Guess That Disco

Yasutaka Nakata is probably my favorite musician/producer/DJ/overall badass working in Japan right now and most of the J-pop world agrees: after seeing a slew of releases from his own work, side projects, and work with girl groups and female vocalists of all kinds, Nakata’s sound has been replicated, copied, bastardized, and inspired the world of Japanese pop desperate for a piece of the electro house pie. The following are seven songs paying homage to the wonderful world of disco (of course, not disco in the Western sense of disco) either written or produced by Yasutaka Nakata or one of his desperate doppelgangers. Can you spot the faux discos? Answers beneath the cut.

80_pan: Disco Baby (song not featured on YouTube)
Ami Suzuki: can’t stop the DISCO
capsule: Robot Disco
pLumsonic!: Sentimental Disco (at 1:09)

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Top 10 albums/20 songs of 2008

01. Cut Copy – In Ghost Colours [ read full review ]
02. Ami Suzuki – DOLCE [ read full review ]
03. OceanLab – Sirens of the Sea [ read full review ]
04. PlayRadioPlay! – Texas
05. M83 – Saturdays = Youth
06. Perfume – GAME
07. Tiziano Ferro – Alla mia Eta
08. Britney Spears – Circus [ read full review ]
09. MEG – STEP
10. Santogold – Santogold

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Ami Suzuki’s “ONE” PV

After Yasutaka Nakata made Ami Suzuki relevant again, Team Suzuki decided to forfeit producing rights for her first post-DOLCE single “ONE” in the hopes of scoring more buzz and sales. While it was hard not to be excited about this single at all (this is probably my eighth post talking about this dude, which is weird considering his music makes up maybe all of 0.5% of my music player), I’m beginning to feel a bit skeptical. It’s strange because one year ago, Nakata was an original – I was hard-pressed to find anything resembling his unique blend of club, jazz, bossa nova, and pop, but today, I’m left wondering where he’s going to take it next, or if there is anywhere to take it at all from here. Team Suzuki suggests: let’s go full circle and bring it back to the beginning with a PV that has…

…really bad choreography…

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Ami Suzuki’s “DOLCE”

Ami Suzuki / February 06, 2008 / DOLCE
01. FREE FREE / 04. Bitter…

I honestly don’t know why this album hasn’t gotten more press and attention than it has (not to say it hasn’t gotten any; Ami Suzuki is still a veritable avex darling), so rather, the sort of press it should have gotten. This isn’t just another Ami Suzuki album: this is Ami Suzuki plus ten extremely talented artists that, as far as I’m concerned, have single-handedly Lazarused her entire career. Sure, the selection is a bit varied for the “dance” record Suzuki was attempting to pull off (Aly & AJ? Honestly, you’re making me feel bad for liking this), but what it sets out to do, it conquers and what it fails to do, it just accomplishes in another field. Simply put, DOLCE forces Suzuki, more than any other album, to step out of her element and if her vocals fail to deliver (they do, often), she has experienced musicians ready to whip up a musical parachute.

Nakata’s tracks I’ve covered, and to some extent SUGIURUMN, CAPTAIN FUNK, and RAM RIDER can be put in the same camp. Not because they all love the caps lock button, but because their tracks invite the same funky vibe without resorting to club cliches. Well alright, maybe kinda sorta (Suzuki is hardly the first club vocalist to praise the art of music itself and sing about the superiority of the weekend), but their replay value is astoundingly higher than others in the same genre. In that case, I would lump ROCKETMAN, Hoff Dylan, and YO-KING in another group as the tracks I could have done without. Songs with the standard big-band Japanese pop, save an acoustic guitar here or saxophone there, have little merit on an album attempting to build a conception. Admittedly, I like the retro vibe on “Futari wa POP,” but it’s not really something you can half-ass with any degree of success; anything worth doing doo-whopish is worth taking to the nines.

