Adventures in Music (January Kyoto-hen)

Holy crap, this is late. Wow. Anyway, I spent the new year’s holiday in Kyoto with a friend so got to plunder a new record store for a change. Sadly, I found the indie selection at Kyoto’s Tower Records to be a bit of a tragedy…but still came out with some gems. This time around: Spangle call Lilli line, Taiko Super Kicks, and 21g.

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Spangle call Lilli line has been a perennial spring favorite for quite a while for me. There is just something to their sound that feels like the transition from frosty winter tentatively thawing into spring, put into music. They have that kind of gloriously refreshing sound. So, when I saw they had a new album out, I had to give it a try.

The album starts out with Azure, I was a little curious as to how they may have evolved since I last looked in on them. I was definitely caught by this intro, and I feel like this is every bit a scll song, with its tentative energy, that sounds like it’s reaching out for something. Subtle, calming, but still motivating somehow.

With Spangle call Lilli line, you won’t find complex guitar work like most of the other music I talk about. Instead, you’ll find subtle layers of vocals, synth, drums, guitar, and bass, weaving in and out and all around each other that you can’t help but just sink happily into.

I honestly think this is their smoothest album to date. I am so happy to have this addition to my SCLL collection in my life, as I will always need more of Kana Otsubo’s voice.

Highlights: escort  & landing, Constellation, Echoes of S.

 

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Taiko Super Kicks continues this dreamy atmosphere in their album Many Shapes. I must’ve been in that kind of mood that day. Haha. No, really, this album was my primary impetus for the trip to Tower. After having fallen so hard for their previous release, Reikan, I was happily looking forward to more.

Truth is, though, I loved Reikan much more than this one. That’s not to say I don’t like Many Shapes, just that it is a touch different. I feel like the atmosphere of Reikan was much heavier whereas Many Shapes is, while still not a super pop fest, a much more hopeful sounding release.

Taiko Super Kicks still have an amazing style of complexly layered guitar and bass overlays effects, which is satisfying in its own right. The shedding of the previous Pinback-esque grimness probably is more appealing to some. I have definitely been accused of wallowing in some pretty depressing music, in the past. What can I say, I have a type…musically.

Highlights: Many Shapes and Hikui Gogo

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Last is 21g and their album, Hitorishibai Honey. Holy crap were they a surprise. Listening to the first track, I was expecting to just skip through the album and immediately cast it off with nary a second glance. WRONG! First track, not my taste. Second track, though? OH MY GOD YES!

What immediately struck me about this band is how much they remind me of Head Phones President. Oh nostalgia. BUT BETTER!  Sadly, this seems to be SUCH a baby band that their net-presence is incredibly light. To make matters worse, they aren’t the only 21g running around Japan. UGH! Whatever. I don’t usually feel the heavy rock/melodic female vocals evanescence style (more like actively hate that one), but these babies make it work by not being one trick ponies. They put their eccentric and diverse influences to good use producing a mini-album with some very drastic variations on a theme. At times sounding dreamy, others Kenshi Yonezu-inspired. Much fun to listen to. I really hope they keep on keepin’ on in the future, as I’d like to hear more of their sound.

Highlights: The End and Hate and Seventeen Blue

 

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Sorry I never got around to posting this in February like I almost did. This year has been taking it OUT of me. Music has been accumulating at a steady rate, but words have not.  Maybe someday I will catch up.

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Adventures in Music (December)

This month is a bit special, as it’s not just a random Nagoya hit, but also CONCERTTIME! Comin up Roth Bart Baron, Brian the Sun, Inshow-ha, Hinto, and Plastic Tree.

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As tradition dictates, first thing you do upon arriving in Nagoya is of course heading to Sakae for HMV and Tower Records. While there, I picked up Roth Bart Baron‘s album “Atom.” I nearly bought it during a trip back in maybe November sometime, but I had probably spent too much already at that time. It continued to hang in the back of my mind through the months, and after reading about it being considered one of the best of the year by Music Magazine, I decided to just grab it.

The placard at HMV talked about how they highly recommend this group if you like western groups like Bon Iver, Fleet Foxes, and Sufjan Stevens…not gonna lie, that intrigued me. And again, not gonna lie, that recommendation was absolutely accurate. There is a huge Bon Iver vibe to these guys, though…less unplugged. They claim that it’s not their aim to sound like anyone else, but the vibe is definitely there. This  distinctive western indie sound comes from the fact that they seem to have worked with some pretty impressive Canadian and Japanese artists to make it.

