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This Month In J-Rock- November 2008

July 4, 2009

A full 8 months late.  I can’t bear to see this on the front page.  Hit the jump if you dare.

The long lost November 2008 edition of “This Month In J-Rock”!  I wrote most of these reviews months ago so bear with me.  I’ve been busy with school and I graduated in May, jobless.  I still intend to do the months I missed this year (January, February, March) but probably in a different format, after I complete my Best of 2008 of course.

THE SINGLES

Acidman- I Stand Free

Acidman is content to be the next “chill” band.  “I Stand Free” is a harmless tune backed by acoustic guitar.  The chorus raises it’s tempo but slows down once again during the verses.  The b-side “O (second line)” is much better.  Again, the song is mostly acoustic guitar but has nice coffee house bongos in background.  This isn’t the kind of music I expect to blow up in Japan but makes for good magazine reading time.  (1/2*)


HALCALI- Long Kiss Goodbye

I’m pretty sure HALCALI played this song when I saw them live in Chicago.  Or at least an earlier version.  “Long Kiss Goodbye” is the latest ending theme from Naruto Shippuden.  It’s a ballad with the usual HALCALI rhymes.  Similiar to “Tip Taps Tip” from Eureka Seven but not as good.  It’s accompanied by an instrumental version and a really cool song named “Flash.”  It has more of a dance vibe than we’re used to from the girls. (1/2*)

http://www.myspace.com/halcali

THE MINI-ALBUMS


hare-brained unity- Recent Disco System

Dance rock seems to be the new trend in the J-indie scene.  Last month we had Art-School’s Illmatic Baby and this month, hare-brain’s Recent Disco System.  The mini-album starts with a “prologue” that perfectly segues into the first track “ALIVE.”  The rest of these tracks are just OK.  I would’ve liked to hear less singing and more electronic beeps and vocador experimentation.  “EVIL DANCE” gets it right, a disco rock instrumental, but the last two tracks are too long for their own good.  Hare-brained are getting close to what they‘re looking for but it still needs some work.  (½*)

http://www.myspace.com/harebrainedunity


Oceanlane- Look Inside the Mirror

Oceanlane brings us a new mini-album with three totally different songs.  “So Alone” starts off this collection, fast paced and furious–“I’m so alone when I’m with you!”  The title track, “Look Inside the Mirror,” has expected introspective lyrics.  It’s a slow pop tune, complete with do-do-do’s.  “Lights Up My Soul” is their first experimentation in dance rock (remember that new trend I mentioned in the above review?).  The lyrics are corny as #@$% but I can’t bring myself to hate it.  These are fine songs and I can’t wait for their new album in January. (*)

http://www.myspace.com/oceanlaneofficial


the telephones- Love & Disco

The Telephones are at the forefront of the dance/disco J-indie rock movement, maybe.  I have a feeling no one has heard of them.  Which is a shame since their songs are very catchy.  I’m not overly impressed with the title track, but “RIOT!!” “electric girl,” and “beautiful bitch” are all great songs.   The chorus of “Wooo Hoooo,” which I’m sure you can guess, makes it a great feel good song.  The final track “Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah” asks us to clap our hands and then gives us a bonus track after several minutes of silence. (*)

http://www.myspace.com/thetelephonesjapan

Thursday/Envy- Split (US Release)

It’s wonderful seeing Japanese and American bands play together, releasing albums together.  Thursday has been at the forefront of the American hardcore scene for roughly a decade.  They have four songs on this split EP, two with lyrics and two instrumentals.  To be honest, the two instrumentals, “In Silence” and “Appeared And Was Gone,” sound similar to “Music From Kill the House Lights” off their b-sides album.  But it’s nice to see them try something different.  Envy’s side starts off with quiet electronic tinkering in “An Umbrella Fallen Into Fiction” but then explodes in screaming around the four minute mark.  Their other songs, “Isolation of a Light Source” and “Pure Birth and Loneliness,” are rather fast paced compared to the last couple of albums in their discography.  It’s funny, Envy has essentially become a post-rock band but Thursday is the only band on this split who has instrumental tracks on it.  I was a fan of both bands before hearing this and they both exceeded my expectations.  (*)

