It’s always nice to see new artists with lots of personality surface in the J-pop scene. There are many artists trying to knock at the gate of this huge industry every day, but those with great charisma and (obviously) great compositions on their side, can surely manage to gain a spot for themselves in this world.
It’s fair to say that Natsume Mito enters this world with a great advantage on her side, which is the production of Yasutaka Nakata. And to be completely honest, this is an important record for Natsume Mito as much as it is for Yasutaka Nakata; it’s a debut record of a new artist, but also a way for a producer of great talent and success to rediscover his roots, as his recent western-influenced productions kind of lifted the eyebrows of more than just fans.
If there’s one thing that’s clear about Nakata, its that he works at his best when he’s got no one to tell him what to do. He’s always seemed to be a control freak, which is understandable when it comes to artistry. But at the same time, most of his productions are tied to artists hiding in the shadow of annoying managers and agencies needing a certain kind of music for a certain product, directions he has to follow if he, well, wants to work as a producer. Yet, in the case of Natsume Mito, there’s no one telling him what to do, no room rental service to promote, no theme to create for a drama: it’s only him, his computer and his instruments, and a singer recording in the booth. Just like the good old times.
The benefits of this formula are extremely clear since the very beginning in Natsumelo, and they remain constant throughout its twelve tracks. There’s a lot going in this album, but instead of being a confusing mess, it flows greatly while adopting several influences typical of past and recent Nakata influences. The first track Maegami Kirisugita is a striking opener that sets the bar high right away, and gives a clear vision of the mood of this record with overflowing melodies and straight to the point rhythmic sessions, greatly exposing Mito’s vocals and personality in the process. As fair as it is, catchy hooks are a constant in Natsumelo, and even when the production follows a pretty straightforward pattern, Nakata does everything possible to constantly keep the vibe up with colorful melodies and engaging chord progression- there’s hardly ever a dead moment in this record, and it keeps the overall listening experience on exciting levels. As a consequence, the whole record feels very cohesive, but it’s fair to admit that certain tracks particularly stand out for their complexity and genuine fun-factor: 8-bit boy is a glorious throwback to Nakata’s chiptune influences, where Mito’s vocals do an amazing job at keeping up with fast-paced sections, while the slight pop rock bits in Watashi wo Fes ni Tsuretette pair up greatly with her energetic and playful interpretation (also delivering one of the catchiest choruses of the record). There are also a few slower tracks throughout the tracklist, and while they still bring interesting elements to the table, NemuNemuGO and its nostalgic vibe is the only one that deservedly gains the spotlight.
Natsumelo is a fun and well-crafted piece of work overflowing with passion. This is thanks to the evident chemistry between Mito’s entertaining performance and Nakata’s long-needed artistic freedom, that makes this album a cohesive collection of upbeat fun songs featuring several highlights. A great debut record for Natsume Mito, and the best work Nakata has produced in a long while. Definitely worth listening if you want to brighten up your days with fun and genuinely good music.