USA, 180G Black Vinyl 2LP, PRC397LP
Six years ago, Brooklyn chiptune band Anamanaguchi—beloved for their blend of guitars and low-bit video game sounds—crowdfunded $277,399 in support of their second album, Endless Fantasy. Newly flush with cash, they set to work sending pizza to space. Footage of the lonely cosmic slice eventually made its way into a music video, but it’s hard not to roll your eyes at the whole scenario: Four men in their mid-20s convince their extremely logged-on fans to give them a quarter of a million and proceed to blow it on a dollar slice in the name of art. Yet, goofy as the space pizza was, the stunt netted Anamanaguchi a level of press coverage they’d never seen before. It landed them a slot on Fallon, a landmark moment for chiptune devotees. The album itself was a riotous genre masterpiece full of cutesy cat sounds, Weezer-esque turbo-punk, and square-wave synth-pop.
But no fantasy is endless. In 2014, as the band announced that their next album would be titled [USA], the country’s reality began to visibly splinter. That same year, the reactionary ideology behind Gamergate sent shockwaves through the gaming community and laid out a blueprint for the online culture wars. Amid all of this, Anamanaguchi began to look inward, troubled by the “indulgent” daydreaming of their 75-minute double album. “When people ask why it was so sugar-coated before, it’s because things were more sugar-coated,” guitarist Ary Warnaar recently said. “I wasn’t losing friends that were dying when I was younger. I am now.”
Five years in the making, [USA] addresses these “unavoidable realities” for the first time. Neither Warnaar nor co-leader Peter Berkman, who share songwriting duties, sing on the album. Instead, they recruit a handful of female vocalists—former tourmate and virtual Japanese Vocaloid pop star Hatsune Miku among them—to lend their voices on certain tracks. Still, with the exception of Grimescollaborator HANA’s star turn on the blown-out synth-pop anthem “On My Own,” the vocal features are inessential. It falls to Berkman and Warnaar to compose intentional arrangements that demonstrate just how Anamanaguchi’s perspective has shifted. -Pitchfork