It’s time for another long, unreadable roundup post where I “round up” music releases I heard last month and I share my (preferably positive) opinions on them in the form of mini-reviews. There are a couple of EPs mentioned this time around so that should be absolutely exciting – my post getting even more bloated? Whoo! Seriously though, it’s been a great month of music, I really enjoyed listening to most of these releases and writing about them has been equally enjoyable.
The Comet Is Coming: Trust in the Lifeforce of the Deep Mystery [Album of the Month]
Favorite tracks: ALL OF THEM
Whoa. Maybe it’s because I’ve never been exposed to intergalactic nu-jazz projects like this before, but this LP didn’t take a lot of time to sweep me off my saxo-prone footing and throw me into this colorful, fiery, cosmic journey of… some collective entity (or existence itself maybe?). Both the opening and the ending tracks seem to be cut from the same compositional cloth, with similar ebb-and-flow, setting up this looping aspect of the album’s playback – and a reversed one at that, where the opening track feels like the LP’s ending and the ending is actually the album just beginning to lay its foot down. Birth of Creation, Astral Flying and Unity are probably the most cerebral and spiritual in the track list in terms of the tracks’ pacing and composition. Birth of Creation’s saxophone sounds vividly gargantuan, like the stars and planets are forming, the stars undergoing nuclear fusion for the first time. Astral Flying feels more personal, like a psychedelic trip through the pastures of the cosmos.
Unity probably has the most predictable composition, but that doesn’t take away from how calming the building of the instrumentation is in the song. In Summon the Fire and Blood of the Past, I love how the saxophone sounds magmatic and distorted and how the drums sound weighty. The only vocals on the album is Kate Tempest’s feature in Blood of the Past where she gives social commentary – about our indifference to violence of the past and present, our obsession with short-term pleasures, how we tend to scoff at people who want things to change, and how not self-aware most of us are about our wrongdoings. I found the phasic improvisation in Super Zodiac and Timewave Zero to be really enjoyable. As it is with all my favorite monthly selections, there’s not a dud on this LP. I am revisiting this album quite a lot, and I still find new aspects in the composition to enjoy to this day.
Weyes Blood: Titanic Rising
Favorite tracks: A Lot’s Gonna Change, Andromeda, Everyday, Something to Believe Titanic Rising, Movies, Mirror Forever, Wild Time, Nearer to Thee
Damn, this is such a well-paced, beautiful, celestial album. I can only agree with the critical acclaim that it’s been receiving recently – Natalie really put forward an ambitious, grand project with this. The dreamy instrumentals and Weyes’ smooth vocals just mesh together so well that it only took the first couple of tracks to sink me into its lush soundscape. The production rarely feels overly dulled down, despite it having this dream-poppy, cohesive sonic theme going throughout the album’s run time; and I think that can be attributed to the light flourishes of experimentation with percussion or synths in the beginning or ending segment of some of the tracks (like Movies, Andromeda) – it adds more color to the LP’s gorgeous atmosphere.
Although I’m not the biggest lyrics-guy, I tend to pay more attention to the vocal performances and instrumentals than lyricism in a song, but it’s impossible to deny the beauty in Weyes’ lyricism in this album. Not that the lyrics are completely relatable but they help to effectively present Weyes’ own viewpoints featuring her own map of nuanced emotions, tracks like Andromeda, Everyday and Mirror Forever, come to mind when thinking about this point. Lastly, but not the least, another highlight of the LP are the two instrumental pieces, they are short yet without them, I don’t think the album would feel as complete. All in all, Titanic Rising certainly has its own living breathing personality, and it’s only been growing on me throughout April.
Moka Sato: Merry go round
Favorite tracks: Rainy Day Makeup, Foolish, Loop with Tomoggg, Skip, Friend, coffee cup waltz, The Singer, Merry go round, Celosia, melt summer
This album features some sweet little wintertime tunes that just stuck with me throughout last month. Sato’s vocals sound pristine, her delivery breezy and serene, it’s always the centerpiece in each track. And that pans over sometimes a nostalgically toned minimal instrumented ballad – like in Rainy Day Makeup, Friend, Merry go round, and Celosia.
