Archive for the ‘This Month In J-Rock’ Category

h1

The Return of This Month In J-Rock

November 12, 2009

For the handful of nonvocal readers that have kept up with my This Month In J-Rock columns, I thought I’d let you know that I plan on restarting the column within the next couple of weeks.

I’ve been wanting to restart the column for several months but have met with plenty of unfortunate setbacks.  Most importantly my father’s acceptance into the convalescent center in May and subsequent death at the end of October.  It’s been a difficult 6 months watching every function of his body die and finally his last breath.  His four and a half year journey with cancer has shaped me and my writing in more ways than I can write down in the lifetime of this blog.

But perhaps the real reason I’ve been avoiding the column is the standard “writing into a void” syndrome.  When you spend hundreds of man hours working on something and the only comments you receive are from a psychotic Dir en grey fan, you have to rethink your outlook on life.  It just doesn’t make sense killing myself every month to write 15-20 reviews that won’t be read.

So the next column will be posted in the next couple of weeks and if that doesn’t happen assume I gave up on the idea.  The new column will be very much condensed, combining two months into one, and will have much less reviews.  Perhaps that’s for the best.  There’s only so many ways I can say “this album sucks.”

-a

Advertisements
h1

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. Read the rest of this entry ?

h1

This Month In J-Rock: November 2008 (preview)

December 22, 2008

Winter break begin!  It’s been a long month but finals are over and I almost got straight A’s 🙂  The following are PV’s from albums I plan on reviewing in This Month In J-Rock: November 2008.  Hopefully that will be done around Christmas.  There’s a lot to review!

avengers in sci-fi- “Homosapiens Experience (Save Our Rock Episode.1)”

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Comments:  I love this song.  It’s so catchy.  “Save our rock, save our rock, save our rock, save our rock!”  It’s a great performance video.  It’s fascinating seeing these guys play guitars and synths at the same time.  The video follow the same “triangular” theme as the album cover.

http://www.myspace.com/avengersinscifi

dustbox- Spacewalk


Comments:  Random fat guy floating in a pool.  Not as creative as their last video (neurotic white family at dinner table eating) but does the job.  Dustbox reminds me of Ellegarden, with the English punk-rock and what not.  Another energetic song.

http://www.myspace.com/dustboxjp

hare-brained unity-ORANGE

Comments:  “ORANGE” is the latest video in hare-brain’s recent disco system.  With the help of masked power rangers and brilliant choreography, hare-brained brings the dance ROCK.  My favorite video this month.

http://www.myspace.com/harebrainedunity

Oceanlane- Look Inside the Mirror

Comments:  “Look Inside the Mirror” sounds like a British pop song.  Probably because half of their members are from Britain.  This a very delicate song.  Not very rocking at all.  The video uses stop animation and has the lyrics translated in kanji (LOL) scrolled on the right side of the screen.

http://www.myspace.com/oceanlaneofficial

reach up to the universe- S.T.A.R.S.

Comments:  A piano driven pop-punk band, similar to enie meenie.  This song is a little slower than the others on the album but still has some great synth lines.  The video is your standard band performance interspersed with animation of a girl running, reminescent of the album artwork.

http://www.myspace.com/ruttu

Spangle call Lilli line- Cast A Spell On Her

Comments:  SCLL is the ultimate chill band.  It’s easy to find yourself drifting in thought to Kana’s delicate vocals.  They decided to go the artsy way, again, for their new video.  It’s composed of still images of a girl on the beach.

http://www.myspace.com/spanglecalllilliline

Start of the Day- Space Eats the Earth

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Comments:  The best way to describe this band is a female version of Nature Living.  The synths are very heavy in this song with an 8bit quality.  It’s interesting they chose a song without screaming that highlights the singer’s J-pop voice.  This video is a backlit band performance with the members in silhoutte.

http://www.myspace.com/startoftheday

the telephones- Love & Disco

Comments: Not as “disco” as the name implies but another great pop song by the telephones.  This is an interesting video that meshes animation, a newscast, and the band’s performance.  The aerobic scene at the beginning is hilarious.

http://www.myspace.com/thetelephonesjapan





h1

This Month In J-Rock: October 2008

November 27, 2008

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:

(-) bad

(1/2*) okay

(*) great

THE SINGLES

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*)

