The follow-up to 2018’s BALLADS 1 builds on the Japanese singer’s daring aesthetic—an arty blur of bedroom trip-hop, alt-R&B, and slow-winding IDM that always seems to zig when you think it'll zag. Nectar, his sophomore effort, feels designed for bigger stages, with more muscular vocals, riskier production, and an impressive spectrum of instrumentation. But don’t mistake bigger for safer; these songs are immersive and resolutely strange. Even his expertly curated guests—a who’s who of experimentalists like Yves Tumor, Diplo, and Lil Yachty—have been pulled into Joji’s magnetic field. Here, they bend to meet his sound, not the other way around.
Joji's affinity for reverb and warped electronic textures allows Nectar to spread widely and retain a sense of flow and consistency, as if the songs have all been run through the same lo-fi Instagram filter. There are explosions of soul and electric guitar, off-kilter psychedelic lullabies, and atmospheric ballads that unfold into abstractions. “Run” blends watery James Blake-style coos with the thrust of Tame Impala, and “777” rattles along with PC Music's Auto-Tuned delirium. The final track, “Your Man”—a pulsing ode to eyes-closed, four-on-the-floor escapism and another left-turn for the low-key artist—is a fitting end to an album that feels like a head rush: You’re walking out of the venue, body still tingling, trying to reacclimate to the world around you.