Shinnosuke Sugata – ひとつ前の合唱 (Previous Chorus)

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Once upon a time, a young band entered the studio with their producer. The band’s leader had come up with a demo and the group wanted to get a high quality version of the song down on tape. The singing had been a bit raw, so the singer practiced. The drumming had been programmed, so the drummer had to learn the song, as did the rest of the band. Hours were spent; time down the irretrievable funnel.

When all was sang and done, the group sat down to listen to the track.  Silence quickly bled into an awkward pause. Finally, the producer said what everyone was thinking, “Well, it’s not really as good as the demo, is it?”  Everyone gazed toward their beat-up rock and roll shoes. The producer put the nail in the coffin, “I don’t know, the demo had, like, atmosphere.”

Atmosphere, je ne sais quoi, that certain something, there’s probably a name for it in every culture. It’s universally difficult to define, but we know it when we hear it. There’s that certain immediacy, a direct connection with the emotion that a songwriter is trying to express that doesn’t get distractified away by studio shimmer or virtuosic showboating. It can’t be manufactured or really summoned.

But as listeners, we feel it. Shinnosuke Sugata’s “ひとつ前の合唱” has it. In this case it is a certain sense of closeness, coziness even. It calls to mind hygge, that oh-so-trendy Danish word for je ne sais quoi of a particularly Danish variety that expresses some sort of deep comfort in coziness. If hygge can even be applied to music, “ひとつ前の合唱” has got hygge.

The music consists of little more than guitar and voice and the guitar consists of little more than two or three chords. Shinnosuke’s warm voice takes you by the hand and guides you along. While the song doesn’t necessarily drift, it is not aggressively structured either. Rather, it creates space. A warm inviting space that’s a wonderful place to be for four minutes.

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