Now I should open with this: I’ve been a Miho Hatori fan all the way back when I discovered her in 19/2000 by the Gorillaz, voicing Noodle’s famous “Get the cool shoe shine” lyrics. And when 10 year old me connected the dots from that to “Birthday Cake” by Cibo Matto, it all triggered an odd taste in music.
So while Cibo Matto is no more, I was still super excited to check out Miho’s new project, New Optimism. I had discovered Dr. My-Ho a while ago on YouTube, but the video was removed (I assume for this release), so I had been dying to listen to it again. Then, a few weeks ago now, the EP Amazon to LeFrak was released on Spotify, scratching that long lasting itch.
The fascinating part of Amazon to LeFrak, is how it genre hops while still feeling like a coherent piece of work. I feel the best way to approach reviewing this album is to take on each song one by one first.
The EP starts off with a very Vapourwave, wistfully echoey song in Dr. My-Ho. The track is layered with various vocals, on top of a wide selection of drums and percussion, with the chorus giving off a strong ‘elevator music’ vibe. The whole thing is very echoey, with plenty of weight in the low end, giving off an ominous, nearly creepy tone.
Now this song is catchy. The same sort of drums beats as Dr. My-Ho are found here, with a lot of interesting vocalisation- both as noise and melody. What I like about this track, is while it’s repetitive with its vocals, the backing layers change giving interesting contrast each time it changes. It definitely took me a while to warm up to this one, however, but it quickly turned into an ear worm.
King of Monsters
King of Monsters is probably the closest this EP veers towards a typical song structure, with clear lyrics, and the drums/instrumentation staying fairly consistent throughout the entire thing. The running theme throughout the entire EP, the percussion, is still present here, but with the catchiest rhythm by far.
I also just love the heavy synth in the background, making this one of the darkest songs on the EP. King of Monsters also uses the full spectrum of sound, with plenty of highs to pierce through the heavy low ends, both with vocals and instrumentation.
And now the percussion starts to simplify, with a heavy electronic ‘doof’ sound charging the song forward. Invisible Tan then turns into what probably sounds like the happiest track on the EP, but really just sounds like the goal is a fake, saccharin type of feel with the vocals.
Overall, the song sounds more hip-hop than the rest of the tracks, with a strong blend of electronica.
Howling just hits you like a truck from the get go, a wistful aura with a lot of anger or passion driving the low end. I feel the best way to describe the song is catharsis, both lyrically and the overall sound. The tempo shift halfway through is also one of my favourite moments on the entire EP, with it just compounding the feeling of screaming to get the frustration out of your system.
Amazon to LeFrak is a wide variety of approaches, concepts and even genres, with a strong sense of unity between them. While the music may be a bit different than a lot of typical modern music, I found a lot of joy listening to how Miho Hatori wanted to push the boundaries of the music she’s making, ending up with something incredibly unique.