“This is my comfy place,” sings Shoko Igarashi, as if touring listeners through the charming hybrid-styled utopia of her full-length debut. Simple Sentences, released last spring on Tigersushi Records and among the year’s most underrated albums, forms a remarkably refreshing paragraph from the fragmented influences of the Tsuruoka-born, Brussels-based musician and composer.
Japanese city pop sheen and the playful wonder of anime meet the pulse of Brussels, where she plays saxophone and keys in the electronic trio Maniac Maison, and the jazzy flair she picked up studying at Berklee College of Music in Boston. Bold, unpretentious, and open-minded songcraft; the general feeling is that she’s having fun.
Over the bubbling synth lines of “Comfy Place,” she details the interior life she’s grown to appreciate in recent years, like watering plants, drinking tea, and other micro-joys. On “CASH OK,” a softly askew dream funk number, she nods to her time playing jazz gigs in New York City. The flute-led “Happy Kid” (the meaning of her name, Shoko) sweetly flashes back to her childhood in Japan; with a blissful psych-kitsch evoking Yellow Magic Orchestra, it could easily double as a golden era sitcom theme song.
Igarashi’s mix for S&S echoes this sense of movement and discovery, traversing vibrant sounds familiar and new to her, from spacey folk and new age to prog rock, electro-funk, beat music, and beyond.
“I made this mix with the idea I got when I was hanging out with my friends in Japan (I was in Japan for 1 month from May to June), we played each other’s favorite tracks or recent discoveries. It’s like, one play and when it’s done, the next person plays what they like and rotate. It was amazing to know what my friends were listening to and it was totally fresh music for me because they live in Japan and I live in Brussels. The usual taste of what music we listen to is different, I felt. Also, I got to know them more deeply from knowing their musical tastes. So I took some of the tracks from my friends, and I put my favorites as well.”
J Todd – Aaaa
空中泥棒 – なぜ？/ Mid-Air Thief – Why?
Suzanne Ciani – Prince with Orange Feet
Juana Molina – Cálculos y oráculos
Kobeta Piano – Itodo
The Tuss – Shiz Ko E M
Bruno Pernadas – Lafeta Uti
Suzanne Ciani – Tenth Voice-Sound of a Lighted Window
The SOS band – Finest
Toulouse Low Trax – Geo Scan
King Crimson – Thela Hun Ginjeet
Shoko Igarashi – AppleBanana
RX-101 – Saiph
Casimir Liberski – Chill New Year’s Eve (unreleased)
Simple Sentences is out now on Tigersushi Records.