figure – “Parakalein”

Figure, the solo project of Tottori-based musician Masanobu Hasebe, provided one of the more pleasant discoveries of the year, a new 6-track release titled “Parakalein”.  The EP, which was released in both digital and cassette formats by Kobe indie label, Sauna Cool, is the first release from figure in four years.  It’s a collection of washed out lo-fi indie pop tunes, spread out in layers over a backbone of snappy electronic drums.  “Parakalein” hits the sweet spot where indie pop and shoegaze combine – something that’s been both popular and perhaps a bit contentious among some bands but undoubtedly successful in the Japanese scene.  While there’s not a bad track on the EP, “True Bosom” is the highlight of the release – a blurry mishmash of jangly melodies, synths, and reverb-drenched blaring guitars.  The six-minute “Mary” is a more uptempo, melodic pop song with an ultra-catchy chorus.  It’s some well-written, charmingly-produced dreamy melancholy from an artist that will hopefully get some more attention from here on out.

You can pick up “Parakalein” via Sauna Cool’s Bandcamp page.  Cassettes are available, but limited to 100 copies.

Luby Sparks – “(I’m) Lost in Sadness”

Tokyo’s Luby Sparks is back with its second release of the year, a four-track EP titled “(I’m) Lost in Sadness”.  The EP, which was produced by Yuck’s Max Bloom , is Luby Sparks’ first release since bringing in new vocalist Erika Murphy.  With the band’s sweet melancholy still present, the new music takes a turn toward a more shoegaze sound, something that was hinted at with the release of hazy lead single “Perfect” last week.  “Cherry Red Dress” is a stunning, moody dream pop tune and the title track is an epic seven minutes of layered guitars and well-harmonized twin vocals.  The EP wraps up with a heart-wrenching cover of haunting Mazzy Star number “Look On Down From The Bridge”.  While Luby Sparks’ self-titled debut full length effort from earlier this year is still sitting comfortably at the top of my 2018 release list, “(I’m) Lost in Sadness” hits home in a bit of a different way, showcasing the band’s ability to craft gloomy, nostalgic tunes using tremendous depth and texture.  And while the loss of original Luby Sparks singer Emily was sad news, Murphy has shown she’s a perfect match for what the band does.  These guys continue to show that they can write songs with the best of them with yet another top notch release to their name.

“(I’m) Lost in Sadness” is  available to stream on Apple Music and can be purchased on iTunes or via Amazon (JP).  Below is the video for “Perfect”.

The Best Japanese Shoegaze and Dream Pop Releases of 2017

In 2017 things got pretty interesting in the Japanese scene.  The Daydream events took off this year, drawing some more of the focus away from Tokyo and further establishing Kyoto as Japanese shoegaze’s “second city”.  Elsewhere, Nagoya’s local scene got a big bump thanks in large part to releases from local bands and the emergence of some new, young bands.  There were also some long-awaited releases, a shoegaze idol group that blew everyone’s minds, and a couple of tragic break ups.  It was a busy year with a few intriguing storylines.  

In 2017 things got pretty interesting in the Japanese scene.  The Daydream events took off this year, drawing some more of the focus away from Tokyo and further establishing Kyoto as Japanese shoegaze’s “second city”.  Elsewhere, Nagoya’s local scene got a big bump thanks in large part to releases from local bands and the emergence of some new, young bands.  There were also some long-awaited releases, a shoegaze idol group that blew everyone’s minds, and a couple of tragic break ups.  It was a busy year with a few intriguing storylines.  

Release-wise, there was still the “not enough full length releases and too many EPs” problem, but it was more manageable.  The bigger issue this year was the closeness of the contenders.  At least for the LP and EP lists, the top spots were pretty obvious in my mind.  Below that I did a lot of shuffling throughout the year.  So, as is usually the case, I could very easily change this list around in a week or so.  

