Archive for the ‘perfect piano lesson’ Category

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This Year In J-Rock: 2008

July 25, 2009

Most music blogs give you their year end lists days before Christmas.  Not here at J-rock Explosion.  We give it to you at Christmas in July.  There’s really no excuse for me this time.  I had the list mostly finished by the end of January, I was just too lazy to put pictures and words.  But I think it gave me enough time to fine tune the list, kick off the albums I never listened to since, etc.  Have fun!

Top 3 EPs

3. perfect piano lesson- Terra incognita

With Terra incognita, perfect piano lesson has successfully fused indie and post-rock.  From the quiet and reflective “stew,” to the slow building “untitled,” this is perfect piano lesson’s finest offering to date.  But we still have a couple of their upbeat rock songs, including the excellent closer “Electric City.”

http://www.myspace.com/perfectpianolesson

2. winnie- The Darkest Eternal Lights

With duel male/female vocals, winnie’s first release is a memorable one.  Their English vocals and pop rock tendencies are similar to bands like Jimmy Eat World.  It can be sweet (but tonally dark), as in “lost your sky” and “only time will tell,” or aggressive as in “suck my brain.” I’m not impressed with the single “Starlike Radio” and it’s all male vocals but the rest of the EP makes up for it.

http://www.myspace.com/winnieweb

1. Thursday/Envy- Split (US Release)

Temporary Residence really knocked themselves out on this release.  Not only did they bring over one of the best hardcore bands from Japan, but also one of the best from America (New Jersey to be exact).  As a fan of Thursday previously, I was impressed with their post-rock offerings and “As He Climbed the Dark Mountain,” which made it to their newest album.  Envy’s side started off slowly with a nice post-rock intro and then burst into full on post-hardcore for the rest of their material.  I was surprised, there wasn’t much screaming on Insomniac Doze and then they start resembling the band I loved on All the footprints.  It will also be memorable to me for two reasons, 1) It’s the first album I bought on vinyl and 2) I made a music video for envy’s “an umbrella fallen into fiction” for my television production class (more on that in another post!).

http://www.myspace.com/thursday

http://www.myspace.com/officialenvy

Top 10 Albums

10. the telephones- Japan

The Telephones took us to the urban disco on their debut mini-album and now they bring us back to their home country on their debut album.  I was surprised how chill some of the songs on this album were, in particular the single “Free Throw.”  However, there’s plenty of crazy songs like “DaDaDa” and “sick rocks.”  1, 2, 3, 4, can’t you understand?

http://www.myspace.com/thetelephonesjapan

9. sgt.- Stylus Fantasticus

Ever since post-rock became scene a couple of years ago, bands have constantly tried to infuse different genres into it, jazz being prevalent.  Well, most of these bands just ended up sounding like…jazz.  To this day, sgt. has been the only band that has successfully incorporated jazz and post-rock.  “Saisei to Misshitsu” is a prime example of how to combine horns into a perfectly good post-rock song.

http://www.myspace.com/sgtofficial

8. noughts and exes- Act One, Scene One (US Release)


Why are you including a Chinese band in your top 10 Japanese albums?  Because I love Joshua Wong.  Not to mention, their song “A Minor To A Major” made it’s way to MTV’s Real World (it’s true, I sat through a full hour of this show.  It was horrible.).  Can you say that about any other Japanese band I posted on this blog?  Nope.  Noughts and exes isn’t as good as Wong’s previous band, Whence He Came, but it serves up some nice indie rock.  And I already decided “Everything In You” will be my wedding song, in like 20 years.

http://www.myspace.com/noughtsandexes

7. Beat Crusaders- popdod


It’s been ten years since the band (or just Toru Hidaka) have been together, time to put out a new album!  I’m actually surprised how quickly this album came out, since “Winterlong” was the only single (EPopMaking had soooo many more).  Despite the rush job, there’s plenty of classics on here, like “Time Flies, Everything Goes,” “Chinese Jet Set” and “Work It Out.”