Doping Panda- majestic dancer feat. VERBAL (m-flo)

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*)


THE MINI-ALBUMS

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


Holstein- Teleology

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.  (*)

http://www.myspace.com/holsteinweb



The Predators- Kiba wo Misero

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.  (*)

http://www.myspace.com/thepredatorsofjapan

THE ALBUMS


9mm Parabellum Bullet- Vampire

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. (*)

http://www.myspace.com/9mmparabellumbullet


The Captains- I Love GS (US Release)

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.  (-)

http://www.myspace.com/thecaptainsofficialmyspace


Comeback My Daughters- EXPerience

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. (*)

http://www.myspace.com/comebackmydaughters

Deerhoof- Offend Maggie (US RELEASE)

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*)

http://www.myspace.com/deerhoof


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.

h1

This Month In J-Rock: October 2008 (preview)

October 31, 2008

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. 

http://www.myspace.com/comebackmydaughters

HOLSTEIN- “farewell to our memories”

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. 

http://www.myspace.com/holsteinweb

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.

http://www.myspace.com/volaofficial

h1

This Month in J-Rock: September 2008

October 18, 2008

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.

THE SINGLES

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.

http://www.myspace.com/direngrey

THE MINI-ALBUMS

BIGMAMA- Weekly Fairy Tale

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.

http://www.myspace.com/rxbigmama

OLIVIA- Trinka Trinka (mini-album)

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.

http://www.myspace.com/olivialufkinofficial

THE ALBUMS

8otto- Hyper Hyp8r Hyper

8otto should do well with the British-rock crowd.  They have a similar flavor to bands such as The Strokes or Franz FerdinandHYP8R 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.

http://www.myspace.com/8otto

Glory Hill- Going Nowhere

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.”

http://www.myspace.com/gloryhilljp

Mo’some Tonebender- SING!

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.

http://www.myspace.com/mstbofficial

NICO Touches the Walls- Who Are You?

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.

http://www.myspace.com/mutyumujapan

sgt.- Stylus Fantasticus

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.

http://www.myspace.com/sgtofficial

Zazen Boys- Zazen Boys 4

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.

http://www.myspace.com/zazenboys

WHAT TO LOOK FOR NEXT MONTH

8otto- catch on another fire: Wait…didn’t I review them this month?!?!?  Well, this is a remix album.

9mm Parabellum Bullet- Vampire:  Second full-length album.  Includes “Wanderland” from the anime Real Drive.

Asian Kung-Fu Generation- Fujisawa Loser:  New single off upcoming album.

The Captains- I Love GS:  A covers collection of classic group sounds songs.

Deerhoof- Offend Maggie: New album from the SF locals.

Envy/Thursday- Split EP:  This doesn’t have a release date yet but since it already leaked…

The Predators- Kiba wo Misero:  New mini-album from the supergroup, made of members from the pillows, GLAY, and STRAIGHTENER.

Te’- Mashite, Kokoro to Gokan ga Icchisuru Nara Subete Saijo no “Ongaku” ni Henzuru: New album for the post-rock hopefulls.

Various Artists- Metal-IKKA: Metallica tribute album!  Features BEAT CRUSADERS, Polysics, and 9mm Parabellum Bullet.

VOLA & THE ORIENTAL MACHINE- Halan’na-ca Darkside: Zazen Boys this month, VOLA next month.

…and here’s the poll.  Take the time and vote ^_^

h1

This Month In J-Rock: August 2008

September 22, 2008

This month’s column is relatively shorter with more emphasis on singles.  Why?  Can’t say there have been many mentionable August releases.  Also, I have writer’s block.  That’s what you get for singing up for three writing intensive courses in one semester.  Bitch bitch bitch on with the show.