As is the case everywhere there will be some seemingly notable omissions on this list, but there’s a good reason for them.  The most obvious one would be Plant Cell, who re-released Flowergaze? in 2017.  As it’s just a re-worked version of a 2016 album, I left it off this year’s list.  Then there are bands like Apple Light and Crunch who both released really good music this year (the new Apple Light is seriously so good), but neither falls in the blurry realm of shoegaze or dream pop, even at its blurriest.  Cairophenomenons, Amsterdamned, Kill My 27, Acidclank, and Looprider all released good stuff this year that would have qualified on their own but ultimately didn’t feel right in this list.  

With that out of the way, here are my favorite releases of 2017:


★ ☆ ★ BEST SINGLE ★ ☆ ★

“NEO TOKYO” BY YOUTHMEMORY

At first listen, Neo Tokyo sounds like a pretty big departure from youthmemory’s previous material.  This is true in the feel of the music with the usual bouncy rhythm and jangly guitar backdrop replaced by drum machine beats and dense synth pads.  However, the Tokyo band’s M.O. of crafting danceable, lush, dreamy pop music remains unchanged.  There’s something cold and even a bit gloomy about this release, but it was a great change of pace without ever straying from what had made youthmemory a really enjoyable band.  (Bandcamp)

If this list took live performances into account, Fog Park would be right at the top.  The Saitama-based newcomers put out two demo singles in 2017 – “cigarette punch” in January and then “sleeping cat” in May.  While neither of the demos demonstrates how brutally loud these guys are capable of being, the songs are still really good.  I’m looking forward to their recently announced debut mini album “beautiful blood”, that was released on 1/20.  (Currently only available at shows)

The Kansai region consistently produces some of the country’s best dream pop acts, and the best of the bunch in 2017 was Mariana in our Heads.  The five-piece put out a single an an EP this year, and while the latter received some consideration before ultimately falling to some strong competition, their “Anemone/Yarn” 7-inch was among my favorite singles.  While I generally favor harder-hitting, noisy chaos, I do occasionally have a soft spot for really warm synth-laden dream pop.  2017 was a good year for that, and Mariana in our Heads nailed it.  (Flake Records)

The most bittersweet entry on this whole list belongs to Ether Feels, whose “moonshine” single would be the last material they released before announcing all of the members would be going their separate ways.  The track actually starts off uncharacteristically peppy before transitioning into the sad but catchy melancholic pop sound that Ether Feels spent years doing so well.  (Bandcamp)

I have mixed feelings about Japan’s hottest shoegaze band, ・・・・・・・・・(pronounced “dots”).  The idol group’s surge in popularity is probably due more to their live gimmicks and cute-but-edgy idol shtick, but their debut single “CD” features some legitimately good music – particulary “Slide” which was written by For Tracy Hyde’s Natsu-bot.  I remain skeptical of “alt-idol” acts, but credit where credit is due here.  (Amazon)


★ ☆ ★ BEST EP ★ ☆ ★

“INTO THE DREAM” BY SOFTSURF

With all due respect to the rest of the bands who released EPs this year, this one was never going to be close.  It’s been fun watching softsurf’s rise over the last couple years, and “Into the Dream” helped solidify their status as the best shoegaze band going in Japan right now.  I’ve beaten the Slowdive/Pastel Blue comp into the ground to this point, but it’s pretty remarkable since that sound is so rare here.  With their first proper release and a three-city tour in support of it, Softsurf had an incredible year which saw them establish themselves within the national shoegaze scene.  And you’ll be hard-pressed to find a better live band in that scene.  (Amazon)

Though Softsurf was in a league of its own in 2017, there were still some really good EP releases in the next tier.  17 Years Old And The Berlin Wall put out their second EP Reflect last year, following up their excellent 2015 debut.  17Berlin’s sound pretty much reflects the popular sound in the Japanese shoegaze scene, with male-female vocal harmonies and poppy guitar melodies.  What has set them apart, besides the fact that their songs are really catchy, is the fact that hit a bit harder they’re willing to muddy it up a bit and drown some of the sweetness in guitar noise.  (Flake Records)

