Lihappiness is a bedroom-based solo project, but unlike most such units you find these days in Japan, it’s not one obsessed by woozy indietronica and dreampop. Instead, Lihappiness draws from a point in 1980s new wave that hangs between outright pop ambition and utter derangement. This isn’t new wave repurposed as a fashion vehicle and nor does it follow the contemporary Japanese trend of repackaging new wave as simpering idol-ready comedy cabaret: this is art pop in the grand tradition of The Passage, Jun Togawa, Andreas Dorau and Potpourri/Perspective era P-Model, with Vinyl Puppet sounding like a long-lost Kraftwerk demo from around Computer World, Yurameite Iku coming over like early Simple Minds in its combination of stadium ambition and overbearing, histrionic delivery and A.K.A. Virtue running Susumu Hirasawa through a meat grinder.
2nd Pattern is also a big move on from similarly self-produced and even more lo-fi debut Drums & Lihappiness (that’s an XTC reference right there), with the production much clearer and the clatter of sounds that Lihappiness bombards you with more clearly defined. It’s also a step onwards in the songwriting, with more melodic variation, a more ambitious rhythmical palette and generally what feels like more confidence in the way the album swings from the rather sweet Mada to the almost industrial Tetto to the minimal, sequencer loop-based NDW-techno B.P. 2.
Anyone who knows me well will know that this is an album that pushes all my buttons and appeals to all my prejudices, but even bearing that in mind, it’s an impressive work from a developing talent, and it’s one of the things I’ve heard this year that has made me smile more than almost anything else.