Sunday, February 28, 2010

End of February!

Vola & The Oriental Machine - Turning Turning

Genre: indie rock, new wave
Song style: catchy song reminiscent of the old The Killers (+ some Interpol)

I'm starting to become a big fan of this band. This comes off their good (but pretty experimental) 2009 album "Sa-Ka-Na no Electric Device," which I highly recommend. For some reason, some of their older songs really really sound like Interpol to me (for example, this older song). I really like the singer's silly dancing in this video, it's so Japanese but really suits the mood of the song. Every so often when I had free time, I would go up to the top floor of Kyoto's Loft, where there was an HMV. You would think a major CD store would "cater to the mainstream" but they always had sections of indie music to sample around the store, and that's how I discovered this band. I sometimes feel like the Japanese music industry is more open to new things - the countdown is always filled with pop, hip hop, rock, electronica, oldies (enka), and even joke songs, versus America's which is predominantly club music and country. Perhaps Japan's music industry is in such transition that it doesn't have to be set in its ways. And Japanese cds and dvds are so expensive that only people truly passionate about their music can afford to make these purchases that put the bands into the charts.

Website: TuneGlue

Here's a quick post before my regular music post about a website a friend showed me yesterday. It's called Tune Glue and it shows a graphical representation of connections between musical artists. Just search for one and then you expand them continuously to find bands linked to them. It includes a lot of Japanese bands as well so try this out to discover new bands!

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Concert: Japan Nite 2010 (USA)

In a couple of weeks, the Japan Nite 2010 tour will be starting up, as a part of the SXSW Music Festival in Texas (which will also have some other Japanese bands performing). The tour will hit up New York, Boston, Chicago, Seattle, San Francisco, and LA and will feature bands like Chatmonchy, Omodaka, Red Bacteria Vacuum, Okamoto's, JinnyOops, and Riddim Saunter! I don't know most of these bands (only know Chatmonchy) so expect to see some of them posted on this blog as I discover them. Check out the Japan Nite website to see which bands are playing which dates (it varies venue to venue). I'll likely be at one of these shows so come say hi!

Cover & Oldies: Strange foreigner

久保田早紀 - 異邦人

Okay, so this above song is not quite "indies" or "rock" or anything like that. It was a popular Japanese pop song in 1979. Don't you dig the camel? But it's also a very important song to me and I can justify it with this catchy rendition below.

Acid Black Cherry - 異邦人

Genre: pop-rock
Song style: old school Japanese pop with an electronic twist, somewhat androgynous vocals

I first heard the original 異邦人 when my mom bought her first CD off of Amazon Japan something like ten years ago and started blasting it on her cd player. My sister and I ran upstairs to see what the strange noise was and saw our mom dancing around and singing along to this song. My sister and I started imitating the dance and had a fun and bizarre night. This was our first ever exposure to Japanese music. For the longest time after that night, we thought our mom had some strange hidden history as a Japanese popstar.

Ten years later, my sister and I got into this band "Acid Black Cherry" for their catchy single "Black Cherry" (which I will post soon!). It really surprised us when we discovered their cd "Recreation" (2008) which features solely covers of old, nostalgic Japanese pop tunes. I really give props to Acid Black Cherry for continuing a modern tradition of Japanese pop-rock but not forgetting its roots.

It seems like this is a popular song to cover, too. If you would like to hear a more truthful rendition but with extra guitars, check out this cover below featuring Tak Matsumoto and Zard. Matsumoto is lead guitarist of popular pop-rock band B'z (which doesn't quite fit my tastes so might not make it on here...) and Zard was a female singer who unfortunately recently passed away from cancer.

Tak Matsumoto of B'z & Zard - 異邦人

So with all these songs of foreign romance, hope you all have exciting and mysterious weekends!

Friday, February 26, 2010

Jazzy Friday night

椿屋四重奏 (Tsubakiya Shijyuusou) - 恋わずらい

Genre: Jazz rock, alternative
Song style: sultry and jazzy

This video starts out so fitting for the song, with the hot singer seducing us and then it just gets weird, with lipstick smearing and pig masks. Don't quite understand it, but I find this tune extremely catchy. Though most of 椿屋四重奏's other songs aren't quite as jazzy, they have a very sophisticated, comfortable style that really supports the talented vocalist. These guys started around 2000, and their most recent song was probably their cover of Burn on the Yellow Monkeys Tribute album (which I will definitely blog about!) A good tune as I wait for a concert in my dorm to get started up, and after a long day of walking endlessly through the snow.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

This band has such a bizarre name...