My 2017 Rookie of the Year award goes to Kyoto-based newcomers Nurse, who released their debut EP ODD.  Nurse sort of spawned from the very short-lived Hakusen Shikatsu, who released a couple impressive demo tracks earlier in the year and then split.  But the new project is even better and way way noisier.  Hopefully these guys stick around for a bit. (Bandcamp)

Chiba’s plant cell may not have been qualified for the album of the year award, but they put out two really good EPs in 2017.  The first, titled Queen of the Nebula – Fairy Lurking In the Thundercloud, was a thematic departure from their usual nature/spirit-based content, but featured their usual dense, dreamy sound.  The second, Cyan, was a collection of new versions of songs previously released on CDs or as singles on Bandcamp.  To be clear, the rebuild version of Flowergaze? wasn’t included in the list because it was just a modified version of a previously released album.  Cyan, on the other hand, was recorded from scratch and marked plant cell’s first recording as a full band.  The result isn’t really all that different, but the live drums add a bit of warmth to some familiar tracks.  For a band that’s put out some of the same tracks more than a couple times now, plant cell always manages to keep things interesting.  (Disk Union)

Perhaps better known as half of Hachioji-based alternative band The Weddings, singer-songwriter, kano, has been writing some seriously good dream pop tunes over the last 2 years. Her second EP, Shochuu, is short and sweet, including three whimsical, feel-good tracks with some really pretty textures woven along with gentle, breathy vocals.  The release was fairly low-key, but the release really hits the spot and rose to the top of a very deep list of 2017 EPs.  (File-Under Records


★ ☆ ★ BEST ALBUM ★ ☆ ★

“HE(R)ART” BY FOR TRACY HYDE

For Tracy Hyde outdid themselves and delivered the most enjoyable album of 2017.  While most bands are putting out singles and EPs, the Tokyo-based dreamy indie pop/shoegaze outfit released an incredibly well-written 17-track album (16 if you don’t want to include the intro) that draws on western indie pop influence while conjuring youthful imagery of life in Tokyo.  That imagery is key, as He(r)art is structured like a film, down to the movie poster album cover and “Opening Logo”.  It’s a nostalgic, playful, and emotional walk through a massive city and impactful relationships made there.  While He(r)art is an extremely cohesive album that is best consumed as presented from start to finish, the individual tracks stand well on their own as well.  “Leica Daydream”, “Houbutsusen”, and “Teen Flick” are among my personal favorites, while “Ghost Town Polaroids” might be my favorite track of the year.  There are some strong contenders below, but For Tracy Hyde owned 2017. (Amazon)

There’s not much to say about Shelling‘s latest album, Waiting for Mint Shower!!  The Tokyo-based duo gave us another gorgeous album based on the simple-but-effective formula of blanketing everything in a cascade of reverb-soaked guitars, warm synths, and Aya’s gentle, breathy vocals.  The way the tracks subtly evolve over the repetitive beats and lulling bass lines is hypnotic.  But you’ve heard all this before.  (Amazon)

Taffy is an interesting inclusion, because I almost have to remind myself that they’re a Japanese band.  More appreciated overseas than in their home country – which is crazy for a band of their quality – Taffy occasionally emerges in the Tokyo scene as they did in 2017 following the release of their Nyctophilia album.  Taffy pushes guitar texture to the foreground, making the deeper lying melodies more subtle and the overall tone of the tracks harsher.  The result is a much different album than most of the releases you find on these lists.  (Amazon)

One of the biggest surprises of the year was the announcement from Nagoya’s Tokenai Namae that they’d be returning from their fairly lengthy hiatus with a new album.  On Seifuku Kanro Kurabu the kayo-pop shoegaze band stayed true to their sound with a cute but chaotic blend of bubbly vocals, bouncy synths, crunchy bass, and ear-blasting guitars.  It’s pacier than the first, and everything below the synth leads feels like it’s been bumped in the mix, making things sound a bit messier.  A really solid release, which is remarkable considering the band was inactive for the better part of 2017.  (File-Under Records)