Sometimes her instrumental backdrop features a vibrant cascading mix of soundcloud-reminiscent sugary synths and a gummy-like bass line (Foolish, Loop with Tomoggg and melt summer) – it’s just the right amount of sweetness in the beat without it making the track sound cloying in any degree. Moka even indulges in a bit of jazz, like in Skip, coffee cup waltz (it’s such a sticky tune, it’s a mood setter) and, surely, it doesn’t get more jazz lounge-like than The Singer. The LP feels more like an EP because the of its tight pacing. I think those less-than-a-minute sound bytes act like interstitial tissue that evens out the transitions- making the whole track list flows from one type of sound to another so smoothly that it often makes forget that I listened through 32 minutes of music.
The Dance for Philosophy: Excelsior
Favorite tracks: It’s My Turn, Supervenience, Logic Jump, Free Your Festa, Speech, Vital Temptation, Heuristic City, Happy Ending
This group caught my eye after I discovered their Dance Founder MV in December, I really liked the retro, city-pop-like aesthetic that doesn’t feel like it’s just tacked on, and how the member’s actually distinguished themselves in terms of vocals rather than with visuals alone, something I don’t see in group pop too often.
So I went into this album expecting more or less of the same, and I wasn’t disappointed with what I heard. Since tracks have only grown on me, I love the groovy bass, funky guitars and synth patterns, the energy of the vocal performances is contagious – it’s a lot of fun. Given the 51-minute length of the album, I wish there was a bit more variation in style from track-to-track, especially in the middle section, but that’s a minor complaint that’s getting even more minor the more I listen to the LP. I recommend you give this a listen if you are someone who’s interested in listening to a well-produced retro pop (featuring those old school analogue synthesizers, I think?) record which doesn’t just bank on nostalgia and tries to bring something new and refreshing to the table.
Haruomi Hosono: Hochono House
Favorite tracks: Ai Ai Gasa, Bara to Yajuu, Koi wa Momoiro, Juusho Futei Mushoku Tei Shunyuu, Fuku wa Uchi Oni wa Sato, Party, Fuyu Goe, Owari no Kisetsu, Choo Choo Gatagoto America Hen
Hochono House is a “re-imagined” or “reworked” version of Haruomi’s debut album Hosono House which he released in 1973. Haruomi Hosono is a name I’ve heard of before, because he is one of the most influential artists in the history of Japanese music and he was a member of great musical outfits like Happy End and Yellow Magic Orchestra. So being the uncultured music listener I am, I went back and listened to the original, for the first time, so I could compare the two.
The original sounds like a band gathered in a summer house and recorded some catchy pop rock pieces – and it sounds timeless. The new version reverses the track list order and Haruomi reworks an eclectic batch of soft electronic elements into the songs, his vocal performances have changed to a more suave tone so that the album gets an effective lounge-like tinge to its overall sound. I can’t exactly say that Haruomi “modernized” the album but I think it’s more like a creative exercise to make alternative compositions for the songs, if anything. It’s a really well-produced album with a nice versatile sonic palette (despite it sounding like coffee house lounge music) and it’s perfect to put on a chill weekend afternoon.
Billie Eilish: When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?
Favorite tracks: bad guy, you should see me in a crown, all the good girls go to hell, my strange addiction, bury a friend
I never heard anything from Billie Eilish despite repetitively seeing her songs in my recommendations, partly because I made assumptions based off just her edgy image and the cynical commentary surrounding her. Honestly, I wouldn’t have bothered to check this out if critics like Mark and Fantano didn’t give positive reviews on it. Although I haven’t become the biggest fan on initial listens, I didn’t find it as bland or as painfully edgy as I thought it would be, there are some catchy and fun tracks here. Her edgy-ness has a self-aware edge to it, like in bad guy and you should see me in a crown and her vocal performances are nuanced to fit a specific mood in each track. Finneas’ production is pretty fun and the theming is done pretty well throughout the album’s run time.