The band claims that the album was inspired by 80’s sci-fi movies they had seen when they were younger. It’s aim was a near futuristic sound. It’s honestly not terribly apparent through most of the album, only showing up here and there. Still sounds very good, though…very chill to put on in the background. But that’s the thing. It’s nice, but it’s not something that so much reaches out and grabs me. There are nice little things, but it doesn’t get stuck in your head…it’s the type of music that you forget soon after hearing it.

Highlights: Shopping Mall Monster and Glass Shower (Sorry…there’s legit nothing off this album on youtube to link…)

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I also picked up Brian the Sun’s new mini-album, “Shrodinger no Neko” during this trip…finally. I mentioned it in an earlier post, very much wanting it, but having already overspent a bit. I regret not picking this up then. It’s so good. From the very first track, I’m gone. It’s only a mini-album, which is enough to leave me dying for more…even though I seem to be following these guys religiously.

One thing Brian the Sun is good at is everything their guitar-work. They’ve got rhythm, they’ve got chaos, they’ve got hook. I’ve always enjoyed their guitar work, tucked into the nooks and crannies of their songs. This is really hard to explain, but as an example, in “half cab,” the chorus has these little sort of curls at the end, where a little flair is added to the end of the standard guitar riff behind the vocals. All this is then on top of a bass line that makes you want to get up and dance the more you listen to it. That’s far from the only example, these guys really like playing with what they can do with guitars.

I really wish I had picked this up earlier. I need more Brian the Sun in my life, and I’m thinking this is some of their best stuff so far. Such love.

Highlights: Tokai no Izumi and Schrodinger no Neko (and the whole (mini)album, I mean it’s only 5 songs…)

 

The thing about this trip is that my reason for being back in Nagoya was because HINTO CONCERT! Yas!

 

2015/12/20 – HINTO and 印象派 (Inshow-ha)

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It’s always a bit wild being the only foreigner in the audience at Japanese shows, but this one took the cake. Club Rock & Roll in Nagoya is pretty small, and this audience probably barely broke 50 people. Me and my curly foreigner hair standing in the second row through the whole show, rocking my little behind off did not go unnoticed. I had a great time, and afterwards, attacked the merch table without mercy. Picked up a copy of HINTO‘s “Chen-sama (blue version)” album, because I only had blue before, and Inshow-ha’s Nietzsche album.

I had only just heard Inshow-ha for the first time a week or so before the show. They were openers, and I was there for HINTO, but holy crap, those girls (and their AMAZING tour members…dat keyboardist,tho) are impressive! Those are some strong pipes on both of them, and their music is crazy fun.

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I really dug their Swap video on youtube, so I decided to grab that album. WORTH. This album goes in a lot of different directions. It’s got energy, mystery, catchy guitar riffs, what sound like some really fun vocals to sing (I certainly don’t have those kind of skills…), and creepy superfans. This group definitely made a fan of me that night.

As I greedily plundered the merch, that night, I spoke briefly with one of the Inshow-ha girls. She was really surprised to see someone so foreign there lol and really happy that I seemed to enjoy the show so much. I told her I loved Swap, and she pointed out that they had a sticker set for it. insert high pitched squeels, STICKARS I, of course, picked up a set.

Inshow-ha highlights: Swap (of course) and Volcanic Surfer

HINTO were, of course, beyond brilliant. I want to steal Ito Shinichi’s hair. Wild, manic, energetic, and awesome, they put on a great show. They claimed that they had wanted to fill their playlist that night with love songs (most likely because it was almost x-mas, which is the date night in JP) but realized…they didn’t really have any. That got a good laugh. I spent most of the night staring at Ito’s guitar work and hair because looking at Abe was somewhat frightening. His energy burns so bright, I have to look away. That man is intense. He was literally bashing himself into the soundproofing foam on the wall towards the end. Don’t ever change. Great night. I am literally contemplating flying out to Hokkaido to see them again in March…is that too much?

HINTO highlights: No, just go listen to everything of theirs. It’s all golden.

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After this, I got back to my tiny town, and got the new Plastic Tree album I had preordered basically as soon as it was available for preorder, Hakusei.

Plastic Tree are…probably the only visual band I listen to. They got me hard over a decade ago, and have been stuck in my heart ever since. For me, listening to them is so much nostalgia…which is why they’re a bit of a departure from the rest of the music I tend to talk about.

Anyway, this is a bit of a difficult album. What I love most about this band is their lyrics, or really Ryutaro’s lyrics. I follow all of his writings I can, and have all his poetry books. I was surprised to notice that the lyrics on this album are almost completely from other members. The singles are all him, one other track, and some random additions in the liner notes. Needless to say, I’m a bit shocked by this, and a bit curious about why this album is so different from the others.