There are two albums dueling it out for the fifth spot on this best albums list, both of which were fairly long-awaited releases.  Cruyff in the Bedroom‘s first full-length album in almost 5 years, Hate Me, was probably the most highly-anticipated Japanese shoegaze release coming into 2017.  Caucus‘ first in four years, Sound of the Air, came later in the year and was fairly low-key in comparison.  Hate Me had higher highs with a few bangers including HATE and my personal favorite Laurelei, but got a bit too clean and rock n roll at times.  Caucus’ record had its own hot track in lead single, “What Have You Done”, but the album was more consistent start to finish, giving it the nod.  Caucus changes pace well on the album, going from fuzzy pop tunes to slower, more textural tracks like the almost 9-minute “Circles”.  Overall it was a more interesting listening experience. (Caucus on Amazon) (Cruyff in the Bedroom on Amazon)

A Guide to Daydream pt. 2 – Kyoto Day 2

This time I’ll be looking at Daydream Kyoto Day 2, which will take place at Nijo Nano.  Follow the links below for event info and ticket reservations.

Over the last few years, Kyoto Shoegazer has emerged as the biggest showcase of the local shoegaze scene in Japan.  This year the Kyoto Shoegazer team has put together Daydream, a four day festival spanning three cities that will kick off in December.  The event will host some of the finest shoegaze, dream pop, alt rock, etc. that Japan has to offer.  I will be previewing each of the events as they come.  This time I’ll be looking at Daydream Kyoto Day 2, which will take place at Nijo Nano.  Follow the links below for event info and ticket reservations.

ここ数年京都シューゲイザーは日本のシューゲイザーを特集する一番大きなイベントになってきている。今年、12月から4日程3都市でイベントDAYDREAMを行う。このイベントに日本の高品質のシューゲイザー、ドリームポップ、オルタナのバンドが出演する。Muso Japanは各イベントをプレビューする。今回は12月4日二条NANOにて行われるDAYDREAM KYOTOのDay2!チケット予約は以下のリンクから!

Home Page/イベントホームページ

Ticket Reservation/チケット予約


Honeydew

Honeydew is a Tokyo-based alt rock power trio.  Originally formed in New York, the band’s sound is influenced by a number of 90s American alternative bands, and versatile enough to appeal to a wide range of fans.  Their live performances are ultra-tight, and their high-energy performances are absolutely must see.

Honeydewは、東京を拠点に活動するオルタナティブロックトリオ。元々ニューヨークで結成された彼らのサウンドは、90年代に活躍したアメリカのオルタナティブバンドより影響を受け、その多様性から幅広くファンを獲得している。タイトでエネルギッシュなパフォーマンスは必見だ。


me in grasshopper

With members based between the Kansai and Tokai regions of Japan, it’s only fitting that me in grasshopper will be performing at Daydream events in both Kyoto and Nagoya.  Over the past few years the band has become one of the flag bearers for the Nagoya shoegaze scene on the strength of their sweet melodies and subtle yet persistent guitar noise.  Their 2015 “NEW SATURDAY e.p.” was one of the best of the year.  In 2016 the band supported YUCK on their Japan tour, and they will be supporting Brooklyn’s Lazyeyes in Nagoya in January.

メンバーが関西・東海地方出身のme in grasshopperは、DAYDREAM KYOTO・NAGOYAの両日に出演する。美しいメロディーと緻密且つ鳴り響くギターノイズにより、この数年で名古屋シューゲイズシーンを代表する存在となった。2015年にリリースされた“NEW SATURDAY e.p.”は、その年の最高傑作の一つ。2016年、YUCKの日本ツアーをサポートし、来年1月にはブルックリン出身Lazyeyesの名古屋公演をサポートする予定。


Yuragi

Hailing from Shiga prefecture, Yuragi is yet another young, exciting band to emerge from the Kansai-region over the last couple years.  Their sweet but strong sound incorporates whispy vocals and big wall of sound guitars driven by uptempo pop beats.  2016 has been a big year for the band with the release of their “bedside” single and the announcement of their upcoming “nightlife e.p.”, which will be out on 12/27.  They’ve also announced they will be supporting Lazyeyes on the New Yorkers’ Japan tour.  