6. Spangle call Lilli line- Isolation

Kana Otsubo has a truly beautiful voice and ISOLATION proves it.  During the fall semester, I went through 2 or 3 straight weeks of listening to this in the morning on the way to school.  There’s nothing like watching the sun rise up with ISOLATION as the soundtrack.  It’s impossible to listen to this and not be put in a good mood.

http://www.myspace.com/spanglecalllilliline

5. Polysics- We ate the machine (US Release)

Grower.  Not a word I thought I would associate with a Polysics album.  I was disappointed with the J-pop direction they seemed to be heading with in “Rocket” and “Pretty Good,” not to mention “You You You” and “Catch on Everywhere” from Karate House, but this album is just as crazy as any of their others.  We ate the machine includes the band’s first endeavor in disco (“irotokage”), breakcore (“arigatou”), shoegaze (“Blue Noise”), and their biggest breakdown yet at the end of “Dry or Wet.”  Yeah, the Polysics are just as spastic as ever.

http://www.myspace.com/polysicsna

4. Zazen Boys- Zazen Boys 4

If you’re looking for another Japanese hipster band ala Cornelius, Zazen Boys is up your alley.  Zazen Boys 4 is the Zazen Boys’ fourth self-titled album and my favorite to date.  They hooked me right away with the electronic “Asobi.”  The rest of the album is full of eccentricities, the funky “Weekend,” the speak easy vibe in “Taratine,” and the 10 minute dance track “I don’t want to be with you.”

http://www.myspace.com/zazenboys

3. kacica- Mosaic (US Release)

The first name that pops up when I think Japanese shoegaze is kacica.  Mosaic is simply beautiful. Misato yamanaka has a way of sounding like an angel through peaceful musical landscapes or chaos.  Just hearing her voice amidst the hardcore tribal drumming in the title track  “mosaic” gives me shivers.  And I don’t even care if the only way I can understand her English is if I’m reading the booklet alongside it. I highly recommend buying all of their CDs off CD Baby.

http://www.myspace.com/kacicajapan

2. capsule- More! More! More!

Capsule only had time to record one album in 2009, but it’s one of their best. I knew I was in for something special when I watched the 7 minute “JUMPER” music video.  They have successfully transitioned from shibuya-kei to techno/dance and I’m surprised they haven’t attracted Daft Punk fame yet.

http://www.myspace.com/capsulemyspace

1. mutyumu (夢中夢)- イリヤ ~ il y a ~

Opera.  Death Metal.  Post-rock.  Just some of the genres mutyumu clashes together on their sophomore album.  Throw in guest appearances from midori and World’s end girlfriend and you know you’re in for one hell of an album.  Il y a has garnered some praise in the west via the post-rock blogosphere.  In a few years, I think they may even have a large cult following like Mono or Envy.

http://www.myspace.com/mutyumujapan

Close Calls:

Akeboshi- Roundabout- If I had to pick a top artist of the year, it would be Akeboshi.  Like many others, my first introduction to him was Naruto years ago.  Despite loving “Wind,” I have largely ignored him until now.  Akeboshi puts most folk musicians to shame.  Meet Along The Way is one of the best albums of the past five years.  Unfortunately, Roundabout is the only material he put out in 2008.  Even though it’s just b-sides, it includes two of my favorite songs of his, “One Step Behind the Door” and “Along the Line.”

avengers in sci-fi- Science Rock- Dance to the sci-fi music! http://www.myspace.com/avengersinscifi

Comeback My Daughters- EXPerience- An excellent mix of folk and indie rock from the Pizza of Death veterans. http://www.myspace.com/comebackmydaughters

Cornelius- Gum EP- The best song off of 2006′s Sensuous was not on the album.  Thankfully, “Cue” made it to this little EP.  Not to mention the “Eat White Paint” remix of “Fit Song.” http://www.myspace.com/corneliusofficial

enie meenie- Fantasy of Life- Enie meenie has been known for synth crazy powerpop, but they take it down a notch on their latest album, substituting some synth with saloon style piano.  One of my favorite punk-pop bands.  http://www.myspace.com/eniemeenie

GALLOW- Too Virgin!!- It’s no secret, I love the Beat Crusaders.    GALLOW is Toru Hidaka’s and Yukio Iwahara’s “neo-acoustic” side project.  If you’re familiar with the Beat Crusader’s synthesized horns, imagine them over acoustic guitar and you have GALLOW.  In the short month between the release of this and popdod, Toru Hidaka’s English improved ten times.  Peculiar.  http://www.myspace.com/gallowjapan

Mass of the Fermenting Dregs- Mass of the Fermenting Dregs- A powerful debut mini-album from the female duo.  The girls can rock.  http://www.myspace.com/motfd

midori- Aratame mashite, Hajime mashite, Midori desu- Okay, I admit, one of the reasons this didn’t make my top 10 is because the album cover is a naked anime character.  But midori is still as crazy as ever.  Who doesn’t love girls screaming over jazz music?

