The last J-Rock Fridays of 2012! Just because the year is ending doesn’t mean Japan has slowed down their music video production.
miila- “Santa Baby”
Is it too late for Christmas songs? Oh well, I was never in the holiday spirit to begin with. Not the cheeriest version of the song anyway. This cover is actually a couple of years old, but I’m glad miila (from Miila and the Geeks) got around to making a video for it.
Sawao Yamanaka- “Answer”
Can you believe Yamanaka’s on his third solo album already? Just like his other side project The Predators, I can’t differentiate “Answer” from a standard pillows track. That’s great if you’re a fan of the pillows, but I would like to see him do something different for a change. This is his chance to do something new and he blew it again.
DOLLS$BOXX- “Loud Twin Stars”
DOLL$BOXX is Fuki from Light Bringer and all of the gals from Gacharic Spin. Although their other single and individual projects lean towards girly pop rock, Gacharic Spin’s keyboardist spends half of “Loud Twin Stars” screaming and it’s awesome.
The End Records announced details for the US edition of Dir en grey’s 8th album Dum Spiro Spero. The 14 tracks will include the singles “Hageshisa To, Kono Mune No Naka De Karamitsuita Shakunetsu No Yami,” “Lotus”, and “Different Sense.” The album will be released as a standard CD, deluxe CD with 2 bonus tracks, and a double LP. All three editions are already up for preorder at The Omega Order and Amazon. There’s also a limited edition bundle at the Omega order with the deluxe CD, LP, t-shirt, and a signed poster going for $40 (hell of a bargain compared to the similar $150 Japan edition). However, it seems to have sold out already. Dum Spiro Spero comes out August 2nd in America, a day before Japan.
If you haven’t seen the tracklist for the upcoming Saw 3D Soundtrack you may be surprised that it includes not one but three J-Rock bands. Dir en grey is getting the most attention with the exclusive track “Hageshisa to, Kono Mune no Naka de Karamituita Shakunetsu no Yami.” Well, I wouldn’t call it exclusive if it was released as a single last year. But maybe they released a new PV? Not quite, but they did insert scenes from the film including Chester Bennington of Linkin Park fame being tortured to death, which may be worth a watch for some.
The other two J-Rock songs on the soundtrack are Boom Boom Satellites’ “What Goes Around Comes Around” and Wagdug Futuristic Unity’s “Ram the Crush!!!” The Boom Boom Satellites song was previously released in America on the Over and Over compilation. On the other hand, this is the first time we’re seeing Wagdug in America, which is exciting. The song is taken from his new album R.A.M. You can listen to the soundtrack here and pick up a copy of the CD tomorrow.
Finnish-cello-metal-band Apocalyptica invited Kyo of Dir en grey to sing on “Bring Them To Light” during their co-headlining tour. The song comes from Apocalyptica’s new album 7th Symphony. Joseph Duplantier of Gojira provides vocals for the album version, but Kyo brings the appropriate “power” live despite being a foot or two shorter than everyone else on stage. There’s still a couple dates left on this tour so check out their myspace.
Greetings, and welcome to the special Halloween edition of J-Rock Fridays. Some of the videos here are fun, with a little bit of spook, and others are downright disturbing. Watch at your own risk!
world’s end girlfriend- “We are the massacre”
WARNING: DISTURBING CONTENT In the anime Yu Yu Hakusho, former spirit detective Sensui was shown a never ending videotape detailing all the crimes and wars of humanity. I’m pretty sure these clips were taken from that video. Nothing but 6 minutes of archival footage of murder, stabbing, strangling, throat slitting, jumping out windows, jumping off buildings, and just plain death. World’s end girlfriends’s music was creepy enough but this video just put him over the edge. At least it’s in black and white. (myspace)
In an attempt to make more regular columns on J-Rock Explosion, Random J-Rock Updates returns! I’ll probably be doing this every Wednesday from now on, starting the Wednesday after next Wednesday. I compile these mainly from myspace Activity Stream and bulletins, sometimes there’s nothing to report for days. I’ve also added a new feature to this column, Myspace Band of the Week. This is a band that randomly added me on myspace or vice versa and doesn’t suck. These are mostly small bands that don’t have any music videos for me to show off for J-Rock Fridays. There’s probably more words in this paragraph than the actual news, but go on…
-Asobi Seksu’s new album Rewolf will come out November 10 via Polyvinyl records. The album was one of the last recorded at the legendary Olympic Studios. Pre-order is available here.
