Shoegaze for the glitterati.
There’s a certain type of Japanese pop-rock that sounds extremely breezy. The guitars are open strummed and the riffs are often slow and particular. The drums have a lightweight production to them. The vocals are so soft they could be feathers drifting on the wind. Often the music fits a slice of life or romcom anime closing credits song. The ‘pretty shoegaze’ genre is perhaps a little niche but it often hides hidden anthems within. This is where we find Uchu Nekoko and her new album ‘Hino Ataru Basyo Ni Kiteyo’.
Totally focused on this aesthetic, Uchu Nekoko focused on the lightest of shoegazing for her pop-rock sound. This translates to light and fluffy sounds like the playful ‘Heya’. It also gives ‘Skirt’ a sunny day vibe for what could have been a real hard-core riff-rock piece. The two guitar melodies play so well off each other but they never rage or feel aggressive. Instead, it just meanders along on its own time. Everything here is mid-tempo and evokes a childish skipping down a country land feel. It’s warm, laidback and almost angelic at times.
Some may find this slightly frustrating as, by design, the music here is ‘rock to calm down to’. ‘Slow’ adds on some electric jazz piano to things whilst ‘Rebirth’ is a droning synth note with bubbly undertones. Even when the drums and guitars get a little more crunchy with the excellent ‘9’, the vocals just simply glide along at a high breathy register like a soothing angel. You can’t fail to come away from the album feeling a little more relaxed. Personally, whilst I enjoyed the vibe and direction, I wanted a little more to dig my teeth into but these tracks are like the rock version of Genki Rockets. Come for the chillaxed happiness and stay for the riffs.
Uchu Nekoko cements herself in the breezy j-rock genre with this album and she nails the aesthetic beautifully. Half the album could be anime closing EPs for cute girls doing cute things series. If that sounds up your street, bump the score up a bit. I found that the album is best played as light crossover pieces between other harder rock music elsewhere but that, like all my musings here, is based on my personal taste. I think if the riffs and melodies were more prominent, that would gel me to this musical style better in the future.