THE SINGLES

Avengers In Sci-Fi- PLANET ROCK

Some bands take two years off to perfect their sound.  Others just don’t have money to enter the studio.  Avengers in Sci-Fi seem to be in the latter category.  “Save Our Rock” is essentially “Avenger Strikes Back” Part II.  The melody is mostly the same with different lyrics.  After a few listens, I stopped caring, but c’mon.  “Starmine Sister (miss you so much!),” is luckily more original, although on the long side.  I like the Avenger’s take on dance-rock and I still play their first album Avenger Strikes Back on a regular basis.  Both songs on the EP will be available on their 2nd full-length album SCIENCE ROCK due out November 11.

http://www.myspace.com/avengersinscifi

Bonnie Pink- Kane wo Kameshite

Believe me when I say “Kane wo Kameshite” is an unremarkable single.  But the b-sides more than make up for it.  “Pump It Up!” is easily the best J-pop song I’ve heard this year.  So fast, so catchy.  It’s like cotton candy.  So colorful, so retro!  Pump it up!  Pump it up!  Also included on the single is a great remix of “A Perfect Sky” by some dude named Bjorn which reminds me of a fun day at the carnival. I enjoyed this single far more than I thought I would, even if the real “single” was a stinker.  (*)

http://www.myspace.com/bonniepink

D’espairsRay- Kamikaze

I mentioned last month that this would be my first time listening to D’espairsRay.  I’ve been putting them on the back burner, mostly because they’re visual-kei and have been getting far too much attention over at JRR and the other “J-Rock” websites.  “Kamikaze” is the second unremarkable single in this month’s column that was overshadowed by it’s superior b-side.  I’m sure most D’espairsRay fans will disagree but “Scissors” is so much better.  It’s got a cool techno-metal vibe to it.  I thought they were Blood Stain Child for a second.  It’s great to play while I’m doing 40mph in the construction areas by school, and there are so many streets by school getting cut up…

http://www.myspace.com/despairsray

Detroit Metal City x Negishi- Satsugai/Amai Koibito

Murder! Murder! Kill! Kill! Kill!  Detroit Metal City is easily one of the best manga/anime that have come out over the past few years.  “Satsugai” and “Amai Koibito” are used as the opening and end theme, respectively, for the anime and probably the live-action movie (I so want to see this!).  In the series, “Satsugai” is the debut single by heavy metal gods Detroit Metal City.  The song is about raping and murdering your parents.  Gross!  But the DMC fans eat this shit up.  And it’s hard not to laugh at them.  The second song on this single is “Amai Koibito” performed by Negishi, the real-life identity of Krauser II, lead singer of DMC.  It’s such a catchy love song about making sweet breads and eventually making love to your “swiitsu baby.”  Did it make me smile?  YES.  (*)

L’arc~en~ciel- NEXUS 4/Shine

L’arc~en ~ciel are back with their new single “NEXUS 4” which hasn’t been used as an anime theme song, yet.  But don’t fret, it’s reportedly used in a commercial for the Subaru Legacy automobile.  It’s a competent single, they know what the public wants.  It has some cool dance vibes in the beginning but they quickly fall back into routine.  “Shine,” on the other hand, has been used as the theme song for the anime Moribito: Guardian of the Spirit, currently airing on [adult swim] at their 5:30a.m. deathslot.  It’s strange that it took the band this long to release “Shine” as a single, considering Moribito first aired in April 2007 in Japan.  It’s your typical L’arc~en~single, which is to say it’s expected.  “Hydeless” versions of the two singles are included, which means they have no vocals.

NICO Touches the Walls- Broken Youth

I just can’t get away from my anime themes this month.  “Broken Youth” is the current theme for Naruto Shippuden.  I congratulate NICO on making the big leagues.  The single is catchy but not as much as “The Bungy.”  It’s definitely a safe song, it doesn’t break the mold but fits in nicely with Naruto’s rock catelog, not to hide my disdain for all things Naruto.  The next song is slower, quite possibly a love song, and unremarkable.  The ten minute “Guernica” has its epic moments with some awesome harmonica half-way through.  But they’re no post-rock band and shouldn’t do this again.

