Smooth Struggles — Radio playlist

Every week, I try to bring a mix of new music and music I’ve enjoyed for a while. Many of these tracks are culled from checking out Soundcloud, Bandcamp, various netlabel pages to see if they’ve updated, and blogs, like Make Believe Melodies. MBM is one of the best sources for new tracks from the disparate scenes in Japan, and is well worth checking out, after you listen to the show below, of course.

This set starts off with an old favorite, but not too old. Hazel Nuts Chocolate, now just simply HNC, has been around for the past decade, releasing hummable and cute tunes. HNC is somewhere in the the nexus of cool between Shibuya-kei and picopop, and they have been drifting towards the latter in recent years. Their track in this playlist, Next M, is a punchy number, carried along by a hyperactive percussion track, distinct and equally catchy layers of vocal melodies, and shouts that could be from a high school sports game. It’s an excellent example of the inventiveness found within picopop. Did you know picopop is a genre? It’s a pretty good genre.

A very new artist is featured prominently in this playlist, and it’s thanks to MBM that I discovered this one. Kuroguremore was one half of the group Soft As Snow But Warm Inside. Now Kuroguremore is making what he calls “occult jpop”. His first track on this playlist, TRILITHO + ME HIR_U.F.O.V.H.S., begins with ominous pizzicato arpeggios that never resolve, and their motif is repeated throughout. A distant vocal track that tries to introduce a new motif reverbs in the spare midsection of the song, but a crescendo of synths drown it out until there is a sudden and baffling break to a stumbling beat and struggling horns. I don’t think it would be out of place in a horror movie, probably my kind of horror movie.

The last track is a calm outro by Homera, available from On Sunday Recordings. From the little I’ve heard of Homera, they seem to have a sound all of their own, a relaxing, but bubbly sound that would be perfect for rides in your car, preferably an older convertible. This track is smooth, like late 70s smooth in an electronic package.

Speaking of smooth, there’s some city pop in this playlist. Hiroshi Sato and Hiromi Go shake up the playlist with some sounds that are ready for the nightlife. Hiroshi Sato has an interesting history that is well-documented here, at the excellent Convertible to Yokohama.


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