Ayano Kaneko 2018 update – Shukusai – 2nd full-length album

The second update post about my (currently) favorite Japanese singer. The singer-songwriter/girl with an acoustic guitar shtick isn’t anything groundbreaking, as there are many artists like that in Japan (and in the Western side of things Joni Mitchell or Emmylou Harris have been doing that decades ago). Yet, while listening to Ayano Kaneko I get the feeling she’s a real talent, there’s something special about her music. Her releases continue to bring a smile on my face and the songs make me tap my feet, and that’s what counts, right? A week and a half ago 祝祭 (Shukusai – Festival) came out, which is Kaneko’s second full-length album, following 恋する惑星 (Koisuru Wakusei – Love Planet) from 2015. Continue reading →

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Ayano Kaneko – Mure-tachi (群れたち) album

Ever since I’ve heard 恋する惑星 (Koisuru Wakusei) in full, I’ve been hoarding any カネコアヤノ (Ayano Kaneko) CDs I could find. The thing which I decided to skip on was last year’s LP, 群れたち (Mure Tachi). I’m becoming more and more of a collector, but I still haven’t got round to purchasing a turntable, so I decided against ordering a vinyl recording, only for the sake of having it. The moment it sold out, I’ve already regretted my decision… Thankfully, Kaneko actually released the album again in February, this time in the CD format.
The lack of English information/news about this lovely artist, and purely depending on my extremely limited Japanese and Google Translate to find the info sucks, but I’m slowly getting hang of it. Continue reading →

What is Love? TWICE is.

JYP sure has struck gold with TWICE. The band’s brand of bubbly pop, sugary voices and smiley faces sells ridiculously well, while the views on Youtube reach some crazy new heights (TT is at 350 million, while the newest song is already at 74 million).
The band made a comeback earlier in April with a new EP entitled ‘What Is Love?’. The title track doesn’t really bring to the table anything groundbreaking stylistically – it’s exactly what one would expect from a hit made by Twice, and apparently, it’s exactly what the masses want, as the girls have won on most of the Korean music shows over the last few weeks. I’m kind of picky when it comes to TWICE songs – I’m constantly rocking to TT, Like Ooh AAh, and last year’s Signal and Likey, but my response to Knock Knock was lukewarm at best, and Heart Shaker is way too cringy for me (‘yeah yeah no no’) – What is Love? fits into the first group of tunes, as the song is the right sort of catchy and the music video is really cool. Continue reading →

The Best of Knowing Bros

The best TV talk show I’ve ever seen? Sure, I enjoyed Mock the Week, back when Frankie Boyle was ripping everyone and everything to shreds. I laughed hard at Dave Letterman’s attempts to make guests feel as awkward as possible (to lesser extent, Conan O’Brien sometimes does the similar shtick). Graham Norton had me cracking up many times. There’s also Polish Kuba Wojewódzki show, where the titular host is joined by guests for the no holds barred chat. It was kind of fresh and unusual at the time over here, but I feel it became just crass with no subtlety, and the guy got way too political, instead of staying a goofball. Then, the hope was gone with Letterman’s retiring (he’s back though!!!!), and all that could be heard was the fake-ass giggle of Jimmy Fallon. I sought relief and laughter in the world of Korean variety shows, Running Man and New Journey to the West standing out as genuinely hilarious shows. But the truly unrivaled show came in the form of Knowing Brother aka Knowing Bros aka Ask Us Anything. Continue reading →

Yuki Saito – Japanese pop gem from the 80s

When I hear the term ‘Japanese idol pop‘, two names that first come to mind are Momoe Yamaguchi and Akina Nakamori. That’s my opinion though, as both were quite different artistically than most of their peers –  Yamaguchi and Nakamori stood as sort of femme-fatale figures, capable of powerful delivery, whose music was often dark and/or provocative. They were certainly huge back in the day, but even then, the bubbly sugar pop dominated the scene, and it continues to do so to this day. I’m definitely not trying to make it sound as if it was a bad thing – the 80s produced a great deal of amazing idol-singers, and there are some newer artists I’m also fond of.