滋賀出身の「揺らぎ」は、ここ数年関西地方から現れた、とても若いエキサイティングなバンド。ウィスパーボイスとアップテンポでポップなビートに乗せられたギターサウンドとが合わさる、美しく力強いウォール・オブ・サウンド。シングル“bedside”のリリース、“nightlife e.p.”(12/27リリース予定)の発表と、2016年は重要な年となった。またニューヨーク出身のLazyeyesの日本ツアーでサポートすることも決定している。


Acidclank

Acidclank is another one of those exciting young Kansai bands.  The Osaka indie rock outfit put out a really impressive album titled nner in 2015, on which they demonstrated their ability to create a range of sounds from shoegaze to psych at a consistently high level.  Once a home recording project, Acidclank is now a fully functioning live band that has been gigging a ton over the last year or so.  These guys have a bright future ahead of them.  

Acidclankは、関西の注目すべき若いバンドのひとつ。大阪のインディーロックバンドであるる彼らは、2015年にアルバムInnerを引っ提げ、シューゲイズからサイケまで幅広いサウンドを、ハイレベルな領域で制作できることを証明した。ホームレコーディングプロジェクトに始まったAcidclankは、今や数々のギグ経験を積んだライブバンド。彼らの輝く未来が楽しみだ。


ether feels

There are few active shoegaze bands in Japan that have put out as much consistently good material as Ether Feels.  Their melancholy blend of pop and shoegaze has resulted in a sound that is all their own, and their quality has earned them a good amount of attention outside of their home country.  Their Daydream performances will wrap up a busy year that’s included gigs around Asia, the release of a greatest hits album titled hen The First Time We Met and an upcoming split EP with Yukino Chaos.  

日本でEther Feelsほど、コンスタントに良い楽曲をシーンに提供してきたバンドはそういないだろう。彼ら独自のポップとシューゲイズのメランコリーな配合は、日本国外でも注目を集めてきた。DAYDREAMでのパフォーマンスは、アジア各地でのライブ、ベストオブアルバムhen The First Time We Metのリリース、Yukino ChaosとスプリットEPの共同リリース、と忙しい年の有終の美を飾るだろう。


twelve fluffy chair

Local band Twelve Fluffy Chair offers a sparkly brand of shoegaze pop.  The Kyoto foursome recently released their second EP B A R, which features some cute guitar-driven pop tracks.  Their strength lies in their ability to write ultra catchy choruses and melodic hooks, as well as adding a little edge to otherwise light, playful songs.  

京都の地元バンドTwelve Fluffy Chairの特徴は、キラッキラのシューゲイズポップ感。ギターが効いているポップなセカンドEP B A Rを、最近リリースした4人組バンド。とてもキャッチーなコーラスとメロディアスなフック、そして軽快で遊び心のある曲にエッジを与える才能が彼らの強み。


boyfriend’s dead

Boyfriend’s Dead is a Kansai-area shoegaze veteran and a band that adds an element of fun to any gig they play.  Their sound is an upbeat, danceable blend of shoegaze and pop, and their energy and stage presence makes for a great live show.  The band’s most recent release came in the form of a self-titled EP released on local Osaka-based netlabel Thru The Flowers.  

Boyfriend’s Deadは、関西のシューゲイザーのベテランで、彼らが出演するギグはいつも楽しさ与えてくれる。アップビートで踊りたくなるようなシューゲイザーポップ、そして強いエナジーとステージでの存在感が素晴らしいライブ演奏を作り出す。最新作は、大阪のネットレーベルThru The FlowersからリリースされたセルフタイトルEP。


Softsurf – “Blue Swirl/Beautiful Day”

I get really excited any time I hear about a new shoegaze band popping up here in Nagoya.  Though Nagoya is a big city with its own rich music scene, there isn’t a whole lot going on in the way of shoegaze or even the dreamy indie pop that’s been taking over elsewhere. 

