One of the biggest knocks on the current crop of up-and-coming shoegaze bands in Japan is a lack of the "loudness" that is requisite to the genre. A lot of bands are tending toward the indie-pop side of things at the expense of balls-out explosive volume. To be fair, I really do like this current generation of Japanese shoegaze bands, and they do the jangly pop thing really well, but personally I prefer my pop music drowned mercilessly in reverb and noise. Upstart shoegaze outfit Cattle have found that perfect balance between playful cuteness and relentless tonal aggression and the result is a very solid debut EP.
Technically Somehow Hear Songs, isn't the first material the band has released - they put out a demo single and a split within a two month span last year - but neither really did justice to their live performance. In fact, I really liked the demos until I saw them play live and actually realized what the band was capable of. I wasn't the only one apparently, as shortly thereafter it was announced that they would release their first proper EP and that it would be produced by none other than Makoto Gomi. Not a bad guy to have overseeing a recording process, having plied his trade with the likes of Zeppet Store and Sphere among others. His own experience with beautifully loud music and Cattle's potential to create some of their own made for a pretty good pairing in the studio.
Somehow Hear Songs wastes no time getting to the point, as the intro and partial-title-track "Somehow Hear" starts off straight away with the sugary sweet vocal melodies of singer/keyboardist Saori and the blistering guitar attack from word go. The guitar noise never actually ends, though you really feel the intensity during the extremely catchy choruses throughout. The male and female twin vocals that are so very much a staple of Japanese shoegaze are there, though rather than running alongside each other, Saori's vocals feature more prominently in the mix, while those of male counterpart Naoya Hinuma are a bit washed out and distant. Effective balance is a big part of what makes this EP unique in the current landscape of Japanese shoegaze.
You can grab a physical copy of Somehow Hear Songs on July 8th, though for the time being Jigsaw Records has released it digitally on Bandcamp. The CD is currently available for pre-order in Japan via most major music retailers and sites. For folks in the US you can pre-order straight from Jigsaw Records.