Former frontman of Japanese psych-rock outfit Yura Yura Teikoku, Shintaro Sakamoto has crafted the greatest soft rock album of 1981.
A pristine and exquisitely produced love letter to a bygone era, “How To Live With a Phantom,” is completely beguiling and exactingly mines the more haunting aspects of pop romanticism made popular on the AM dial by 10cc, Godley & Creme, and Todd Rundgren.
Essentially, it’d have easily worked as an alternative soundtrack to The Virgin Suicides.
In a fantastic interview with Bowlegs Music, Sakamoto recently stated that the concept for the album was, “An obscure party band of unclear nationality is playing mood music in a small bar, and the audience, normally shy people who rarely let their hair down, starts to feel more relaxed and, before they know it, starts to dance.”
Sakamoto captures that feeling and more. Essentially, approximating the lightness that comes after overcoming the awkwardness of a genuine feeling, tracks like “You Just Decided” and “My Memories Fade” are the sound of smiling at someone and walking across an empty dancefloor and asking them to dance. It is the sound of leaning in for a kiss.
Listening to it for the first time in my living room on Sunday afternoon, I had that elusive experience of absolute surprise and wonder. A kind of instant nostalgia to feel the way I listened to it the first time, even as I was listening to it for the first time. In any given year, I hear a lot of really great, well produced albums and songs…but THAT feeling is rare. And this record is special and genuinely haunting in that way. “How To Live With a Phantom“? Buy this record.
— Mario Cotto