Mass of the Fermenting Dregs - このスピードの先へ

Genre: indie rock, according to Wikipedia "shoegazing"
Song style: sorta flowy, drifty, wailing music

I'm chilling now in my room, studying with my friend, getting ready to go to a male beauty pageant so I'll keep this short. It's been raining for days here. I chose this band because of the recent slew of male band posts and I wanted something where it was relatively easy to pick a video. I saw these girls perform as openers for 9mm Parabellum Bullet last year in a small club in Kyoto. They were very talented and their music was very passionate, but it all sort of follows the same tone as this song. I like the style, but more as background music than something for me to totally fall in love with. So it will be a good drifty band to support our lighthearted studying.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

RIP Masahiko Shimura

Fujifabric - 打ち上げ花火

Genre: indie rock
Song style: starts up slow and floaty, builds up to a large rocking finale

It has been exactly two months now since vocalist and lyricist Masahiko Shimura of Fujifabric has left us. The same day, I was leaving Japan, sad and overwhelmed with the brief but packed trip I had there. That day, I experienced one Christmas Eve in Kyoto, one in Tokyo, and one in America. Little did I know that one of the greatest recent Japanese indie geniuses was leaving the world. This song is a great last testament to them, I often used it during my contemplative long walks home from work over the summer. Shimura died of unknown causes, December 24 2009, and was the last remaining original member of Fujifabric. The rest of the band has said they will try to play on, but it is impossible to imagine Fujifabric's style being preserved without Shimura. If you would like to hear a more upbeat song of their's, please check out 銀河 as well (most of their songs are blocked for youtube embedding). Rest in peace Masahiko Shimura, I will miss you.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Remix: Boom boom fact

Fact - A Fact of Life (Boom Boom Satellites Remix)

Genre: electronic + punk
Song style: quirky, builds up slowly in waves to an eventually very heavy ending

I thought this would be a good follow-up post after introducing both Fact (the second video I posted) and then Boom Boom Satellites. I feel like it takes the good parts out of "Fact of Life" and adds a very different flavor to it. The video is also a cute homage to Fact's aesthetic - instead of being men in suits wearing Noh masks, we have modern dancers wearing these young female Noh masks which then turn to demons as the song gets heavier. As an aside, I'm really liking Boom Boom Satellite's album Exposed (2007). It seems like that was their most recent album, and "Back on My Feet" from yesterday is just a separate single that was released in 2009. This week so far, my life has been so mundane that it has become surreal to me, and these two bands have been adding a heavy, bizarre edge to things.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Back on my feet

Boom Boom Satellites - Back on My Feet

Genre: experimental rock, electronic, hard rock
Song style: epic, heavy yet orchestral elements, reminiscent of Nine Inch Nails

This video is simple but the backgrounds really blend with the song so well as it builds up its pieces. I don't remember where I discovered this band, but it reminds me strongly of the style of someone I met in the train once. It turns out coincidentally that we worked at the same place in Washington DC and went to the same school in Japan. Crazy isn't it? We still hang out every so often - sometimes in Japan, sometimes in America. This is one of those bands that tries to cross the border of America and Japan, just like that friendship. Most of their songs are in English and they act under both a Japanese label and an American one. I would have to say their style is extremely American too - which in this case isn't such a bad thing.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

The last breath of the shooting star

Hands down my favorite Japanese band for the past 2 years...

9mm Parabellum Bullet - Supernova

Genre: according to Wikipedia Japan, hardcore punk, heavy metal, and emo. I would also add in post-hardcore
Song style: heavy yet very melodic, fatalistic

This band has just really blown me away. It has been so hard for me to wait this long to make a post about them. I discovered them walking around on the streets one day and seeing a music video advertisement. I'm sure all you music lovers go through phases in your life defined by one main band (like for me, middle school was Korn, high school was half Nine Inch Nails, half Muse, etc). My life right now is 9mm Parabellum Bullet. Their extremely intricate guitar parts and effective mix of melody-driven vocals but intermittent screaming makes the band so fresh. The singer has a voice very unique to Japanese music, yet the melodies are all something you would never find in America. They started out pretty unknown, but in the recent couple of months have gained huge popularity, their singles constantly making it into the top ten. Their heavy touring also generates a strong fan following. I saw them almost exactly a year ago in Kyoto in a small club. Though the venue was small, it was the first concert where I couldn't see the band at all and instead watched their reflection on a shiny poster.