I get really excited any time I hear about a new shoegaze band popping up here in Nagoya.  Though Nagoya is a big city with its own rich music scene, there isn’t a whole lot going on in the way of shoegaze or even the dreamy indie pop that’s been taking over elsewhere.  Bands like Tokenai Namae and me in grasshopper are the flag bearers for the genre in the Tokai region, and there’s enough of a fanbase to support it – the 2013 Japan Shoegazer Festival in Nagoya sold out Tsurumai Day Trip – but even here the scene is mostly driven by bands from Japan’s two largest cities.  Occasionally, however, a new band does pop up, as was the case last year with the emergence of Anjo-based Haguki.  This year’s impressive newcomer to the Nagoya shoegaze scene goes by the name Softsurf.

Softsurf started up in January of 2016, and largely went unnoticed until July, when they took part in the Nagoya Shoegazer Expo event in Tsurumai.  Shortly thereafter, their two-track single “Blue Swirl/Beautiful Day”, was released for free.  Under founding member and band leader Kitamura, they underwent some lineup changes before settling in and focusing on gigging more.  Though the band’s members are each influenced by a number of genres and styles, Kitamura’s vision is largely focused on 90s shoegaze.  He does admit, however, that bands like Pink Floyd and the Beach Boys have naturally worked their way into his sound (and in the case of the latter, into the band’s name as well).  

Each track on Softsurf’s single offers something a little different, sound-wise.  “Beautiful Day” is more of a twinkling pop tune that floats along, whereas “Blue Swirl” hits hard with a blend of big guitars and airy synths.  “Blue Swirl” is the track that the band has chosen to push on their Soundcloud page, and based on Kitamura’s stated creative goals, it would seem to be more indicative of the band’s future direction.  “I like psychedelic and ambient songs with aggressive guitars and vocals that feel like they’re floating,” he explains.  “I want to take that and shape it in my own way.”

Reviews of Softsurf’s live performances to this point have been really positive, and the small sample of music made available thus far has been really encouraging.  The band will be taking the stage this coming January at Daydream Nagoya, and beyond that they are determined to have an impact on the shoegaze genre in Japan.  Next up for Softsurf is a slot on the upcoming Daydream Nagoya bill, and hopefully a lot more shows and music.

Have a listen to “Blue Swirl” on Soundcloud:

Juvenile Juvenile – “Perfect Lies”

In the Japanese indie scene, the mingling of indie pop and shoegaze is something that happens pretty frequently.  The former has been riding a steady wave of popularity for a while now, and the latter is oft-misunderstood but nevertheless enjoying an ever-growing resurgence of its own.  These two genres, vague as they may be, are a perfect marriage.  However, like a lot of bands who dabble in shoegaze, there are plenty who scoff at being called a shoegaze band.

In the Japanese indie scene, the mingling of indie pop and shoegaze is something that happens pretty frequently.  The former has been riding a steady wave of popularity for a while now, and the latter is oft-misunderstood but nevertheless enjoying an ever-growing resurgence of its own.  These two genres, vague as they may be, are a perfect marriage.  However, like a lot of bands who dabble in shoegaze, there are plenty who scoff at being called a shoegaze band.  In situations like these, we just slap on the “dream pop” tag and voila, tricky genre debate averted.  Osaka has consistently produced top notch indie pop bands in recent years, so its no surprise that it’s also the home of Japan’s finest dream pop band.  The foursome is as good as anyone at creating jangly pop tunes and drowning them in reverb and hazy background noise.  Their latest mastery of the style has come in the form of a new single titled “Perfect Lies”.  

“Perfect Lies” is one track off the upcoming double A-side 7-inch single – the opposite side is titled “Planet Heaven” – that was announced last week.  It will be the band’s first single release, and first new music since 2014s Our Great Escape album (which, for what it’s worth, topped my best releases of the year list).  The single, which will be released on August 10th in clear blue vinyl via Flake Records, was produced by The Bilinda Butchers’ Michal Palmer and will be accompanied by a bonus CD featuring remixes by Jesse Ruins and Teto 2.  