Despite this, though, the album is still amazing. I was a little iffy at first, but after a few listens, I have fallen hard for this album. Beyond the singles, the deep cuts are as good as always. I have taken to listening to Insomnia Blues on repeat for ridiculous lengths of time, which of course contributes greatly to my estimation of this album. I haven’t translated the whole album, yet, so I could potentially fall harder in love. Nothing on this album is too much of a departure from their general sound, so if you’re a fan, you’ll probably continue to be…

Highlights: Mime (I always love you, bby), Insomnia Blues, Hakusei (jesustakethewheel,allthefeels)

Adventures in Music (November)

Welcome back to Adventures in Music. This month: Hige, Ubiquitous, and Bentham.

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Starting out, Hige‘s album Nemuranai…I honestly was surprised to realize this was Hige. I’d definitely run into them before, but this being a new computer, I don’t have access to all my old music, so I only have a Nirvana tribute album with Hige participating on here. Anyway, when initially listening to this one, I wasn’t terribly impressed by the first track. It’s nice, chill…reminds me of some of Quruli’s more mellow tunes.

Moving on, though, we have Never Land Cruising. These intro guitars made me very happy in a sort of Radiohead/Nothing’s Carved in Stone kind of way. Post intro, though is a completely different creature. Chill, but a little chaotic. I like it. Basically, this album is full of little things I love, but also weird little things that drive me crazy. Like the repetitiveness of Innocent (What’s Going on?), which reminds me of this! It’s a mostly great album. I’m glad I picked it up. Just not that song.

Highlights: “S.S.” and “Nante Suteki na ibitsu”

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Let’s go to Ubiquitous next. So, the story goes: Originally I was going to pick up the new Brian the Sun release, because I love them…I’ve grabbed everything else of theirs, why not the new one (Schrodinger no Neko), right? Then I gave this a listen. I was originally a little on the fence..I mean, Brian the Sun came with a postcard! BUT! I saw that Ubiquitous had a flyer. I thought I’d just grab the flyer as a reminder to pick them up on a later trip. But…what’s this? A recommend from a member of Kuusou Iinkai? I LOVE THEM! WAT!? Well, needless to say, I was convinced to give them a longer listen, because track 1 was a little…okay. But track 2, Kyacchi suru Sentaku, from that squirrely guitar intro, to the chorus’ hook won me. Completely.

I was also very much sold by the nicely done mixing on Kiseki wa Boku no Machi de. Very nice touch with each alternating verse coming through a different headphone side. Such a simple touch, but so rarely encountered. Anyway, turns out this one also came with a sticker, pretty cool, and an invite to an instore event for the band….which had already passed. Wat, Tower Records? Wat?

Highlights: “Kyacchi suru Sentaku,” “Kiseki wa Boku no Machi de,” and “Hero no Tsukuri kata

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And last, of this trip, Bentham‘s OMG album. I was honestly expecting to snort at the temerity of calling your own album OMG, but then I started listening to it and literally said “oh my god!” I really liked the bass in the intro to the first track “YUMENOMONOGATARI,” and really, since I put this on my ipod, this song has been stuck in my head, nonstop. This is easily the standout purchase of the trip.

This band has some incredibly fun guitar hijinks and very catchy hooks. The vocals are very par the course for what’s available right now (that kind of higher pitched not quite nasaly sound)(not saying that’s a bad thing or anything, just the current trend)(I blame Bump of Chicken, honestly), nothing terribly shocking there, but this band definitely sucker punched me with YES. So I grabbed that too.

 

Highlights: YUMENOMONOGATARI and Crazy Girl

 

Tragically left behind to be returned for at a later date: Brian the Sun – Schrodinger no Neko, DEFINITELY!

The Mortal – I AM IMMORTAL, wow, Atsushi goin back to industrial sound…interesting AND nostalgic. But I’ll wait on this one for now.

Rekishi – Shikibu, come on, what’s not to love!?

Adventures in Music (the first)

Every month or so, I head up from my teeny town in the middle of nowhere and head into the closest available center of civilization, Nagoya, and go music hunting.

It’s always fun, going from listening station to listening station and seeing what’s new, what’s good, what’s being suggested. Since I’ve been doing this for a while, I’ve found quite a bit of great music doing this, but it’s a bit dull not sharing it with anyone, so I’m going to start posting reviews of recent purchases and discoveries. Maybe sometimes with some time to digest them.

So, since I’m starting out with a backlog, anyway, I might as well play catch up from the get-go, and post my October outing goodies.

