The sonic palate of Northern Ireland trio Japanese Popstars spans electronic music’s lifespan, so it’s no surprise that the group would recruit a wide range of guest vocalists for their new album, Controlling Your Allegiance, out June 21. “Joshua,” the album’s final track, features the signature croon of Tom Smith, frontman for British dark rock mainstays Editors — hear it here.
Smith brings his brooding baritone to bear on the swelling track, conjuring up memories of New Order’s nostalgia-tinged romanticism. “Our behavior turns like an ocean,” he sings. The song follows a similar aesthetic, sliding gracefully between minimalistic atmospherics, luscious synth flourishes, and club-ready beat-drops.
LISTEN: Japanese Popstars, “Joshua” (feat. Tom Smith of Editors)
“They sent me a couple of instrumental song ideas and asked if I’d like to submit vocals ideas,” Smith tells SPIN. “The tune that has ended up being ‘Joshua’ was my favorite instantly, and it wasn’t long before melody and lyrical ideas were floating around my head. One afternoon I listened to it over and over whilst out and about on the busy streets of Camden and the tune felt connected to the over-crowded, bustling, buzzing streets I walked that afternoon.”
Smith’s yearning performance gives the song a sense of alienation, but also of hope. “His voice is so powerful,” says Gary Curran of the Popstars. “Recording with Tom was a great experience. He was very professional and had lots of ideas and was open to any ideas we had regarding the track.”
“We both wanted to produce something special that represented a balance between our music and Tom’s,” Curran adds. “And I think we managed to succeed.”
Smith also had a more personal motive to take part in the process:”It puts me on an album with Robert Smith,” the Editors man says of the Cure singer, who contributes vocals on the Popstars song “Take Forever.” Other guests on the album include Jon Spencer and Chicago house icon Green Velvet.
The Popstars will play select American dates beginning June 30, with stops in San Diego, L.A., Chicago, and the Dance.Here.Now. Festival on Governor’s Island in New York City on July 3. See all dates here.