Review: tricot – 3

Last month marked the release of 3, the aptly named third full-length album from tricot. The album was accompanied by a huge push from the band and their team at Bakuretsu Records, both abroad and at home. The domestic release features two versions: a deluxe art collaboration with artist Cho Hikaru and a minimalist CD with no lyrics booklet and simply the number “3” printed on a clear jewel case. The latter retailed for 1500 yen, putting it at about half the price of a typical major album in Japan, presumably hoping to reach the widest audience. They also partnered with Big Scary Monsters for a European release and Topshelf Records for an American release. Three music videos were made for this album, not including two previously released tracks (“Pork Ginger” and “Setsuyakuka”) which already had videos. “Tokyo Vampire Hotel” was also a tie-in as the theme song to a Sono Sion (director of Suicide Club) Amazon Prime drama of the same name. What’s more, the entire album is available for listening in full on YouTube. Their focus seemed to be to reach as many people as possible with this third album and they seem to have done that. 3 has gotten a ton of music press in the English-speaking world, with features on NPR and more, and in Japan it charted on Oricon at 20, the best since their debut full-length T H E, which hit 18. But how is the album?

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  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)

3 Facts

  • For the first time since T H E, basically the entire album features only one drummer, Yoshida Yuusuke, who is also currently their main live drummer. The two exceptions are previously recorded tracks of “Setsuyakuka” (Abe Yuuma) and “Pork Ginger” (Wakiyama Kousuke, tabaccojuice drummer and contributor on A N D).
  • “Pork Ginger” was given away for free during Christmas 2015, but this is the first time since then it has been available for purchase.
  • Despite two songs having previous releases, “Wabi-Sabi” is the oldest song on the album and was written shortly after the release of T H E. It was never performed or recorded until now.
  • “Yosoiki” is the first track to feature (briefly) lead vocals from all three members.

From first to last, every track on 3 feels like an integral part of a bigger whole. There are no throw-away tracks. Every song feels like tricot, yet this is by far their most experimental album to date. Sukima is a staccato jazz swagger and Namu is a sugar-fueled pop nightmare. The whole album in general leans more to a pop sound than anything else so far and has few heavy-hitting rock tracks that were signature pieces in their earlier albums. Yet while the album has a great cohesive feel, two of the songs with the biggest impact are the two previously-released tracks, so it doesn’t quite feel right to credit them to this album. T H E, with “Pool,” “Omotenashi,” “Ochansensuusu,” “99.974C,” “Oyasumi,” and more, still feels the most impressive in terms of memorable individual songs. That said, 3 is a still great album. It has a lot in it for tricot fans, and may present a new angle for examination for tricot skeptics. I highly recommend a listen and think that this is a candidate for album of the year.

Standout Tracks

  • Yosoiki – Addictive groove in the verse
  • 18,19 – Powerful intro with excellent drumming
  • Namu – Perhaps a polarizing number, but the repeating lyrics of “namu,” a Buddhist mantra, in this hyper-pop song is mesmerizing

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.

 

Best Japanese Albums of 2016

As a mild disclaimer, I don’t have the widest taste in music in terms of genre, so saying this is a list of my favorite rock and pop albums of the year would have pretty much the same results. There were so many wonderful albums that came out this year, but the following thirteen are all ones that I’ve been drawn to and listened to closely and often. I don’t necessarily love every track of every record, but they are certainly all worth a listen from front to back, and I hope someone will take an interest in something new from reading this list. All albums had to be four tracks or longer to count for the list. I’ve arranged them in order, but lining up your favorites is such a difficult task and on any given day, I feel like the ranking could be quite different. Next year it probably wouldn’t look anything like it does now. The more you listen to music, the more your impressions change. But for today, this is how I feel.

13. Yabai T-Shirts-ya-san – We Love Tank-Top
ヤバイTシャツ屋さん – We love Tank-top

yabai

This is energetic and fun. Pop punk with funny lyrics. The contrast between slightly shouty male vocals and the very clear, high female vocals really makes their songs stand out despite the relatively simple structure, and they have great harmonies. It’s a three piece but the recordings have double-tracked guitar or sometimes keyboard, so it’s a relatively full sound for punk.

