Dive by 0am

Released: 22.09.02 / Label: Self-released

0am is a unique pop duo from Tokyo. Members MAKIADACHI and COMiNUM have found success on TikTok with covers, original music, remixes of TV clips into songs, and some makeup videos. I love that they perform a lot of their music live in video, not to mention the crazy amount of videos they’ve put out. Their style is definitely modern pop. Great fashion sense, impeccable makeup, and crisp well-framed vertical videos shot closeup with multicolored LED lighting for ambiance. They certainly know their platform, but how does the music sound?

Today’s song Dive was released last September, so this review is a bit late because I’m really behind, but it’s been somewhat well received when compared to their other music. It’s a hyper-focused pop track with a simple groove and straight synth hits supporting a really active vocal line. The groove is created with typical drum samples, but also a lot of fun random non-musical sounds which give the whole track a playfulness that probably wouldn’t be apparent otherwise. The lyrics are your basic love song, and the song follows a pretty typical form. Of note is the addition of bass in the break down, which gives a little more color to the track, however the return to the final chorus afterwards ends up feeling a bit bland. Overall a solid pop track, and one that shows a lot of potential in the pair.

Verdict: Worth your time (3/5)

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Bokumetsu by Satoko Shibata

Released: 15.09.16 / Label: P-VINE

Today’s track is from previously reviewed artist Satoko Shibata. While I wasn’t entirely impressed with her track Ryokou it did make me want to do a bit of a deep dive and see what else she’s released. I eventually ended up here, Bokumetsu off her self-titled release Shibata Satoko from way back in 2015. But is it all that I’d hoped for? Perhaps even more?

It is! It’s a much more subdued and sweet composition than Ryoko. And I must say I prefer this energy. Bokumetsu is a well written balled featuring delicate vocals supported by a dreamy and simple indie pop band sound. The lyrics are sweet, and the little spoken asides that float in the background give it a dreamy feel. The acoustic guitar, bass, and drums provide the base of the song while a soft lead guitar noodles around in the reverb-laden background of the tune. I particularly enjoy the lilting melodic phrases and slightly odd timings employed in the vocal line. It’s just enough outside of expectation as to invoke a sense of suspense and surprise. While the production isn’t as good here as in her newer music, this feels much more focused and well executed. Perfect for a relaxing playlist.

Verdict: Worth your time. (3.4/5)

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Bokura by MEMEMION

Released: 22.08.17 / Label: Self-released

This track took me completely by surprise with its strange mix of straight-ahead pop and almost classical tonal complexity. MEMEMION is a five-piece band that formed last year, 2021, in the midst of corona shut-downs. While it’s clear this group of extremely talented musicians all come from different backgrounds, it’s impressive that they’ve found a way for it all to (mostly) fit together in such a short time. The vocals take the lead in Bokura, center stage in every section aside from the guitar solo, and boy are they all over the place. Strange harmonic leaps across a massive range are the norm here, giving the melody a Visual-K or classic prog rock sound. Meanwhile, the rhythm section is busy hopping back and forth between rock, funk, and straight J-pop. The guitars feel like the glue in the mix, playing the mediary between genres. While the song definitely kept my analytic brain super interested for the first few listens, I can’t say I ever really felt the groove. Eventually the leaps in the vocals started to wear on my ears, and the lack of of a strong tonic base in the chorus left things feeling floaty and inconclusive. So while repeated listening is not recommended it’s a great ‘outside’ track for playlists. Especially recommended for those more familiar with music theory, or fans of complex harmony.

Verdict: Recommended with caution (2.9/5)

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Escort by BananaLemon

Released: 22.08.24 / Label: Self-released

While I’m not as into J-Pop as I used to be, I occasionally see a group name that just calls to me. That’s exactly what happened with BananaLemon. And we’re in luck as the group just parted with their label and has released this newest single independently! The track-making certainly hasn’t suffered from the split, though. This is very well produced, and the number of sections they’ve fit into the sub-3-minute track is impressive. Escort starts off hard and quickly moves into rock/rap territory for the first verse. It sounds like we hear from two of the three members here before the obligatory clap-based pre-chorus. The chorus anti-drops with some really smooth vocals over a more relaxed guitar riff. I like how they’ve made the chorus pop by actually making it more subdued than the preceding build sections. It’s a great use of contrast. The second verse is a bit of unique songwriting: the music drops almost completely out and there’s just a short whispered vocal section before heading right back into the pre-chorus. It’s a smart choice that keeps things active and the song moving. Then the chorus again, followed by an R&B breakdown where they get in some diva singing. Then the last chorus does a great job of combining these different styles of singing, but for me it seemed to end a bit prematurely. I think an extra ad-lib section would have felt completely natural to end on, but I respect the ability to not needlessly prolong a track. The modern K-Pop influence is very apparent throughout the track, and while they’ve add a few new ideas here it’s definitely from the same mold. But sometimes just releasing a banger is enough.

Verdict: Worth your time. (3.1/5)

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BYE BYE by chilldspot

Released: 22.08.26 / Label: Pony Canyon

Killer track coming from the relatively new band chilldspot today. They may be young, but they’ve already made a name for themselves. After taking off on Spotify over the last two years they’ve been grabbed up by Pony Canyon, one of the larger labels in Japan. This track is being used in a car commercial, so they may be jumping to a major label soon. This is the first track of theirs I’ve actually properly sat down and listened to, and they’ve got a tight a pop sound that really took me by surprise. The song moves. While the band is tight, they aren’t breaking any new ground here. No, it’s the vocals that really make the sound. The singer, Hiyune’s powerful yet cute tone really grabs the listener. The melody is the most rhythmic part of the song, and the strong J-Pop melody (with obligatory glockenspiel doubling) feels dated, yet modern. Quite the feat. I’m interested to see how typical this sound is for the group. Given that it’s for a commercial, I imagine they went more mainstream than usual, but I’ll have to check out some older tracks to be sure. So expect to see these guys on the blog again.

