The Spinners

Archive for the ‘J-Pop’ Category

♪ Ikenai Taiyō (Bad Sun) (Orange Range, 2007) ♪

In J-Pop, KZ Otarra, Summer Songs, Track Reviews on April 13, 2010 at 7:53 am

There’s something vintage about this track that makes it perfect for summer road trips and pool parties. Although it does not mention anything related to summer (except for the “sun” in its title), hearing the song makes me think of a pool party in broad daylight with drunk guys pushing each other into the pool. Unless you understand Japanese, you would not think it’s another passionate love song.

“Ikenai Taiyō” was the opening song of the popular Japanese drama Hanazakari no Kimitachi e back in 2008. The drama was very popular and it made the track famous as well. With some rap and grunge influences, the tune is quite easy to remember: a candidate for another LSS. It’s not too heavy, not too light. Just like my ideal weather for summer: clear skies with a little breeze. Personally, the best part of the song is Ganeko Yamato’s voice. His pitch matches well with the whole retro theme of the track. It sounds hypnotic and unique without trying too hard.

That said, this song will stay in my summer playlist for a long time. Maybe one day, I’ll memorize it enough to belt it out loud while driving.

– KZ Otarra

Download “Ikenai Taiyo”

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Dream “A” Live (Arashi, 2008)

In J-Pop, Je Lapegera on January 28, 2010 at 5:42 pm

Dream “A” Live marks the distinction of Arashi’s place in J-Pop culture: from being your everyday household boy band names to becoming your highly entertaining super idols.

Compared to their early releases, Arashi’s eighth studio album is more amplified through the use of strings, winds, and beats as their base material, infused in a wide range of music genres—pop, rock, jazz, ballad, name it. The opening track “Theme of Dream ‘A’ Live” enchants you with the same concoction of orchestral feeling while being invited by the boys to Come on! Get out! in their Jap-American flair. Both “Step and Go” and “Life Goes On” have that perennial pop-groovy vibe, complemented by the mix of trumpets and keyboard. “Niji no Kanata e”, “Once Again”, and “Flashback”, on the other hand, all exhibit a slow, jazzy yet upbeat aura.

The songs in the album are catchy by nature and imbibe the usual relatable contexts of love, hope, and bliss. Aside from being the OST of Yamada Taro Monogatari series, who would not be enticed by the delightful harmony (and dorky images of fun-loving boys) of “Happiness”? More optimistic feelings can be drawn out from “Do My Best” and “My Answer” with their cheery, positive melodies. Moreover, almost anyone can be captivated by the boys’ rendition of “Serious” and “Koe”, appealing to a more amorous mood through their ballad tones.

Dream “A” Live should be commended as well in showcasing the boys’ individual vocal style. Without argument, the album brings out the best in them vocally. While tracks such as “Dive into the Future”, “Move Your Body”, and “Your Song” exude the group’s ability to blend with each other’s singing prowess, solo parts should also not be taken for granted. Additional member tracks are also included in the album’s limited edition, not just to target their audience’s purchasing power, but also to raise that distinction beyond that boy band stigma. Masaki Aiba is left alone in his usual nasal yet cheerful self with his rendition of “Hello Goodbye”. Kazunari Ninomiya reinvents “Gimmick Game”, a love-hate upbeat song that complements his high balladeer voice. Satoshi Ohno never fails to impress us with his crystal clear voice as he sings “Take Me Faraway”, while Jun Matsumoto tries his uber-sexy glitzy performance of “Naked”. Of course the rapping is still owned by Sho Sakurai, with his tongue-twisting “Hip Pop Boogie”.

Dream “A” Live, upon its release, created that certain buzz about Arashi through its trendier, post-modernish music clamor underlying their ideal mature matinee imagery. It is instrumental in pushing the boys to surpass that boy-glam stage and ultimately sustain the transition of becoming spectacular titans of the J-pop scene. But for any fangirl, flailing or not, it is nothing but dreamy.

– Je Lapegera

♪ Change (Miho Fukuhara, 2008) ♪

In Folk, J-Pop, KZ Otarra, Soul, Track Reviews on January 11, 2010 at 3:51 pm

There’s no such thing as accidents, people say. I only started to believe it when I downloaded Miho Fukuhara’s “Change” by accident. I don’t understand Japanese, but it does not need an understanding of the language to be able to appreciate this particular song. It has everything that makes a good pop song, including a catchy beat and a tune that’s really easy to follow; but the greatest strength of the song would be Miho Fukuhara’s clear and powerful voice. It lures you in from the first note up to the last. In a time when most of the songs we hear on the radio are auto-tuned, this one’s fresh and different. “Change” may sound hopeful and happy, but it ironically talks about desperation and holding on to love (why am I crying so much / don’t let go); thus, the need for “change.” It’s an emo song that makes you dance. So it’s not a shock to know that this is her bestselling single so far. I realize, after listening to this, it’s a good start to learn more about the Japanese pop scene.

