…solely so this screencap can exist.
Patrick St. Michel: The mainstream Japanese rock scene is a stubborn creature, bands shooting for stardom playing at a boring mid-tempo speed because that’s exactly what labels in the country want: something that sounds like the well-selling band of the year before, regardless of how plodding it was. This is why Sakanaction’s gradual rise to the upper levels of contemporary J-Rock has been so exciting. Since they debuted in the mid-2000s, they’ve been playing around with dance, experimental electronic and rock, coming up with songs that sound completely alien compared to other modern-day Japanese rock bands. ”Yoru no Odoriko” (“Night Dancer”) follows the same structure as most of the band’s best songs: a body-moving verse eventually explodes into a big emotional chorus, which usually allows lead singer Ichiro Yamaguchi a chance to flex his yelping skills. This single offers some new wrinkles — the male/female singing in the back reminds me of a summer festival, while the way the guitar echoes off during the chorus is a nice detail. This is a great entry point into Sakanaction, and miles ahead of any rock band in Japan at the moment.
Jonathan Bogart: Propulsive dance-rock, grown slightly moldy since the glory days of 2002, can apparently still gather enough energy for a victory lap when sung — properly sung, not just yelped — in Japanese.
Iain Forrester: “Yoku no Odoriko” is energetic indie-funk played with fluidity. The way that the band switches between busy beats and blasts of echoed guitar is really effective and the guitar notes stretching out before the final chorus are bliss. The only sticking point is the vocals, and by the bridge even the way Ichiro Yamaguchi sounds like he’s gasping for air works out. It’s a nice counterpart to the effortlessness elsewhere and makes it feel like something big is at stake.
Katherine St Asaph: Sakanaction’s got that Dirty Projectors thing going, the thing where the backing vocalists sound significantly more winsome on glorified percussion than the guy careening away on lead. Or the thing with gorgeous, skillful arrangement — but no, mostly the thing where Ichiro Yamaguchi is this processed yet sounds this rough.
Alfred Soto: Dudes, this sports some beautiful strumming and picking, and when the singer essays a world historic a-ha/Gilberto Gil hybrid I’m able to forget the keyboards.
Anthony Easton: I love how smooth this is, and how the percussive elements work to emphasize the vocals. It winds up slick but fast — there’s none of the cocaine nerves of a true Miami production, but it adapts the red neon on slick concrete for another market.
Edward Okulicz: This song is its own filter-house remix, and totally adorable for it. If not for the vocals, and the chorus, you could have told me it was French and I wouldn’t have batted an eye. If the chorus is more distinctive but ultimately a bit of a strain, I don’t resent it because the last 30 seconds are the song’s most effortless and gorgeous.
Brad Shoup: I really like the solfège that links the bedroom take on house-pop to the surging alt-rock vocal section. There are more rhythmic elements here, perhaps, than any track we’ve covered this year; amazingly, all of them are pretty muted. I hope the new Ben Folds Five album sounds like this.
Will Adams: The first time I listened to this, I played it as background music for cleaning. It was pleasant enough, an interesting study in what would happen if Two Door Cinema Club used old game consoles as amps. But then the halfway point came and the song switched on a dime into the sunny alt-disco track my summer so desperately needed, and I had to stop everything so I could hear it a couple more times. My room is still a mess.