THE ALBUMS

GOLLBETTY- Betty’s Buggy

What could be better than female ska bands?  Well, a lot, but GOLLBETTY have recently released their third full-length album Betty’s Buggy.  I like to compare them to Oreskaband with the aggressiveness of Ketchup Mania.    “Cool Music,” “HAPPYRAMID,” and “bonds of friendship” have great horn sections and “99%” is a another great 1999-themed song to add to my list.  For the most part, I was unimpressed by this album as it tends to go into pop-rock mode far too often. (-)

http://www.myspace.com/gollbetty

Detroit Metal City- ~for the movie~

I think…they turned…DMC…into a visual-kei band.  I’m sorry but that’s all that comes to mind when I listen to this ten song soundtrack. “Satsugai” is on here, which I love, but these are all DMC songs.  None of the songs by Negishi or Tetrapot Melan Tea are on here which kind of makes it hard for me to listen to. Just from reading the manga and watching the first four episodes of the anime, I can’t recognize any of the other songs on the soundtrack except for the “Rape x10 a second” and the “F*ck” tracks.  I’m sure I’ll like this more after I’ve seen the live-action movie, but it’s a big pass from me right now.  (-)

enie meenie- Fantasy of Life

Officially released in July, I decided to include this in this month’s column for two reasons: I wasn’t able to find it until a couple of weeks ago and this band needs more exposure.  Before this album, enie meenie were mainly a synth driven pop-punk band comparable to Motion City Soundtrack.  They’ve kept some of that for this album but they’ve also added some amazing saloon-style piano to the mix.  The album starts off with the nursury rhyme “enie meenie minie moe, catch a tiger by the toe.”  Frankly, I’m shocked it took them this long to do it but at least it’s out of their system.  “Short Drama” and “Play the Hero” lead off the album strongly while “I May” will go down as one of the finest songs of their carreer.  Unfortunately, there are plenty of slow songs on here such as “Different Nights,” “Parting Song,” and “Sleep” that drag the second half of the album down. However, the first three songs I mentioned are more than enough to recommend this album for. (*)

http://www.myspace.com/eniemeenie

PICK OF THE MONTH

Muon- The New Mutants

I give credit to bands who frequently and consistently give away their music for freeMuon is a three-piece ambient/electronic act from Singapore.  The New Mutants is their third full-length album.  It begins with a guy named Marny doing some spoken word dialog, “how many times do I have to tell I don’t have no fcking money?”  It continues with “From the Cold” and “Against the Grain,” fan favorites from their live material.  “This Is Not The End,” has marching band drums and pounding synths for an epic nine-minutes. “Cylons Dream of Electric Sheep” is the oddball track on the album with sheep “baaaa”-ing every so often.  Outside of the sheep song and “Marny,” there’s no vocals on this album.  They sound and present their material very much like a post-rock band, such as Explosions in the Sky or Mono.  This might not be the flashiest album this month, but it’s quiet and reflective mood will surely resonate with many new fans.  And besides, it’s free, why not pick it up?

http://www.myspace.com/muonmagick

WHAT TO LOOK FOR NEXT MONTH

8otto- Hyper Hyper Hyp8r: This month may have been lackluster but we’ll start next month with the latest album from indie-rockers 8otto.

Dir en grey- Glass Skin: The latest single from their upcoming album Uroboros.

Glory Hill- Going Nowhere: The latest album from the ELLEGARDEN wannabes.

mutyumu- i l ya:  Just letting you know this is a top contender for album of the year.

NICO Touches the Walls- Who Are You?: First full-length album from the Naruto rockers.

OLIVIA- Trinka Trinka: It’s been a couple of years, OLIVIA.  I need to hear your angelic voice again!

Zazen Boys- Zazen Boys 4: Damn! So much great stuff coming out this month.  So far this is dead tied with mutyumu for most amazing album of the year.

h1

This Month In J-Rock: July 2008

August 14, 2008

I finished this column much later than I anticipated.  A mixture of The Dark Knight being awesome, various family shit, and back to school blues.  As expected, I was unable to locate the latest albums from Electrico, Enie Meenie, and GALLOW in time for this month’s column. Please forgive me if I am bitter. Despite the fact, I have more releases on here than in last month’s column.  I actually had to cut a few releases.

(*) =highly recommended

(-) = stay the hell away from it.

nothing = I’m stingy with my stars!

