August saw a slew of high-quality rap tracks. Possibly even enough for the whole year. Tokyo Weekender was spoilt for choice, finally settling on Sorane, Mezz & Dr. Pay and Novel Core. Aside from rap, we had our socks knocked off with one of the best new rock tracks in years from newcomers Bed and throwback house from Yosa.
Bed — “Kare Wa”
As someone who grew up in the same place as The Smiths and New Order, being impressed with a modern-day indie or rock band is a rare occurrence. Yet Tokyo-based newcomer Bed has managed to do just that. “Kare Wa” is a fantastic song that could even be a viable track of the year contender.
Guitars and percussion come together in an intense and orchestrated way, making it a composition that Goat (the Japanese band, not the Swedish one) would happily opt for. In a world where many rock and indie bands end up as carbon copies of those who came before, Bed is creating something exciting, on only their second single. Already touted as a live force to be reckoned with, they have great potential for a new band.
Whether for better or worse, the bar is set high, but let’s hope they can continue with this caliber of music.
Sorane — Gimme “HPN”
Hyogo Prefecture rapper Sorane released “Gimme HPN” in August, a funky, breakbeat-inspired rap track with Mondo Grosso’s Shinichi Osawa on production duties.
With the video taking cues from Fatboy Slim’s infamous “Weapon of Choice” track, this is a Japanese take on the loveable “sad man in a suit is actually fun” format. Osawa’s upbeat, funky beats complement Sorane’s enviable flow with flair. The result is a feel-good affair. And the inbuilt scratching makes no false pretenses: this track is designed for the dance floor.
Sorane’s words glitch and twist artificially using the voice as an instrument, then back to the track once more. Different from his previous offerings, “Gimme HPN” displays Sorane’s versatility and talent as an artist.
Shit Kingz — “Trash Talk ft. Novel Core”
We were debating whether or not to include this in the roundup, as it is music made for a dance video rather than the other — more conventional — way around. But the song is excellently produced by Goro Kumai and features a fun sample from “N.E.O,” a song by Japanese girl band, Chai. The track is a lightweight easy listener, with fantastic flow from Novel Core, who spits bars over Kumai’s stylish bassline slider beat.
It features cameos from two members of Chai, Mana and Yuuki, who buoy up Novel Core’s straight-up, no-nonsense bars. The lyrics in “N.E.O” are a protest against the male patriarchy, mimicking catcalls in “we are so cute, nice face.” In “Trash Talk,” these satirical protests are taken to progressive heights, as (male) members of Shit Kingz shout back “It’s okay we are so cute.”
For a song designed for dancing, “Trash Talk” is surprisingly complex, with various changes that sweep the listener away. Pop it on and dance around the bedroom, or bob along on the train.
Yosa — “Rainbow”
Yosa, one half of production duo Yosa & Taar, released Rainbow last month, his first solo EP in six years. Set to play for Rainbow Disco Club spin-off event, RDC Sound Horizon, in October this year, it provides listeners with a taste of the set to come.
Squelchy 303 acid licks and subtle, shimmering pads in the background sound like Jack J had a hand in the making of this EP. While the title track is a straight-forward house affair, “Thermae” sees a more intricate, disco-influenced progression, complete with jumpy hi-hats and short ’80s finger-wagging chords. Mok steps up for the remix, turning “Rainbow” into a relaxed, lounge-back chugger and injects shoe-gaze vibes into the track for the Kitsune no Yomei version.
Mezz and Dr. Pay — “Dr. Mezz”
Mezz dropped her sexiest bilingual single yet in August, accompanied by Dr. Pay (DNA, Shachi) as a beat-making maestro.
Husky muttering, purring and spitting bars by Mezz on “Money From The Dirt” provide a dirty commentary over Dr. Pay’s infectious drill-influenced beats. Considering Mezz only began releasing songs in 2022, it seems like she has already found a perfect collaborator in Dr. Pay.
The penultimate track “Lisa” is a mellow J-pop song, in almost complete contrast to the preceding two. “Lisa” then flows into the closing track, “Midnight Sea,” which is a simple electronica number and chilled-out head bobber that fits well into the same camp as Tamanaramen and Maika Loubte.