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Yuji Oniki

Punk may be dead, but pop is alive and skipping. Oakland, California's Yuji Oniki crafts pure, dreamy pop in the tradition of early R.E.M., XTC, and Matthew Sweet. Given this, it should come as no surprise that Oniki's two Future Farmer Recordings albums, Orange and Tvi, feature Guided by Voices' Doug Gillard and members of the S.F. pop band Beulah. Although his music shows a clear '60s influence, Oniki eschews the trappings of quirk-pop and neo-psychedelia, relying on his earnest voice and strong melodies to carry the songs. When the hectic pace of everyday life becomes too overwhelming, Oniki's sweet, sunset-tinged songs will soothe your rattled nerves and carry you away to a gentle dreamland of sound. Oniki, a first-generation Japanese American, sings mostly in English, but ever so often, breaks into Japanese, heightening the music's exotic pop appeal

On Orange (2000), the songs' simple arrangements let Oniki's sweet melodies and thoughtful lyrics shine. On "Colmene Whispers," Oniki's vocals soar over sugarcoated guitars, blending seamlessly with flashes of trumpet and harmonica, producing weightless, heady pop that will make you giddy. "Amnesiascape" is a dreamy swirl augmented by lovely harmonies and infectious guitar jangle.

Like Orange, Oniki's follow-up, Tvi (2001), specializes in sparklingly direct pop songs. But here, he's also introduced a bit more instrumental complexity. After recording the songs with his band in his East Bay studio, Oniki took the tapes to Tokyo to have Rovo violinist Yuji Kasui and Sakana guitarist Nishiwaki add additional parts. After returning, he had GBV's Gillard add shimmering guitar solos and Beulah's Bill Swan contribute a few trumpet parts, before traveling to L.A. to master the CD. All the hard work resulted in a gossamer lushness that envelops the listener. "Transport" is as sweet as they come, a gorgeous piece of carefully created bouncy pop fluff.

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