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Memories of Shibuya year-end wrap: 5 songs for 2016

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Few people are sad to see 2016 go, perhaps justifiably so – but it wasn’t all bad. This year had no shortage of wonderful music released, and so Memories of Shibuya is looking back on 5 of the best songs to come out in 2016. Streaming options aren’t available for all songs, but links will be provided where available.

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Takeshi Nakatsuka to release new original album

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One of the most exciting figures in Shibuya-kei, the multi-talented Takeshi Nakatsuka (formerly of the perpetually underrated group QYPTHONE) is preparing to release a new album called EYE on the 16th of next month, featuring the fantastic lead single “JAPANESE BOY” and 11 other selections. EYE will be Nakatsuka’s first album of originals since 2013’s Lyrics, although the man has certainly kept busy – both as a manager of record label Delicatessen Recordings and as a musician.

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In the Mix: DJ Hayato’s “Tonight J-Pop Mix”

Working with a “night drive” theme, DJ Hayato of Choudoii Records spins a wonderful mixture of Shibuya-kei and Japanese pop tunes on “Tonight J-Pop Mix.” With Negicco, paris match, m-flo, Takeshi Nakatsuka and others in the mix, it’s a top-notch selection that’s sure to brighten up any night – even if you’re not driving through Tokyo in a vintage sports car.

Tonight J-Pop Mix by Dj Hayato on Mixcloud

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New singles announced for Saku and Takeshi Nakatsuka

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As the second major single from neo-Shibuya-kei chanteuse extraordinaire Saku, “Shunshoku Love Song” (jacket photo pictured above) will be coming out on February 24, featuring new song “Onaji Sora” and an acoustic version of previous single “START ME UP” as B-sides. Saku’s career has been on the up and up since getting on the soundtrack to the hit film Biri Gal last year, and while the production lineup for the new single has yet to be announced, odds are very likely that regular collaborator Hideki Kaji will be involved in some capacity – and, perhaps, so will Kaji’s frequent partner Hirohisa Horie.

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Takeshi Nakatsuka has long been one of the hardest-working men in Shibuya-kei, putting out music at an exhausting rate and, with the obvious exceptions of completely mercenary projects like his staggeringly inessential (but likely lucrative) Piano Man Plays Disney albums, a surprisingly high level of quality. His next 7″, JAPANESE BOY, is looking to be a great one even by his usually elevated standards. Unchantable has previews of both the free-jazz inspired title track and its B-side, a velvety smooth cover of Sayuri Kokushou standard “Valentine Kiss”, and the single is due out on Feburary 10.

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News that didn’t get posted before, rounded up and posted

Ooh lawdy. There’s a lot here. Having been busy with a flood of other things intruding from that pesky “real life in which I’m not a superstar music journalist who can afford to support himself on writing alone” and the equally pesky “tendency to completely forget about that which I was supposed to be writing about,” the sole regular writer on Memories of Shibuya has been a lot less regular than usual. No matter! Hopefully the old “better late than never” maxim will hold true here, as none of these stories are truly “new” in any meaningful sense, but they are, in fact, new to Memories of Shibuya so I suppose they still count as “news.”

Details of new Cornelius single announced

As had previously been scooped here on MemoShibu, Keigo “Cornelius” Oyamada will be doing music for the newest installment in the venerable Ghost in the Shell anime franchise – notably separate from the Scarlett Johansson vehicle currently slated for a 2017 release. In the lead-up to the theatrical anime feature, a new TV movie by the name of Ghost in the Shell ARISE: ALTERNATIVE ARCHITECTURE will be aired on April 5, with opening and ending themes made in collaboration between Oyamada and anime-music veteran Maaya Sakamoto, who provides the voice for the anime’s protagonist Motoko Kusanagi. The CD single for the Cornelius/Sakamoto songs from ALTERNATIVE ARCHITECTURE will be released June 17, and the original soundtrack will be coming out alongside the theatrical feature on June 20. Composition for the theme songs is being overseen by Shintaro Sakamoto of Yura Yura Teikoku, who featured on Buffalo Daughter’s “Love & Food” last year and, apparently, has no relation to the other Sakamoto featured on the compositions in question.

