For a few years, Japan’s Teen Runnings have quietly been behind some of the catchiest and dreamiest pop to be found anywhere. Led by mastermind Shota Kaneko, their sugary sweet music is in line with followers of Brian Wilson like Best Coast or Bleached, chasing overtly-nostalgic dreams of California beaches and warm nights spent coasting the strip. Pristine nostalgia seems high up on the order for the band. On their new release, NOW, the album cover’s eerie geometry reflects this longing, and there are even obvious, audible reminders of the past; “Pretty Things,” for instance, ends with the sound of a tape deck ejecting.
The lyrics are more decipherable on NOW than some of their previous releases, but as always they don’t seem that important to the core of their sound. This has always been a general understanding of bands in a similar vein, but this seems especially true for Teen Runnings. It’s not what they’re saying that’s meant to affect you but rather how they’re saying it. The lush harmonies and dreamy melodies are merely another tool in their massive belt of drum machines, beautifully dated ’80s synths, and pages upon pages of guitars and basslines ripped straight from the gospel of Michael Jackson.
Teen Runnings’ sound represents an idealized version of an America that never really existed at all. It’s as if their image and love of American culture was siphoned solely from pop culture references, an amalgam of ’50s teen dramas like Rebel Without A Case and ’90s sitcoms such as Boy Meets World or Saved By The Bell. Their music is such a shock because although it’s a fabricated representation of something that never was, it feels so genuine and real. NOW will have you buying into it all and leave you feeling strangely nostalgic.