It’s the oddities on the disc that truly make this record work, that fill in the invisible spaces where things get awkward (the last three tracks are dying for an interlude from the following). The “Potential Breakup Song” cover is so ridiculous it works (note: if it hadn’t been infinitely better than the original, its resolve would have crumbled in the first riff) and STUDIO APARTMENT’s work on “Bitter…” is one of the greatest melancholic takes on hope I’ve heard in a long time (Suzuki sings “Tomorrow will be brand new day,” but the violins sing “Forget it, there is too much effort involved in hope“) and this contradiction that could feasibly fall flat works brilliantly almost accidently; in the accompanying DVD, S.A. ask Ami Suzuki to sing it “sexy,” and so Suzuki pretty much sings it the same way she sings everything: stoically. For this same reason, Tomoe Shinohara’s (Fucking Shinorer! Where did this some from? Greatest comeback I’ve witnessed from a pointlessly (non-)relevant 90s icon this decade! [not ashamed to admit I own one of the albums from her crazy(ier) era]) “Stereo Love” fails to work. Love the song, but really, no one can sing Shinohara’s songs except, well, Shinohara. Suzuki just can’t pull it off (stoic vocals), but again, it works (accidental irony), in ways Shinohara’s version would melt the entire structure (passionately, unironically hyper).

But who really wins here? Sub-popular artists get to collab with one of Japan’s most recognizable faces vs. Suzuki gets her reputation back (c’mon, you didn’t really like CONNETTA, did you?) and everyone leaves happy. Except the bonus track “if.” Loser.

Official Site

Ami Suzuki joins Yasutaka Nakata’s “FREE FREE”

Ami Suzuki joins Yasutaka Nakata / FREE FREE / August 22, 2007

Ami Suzuki joins Yasutaka Nakata from Shibuya-kei electronic/house duo capsule for FREE FREE, an almost hypnotically perfect electronic disco number with an equally delicious c/w track entitled “SUPER MUSIC MAKER.” What makes this single even more astounding is the impossibility of the math behind the music:

a) Ami Suzuki’s music = Crap
b) capsule’s music = Crap (until 2006’s FRUITS CLiPPER, anyway)


c) Ami Suzuki + capsule = Disturbingly Brilliant

In what universe these laws make sense I have no idea, but it’s obviously not of this Earth, as demonstrated by the quality of the collaboration. Is there even proper genre distinction for what constitutes “FREE FREE” and “SUPER MUSIC MAKER”? It’s arranged completely by computers and keyboards and even Suzuki’s vocals are tweaked beyond recognition. I almost have a hard time believing this was Suzuki (the PV where she dances around an invisible strip pole doesn’t help). Is this seriously the chick who released alone in my room in 1998? I’m further baffled that the same lonely, pouting face is thrusting her ass towards the audience on the cover of the limited edition (because when I think night clubs, I think ass), taking Madonna’s Confessions on a Dance Floor to the next level (this logically being the V.I.P. room, where one can only imagine what hearing the song on E is like when hearing it sober is a trip in itself).

“FREE FREE” starts out with a twirling discoball melange of keyboards before the thumping beat comes in and layers upon layers of vocals are pasted amidst the frenzied electric melody. Like most dance anthems, it has little to say in substance (the main lyrics consist of “free / I wanna’ be free / set me free“, ahhhs, and heavy breathing). However, this matters little as the foundation of the song rests on the speed and consistency of heavy rhythms jumping in and out in intervals, leaving behind a dizzying set of ascends, descends and shocks of silence before breaking back into the nasal shrills of “freeeee.”

“SUPER MUSIC MAKER” begins as a slightly more toned-down number but refuses to take second place with regards to rank on the single. Instead of resting on the laurels of the title track’s number, it prompts “FREE FREE” to a dance-off (song-off?) and lets the listener (clubber?) be the player while it takes the controls and frantically pushes buttons in a frenzied, haphazard manner (that’s what I always did during Street Fighter anyway). But this analogy is superfluous. What matters it that “SUPER MUSIC MAKER” ends up being a sister to “FREE FREE” in a way most singles with c/w tracks can only dream of being. While “FREE FREE” is more catchy for its liberal use of English, “SUPER MUSIC MAKER” stays more traditional in its Japanese but adds chants of “Yeah!” and “Music!” to guide the listener. Anyway, who’s really listening to the lyrics with such a catchy dance track? That’s obviously not the point of the single. Analyzing its seriousness is like finding existentialism in a banana; wouldn’t it be more logical to just consume it? Consume this single. Revel in the brilliance that is the two short versions and the two extended versions of the song (a tad unnecessary, but surprisingly badass in a status extended mixes rarely achieve *cough*”Domino Dancing”*cough*).

The only thing that makes me hate this single is that fact that Suzuki has already collaborated with several artists in past singles and a full Suzuki/Nakata project seems unlikely. Or maybe the transience of the single is what makes it so beautiful.

Official Site