REVIEW: HARU NEMURI- HARU TO SHURA

There occasionally comes a release that totally changes everything you expected from an artist. Haru Nemuri, who has made a name for herself making early Daoko-like tunes with previous releases has come and reinvented everything. Her latest album Haru to Shura is confident, wild, aggressive, punky and most of all- feels like a living, breathing thing. If she was grounded before- this time she’s shot herself into the stratosphere.

Opening with the rowdy “MAKE MORE NOISE OF YOU”, a fist shaking punk anthem that would make for a legendary T-shirt slogan, Haru sets the tone for the album ahead. Unbridled youth energy is the name of the game here, and with massive choruses like the one on “Narashite” or title track “Haru to Shura”, its hard not to get swept along with it. The instrumental work matches the energy (those soaring guitars!), and considering that it’s a “Jpop” record, it rocks harder than most rock bands.

Everything sounds organic and important. Nemuri has a flow that is impeccable and matches her explosive backing tracks perfectly. She growls like a pro- not a wail, a genuine, gut churning growl that shakes the soul. Production is appropriately rough around the edges, with no cookie cutter lining to soften the hits.

Track picks include the punchy single “Sekai o Torikaeshite Okure” (which will bore its way into your brain and sit there for hours after listening to it), the fun “Lost Planet” and finally, my personal favorite track “Nineteen”, which has one of the most impressively hard hitting hooks and transitions I’ve heard in a long, long time.

Usually, ending your album with remixes is a sign that you’re just filling the record up, but in this case- the remixes have had so much thought and effort put into them. They flow naturally with the album’s rhythm and they are surprisingly as satisfying as the original versions. The “Narashite” lazy jazz/trip-hop arrangement is particularly great- and makes for brilliant, sleepy, tripped out sendoff.

The grandest sentiment given from this extraordinary work is knowing that this release comes from a place that is entirely genuine- Haru Nemuri is giving her all on this album, the stakes feel high. It truly feels that she made this to prove herself- and without a doubt has on every level. There literally isn’t a single track you will want to skip- even the “zzz” interludes have the function of tying the album together neatly. A masterpiece.

10/10 You aren’t just experiencing a new J-pop album, you’re experiencing a new J-pop LANDMARK. Essential. Buy it. Play it everywhere you go. Perfect.

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REVIEW: HARU NEMURI- HARU TO SHURA

REVIEW: MANATSU NAGAHARA- GREAT HUNGRY

Early 2018 has been quite the dry spell for Japanese Pop, at least compared to recent years. Thankfully then, Manatsu Nagahara has brought the rains of goodness with her debut full length GREAT HUNGRY.

Sometimes it doesn’t take reinventing the wheel to create a truly delightful album, and Nagahara has done just that here; provided one of the most catchy, heartwarming and truly outstanding ALBUM experiences in quite a while. She wears her previous work in pop punk group SEBASTIAN X on her sleeves here- but here there isn’t a sense of having to stick to one sound, leaping from genre to genre with gleeful abandon. While on paper that sounds like a mess- there is a well developed structure to the proceedings here- and the album is wonderfully easy to consume on first listen.

The energy and bounciness she brings to each and every track on her album is the thing you will notice immediately. Manatsu Nagahara is really having a lot of fun in the process- all the while showing a lot of care and concern for the final product. She uses her vocal styling to great benefit, that intensely nasal delivery both intoxicating levels of cute and piercingly catchy. It may not appeal to every listener- at first, but given time to settle, you’ll find yourself falling under her spell.

Album highlights are the folky opener “Dancer in the Poetry”, pop-punk blazer “Boku no Ikari Kimi no Hikari”, delightful lead single “Asonde Ikiyou” (try getting THAT out of your head for the next week) the ridiculously playful “FIRE” (with it’s absolutely uneccesary but charming cheer-line chorus), and the appropriately titled closer “SUPER GOOD”, in a new rendition for this album.

The thing is though, even the songs on the album that don’t hit quite as hard at the beginning all have some kind of eventual payoff, making none of them ‘skippable’ and impossible to ignore. Whether it be a goofy guitar solo, beautiful harmonization with her backing vocalists or a wild breakdown and faux-rap, it all has something to offer.

In the end, the takeaway experience from this gem of a record is one of absolute and utter delight, and one that will stick to the memory of anyone who chooses to take the plunge. The first truly great mainstream J-pop album that this listener has heard in 2018, and surely one that I will continue to return to throughout the year.

8.5/10 Manatsu Nagahara’s GREAT HUNGRY truly feeds that hunger for some wonderful J-tunes that we have sorely missed for the last four months.

REVIEW: MANATSU NAGAHARA- GREAT HUNGRY