Haruka Nakamura: Grace

Japanese artists like Haruka Nakamura, Akira Kosemura, and Cokiyo seem able to effortlessly produce some of the loveliest pop music around in 2008. Born in 1982, the Tokyo-based Nakamura offers up thirteen intoxicating settings on his aptly-titled full-length debut Grace (he recently shared a 2007 split release with Kosemura titled Afterglow). Acoustic guitar and piano are Nakamura's main tools but he embellishes that core with electronic touches, field elements (the sounds of children playing in “Opus,” traffic noise), and some key contributions from guests such as singer Janis Crunch, pianist Ryodo Yamamoto, and guitarist Muneki Takasaka. The lilting acoustic guitar waltz “Every Day” makes a strong opening impression with sing-song melodies prettily sung by Crunch, and her voice graces other songs too, including “Luz” and the melancholic title song where her voice is respectively Siren-like and plaintive; perpetuating that celestial ambiance, female voices also float overtop a gentle thread of acoustic guitar and electronic iridescence in “Cielo.” Nakamura's resplendent ballads and waltzes exude warmth and humanity and are, in their modest way, quietly uplifting; the sunlit waltz “Sign,” to cite one example, is so potent, one imagines it could unite warring nations if only it could be globally broadcast.

June 2008