-Muon has 4 new live tracks for free here. They are currently writing their new studio album.
On this blog, I like to talk about what Japanese albums are getting a US release. So, I’d like to introduce a page I’ve been working on since the beginning of this year, the 2009 US Release Calender. It’s been live all this time, but considering it has only gotten 39 views so far, I have to assume no one knows it exists. It’s a very simple list of what came out this year, followed by a link to where to buy it and their myspace if applicable. I only include albums that were released on CD or vinyl. MP3 downloads are too numerous and really take no effort to release. I like physical media. It gives me a sense of ownership that MP3s will never, ever have.
Vinyl- Hush and Transparence 10″ by Asobi Seksu and Hymn to the Immortal Wind by Mono
CD: self titled albums by FACT and parms, P-POP HIGH SCHOOL by Peelander-Z, and Utada’s second English album This Is The One
DVD: A Knot Of by Dir en grey
I also have 9dw’s self titled LP. It came moments ago, that’s why it’s not in the picture. There’s also a couple other things I have on order. Right now, albums I’m most looking forward to later this year are Armonica Hewa by OOIOO, Rewolf by Asobi Seksu, and Dir en grey’s music video collection. I also have to applaud Maru Music for getting their releases on Hot Topic shelves. I was able to buy Versailles’ debut album from there a few months ago.
I’m constantly updating this page, I added three releases yesterday alone, so be sure to bookmark it. Also, be on the lookout for a This Month In J-Rock announcement next week.
I’m back for another month of releases, a couple days earlier this time. You’ll see two changes in this month’s column. First off is a poll. I guess this is a new wordpress feature so I decided to use it. You can vote for your favorite album from the albums I reviewed or another September release I haven’t (list and explain in the replies!). To be fair, singles won’t be included in any future poll. The second change is that “Pick of the Month” has been changed to “The Winner’s Circle.” More on that later.
Dir en grey- Glass Skin
If “Dozing Green” and “Glass Skin” is what we have to look forward to on Dir en grey’s upcoming full-length, I think Uroboros will be one bore of an album. “Glass Skin” is mediocre at best. Nothing to wet your pants over. It just kind of meanders for four minutes. Let’s face it, they’ll never be able to write another “The Final.” Thankfully, the band decided to put actual b-sides on this single release. Next up is a rerecording of “undecided.” This has more of an acoustic/folky feel. Not exactly the screaming Dir en grey that I love but much better than the actual single. We also have an “acoustic” version of “Agitated Screams of Maggots.” Normally when I hear the word acoustic, I assume that it’s acoustic guitar. Nope. This is classical piano! Not acoustic at all. Look at a dictionary fellas. It’s not as great as the original but the screaming over piano thing was interesting…kind of.
Despite the initial dissatisfaction that these are not Disney cover songs (all three tracks are named after Disney films), this is one damn catchy EP. BIGMAMA is sort of like the Japanese version of Yellowcard, a punk band with a whole lot of violin. “Cinderella” was released as the single for this EP. The violin sections on the song remind me of Pachebel’s Canon (that song they play at graduations) a lot, especially in the middle, but I love it. “Sleeping Beauty” shows a more aggressive side to the band. The EP closes with “Pinnochio” a real fun, nostalgic hoe-down type of song. The violin has more of a folky sound and the chorus has plenty of handclaps. I had a lot of fun with this EP. It’s not often that a band can successfully incorporate the violin into such happy, rock songs.