“Perfect Lies” is a pretty, thickly layered, melancholy track, consistent with the vibes of the ultra-dreamy “Just Like You Do” from Our Great Escape.  The most attractive element of Juvenile Juvenile’s sound is the depth that they create, not only with their big, lushly layered guitars, but with frontman Masami Tsuchiya’s breathy vocals.  What they lack in edge (only mentioned here because of my general affinity for the super loud) they more than make up for in their desire to fill every last square inch of space with sound.  On “Perfect Lies” they do just that, even keeping the leads that normally carry their tunes a bit more subtle.  Juvenile Juvenile is back at it, and I’ll be looking forward to hearing “Planet Heaven” in the near future.

There’s not a whole lot of info on where the single will be available, but be sure to follow the band on Facebook and Twitter for more info.  And if for some reason you haven’t heard their previously released music, you can find it on Juvenile Juvenile’s Bandcamp page.  

The End Of DKFM…For Now

As 2015 was winding down, shoegaze and dreampop fans all over the world had their usual year-end routines of reading Top 10 lists and sorting out their own interrupted by some pretty sad news.  California-based independent radio station DKFM, a staple within the shoegaze community, had announced that at midnight Eastern time the station would cease to be on air. 

As 2015 was winding down, shoegaze and dreampop fans all over the world had their usual year-end routines of reading Top 10 lists and sorting out their own interrupted by some pretty sad news.  California-based independent radio station DKFM, a staple within the shoegaze community, had announced that at midnight Eastern time the station would cease to be on air.  The reason came down to the expiration of the Webcaster Settlement Act, established in 2009, which enabled small and mid-sized webcasters (as determined by a revenue threshold) to pay special, more manageable rates.  With the expiration of the current agreement and the Copyright Royalty Board’s newly increased rates, DKFM and its small webcaster brethren are left with uncertain futures, removing from the music world a group of valuable and highly appreciated resources.  

Anyway, it’s 2016 right now and no last-minute miracles occurred.  DKFM is silent and the shoegaze community is pretty bummed out about it.  For the purpose of this post I’ll spare any “little guy getting squeezed out” rants.  

I had originally talked to the station’s owner, Greg Wilson, around the time of the first issue of Muso Planet.  It was around that time that I’d first heard of DKFM, and I adored the station’s concept.  Tuning in for the first time, it occurred to me that good radio was something that was I seriously missed – I’d never really listened to much Internet radio to that point, Chicago had been without a quality radio station for probably a decade, and what I’ve listened to of Japanese radio hasn’t been pleasant.  A station devoted 100% to shoegaze and dream pop was just the thing I needed.  On top of that, the station’s mission to promote new music from all over the world via its New Tracks Weekend programming was on a much larger scale than what I had intended with my own project.  I admired the hell out of what DKFM was doing, and tuning in made my life a little better every time.  

A year and some change ago, I was fortunate enough to have been adopted into the DKFM family and given a bi-monthly hour-long slot during which I could share choice tracks from Japan and around Asia.  DKFM had no lack of Japanese music in its database, but Greg, fueled by a love of Kensei Ogata and Tatuki Seksu among others, wanted to have programming dedicated to it and I was happy to oblige.  Having recorded my own radio shows on a tape deck when I was a child, the opportunity was something of a dream come true.  I had a blast working on Muso Asia over the following year and throughout 2015, and for that I’ll always be grateful.

Other members of the DKFM family included Mikkel of Danish new wave/post punk trio The Foreign Resort, Amber of the essential shoegaze and dream pop blog When The Sun Hits, and the somewhat mysterious DJ Ariel.  The family was getting bigger, the programming was expanding, and DKFM just kept getting better and better.  What seemed like a sudden announcement by the CRB put an end to a good thing, and what we’re left with following the station’s final broadcast on New Year’s Eve is a big hole that all the YouTube spam and description-less Soundcloud links in the world can’t replace.  

