August is over, and even though my country doesn’t have a summer in the strict sense of the word, I decided to go full-seasonal theme for this batch of quick reviews!
Dempagumi.inc — Bon De Festa (2019)
Dempagumi.inc’s latest summer anthem picks up right where last year’s Precious Summer left, with frenetic keys, tropical speed drums, and their trademark fun vocals riling up listeners to have fun in a summer experience where they might find love (a remarkable first time for a group that have described themselves as “idols who don’t say I love you”). As a follow-up to their latest trend of having B-sides be slightly experimental, Nama Dempa is a more sleek and stylish electro track that is mostly brought together by combining synth loops with altered vocals that included chopped lines, whispers, and heavily vocoded harmonies. Pretty much since the groups’ beginning, summer has been Dempagumi.inc’s go-to season to go all-out with their fun, energetic sound, and Bon De Festa is a more than welcome addition to this tradition.
chelmico — Fishing(2019)
Cementing themselves as a really fun group from the get-go, chelmico have created a pretty fresh blend of rap and fresh, stylish beats. For their second major full-length release, the duo has further refined both their concept and execution, taking the tracks on this album on more organic and lively directions — a perfect match for its summer release! — that range from the catchy piano melody used in Balloon to the aggressively catchy switch. This musical maturity is complemented by Rachel and Mamiko’s vocal performance, who are now able to seamlessly alternate between more playful rhyming, as heard in tracks like Himitsu and Sokenbicha Rap, to their more somber and mellow performance in Bye. Neatly tying to its title and cover art, Fishing seems to be an effort towards presenting a more confident and lively chelmico, something that in turn makes the album a perfect pick for summer-themed playlists.
Friendly Fires — Inflorescent (2019)
Friendly Fires’ first album in eight years sees the group finally moving away from whatever pretense of standing at the intersection between quirky garage act and dance anthem factory they might have had in the past, instead fully embracing a lush, almost tropical electro sound that makes them the perfect fit for any summer party. An all-around seamless effort, this album sees Friendly Fires turn relaxed synth loops and carefully placed guitars into odes to chill summer fantasies, which is all perfectly capped up by its lyrics, which have lead vocalist Ed Macfarlane crooning — albeit in a sleek manner — about changing plans, missed romantic opportunities, and feelings that eventually fade into dancing. Despite sometimes reaching a level of “cool” that makes the record feel slightly lifeless, Inflorescent is still a carefully crafter record, one that sees the UK-based trio finally embrace their musical strengths to their fullest.
Shinsei Kamattechan — 8-Gatsu 32-Nichi e (2011)
With a title that evokes the haunting possibility of eternal summer, 8 Gatsu 32 Nichi e (which roughly translates to Towards August 32nd) compiles new tracks and reworked songs from previous Shinsei Kamattechan releases, featuring the mix of delicate piano, distorted synths, and pitch-shifting vocals that would eventually become a signature of the band. While all the other releases reviewed this month celebrate the season by construing it as a bright, party-friendly season, the summer presented in this Shinsei Kamattechan album feels like a sluggish, sweat-covered nightmare. This is particularly palpable in the Natsuyasumi song series, which sees the lyrical subject of the song grow in age, all while perpetually stuck in a season that brings them nothing but increasing dread, giving listeners the idea that eternal summer might be more about the sensation of being perpetually stuck in a period you’re not particularly happy with than about the promises of everlasting fun usually offered by music centered around this time of the year.