CD, Drriill, 2014
Half Sports are one of the most fun, energetic and adventurous indiepop bands in Japan, and their debut mini-album Slice of our City was a raucous little bundle of joy. With Mild Elevation, the band opt to mature without compromising the essentially rough-and-ready approach that defined its predecessor.
Most of the songs on Mild Elevation are really two or three songs driven into each other at high speed, with songs like closing track The Pretend Girl and Streamers of Flames suddenly accelerating and shifting tempo from one moment to the next, and in Needle the actual song serving mostly as a set of bookends for the extended instrumental passage and none-more-indie guitar solo at its core. New and Unknown Kiss is a circa-1980 Soft Boys-alike psych-tinged new wave powerpop anthem with a decidedly Johnny Marr-esque guitar solo neatly slotted in, and would have sat comfortably on Slice of our City. Other tracks like the opening His Castle Staying in the Sky take the psychedelia a step further, cranking up the clatter from singing drummer Keita Kanamori’s kit and letting the guitar’s ring out in a lo-fi Jesus And Mary Chain proto-shoegaze wall of scuzz.New and Unknown Kiss (Live at Uguisudani What’s Up)
While Mild Elevation is a little more restrained than its propulsive, irrepressible predecessor, it’s every bit as rich in tunes, ideas and enthusiasm, and features a combination of energy, easygoing looseness and understated intelligence and imagination that ensures they still stand out in a scene that can often be prissy, reverential and sterile.
Filed under Albums, Reviews
There are some new arrivals in the Call And Response online store now. As with the first batch of CDs I got in stock, they are all loosely in a postpunk/new wave sort of zone, but each offers something a bit different and again, all of them are bands I personally rate and am happy to recommend.
You can access the shop here.
The three new CDs are (click the photos to go to each CD’s page in the Call And Response Store):
You Got A Radio
New wave/postpunk band You Got A Radio’s self-titled 2010 debut album. You Got A Radio are mainstays of the Japanese postpunk/new wave scene and through their Tokyo Noise events have done a lot to support other bands in a similar vein. This album is pretty much the definitive recorded document of their sound, and it’s fun, spiky and energetic, striking a balance between art-punk and offbeat pop.
Slice Of Our City
Half Sports’ debut Slice Of Our City was one of this site’s best albums of 2012 and it still with all the benefits of hindsight resonates with the same unbridled energy and outright tuneful joy. Released through You Got A Radio’s Drriill label, it’s also another example of the way one band’s support of their peers can produce creative dividends.
Mild Elevation is Half Sports’ 2014 follow-up to Slice Of Our City, and it retains the same confidence with a catchy melody and an anthemic chorus, but this time sees the band incorporating slightly more psychedelic pop elements.
2013 saw a glut of new indiepop and shoegaze releases, and many of those were on the new Fukuoka-based label Dead Funny Records. This compilation can in a way stand for all of them, featuring as it does pretty much all the movers and shakers (or “standers and starers” as the case may be) in the world of Japanese 80s throwback indie guitar music. Highlights abound but standing out above all others is the gorgeous The Blind by Fukuoka’s Hearsays, with a guitar riff that hints at Happy End’s Kaze wo Atsumete, simple, catchy and affecting vocals, and a faintly dissonant underlying chord sequence.
But pop nuggets abound in Dead Funny Compilation Vol.1, with further highlights being Jappers’ jangly, uptempo Give It, Talk’s opening In Refrain Refrain, Old Lacy Bed’s Little Girl and The Paellas’ reverbtastic Fall Even Further. On the more feedback-heavy side, Nagoya’s Pop-Office have a winner with the driving, fuzz-soaked End of the Summer, The Earth Earth are another standout with the punky Empty Boy rather less of an obvious and direct My Bloody Valentine ripoff than some of their other material, and Azma Shoegaze Explosion’s (now just known as Azma) immense Thousand Lights a mind-shattering gut-punch of sound. Not quite fitting into either category is the Nephogram by Fancy Books, with its synth-led arrangement and distant vocals giving the compilation a bit of unexpected but nonetheless welcome Trembling Blue Stars-style romance.
Many of the tracks are incredibly rough, with the mix of Half Sports’ entry in particular almost indecipherable, but in many cases this serves to simply emphasise the naive charm that is such a point of appeal for much of this kind of music.
Filed under Albums, Reviews
I pitched my initial review of Half Sports’ Slice of Our City in terms of something I don’t really like about a lot of other indiepop bands (although as Boyish’s Supper Dream shows, when the music’s good enough, I’m happy to throw away any principles I have on that front). But of course what I really like about the album and what has kept me coming back to it throughout the year is what it does rather than what it doesn’t do. The noise freakout at the end of No Kids Have Seen, the punk rush followed by abrupt tempo shift in Break Away, the wall of feedback running through the background of Sad Eyes and We Got Along Right From The Start like a more upbeat Jesus And Mary Chain (a Jesus And Merry Chain?), the stuttering guitars of Knock Back Your Request, and most importantly the restlessly energetic drumming, soaring guitar, and surging, raggedly harmonic choruses — all these things and more besides are what make Slice of Our City such a rush of pure indie powerpop joy.
CD, Drriill, 2012
What makes Slice of Our City, the debut album by Half Sports, one of the most soul-cheering albums of this past summer is the sheer exuberence with which the band attack their ragged, lo-fi indie melodies. I’ve increasingly found myself coming to the conclusion that Primal Scream’s Sonic Flower Groove is the worst thing to have ever happened to indie, setting the template for all subsequent peddlers of stultifyingly reverent, emotionally blank, dreary, self-absorbed Byrds pastiches. Half Sports throw that shit out of the window, plunging into every song all booming drums, joyous vocals and energetic major chords, while never losing sight of the essential charm of melodic 1980s guitar pop. In fact, in many ways Half Sports are closer to the spirit of that era than many of their contemporaries, with Slice of Our City, like Japanese indie contemporaries Teen Runnings, remembering and retaining a connection to indiepop’s roots in punk and powerpop, which it does largely through propulsive rhythms that recall elements of The Soft Boys in places. The band cite The Stone Roses as a key influence, and there are echoes of John Squire’s chiming Rickenbacker guitar lines here, but where Brown, Squire & co. were all about precision and poise in their recordings, Half Sports are more about rock’n’roll energy. In this sense, they have more in common with The Mighty Lemon Drops, falling somewhere between the rough-edged early material like Like an Angel and the straight “big music” rock thrills of 1989’s Laughter. One of the Japanese indie albums of the year.
Filed under Albums, Reviews