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Ogikubo Station – Okinawan Love Songs

We can only hope there will be plenty more of Ogikubo Station to come because Okinawan Love Songs is a great burst of musical joy.

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Ogikubo Station is the musical collaboration between Maura Weaver (of Ohio pop-punk band Mixtapes) and Mike Park (of Asian Man Records, Skankin’ Pickle, Bruce Lee Band, Chinkees) that is part jangly indie rock, part pop-infused punk. It’s an engaging combination that serves to show that collaborations can still come from an organic, genuine place. Instead of filling album titles with prominent feature spots, Ogikubo Station is what it sounds like when artists like making music together, whether far or near.

For Ogikubo Station, it has been quite far as there are some 2000+ miles between the two (California and Ohio). Their previous work has often seen the two send each other pieces of music that would be then pieced together. But if you’ve listened to their 2018 full-length, the wonderful We Can Pretend Like, you’ll know that they’ve made it work- managing to sound as organic as musicians in a studio together. What makes their latest 3-song EP Okinawan Love Songs even more rewarding is that Weaver and Park spent a good amount of time in the studio together to get these new songs done. It doesn’t mean that there wasn’t any music “over the wires”, Okinawan Long Songs features the bass work of Alkaline Trio’s Dan Andriano, who sent his bass parts in from Florida, all to be assembled by Park in the studio. The results are all worth the effort as the two original songs here are more than just a continuation of We Can Pretend Like, they are a measure of warmth and joy that comes from a genuine love for the art you craft.

The opening cut “Would I Break My Heart Enough for You” takes cues from Rainer Maria and The Anniversary; but with a sound that is a little more pressing. “Spend Some Time With Me” is a little more mid-tempo Midwestern, akin to the sounds that made waves in the late 90s and early 2000s and buoyed by the best of formulas: simple chords and simple melodies. The biggest improvement over their full-length is perhaps the tones of the guitars; sounding less distorted than before and finding this sort of jangly grace that doesn’t stray too far from that formula. In a way, it sounds timeless. The final track of this short outing is their rather wonderful, lo-fi cover of They Might Be Giants’ “Dr. Worm”. Meant to resemble TMBG’s “dial-a-song” sessions they made available from 1983-2006, it’s a nice analog touch to this mostly digital world. The cover itself does more than hold its own to the original and serves as a vehicle for both Park and Weaver to have some creative fun (and another opportunity for Weaver’s great vocals to shine).

What’s not so great about this EP? Well, it’s short- more a double A-side than an EP- but those grievances are superficial. Think of it as a quick teaser to what could be forthcoming.

Park’s legacy is one that continues on as both the proprietor of one of the most-loved independent labels in existence, but also a musician whose love for music above all else shows in the multitude of bands he’s done and is currently in (3… but maybe 4?). Ogikubo Station could be his best- in part because of the symphonic, almost perfect harmony he finds musically with Weaver. We can only hope there will be plenty more of Ogikubo Station to come because Okinawan Love Songs is a great burst of musical joy.

(Asian Man Records)

Reviews

Hatchie – Keepsake

Keepsake, the debut album by Brisbane dream pop artist Hatchie is musical luminescence that can only be described as music written for the stars

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Hatchie Keepsake

Brisbane indie-pop artist Hatchie (known to her friends and family as Harriette Pilbeam) is in the envious position of being a pop artist unspoiled by the many trappings of what it is to be a modern pop artist. Unlike some of her contemporaries who craft music by committee or with Sheeran-like self-importance, Hatchie is as of now, unsullied by the pressures of the cookie-cutter pop machine. Hatchie’s debut full length is a showcase for a talent who is supremely confident and composed in her abilities, and Keepsake is musical luminescence that can only be described as music written for the stars. The album is also a wonderful throwback to pop’s dreamy 60s influences that shuffle in and out of this delirium while working alongside distinctly more current musical touches.

There is the lush dream pop sounds of “Without a Blush”, taking cues from the best of what Stars and Goldfrapp conjure but heaping a tonne of Pilbeam’s charisma on it. Like her vocals, “Without a Blush” has this elegance that has the ability to elevate songs from being beautiful to grand. It is the kind of vocal elegance that really shines through on songs like the skittering, beat-driven “Obsessed” and the alternative, guitar-fuelled (yay!) “When I Get Out”. Indie/electronic closer “Keep” is a wonderful end to proceedings.

However, the great strength of Keepsake is not just its composure in how all the songs have been put together. It is also this genuine, natural-sounding quality that permeates the album- nothing overly written, overly produced or put together by research groups or music analysts. It just sounds like talent. We can argue that much of pop music is constructed to appease the moment- designed to grab as much attention as possible in an A.D.D. world. And sure, that can be said about almost any kind of music, but the resulting aural tone of Keepsake is anything but transient or transparent.

The best way to combat tepid chart-topping music is to write better pop songs. Songs like “Her Own Heart” and the disco-toned “Stay” are examples of pop music that come across as timeless. We are moved by the songs found on Keepsake when we listen to them today. And I suspect that in 10 years time, or in 20, we will most likely feel the same. It is rare to find the sort of ageless beauty you find on Keepsake.

(Heavenly Recordings)

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