A Guide to Daydream pt. 4 – Nagoya

Over the last few years, Kyoto Shoegazer has emerged as the biggest showcase of the local shoegaze scene in Japan.  This year the Kyoto Shoegazer team has put together Daydream, a four day festival spanning three cities that will kick off in December.  The event will host some of the finest shoegaze, dream pop, alt rock, etc. that Japan has to offer.

Over the last few years, Kyoto Shoegazer has emerged as the biggest showcase of the local shoegaze scene in Japan.  This year the Kyoto Shoegazer team has put together Daydream, a four day festival spanning three cities that will kick off in December.  The event will host some of the finest shoegaze, dream pop, alt rock, etc. that Japan has to offer.  I will be previewing each of the events as they come.  The fourth and final Daydream event will be held on Saturday, January 21st at Tsurumai Daytrip in Nagoya.  Click the link below to reserve tickets. 

ここ数年京都シューゲイザーは日本のシューゲイザーを特集する一番大きなイベントになってきている。今年、12月から4日程3都市でイベントDAYDREAMを行う。このイベントに日本の高品質のシューゲイザー、ドリームポップ、オルタナのバンドが出演する(あと、香港からのゲストも出る予定!)。Muso Japanは各イベントをプレビューする。次は1月21日に名古屋鶴舞DAYTRIPにて行われるDAYDREAM NAGOYAである!チケット予約は以下のリンクから。

Home Page/イベントホームページ

Ticket Reservation/チケット予約


JUVENILE JUVENILE

Osaka’s Juvenile Juvenile has established itself as Japan’s premier dream pop band. While there’s no shortage of dreamy indie pop in the country, few bands have demonstrated the ability to craft a thick, swirling atmosphere around jangly guitar hooks and catchy melodies as proficiently as Juvenile Juvenile.  In 2016, the band released its first material in two years – the 7” double A-side single “Planet Heaven/Perfect Lies”, produced by The Bilinda Butchers’ Michael Palmer.  Their ability to transfer the tight, dreamy sound of their recordings to the stage makes for impressive live performances.

大阪のJuvenile Juvenileは、日本の主要なドリームポップバンドとしての地位を確立した。国内で多数ドリーミーインディポップバンドが存在する中、Juvenile Juvenileのようにジャングリーなギターフック、キャッチーなメロディで厚く渦巻く雰囲気を醸し出すバンドは数少ない。2016年、2年ぶりにThe Bilinda ButchersのMichael Palmerがプロデュースした7インチ両A面シングル“Planet Heaven/Perfect Lies”をリリースした。ステージ上で奏でられるタイトでドリーミーなサウンドは、印象に残るパフォーマンスとなるであろう。


APPLE LIGHT

Veterans of the Nagoya music scene, Apple Light is one of the city’s most recognizable alternative rock acts.  Formed in 2008, Apple Light has released three albums, the most recent of which was 2015’s Are You Happy Now?  Their emotional, melody-driven throwback to 90s alt rock is super-catchy – and at times quite danceable – and has caught on overseas as well.  The band has shared the stage with the likes of Ringo Deathstarr and Stockholm’s Last Days of April.  

名古屋の音楽シーンのベテランApple Lightは、地元で最も認知されたオルタナティブロックバンドのひとつである。2008年に結成された彼らは2015年の最新作“Are You Happy Now?”を含む3つのアルバムをリリースしてきた。エモーショナルでメロディアス、90年代のオルタナティブロックを彷彿とさせるサウンドはキャッチーで聴く者を踊らせ、また海外でも注目を集めている。これまでRingo DeathstarrやストックホルムのLast Days of Aprilなどと競演を果たしてきた。


YUKINO CHAOS

One of Japan’s brightest young acts, Yukino Chaos has come on strong over the last couple years with dynamic live performances and some really impressive recordings.  2016 saw the release of a new demo single “Hope For The Future” and a supporting slot at Tokyo’s Niman Den-Atsu alongside Melt Banana, Looprider, and Qujaku.  The band was also invited to Shanghai along with Broken Little Sister earlier this year.  They’ll be releasing a split EP with fellow Daydream performers Ether Feels in December.