Verdict: Worth your time. (3.6/5)

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Fukaikan by OSTRIP

Released: 22.08.17 / Label: Self-released

I’ve reviewed a track by OSTRIP before and I liked them so much I though I’d check out their newest single. I’m sad to say that I’m a bit underwhelmed this time around. Fukaikan starts out playfully enough with a cute synth plonking down a lilting melody line that continues throughout the song. Good start. The groove seems mysterious and fun, at first. But as soon as the vocals enter things go sideways. Although the melody is solid, the singing in the verse feels too laid back and takes all the energy out of the song. A change of singer as we enter the chorus doesn’t help, it just don’t pop. The rhythm section might be to blame here, literally nothing changes throughout the whole song and as the track hits its second verse it’s already starting to feel old. In general it feels they should have spent a few more weeks working on arrangement. So, while not a bad melody, the whole track feels very much in need of polish. Especially when compared with their last single.

Verdict: Take it or leave it. (2.2/5)

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Easy by KOMONO LAKE feat. gb

Released: 22.07.27 / Label: Self-released

KOMONO LAKE is an entirely modern three piece group from the Tokyo area. Consisting of a vocalist, a bassist, and a track maker/DJ. Their sound is heavily electric. The production is top notch, but what really makes them stand out are the strong vocals and creative bass lines that accent their music. Today’s track is a bit on the lighter side, and sounds fit for inclusion on a Katamari Damacy soundtrack. The production is fantastic, somehow finding a catchy combination of adorable and cool. The groove is a slower Latin-feel that really gives the singer and bassist room to shine. The bassist has some tasty licks throughout the tune, but the vocals are the standout here. The clear tone and straight pop style of singer Kanbin gives the song direction and really cements the groove. Sadly the rap section from guest gb seems out of place here. It may be a mix issue, but I’m thinking it’s more a groove issue. He’s gone with a smoother approach that just doesn’t mesh with the track. The rap is quality though. I’d like to hear them do a collab again in the future on a different track.

Verdict: Worth your time. (3.5/5)

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New Site Reveal!

So I spent the past few weeks working on a total site redesign. What do you think?!

I’m loving the simple, streamlined layout. The design is very much influenced by Fluxblog and Said the Gramophone, two amazing mp3 blogs that have given me so much great music over the years. Check them out if you haven’t read them before. I won’t be able to do the mp3 thing here, so streaming age will have to do for now. We may see about song giveaways in the future maybe.

Sorry for the lack of new reviews during the remodel over the past few weeks, but I think it was worth it. Not only is the site easier to read, it’s also much easier to write and update! Which means more content and some album reviews as well! It may be a few weeks until all the old posts are transferred over to the new style. I’ll be doing a few a day, but the artist and label links will grow over time as I get tags all squared away.

Anyway, new review up tomorrow! Thanks for your patience. -EB

Naive Triangle by Pvrvllel

Released: 22.07.20 / Label: Self-released

Pvrvllel is the name of music producer duo Masa Tamaki and Kazuki Sugiyama. The v’s in the name make me think their music may be more on the artsy side, but we’ll see. Today’s track “Naive Triangle” dropped as a single on Bandcamp on July 15th, and was released to stream on the 20th. I’m always happy to see more Japanese groups using bandcamp, it’s not as popular here as it should be.

While a little dated, this track gets a lot right with the EDM mood its going for. The sounds are all beautifully crafted, especially the bass and drums, giving the groove a strong foundation. It definitely makes you want to move and would be a great dance track in any lounge or house set. The vocals are chopped up samples of a female singer from somewhere. Definitely cliche at this point, but if it works it works. Here it’s great for about 75% of the song, but it gets just a bit annoying at the end. Fans of this kind of music might not find a new hit, but it definitely works as playlist filler. Naive Triangle is dance track that gets the job done. While the style is dated, they get everything right here. Worth a listen for EDM fans.

Verdict: Worth your time. (3.1/5)

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Who are you ? by Liza feat. Yo-Sea

Released: 22.07.22 / Label: Self-released

Liza is definitely going for the rebellious vibe for the cover. I’ve not heard Liza or Yo-Sea before, but I love a collaboration so let’s find out what this is about. Liza is a younger rapper with about 10k followers on Instagram and a few successful tracks under her belt. An up-and-coming artist who’s doing her best to make some waves here. While this is Liza’s track, from my research it looks like Yo-Sea is the more popular artist. So a really great collab for her on this deluxe reissue of her debut EP. Ok, let’s check out the song.

This track has a tight groove with some great sample work giving it a perfect flow for the rappers to work with, and Liza kills it. She uses a really straight-forward rhythmic groove for this track, with a lot of rapid fire phrases ending with stretched syllables. It makes for some really addicting phrasing, made even better by her voice which is incredibly easy to listen to. Yo-Sea pops in for a single verse that seems a bit lackluster in comparison. His voice is amazing and the harmony work is cool, but the rap itself isn’t that memorable. His vocal ad-libs peppering the following choruses are also a bit much. Sometimes guests can be like that. But she got the name drop, so good for her. This track definitely makes me want to check out the rest of the new album.

For comparison I also checked out the older version of this track that was released last year, and while the rap is a bit more playful in that version the music here is much improved. It seems like she was able to simplify and polish up almost every aspect of the track, something I wish more artists would do for their older releases. In an age where releasing music is so easy, you’d think that songs would be updated as they evolve over the years. I’m glad she did it.

Verdict: Worth your time. (3.5/5)

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