Muon- The New Mutants- This deserves a mention just for “This Is Not the End.”  Not to say that’s the only good track on the album.  Did I mention it’s free? http://www.myspace.com/muonmagick

Saw Loser- Hits Hit the Fan- 2008 may have seen the last of Saw Loser, but not before releasing cover album genius.  From old school hits “Karma Chameleon” and “Fly Me To the Moon,” to James Blunt’s recent pop sensation “You’re Beautiful,” Hits Hit the Fan is a blast.  They even made the Friends theme song tolerable. http://www.myspace.com/sawloser


For more close calls, check out my RYM list!  http://rateyourmusic.com/list/slickwataris/best_of_2008

Now I hate to leave you without a look at 2009, so here are my top 5 albums at the moment:

5. Ogre You Asshole- Pinhole- A single, but my favorite release of theirs so far.

4. FACT-FACT- Uneven at times, but I’m glad there’s another band that managed to crack into the American market.

3. Utada- This Is the One- I didn’t like this one as much as Exodus, but it’s still pretty catchy.  I think she even managed to crack the Billboard 100 with this one.

2. 80kidz- This Is My Shit- If you like Daft Punk or Justice, you’ll love this band.  A lot of fun techno songs.

1. buddhistson- SLOWDANCE ~wisely and slow they stumble that dance fast~- The second I heard buddhistson was recording a new album, I knew it would shoot up to the top of my list.  Two perfect records in a row, congrats.

Well, that’s it for this year.  Hopefully next year’s will come earlier.  If you want a leg up, here’s my 2009 list on rate your music.  Or come back for the return of This Month In J-Rock (next week?).  Here’s some great 2008 music videos to tide you over: Read the rest of this entry ?

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This Month in J-Rock: June 2008

July 1, 2008

My latest attempt at a listen and review article. The plan is to post one of these at the end of every month with my opinions on this month’s releases. In addition, at the end of every post you will find my “hype” list for the following month. However, thanks to Wizard World and Wall-E last weekend this first one has come a little late! But enjoy it anyway. Comments, etc. would be appreciated. I added myspace pages where available so you can listen to the artist. I was going to post videos but youtube deletes them the day after I post them so…why bother. Any release with a (*) after the review is highly recommended.

THE SINGLES

DOPING PANDA- Beautiful Survivor

DOPING PANDA’s latest single comes 3 months after their 3rd full length album Dopamaniacs. “Beautiful Survivor” is your typical Dopan song with sweeping synth beats and a catchy chorus. The b-side “We say we love each other” has a more laid back r&b style. Over-all, this isn’t a groundbreaking single that brings DOPING PANDA into new musical territory like “Miracle” or “I’ll Be There” did but will undoubtedly please the fan’s fix.

http://www.myspace.com/dopingpanda

Genki Rockets- Star Line/Smile

And then it dawned it on me half way through “Smile,” Genki Rockets sounds a lot like Hilary Duff. The lyrics are cheesy and sound like it was written by a pre-teen. Yeah I was a little disappointed with this one. Last summer, this “computer experiment” released the really great “Heavenly Star” and “Breeze” singles which had a great techno beat and were super happy. Although “Smile” was a let down, “Star Line” was pretty great. The song has a rock beat but has a very catchy chorus. The remixes are fun but absolutely forgettable. Their first full-length is supposed to come out tomorrow so I still have hope.

http://www.myspace.com/genkirockets

NICO Touches the Walls- The Bungy

A random download worth noting. “The Bungy” is a really fun song with a lot of handclaps and country twanging. The b-side “Simon Said” is much slower with a lot more emphasis on vocals. The band hasn’t released a full length album yet but have another new single coming out in August. They’ve been put on my radar. (*)

THE ALBUMS

Asian Kung-Fu Generation- Imada Minu Asu Ni

Arriving three months after their last full-length album, I didn’t see this coming. Seriously. I just found it randomly on my torrent site and assumed it was an old release with higher bit rate. Oh well. This mini-album compiles 6 b-sides from World, World, World. It sounds a lot like their old songs but none of them are very distinguishing or memorable. I can see why they were left on the cutting room floor.

ketchup mania- F.L.A.G.

