Sometimes it feels like Japanese pop culture's not-so-secret super power is its ability to corral, amplify and caricature the weirder, cooler aspects of other cultures.
Listening to How To Live With A Phantom, the solo debut of Shintaro Sakamoto, late of Tokyo's underground psych-rock darlings Yura Yura Teikoku, its fairly easy to chart the geography of influences.
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For starters, there's a little bossa nova, a whole bunch of funk, some '70s radio pop, shades of yé-yé and more than a touch of psychedelia. Blandly, you might describe it as "world music," but that's neither fair to where the music came from, nor to where Sakamoto takes it.
But if you insist on dull monikers, please concede that Sakamoto has done with "world music" what the cult director Seijun Suzuki did with the yakuza flick.
And don't call it "J-pop."
A hyper-stylized labor of love, this studied effort sounds like the product of time spent marinating in the details of a deep and eclectic record collection, which is precisely what the album's press release indicates is the case.
Sakamoto, most commonly a guitarist, played every part on the album except the percussion, and taught himself electric bass as he wrote it. Not surprisingly, its best songs are driven by inflected grooves on that instrument. One glowing example is the effervescent "You Just Decided."
Fittingly, Phantom is the first release of the Other Music Recording Company, the label of the longtime New York City indie record store/taste hub.
But the ghost that follows you around here isn't some scrawny, irate clerk with bad, asymmetric hair. Rather, its that faint inkling of auditory deja vu. That tune you can intuitively hum -- even if it's sung in Japanese -- as though it's briefly taken control of your soul.
WATCH: Shintaro Sakamoto, 'You Just Decided':
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