日本の輝かしき若い才能のひとつYukino Chaosは、精力的なライブ演奏と印象的なレコーディングで近年目を離せない存在となっている。彼らの2016年は、デモシングル“Hope For The Future”のリリース、東京の二万電圧でのMelt Banana, Looprider そして Qujakuとの共演、Broken Little Sisterと共に上海へ招かれた年でもあった。12月には共にDAYDOREAMに出演するEther Feelsと制作したスプリットEPがリリース。


ME IN GRASSHOPPER

With members based between the Kansai and Tokai regions of Japan, it’s only fitting that me in grasshopper will be performing at Daydream events in both Kyoto and Nagoya.  Over the past few years the band has become one of the flag bearers for the Nagoya shoegaze scene on the strength of their sweet melodies and subtle yet persistent guitar noise.  Their 2015 “NEW SATURDAY e.p.” was one of the best of the year.  In 2016 the band supported YUCK on their Japan tour, and they will be supporting Brooklyn’s Lazyeyes in Nagoya in January.

メンバーが関西・東海地方出身のme in grasshopperは、DAYDREAM KYOTO・NAGOYAの両日に出演する。美しいメロディーと緻密且つ鳴り響くギターノイズにより、この数年で名古屋シューゲイズシーンを代表する存在となった。2015年にリリースされた“NEW SATURDAY e.p.”は、その年の最高傑作の一つ。2016年、YUCKの日本ツアーをサポートし、来年1月にはブルックリン出身Lazyeyesの名古屋公演をサポートする予定。


SOFTSURF

Local Nagoya shoegazers Softsurf went from being virtually unknown at the start of the year to Nagoya’s most promising new shoegaze band.  The band announced its presence at this summer’s Nagoya Shoegazer Expo with a performance that drew wide praise within the shoegaze community.  Softsurf’s debut single “Blue Swirl/Beautiful Day” showcased the band’s ability to create big “wall of sound” shoegaze as well as dreamy pop tunes.  Fans of shoegaze done loud will want to keep an eye on these guys.

2016年の初めにはほぼ無名だった地元シューゲイザーSoftsurfは、ここ一年足らずで名古屋で最も有望なバンドへと成長した。彼らは昨夏のNagoya Shoegazer Expoでのパフォーマンスでシューゲイズコミュニティから広く賞賛を浴び、注目を集めた。デビューシングル“Blue Swirl/Beautiful Day”は、Softsurfに大音量ウォール・オブ・サウンドも、ドリーミーポップも創り出す才能があることをしっかりと示した。


BALLOON AT DAWN

Yet another impressive dream pop band produced by the city of Osaka, Balloon At Dawn finished 2016 strong with the release of their Our Finder EP.  The band has made a name for itself by creating thick textures using numerous layers of synths and reverb-soaked guitars, all of which they drive with super-danceable beats and addictively melancholy melodies.  More than anything, their music is a lot of fun.  The new record was released by HOLIDAY!RECORDS, who will also be setting up shop at Daydream Nagoya.

大阪から生まれたドリームポップバンドBalloon At Dawnは、”Our Finder EP”のリリースによって力強く2016年の幕を降ろした。踊りやすいビートとクセになるメランコリーなメロディ、いくつものシンセを重ねた濃いテクスチャーとリバーブに浸ったギターで、その名を知らしめる。そして何よりも、彼らの音楽は聴いていてとても楽しい。最新作はDaydream Nagoyaで物販として参加するHOLIDAY!RECORDSからリリースされたことも要チェック。


THE SKATEBOARD KIDS

The Skateboard Kids is another of Japan’s finest young acts. The four-piece has rapidly gained popularity in Japan on the back of strong live performances and a couple of impressive releases, culminating in their 2016 major label debut, Newtopia.  They’ve shown a propensity to create beautifully intense music, whether on the foundation of shoegaze-infused alternative rock or mellow, acoustic tracks.  One to keep an eye on in the years to come.

The Skateboard Kidsは、日本の輝かしき若い才能のひとつ。4人組の彼らは力強いパフォーマンスと印象的なリリースで国内で急速に人気を集めている。2016年には“Newtopia”でメジャーレーベルデビューを果たした。シューゲイズの息が吹き込んだオルタナティブロック、メローなアコースティックトラックなど、美しくも激しい音楽を創り出す。今後目が離せない。

A Guide to Daydream pt. 3 – Tokyo

The event will host some of the finest shoegaze, dream pop, alt rock, etc. that Japan has to offer.  I will be previewing each of the events as they come.  Day three of the event will be held at Shinjuku Nine Spices in Tokyo this Saturday, December 10th. 

