My tastes in music, art, and literature might be best described as quirky or even left-field. Mostly I am driven by curiosity and a thirst for ideas and sounds that I cannot find in my backyard but I am also restless and make up for my lack of movement by trying to explore as much of the world as I can while standing still. I love to share what I find and love even more to have people share their finds in return which is what makes Yumi Matsutoya (née Yumi Aria) extra special as that it’s essentially a recommendation from my daughter.
Gabi may only be teetering on the edge of four but she possesses an indomitable spirit and is developing an outsized tastes in music; she knows what she like and does not hesitate in telling people. She discovered Yumi Matsutoya, a Japanese musician, by way of the charming film Kiki’s Delivery Service, one that she has had us watch over and over and over. Quite possibly, though, her favorite parts of the film are the two Matsutoya songs, Rouge no Dengon from Cobalt Hour, and Yasashisa ni Tsutsumaretanara from Missilm that make an appearance, enough so that she repeatedly asked for us to find them. From there she kept asking if there was more until we managed to track down Matsutoya’s first four studio albums.
Matsutoya’s first two albums, Hikōki-gumo and Misslim are pitch perfect creations of the early 70′s singer-songwriter genre and to my ears sound very much like she is channeling Carol King, Joni Mitchell, or Carly Simon. The arrangements are warm, gauzy, and pure AM gold. I suppose half of my fascination is the language barrier but I often find myself getting lost in the production work such as the piano/bass driven opening track of Hikōki-gumo with its dry and clean rhythm track offset by swells of strings. Maybe the other half of the fascination is the sense of false nostalgia I feel when listening to it, reflecting on times that simply did not exist for me, pure escapism.
Matsutoya pushed her work much farther on her next two albums bending genres around each other to create addictive ear confections. The arrangements are still largely piano driven but there are more guitar solos sprinkled about along with lush orchestra backings and Disco and Salsa rhythms are featured more predominately. The self-titled track off Cobalt Hour features a bubbling bass line and an abundance of chicka-chicka that collapses into smooth bell tones during the breaks.
Sazanami, the opening track of The 14th Moon, gathers up myriad aspects of 70′s pop music and wraps it into one tight little package. On its surface it feels like a Disco ballad, effervescent, but it reaches back to her earlier work to pull in threads and the result is something wonderfully idiosyncratic. It could be the opener for a TV show, or theme song for a coffee commercial, but with the language barrier I’m free to let my imagination wander.
Honestly, my fascination with Matsutoya likely rests with the fact that it is really the first thing that my daughter and I have gotten to share together. We attempt to sing along, and I am continually amazed at how quickly and throughly she has been able to mimic the words, and we have our favorite songs; Africa for myself and Rouge no Dengon for her. That in of itself makes her music special to me.