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.
As I’ve listened to the majority of her catalogue, I must say Koisuru Wakusei was the odd one out. That album was just produced differently – fuzzy electric guitars, a bit shoegaze-y at times, it definitely sounded the most mainstream-friendly amongst the stuff Kaneko’s done, while still retaining her soul and style.
Shukusai is more similar to the EPs she released more recently, though the songs receive a full-band treatment. It’s gentler, less sparkly, maybe not as upbeat as its predecessor, but when the album actually speeds up and the singer goes into fierce mode, Kaneko makes it count. ロマンス宣言 (Romansu sengen), the track from Mure-tachi which I was really hyped about, reappears here and is a perfect example of that gleaming power. Better yet, サマーバケーション (Summer Vacation) builds up that intensity, going from the mellow to the anthem-like chant. However, the most precious point of Shukusai is perhaps ゆくえ (Yukue). It’s the moment for reflection and collecting yourself. The bass notes sound almost ominous, and Kaneko’s voice fits incredibly well into that personal, intimate atmosphere she creates here.
Shukusai brings on 10 entirely new songs, and 3 reworks.
Home Alone and 祝日 (Shukujitsu – Public Holiday), the first and the last track which had the lead-in videos to promote the album. The former is about accepting one’s life for what it’s worth, the latter offers Kaneko’s wailing voice, a guitar and an embellished left eye of the singer – packed into that expressive music video.
序章 (Joshō – Prologue) – I can’t quite put my finger on it, but it’s exactly a song which says ‘Ayano Kaneko’s style’. The articulation, prolonged vocal outcries, the guitar breaks, the rhythm – they all say Kaneko.
カーステレオから (Car stereo kara) – jamming to the cool beat. I know shit-all about music, which is why I sometimes come up with weird comparisons. This track reminds me plenty of Courtney Barnett for some reason.
アーケード (Arcade) – it’s probably as angry as Kaneko can get, and what a fucking rocker this song is! I’ve replayed the badass opening riff couple of dozens of times just for the sake of it. I mean, chicks with acoustic guitars who constantly play ballads may seem tame, but then you hear a track like that, and the next thing you see is her cracking her guitar on your head. I love it so much.
Ayano Kaneko certainly continues to grow as an artist, and I’m very excited about things to come. Kaneko, Lovely Summer Chan and Kamin Shirahata are the trio I hope to hear from as often as possible (still not on board with Seiko Oomori).
Grab Shukusai if you can!