Over the last few years, Kyoto Shoegazer has emerged as the biggest showcase of the local shoegaze scene in Japan.  This year the Kyoto Shoegazer team has put together Daydream, a four day festival spanning three cities that will kick off in December.  The event will host some of the finest shoegaze, dream pop, alt rock, etc. that Japan has to offer.  I will be previewing each of the events as they come.  Day three of the event will be held at Shinjuku Nine Spices in Tokyo this Saturday, December 10th.  

ここ数年京都シューゲイザーは日本のシューゲイザーを特集する一番大きなイベントになってきている。今年、12月から4日程3都市でイベントDAYDREAMを行う。このイベントに日本の高品質のシューゲイザー、ドリームポップ、オルタナのバンドが出演する(あと、香港からのゲストも出る予定!)。Muso Japanは各イベントをプレビューする。次は12月10日東京新宿Nine Spicesにて行われるDAYDREAM TOKYOである!チケット予約は以下のリンクから。

Home Page/イベントホームページ

Ticket Reservation/チケット予約


colm

Colm is sort of a Kyoto Shoegazer supergroup, consisting of members of Ether Feels, Kailios, shelives, and AOQ.  The band is relatively new, and Daydream Kyoto will be their third gig since forming up earlier this year.  The band’s sound combines elements of shoegaze and pop.  Colm recently finished recording its first EP, and the 4-track CD was released at the Kyoto event.

Ether Feels, Kailios, shelives, 青くのメンバーから成るバンドColmは、京都シューゲイザーシーンのスーパーグループ。今年結成して、Daydream Kyotoが3回目のライブ。シューゲイザーとポップをミックスしつつ、大音量でキャッチーなメロディのあるサウンドが特徴。4四曲入りデビューEPを完成して、Daydream Kyotoよりリリースされた。


yukino chaos

One of Japan’s brightest young acts, Yukino Chaos has come on strong over the last couple years with dynamic live performances and some really impressive recordings.  2016 saw the release of a new demo single “Hope For The Future” and a supporting slot at Tokyo’s Niman Den-Atsu alongside Melt Banana, Looprider, and Qujaku.  The band was also invited to Shanghai along with Broken Little Sister earlier this year.  They’ll be releasing a split EP with fellow Daydream performers Ether Feels in December.

日本の輝かしき若い才能のひとつYukino Chaosは、精力的なライブ演奏と印象的なレコーディングで近年目を離せない存在となっている。彼らの2016年は、デモシングル“Hope For The Future”のリリース、東京の二万電圧でのMelt Banana, Looprider そして Qujakuとの共演、Broken Little Sisterと共に上海へ招かれた年でもあった。12月には共にDAYDOREAMに出演するEther Feelsと制作したスプリットEPがリリース。


ether feels

There are few active shoegaze bands in Japan that have put out as much consistently good material as Ether Feels.  Their melancholy blend of pop and shoegaze has resulted in a sound that is all their own, and their quality has earned them a good amount of attention outside of their home country.  Their Daydream performances will wrap up a busy year that’s included gigs around Asia, the release of a greatest hits album titled hen The First Time We Met and an upcoming split EP with Yukino Chaos.  

日本でEther Feelsほど、コンスタントに良い楽曲をシーンに提供してきたバンドはそういないだろう。彼ら独自のポップとシューゲイズのメランコリーな配合は、日本国外でも注目を集めてきた。DAYDREAMでのパフォーマンスは、アジア各地でのライブ、ベストオブアルバムhen The First Time We Metのリリース、Yukino ChaosとスプリットEPの共同リリース、と忙しい年の有終の美を飾るだろう。


magic love

While a lot of bands infuse their sound with indie pop or post rock, Tokyo’s Magic Love incorporates the howling guitar noise associated with a more “classic” shoegaze/dream pop sound.  On all of their releases to date, the band has consistently been able to balance a lulling, dreamy style with bouts of sheer loudness.  This year they put out their first release since 2014, an EP titled “Night Falls”.

シューゲイザーシーンにはインディポップ、ポストロックから影響を受けているバンドが多いが、Magic Loveのサウンドは、いわゆるクラシックなシューゲイザーバンド的なうなるギターノイズと持続するビートを操るのが特徴。今までリリースした作品では、Magic Loveのドリーミーで時折爆音を響かせる手法が表現されつつ、落ち着いたボーカルも遠くから響き、彼らのサウンドとうまく調和している。”Night Falls EP”を、今年2年振りにリリースしました。


citrus nowhere

Citrus Nowhere is a new and exciting young band from Tokyo that made a name for itself earlier this year with its debut self-titled EP.  They’ve since released more material via Soundcloud and have appeared on both Muso Japan compilations.  The band’s tendency to drown whimsical melodies in a mass of roaring noise makes them one of the more unique bands in the Japanese shoegaze scene.  For fans of massive noise.

