Shintaro Sakamoto, “Love If Possible”

Shintaro Sakamoto
Love If Possible
ZELONE
8/10

When considering the childhood of former Yura Yura Teikoku member Shintaro Sakamoto, it’s easy to picture a boy with a firm grip on the compass of his unsullied, boundless imagination. Perhaps he is seated beside the window, a young Godzilla presiding over pardoned towers of storybooks and records. Or maybe he keeps busy assessing amoebic alien worlds nestled discreetly among the neon brights of Osaka’s technicolor display. Whatever the reality, the recent succession of curiously engaging solo albums—2012’s How to Live With a Phantom, 2014’s Let’s Dance Raw, and now Love If Possible—suggests that Sakamoto is quite comfortable existing and producing by his lonesome, save all the friendly ghosts. What’s more, he pulls off a deft sleight-of-hand illusion by making the listeners feel that we, too, are invited to the party.

The eponymous leadoff track signals elements of outré psych-folk bound to hip-hop rhythms, lightly recalling the Odelay-era Beck. A guitarist by trade, Sakamoto has made oblique the role of his instrument in recent years, more often leaning on the pedal steel as an ambient vessel, spiraling lines around spines of melodic, moody bass. Like the product of any healthy imagination, wide-open spaces are paramount on this record. “Another Planet” juts toward the hallowed realm of roots reggae, while “Disco Is” is like an international love poem to ’60s Brazil by way of Tokyo. “Feeling Immortal” has a more traditional pop structure, and even if you don’t understand Japanese, it’s easy to grasp the caged truth that Love is not only possible, but that it’s a giant lizard inevitably oncoming from the ocean—much like the warmest childhood memory.

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