Hideki Kaji and THE SUZAN releasing a collaborative 7″ on April 18th

Peter, Bjorn & John’s “Young Folks” was the kind of song that would have made “one-hit wonder” accusations completely inevitable, even if the band had followed it up with a string of solid hit singles as they most assuredly did not. With an impossibly infectious whistled melody based on the “Oriental riff” and a beautiful sing-along chorus, it was the kind of single the band was never going to top – which is probably why they never tried. It didn’t take a genius to notice how the stark post-Marxist angst of “It Don’t Move Me” was as much a retaliation against the success of “Young Folks” as anything else, and even though the group has done quite well for themselves, the shadow of that whistled hook looms long over everything they’ve done since. Naturally, the Swedish group’s biggest hit resonated with Hideki Kaji, whose obsession with Sweden certainly has never been any secret, and so for the upcoming Record Store Day event Niw! Records is releasing a cover version of “Young Folks” by Kaji and like-minded indie group THE SUZAN.

Hideki Kaji, Yakenohara and Masakatsu Takagi also released a 7″

If there’s one thing Hideki Kaji loves more than border shirts and Swedish indie-pop, it’s releasing things on 7″ vinyl. His single “Sound of Felicity,” made in collaboration with fellow scene luminaries Yakenohara and Masakatsu Takagi (who Aphex Twin fans probably know from his “Let My Fish Loose“) came out on February 25, and never seemed worth mentioning until just now for reasons that completely escape me.

Reiji Okii of Cymbals’ band released an album, was quite good, didn’t get mentioned on MemoShibu previously

No excuses. They’re called TWEEDEES, they sound like vintage Shibuya-kei, their latest video is embedded at the beginning of this post, and their new album has been out for weeks now. Check them out.

Cornelius and U-zhaan’s “Homesick in Calcutta” series on YouTube

Continuing the collaboration that previously gave us a very silly YMO cover, Cornelius and U-zhaan released a 5-part series to YouTube as a counterpart to the latter’s recently-released Tabla Rock Mountain album. Definitely more in the realm of “interesting curiosity” than “actually enjoyable”, but… well, mileage may vary, maybe some of you will really be into these videos. They’re bizarre enough to appeal to somebody, I suppose.

QYPTHONE’s Izumi Okawara released a single, is on iTunes internationally

While QYPTHONE is officially broken up, the difference is incredibly arbitrary, as the recently-release Strawberry Jam single proves. With the single sung by Izumi Okawara and written by Kentaro Ishigaki, both of the bizarrely-named Shibuya-kei group, and released on fellow ex-member Takeshi Nakatsuka’s Delicatessen label, all three members of QYPTHONE are officially involved with this “solo” effort from a band that’s “broken up.” Now, it’s in no way a bad thing that they haven’t split up as much as it would initially seem, but it does call to attention how arbitrary bands’ status as “together” or not really can be.

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More free music from Takeshi Nakatsuka

Takeshi Nakatsuka, Disney-approved jazz pianist and former QYPTHONE member, continues his steady stream of free releases through his website’s “TAKESHI LAB” feature – using the same distribution model as always, with download links e-mailed to you once you enter your address (and sign up to his newsletter in the process, but you can always unsubscribe from that). This latest selection is a new jazz combo version of his song “On and On”, with his piano joined by drums, bass, saxophone and a 3-piece horn section (including a second sax player!). It’s a dramatic change from the original, the song being improved massively by the transformation from distressingly sub-par house music to the light jazz that Nakatsuka is more rightfully well-known for. The download will only be available until the clock strikes midnight on New Year’s, so act quickly if you want to get a hold of this one.

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Japanese hip-hop act P.O.P gets Shibuya-kei on their latest release

6-man hip-hop act P.O.P are no strangers to the fringes of Shibuya-kei – they made their debut on former QYPTHONE member Takeshi Nakatsuka’s Delicatessen Recordings label, with an album featuring Nakatsuka as well as BIKKE from Shibuya-kei act TOKYO No.1 SOUL SET – and this new release Fuyuzora to Utagoe wa Kireina Hou ga Ii continues the trend with another appearance from Nakatsuka and a remix from YMCK, Shibuya-kei chiptune group par excellence. You can get the digital release from iTunes, and listen to samples of all album tracks at the Soundcloud embed above.

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