Another thing that really stands out for me is their beautiful, cryptic lyrics. Check out the English translation for this song thanks to this site and some editing from me:

When I embraced the 100,000 degree sun
My mind became a desert
And every time the chilling wind blew through my head
The rain drops of my tears glistened

With just the touch of my fingertip

Maybe everyone’s hearts fall apart without making a sound
I won’t gather those pieces even if they get scattered
What was I looking at beyond the full moon?
A sea of broken stars

If I want to help that girl
Who embraced my 100,000 degree body

With just the touch of my fingertip
Only a scar is opened

I won’t forget the things I burned in order to shine
Even if it all falls apart

Was I looking at the darkness beyond the full moon?
A sea of broken stars

Maybe everyone’s hearts fall apart without making a sound
I won’t gather those pieces even if they get scattered
Beyond the full moon, beyond the full moon
Was god watching from beyond the full moon?

A sea of broken stars
The death of shooting stars

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Go, Action!!!

Ego-Wrappin' - Go Action

Genre: jazz/funk rock
Song style: trippy, happy, swing-dancey, funky

Okay so I know I posted the jazziness of Tokyo Jihen very recently, but I promise this band is very different! This song is sort of trippy and I'd even put it closer to the same category of Far France. I woke up today with this stuck in my head and proceeded to listen to it on repeat while working on my homework (which is still not done after 3 hours, ugh!) I also downloaded their newest cd (2009) "Ego-Wrappin and the Gossip of Jaxx" and I like what I hear. Nice chill music. Strangely enough, I guess it's become my work tune. I first discovered this song while working at a research lab over the summer. I was alone in the back with a bunch of animals, me the only human, trudging away at my big desk and computer. So I went on little youtube trails where you hop along "Related Videos" and I discovered this catchy tune. I forgot about it completely until today when I needed something to make my programming problem set a little less painful.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Oldies: Blue Chateau

Blue Comets - Blue Chateau

Genre: group sounds
Song style: happy and chill, Beatles-ish

So this is where it all started! Back in the 60's Japan had a bunch of underground bands that grew out of inspiration from The Beatles. This style of music was called "Group Sounds" and helped create the start of indie / garage band music in Japan. Look at this guy rock it out on the flute! I saw a broadcast of one of their recent shows (like 2009!) and I thought their music was so cute and catchy that I had to put it on here. Sadly now, they're old men delegated to playing their old hit songs for old audiences. But here they are, preserved by the magic of youtube, all young and hot for us, playing on the Ed Sullivan Show around 1967 (must have been so high profile to make it into America!). I'm amazed to see their English is pretty sound too. So keep these roots in mind as we continue on our exploration of contemporary indies music!

Foreign look: America

Alert - not a Japanese band!

I know this is supposed to be a Japanese indies blog, but every so often I'll take a look at other countrys' music. Wasn't intending on doing two posts in ~3 hours, but was grooving to this song too hard and couldn't stop! Take this as an "unofficial" post. This song also fits in too well with Tokyo Jihen's groove. So let me present:

Light.Sweet.Crude - Random song

Genre: bluesy indie rock
Song style: chill, rockin', jazzy

See what I mean? Sort of along the style of Tokyo Jihen. This band actually has 1.5 Japanese members, which sorta makes it valid for this blog. And the .5 is my sister, plucking at the violin at the very right! A cutie right? :-) It sounds almost shamisen-like. This band got their start around November and I've been going to their shows in NY (this one at the Local 269) to support them. You can hear my dorky voice in the beginning of the video. I had a fun time chilling with this band, getting to see their practices, and traveling with them around the city.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

You pour hot water in

東京事変 (Tokyo Jihen / Tokyo Incidents) - 能動的三分間

Genre: jazzy rock
Song style: groovy, jazzy, electronic, chill

This song made it into the top 100 of 2009 and is Tokyo Jihen's newest single, after a long break from the band. This catchy tune will be appearing on their new album "スポーツ" (Sports), which comes out a week from today on February 24, 2010. The singer, Shiina Ringo, has been in the music industry for a while and just gets better and better.