Before starting this column, I would like to pay tribute to legendary punk-rock producer Jerry Finn (whose work has been a major influence on at least a couple bands in this month’s column) who died of a brain hemorrhage last weekend. He produced such classics as Green Day’s Dookie, Rancid’s …And Out Come the Wolves, blink-182’s Enema of the State and many others in between from bands such as Pennywise, Mxpx, Sum 41, Alkaline Trio and AFI. You will be missed…

THE SINGLES

8otto- Bomb

I always admired bands were the lead singer was the drummer.  You must have a lot of stamina to do both at once and not sound short-breathed. Watching 8otto music videos always amaze me.  Back to the review, “Bomb” is their latest single and is very good.  They sound a bit like The Strokes or Interpol.  The vocals, sometimes in English, seem a bit monotone but not horrible.  The b-side “Staxx” is very slow with more focus on guitar-work but “N.Y.P” is very speedy with handclaps throughout the whole song.  8otto ‘s straight up rock-n-roll sound should be relatively easy for a Western listener to enjoy. (*)

Ami Suzuki- ONE

ONE is the second Ami Suzuki single produced by awesome Capsule front man Nakata Yasutaka. Does it measure up to “Free Free/Super Music Maker?” No. Whereas “Free Free” was minimal techno blowout, “ONE” is so heavy in vocals it’s almost impossible to dance to. I know, she’s originally a J-Pop singer. So what. If you’re going to change your sound be consistent. On the other hand, the B-side “A Token of Love” is great. The horse-gallop synthesizers will blow your mind away. The single concludes with a throwaway karaoke version of “ONE” and a decent remix of “A Token of Love.” I know I don’t have to mention this but she’s really fucking hot on the album cover.

Mo’some Tonebender- Synchronicity

After nearly a decade playing in the rock/punk genre, Mo’some Tonebender surprised us last year with the mostly electronic album C.O.W. (Check Out World).  Their latest single “Synchronicity” follows suit.  Unfortunately, it’s not very memorable.  The b-side “Quiet” sees the trio return to their rock style tracks but again doesn’t compare to their earlier tracks.  As is standard with most single releases, its seems, an instrumental version of “Synchronicity” is also included.  I don’t know if I like where Mo’some is going with their new material.  I’ll hold off until their new album drops in September.  (-)

http://www.myspace.com/mstbofficial

VAMPS- Love Addict/Time Goes By

VAMPS is the latest side project from L’arc~en~ciel vocalist HYDE. Joining HYDE on guitar is K.A.Z who wrote several songs on HYDE‘s last solo album Faith. Needless to say, the chemistry between the two is great and is the next natural step from HYDE‘s solo stuff. “Love Addict” is a fast paced hard-rock song sung in total English. Not to mention, it starts off in hand claps (they know what I like!). Lyrically, the song is very hippy with the words “come light my fire” screamed out during the chorus. “Time Goes By” slows it down a little with bilingual English/Japanese vocals and a nice acoustic guitar in addition to electric. This is a pretty good first single but not enough to convert me yet.

http://www.myspace.com/vampsofficial

THE MINI-ALBUMS

80_pan- Disco Baby

80_pan, formerly known as 80★PAN and then something else before that, released their debut mini-album early July. As expected from the title “Disco Baby,” there’s several danceable songs in between a couple mediocre J-pop tunes. The first song “Crazy” is a pretty great remix by Darren Cullen and will set your expectations high. The second track and title track are easily the worst songs while all the songs in between are pretty great like “Pop Cream” and “80_pan.” Comparable to other pop groups with a dance twist like Perfume or HALCALI. (*)

http://www.myspace.com/80panofficial

Jazztronik- Repro

Jazztronik has been involved in the Japanese dance scene since the late 90s and is the recording name of pianist NOZAKI Ryōta. His latest mini-album is full of disco and slow club songs featuring female guest vocalists. “Sweet Rain” is your classic 80s feel good disco track, a song that I still haven’t gotten out of head. “I Like It” and “Rising In My Heart” are really slow, not bad but reminds me of old movies from the 30s and 40s or I Love Lucy were old people get drunk in the Copacabana nightclubs. The next two songs are all instrumental with a “big band” feel to it. The last song “Street Walkin’ Woman” sounds straight out of a musical. All songs are sung in English and would be suitable for nightclubs with an older clientele and charity functions.

http://www.myspace.com/jazztronik

Saddest Crying- The Unresponsible Reason

Saddest Crying’s debut EP is a little underwhelming. All five tracks are compiled from various samplers and compilation tracks they’ve performed over the years and is available to download for free here. If you’re a fan of screamo and hardcore music you’ll know what to expect here. The first four tracks are scream-fulled and although generic does have some charm. The last song, “Crying,” slows it down a whole lot with essentially an acoustic guitar and the singer singing about getting kicked out his house. Most of these songs are of demo quality which is not surprising.

