Single Review – LiSA – Ash

13th single from one of Japan’s most enchanting vocalists LiSA and (for any anime fans) main theme to the new season of Fate/Apocrypha, a series with which she has a long history including the opening theme to Fate/Zero, ‘ASH’ combines LiSA’s wonderfully delicate vocals with her powerful emotional punch. With lyrics written by SID vocalist Mao and composed by SID bassist Aki, ‘ASH’ is one of those tracks that builds in a mesmerizing, blood pressure rising way. While LiSA’s vocal is of course centre stage here, layers of strings, and some gorgeously hefty rock riffs make the track not only a perfect anime theme but, as it inspires images of epic scenes in equal measure to raw emotional turmoil, a must own single.

@LiSA_OLiVE

Hayley Miller

Mitski – Puberty 2 Review

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Though Mitski Miyawaki was born in Japan, she is very much a citizen of the world with Malaysia, China, D.R. Congo and a more prolonged stay in Turkey before we reach her current destination of New York. There, she has grown and shone as an artist with lyrics reflective of her journey and her search for who she is and who people want her to be. Though these have been touched on before, with the title Puberty 2 she looks set to hammer the message home this time with bold and ambitious music, equal to her talent.

The light strumming of chords and light vocals that open ‘Your Best American Girl’ deliver the initially innocent lyrical content which in turn delves deeper as the song ratchets up. At its peak the heavy distortion and feedback ring out as if it was 1994 and through this are her distorted vocals project her message of having to fit into the ‘ideal’ of an “American Girl”. It is a strong track made possible by its dual identity and thought provoking lyrics. The plunging riffs mimic the frustration within the lyrics and because of this, it is a truly emotive effort. With ‘Happy’ she demonstrates beyond the poised, yet heavy guitar work of ‘Your Best American Girl’, are the distorted vocals and developing assortment of sounds in this track. The clunky percussion and steady pulsating beats are joined by Saxophones and heavier, reverbing guitars. Despite the growing sound, Mitski’s vocals stay level and melodic. A neat alternative to the previous single with enough familiarity for a consistent effort. ‘Fireworks’ opens with a light clicking sample and the loose riffs of her guitar. Her vocals softly meander from lyrics as they are joined by a growing, whirring shroud of synth chords. The vocals are expertly produced as they are extended in their echo as she, herself raises the volume. The whole song lifts with it in a seamless build up without sacrificing itself to be a catchier tune.

‘Thursday Girl’ features Mitski’s vocals in beautiful isolation. This is added to by a modulated synth and spacious, prominent bass line. On top of this are the 80’s echoed percussion another light drum sample. As the song steadily flourishes, her vocals grow and the guitars roll in with long drawn out strikes before breaking away to the song in it’s most basic form. A wonderfully worked track. ‘Crack Baby’ is a distorted and more longing version of ‘Prince Johnny’ by St. Vincent as her haunting and soft vocals sing of the loss of drug abuse. ‘Once More to See You’ has Mitski’s vocals working in an anti-harmony against the bold, grungy waltzing instrumentation. Her vocals take the form of those from a 1940’s ballad before they fall at the concluding parts. Tracks such as ‘Dan The Dancer’ are akin to Foo Fighters track instrumentally with aggressive percussion and rumbling guitars, but even in this environment her vocals remain almost stoic and resisting to do the predictable and this adds another dimension that was is on the face of it, a track to rock out to. There are so many positives from this album. Her vocals are facile and smooth at every demand, her guitar work is abrasive, yet perfectly poised and the arrangement and production value is second to none. One of the albums of the year without a shadow of a doubt. It is angsty and full of attitude musically, yet tinged with a vulnerability and emotion that gives the songs a multiplicity of roles.

Mitski – Puberty 2 = 9.5/10

Owen Riddle

Single Review – Mitski – Happy

From New York via Japan, Mitski has released a second single from her upcoming June 17th album Puberty 2 with ‘Happy’. With it, she demonstrates again the influence of St. Vincent upon this album. From the poised, yet heavy guitar work of ‘Your Best American Girl’ to the distorted vocals and developing assortment of sounds in this track as clunky percussion and steady pulsating beats are joined by Saxophones and heavier, reverbing guitars. Despite the growing sound, Mitski’s vocals stay level and melodic. A neat alternative to the previous single with enough familiarity for a consistent effort. Whilst she’ll look to blaze her own trail, she could do worse things than taking influence from someone such as St. Vincent. The album looks promising.

Owen Riddle

Single Review – Mitski – Your Best American Girl

Mitski is a New York based songwriter from Japan who like St.Vincent, can really wring every ounce of noise from a guitar whilst offering intricate lyrical content behind it. With her upcoming fourth album Puberty 2 (out on June 17th) she looks to combine her talents again for another bold effort. The light strumming of chords and light vocals that open the song deliver the initially innocent lyrical content which in turn delves deeper as the song ratchets up. At its peak the heavy distortion and feedback ring out as if it was 1994 and through this are her distorted vocals that project her message of having to fit into the ‘ideal’ of an “American Girl”. It is a strong track made possible by its dual identity and thought provoking lyrics that stands her in good stead for her album in June.

Owen Riddle

Single Review – Taffy – Dr. K

Taffy are an Indie Pop quartet from Tokyo and are a band fast gaining attention in the U.K after the release of their third studio album last year and have made a quick return with a new EP called Darkie. The Shoegaze influenced extended play has received a wealth of praise from the Guardian to BBC Radio 6 Music who named one of their new tracks; Dr. K as their track of the day. This track features the maintained waves of distortion that rise and fall according to the rapidity of the percussion. With light and sweet melodies of the vocals in isolation from the instrumentation, it results in a direct and succinct track. A different and more aggressive variant on the genre provided from their Russian counterparts Pinkshinyultrablast, but one just as enjoyable.

Single Review – Blonde Redhead – No More Honey

New York’s Japanese and Italian trio Blonde Redhead return with their ninth album Barragan which is due for a September 2nd release. It sees them venture to a much shadowy production and instrumentation than their more recent efforts. ‘No More Honey’ is the single that suggests this slight alteration to their sound. It opens with undulating bass lines and slowly tumbling riffs. These are tied together in an eerie fashion with Kazu Makino’s softly wailing vocals. These vocals rotate and increase in volume while the heavily distorted and sonically charged guitars overtake the introductory instrumentals. It’s a lost song the quite aptly has no definite foundation as the bass and guitar elements taking out the floor of the song with the burrowing sounds and these are accentuated by the near absence of any powerful percussion and it works well. No problem nineteen years on from their debut.