Olivia Lufkin singles/albums have been a mixed bag ever since her OLIVIA inspi’ REIRA (TRAPNEST) days. There are some traces of her former edginess but with so many average pop ballads it’s evident that she just wants to become the next J-pop idol. The first two tracks on this mini-album are examples of her stronger work these past few years. “Trinka Trinka” is a really great up-tempo track with a mild dance beat and a really catchy chorus, “I’m feeling Trinka Trinka, it’s really happening, my heart is beating, but I don’t want to scream!” The lead single for this release, “Rain” follows. Olivia returns with her mixed Japanese/English lyrics. It’s a fun song that should satisfy her new and old fans. Unfortunately, the mini-album rapidly deteriorates after these two songs. “Because,” “Miss You,” and “Your Smile” are typical J-pop ballad fodder with minimal English lyrics. “Collecting Sparkles” has it’s moments, mostly due to it’s electronic beat, but is ultimately forgettable. One day I hope she breaks out of her anime alter-ego and records another Comatose Bunny Butcher.
8otto should do well with the British-rock crowd. They have a similar flavor to bands such as The Strokes or Franz Ferdinand. HYP8R is the third full-length 8otto album and carries the same laid-back “I don’t give a f—” attitude as always. Reflective, yet agressive when it needs to be. But mostly sung in monotone. I imagine this is the type of music people listen to when they get high. “Bomb” leads off the album with a slightly different version than on the single, not that I could tell the difference. My favorite songs are “Real Coke’s Friends” and “It’s Kind of Fool.” The album sags around track 9 with a 6-minute acoustic track. However, it gets funkier with “Stone Funk” and ends with the great title track. Although at times boring, this band has great rhythm. You can imagine them as a funkier Brit-rock version of Asian Kung-Fu Generation.
IN BRIEF: This band sounds so much like ELLEGARDEN. I don’t know whether I should be shocked or appalled but I actually liked this album quite a bit. These songs are mostly in English but hard to understand. Stand-out tracks “Falling Down,” “Endless Summer,” “Go For Break,” and “GET UP.”
Super Nice! was your standard alternative rock album. C.O.W. Check Out World was an experimental minimal electronic album. Mo’some Tonebender’s newest album SING! is a very uneven work, a hodgepodge of every genre you can think of. From the standard ballad “Colourful,” to the straight up rock “Cheese Burger,” to the delightfully saxophone-ridden “Niji wo Kakete,” it’s safe to say this band has no idea where it wants to go anymore. The album leads off with the sing “Synchrocity” that has surpringingly grown a lot on me. This song, and others such as “Joy” and “Saigo no Bus” follow the electronic sound they were going with in Check Out World while the synthesizers in “Hima tsubushi Part 2″ has a slight BEAT CRUSADERS feel. The standout track on the album for me was “Kakukakushikajika.” It’s a nice acoustic piece with violin and some synth that feels completely out of place but is very calming. So far, this band hasn’t released one solid album from start to finish but just like the rest, SING! has a few great tracks.
With the release of their debut album, NICO Touches the Walls has entered the non-visual domain of popular J-Rock. The album starts with “Broken Youth” which was used as a recent OP for Naruto Shippoden. The aggressive forward going lyrics saves it from being a cliche rock song, even if it has some Asian Kung-Fu Generation flavor. Also included is the immense first single “The Bungy,” a great folk/country infused rock song.“Bunny Girl to Danny Boy” has a catchy chorus and starts off in handclaps, the whaling guitars on “Yoru no Hate” are a treat, too. Who Are You? has its fair share of slower, funk driven songs such as “Etranger,” “Hottoshita,” and “Aoi” but thankfully they are spread out on the album. This band has it’s similarities to bands like Asian Kung-Fu Generation and Snowkel but there are definitely some quirks on this album that makes it stand out. It may not be as progressiva as the single “The Bungy” but it’s J-Rock done right.
