Hazel Nuts Chocolate – Cute – 4.5/5
Seeing me make another brief return to the world of J-pop, very much more Shibuya-Kei (that quirky combination of jazz, electro and pop) than the more picopop focused ‘Capsule’ and ‘Plus-Tech Squeeze Box’ reviewed recently (both of which she has worked with in the past, a fact that is clearly demonstrated here), if the title of the album hasn’t already given you an idea what to expect, allow me re-state it. This is the smile on a child’s face, watching them boisterously run around in an excited frenzy; this is music to watch kittens to, rolling about and playfully biting one another in an effort to get to the saucer of milk. This is all that with a sweet cherry on top; ‘cute’ doesn’t even begin to get the message across.
Eccentrically performed, they rely on less frenetically cut together pieces, instead resorting to far more conventional song structures, its frequent strong jazz leanings often results in a tone that doesn’t feel too far removed from a pop-influenced ska. The gentle trumpet rhythms to ‘Swing Life’ or acoustic guitars in the closing moments, the semi-scatted lyrics and whistled tune in ‘Boushi to Watashi…,’ the electronic synths, ‘carousel’ organs, xylophones, double bass, ‘marching band’ sound, or picopop focused ‘Koi Wa Kyurukyuru,’ each track takes you to a new location to reminisce back to your childhood, each time the flighty, gentle boisterous vocals, almost whispered at times but always with a certain bounce to them completes the line-up of adorability.
The entire album can almost be considered a concept album, focused on the idea of the lead vocalist ‘Yuppa’ going on a romp through a fantasy cartoon world, taking strong inspiration from classic children’s stories from the ‘Wizard of Oz’ to ‘Alice in Wonderland.’ The nonsensical lyrics doing nothing to detract from the obvious atmosphere created through a wide variety of instruments, packed into 34 minutes of dream-like bliss; I’m sure few will actually pay attention to the pop review on what is primarily a metal blog, but for those that do: be prepared for an overload of tooth-aching sweetness, kitten-like cuteness and delectably delirious day dreams.
Highlights: Hello, Swing Life, Future Popp