Hazel Nuts Chocolate
Well, he-na-choco have finally put out their debut album, ending their long reign as Japanese indie’s most famous young musicians with no recorded music (Kiiiiiii, you have now won this title). This album certainly is good enough to have justified all the Marquee appearances and special VJ sets at random twee events around the city. While the liner notes give credit to Yuppa for about everything on the album, this more cynical listener can’t help but think that behind the ultra-fancy production is the Wizard of Oz himself — Tomonari Hayashibe of Plus-Tech Squeeze Box. It’s not as wild and anarchic as PSB’s Cartoom! but boasts the same musical variety and lo-fi vs. hi-fi sensibilties.
A release on Osaka’s Trolley Bus is worth heavy gold bars of indie cred here in Japan (where the only people who value indie cred are Westerners into the scene), but the album recalls less “neo-shibuya-kei” and more “neo-90s J-Pop.” but the ’90s was when JPpop was good and if anyone wants to bring back the rococo melodic savant of Judy and Mary, that’s totally fine with me. A Japanese music reviewer with a soft spot for this scene ran into me the other day and asked, “Have you heard the Hazel Nuts album?? It’s so cute that I felt a little weird listening to it as a man over 30.” I applaud henachoco’s over the top henachoco infantilized pop, but surely this is indies for the Pooka set. This album makes me want to have kids, so I can feel okay about listening to it repeatedly.