Cicada “Formula” (Para De Casa)

Japanese bands have been smitten with retro sounds in 2016. Whether you want to call it new city pop, funk or “Jamiroquai-indebted,” a wave of artists have embraced mid-tempo rock accented by brass sections in the past few years. Cicada fit the bill early in its existence, but on its second full-length, “Formula,” the Tokyo outfit incorporates a wide range of contemporary electronic twists to create an album that stands out from the pack and shows how older sounds can be retrofitted into something that’s forward-thinking.

Key to the success of “Formula” is Cicada’s use of electronic sounds. Synthesizer notes add a dreamy quality to “Influx,” while pitch-shifted vocal snippets add a joyful energy to “Port Late.” These songs would have seemed too familiar using traditional instruments, but Cicada’s embrace of digital tools gives them an interesting new texture. And, in certain cases, it makes for unexpected moments, like the sudden electro breakdown on “Reloop,” which flirts with modern EDM.

For all of these electronic flourishes, lead singer Akiko is just as central to “Formula.” Save for the scattered moments when her voice is run through a digital filter, she adds a sweet emotional touch to the electronic sounds, and prives a blast of extra energy when she breaks into a rap-like delivery. Cicada triumphs at merging old with new, and it makes “Formula” one of the more exciting releases to come out of the country this year.

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