Best Track Overall: Musen LAN bari benri (無線LANばり便利)
Best Track You Can Listen To: Atsumare! Party People (あつまれ! パーティーピーポー)

12. Fuyuu Suru Neko – CLUTCH GIRL
浮遊スル猫 – CLUTCH GIRL

fuyuclutch

Another band with twin vocals: one a full, mature sound, the second a nasally, purposefully cute sound that have surprisingly good play against each other. Also a three piece band, the guitar is often simple but soaring with a harsh distortion tone behind the melodic vocal play. The bass is heavy on the effect pedals and the drums are simple but fitting. This album is their third album and the most realized of their attempts thus far, having a bit of a more mature sound and a balanced quality between the different tracks. It’s hard to pick a highlight because there are so many strong songs, and they’ve also branched out of their sound in an effective way with the dreamy “Lion.”

Best Track Overall: Shirimetsurestsu (支離滅裂)
Best Track You Can Listen To: Lalalila/Lion (ララリラ / ライオン)

11. Koresawa – JPOP
コレサワ ジエイポップ

koresawa-jpop

Koresawa is the ideal JPOP-style singer-songwriter for me. Her songs are straightforward and basic in structure, but they are all catchy and feature wonderful instrumentation, with a mix of acoustic and electric guitar, bass, keyboards, drums, and extra percussion, well-mixed and well-performed by Koresawa herself and session musicians. Her voice certainly also trends toward the more nasally and cute singing often found in mainstream pop (one of the two archetypes, the other being strong powerhouse ballad singers), but she sings quite well. Her lyrics are always adorable, and this 4-track EP is probably her best effort to date with four songs that you could just let go on repeat.

Best Track Overall: Short Cut ni Akogarete (ショートカットに憧れて)
Best Track You Can Listen To: J-POP

10. Mikkai to Miminari – Utsukushii Gyakushuu
密会と耳鳴り – 美しい逆襲

mikkai-utsu

One of my favorites on the heavier end of alt rock since FLiP have gone on hiatus — a couple of their very early songs actually remind of me of FLiP quite a lot. They’ve since gone a different direction in their sound, but it’s heavy hitting and poppy, with impressive guitar leads and a very distinctive voice from singer Chako. The guitar is even more impressive live while Hase is doing highkicks… I’ve sometimes seen them compared to tricot, though I personally don’t see too much similarity (no changing time signatures and completely different guitar and vocal sounds). My favorite from the band is their first mini album, but their latest release (and first available in stores) is excellent and includes several rerecordings from previous CDs.

Best Rerecording: Kagefumi (影踏み)
Best New Song: Saitei!Kibunya!__Bokumestsu! (最低!気分屋!○○撲滅!)

9. Regal Lily – The Post
リーガルリリー – the Post

regal-lily-the-post

Definitely one of the bands following in the footsteps of Chatmonchy, but Regal Lily easily breaks out of that paradigm with their unique style. Honoka’s slightly-out-out-tune, impassioned singing is wonderful and she makes liberal use of the chorus effect for her guitar (which is currently a Fender Mustang despite the single of this album being Rickenbacker). A strong indie character and some shoegazer influence, with quiet verses leading to huge choruses crashing down on you like a tidal wave with their ocean of sound. This CD is another first available-in-stores album and they seem well on their way to wider success.

Best Track: Rickenbacker (リッケンバッカー)

8. Gozen Sanji to Taikutsu – Seinen no Shiseikan
午前3時と退屈 – 成年の死生観

gozen-seinen

The first Gozen CD to have more than a couple tracks on it — it certainly feels like their first really complete work. So much time has passed since their last recording that you can really feel the progress they’ve made. The mixing is better and a lot of the songs are ones they’ve been playing live for over a year, so they’ve been polished quite a bit. The lead track (with a music video) is the first song written by the band’s new guitarist and sole male member, Hoshi. All the rest of the tracks are by vocal/keyboards Anisonin. It definitely feels different from the minor key haunting songs that Anisonin dreams up, yet still is not jarring from sound. Definitely a good overall CD that makes me excited to see what they’ll do next.

Best Track Overall: Ougon Jidai ni Timeslip (黄金時代にタイムスリップ)
Best Track You Can Listen To: Tokyo Dreamland (東京ドリームランド)

7. tricot – KABUKU EP

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This feels like a slightly more mature and slightly more experimental tricot. It’s not a large departure from their previous music, mathy alt rock with cleanly overdriven guitars, but definitely feels like they want to try some different ideas. This may also be the reason for singer Ikkyu’s solo project that started this year. With each track drummed by a different person, each song has a bit of a unique groove. As with most of tricot’s releases, there were some songs that I felt were much stronger than others, but still no bad songs. This is one of the earlier releases from this year to make this list, which speaks to its staying power. Read my earlier full review here.