東京を拠点とするCitrus Nowhereは有望な若手バンド。今年デビューEPをリリースし、サウンドクラウド、Muso Japanのコンピにも様々な音源をリリースした。キュートなメロディを激しく鳴り響くノイズに溺れるサウンドで、日本のシューゲイザーシーンの中でも個性的ななバンド。爆音ノイズファンにオススメ。


soranisomaruoto

Soranisomaruoto is a newly formed rock band founded by former sorutomanitooto member Minako.  The Tokyo four-piece’s sound draws on a number of genres, from shoegaze to post rock to j-pop to prog rock.  The band’s appearance at Daydream Tokyo will be their first ever live performance.  

ソラニソマルオトはminako(ex.sorutomanitooto)を中心に結成されたロックバンド。shoegaze/post rock/j-pop/progressive rockなどに影響を受けたミクスチャーサウンドを鳴らしている。12月10日が、デビューライブとなる。


Longstanding Japanese shoegaze representative Lemon’s Chair has been a fixture in the scene for years.  The trio is known for evolving beautifully layered melodic songs into a deafening, hazy “wall of sound”.  In addition to their musical accomplishments, members of Lemon’s Chair have been extremely involved in the national shoegaze scene, organizing the Japan Shoegazer Festival, indie label High Fader Records, and the popular Yellow Loveless My Bloody Valentine tribute album.  This is one of the most important bands in Japanese shoegaze over the last 10 years.

Lemon’s Chairは、日本のシューゲイザーシーンのベテラン代表者バンド。インスト3ピースで美しいメロディを大音量の轟音にうまく昇華することで知られている。バンド活動に加えて日本のシューゲイザーイベント“Japan Shoegazer Festival”や、インディレーベル“High Fader Records”の運営、日本国内バンドが参加したマイブラトリビュートアルバム“Yellow Loveless”にも参加。日本シューゲイザーバンドの、最重要バンドのひとつ。

Softsurf – “Blue Swirl/Beautiful Day”

I get really excited any time I hear about a new shoegaze band popping up here in Nagoya.  Though Nagoya is a big city with its own rich music scene, there isn’t a whole lot going on in the way of shoegaze or even the dreamy indie pop that’s been taking over elsewhere. 

I get really excited any time I hear about a new shoegaze band popping up here in Nagoya.  Though Nagoya is a big city with its own rich music scene, there isn’t a whole lot going on in the way of shoegaze or even the dreamy indie pop that’s been taking over elsewhere.  Bands like Tokenai Namae and me in grasshopper are the flag bearers for the genre in the Tokai region, and there’s enough of a fanbase to support it – the 2013 Japan Shoegazer Festival in Nagoya sold out Tsurumai Day Trip – but even here the scene is mostly driven by bands from Japan’s two largest cities.  Occasionally, however, a new band does pop up, as was the case last year with the emergence of Anjo-based Haguki.  This year’s impressive newcomer to the Nagoya shoegaze scene goes by the name Softsurf.

Softsurf started up in January of 2016, and largely went unnoticed until July, when they took part in the Nagoya Shoegazer Expo event in Tsurumai.  Shortly thereafter, their two-track single “Blue Swirl/Beautiful Day”, was released for free.  Under founding member and band leader Kitamura, they underwent some lineup changes before settling in and focusing on gigging more.  Though the band’s members are each influenced by a number of genres and styles, Kitamura’s vision is largely focused on 90s shoegaze.  He does admit, however, that bands like Pink Floyd and the Beach Boys have naturally worked their way into his sound (and in the case of the latter, into the band’s name as well).  

Each track on Softsurf’s single offers something a little different, sound-wise.  “Beautiful Day” is more of a twinkling pop tune that floats along, whereas “Blue Swirl” hits hard with a blend of big guitars and airy synths.  “Blue Swirl” is the track that the band has chosen to push on their Soundcloud page, and based on Kitamura’s stated creative goals, it would seem to be more indicative of the band’s future direction.  “I like psychedelic and ambient songs with aggressive guitars and vocals that feel like they’re floating,” he explains.  “I want to take that and shape it in my own way.”

Reviews of Softsurf’s live performances to this point have been really positive, and the small sample of music made available thus far has been really encouraging.  The band will be taking the stage this coming January at Daydream Nagoya, and beyond that they are determined to have an impact on the shoegaze genre in Japan.  Next up for Softsurf is a slot on the upcoming Daydream Nagoya bill, and hopefully a lot more shows and music.

