Dutifully, here is the second installment of J-Rock Fridays. This week we have two ambient artists from Preco Records, a screamo band, my favorite electronic song ever, and a flamboyant K-Pop artist.
ent- “Silver Moment”
A neat little stop-motion/animated video starring the one man band known as ent. A mix of electronica, rock, and very decent English vocals. I was surprised to find out that ent is actually Atsuhi Horie, the vocalist of STRAIGHTENER. I never really liked them, but what I’ve heard from ent is marvelous. Ent’s debut album Welcome Stranger is available to order from Preco Records. I’ll definitely pick this up soon. http://www.myspace.com/entjp
Pine*am- “Gymnopedie 0.1”
This may or may not be a strange vocal interpretation of Erik Satie’s Gymnopedie compositions. I pulled out my copy of Pull The Rabbit Ears, but it doesn’t say a damn thing. All I know is that this song makes me happy sad and makes me want to dance around my room. It’s a fun song, but such a downer compared to the rest of the hyper happy songs on the album. I guess that’s why I like it. Enjoy the mp3. http://www.myspace.com/pineam
For the anime fans: Makota Shinkai (Voices of a Distant Star, 5 Centimeters Per Second) used Satie’s original Gymnopedie 1.0 in his short Other Worlds.
This is the type of video electronic stores play on loop to display their HD TVs. The animation matches well with the ambient-electronic song, which is not so fun to listen to in itself. This is the second Preco Records artist this week. They just released his debut album MISC in July. http://www.myspace.com/fredricsonmusic
All I’m going to say is major LOL.
Well, that’s all I got for this week. I’ll be back 2 weeks from now. But I’ll have a few more posts up before that hopefully
Happy Thanksgiving! Thanks for taking the time out of your holiday to visit this little blog. I’m majorly late on this month’s column. I just haven’t been able to bring myself to write. In the end I had to cut a few releases to review but I still left them in the poll. Last month’s poll was a tie between OLIVIA’s Trinka Trinka and Zazen Boys’ Zazen Boys 4. Three votes each. Kind of sad. But anyway, I brought back the rating system:
Asian Kung-Fu Generation- Fujisawa loser
Once again, the new AKFG single is outshined by it’s b-side. “Hello Hello” is a duet with Rachel Haden of The Rentals who originally performed the song. It’s a treat to hear Masafumi Goto sing in English, without stumbling over the words, with the sexy Haden. I wouldn’t mind hearing more of these collaborations in the future. “Fujisawa Loser” isn’t bad but doesn’t bring anything new to their indie rock table. The PV for it is hilariously bizarre, though. (1/2*)
This is Doping Panda’s second collaboration with the hip hop group m-flo. “Majestic Dancer” is your standard Doping Panda single with VERBAL’s rapping inserted in the middle of song. The b-side “chi chi pa pa” returns to the more laid back style on their earlier albums with a slight R&B flavor. The single ends in “Mugendai Dance Time,” a pointless 30 minute track that mashes together several songs from Doping Panda’s career with a robotic voice chanting “Mugendai Dance Time” in-between. I’m not quite sure why this was included. (1/2*)
Art-School- Illmatic Baby
Art-School shows a major shift in direction with the release of “Illmatic Baby.” These guys have clearly listened to Metro Station’s “Shake It” on repeat. “Illmatic Baby” dances it up with the broken English chorus “Shake hip, clap your hands, move your body,” with each phrase being echoed. I don’t know what these guys were thinking. However, it has definitely grown on me after watching their laughable PV for it. The remaining five songs transfer back to Art-School’s softer style. The second song and “Broken White” are great but the others are too slow for my taste. (1/2*)
The Feather Side- Scenes From a Lull in the Rain
The Feather Side is a piano driven indie rock band. They list Mae as an influence, so it suddenly becomes clear why the album cover reminds me of Destination Beautiful. Unfortunately, they are not as good as Mae. Their English is horrible and they come off as whiny emo kids. “Am 4.19,” the only song in Japanese, is the best song on here and ends in a nice instrumental. (-) http://www.myspace.com/thefeatherside
Combining punk and hardcore, Holstein is similar to 9mm Parabellum Bullet or Nature Living. Their English is bad but much more bearable than The Feather Side’s. “Farewell to Our Memories” starts off this EP with a bang followed by “Funeral March” which isn’t nearly as depressing as it sounds. After a short interlude, they come back with the fast “Rene Descartes” followed by the slow building 7-minute title track “Teleology.” Holstein has potential to be the next big emo/scremo act of Japan. (*)