– KZ Otarra

♪ K (Ogre You Asshole, 2009) ♪

In Indie Rock, J-Pop, Richard Bolisay, Track Reviews on January 10, 2010 at 3:03 pm

I have this strange feeling that the letter is haunting me, following me to remind me of things, of memories which, as far as I can recall, all started after reading Soseki’s Kokoro in college, the character named K committing suicide which leaves Sensei, the main character, filled with guilt; and the other time, when I ended up reading Murakami’s Sputnik Sweetheart, for no reason at all but because Murakami is an all-around comforter, my bean bag, and anyway, in Sputnik Sweetheart there’s another character named K, the narrator, who is in love with a woman who likes another woman. Since then, I thought, the “K-incident” would be dead and buried as long as I don’t speak of it with other people, after all we go through these inexplicable phases in life especially when we are young that are better left unexplained than understood, so my anxiety about the letter haunting me stopped. Anyway, nothing reminded me of it in the past few months but a few days ago came OYA’s crazy album, introduced to me by my friend Thor, and track number 6 is called “K”, yeah, just “K”, like those characters I mentioned above, an innocent mockery it seems. And what more—Japanese. Again. Big deal. “K” is one-minute long, a careful duet of the guitar and the tambourine, and in the end the effects eat everything up, the distortion seems to cloud all what have been set in the beginning, clearing the coast with fog. But in all those sixty seconds, like a solemn prayer, the letter K stays—my third K, now in music—continuing the tradition, keeping the remembrance of things past.

– Richard Bolisay

♪ Candy (Ken Hirai, 2009) ♪

In J-Pop, Thor Balanon, Track Reviews on January 6, 2010 at 7:25 am

Ken Hirai never shied away from pop experiments, and single “Candy” is another oddball: neonized jazz sprinkled with jungle; a wobbly dance track but is pure sonic candy that melts in the ear. Blissful and strange. The less vocal version is cyberpunk sweet. Imagine robot dancing to overlapping flirty bleeps somewhere on a floating city. “フルサ・サイーダ” mixes belly-dancing riffs with drum n’ bass, while “Do It!!” is more straightforward R&B (and wouldn’t sound misplaced in Fakin’ Pop), Hirai’s voice still as smooth as spiked honey.

– Thor Balanon

Fog Lamp/フォグランプ (Ogre You Asshole, 2009)

In J-Pop, Richard Bolisay, Rock, Thor Balanon on January 5, 2010 at 4:00 pm

Manabu Deto makes me want to learn Japanese because I seriously want to know what’s going on with the mewing vocals, what those cleanly twisting guitar lines are coiling over in infectious ecstasy for. OYA sounds like the basterd child of The Shins and Vampire Weekend, and Fog Lamp (lo-fi, irrevocably melodic) is a masterpiece by any standard. Riffs broken by chops lit by flickering, fuzzy plucking, “Wipers/ワイパ”ーruns 9 minutes but those droning chords can go on forever. “Cracker/クラッカ”ーstarts the album like a pebble skippingーdelicate, rhythmic—before “Fog Lamp/フォグランプ” floods the gates with a dancey four count, guitars marching recklessly. And just when you think it couldn’t get better, “Stage/ステージ” dives into Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain territory. Words simply fly out the window. Hooks, shiny chord shifts, invulnerable pop sunshine. All under 6 minutes.

– Thor Balanon

Words are not only about the meaning of them—as important as meaning is the sound of them, how their sound communicates and expresses thoughts without their actual meanings, without their intended message and implication. Listening to OYA’s Fog Lamp defies lack of comprehension; yet how rewarding the experience is. And how ironic—no matter how grossly misused and abused the adjective is—that I am expressing this failure to grasp the physicality of words through words, as if choices have all died and lost. Skin deep (orthographically and calligraphically), words are music on their own; and in the case of Fog Lamp, words are wordless, words are riffs and beats, words are silence, words build towers and autobahns, words let the Mt. Fuji cry, and words are the world’s worst kneejerkers.

– Richard Bolisay