Have a listen to “Blue Swirl” on Soundcloud:

Kinoko Teikoku – “Ai no Yukue”

Well, it’s finally arrived.  The new Kinoko Teikoku album – the second since signing their major label deal with EMI – is here, and fans finally get to find out if the band is continuing on their major label J-pop trajectory or veering back toward the noisy alt rock we fell in love with years ago.  While “Neko to Allergy” had listeners resigned to the former, there were a couple of encouraging signs leading up to “Ai no Yukue” that there might be a little more balance this time around.

Well, it’s finally arrived.  The new Kinoko Teikoku album – the second since signing their major label deal with EMI – is here, and fans finally get to find out if the band is continuing on their major label J-pop trajectory or veering back toward the noisy alt rock we fell in love with years ago.  While “Neko to Allergy” had listeners resigned to the former, there were a couple of encouraging signs leading up to “Ai no Yukue” that there might be a little more balance this time around.  There was the impressive lead single, “Crybaby”, a new version of a track from one of their earlier demo EPs, and a brief but impressive glimpse at the album’s title track in the trailer for a new Japanese film.  Small sample it may have been, but it was enough to get doubters interested again.

I’ll be honest.  I expected to have a lot to say about this album, but I really don’t.  It’s really good.  It’s not mind-blowing, and it’s certainly not a shoegaze album (some people will have stopped reading at this point).  Let’s be real, though.  Kinoko Teikoku is a handful of releases removed from that sound.  Their final release from UK Project’s Daizawa label, Fake World Wonderland, was the first step toward creative control of the band shifting toward those who favor clean pop tracks to harsh roaring guitars.  Well that was two years ago, so it should come as no surprise that Ai no Yukue as a whole is a pop record.  But what’s different this time is that they seem to have been willing to meet fans of the old stuff halfway.  

The title track is a really good start to the album.  It has it all:  a gloomy intro, an explosive lead-driven hook, and reverb soaked vocals.  It never quite takes off as massively as it feels like it will at times, but that’s sort of a theme for this release.  The album’s closer and lead single, “Crybaby” is similar, though a bit more toward the pop end of the spectrum.  These are the two best songs on the album, and each showcases an enjoyable balance between the old and the new.  

Not far behind them in terms of quality is “Moon Walk”.  Kinoko Teikoku haven’t completely strayed from the melancholy sound that works so perfectly with Chiaki Sato’s gorgeous vocals, but when they’ve gone that route recently it’s been far too clean for my taste.  “Moon Walk” muddies it up a little bit, specifically in the chorus, and about halfway in fades into a nice tripped out portion through to the finale.  

One big surprise when the album’s tracklist was first published was the inclusion of “Azemichi de”, which first appeared on the band’s second demo EP “Yoru ga Aketara”.  As expected we basically get a cleaner version of the original.  Some of the edge in the chorus has been toned down a bit, but otherwise it’s very similar.  

The rest of the album is fine.  “Natsu no Kage”, as I mentioned in my previous review, is a Fishmans-esque dubgaze track, while “Last Dance” and “Ame-agari” are both really catchy pop tunes.  “Shi ga futari wo wakatsu made” is the only track I couldn’t really get into on the album.  These songs are the ones that fans hoping for the old Kinoko Teikoku may scoff at, though percentage-wise it’s a lot less than in recent memory.  

I think Ai no Yukue has a lot of really good stuff going on.  I like feeling like A-chan is being given more creative freedom, whether or not that’s actually true.  We know that Kinoko Teikoku are far removed from their days as one of Japan’s finest alt rock bands, and dwelling on the fact that we’re not going to get another Uzu ni Naru is sort of pointless.  But the band taking a step back and mixing in a bit of the old stuff with the new is welcome, and the result is a positive one.  We get a very solid pop record with a little bit of the grit and emotion that made us fall in love with the band in the first place.  For whatever my opinion is worth, Ai no Yukue was a success.  

The Florist – “Blood Music”

After a stellar debut in 2014, Tokyo’s The Florist have returned with an even better sophomore effort.  With Dark Entries, my third favorite album from two years ago, the band burst onto the scene with its own unique sound.  In a year when the best shoegaze albums were infused with everything from grunge to post rock to indie pop, The Florist drew heavily on 90s American emo to put together a lush, dreamy record.