I remember saying goodbye to someone important to me for the last time and then going to a party. The party was fun enough, but they happened to put on "our song" and I couldn't enjoy it 100%. Around 1AM after all the trains and buses stopped running, I skipped the after party and had a relaxing, contemplative walk home. It took me about two hours, but a friend kept me company over the phone, searching online for places I could catch dinner that would still be open. I never eat ramen... but I settled into a Chinese food place, not realizing that was all they served. This song came over the radio and it was the best ramen I have ever had in my life.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Now for a slight change of pace

Maximum the Hormone - ぶっ生き返す

Genre: nu metal
Song style: very heavy, mix of metal, rap, punk elements with male & female vocals

Long long ago, I used to be a big metal fan and so here is some recent crazy Japanese nu-metal to bring a mix to this blog (also was requested by a friend!) I remember going on a long 5-hour road trip along the East Coast (of the US) with my family and being surprised to hear Maximum the Hormone (MTH) come onto the radio after some very tame light-fare pop music. Turns out someone in my family used extra gift card money to buy a random CD and wow were they surprised (hehe)!

I am very impressed with MTH's variety of talents which lets them mix different styles (3 people in the band do vocals!). Tempos and styles often switch within one song, and the quirky lyrics also up the intrigue-factor. I don't recommend this band for deep introversion or those with more melodic upbringings. Unfortunately this band is temporarily out of circuit, with one singer recently undergoing throat surgery (the sad fate of many metal artists...) and the drummer getting pregnant. However, this band has been achieving a lot of success (Their video 爪爪爪 actually won MTV Rock Video of 2009, random!) and hopefully will keep churning along their high-energy stuff.

Monday, February 15, 2010

I would have taken more time than 7 days

Radwimps - おしゃかしゃま

Genre: Indie
Song style: Complex instrumentals, contemplative vocals, catchy rhythm

Each time I hear wisps of intricate guitar parts or meaningful and fast-paced vocals, I instinctively reach for my phone because this song has been my ringtone for the past half-year. It's nice to experience phantom ring syndrome with such a catchy tune. I would have to say this was the best Japanese song of 2009, and also by far the Radwimps's best song (gotta say, not a big fan of Order Made, いいんですか, etc). I remember in my last week in Kyoto, playing this song on repeat and going for an hour-long walk through the town. I eventually reached the river, where I found a friend and a set of fire dancers. We laid out a sheet, plugged the song into some speakers, and twirled around and danced like crazy people, almost falling into the river. I only wish the Radwimps could put out more well thought-out songs like this. After constant play, I'm still not sick of it.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Catchy music from dramas: Liar Game

中田ヤスタカ (Yasutaka Nakata) - Liar Game

I'm a big fan of Japanese dramas, and one of my favorites right now is Liar Game (I'm on season 2 right now). It's a very psychological drama that makes you think and work on your logic skills!

One thing that really impressed me is the soundtrack of the show. The intro to Liar Game 1 is my favorite song of the week, and the way it integrates with the show makes you feel like a super smart detective when you listen to it (hehe). Here's a video showing what the intros of the two seasons looks like. I love how season 2's intro is just a mild variation on the first one.

Here's the entire intro to season one if you want to feel like you're rockin it out in outer space:

The music is composed by 中田ヤスタカ, a really famous artist in the music scene right now. He's most well-known for composing for chart-topping girl electro-pop group Perfume, and also for the more "indie" group capsule. I'll post more of his music as the topic comes around!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Who needs vocals

Pia-no-jaC - 台風 (Typhoon)

Genre: piano rock
Song style: powerful, jazzy, makes you want to flamenco!

I'm not much of a music-without-vocals fan, but I just couldn't ignore Pia-no-jaC. Every couple of weeks in Kyoto, I would buy a small pastry and stop by the sad and deserted shopping mall Shinpuukan. MTV Japan would blast on the large screen and vibrant, fancy stores were open to the nonexistent customers who came by. I always came here for this one gag-gift store on the second floor, to buy up weird goods like miso-flavored toothpaste or kanji-practice toilet paper. This song from Pia-no-jaC would always be playing. I thought it was cool but slightly a one-trick pony. I came back to Japan over half a year later, and visited this store again. The same song was playing and then I knew I just had to get their cd. This Osakan band does cool renditions of popular classical songs as well, and recently released a second cd on that theme. Please check them out!

