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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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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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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mayonnaise by ego apartment

Released: 22.06.01 / Label: NihyakuWIND

I think “mayonnaise” is the best song title I’ve heard in a long time. I’m already invested and need to know what this is about. I wish this song had it’s own unique artwork but sadly this is just a single from a full album, so we have to look at plums.

It’s time to give ego apartment another chance at a review. I reviewed their song FOG almost a month ago when the blog was just starting out, and a lot has changed since then. For my part, the review style has shifted a bit to be more broad and music focused. For their part, they got a shiny new website up and running and their album has finally dropped! The self-titled but all-caps album “EGO APARTMENT” has found moderate success, with a couple tracks really taking off. I’m definitely interested to hear some of their more popular music, so let’s dive in and see what kind of song they could have possibly written about mayonnaise.

That was so creative and fun! What an absolute joy of a jam they set up here. Really creative grooves, fun lyrics, great pacing, interesting melodic ideas and rhythms in the vocals. This is way better than the last track I heard of theirs. I can definitely hear the time and care that went into this track, which was my big issue with FOG. Where that song sounded rushed and rough around the edges, its clear that each section and instrument here was carefully crafted and perfected here.

I still have an issue with the bad English, but they really cleaned it up a lot this time around so it’s much easier to listen to. That the second vocalist has perfect pronunciation though, and the gap between the two is still jarring to hear. Hopefully that’s something they work out by their next album.

Speaking of sounds, they use a ton of them here. There are guitars, funk basses, sub basses, keyboards, percussion of all kinds, multiple vocal layers. It’s a huge project and it all works together seamlessly. I would really love to know more about their production process, who had what ideas, how they recorded them, all of it. Also a vibraslap. Respect for any band that knows where to place a vibraslap. But all around a stellar job on the mixing this time.

Verdict: Must Listen (4/5)

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Mystery Train – feat. Wez Atlas by Helsinki Lamba Club

Released: 22.06.22 / Label: Hamsterdam Records, UK.PROJECT

Mystery Train is the lead single from Helsinki Lambda Club‘s upcoming EP “Hello, my darkness” and to see them teaming up with Wez Atlas is quite the treat. This is the first time I’m reviewing a HLC song on the blog, so let me tell you a little about them.

Helsinki Lambda Club formed in 2013 and their music has been described as having the spirit of garage punk, new wave, and psychedelic. They’re a Japanese alt-rock band that has a wide range and a lot of talent. Their name is well known in the J-Indie scene, and they’ve played festivals and large-scale venues across the country. They’ve also done a bit of touring in Asia, playing Hong Kong, Beijing, Shanghai and Taiwan. As for the song’s guest rapper Wez Atlas, I recently reviewed his track “Ghost” so check that out for more about him. Busy guy.
Ok, let’s see how the song sounds.

They had me in the first half, lost me in the second. Really great sound from the start, very electronic, which threw me until the band comes in with a tight pop groove for Wez to flow over. And he sounds great here, playful but with some great lyrics to back it up. The first verse is fully HLC backed and is a great contrast to keep things interesting. The second verse brings some electronic fun followed by a killer groove that Gorillaz would be proud of, and then we hit the chorus again. Sadly this is where the song just kind of stagnates until the end, but it was a fun ride while it lasted. I think they could have lost the last 40 seconds and had a much tighter song.

The stand out here is absolutely Wez, but also props go to the mixing engineer who somehow made the stylistic jumps work together so well. I have no idea where Helsinki Lambda Club ends and the programming begins, and that’s wonderful. The sound could have been a bit thicker at points, but I’m sure we’ll get that on other tracks in the EP. More than anything I can’t wait to hear the rest of the release.

Verdict: Worth your time (3.7/5)

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Deep Himawari by SANABAGUN.

Released: 22.06.23 / Label: Self-released

Deep Himawari is Japanese for deep sunflower. So there’s the cover art explanation for you. SANABAGUN. is a band I’ve not heard of before, but let’s see what we can find out about them.

The name SANABAGUN. is a Japanesifacation of the English phrase “son of a gun” which I’d suspected but am delighted to find out is true. The group began in 2013 and consists of 8 members, two lead rappers and six in the band who also rap sometimes. Looking at the roster it seems that two previous members left the band to pursue music in the group Suchmos, a band that has achieved considerable fame over the past few years, so they’ve definitely got some heavy hitters on the team. It feels a lot like one of those fun side projects you join while also doing more focused work elsewhere. They’re definitely having fun, so let’s see what they’ve created this time.

Some funky music happening here. They had me hooked with the modern intro and then the vocals came in and dropped the 90s on my head. I think this song is just meant to be a fun jam for the group, but while the band stays groovy and interesting the rap takes center stage. The mix makes a big mistake, though, setting the instruments pretty far into the background where they feel less like members and more like samples. I’m sure this is much better to see live with all the musicians together on stage.

The song is solid overall, really well composed and written, staying pretty straight-forward throughout. The only time the group drops the ball is in the break in the middle of the song. They use weird effects that completely stop the groove and feel out of place. It’s a really strange choice given the smooth section they’re setting up. That section’s singer’s voice is like butter by the way. So smooth.

Verdict: Take it or leave it (2.9/5)

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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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