Archive for May, 2010

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J-Rock Fridays Vol. 21

May 28, 2010

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Nothing’s Carved In Stone- “Cold Reason”

I actually watched this video from beginning to end, twice. If this is the kind of stuff NCIS is going to churn out, Ellegarden can stay dead.

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trademark

May 25, 2010

myspace band of the week

I’ve always been a sucker for a good indie pop band with a strong female vocalist.  And since I have to wait another month until Stars releases The Five Ghosts, I’ll check out the new Captain Haus band, trademark.

A biography is absent from trademark’s myspace and homepage, so yay for less writing.  Basically, trademark follows in the tradition of J-pop vocals over indie rock similar to polyABC or Sotaisei Riron.  “Music” starts off slow, but gradually adds in some nice boy-girl vocals.  The next song (無題-Untitled) tunes down the guitars to highlight Mie Ayako’s tender vocals.  It’s the kind of song you hear in your head when you watch the stars in the middle of a lake on your row boat.  “Umi” is an interesting experimental track, with a lot of glitches and ambient sound.  Hopefully, it’s not the last of it’s kind on the actual album.  “Sight” provides powerful guitar and vocals while “Scenery” could have easily passed for a te’ song if the vocals were removed.  Mie Ayako’s ability to provide sweet vocals through heavy and slow guitar work and the occasional chaos is a strong point of this band.

Gioia!, trademark’s first album in four years, comes out June 9 in Japan.  You can watch the video for the first single “circus” below.

http://www.myspace.com/trademarkjapan

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ACEN Live Review: Aural Vampire

May 23, 2010

What does Anime Central mean to me?  The only time of the year I get to see live music.  And do otaku stuff.  So when I heard they got Aural Vampire to perform, I was exited to see another Japanese band live even if I never heard of them.  What better way to celebrate ACEN’s thirteenth anniversary.  I guess vampires are in.

Aural Vampire is a Gothic electronic darkwave synthpop band who just released their debut major label album ZOLTANK via avex.  They consist of Exo-Chika on vocals and RAVEMAN on electronics.  They arrived on stage twenty minutes late in a barrage of seizure-inducing flashing lights.  Exo-Chika donned a blood-stained white gown with prosthetic fangs and pigtails down to her waist while RAVEMEN came in leather, a cowboy hat, and a flashing helmet ala Daft Punk.

Blood stains aside (later she changed into a black gothic lolita dress), Exo-Chika was your typical J-pop idol.  Vocals were in line with Oricon chart toppers and her dance moves were off just enough to make everyone think she was cute.  For a vampire, I found myself thinking “kawaii” more than “ew.”  But who knows, maybe the lyrics are about axe murderers and boys that sparkle like diamonds in the sunlight.  Overall she was a decent frontwoman, even if her English was bad (both times she tried to introduce the band, RAVEMAN had to cut her off to mask the awkward silence).

RAVEMAN is kind of an enigma.  And not just because of his mask.  He spent about a third of the performance walking around with a joystick-synthesizer board, doing his best Omadaka impression.  The rest of the time he spent walking around like a sick puppy dog–sometimes imitating Exo-Chika’s dance moves, or hovering over her shoulder, or just watching the rolling video behind him.  I don’t think I saw him at his laptop station for more than two minutes.  It’s a shame because his beats were far more interesting than the vocals.  Exo-Chika gave him a great opportunity to show his stuff when she walked off stage to change.  This was the moment to show off his DJ skills.  But what does he do?  Invite zombie cosplayers from the crowd onstage and film them (hey, I wasn’t allowed to bring my camera in).  I would’ve liked to see him work his instruments more.  I could set a boom-box on stage and stand around, too.

For a pair of people who have performed together since high school, I expected a little more chemistry on stage.  It seemed like they spent more time ignoring each other.  I guess vampires and “butchers” don’t mix.

Their music is not as creepy as you would think.  I did enjoy their techno vibe and RAVEMAN’s beats had more than one middle-aged gentleman in the crowd pumping his fists.  Exo-Chika’s vocals clicked for me later on when I listened to the CD.  My favorite songs that I remember they played are “Freeeeeze!” and “Hot Blood Workout.”  I also enjoyed their encore performance of “PNFPN” that featured strange video of a goat in the background.  There was also one more song with a rap in it that I couldn’t find on either of their albums.  The only reason I remember that song is because of RAVEMAN’s obvious lip sync fail when he tried to rap into the bottom end of a flashlight and gave up mid sentence.

Overall I was disappointed by their stand-offish stage presence.  They came off as more awkward than frightening.  I did watch some live videos on YouTube when I came home, and they definitely looked more into it than they did at ACEN.  I’m hoping it’s because they just had a long weekend and not because avex crushed their souls.  On their own, RAVEMAN is a great DJ and Exo-Chika could have a successful solo career (RAVEMAN already has Futon Disco).  Their album sounds great, but I had to wonder why they were together on stage.

