Tony W. by Cutty Scooner

Released: 22.06.29 / Label: Self-released

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…

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.

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.

Verdict: Worth your time (3/5)

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Butai no ue de by Bitei Matsuki with Souki Urakami

Released: 22.05.02 / Label: Self-released

I’d never heard of Bitei Matsuki or Souki Urakami before, but I’m officially a fan after hearing this song.

This whole thing is just incredible. The horn parts are well constructed and the rhythm section just burns through the song. The melody makes it clear that this is definitely a feature piece for the guest vocalist, and it shows off his range quite well. I just…I just hate the glockenspiel doubling the melody. Every J-pop song ever does this and I don’t know why…please stop.

The whole band is incredible here, with a lot of jazz players brought in to work on the song it seems. The solos are just delightful, with every choice screaming style and taste. The vocalist is on top of their part and sings with class and a special flare. This combination of great playing and singing draws you in and keeps you listening.

They had some great recording work for this piece, really capturing all the depth and emotion of each part. The mix is incredible for a track this busy, and after some research it seems like it was mastered at a Victor run studio. So the work is pro level and it sounds like it. My only nitpick is that the piano can be a bit too loud at times. Clearly he’s the band leader here, but I wonder what it would sound like with it moved into the background a bit.

A note about the album art: CATS IN SPACE! So the cat iconography is the composer’s branding, which makes sense for the focus of the song as a set piece for the two stars. Not something I’d have picked from a shelf, so I don’t know if it does the best job conveying the value of the music here. Kind of a shame, and I think they could have done a better job given the amount of work they put in everywhere else. The music video goes a completely different direction with a fun 8-bit art style. That definitely raises the score a bit.

Verdict: Must listen (4/5)

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