“I’m Yours!” is the third album to come out of the partnership between Japanese pop singer Miu Sakamoto and The Shanghai Restoration Project, an American outfit led by Dave Liang that merges traditional Chinese instruments with contemporary electronic music. They’ve been handling the production on Sakamoto’s albums since 2010′s gorgeous “Phantom Girl,” a delicate collection of artsy-sounding pop that stands as Sakamoto’s best release in her 14-year career. The collaboration followed that up with last year’s “Hatsukoi,” a slower but just as enchanting work. Now comes “I’m Yours!,” the most pop-friendly recording between Sakamoto and TSRP yet, another strong CD from a duo who have been creating some of the best J-pop of the last few years.
TSRP’s production is more straightforward on “I’m Yours!,” eschewing the Beijing-opera touches of “Phantom Girl” in favor of synth-heavy sounds recalling American indie-electronic duo The Postal Service. “Amai Nioi” (“Sweet Smell”) is bouncy electro-pop that lives up to the album’s billing as a “bright summer record,” complete with sunny lyrics such as “Being able to say ‘I love you’ / to someone you really love is happiness.” Meanwhile, “Go” and “More Speed, More Light” put a greater emphasis on the bass to craft slightly darker songs, the lyrical highlight of the prior being, “I don’t really have anything / for you to fall in love with me.” I guess that must be the summer storm.
All of the songs on “I’m Yours!” are designed to not get in the way of Sakamoto’s voice or, in the case of the title track, accommodate both Sakamoto’s singing and Kick The Can Crew member Kreva’s rapping (which, despite being given an appropriate soundtrack, still sounds out of place). This is a good production decision because Sakamoto’s voice deserves highlighting. The best J-pop comparison to Sakamoto is singer Salyu. Both women are capable of stretching syllables out into gorgeous sounds (evidenced on this album’s two brief interludes and the disco-tinged “Dance Dance Dance”), although Salyu can hit much higher notes. Sakamoto, though, has been blessed with better production throughout her career, which allows her to take more risks (she was also blessed with a musical family, her parents are composer Ryuichi Sakamoto and singer Akiko Yano). “I’m Yours!,” like her last two albums, shows what happens when J-pop is given a little more room to play with — Sakamoto sounds more interesting than the bulk of her J-pop contemporaries, but still just as catchy.