Various Artists- Yowavinalaaaafincha? – A Tribute To Snuff -
You have no idea how much I love Japanese tribute albums. Even though I’ve never listened to Snuff before, I happily sat down and listened to this. Unfortunately, that means I cannot compare these covers to the originals. Some songs I really liked, “I Know What You Want” by MUGWUMPS, “What Kind of Love” by Ken Yokoyama, “Now You Don’t Remember” by FUCK YOU HEROES, “Dickt Trois” by RAZORS EDGE, “That’s Enough” by COKEHEAD HIPSTERS, and of course, “Sweet Dreams” by BEAT CRUSADERS. With the exception of PUFFY (who does a fine version “Not Listening”), I appreciate that they actually chose punk bands to cover punk songs, most of which do not have major-label backing. This tribute album has succeeded in getting me interested in more Snuff.
THE WINNER’S CIRCLE (PICK OF THE MONTH)
Simply put, September had too many albums full of win to just pick one. Seeing as at least two of these albums will finish in my top three of the year, it would be unfair to just choose one. Instead, I decided to highlight all three of them. Beware, these three bands represent the finest, most original music you’ve heard on this blog.
mutyumu- i l ya
Imagine putting the best classical, hardcore, opera, visual-kei, post-rock, and deathmetal bands into a blender and you have mutyumu, the most diverse and unique band in the scene right now. Vocals range from the operatic hatis noi to deathmetal screams. But it’s always something you wouldn’t expect. The album starts with a nice instrumental song and explodes in “die Ewige Wiederkunft.” “L’œil est Dieu” starts off in massive screaming with classical piano but then follows to hatis’ opera vocals. Violins join in later and it all blurs together into one of the greatest songs ever written (I’m serious). Up next is “toi et moi” which starts off jazz-like but follows a more pop-format with no screaming. “doxa incarnatate” has a gothic/visual-kei style while “unforgiven” and “raison d’etre” are almost straight up post-rock. “sappho” is melacholic and evolves into “prayer,” an epic 10-minute journey that starts with only vocals but explodes in violin, drumming, and opera chants. The album ends in a piano/violin duet with World’s end girlfriend “hai no hi,” a much deserved break from the epicness of the prior material. With so many genres mashed together, this album has something for everyone. I fear their uniqueness will likely repel mainstream music fans, which may not be a bad thing, but this band deserves all the hype it has been getting recently.
Japanese post-rock bands are a dime a dozen, but sgt. is the first one that has been able to surpass Mono in my eyes. In Stylus Fantasticus, sgt. has been able to combine the best of post-rock with the best of jazz. Violin, piano, and sax are rarely used efficiently in post-rock but not so for this band. The album starts off with a slower, piano driven song but then explodes in guitar for “Dilemma Game.” The next two songs slowly start throwing more piano and sax in until we get to “Saisei to Misshitsu.” Epic is one word to describe Saisei, the amount of sax is great but so perfect and fitting. A highly addictive and fast paced song given it’s six-minute runtime. A short, slow song follows but then is replaced with the 16-minute “Ginga wo Kowashite” that exemplifies the perfection of their violist. The last song, “Munoyuragi” is another long one but returns to that same great sax. If you’re looking for a band that perfectly blends post-rock and jazz, sgt. is your man.
Zazen Boys have struck the perfect chord between ambient, electro, and funk on their fourth self-titled album. Mukai, the Boys’ lead singer starts off “Asobi” with a shout-out to his recording studio. The song itself is nothing short of amazing, and the video for it is damn near perfect. The handclaps and synth are immaculate. “Honnoji” drops the electronics for a minute to center on tribal drumming and leads perfectly into the incredibly repititous “Weekeeeeeeeeennnnd”. The next three songs have more of a funk flavor and center more on guitars. “Tarantine” will likely annoy many. The drums last for about 5 seconds before another 10 seconds of silence. Eventually the silences transform into long poetic monologues by Mukai. I really wish I knew what he’s saying, his tone gets hilarious near the ending. Following is “The Drifing/I Don’t Wanna Be With You” which morphs into a dancetrack in it’s second half. The album ends with the incredibly reflective and pulsating “Sabaku.” The drumming and soft electronics will likely put you in a trance and is the perfect way to end the album. This album is the perfect soundtrack for fall and I’ve had it on repeat for several weeks now.