_Pantoufle Tagada_ is one of my favorite recent compilations, and one I had been looking forward to for a while.
Since it is a concept album built around the idea of cuteness, I was expecting to hear cute genres, cute instrumentations, and so forth, but I was surprised to hear a lot of not-so-cute sounds organized into not-so-cute structures in several of the songs. I prefer concept albums to be very tightly conceived and enacted, so I was disappointed by this, though the quality of the album is very good otherwise.
I’ll start with the tracks that were not as conceptually accurate as they could be, to my understanding.
Fah’s “I Hope You’re Happy with Me”, one of my favorite tracks on the release, is very cute and pretty at the beginning, but moves into some blatantly detuned parts which do not evoke childhood, nostalgia or otherwise cute things, and then moves into a powerful climactic section which is resolute and experienced. These qualities improve the song, but they detract from the element of cuteness.
Another of my favorite tracks, Vim’s “That Smell of Spring Rain” is vaguely evocative of the lushness of Japan’s traditional Noh. The simplicity of the bell-like and videogame-esque instrumentation helps to keep the song somewhat kawaii, but the beautiful layering and dynamics sometimes distract from that.
Dot tape dot’s “farpa (toy harp & plastic trumpet serenade)” is an enjoyable track, successful for the fact that it is aesthetically pleasing though it is what we still call experimental (though what is being done is no longer an experiment.) It is pretty, but not youthful, except in its out-of-place sped-up vocal samples.
Je reviendrai’s “Doroasako” is cute in the way that Ghost in the Shell: Innocence is cute. It has the sound of a previously-troubled adult escaping into the bewitching nostalgia of childhood, so far separated from it that the childhood might belong to someone else. The element is certainly there, but it is beneath other ideas.
Nej’s “Tell You” is moody minimalistic electronic pop and Original Recipe’s “Puppy” is electronic soft pop rock. There’s little more I want to say about them than that they’re good, not particularly unique, and not cute.
I cannot very easily imagine Surasshu producing anything I would consider cute, and “5am” is not out to prove me wrong, though it is more laid-back than his usual work, and of the same exalted oldschool videogame quality.
El Zoologico’s “Penguin and Sea Lion,” Purusha’s “Rabirabi,” Balun’s “Alicia,” Treacle’s “Stereotype,” Makunouchi Bento’s “Two Mechanical Snowghosts,” Kaneel’s “Pyjama Lapin,” and Papercutz’s “Lembras-te”? manage (to varying degrees) to be both very good and cute.
“Alicia” is especially worthy of laud for it’s ability to be undeniably childish at the same time that it is especially maturely composed, arranged, and layered.
All of the same may be said about my favorite song, “Pyjama Lapin” by Kaneel, which is astonishing in the contrast of complexity and simple, childlike mood. This is among his most approachable tracks, but it does not compromise glitch or any of his other stylization decisions to accomplish that.
“Two Mechanical Snowghosts” is almost automatically fitting of the album because of it’s music box instrumentation, and it’s gripping melancholic melody is fitting to that.
“Lembras-te?” is, in my opinion, film music suitable to the ending or ending credits of an early 90’s or late 80’s feature-length fantasy anime, or perhaps even an American cartoon.