Review: Shinamayu – Henshin

Henshin is the third record put out by pop rock group Shinamayu. All the releases have been on the major record label For Life Music Entertainment, but it is one of the smaller major labels (“major label” in Japan means in one of the labels that belongs to the Recording Industry Association of Japan (日本レコード協会)) and their scale for concerts is very much in line with a popular indie band.

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Track List

  1. Koi wo Shite Iru Me wo Shite Iru (恋をしている目をしている)
  2. not yet
  3. Sunday Fright (サタデーフライト)
  4. Dance Shakaijin (ダンス社会人)
  5. Bambi
  6. Kasa (傘)

As with their previous full-length album Maenarae, a few tracks are written by composers, with the majority of the song writing credits going to “Shinamayu” and arrangements by the band and an additional individual. On Henshin, tracks 1 and 2 are written by two different composers, and the rest of the tracks are by the band. Although I like the band as a whole, their songs are rather lacking in consistency. From Maenarae, I loved about three tracks and the rest spanned the spectrum of fine to bland. One of the things that helps draw me into the band is their energetic live presence. All three official members (the drummer is a support player, although it’s always the same drummer) have fun on stage. Takuma’s guitar abilities are really impressive and singer Mori Yui is incredibly charismatic. With their latest release, I can’t even honestly say there is a single track that I really like. All the rock has dropped out of their sound, and although I like pop, none of these songs stands out. I guess the catchiest is the lead track, Koi, but it pales in comparison to their best efforts from the last album. Overall, Henshin was a big disappointment and I hope they turn it around with their next release.

Standout Tracks

  • None [EDIT] With additional listens, Bambi has grown on me quite a bit

Review: tricot – KABUKU EP

Although tricot released a single online (Pork Ginger) during the winter, this is their first physical release in over a year. Not only that, but it’s a return to the mini album format that most bands abandon after they start making full length CDs.

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Track List

  1. Nichijo_Seikatsu
  2. Setsuyakuka (節約家)
  3. Aaa (あーあ)
  4. Plastic (プラスチック)
  5. Aoi Kuse (青い癖)

As with their previous release, A N D, KABUKU EP features multiple drummers. The first track doesn’t actually have a drum track, but instead features an a cappella intro with multi-tracked vocals providing singing and percussion. The guitars come in later in the track. This song is a little bit experimental but also a pretty clear message: tricot may not have a permanent drummer but they are not an incomplete band.

Most of the other tracks’ drumming is provided by fairly unknown indie drummers. Setsuyakuka is Abe Yuma of the band Norm (濃霧), Aaa is Kitagawa Akiyuki, who has various projects including Hello Micro Computer, and Aoi Kuse is Yoshida Yusuke, who recently drummed for tricot at two concerts. Plastic is drummed by Yuumi of FLiP, one of my favorite major label bands, which recently went on an indefinite hiatus. Abe’s drumming really fits tricot to a tee. Kigatawa starts out his track with an interesting rimshot-based drum line. Yuumi’s track is the most technically challenging, with some insane rhythms and tempo changes.

Overall, this five-track album is ambitious and a positive direction for the band. Although there were numerous elements adding freshness to A N D, such as the influence of the various drummers and a salsa number like Niwa, overall it felt like another chapter from the same book at T H E, with the tracks that didn’t stand out right away blending into the mix. Every song on KABUKU EP feels a little bit new, a little bit different, yet they don’t stray too far from tricot’s core sound. The structure of the songs is exciting and Ikkyu’s singing, especially on Setsuyakuka, really takes it to the next level.

Standout Tracks

  • Setsuyakuka – Ikkyu’s vocal change ups really make this, particularly the soulful section in the bridge
  • Aaa – The chorus of this is just too catchy