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This trip was primarily so I could pick up the new Kenshi Yonezu album (which I did, pictured lower right) and while that one was great, honestly, I’m still digesting it. But I’ll get to that in a moment.

 

First up is Furutachi Yutaro‘s, of Salovers fame, solo project mini-album, CHIC HACK. I’ve always dug this guy’s voice, but never fallen that hard into Salovers. When I was giving this a listen, I immediately was hooked by the sense of frustrated intensity I got from the first song, “Tanderon,” with lyrics speaking of only being young for so long, like shattering stardust. I was intrigued, but not quite sold. Go to the next song, “Nettaiya no Koto,” and what’s the first thing I hear? Brass! OH YES! I was so amused to hear such a drastic change from the previous song. In short, I really liked the variety of sounds presented in this all too short mini-album. I don’t know if this is very in line with his stuff in Salovers, but this mini-album spans a vast array of genres in only six songs.

Highlights: “Tanderon” and “Thunderbolt”

Next is Lucky Tapes album, The Show. Immediately, I was hooked by the super cheerful disco-esque strings of the first track, “All Because of You.” Honestly, this is probably one of the happiest songs in my entire library. Definitely the magic song to listen to on a crappy day. Great pick-me-up. Moving on through the album, I greatly enjoyed the bass magic. These guys are reminiscent of Kirinji, though not quite as impressive vocally, and Great3, who I love more than most things on this planet. Also, funfact, they are on the same record label as Chocolat & Akito (the latter being vocalist of Great3). I am SO happy I picked this up.

Highlights: “Yureru Dress” and “Peace and Magic

After that, I picked up Bremen, by Kenshi Yonezu who is a mad genius, and though musically, I do feel that this release is a tad weaker than the previous godlike perfection that was Yankee, I may be slightly influenced by the reminiscence I get from the first track, “Unbelievers,” to some western stuff I’ve heard in commercials back home, but nothing I can specifically put my finger on just yet…I wanna say MGMT-like sounds, but that’s not quite it. My friend pointed out that it has the same chord progression as a Coldplay song. But that wasn’t the similarity that keeps tickling at me. Anyway, once you get past the intro, though, that sound fades away, it’s just there’s still that feeling like I know this sound, and it kills a bit of the enthusiasm for me.

Beyond this, the problem with his releases is that they’re so dense. What you hear is only a fraction of what makes him so brilliant. Yes, most music nowadays has lyrics, but the quality varies so dramatically that some bands, it doesn’t even matter what they’re saying. That is anything but the case here. The lyrics composed for Yankee told one hell of an interconnected story, and honestly, it’s pretty rare to encounter something like that. So, as I said earlier, I am still digesting this release…haven’t combed through the lyrics with a translating comb just yet, so can’t quite cast a definitive judgement there yet.

Highlights: “Undercover,” “Ame no Gairo ni Yakou Mushi,” and “Blue Jasmine”
Moving on, we have Taiko Super Kicks, this mini-album caught me instantly. Their sound was highly reminiscent of Ogre You Asshole, who are not only amazing on their own, but also themselves remind me of Pinback, who I adore. I honestly wasn’t planning on buying anything else, and really shouldn’t have even touched the listening stations at Tower Records after spending so much already at HMV, but I couldn’t stop myself. The moment the first track Reikan starts, it sets just the right chill tone for the next five songs. Carefully straddling the line between hopeful and sad. Honestly, it’s all about that bass being brought more to the forefront. Now, I’m definitely a person who listens to a lot of music that most people would find a bit depressing. I find it beautiful, though. But this album has just the right amount of chill to make the long bus ride back from Nagoya a lot more enjoyable. In related news: they have a full album coming out on December 23rd! PREORDER TIME!

Also pictured, bonus disk I got along with it at Tower Records that came with a remix of Reikan and another song. Yay!

Highlights: “Reikan,” “Yoru,” and “Machi”

 

Things I  tragically put back:

Reichi “Chabo” Nakaido’s first album in 15 years, CHABO. But only because I had already spent way too much money as it is. It was a very close thing…don’t worry bby, I’ll be back for you. ;D

Analogue Fish – Almost a Rainbow. Holy crap, never thought I’d want to buy an Analogue Fish album, never could get into them in the past, so I was AMAZED that this album caught me so much. I’ll keep my eye on it.

Quruli – Futatsu no Sekai. Precious precious Quruli, WHAT? What is with this Rumiko Takahashi thing? I don’t….I just…*sigh* I don’t even. I don’t like any of her work, but holy lord do I love me some Quruli. I’ll wait until the album. ❤