Review: yonige – Neyagawa City Pop

This is the third mini album from Osaka indie group yonige, a three piece band with just the guitarist and bassist as formal members. They play pretty straightforward Japanese indie pop rock, with driving beats, overdriven barre chords, and a tendency for repeating lyrical phrases. Previously they touted the singer Arisa’s biracialness in their tag line “Yonige from Neyagawa, Osaka, Japanese rock sung by a 20-year-old half-Australian Japanese girl” (still listed in the description of a music video from two years ago), but they have dropped everything but “Yonige, Japanese rock from Neyagawa, Osaka” on their current website bio. Their growth is quite visible of late, with appearance at bigger festivals like Muro Fest and on TV music programs as well. They’ve also recently had Komaki, formerly of tricot, playing drums for them.

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  1. our time city
  2. Sayonara prisoner (さよならプリズナー)
  3. Kanashimi wa itsumo no naka (悲しみはいつもの中)
  4. Shiganai futari (しがないふたり)
  5. Saiai no koibitotachi (最愛の恋人たち)

The lead track off this album, “Sayonara Prisoner,” is another break up tune like their biggest hit up to this point, “Avocado.” This album is catchy as a whole, with particularly memorable verses, and although it sticks to one style doesn’t fall into the trap of being bland. Each track is just different enough from each other to be fresh and distinguishable. I think this is marginally their best CD to date, but at the same time there is nothing particularly new about what they’re doing here. If you’ve liked yonige up until now, you should definitely like this album too.  If you felt iffy about them before, nothing here is going to change your mind. If you haven’t heard of yonige, definitely give them a try! Judging by their current level of popularity, it wouldn’t be too surprising if they get picked up by a major record label for their next release.

Standout Tracks

  • our time city – there’s this break in the second prechorus that really does it for me
  • Sayonara prisoner – catchy verses

Review: Asian Kung-Fu Generation AKG Tribute (Various Artists)

In celebration of Asian Kung-Fu Generation’s 20th anniversary comes this tribute album. The artists appearing are mostly up-and-coming younger bands who most likely grew up listening to AKG. I’ve been listening to AKG for only 10 years myself. I don’t know exactly how the different bands were picked, but I do know that they were allowed to pick the song they wanted to cover, as Regal Lily’s vocalist Honoka talked about it briefly at a recent show. I also know that Regal Lily are big fans of AKG, covering Soranin at a concert a year earlier. The songs are unsurprisingly concentrated around their earlier albums, with five from Kimi Tsunagi FM and three from Solfa.

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  1. yonige – Soranin (ソラニン)
  2. 04 Limited Sazabys – Mirai no hahen (未来の破片)
  3. Jin (じん) – Re:Re:
  4. amazarashi – Natsu no hi, zanzou (夏の日、残像)
  5. Creepy Nuts – Rewrite (リライト)
  6. Scenario Art (シナリオアート) – Maigoken to ame no beat (迷子犬と雨のビート)
  7. LILI LIMIT – Blackout (ブラックアウト)
  8. Yoru no honki dance (夜の本気ダンス) – N.G.S
  9. BLUE ENCOUNT – Understand (アンダースタンド)
  10. Regal Lily (リーガルリリー) – Mustang (ムスタング)
  11. never young beach – Kimi no machi made (君の街まで)
  12. the chef cooks me – Kakato de ai wo uchinarase (踵で愛を打ち鳴らせ)
  13. KANA-BOON – Kimi to iu hana (君という花)

As with most tribute albums, the songs range from straight covers with slightly different elements mixed in from the covering band’s signature sounds (for example, 04 Limited Sazabys has a double-time punk drum beat in their version of “Mirai no hahen” and Regal Lily has chorus effect on the guitar as they usually do for their cover of “Mustang”) to completely different arrangements, like the surf rock rendition of “Kimi no machi made” by never young beach. Creepy Nuts’s song was by far the worst cover. I just don’t think their rap and music style gels well with AKG, Japanese champions of alt rock. Overall, it is a fun and satisfying album that I’d recommend to any AKG fan, especially if it has a few bands on it you like already.

Best Covers: yonige, 04 Limited Sazabys, Scenario Art, BLUE ENCOUNT, Regal Lily, never young beach

 

Concert Report: Aoba Ichiko March 26 Kichijoji Kichimu

A few months ago, I came across a singer-songwriter named Aoba Ichiko. A break from my usual upbeat rock and pop listening habits, Ichiko albums feature slow, beautiful songs made up of her voice, acoustic guitar, and occasional ambient noises. She has quite a back catalog for me to go through, with five solo albums and a number of collaborative works. I discovered a long time ago that I get much more out of an artist’s albums if I slowly add them to my music library instead of speeding through all at once. So far I’ve listened to the most recent three, which are all quite lovely.

I usually jump right in to seeing an artist live once I discover them. There was one show that fit my schedule: a oneman show at a small jazz cafe in Shimokitazawa. Although the website didn’t say that the show was sold out, I didn’t have high hopes. When I phoned (the only way to get a ticket reservation), it indeed had been booked up for weeks. Very soon afterward, though, another opportunity presented itself. Her staff twitter announced two oneman shows at a Kichijoji cafe at the end of the month, and tickets were first-come-first-serve by email starting the next day at noon. Another small venue! Great for seeing an acoustic show, but I had an email ready to shoot off exactly at 12:00 to hopefully get a ticket. I ended up in the #4 slot, and it sold out shortly after.

