 2012, and after rising to popularity on SoundCloud they found moderate success in Japan with their first album. This led to the group touring in the US and UK. Moving to the UK for a time and working with producer Bradley Spence and mastering engineer Joe Lambert on their second album. After moving back to Japan in 2018 they completed their third album Outer Ego, from which we get today’s track. Along the way the four became two, the drummer became the bassist, and of course the coronavirus killed the music touring industry. Check out this interview with vocalist Yuto Uchino from February 2022 to get a more in-depth account of the journey. For now, let’s take a listen to the song.

My first impression of the song is that I wish he’s picked a less aggressive synth sound for the hook. The song is very repetitive, and I think that helps convey the song’s message but boy does it get old fast. The song itself is very interesting and I like the compositional ideas he’s used. The arrangement remains interesting throughout, variations in the groove and the synth pads give it forward motion when really nothing is changing. The form is unique, with no real chorus section and an extended outro. And the repetition means that the small changes in form really pack a punch. But that synth sound, man. I could only listen to the track twice. Maybe it’s just my ears though.

The song’s meaning is well conveyed, his English writing is superb. He knows his limits so it stays simple and to the point. The production was all done by the vocalist as well it seems, and he did a pretty good job except for one sound…

Verdict: Worth your time (3.1/5)

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Deepest Ocean – BowAsWell Remix by The fin.

Released: 22.06.08 / Label: HIP LAND MUSIC

Full disclosure, I’ve not heard the original song by The fin. yet (I will review that sometime next week) so this review is based purely on the merit of this track alone.

I’ve done all the usual digging and it’s been really hard to find any info on the artist BowAsWell for this review. Knowing that they are a producer from China named Yichi Zhang I figured out that he’s the keyboardist in this video. Waaay younger than I thought. And super funky. I don’t have much more than that, but I think it’s enough to put a face to the track this time.

The song starts out very strong with a nice tight groove but as soon as the synths come in it all just feels a bit washy. Certainly a fun vibe he’s got going, and I do like the vocal effects. But nothing really stuck out to me as incredible. The synths in the break down and the climax sections feel like they’re trying to punch above their weight, and I found myself checking the time to see if that was really the peak of the piece.

Production is good, and I like how clear everything sounds. I really like the sound of the vocals, there’s a real Daft Punk vibe going on. The cover is just reworked colors on the original song’s art, so very clear what this song is but nothing original.

He might be doing something really cool with the remix here and I’m missing it because I haven’t heard the original song. I’ll be reviewing that next week just to be sure, and if that’s the case I’ll come back and edit the review.

Verdict: Take it or leave it (2.6/5)

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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)

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