I came into this album expecting ska but what I got was uber fast punk rock with a tint of metal. Songs here are simple with repetitious lyrics but that’s not a bad thing. Many songs such as “BAD! BAD! BAD!,” “Please! Marry Me,” and “Just a Mess!” essentially repeat the title of the song over and over. Now that you mention it, half the songs have an exclamation point in their title! Song’s like “Ping-Pong” venture into metal territory and sounds similar to Maximum the Hormone. It’s hard not to smile when listening to this album. From track one, Ketchup Mania has never backed down on this album. Each song is faster and catchier than the one before it. With their increased exposure in America, I think we can expect great things from them in the future. (*)

http://www.myspace.com/ketchupmaniajf

Locofrank- BRAND-NEW OLD-STYLE

As the album title implies, if you expected anything less than the sweet pop-punk they’ve always made, you’re a fool. The new album continues with their full Engrish vocals that are more incomprehensible than ever. Seriously, if an English speaking population can’t make sense of your lyrics, why bother? It just sounds a lot like whining.

http://www.myspace.com/locofrank

The Novembers- Picnic

Gotta love picnics. A smorgasbord or sandwiches, cheeses, bread, etc. Simply put, The Novembers debut album brings nothing unique to the picnic table. It’s the same J-rock song over and over. It doesn’t get interesting until the singer starts screaming half-way through the ninth track. As disappointed as I was, I gotta give props to the artist who drew the album cover for this and their debut EP. Very neat.

http://www.myspace.com/thenovembers11

Perfect Piano Lesson- Terra Incognita

I have to say, I was disappointed the first time I listened to this band. Perhaps because their song titles implied “dance band” and what I got was “indie rock.” I’m proud to say my opinion of perfect piano lesson has changed dramatically with this release. They have took on a post-rock atmosphere with this latest mini-album. Actually, they remind me of one of my greatest J-Rock finds from last year–eksperimentoj. Although piano’s songs are shorter, both bands sing in ok English and have great guitar work (and they both have an epic 7-minute track by the name “untitled”). “Death At the Library” is great and I love the gang vocals on “Electric City.” (*)

http://www.myspace.com/perfectpianolesson

the pillows- Pied Piper

Just because you’re signed to a major label doesn’t mean you have to make shitty pop music! “I am scarecrowoh,” remember that horror of a tune from their last album? Well, luckily the pillows realized it was shit and moved back to their rock n’ roll roots with PIED PIPER. This is such a dramatic improvement it has actually rejuvenated my interest in the band and they’re one of my favorites again. The album contains the singles “New Surrender,” “Ladybird Girl,” and my favorite, the heavy ska influenced “Tokyo Bambi” featuring the Tokyo Ska Paradise Orchestra. In addition we get another great instrumental named “Tokyo Zombie” and even a little cello in “Last Holiday.” My other favorite is easily the hand clap laden “Purple Apple” which has been on repeat the past few days. (*)

http://www.myspace.com/thepillows

PICK OF THE MONTH

BEAT CRUSADERS-popdod

What a surprise, he chose the new BEAT CRUSADERS album as the pick of the month? Indeed. Coming a year after their last album, EPopMaking, and after only one single (wasn’t it like 5 or 6 last time?) “Winterlong,” this came as quite a surprise. Popdod celebrates the 10th anniversary of the band as well as Toru Hidaka’s 40th birthday. The album starts off with their latest single “Time Flies, Everything Goes,” a feel good song. In fact, they all are. If you’ve ever listened to the band before, you’ll know to expect. My favorite songs are “Work It Out,” the traditional 1 experimental techno song per BECR album, and “Chinese Jet Song,” which has a great call and response chorus. “Summer End” is a bit more mainstream rock, and feels similar to past songs “Say Goodnight” or “Zenith.” The album ends with “Jive” whose style hails back to their good old indie days.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR NEXT MONTH

Electrico- We Satellites: Third full length album. Considering that I haven’t been able to find their first two albums legally or illegally, I doubt I will be able to review this.

ELLEGARDEN- ELLEGARDEN BEST (1999-2008 ): Weak. Very Weak. First off, it should be titled “1999-2006″ since they haven’t released anything since Eleven Fire Crackers. You will be missed.

enie meenie- Fantasy of Life: At least this band will carry ELLEGARDEN’s torch. Semi-cheesy pop-punk with neat synthesizers. They remind me of old school Motion City Soundtrack.

GALLOW- TOO VIRGIN!!: This band is in one way, shape, or form related to Toru Hidaka of BEAT CRUSADERS. Therefore it must be good.

GENKI ROCKETS- I -Heavenly Star-: This has been delayed several months now so we’ll see.

Saw Loser- Hits Hit the Fan: These guys have been blowing up around Asia the past few years. This album contains 10 classic cover songs such as “You’re Beautiful” and “Fly Me to the Moon.”

Versailles- Noble: “OMG, he’s excited about a visual-kei band?” Yeah…I was shocked too. This is their 2nd shot at a “full-length” album. They remembered “The Revenant Choir” this time.

See you next month!

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