Tokyo-based musician Nana Yamato will release her debut album, Before Sunrise, this Friday on Dull Tools. This morning, NYLON premiered her new single/video, “Gaito,” alongside a profile (read it here). Like the first two singles “Do You Wanna” and “If,” Yamato sings in both English and Japanese on “Gaito.” Her vocals are backed by dreamy keyboard notes that tiptoe over a trancing beat. A minimalist guitar line reverberates through the chorus. The accompanying self-directed video features Yamato, dancing on a black and white screen.
“I’ve never been a fan of J-Pop or K-pop idols since I was a kid, so I didn’t understand why my classmates were so fascinated with them,” says Yamato. “Then I heard a rumor that a female idol group that debuted at the covid pandemic was very popular all over Japan, and I thought that the reason was that they had charms that I didn’t understand. I decided to write a song inspired by them, imagining their song, and this is what I came up with. For the music video, I watched their dancing on Youtube and tried to copy them. I haven’t listened to the song yet because I had it on mute.”
By day, Yamato is an ordinary girl who marches anonymously between her flat, her school and her job. But by night, she becomes something else — a young artist and record collector whose urge for connection and expression has created one of the best underground pop records to come out of Japan, and elsewhere for that matter. Her calling was found when one day she entered Big Love Records in Harajuku, Tokyo to buy an Iceage album. She then began going there everyday after school, where her studies shifted to the week’s latest indie rock releases. “Everything in my life started there.”
Yamato’s brilliance lies in a profound imagination that confronts the isolation and claustrophobia of Tokyo life, without losing grasp of the whimsy and romance of girlhood. It’s hard to ignore the romance the artist has with the streets that she walks; Japanese and English vocals sing about the lights and sounds of the city, as if there’s no place else she could exist. Yamato describes her style as “critical fantasy,” a fitting label for a sound that exists as much in a carefree daydream as they do in a crowded subway.
Each song on Before Sunrise is a secret hidden in the late-night glow of a young girl’s bedroom, created in the precious witching hours of the teenage heart, before dawn returns with the tedious demands of adulthood. Dreams, and the language of living inside one’s imagination, are the prevailing theme of Before Sunrise.