It’s our Bandcamp Picks of the Week, featuring the breakneck hyperpop of Cheem’s GUILTY PLEASURE and the wiry city pop exploration of Shoko Igarashi’s SIMPLE SENTENCES!
Cheem – GUILTY PLEASURE
Favorite Tracks: “Virtual Boy,” “Cheem Szn,” “Emerge”
Genre: Post-Hardcore, Hyperpop
As pop punk has its moment again in the mainstream thanks to hits from artists like Olivia Rodrigo and Machine Gun Kelly, most of it has focused on the genre’s heyday in the late 90s and early 2000s, when artists like blink-182 and Green Day dominated alt radio airwaves. But on their latest album, GUILTY PLEASURE, Connecticut band Cheem look slightly ahead of the 20 year cycle of nostalgia and give their take on the genre’s emo phase in the mid 2000s, as GUILTY PLEASURE largely draws upon bands like Fall Out Boy and Panic! At The Disco. While the latter’s debut album, A FEVER YOU CAN’T SWEAT OUT, occasionally played with electronica influences to mixed results, GUILTY PLEASURE is far from this scenario, brazenly pulling from other non-rock genres with absolute glee.
While the album retains the signature snottiness and sticky sweet melodies of that era of pop punk, rap rock verses, jungle drums and new wave-esque rhythms also join the mix, as Cheem lays a thick hyperpop sheen onto a record that feels like entire Fueled By Ramen catalog rolled into one. The breakneck pace and overall gaudiness can be a bit much for some of the more traditional pop punk devotees, but GUILTY PLEASURE proves to be a rewarding listen for those attuned to the extremely online age. Give it a spin on Bandcamp. [Matty Monroe]
Shoko Igarashi – SIMPLE SENTENCES
Favorite Tracks: “Shokoism,” “CASH OK”
Genre: City Pop
Coincidence or fate? Shoko Igarashi released her debut, SIMPLE SENTENCES, the same day Harry Styles released his latest pop opus, HARRY’S HOUSE. And while ostensibly these things have very little to do with one another (although if you’re a Styles stan, give a little love to Igarashi!), there is a singular influence that ties both artists together: the music of Haruomi Hosono. While Igarashi shouting out Yellow Magic Orchestra in the Bandcamp liner notes of her debut is significantly different than Styles dropping Hosono’s name on THE TODAY SHOW, it’s a compelling moment for one of Japan’s most important musicians.
SIMPLE SENTENCES is anything but simple, a complex exploration of city pop’s hypnotic electronic side. The American soft rock, jazz, boogie, and funk that broadly influenced the boundless genre in Japan during the 70s and 80s is here in fits and starts—the flute that comes in at the end of highlight “CASH OK” or the playful, squelching 8-bit tones of “Anime Song” both emerge with the technicolor brightness we’ve become accustomed to in recent years due to a high influx of Japanese reissues here in the states. But as the Hosono shout out might imply, Igarashi manipulates synthesizers and drum machines to echo the energy of those city pop records rather than mimicking the actual sounds. The Utopian Virtual aesthetic acts as a sonic through line for Igarashi, particularly on shorter tracks like “Lovely Song” or “Tsuki No Yama,” but ultimately the album is funky enough to also work as a straight pop record—Harry Styles this is not, but for solo dance party it’ll do the trick all the same. You can listen to it over on Bandcamp! [CJ Simonson]