Another one of the handful of CDs I picked up in Kyushu earlier this year, this EP/mini-album by Kagoshima’s Zokudams was actually released about a year ago, but I’m writing about it here anyway because it’s a pretty confident collection of tight, well-produced songs that seem to fall somewhere between Number Girl-style 2000s alt-rock and quirky punk-pop new wave bubblegum. Singer and lead guitarist Witou’s occasionally tortured and meandering vocals are often set against the chirpy female backing vocals of the other members, best evidenced on the chirpy Chinoiserie of “O Ai Ni! Chugokugo” with the bouncy, ska-influenced chorus set against a more driving, punk-influenced verse, interspersed with some alt-rock guitar mangling. It’s well-recorded, and thoughout Hana to Dokuro, the songwriting is never less than highly commercial pop/rock, delivered with much more style, wit and imagination than you usually get from this kind of thing. Given the right kind of platform, (which, sadly, probably means somewhere far away from Kagoshima) Zokudams seem like the kind of band that could actually go somewhere.