Monday, February 8, 2010

We are in the wind

The Back Horn - Cobalt Blue

Genre: alternative, punk, grunge
Song Style: high energy

This band has been around for a while (since 1998) and is a pretty well-known name in terms of Japanese rock music. This is one of their big songs, back from 2004. They were my first introduction to Japanese rock with their really headbanging-inducing Requiem (check out this one too! Maybe even before Colbalt Blue). Soon I will be revisiting Japan. I just learned I got a fellowship to study at a robotics lab in Tokyo for a year! So with this post, let me also revisit my first favorite Japanese band.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Thoughts of this crazy weekend

Insane snow down in Washington DC, and weird plans to try and postpone my dream world of Japan this weekend as I go to a fashion show with one Japanese man, and then a go-kon the following day with people I barely know. I bring to you this crazy but calming song:

Far France - 真昼にて

Genre: Noise Rock (how would you categorize this band?)
Song style: Crazy, high energy

I remember when I first discovered this band, I was waiting excitedly at a small club in Kyoto for my crush's band to start playing. As I waited, they cycled through independent artists' music, and this song came up. While the video is nothing worth watching, Far France's music is eccentric and exciting. I enjoyed seeing my friend play as well. After the show, he walked me to the bus stop and waited for the bus with me. What happened after that is a secret ;-) I hope he continues to play great music and spread it past the small confines of Kyoto. In the meantime, I hope Far France also gains success. They have only one album out, and not even a Japanese Wikipedia article yet. Please give them lots of support!

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Aruku Around

サカナクション (Sakanaction) - アルクアラウンド

Genre: electronica, indies
Song Style: catchy chill electronic vibe with some rock-like twists

Another great song that made the top-ten Oricon last week, this is サカナクション's (Sakanaction) new single. The band is a very "staple" Japanese electronic band, slightly reminiscent of American bands like The Bravery. The video for this is cute, trying to look like one of those "everything falls into the right place" sorta amateur-ish setups. If you like this sound, I recommend you check out their 2009 album シンシロ. Although some songs get repetitive, it has gems like their first single Native Dancer and I really like their song Ame(B).

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

A Fact of Life

Fact - A Fact of Life

Genre: Alternative / melodic punk / post-hardcore
Song style: High energy

A friend sent me this band's album a couple of days ago. It took some time for me to warm up to it, but I realized a lot of these songs are really catchy and powerful. (For example, this song would be great for a run!) I would recommend their recent album FACT for those of you who enjoy more mainstreamy punk. I'm surprised at how almost all of their lyrics are in English (though admittedly I can only understand about 30% of what they're saying). This band has apparently been around since 1999, and I'm also very proud of them for making it into the US scene - with their release of FACT in the US last year. I'm always excited to root for bands touring in the US!

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Happy Birthday to the World...

Straightener (ストレイテナー) - Man-like Creatures

Genre: straight-up indie rock
Song Style: beautiful guitars, sad but chill, an electronic touch

This song made me start this blog. I discovered it yesterday and it was so beautiful that I had to tell someone about it. The mood of the video really fits the eerie flowing feel of the song. And the lyrics are beautiful as well. This song was #8 on the Oricon charts last week, I hope it does well!

This is their newest single, probably to come out on their album "CREATURES" which will be released in March. I just downloaded their 2009 cd Nexus and I'm liking what I hear - though most of their music is very sad. I look forward to their new cd!

Western music as reference

If you would like to know what Western music I like to see if our tastes would align, my favs include:

Nine Inch Nails, Muse, Depeche Mode, The Faint, Fischerspooner, The Receiving End of Sirens, The Dear Hunter, Protest the Hero, The Fall of Troy, Circa Survive, Envy on the Coast, The Sneaker Pimps, The Mars Volta, Imogen Heap, Crystal Castles, Interpol, old Avenged Sevenfold, old Korn, Junior Boys, Apes & Androids, Moving Units, etc.

I would say I like a wide range from metal to post-rock to electronica. I tend to like powerful music (so either makes you want to rock out, dance, or cry!), and mainly minor melodies. I also casually listen to top-100 type music and sometimes classical music.

My music library currently has about 11,000 songs.


Hi everyone!

My name's Wilma and I'm a big music lover. I just came back from a year-long study abroad in Kyoto, and I'm planning on going back to Japan after graduating from college. I have become obsessed with the Japanese music scene - I check the Oricon charts weekly and download a new cd every week.

However, I can almost never find people who have a similar interest in Japanese indies music. Many Japanese university students fall into the same old, worn-out tastes: Mr. Children, Greeeen, etc etc. And then many Americans have a strange view of Japanese music, getting it mostly from anime or Johnny's Entertainment. Although good music sometimes comes out of those venues as well, I would like to introduce the world of Japanese rock music to you from a non-otaku taste. Welcome to the world of Japanese indies.

I am always excited to hear your opinions and recommendations on music as well. Please leave comments freely and let me know how to make this blog better!