I’ve been rather into the Japanese music scene lately, exploring some city pop with Taeko Ohnuki, drone with Boris, and whatever bucket Cornelius falls into. I’m a big fan of each of these albums below, and I’d easily recommend every one. Sunshower is definitely the “easiest-listening,” with really sweet vocals and jazzy, catchy instrumentals. I’m not particularly a fan of drone, and Feedbacker tested my patience on the first listen, but revisiting the album makes me like it more every time. It’s loud and heavy. Fantasma is campy and fun, and it kind of sounds like Cornelius is trolling at times (he samples a fly…), but then there are these great moments within the tracks that are super creative or just drop-dead gorgeous (second half of “Micro Disneycal World Tour” – holy shit).
Anyways, the other artist I’ve been listening to is Sheena Ringo. Specifically, her album Shōso Strip, and more specifically, my favorite single on the album, “浴室”, or “Bathroom.” Damn, I love this track. It might just be my favorite pop song ever. It’s chaotic, catchy, lush, weird, noisy, listenable, experimental, plus a bunch of other buzzword adjectives. There are sections of harsh noise that preempt soaring, reverb-heavy psychedelia, just as there’s groovy, beat-driven bass complemented by Ringo’s eccentric yet alluring vocal performance.
“Bathroom” is this great amalgamation of a bunch of different elements, and it absolutely grabs your attention from the start. The groove is established by this continuous, bubbly baseline, which gets further layered with complexity throughout the song. At around 1:00, the track introduces a second bass, and there’s a great counterpoint-like moment that’s really effective in ramping up the track for the gorgeous refrain.
The refrain is a lush wall of sound with reverb-laden guitar, a soaring string section, and glistening piano embellishments. But it’s definitely Ringo’s unique singing as the centerpiece here – it’s somewhat nasally, which might turn off some listeners at first, but you become adjusted to her eccentricities quickly. Ringo also likes to trill her R’s, which I think adds even more character to this already sultry, colorful track. There’s a bit of discordance with her use of noise and glitch elements, but this contrasts well with how smooth the production of the refrain is. I love the bits where harsh noise leads into the dreamy refrain; it’s like surfacing from a dark underwater crevasse into some rosy, verdant oasis.
Let’s take a look at the lyrics:
“I’m laughing more than usual today,
but earlier I had a dream in which you died, and I couldn’t help but love you
No matter what, don’t desert me”
“Wash me, and cut me open in the water
It floods my respiratory organs
Make sure that I dry out completely
Polish me, and tear me open in the water
I let myself over to weightlessness
Once I’ve completely dissolved, be sure to consume me immediately”
Well… that’s dark. I’m not entirely sure what the song is about, although I have a hunch it might be about washing away and “dissolving” all her perceived faults, as if she’s “impure” or dirtied. There’s a strong vibe of helplessness and self-hatred with some of the phrasing, and it’s obvious the song is dealing with some kind of dependency on her lover. I wasn’t quite expecting lyrics as dark or abstract as this, but I think it’s another factor that contributes to how versatile and unique the entire song is.
The rest of Shōso Strip is pretty fantastic as well, and there are a few more standout tracks that I’d highly recommend. I hope you give it a shot!