In case you missed my Artist Spotlight, The Predators is the side project of Sawao Yamanaka of the pillows, JIRO of GLAY, and Shinpei Nakayama of STRAIGHTENER. If you listened to The Predators and the pillows side by side, I doubt you’d be able to tell the difference between the two. “Rock N’ Roll Lay Down” and “Shoot the Moon” are insanely catchy while the other tracks are fairly aggressive. “C.R.S. (Come on Ramones)” is an odd-ball song, even though this is apparently a Ramones tribute, much of the bass lines sound identical to Nirvana’s “Smell Like Teen Spirit.” This is only The Predators second EP. Although Sawao Yamanaka has done little to distinguish it from his main project, they are still a great listen. (*)
This is 9mm’s second full-length album including the invigorating single “Wanderland,” the theme song from the anime REAL DRIVE. It seems that their sound has grown faster but more melodic at the same time. “Vampiregirl” is brooding in the verses but has a great pop chorus. “Hide & Seek” is my new favorite 9mm song. The drumming is some of the fastest I’ve heard and the screaming some of the best I’ve heard this year. It’s followed up by the second best song on the album, “The Revenge of Surf Queen,” a three-minute instrumental that has a modest but not overbearing surf-sound. The album ends with “Living Dying Message” that culminates in intense screaming. This is a very solid album, better than their debut, Termination. (*)
It is evident by now that The Captains love group sounds. It is their mission to keep the spirit of group sounds in the hearts and minds of the Japanese people. Thankfully, Tokyo no Records is bringing the group sounds to America. Group sounds was a style of music popular during the 60s in Japan similar to The Beatles. Members of the band were expected to dress in identical, stylish outfits. I Love GS is a 10-song cover album of classic GS songs by bands such as The Spiders and Blue Comets. “Tunnel to Heaven” appeared on Tokyo no Records’ Last Group Sounds release but all the other tracks are new. Unfortunately, I’m just not feeling this album as much as Last Group Sounds. Just like their outfits, most of the songs sound identical, which is probably the reason why GS died. (-)
Unarguably the most misleading album cover of the month. If you expected heavy techno tracks after seeing disco girl on the cover, you would be wrong. Comeback My Daughters is a folk rock band on Pizza of Death Records. Not that that’s a bad thing. This is the second best album of the month. The band sings entirely in English, most of which is understandable. “Hot Chinkee,” “Vice & Vice,” and “Eternal Cheep” are my favorite songs and”Bored Rigid” which includes a nice banjo. With this release, they are officially on my list of best indie bands. (*)
Based in San Francisco, Offend Maggie is Deerhoof’s 12th full-length album. Unlike last year’s more aggressive and punk sounding Friendship Opportunity, Offend Maggie centers more on instrumentation and melody. Led by female vocalist Satomi Matsuzaki, lyrics are switched from English to Japanese frequently but always sound cute. My favorite track is “Basket Ball Get Your Grove Back” with its repetive lyrics “Go go champions! Be be champions!” Lyrics are almost always silly like that. Deerhoof is well respected in the American indie scene. It puzzles me how similar bands like Luminous Orange or Mass of the Fermenting Dregs have not been able to gain attention in America. Probably because they’re 100% Japanese. (1/2*)
Various Artists- METAL-IKKA (Tribute to Metallica)
Let’s face it, the only reason I listened to this was because of BEAT CRUSADERS and Polysics. I couldn’t care less for Metallica. But I do love my Japanese tribute albums. Out of all the tracks on this album, the only songs I’ve heard the original for were “Sad But True,” “St. Anger,” and “Fuel.” BEAT CRUSADERS’ cover is “One” is great. The muffled rapping and Toru Hidaka’s low grumbles are amusing. Polysics’ “Enter Sandman” is much more industrial than any of their other songs but is great to drive to. 2side1BRAIN’s cover of “St. Anger” is an amusing punk/emo cover that will surely piss off Metallica fans. 9mm Parabellum Bullet’s “Motorbreath” sounds like an authentic 9mm song and Razor’s Edge’s “Creeping Death” has a fun ska vibe. Unfortunately, none of the other bands on this compilation do much with the original material. Some are a little punkier but are still metal songs. Just like all tribute albums, METAL-IKKA proved to be half good-half bad. (1/2*)
PICK OF THE MONTH
VOLA & THE ORIENTAL MACHINE- Halan’na-ca Darkside
It’s debatable whether this is an EP or album, since half of the 9 tracks are interludes, but this is still my favorite VOLA release. Halan’na starts off with a dancey intro with loud bass then merges into “self-defense” which in turn merges into “An imatation’s superstar.” Just like last album’s “Mexico Pub,” “An imatation’s superstar” is near flawless. It starts with shaking drums and the vocals are spot on. After another interlude, “soft genocide” starts up which is my second favorite track. “Double Standard” and “Internal Division” are great too. The interludes really merged this album together as a cohesive whole and it’s hard to not listen to this straight through.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR NEXT MONTH
Acidman- I Stand Free: New single release.
