Mild-Mannered DJ Bryan here to give you some of the top indie pop tracks and releases! These are some of the songs and albums I just can’t shake, so the best thing to do is turn up the volume and enjoy them as much as possible.
Slow beach – Lover, Lover (6 song EP release)
Slow Beach is a new indie-pop group from Japan. Dai Ogasawara, the founder Ano(t)raks (who brought you such great Japanese bands as Post Modern Team and the Paellas) has collaborated with producer Kai Takahashi, Yuriko Ohno (keyboard), and Keito Taguchi (bass).
The title track “Lover,Lover” is an awesome catchy song by Slow Beach. Various parts catch snippets from the 60s evoke images of early Beach Boys. They are not really slow, but there is a nice relaxed feeling to their songs, and definitely the beach tropical feel that they are trying to evoke. “Lover, Lover” is a singable, hummable delight!
Aloha! Their second track is entitled “Hawaii”! Now, we know folks from Japan have quite the love affair with our fair islands in the middle of the Pacific. On “Hawaii,” Slow Beach tends a bit more ethereal with the vocals and pulls in something more of a Caribbean feel with the steel drums. Perhaps not specifically a song that evokes Hawaii, but more of a general feel of a tropical island. Sipping an ice cold drink on the beach would be apropos with this song..
Track 3 is “Slow Down,” and it has more of a chill vibe with the floating vocals and a soft electrosynth bed to whisk you along. Close your eyes and lie down, feet towards the wind and let yourself be swept upwards with this wonderfully nice track.
“Motel,” the fourth track, has a bit more of a groove and upbeat dance feel to it. Heavy on the synthesizers and almost a Stevie Wonder-like feel to some of the extended synthesizer bits. Not a bad thing, and definitely good head-bobbing music as you cruise around late at night. The guitar and bass work well to support the synth-focus, and groove you out at the end.
“Run Away” is the fifth track on the release, and mourns the end of a relationship. The lyrics are quite straightforward, a little melancholy, but the melody is relaxed and comfortable, like a chaise lounge. Of course, as always, it is always darkest before the dawn, which leads us logically into our final song on the release.
The greatest contrast is with their last track “Surfin’ Today.” Dropping the synthesizer and instead backing with a straightforward piano plus guitar and bass, they sound most authentic here, again pulling a little bit of the Beach Boys influence along with the C86 sound. It is a brighter and happier sound as well, and serves as a wonderful cherry on top of the superbly creamy and delicious first EP release.
I am definitely looking forward to future releases from this excellent Japanese indie-pop outfit. In the meantime, you can find them online and listen in as much as you like:
Here are another 6 tracks that have been tickling my ear and might be of keen interest to you:
Northern Portrait – The Young and the Hopefuls
Popular Danish indie-pop band the Northern Portrait have a new track on the Matinee Records compilation release “A Sunday Matinée.” This is a superb teaser after their excellent debut LP “Criminal Art Lovers.” Northern Portrait are like a less melancholy and more upbeat version of the vaunted Smiths/Morrisey sound that many enjoy. Their lyrics are also quite insightful, though sometimes the melodious sound and delicious hooks are deceptively cheerful enough to cause you to sing along without realizing it. At the end of the song, singer Stefan Larsen croons, “We have no social ambitions; as we don’t care about the rest.”
The fin. – Without Excuse
Pretty much everything from this 4 member band from Kobe, Japan, has been superb. The latest track from them, “Without Excuse,” continues in the band’s upbeat and uptempo brand of synth-based music with creative vocals. Yes, that is correct, their name is lower case with a period after it. Bandmates are Uchino Yuto (lead vocals), Odagaki Ryosuke (guitar), Miyasako Hideyuki (bass), and Shibano Koji (drums). They have the requisite Beatles-like hairstyles, as well as the lyrical range to go along with the nice melodies and reliable percussion. “Without Excuse” has takes you on a partly sunny and breezy musical journey.
Alpaca Sports – Let’s Go Somewhere
Oh yes! “Let’s go somewhere, let’s go somewhere alone” is part of the lyrics and really this is just pure wonderful indie-pop at its cheeriest. Happy melodies and vocals are all part and parcel of the great twee music from Swedish band Alpaca Sports. This is the latest single from them, and they are also currently touring Japan. In fact, they just played with Japanese band Wallflower, which we will talk about next!
Wallflower – Dreamy Days
Hailing from Osaka, Japan, Wallflower has been bringing their combination of dreamy pop vocals combined with jangly guitars and positive emotions since 2010. Back in 2012 they were invited to tour with the Pains of Being Pure at Heart, and comparisons have not stopped. A Japanese version of the Pains of Being Pure at Heart? Indeed, this is pure indiepop gold! “Dreamy Days” has the nice wispy sound that follows you around like a shiny helium balloon, so you won’t help but smile when listening.
Beach Vacation – Escape
Would you think a band named Beach Vacation would be from the Pacific Northwest? Well, despite that incongruity in perception, this band from Oak Harbor, Washington, does a great job of conjuring up a wonderful flowing sound that is perfect for any sort of vacation near the ocean. They proclaim to be influenced by Craft Spells and the Radio Dept. and it definitely shows in their sound. “Escape” is a wonderfully jangly tune with lots of hummable riffs and melodies. Yet despite its initial impression of lightness, this song definitely has staying power. Lovely on all levels!
Super Furry Animals – Juxtaposed With U
This is the introduction song to each Happyoblivion show. Quite accessible, yet sneakily subversive, this is the setup for the Happyoblivion show—easy to listen melodies and harmonies, but sometimes with that undercurrent of irony and lyrical dissonance. For this song, some key lyrics are “Over-priced unreal estate, surreal estate; The highest price they’ve hit to date, creating new divides and tension. You’ve got to tolerate all those people that you hate…” If you have never watched the video before, I highly recommend it!
See you on Saturday afternoon, 12-3pm, on the Happyoblivion Show!