Music-wise I particularly love the 80s, and my previous great discovery from that time was Yukiko Okada – her catchy music and the tragic story gripped my heart. My most recent unearthed 80s gem is Yuki Saito. I did hear about her before, but only in the context of the timeless 80s anime Maison Ikkoku and the superb song used for that show –  悲しみよこんにちは (Kanashimi yo Konnichi wa – ‘Hello Sadness’). It was composed by Tamaki Koji of 安全地帯 (Anzen Chitai) fame.

However, I soon found out, that there’s much more to her career than an anime opening theme. Continue reading →

Looking for an addictive anime? Re:Zero -Starting Life in Another World- is the answer

I’m not sure if it’s anime overdose, me getting old or anime getting worse, but I must say I watched very few series last year – the number is even lower if I only count the shows which actually aired over the last 12 months. So, there was the always solid Natsume Yuujinchou with its 6th season, the wrap-up to my beloved Monogatari series – Owarimonogatari 2nd Season (which did bring some closure to the franchise, but it was missing the sparks that captivated me almost 10 years ago, when all this started); Youkoso Jitsuryoku Shijou Shugi no Kyoushitsu e, aka Welcome to the Classroom of the Elite – that intrigued me for a while, but ended up being half-assed about everything; as always hilarious Shokugeki no Souma S3, and light Masamune-kun no Revenge. So when I suddenly felt an urge to watch a decent anime, I approached Re:Zero kara Hajimeru Isekai Seikatsu (Re:ZERO -Starting Life in Another World-) very cautiously, without huge expectations. I was positively surprised. Intended and non-intended spoilers ahead! →

Funky Japanese pop of Dance for Philosophy

BABYMETAL managed to combine idol culture with metal. Halcali or Rhymeberry mix it with hip-hop. Seiko Omoori, just like the legendary Jun Togawa back in the day goes for the anti-idol gimmick. My newest jam, Dance for Philosophy, is a cool 4-piece Japanese girl group, which puts their own, refreshing and bouncy spin on the genre. Continue reading →

Shiina Ringo 2017 update and Reimport vol. 2 album

I haven’t written about Shiina Ringo, my favorite Japanese female artist in a while. There wasn’t that much going on around her, and the recent years showed that cashing in on CM music is the thing she’s focused on the most. And that’s coming from a guy who thinks that Sunny (Hi Izuro Tokoro) was a decent album, Nippon is corny, but acceptable, and Ringo Expo ’14 was an enjoyable hot concert recording (a bit of a mess at times, but a hot one). 逆輸入 ~港湾局~ (Gyakuyunyū: Kōwankyoku, ‘Reimport: Ports and Harbours Bureau’), the self-covers CD, which came in 2014 was pretty cool as well. Finally, three years since the aforementioned Reimport and Sunny albums, we got a new record this December – and guess what, it’s the vol. 2 of Reimport. Continue reading →

Wonder Girls continue to rock: Sunmi’s Gashina and Yenny’s MEiNE

I’m gonna keep mention this ’til I’m blue in the face – I simply cannot get over Wonder Girls’ disbandment. Yenny, Sunmi, Yubin and Hyerim turning into pop/rock/reggae band with idol elements was a perfectly executed idea, and Reboot album in particular got me super-hyped and hungry for more. Unfortunately, the girls could not win with the vicious kpop industry. As they had been around for quite some time, newer, younger idol groups became much more popular, and this led to the obvious conclusion – only the bands which bring in the most $$$ get to stay and do stuff (WG’s contracts were expiring and the re-negotiations brouhaha was bound to end in flames).

Yenny and Sunmi parted ways with JYP, and as it turned out, fortunately they’re good without him. Continue reading →

Lovely Summer Chan – Ningen no Tochi

Convenient censoring

Lovely Summer Chan’s LSC was the perfect out of the blue album that rocked my world last year. The perfect blend of the kawaii, distorted guitars, mellow, adorable voice and pop/rock/electronic/you-name-it sound hit that perfect spot on my music palate. Since then, I’ve been eagerly anticipating more stuff from her, and on August 2 this year, Lovely Summer Chan has finally released some new music – an E.P. entitled Ningen no Tochi (人間の土地‘Human Land’). And once again each song appears to be entirely different than the other ones.

Ningen no Tochi consists 4 tracks and all of them represent different music genres and styles – which is a lot like LSC – the diversity of that record is something that continues to amaze me. Continue reading →