http://www.myspace.com/thursday

http://www.myspace.com/officialenvy

THE ALBUMS

Ami Suzuki- Supreme Show

This is Ami’s second album release of 2008.  It includes both singles “can’t stop the DISCO” and “ONE,” as well as both their b-sides “A token of love,” “climb up to the top,” and “SUPER MUSIC MAKER (SA’08S A MIX).”  This leaves for only five new songs, but with capsule front man Yasutaka Nakata producing every track on this album, you know it’s going to be gold.  My favorite tracks on this album are still the single b-sides “climb up to the top” and “A token of love.”  The new songs are pretty good, though, especially “TEN” and “change my life.”  This is the first Ami Suzuki album that a thoroughly enjoyed the whole way through.  I’m not a fan of her “idol” work.  (*)


Asian Kung-Fu Generation- Surf Bungaku Kamakura

This one’s pretty bad.  I remember commenting earlier that the single, “Fujisawa Loser,” wasn’t that great.  Unfortunately, “Fujisawa Loser” is the only good track on this album.  Their last album, World World World came out earlier in 2008 and was one of their best in my opinion.  Surf Bungaka just completely destroyed my image of AKFG.  Let’s just forget this ever happened. (-)


avengers in sci-fi- SCIENCE ROCK

The highly anticipated  sophomore album from seminal dance rockers avengers in sci-fi.  The album is full of fast, electronic noises from the very beginning.  “Homosapiens Experience (Save Our Rock Episode 1)” is an onslaught of cyber punk goodness that’s just fun to scream out at the top of your lungs.  The next song is “Save Our Rock” (episode 2?) which tones the repetitive lyrics down but is still a good continuation of the theme.  The rest of the album continues the pattern with fast songs followed by slightly slower songs but all with a great beat. SCIENCE ROCK does not disappoint and I really hope the avengers get the recognition they deserve.  (*)

http://www.myspace.com/avengersinscifi


BACK-ON- YES!!!

I waited 4 years for this?  I guess BACK-ON was too busy visiting anime conventions to record actual new material for this album.  YES!!! contains all their singles, including the anime-related “Chain,” “flower,” and “Blaze Line.”  I’m personally more a fan of their New World material and whatever song Teeda raps on.  My favorite songs are still “Butterfly” and “Drive.”  “Chain” is still great but these “LA mixes” sound no different than the originals.  As a bonus, two BACK-ON remixes are provided by BAReeeeeeeeeeN, a collaboration between the boys and GReeeeN (10 e’s for 10 members, apparently).  Aside from having no new material, the singles don’t really flow together.  They’re known for having crazy rock/rap songs but then they have super chill R&B tracks like “flower” and “Sonomamade.”  It’s clear BACK-ON still doesn’t know what direction they’re headed for.  (-)

http://www.myspace.com/backonjapan


Dir en grey- Uroboros (US Release)

I was prepared for the worst after hearing “Glass Skin” and “Dozing Green.”  But then “Sa Bir” faded into “Vinushka” and I was entranced.  Clocking in at over 9 minutes, “Vinushka” is simply epic and one of their best songs.  “Reiketsu Nariseba” is another favorite of mine.  Uroboros has a general haunting theme with slightly different instrumentation than what they normally use.  The screaming is toned down from their last album, but what’s left has a lot more emotional depth.  For example, the breakdown half way through “Stuck Man.”  The English language versions of “Glass Skin” and “Dozing Green” are laughable, but at least they included the semi-better Japanese versions on the limited edition. There’s definitely some radio rock songs on here but they seem to be moving towards more refined chaos.  (*)

