Hara From Hell

No matter how much time you spend going to shows and browsing the web, there will always be some great bands lurking out there waiting for you to discover them. Hara From Hell(ハラフロムヘル) is a five piece band from Chiba and Tokyo that formed four years ago, but I first encountered them this month.

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Mizuguchi, the organizer of the music event series Beat Happening! in Tokyo, recommended this band to me and I was really intrigued when I watched them on YouTube. It only took one listen of a song to decide that I wanted to check them out live. The best way I can describe them is if you took singing from a musical like Les Mis and put it over indie rock music. A lot of the songs have a folk sound to them as well. Here’s the song that got me hooked.

Their live performance held up to my expectations. I always enjoy a show when the band members seem like they are having fun playing the music — there’s something infectious about that kind of joy that a musician finds in their own work. Singer Yoko and guitarist Kent both took the front of the stage and gave off that energy.

They’ve just released a single called Matryoshka-san, available at CD stores nation wide, which is the first release from the new Beat Happening! label. It has four tracks, the best two of which are re-recordings from their first mini-album Faust. I’ve mainly been listening to the latter, as the recording quality is still very good and it has several other tracks that I’m quite a fan of as well. Here’s the title-track from the single:

 

 

My Favorite Music Videos of 2015

These are all music videos that were enjoyable or memorable to me from the past year. Not necessarily my favorite songs (although I certainly like them all) and not necessarily the most impressive videos, but just what caught my attention. In no particular order:

Sheena Ringo (椎名林檎) – Nagaku Mijikai Matsuri (長く短い祭)

From the pop queen herself, a duet with Ukigumo with autotune done right and a disturbing video.

 

Yubisaki nohaku (指先ノハク) – Nanigashi (なにがし)

An extremely fun music video with a song of when communication just isn’t working right. One of my favorite songs of the year as well.

 

Milkyway (みるきーうぇい) – Shinitaku Naru Hodo Suki Datta (死にたくなるほど好きだった。)

A moving story music video and the sequel to this MV from last year. With a song called “I Loved You So Much I Want to Die,” Milkyway really has the best emo lyrics.

 

Chirinuruwowaka (チリヌルヲワカ) – Awoawo (アヲアヲ)

This video is really simply but I love how well it fits the chill song. It’s also always enjoyable to watch videos where you can actually see the musicians play.

 

A Month of Sundays – Shigatu no Tawagoto (四月のたわごと)

Another very simple music video that just fits the music perfectly. I love the vintage camera touch and this is just one of my very favorite songs of the year.

 

Lily Rose (リリーローズ) – I Know

Simple and sexy. Same singer as the above video.

 

Suiyoubi no Campanella (水曜日のカンパネラ) – Medusa (メデューサ)

It wouldn’t be a best MV list without at least one Suikan song. While it wasn’t their flashiest video of the year, it was the most charming.

Mass of the Fermenting Dregs Return from Hiatus

In a refreshing change of pace from all of the band breakups I just finished posting about, one of the best indie bands from the 2000s just announced a concert next week and that they will be resuming activities as a band. Mass of the Fermenting Dregs last performed in 2012, though the drummer of the three-piece band left the year previous and the guitarist left the year before that. Their melodic shoegaze style with a driving pace was influential for a lot of indie bands that came after them. Also, they have an amazing nonsensical name. Their returning lineup:

Miyamoto Natsuko: Bass, Vocals

Ogura Naoya: Guitar, Backing Vocals (from Qomolangma Tomato)

Yoshino Tsutomu: Drums, Backing Vocals

Only the guitarist is new to the band. I’m excited to see what will come from them next year.

 

2015 Band Breakup Blues Part 3

Final part in this series. Part 2 can be found here.

Itsue (イツエ)

This is a band that I knew about for a long time, but I didn’t take an interest in until it was too late. I started listening to their 2015 release and really enjoyed it, but their last show was sold out more than three months in advance. I think they sound quite similar to Zaien Lily mentioned in the last break up post — alternate rock, a bit of a shoegaze influence, and very particular, polished vocals. They are officially on hiatus, but I believe the singer has left for a solo project.

MAMADRIVE

Another band with a singer whose voice will just knock you right over. Sharp guitar, aggressive bass, and slick tempo changes set MAMADRIVE apart from other alternative rock bands. Unfortunately, their latest album Urahara is a bit lackluster compared to their previous releases. One of the only bands from Kobe that stayed based in Kobe their whole band life, they’ve announced they are breaking up in March of next year. However, guitarist Sasakawa is reportedly ill and they’ve canceled all final tour shows except their oneman gigs in Tokyo and Kobe in January and March respectively. Even if she isn’t better, they’ll hold them with a support guitarist.

Koyubi (こゆび)

One of my favorite indie bands. They’re alternative rock with wailing emo vocals and screaming lead guitar. Although Koyubi have great recordings, their live performances you can really feel the emotional impact. Their singer Yuuki actually broke her foot last year jumping over the railing at a show last year. Although they have three shows left until they break up in April of next year, their drummer Yuka played her last show this past week.

2015 Band Breakup Blues Part 2

Part 1 can be found here.