Ami Suzuki- Supreme Show: Double dose of Nakata this month! Contains all the Ami singles and b-sides released since DOLCE. Should be a more dance driven album.
avengers in sci-fi- SCIENCE ROCK: Sophomore effort by the electro-rockers. Also, my second most anticipated for the month.
capsule- More! More! More!: What can I say. From the album previews this might be damn near flawless.
Dir en grey- Uroboros: New album from the metal gods.
dustbox- Blooming Harvest: Recommended for fans of ELLEGARDEN.
Envy/Thursday- Split: I will save this for next month after all
Gackt- Jesus: I’m getting a HYDE feeling from this…
HALCALI- Long Kiss Goodbye: They are adorable. New single, recently released as the end theme for Naruto Shippuden.
Oceanlane- Look Inside the Mirror: New single from the British sounding rockers. Still don’t understand how they’re not worldwide sensations by now.
Spangle call Lilli line- Purple: I’ve become such a fan of this band after ISOLATION, unfortunately that was after I wrote This Month in J-Rock: September.
the telephones- Love Disco: As a Christian, I take offense at the album art they are using for this. That and I have heard the song on myspace and it’s not disco at all.
Happy Halloween! I figured it may be a few weeks until I finish the actual October edition of This Month in J-Rock so I decided to make a shorter post with music videos only. As always, I try to highlight the smaller bands.
ART-SCHOOL- “Illmatic Baby”
Comments: I try not to use profanity on this blog, but seriously, WTF? The video starts off as a generic band performance with bright colors going off in the background. But then 40 seconds in, it cuts to a red-head girl licking the nipples of a manequin (who will eventually transform into a real asian male). When we finally get to the chorus, “shake hip clap your hands move your body,” we get to see the most hilarious booty dances since Sir Mixalot’s “Baby Got Back.” Seriously, these women are quivering like a bitch in heat. This is ART-SCHOOL’s first experiment in the dance rock/Metro Station genre. I will admit though this song grew on me because of this horrid video.
COMEBACK MY DAUGHTERS- “Hot Chinkee”
Comments: This band really snuck up on me. They are on Pizza of Death Records, just like the band Asparagus and Ken Yokohama. Simlarly, Comeback My Daughters also sing in mostly okay English. “Hot Chinkee” is a great folk-rock rock song with a catchy chorus. They opted for a more “artsy” video for the song that is equally apealing.
Comments: HOLSTEIN is an emotional rock band from Japan. “Farewell to our memories” is a fairly aggressive song and reminds me of 9mm Parabellum Bullet. The video consists of security-camera footage of the band’s practice space. It’s a decent song but the video is oddly cut. There’s moments where the singer is playing a trombone and the guitarist is playing the violin. That would be nice but there is no violin or trombone on the song at all, which is disappointing.
VOLA & THE ORIENTAL MACHINE- “An imitation’s superstar”
Comments: I really really love the intro to this song. It’s very barbaric, just like “Mexico Pub” from their last album. With the random purple clouds and bright oranges, the video looks like it was produced in 70s. The singer’s awkard head nods and Micheal Jackson pelvic thrusts held my attention for an otherwise standard performance vid with some psychedelic elements.