A few weeks later, I arrive in Kichijoji on a Sunday evening and head to the venue. It’s cold and drizzling. I get to the cafe about 10 minutes before doors. The cafe is on the basement level of the building, and there’s a small fence blocking the entryway, indicating to wait on the ground floor. A staff member comes up eventually and starts organizing the growing crowd into lines. I realize it must be a pretty big cafe with how many people are now waiting with me. The crowd is decidedly hipster. I see vintage dresses, earth tones, oversized sweaters, unusual haircuts, kitch outfits. Age trends towards 30s and 40s. Gently muffled from the stairwell I can hear the sounds of rehearsal. It’s running late and it’s 10 minutes past doors before we’re let in.

Inside the cafe, I find no tables or regular cafe setup but rather row upon row of stools, crowded closely together. The first row aren’t even real stools but rather short stepping stools you’d use to reach a high shelf. Each stool was covered with a small segment of carpeting. Wary of sitting so low for a long period of time, I opt for the normal chair-height stools in the second row. The crowd slowly trickles in and the room fills up. People awkwardly step over each other and the stools to get in line to exchange their drink vouchers. At the front of the room was set up microphones, a toy piano, a keyboard, and a small guitar amp. At one point, I see someone peek out from behind the curtain cover the windowed door to the right of the stage. About ten minutes after the start time, the lights dim and Ichiko comes out to play.

She has an electric acoustic guitar and is dressed in a colorfully patterned dress with a black felt coat over it. Ichiko sits on a stool and without a word begins the performance. It’s breathtaking. Her single and playing are perfect; they’re exactly as skillful as in her recordings. She’s using fingerpicking but she also has a thumb pick. She plays for about an hour then says there will be a short intermission. When she returns, she’s wearing a gray-blue drapy dress and calls in another singer, in a matching white dress, so back her up. This is Aoyanagi Izumi, and she sings harmony for a couple songs as well as playing a eukelele one song and tiny hand bells the next. I can’t find much information on her but she’s playing a show this month with Ichiko and there’s this recording on YouTube of them singing together.  Then a male duo call “detune.” comes onto stage. One plays very gentle, echo-y electric guitar and the other plays the toy piano and keyboard. The keyboard player sings in falsetto and they have a three-part harmony. They play two songs before all three other musicians take their leave. Next, Ichiko plays my absolute favorite of her songs, “Kikai shikake no uchuu.”  I wasn’t sure she’d play it because it’s 12 minutes long. It is fabulous. After a few more songs, the concert ends an entire two hours and forty minutes after the start time. It was quite the show, and after sitting on a stool for that entire time, I quickly take my leave into the cool night.

Asian Kung-Fu Generation – Kouya wo aruke| Music Video Monday

One of my first favorite Japanese bands was Asian Kung-Fu Generation (Ajikan for short) and 20 years after their debut they still have it. This song is a tie-in with a movie called Yoru wa mijikashi aruke yo otome, by the same team and based on another book by the same author of Tatami Galaxy, my favorite anime series. That show also had a tie-in song with Ajikan and the character design for both is done by Nakamura Yusuke, the artist who draws the Ajikan album covers. The movie just came out this weekend and it was excellent as well.

Japan Video

Non-Japan Video

Upcoming release of tricot’s third full album “3”

The album was announced a couple months ago, but the full details are finally out and about for 3. The Japanese version of the album will be released on May 17th. It will be available as a digital download and as well as in two different physical versions. The first will be a minimalist “Simple is the Best” version with no jacket or lyrics booklet, pictured below, and will sell for 1500 yen.

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There is also a 999 copy limited edition Deluxe version. The songs will be split into three discs, each curated by one of the band members. It will be in a box designed by artist Cho Hikaru and include a jigsaw puzzle. With the limited number and high price tag of 4,860 yen, it’s only for collectors. Lead vocals Ikkyu mentioned that it initially was going to be even more expensive, but they toned it down. There’s no visual of the Deluxe version available at this time. It’s being sold only at Tower Records and most of the preorders have already sold out, after being made available on Monday night.

Additionally, for the first time tricot’s album will be released by record labels in additional countries. Big Scary Monsters will be releasing it in the UK/EU and Topshelf Records will release it in the U.S. on May 19th. It will be available on CD and vinyl, with a design featuring a taxidermied butterfly.

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On March 25th, tricot held a concert at O-West in Shibuya where they played the entirety of their new album in the same track order as the CD. I was luck enough to see the show and the new songs sound great. They still have some of their standard sound but also mix in some new elements and effects. We also see the return of “Pork Ginger.” Although the music video can be watched on YouTube, the song was only available for purchase on Bandcamp for a few days at Christmas 2015. also includes “Setsuyakuka” which was the lead track from their KABUKU EP released last year.

  1. TOKYO VAMPIRE HOTEL
  2. WABI-SABI
  3. Yosoiki (よそいき)
  4. DeDeDe
  5. Sukima (スキマ)
  6. pork side
  7. Pork Ginger (ポークジンジャー)
  8. Echo (エコー)
  9. 18,19
  10. Namu (南無)
  11. MUNASAWAGI
  12. Setsuyakuka (節約家)
  13. Melon Soda (メロンソーダ)

     

Finally, last week a new song from the album “DeDeDe” was released on iTunes in Japan and is available for listening on YouTube as well. It’s got a bit of a Latin groove with a chorus reminiscent of “Oyasumi.”

All in all, I’m very excited for the release next month. Following the release, tricot will be heading out on a 47 stop tour where they will visit every Japanese prefecture besides their now-home of Tokyo (and twice in Hokkaido). There’s about a month gap in the middle where they will be playing at ArcTanGent Festival in England August 17-19 and I expect they will play more shows in the UK and Europe around that time.