http://www.myspace.com/saddestcrying

THE ALBUMS

ELLEGARDEN- ELLEGARDEN BEST 1998~2008

Two months after announcing their indefinite hiatus, ELLEGARDEN’s record label releases their “best of” album. Normally I would complain “why wasn’t this track included?” but frankly I don’t have time for that. I’m more worried about the band and how long this “hiatus” will last. Look at blink-182, same kind of band same situation. Their band members haven’t talked to each other in nearly 5 years. Will this happen to ELLEGARDEN? Punk history says yes, most likely. Doom and gloom aside they could use a break, they’ve essentially been putting out the same album for years now. Not that that’s a bad thing for fans but is constrictive to the band members themselves. ELLEGARDEN BEST does a good job of compiling some of my favorite tracks like “Salamander,” “My Favorite Song,” “Red Hot,” and “Make A Wish.” My only gripe is the disproportionate Japanese language tracks on this compilation. There was never more than 1 or 2 full Japanese language songs on ELLEGARDEN’s albums but yet there’s a total of 6 on their best of. It just seems a bit “off” to me, like the label is trying to push them to something they’re not. I’m pretty sure there’s no new tracks on this compilation. This is a decent tribute to the band, but it just doesn’t compare to listening to the actually albums themselves.

http://www.myspace.com/ellegarden

Genki Rockets- I -Heavenly Star-

We waited a year…for this? Nevermind the amazing singles “Heavenly Star,” “Star Line,” and “Breeze,” once you take out all the previously released material, remixes, and interludes (which are essentially chopped up parts of the singles) we have a total of four new songs. Four! And they’re not that great either. “I Will” and “Star Surfer” are similar to the very disappointing single “Smile” while “Never Ever” is a straight up ballad with nothing but piano. “Fly,” while definitely not as catchy as the aforementioned “amazing” singles, is actually a decent pop song. The album ends with a Japanese language version of “Star Line” and two more remixes of “Breeze.” I personally think this is a big step down for the make believe pop artist. The first two singles are a much better purchase than this. (-)

http://www.myspace.com/genkirockets

Good 4 Nothing- Swallowing Aliens

Only so many Japanese blink-182 wannabes can be as good as ELLEGARDEN. For those interested, Swallowing Aliens has more of a Take Off Your Pants and Jacket/Enema of the State (RIP Jerry Finn!) feel to it.  I honestly thought I would write a scathing review of this album but I can’t bring myself to do it, even if “Proof of my life” sounds strikingly identical to blink 182’s “Roller Coaster.”  There’s some charm here that brings me back to my high school years when all I listened to was pop-punk.  I also have to give them props for singing in English, and using the “f-” word, even if I can’t understand half the things they’re saying.  With repeated listens I think this may live up to some of the great Japanese pop-punk bands like ELLEGARDEN, enie meenie, Ken Yokoyama, and Nicotine.  Imitation is the best form of flattery.

http://www.myspace.com/good4nothingjp

MONGOL800- etc. works

I’m pretty sure this is a b-sides album. Why? I’ve seen a couple of the “featuring” tracks on other singles/albums not by the band, it has no album flow, and “etc.” simply implies b-sides. But I’m not interested enough to research it. There’s actually a lot of really great tunes on this compilation even though the band genre-hops on every single track. The album starts off strong with a ska punk song with plenty of handclaps during the chorus. The second track continues with another high energy song with some girl shouting in the background. The first “featuring” track with Black Bottom Brass Head is full on ska as well as the song featuring Skaymates (who also did some ska songs with the BEAT CRUSADERS!). “Nasaki” featuring Ryukyudisko (who also did a techno song with the BEAT CRUSADERS!) is the only song I’ve previously heard coming into the album. The twelfth track “Momo” featuring Koja Misako is a nice traditional Japanese song with traditional wind instruments and chanting. It’s refreshing to see a modern punk band, of all things, return to their cultural roots. There’s a lot of interesting punk and ska songs on here with new and old school flavor. I liked it a lot. (*)