http://www.myspace.com/direngrey


dustbox- Blooming Harvest

Comparisons to Ellegarden are unavoidable.  They both sound like blink 182. Now that Ellegarden is on “indefinite hiatus” a lot of J-punk bands have tried to step up to fill the void.  Dustbox deserves to take the spot.  They first caught my attention with their video for “Tomorrow” from Seeds of Rainbows.  Although the video for “Spacewalk” on this album isn’t as hilarious, it definitely grows on you.  Whoever directs their videos deserves an award.  Blooming Harvest is their 5th album.    The album is pretty much punk straight through, except for the short and sweet lullaby “Sleepless Night.”  Although their songs are cliche and tend to blend together, they have an undeniable cheery message.  I can’t help but feel happier after I listened to them.  “Why not go somewhere?  Life is short.  So you gotta smile more and enjoy our own lives.”  (*)

http://www.myspace.com/dustboxjp

Reach Up To The Universe- You & ME

In 2007, Reach Up To The Universe’s Yankee vocalist mysteriously left the band. Hirokazu Notomi stepped up to fill the role as frontman on this their first full-length album.  I haven’t gotten a chance to listen to their earlier work, but the new vocalist unfortunately lays on the Engrish.  RUTTH is similar in style to winnie or Yellowcard, pop-rock with punk tendencies.  Their main selling point is the addition of cello, occasional boy/girl lyrics, and some electronic elements.  You & Me is a competent debut album.  Songs such as “Faster Mistake,” “S.T.A.R.S,” “Save Me,” “Hand In Hand,” and “Sweet” highlight what the band is capable of. The cello gives the band a distinctive layer that’s the real drawing point for this band to me.  I hope to see great things for this band in the future.  (1/2*)

http://www.myspace.com/ruttu


Spangle call Lilli line- Purple

This is Spangle call Lilli line’s second album of 2008 (third band to do it this month!).  Just months after the release of ISOLATION, the songs here don’t sound that different, “rio” even sounds like “room in octave” part 2.  Regardless, there’s some amazing tunes here, the instrumental “nm” and the single “cast a spell on her” come to mind.  This band has the amazing ability to depress you then cheer you up in the next song.   The vocals are soft and inspirational at the same time.  SCLL is one of my best finds this year. (*)

http://www.myspace.com/spanglecalllilliline

StartOfTheDay- Melody Runner

I tend to think of StartOfTheDay as the type of band Paramore would be if Hayley went mental.  Their singer, Atsuko , who is also female, has some of the worst Engrish vocals I’ve heard.  But amidst the frantic synthesizers, it somehow works.  The formula works well on songs like “Space Eats the Earth” and “Melody Runner,” but horribly on the ballads “Truth Is So Frail,” and “My Book.”  My favorite tracks on this album are actually the ones where the male members step up for vocals, the screaming on “A New Story” is so very intense.  But the real winner on this album is “Add.”  Atsuko steps back and lets one of the guys (?) take full vocals.  It’s very soothing, especially with Atsuko’s humming in the background.  (1/2 *)

http://www.myspace.com/startoftheday

PICK OF THE MONTH

capsule- More! More! More!

Yo I’m the hottest guy around.  It’s been 11 months since FLASH BACK, the longest wait between capsule albums ever, and I’m excited.  Capsule lays on the electro quick on this album.  After the intro, we get a slightly different version of the iTunes single and title track “More, More, More, a thoroughly catchy song.  There’s not a bad song on this album.  “Jumper,” aside from having one of the coolest videos ever, is the first 7 minute dance song I’ve ever been addicted to.  I even love the rap infused “The Time Is Now.”  Other highlights: “e.d.i.t.” and “Phantom.”  This isn’t the shibuya-kei capsule that debuted in 2000, but a very competent techno group that should be rivaling Daft Punk and Justice on the world album charts.

http://www.myspace.com/capsulemyspace

WHAT TO LOOK FOR NEXT MONTH?

Just ignore this.

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4 comments

  1. Eight months late but still awesome. I love the comprehensive run down and at least I’m reminded of what I still need to pick up and what in my collection I should revisit. I enjoy reading your opinions and your BACK-ON commentary is great =P P.S. I voted for Love & Disco by the telephones, of course


  2. Thanks. I try. Shall I get started on January 2009?


  3. Yes, I think you should =) As long as it comes before Janaury 2010, I won’t be too upset =P


  4. you could just listen to the beat of those high bass from Rap songs, i just like rap songs :~:



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