In any case, I did buy their CD after the show and got it signed.  I’ve played it on repeat for the past week so I guess I like it.

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Alternative Medicine

May 18, 2010

myspace band of the week

Tired of hearing Japanese punk bands butcher the English language?  Alternative Medicine is here to save the day.

The band formed in 2002 while they were still in high school.  They named their band Alternative Medicine because they were really into alternative music such as The Smashing Pumpkins at the time.  They play pop punk and pop rock music, mostly sung in English.  Their vocalist lived in Chicago between the ages of 7 and 11, which makes his vocals so much more understandable than other punk bands in Japan. Their major influences are Fall Out Boy, Valencia, and The Starting Line.

Currently all of the songs on their myspace are samples off their upcoming mini-album Songs To Sing Along To.  Most notably at the top is their punk rock cover of Owl City’s “Fireflies,” which would be the first time I found that particular song listenable.  The rest of the songs are up-tempo pop punk songs, except for “On the Road Again” that has more of a mainstream rock vibe.  “Take Me Away,” “Sing Along,” and “Everything” are really fun songs, and are at least on Fall Out Boy level.  The only songs sung in Japanese are “Hang Glider” and “Talk 2 U Soon,” which kind of reminds me of Scott Murphy’s solo stuff.

Alternative Medicine is definitely one of the best new pop punk bands out there.  Not only do their English lyrics make sense, they are catchy, which is a rarity.  This should bring them some fame, if not in Japan, then at least overseas if they ever get the opportunity.

http://www.myspace.com/alternativemedicineemo

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J-Rock Fridays Vol. 20

May 14, 2010

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Shugo Tokumaru- “Rum Hee”

I’ve been listening to Shugo a lot lately, mainly his new album Port Entropy.  “Rum Hee” is from that album and last year’s EP.  Probably one of his more mainstream songs, but I love the birdcalls in the background.

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Hot Hot Sex

May 11, 2010

myspace band of the week

That’s one way to get your attention.  Think of all the awkward stares you’ll receive when you tell people you like Hot Hot Sex.  If I didn’t know better, I would congratulate them for being daring, but it’s pretty obvious they named themselves after a CSS song (which was unfortunately used in a iPod Touch commercial).  And the CSS influence is pretty heavy here, from the vocals to the electronics.

The first song “Demon is here” starts with some nice electronics.  Then come the vocals, that sound so much like something Lovefoxxx would write I spent the next 20 minutes skipping through Cansei de ser sexy to make sure it wasn’t  a cover song.  It’s still a fun song regardless.  “Manhattan Chips” tunes down the keyboards a bit in favor of handclaps for more of a indie-rock approach. “Petrol Station Dislikes His Fashion” and “655321” almost sound like live recordings and follow in the footsteps of the previous songs.  Hot Hot Sex may not yet show much in the way of originality, but I do love my dance rock bands, and their memorable name will make them stand out in the future.

http://www.myspace.com/hhsexxx

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Don’t wake up the KIDS!!

May 5, 2010

It’s amazing what you can find out in chat boxes.  Looks like Ken Yokoyama just released an acoustic split album in March with Joey Cape (Lagwagon) and Duncan Redmonds (Snuff).  What’s ironic is that all three were lead vocalists in Fat Wreck Chords bands (Ken Yokoyama fronted Hi-Standard from 1991-2000) and are now solo.  I never really got in to Snuff, but my love for Lagwagon/Joey Cape’s stuff is really overshadowing Ken’s involvement in this thing.  Good luck finding a place to download/order it.  Would Fat Mike like to release one more album from his brethren?  Clips of all eight tracks can be found in the video below:

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Carsick Cars

May 4, 2010

myspace band of the week

It’s been a while since J-Rock Explosion left Japan.  So I thought I’d check out the only Asian band on MTV Iggy’s 25 Best New Bands In The World list.

Carsick Cars has been gaining steady attention overseas lately, thanks to their appearance at SXSW earlier this year, not to mention opening for  Sonic Youth in 2007 in Europe.  The trio formed in 2005 in Beijing.  Their music sounds very much like their listed influences: Sonic Youth, Joy Division, etc.  So far they’ve released two albums, Carsick Cars in 2007 and You Can Listen You Can Talk in 2009.

The first song on their myspace “Zhong nan hai,” apparently their favorite brand of cigarettes, is a good place to start.  It’s catchy, if not overly repetitive, but succumbs to some nice guitar riffs in the latter half.  “Mo Gu” is another catchy Chinese song.  Songs like “Pan,” “Rock ‘n’ Roll Hero,” and “You Can Listen You Can Talk” showcase their ability to write songs in English.  Luckily they’re just as catchy as their Chinese ones. Some songs are more experimental like “Invisible Love”  and “C,” but for the most part they play accessible indie rock.  Carsick Cars is one of the most talked about underground Chinese bands worldwide and I can see why.

Free mp3: You Can Listen You Can Talk

http://www.myspace.com/carsickcars

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Super Health

May 1, 2010

Who knew it was a real store.

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