Gotou Mariko (後藤まりこ)

The eccentric singer-songwriter Gotou Mariko started a solo music career after the break-up of her jazz-punk-noise band Midori in 2010. Her music and image were both a mix of cute and crazy. Her songs mixed jazz and pop with sickly-sweet, out-of-tune melodies punctuated by screaming, and she often wore a school girl outfit (at at least 10 years after her true school days) while crowd-surfing half of the length of her shows. She publicly quit her label in 2014 on twitter after an incident where she assaulted a cameraman with a mic stand and threw his camera into the crowd during a show. He was an official photographer, but she claimed that her management never informed her about him, so she thought he was a fan trying to get on stage and photograph her. She later was picked up by different management until January of this year when they announced all of her upcoming shows were canceled due to sickness. Some time passed before Mariko live-streamed an announcement where she quit music performance. After an absence from social media, she returned to public life in the summer as a song composer for idol and pop groups, stating she wouldn’t be performing herself again.

Oz (オズ)

A pop hard rock band hailing from Okinawa, they held a yearly concert on Halloween and finished off the tradition this year with one last holiday show on October 31 before breaking up. Bassist Shin recently announced his newest project: visual-kei band ANOMIY.

ALiCE IN UNDERGROUND

This briefly-lived pop metal unit was a collaboration between frontwoman Aimi of alt rock band Stereopony and guitarist/songwriter Arai of serial TV drama, both bands that broke up several years earlier. Their new band was zombie themed, including the lyrics for all four of their released songs such as Party of the Dead. AiU played a number of shows from late 2014 to early 2015 before ceasing all activities without any announcement. Their official status is still unknown, but it seems unlikely they’ll return from this hiatus.

 

tricot to Tour Europe in March

Indie hit sensation tricot have been making waves internationally the past two years with shows in Europe, Asia, and most recently a tour of North America. Now they’ve announced a 19-stop tour of Europe for March of 2016. With music characterized by twangy guitar riffs, math-rock rhythms, and triple vocals, they put on an amazing must-see live performance.

  • 3/3 Studenterhus – Odense, Denmark
  • 3/4 Hoxton Square B&K – London, England
  • 3/5 Clwb ifor bach – Cardiff, Wales
  • 3/10 Hangar – Dublin, Republic of Ireland
  • 3/11 Broadcast – Glasgow, Scotland
  • 3/12 Belgrave Music Hall – Leeds, England
  • 3/13 Firebug – Leicester, England
  • 3/15 Batofar – Paris, France
  • 3/17 Gala Hala – Ljubljana, Slovenia
  • 3/18 stadtwerkstatt – Linz, Austria
  • 3/19 TBA – Bratislava, Slokavia
  • 3/20 A38 – Budapest, Hungary
  • 3/22 Landmine Alert – Prague, Czech Republic
  • 3/23 Urban Spree – Berlin, Germany
  • 3/24 Hafenklang – Hamburg, Germany
  • 3/25 Loppen – Copenhagen, Denmark
  • 3/26 Atlas – Aarhus, Denmark
  • 3/27 Lava – Stockholm, Sweden
  • 3/28 Shakespeare Theatre – Gdańsk, Poland

2015 Band Breakup Blues Part 1

Bands breaking up is one of those inevitable facts of life that comes with liking music. Only so many groups are going to go the distance. There’s just too many things that can go wrong. Band members end up fighting. They get sick of doing all the hard work that goes into a band. Then there’s the disillusionment that comes with realizing that they’re not going to make it big. Whatever the reason, something is going cause most groups to eventually throw in the towel. That being said, it still hits you like a ton of bricks when a band that you love announces their breakup. Or just as bad — that they’re going on “hiatus.” For me, 2015 has had a surprising number of tragedies, to put it as over-dramatically as I can. Maybe it’s just that now there are so many bands that have caught my eye. In any case, here’s a little tribute to this year’s fallen.

Merpeoples

This New Wave-inspired pop group broke up in April. They were a four-piece band with smooth vocals and nice interplay between sharp Rickenbacker tones and synth/organ keyboards. Merpeoples’ sound was rounded out with a punchy bass and snare-focused drumming. Shiori, the second permanent drummer, left the band in spring of 2014 to focus on other projects including support drumming for Mayu. Merpeoples continued on for one more year before their final show at Shimokitazawa Reg. Singer and guitarist Charlotte has started a solo project  and has released one mini album, featuring a more mainstream pop sound.

Zaien Lily

A four-piece band (vocals and occasional keys, guitar, bass, drums) with a fairly standard Japanese indie rock sound. Measured, slightly theatrical singing set them apart from the crowd. Zaien Lily went on hiatus in November. However, the guitarist Suzuki has publicly announced his departure from the band. Drummer Nakamura followed suit. With only half the songs written by Suzuki and the rest written by singer Naomi, a relatively similar Zaien Lily could arise from the ashes eventually.

Genshou (現象)

Almost as soon as I had discovered Genshou, they announced that they were breaking up. The sudden notice came this month in December. Genshou was a incredibly energetic band that combined Red Hot Chili Peppers-style rock and traditional Japanese music.

Lily Rose

The powerful voice of half-British singer Ayumi Melody flies high over the mix of keyboard, guitar, bass, and drums in this dramatic four-piece Brit rock-inspired  all-female band. Formed only two years ago, the band entered an unannounced hiatus in September. This came as quite a surprise as Lily Rose had already gained a large following and had just received great reception to their first music video (directed by drummer Haru). Last month, they official confirmed their hiatus, stating that the future of the band would be announced at a later date.