I've been interested in the New York-based Japanese expatriate duo Cibo Matto (Italian for "crazy food) since I first heard their song "Birthday Cake" in the Xbox game Jet Set Radio Future. I later learned that their distinct, vibrant mid-90s trip-hop songs such as “Know Your Chicken” and “Sugar Water” brought them popularity and a cult following that eagerly anticipated their third album – Hotel Valentine – which came out from Chimera Music on February 14 (I fortunately caught a performance of theirs in Hamden recently.)
Cibo Matto began recording the album in 2011, working with the concept of a love story taking place in a hotel populated with ghosts. Although it's been almost 10 years since their last album, Hotel Valentine doesn't miss a beat with its catchy shibuya-kei (a Japanese style that incorporates bossa nova, pop and jazz.) One of my favorite tracks is "MFN," in which the duo mixes groovy hip-hop and spooky shrieks to take the role of an annoyed spirit. "Empty Pool" is particularly memorable as well, with stark, minimalist electronics and breezy synth to capture the feeling of swimming in said pool with no water. It's a very fun, one-of-a-kind album overall.