I get that that last bit’s a little dramatic.  The disappointment could very well just be a temporary thing, as there’s reason to believe that DKFM’s absence from our airwaves may be short lived.  There are alternatives, and while returning to its previous format isn’t likely, a somewhat modified version of DKFM is preferable to none at all.  Twitter activity indicates that the powers that be are working hard to find a solution.  While there are no guarantees, shoegaze and dream pop fans can and should hold out hope that the planet’s foremost purveyor of all things blissful will be back sooner than later.

Introducing Osaka Netlabel Thru The Flowers

One of the big stories last year was the emergence of kiiro records, a Tokyo-based netlabel that put out a TON of releases including three shoegaze comps that grabbed a lot of Internet attention.  This wasn’t a brand new concept by any means, but it was new to the Japanese shoegaze scene, helping expose some of the country’s local talent to an international audience.  Furthermore all of the label’s releases are available for free download, which has pretty much welcomed a foreign audience with open arms while encouraging a curious national listener base to hop aboard the shoegaze wagon.

One of the big stories last year was the emergence of kiiro records, a Tokyo-based netlabel that put out a TON of releases including three shoegaze comps that grabbed a lot of Internet attention.  This wasn’t a brand new concept by any means, but it was new to the Japanese shoegaze scene, helping expose some of the country’s local talent to an international audience.  Furthermore all of the label’s releases are available for free download, which has pretty much welcomed a foreign audience with open arms while encouraging a curious national listener base to hop aboard the shoegaze wagon.

Osaka’s answer to kiiro records is the newly formed Thru The Flowers, which was founded by a man simply known as Bobby from  Boyfriend’s Dead.  Bobby also runs an event of the same name that often showcases some of Osaka’s local shoegaze talent.  Though he has a reputation throughout Japan, the Thru The Flowers label appears to be Kansai-centric, and with Tokyo hogging the majority of the Japanese shoegaze scene this is a breath of fresh air.  

The label formed earlier this year and it’s maiden release was, not surprisingly, Boyfriend’s Dead’s self-titeld EP in mid-March.  In the two months since, Thru The Flowers has put out Honey Mustard Sauce’s ultra-cute shoegaze EP FREEZER (one of my personal favorites of the year so far), and the first recorded material from Dinosaur Party – a two-track EP called ベランダ/風車 (Veranda/fu-sha).  

Though Osaka is home to High Fader Records and does share the annual Japan Shoegazer Festival with Tokyo (and occasionally a third city), the shoegaze scene hasn’t progressed much over the years.  Free releases are great, but Thru The Flowers’ real task will be establishing a strong community of shoegaze artists in Osaka that can be at the core of a scene that will continue to grow.  There’s so much more good music outside of Tokyo, and labels like this one can really help get it out there.

To download Thru The Flowers’ releases and keep an eye out for future releases check out the label’s Bandcamp page:  https://thrutheflowers.bandcamp.com/

Muso Planet Volume 6 Coming 6/30! 第6号は6月30日に発行予定!

Muso Planet volume 6 will be released on the June 30th! We discuss shoegaze music in Australia with Jimmy from Sounds Better With Reverb and take a look at Spanish Indie Label Siete Señoritas Gritando. Jairo takes a look back at Latinoamerica Shoegaze in the first half of 2014, while looking at releases in the region during the Internet era.
With features on and free music from:
Ummagma (Ukraine)
AERO_fALL (Russia)
Sounds of Sputnik (Russia)
Luna Ghost (Australia)
Flying Vaginas (Italy)
Loomer (Brazil)
Miners (Australia)
Surfer Rosa (France)
the.city (Japan)
Sexores (Spain)

[Russia] New Music from Pinkshinyultrablast!

Yes, it’s true:  Pinkshinyultrablast have released new music!  Well, at the moment it’s just one new song, but seeing how it’s been five years almost to the day since the release of Happy Songs for Happy Zombies, even a second of new music would be welcome.  The band posted their new track, “Umi”, on Bandcamp today, making the announcement via their Facebook page.  Perhaps bigger news is the mention of a new album somewhere in the (hopefully) near future.  Definitely exciting news for shoegaze fans everywhere.  The new track is as wonderful as could have been expected.  Download it for free on Bandcamp.