Hokkaido-based Hasymonew is either a band or a singer-songwriter or both. When I saw their spellbinding live set in Sapporo back in November, the singer was sporting a black eye where he’d been punched in the face by a busker whose guitar he had drunkenly tried to wrest from its owner’s grip. While this doesn’t have an obvious bearing on their music, I mention it because it seems to reflect a kind of wild-at-heart essence that is usually absent from such intricately worked songwriting. You can’t imagine Shugo Tokumaru getting into a fistfight with a busker.hasymonew: Mujitsu no Ai
That’s not to say that five songs on Tomarumawaru are some kind of aggressively confrontational agit-prop though: they’re beautiful, often delicate, sometimes quirky psychedelic folk. Tomatte Mawaru could be the work of Stephen Malkmus or early Beck, Amaerareta Door no Kabe could give Tokumaru himself a run for his money in the guitar-picking singer-songwriter stakes and Kesa Mita Émilie Sagée is a more explosive psychedelic number. The songs basically fall into either the solo acoustic songs and the more full band recordings with all the expanded arrangements and distorted guitars that entails, although the final Dot Song feints one way and then the other, at first affecting to be an almost Shibuya-kei-like upbeat neo-acoustic pop tune before diverging into skittering psychedelic impressionism and then resolving both elements neatly to close.hasmonew: Kesa Mita Émilie Sagée
The strength of the songwriting and the way the music combines so many diverse ideas within a consistent mood would make this a fine mini-album any time, but the underlying rawness in how it avoids the prissy over-refinement that this kind of music can often fall into helps Tomarumawaru into contention as one of the year’s best.