Miila and the Geek’s debut album, “New Age,” would be my favorite Japanese album of 2011 even without the postquake context into which it was released.
The Tokyo trio took the abrasive sound of no-wave and crafted catchy songs out of it. On tracks such as “Cigarette and Water” and “Trouble,” lead singer Moe Wadaka’s alluring yelps get pushed along by drummer Kaoru Ajima’s simplistic-but-effective pounding, and Ryota Komori’s saxophone runs unrestrained over the entire thing. The band even turns something as simple as singing the alphabet into a clattering, sax-blasted head rush on “Alphabed.” Nothing in the country sounded like “New Age” this year, despite the fact that what makes the release special is precisely how well it encapsulates the confusion of 2011.
Although it was mostly recorded before the earthquake of March 11, “New Age” and its pinballing noise capture our postquake wooziness wonderfully. Whereas most J-pop acts rushed out sappy charity singles, the disorienting melodies Miila and the Geeks craft are more suited to the blackouts and antinuclear protests that broke out. It was raw rock — not calculated balladry — that best soundtracked Japan’s own strange new age.
What I’m looking forward to in 2012: Jesse Ruin’s debut release on U.S. label Captured Tracks.