Orange Range- Panic Fancy

Panic Fancy is the latest bore of an album from J-poppers Orange Range. Despite the electrifying album title, there’s more ballads on here than anything. It’s kind of pathetic. This band hasn’t been important since they released “Asterisk” from the anime Bleach. There’s some decent jazz/ska influenced songs on the album such as “Happy Birthday Yeah! Yeah! Wow! Wow!” “Ika Summer,” and (unfortunately not a Micheal Jackson cover song) “Beat It.” The nanana’s on “Ikenai Taiyou” are somewhat infectious and the violin on “Jitsugen Touhi” is cool. Fans of Orange Range will likely eat this up but it’s highly forgettable for the rest of us. (-)

Versailles- Noble

I gave up on visual-kei years ago but to my surprise I’ve been following this band since they released their first single “The Revenant Choir.” Could it be their Victorian attire? The grinding 80s metal guitars? Or their ridiculously long spoken intros? Let’s start off with the familiar. “The Revenant Choir” choir is included here, twice; the original “International Edition” with spoken word intro and one without (pointless?). I always thought this song would go great on Guitar Hero if Sony wasn’t racist. All three songs from the A noble was born into chaos single is included here. Apparently, it was only sold at their shows so now their home-bound fans can enjoy such classics as the “Aristocrat’s Symphony.” For some reason, none of the tracks from the Lyrical Symphony mini-album are included, not even “Red Carpet Day” their best song! Overall this is an OK album. This is the type of music I put on when I’m doing mundane work like cleaning my room or writing papers. There’s nothing too exciting but enough for me to randomly get up and shred a mean air guitar if I feel like it. (*)

http://www.myspace.com/versaillesjp

Wagdug Futuristic Unity- HAKAI(初回生産限定盤)

Wagdug is the latest project from Hiroshi Kyono of The Mad Capsule Markets. I’ve never seen a debut album so star-studded. We have DJ Starscream of Slipknot on “Hakai,” Chino Moreno of deftones on “Wall,” Ryo Kawakita from Maximum the Hormone on “Systematic People,” and Justice (one of my favorite techno groups, similar to Daft Punk) on “X-Stereo.” Musically, it’s hard to describe Wagdug Futuristic Unity. There’s a lot of screaming, loud bass, even some rap but it’s definitely more in the techno/dance genre but dark. Some of my favorite songs from last year’s mini-album are included here such as “Mass Compression” and “Mad Saturator.” This is the kind of music you blast in your car when you have a serious case of road rage zooming down the highway cutting people off. It’s hard to pick one stand out track because they all work so well. (*)

PICK OF THE MONTH

Saw Loser- Hits Hit the Fans

As my friends know I’m a sucker for cover songs and Saw Loser have delivered on this album! Saw Loser is a punk quartet with members from Australia, Japan, and the United States that somehow relocated and based themselves in Singapore. Hits Hit the Fans was originally titled the Punk’d Up EP but new songs were recorded for a full-length album and released a few months later. The album starts off strong with an instrumental version of the Godzilla theme and abruptly jumps into James Blunt’s “You’re Beautiful.” My favorite tracks are Frank Sinatra’s “Fly Me to the Moon,” Culture Club’s “Karma Chameleon,” and The Cure’s “Friday I’m In Love.” The only song I’m not feeling is “I’ll Be There For You,” probably because of my personal vendetta on all things Friends. The cover album is a great mix of newer and older pop songs. There’s at least one song on here for everybody to love.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR NEXT MONTH

D’espairsRay- Kamikaze: This will be the first time I’m listening to the band. Will I like or hate them? Considering how late I posted this column I’ve already heard most of the releases in this section, this single included. But I won’t tell you until next month!

Detroit Metal City- Satsugai: The theme song for the upcoming live action Detroit Metal City movie.

GOLLBETTY- Betty’s Buggy: Second full-length album from chick ska band GOLLBETTY.

NICO Touches the Walls- Broken Youth: When I wrote about this band in last month’s column, I never expected to see them perform the latest theme song from Naruto Shippuden. I feel sort of betrayed, like when BEAT CRUSADERS announced “Tonight, Tonight, Tonight” would be the new theme for Bleach. Nevertheless, despite my hatred for all things Naruto this is a good career move for them. Oddly enough, my post on NICO’s Bungy single has jumped up several hundred views the past couple of weeks…

h1

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!