Overall, it’s a good album but, as much of a talented singer Billie is, I wasn’t really enamored by the ballad side of the LP because I don’t really connect with her brand of sound/songwriting all that much. So it’s one of those albums which I get why people love it but I can’t get into it as much, save for a few of the tracks. But it is worth giving a listen.
Wednesday Campanella: Yakushima Treasure
Favorite tracks: Underground Ritual, Shimameguri, East, Faded Sea, Yaku No Jitsugetsubushi
Well, Wednesday Campanella finally went there. They shed the veneer of pop around their experimentation with this EP; and the final product ends up being this unkempt yet naturalistic journey where each track feels like a small detour of its own. The EP features natural samples in Yakushima, where the group recorded during a trip there – they also put out a web series on Youtube Premium showing how they made the music, some history and some personal reflection from KOM_I. Also, there are some folk performance by the locals in Faded Sea.
I really love how well the sampling from Yakushima is worked in and layered in each track, Oorutaichi did a fantastic job with this – the production is enveloping, it’s conscious. KOM_I’s vocal performances on the tracks are probably one of the most soulful, and soul-filling I’ve heard in the group’s discography (especially in East, Faded Sea, and Yaku No Jitsugetsubushi). My only complaint is the first half could do with some trimming. It’s a beautiful EP and I’m only loving it more the more I listen to it.
Favorite tracks: good morning, Daihatsumei, BUTTER, Reflection
tricot is yet to disappoint with an underwhelming release. This time around, the pacing and presentation is even tighter, the drums have a stronger presence, the bass more prominent, and of course, the vocals are as crisp as ever. The band seems to pack more variation within their song structure, most notable example being Daihatsumei and Butter, which is my favorite track off the EP – where even with a relatively long run times, the phasic variation helps with the pacing. Also that tempestuous climax near the end of Butter is beautiful.
Perhaps the only dull points in the EP is that the the tail-end of the last track is a bit plodding but it’s not a really bad song. Other than that, I think it’s a solid release from a solid band.
Zombie-Chang: Soredo Shiawase
Yes! Zombie-Chang is back with another ear worm of a release. She properly returns to her new-wave underground EDM roots in Soredo Shiawase, and if you like her music, you will like this track too. The second track doesn’t really do anything for me, it feels like filler, but the band version of I Can’t Get to Sleep (which is one of my favorites off her second album) is fun. I hope she puts out an album or EP this year.
Chiaki Mayumura: Kiseki Kaminoko Tensaiken! & Daijoubu
So Chiaki Mayumura dropped Meja Meja Monja a few days ago… and on first impression it’s fantastic, and of course, its review will be included in the next roundup. Anyway, she dropped the MVs of two tracks off her new album, and it didn’t take long for them to become instant favorites.
I enjoy the fun mixing and instrumental buildup of the looping percussion, the repetitive synth lead, and of course the catchy chanting “Kiseki Kaminoko Tensaiken!” – which cumulates to a vibe I can (unconfidently) describe as new wave punk-like. It’s a song I have on repeat every now and then. And the MV is cute and funny as hell.
Daijoubu, on the other hand, starts off as your standard pop ballad but Chiaki doesn’t waste a lot of time to pull off an uplifting chorus, it’s really beautifully sung. And it only gets more instrumentally interesting, with an organ and hi-hats – a combination I never thought would work this well in an introspective song like this; and an equally uplifting guitar section caps the song off. It’s the second longest song in the album, but it doesn’t feel that long at all. In the MV, the ending transitions blissfully into the beginning of Piccolo Insect. I wish the first track of the album would have been Piccolo Insect so the transition would work when replaying the LP – that’s not the case but it’s daijoubu, I guess.
Crumb – Nina
This song was recommended to me on Youtube and it happened to be great. The instrumental and the vocals sound so blissful here. I love the drums here. Will be keeping an eye (and two ears) out for their future releases.
I guess that’s a wrap for this post. See you soon.