Best Track: Setsuyakuka (節約家)

6. Hara From Hell – Minohodo
ハラフロムヘル – みのほど

hara-mino

As always, it’s hard not to be captivated by the dramatic vocals of Tatejima Yoko. She sounds like a singer straight out of the 30s or someone performing in a musical, yet the band is playing rock/folk. You definitely won’t find this mix anywhere else, and is definitely a sound that’s not for everyone, but I think it’s completely captivating. Minohodo has several rerecordings, but the new songs are good, including the lead track “Pants Hill” — the live version of which I initially watched on YouTube and fell in love with the band over. They’ve changed one guitarist since their last music release, but with only a subtly different style, the music feels relatively the same to their last CD, Matryoshka-san.

Best Track: Pants Hill (パンツヒル)

5. THE HUNGRY RUGRAT – Te
THE HUNGRY RUGRAT – 手

hungry-rugrat-te

This was one of my biggest surprises of the year. I’d never heard of this band, as they mostly play locally in Hokkaido, but they were in the Tokyo area for a short tour and I happened to see them play at a show I was at to see another band. The sound is so strongly UK rock that if the lyrics were in English you might not even suspect it’s a Japanese band. The songs are short and punchy and completely satisfying.

Best Track Overall: Aitsu no Sei (アイツのせい)
Best Track You Can Listen To: Shikai wa Kurai (視界は暗い)

4. ayumi melody – Froh Flow

ayumi-froh

One of the most relaxing, sweet, and wonderful albums I’ve listened to all year. These folky numbers, with just singing, acoustic guitar, and piano, are truly beautiful and the lyrics are incredibly touching. This album is a testament to the power of simple music beautifully crafted. Read my earlier full review here.

Best Track Overall: Hikari no Tsubu (ひかりのつぶ)
Best Track You Can Listen To: Midori no Sheets (みどりのシーツ)

3. Yubisaki Nohaku – Full Range
指先ノハク – フルレンジ

yubi-full

Yubisaki Nohaku is a band that has been working hard for a long time for an indie band with no lineup changes — eight years — without much success but is finally starting to gain some momentum. This newest album is produced by former Chirinuruwowaka guitarist Sakamoto Natsuki. They had an internet commercial promotion with Pocari Sweat sports drink for their song “Festablue,” and in their last series of events performed with some big indie names including a twoman show with tricot. This album has a couple of weaker songs like “No.9,” but overall is fantastic. A 90s-rock-esque alternative sound with some distinctive sounds from lead guitarist Junko. They’ve abandoned the keyboard for the time being with Full Range in favor of two guitars for all tracks on the record. The album is tied up with my favorite song of the year, “Sou.”

Best Track: Sou (層)

2. Peroperoshiteyaritaiwazu – Localism no Yoake
ペロペロしてやりたいわズ。 – ローカリズムの夜明け

peropero-full

This is an interesting album for this list. I like all of the songs, yet nothing stands out strongly like “Sou” on Full Range. But the album, 10 tracks long, works so well as a complete piece that it forged its way all the way to #2 on my list. Funk-inspired pop rock with groovy basslines and funky lead guitar and interesting singing — often leaning more to talking than singing depending on the track. I found myself listening to Localism front to back for several days on end when it came out, and then even went back to re-listen to all of their old CDs too.

Best Track Overall: City Boy
Best Track You Can Listen To: Furico

1. Zekkei Kujira – Jidori
絶景クジラ – 自撮り

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Another release from earlier in the year that managed to stay in my mind this whole time. Jidori is the best Zekkei has ever been and is a perfect five tracks of pop-rock with a little edge, a little groove, and impressive, addictive singing. It’s a shame that bassist Uemaya is leaving the band in March. Hopefully they can find a good replacement and continue to put out amazing music. Read my earlier full review here.

Best Track: Saigo ni Ai wa Katsu (最後に愛は勝つ)

Zekkei Kujira signs to tricot’s Bakuretsu label

In a bit of serendipity, I talked about Zekkei Kujira and tricot in the same post earlier this year, and it turns out they are now labelmates, with Zekkei recently announced to become the first band signed to tricot’s independent label Bakuretsu. That is of course excluding tricot’s joke band “Disappointing Girl.”

