Wednesday, October 2nd, 2013

Especia – Midnight Confusion

The J-Pop single title befuddled memories of the Grass Roots’ second-best song demanded!


Patrick St. Michel: The idol-pop bubble in Japan is due to burst anytime soon, as the market becomes suffocated with half-ideas like an air-guitar outfit or a bunch of teens wearing hockey masks (these exist, and they suck). Yet the rush to fill every available niche with a corresponding pop act has resulted in a few amazing moments…like this one. Osaka’s Especia are a group dealing in the sounds of ’80s J-Pop, especially the genre of City Pop. “Midnight Confusion” was written by SAWA, a techno-pop act that never really broke through, and produced in conjunction with Schtein&Longer, who spent the past year basking in the faded sounds of chillwave and vaporwave. Somehow, everyone involved in this track avoided the pitfalls of their sonic influences and instead ended up taking the best aspects of each, transferring them to a fantastic pop number. “Midnight Confusion” bounces forward on big neon synths, and features tag-team vocals that keep the verses fresh throughout. This song features a saxophone solo that could have been cheesy or ironic in the wrong hands, but here serves as an exclamation point midway through. And oh my goodness that chorus, among the best anywhere in 2013 — all twinkles and shouts of “eyes on me!” “Midnight Confusion” rises above the novelty defining so many of Japan’s most popular groups in 2013…and also the past-obsessed novelty of the biggest tracks of 2013 anywhere…to create one of the year’s best pure pop songs.  

Iain Mew: The video suggests this has to be pastiche, but I don’t know anything about Japanese pop of the ’80s beyond Rie Miyazawa so I can’t expand on the how and what. What I can say is that it’s charming and plays in fascinating ways with using smooth sounds in service of a song too exciting to waste time on smoothness. If the sax solo at 3:20 was a triumphant fade out rather than the centrepiece, it would achieve greatness.

Anthony Easton: ‘The instrumental breaks on this sound a lot like an 80s cop show that would have an accidental second life in someplace like Serbia, after communism fell. 

Alfred Soto: See, now this track should attract Jim DeRogatis’ ire: rat-tat-tat drum program and synths that Elliot Wolff could have programmed for Paula Abdul in 1988, only without enough melodic or more importantly rhythmic variation. And it’s at least 90 seconds too long.

Brad Shoup: Mid-range roller skating jams forever. The saxophone is plastic. They even took care to make the vocals terrible! I could spend a year researching the box set that would have this on Disc Five. As Douglas Wolk once wrote about “Halleluwah,” this would be too short at twice its length.

Jonathan Bogart: The way their voices aren’t quite strong enough to hit the high notes is tremendously affecting, in either a good way or a bad one. For me it’s good, of a piece with the pixelated scrappiness of their secondhand Tokyo-in-the-1980s memories, the kind of hypnagogic pop I can always do with more of.

Will Adams: It’s one thing to take cues from ’80s pop. It’s another to make it sound so damn fun.

Reader average: [8.46] (15 votes)

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