In a follow up to Tadori (“picture taken by someone else”), released earlier this year on Jackman Records after being one of the 2015 winners of the RO69 JACK 2015 amateur band contest, in just four days they will release Jidori (“selfie”) on Bakuretsu. “Saishin heiki” (“newest weapon”) is the single track from this upcoming mini album.

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

 

New tricot and Zekkei Kujira on 4/27

I was watching a live stream broadcast of tricot’s concert in Wakayama tonight. It was the last stop on their Yattokosa tour of Japan, where they performed at all 17 of 47 prefectures of Japan in which they had never done a show. tricot has always been a band that really shows they care about there fans and this tour is a great example of that attitude. They purposefully went to play shows that probably didn’t sell very well compared to their other options so that fans who live far away could get a chance to see them.

During the encore of the show, they announced a new five-track CD entitled “KABUKU EP” to be released April 27th. None of the tracks have been released, although it’s possible that Pork Ginger will be one of them. It will also be interesting to see what they do about drummers — will there be multiple guest musicians like the last album or will regular support drummer Miyo be doing them all? They also released a new art picture, shown below.

news_header_tricot_art201602

It was also announced last week that another favorite of mine, Zekkei Kujira, will be releasing an album on the same date. It’s also five tracks and is called “Tatori” (他撮り). The lead track is papapa. This was previously included on their third demo, but they’re re-recorded the song. The song hasn’t changed much but the different instrument parts are a little clearer. The tracks have been announced as follows:

  1. My Little Parallel Dreamers (マイリトルパラレルドリーマーズ)
  2. papapa
  3. The burger of Idaho
  4. Mercy Haku (メルシー伯)
  5. Tatori (他撮り)

The first track is also on the third demo, but I imagine it will be a re-recording as well. They’ve released a new music video of papapa with the new recording.

tricot – A N D: Best Albums of 2015 #3

There was a whole assortment of good music in Japan, but my favorite songs of the year were often from singles or were gems in otherwise less-impressive albums. Instead of a long list, I’ve decided to just post about my top three albums of the year. Each of these I’ve listened to over and over and they not only have some amazing stand-out songs but work as a whole; there isn’t a single track I’d skip when listening. This entry is for the third best of the year.

tricot – A N D

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  • Noradrenaline
  • Hashire (走れ)
  • E
  • Iro no nai suisou (色の無い水槽)
  • Kobe number (神戸ナンバー)
  • Kieru (消える)
  • Pai~n A N D ver. (ぱい~ん A N D ver.)
  • Shokutaku (食卓)
  • Niwa (庭)
  • CBG
  • QFF
  • Break

After the departure of their drummer Komaki in 2014, there were some doubts as to how the sound of tricot would pan out. His complex rhythm patterns seemed essential to their mathy rock sound. However, they went on to release the single Break in the summer of that year, overly symbolizing a break from their previous incarnation and the start of a new era for tricot. Originally, the band was just the three girls playing with support drumming, so this was actually a reversion back to earlier days. Break was a strong single, with an melancholic sound and slower tempo; it’s the kind of number that really grows on you the more you listen. The They solicited for videos of fans tearing paper on which they had written a word that they wanted to “break” (I’m in the video by the way!) Providing the drums on the single and for the vast majority of live shows after Komaki left was Miyoko Yamaguchi (Miyo) from Detroit7. Her main band isn’t currently active but she does support drumming for a variety of other indie artists.

The followed up Break with a second single, E, in the spring. The music video is a dizzying spinning view of three drum sets flashing between scenes of each of three members playing drums and their own instruments. E sounds more akin to the tracks from the previous album T H E, but with some novel drumming from BOBO, heavy on the tambourine.

They recorded the album with the help of five drummers. In addition to Miyo and Bobo mentioned above, Toshiki Hata (ex. Tokyo Jihen), Kousuke Wakiyama (tobaccojuice), and Muneomi Senju are featured. Finally, there is one track from a previous recording session with komaki. tricot had a live stream where they played one song with each of the five drummers, and all joined in during the breakdown in Niwa, which they uploaded on YouTube as well.

Overall, the album is a strong effort. It has some real memorable tracks, with a relatively wide range of sounds from the cool Kobe Number to the intense Kieru to the dramatic Break. That being said, I find myself liking their previous album T H E more overall. Along with the impressive songs on A N D, there are a number of forgettable tracks as well. Still, I am quite satisfied and looking forward to see what tricot brings for their next album. They’re already off to a great start with their new single Pork Ginger, which was one of my favorite music videos of the year.

Standout tracks: Niwa, Break, Kieru, Kobe Number