  Photo:  theflorist.info
Photo: theflorist.info

After a stellar debut in 2014, Tokyo’s The Florist have returned with an even better sophomore effort.  With Dark Entries, my third favorite album from two years ago, the band burst onto the scene with its own unique sound.  In a year when the best shoegaze albums were infused with everything from grunge to post rock to indie pop, The Florist drew heavily on 90s American emo to put together a lush, dreamy record.  Thanks to an addictive signature song in “Middle of Winter” and a strong push from a number of overseas media outlets, The Florist’s debut attracted a large international audience and thus a desire for more music.  This June, The Florist obliged with the release of Blood Music.

The day of the album’s release The Florist simultaneously released videos for co-lead singles “Disintegration” and “Halcyon”.  The former, which kicks off the record, picks up right where the band left off on Dark Entries.  The latter is a bit colder, though the jagged guitar line eventually makes way for the warm, thickly textured sound that fans of The Florist have come to expect.  

While the first half of the album is really solid – “Sadness Like Water Raining Down” is my personal favorite of the first five songs – it’s the portion of the album that comes after the beautiful instrumental interlude, “Untitled”, that really defines this album.  

“Marigold” is a flurry of squalling guitars and drums, the intensity of which balances so incredibly well with the high, harmonized vocals.  This is also the track where those guitar leads showcased on the first album really shine.  The emo influence really shows about halfway through when the bridge kicks in.  The song is a bit harsher than anything they’ve done to this point, but still incorporates familiar elements.  

If “Marigold” was a reintroduction of The Florist’s familiar guitar leads on the new album, “Ghosts” is where they really shine.  If I had to choose one song to make a lead single prior to Blood Music‘s release, it would have been this one.  The galloping first 45 seconds bursts into a blurry mass of guitar, highlighted by a bending lead reminiscent of the one that drove “Middle of Winter” so well.  Guitarist Yosuke Shiina’s ability to craft a gorgeous tone and weave it through each track is what really sets The Florist apart from other shoegaze bands in Japan.  “Ghosts” is the band’s best showcase of that fact to date.

The pace picks up and takes a bit of a danceable turn with two melodic tracks in “Sweet Decadence” and “Weird Dreams”.  At first listen it sort of felt like a poppy palate cleanser after a couple of emotional, harder-hitting songs, but both tracks really grew on me, especially “Weird Dreams” which, if I’m ranking the songs on the record, is right up there with “Ghosts”.  

The light atmosphere of closer “The Last Dance” nicely wraps up an album that, as a whole, tops their debut release.  While Dark Entries may have had higher peaks, Blood Music is a more consistent effort.  It’s a more tonally explorative record that manages to remain cohesive with a very natural flow to it.  As was the case with their debut, Blood Music figures to be on many a “Best of the Year” list when all is said and done.

Blood Music is available on iTunes and Apple Music, and physical copies can be purchased via Japanese Amazon (international shipping is available).

Here is the video for the album’s first single, “Disintegration”:

 

 

Kinoko Teikoku – “Natsuno Kage”

So after what I thought was a really successful single release in “Crybaby” this past June, Kinoko Teikoku have put out another track as they approach the release of their new album Ai no Yukue this November.  “Natsuno Kage” (or “Summer’s Shadow”) hit iTunes at midnight Japan time – I’m assuming it’s just going to be another limited digital-only release like “Crybaby” – and my fingers were crossed, as I prepared to hit the play button, that this would be yet another sign of a return to pre-major form.  

So after what I thought was a really successful single release in “Crybaby” this past June, Kinoko Teikoku have put out another track as they approach the release of their new album Ai no Yukue this November.  “Natsuno Kage” (or “Summer’s Shadow”) hit iTunes at midnight Japan time – I’m assuming it’s just going to be another limited digital-only release like “Crybaby” – and my fingers were crossed, as I prepared to hit the play button, that this would be yet another sign of a return to pre-major form.  

The first thing I noticed when I pulled the song up is that it’s seven and a half minutes long, making it the longest song they’ve released since “Flower Girl” on their 2013 Long Goodbye EP.  You don’t find a whole lot of pop songs drawing on this long, so my curiosity was further piqued.  I cleared my mind, got their entire back catalog out of my head, and finally hit play.

“Natsuno Kage” kicks off like a Fishmans-esque dreamy dub track, which is a lot more appealing than the light pop chorus that it transitions into.  Similar to “Chronostasis” following “Tokyo” as the second lead single going into Fake World Wonderland, “Natsuno Kage” really slows things down when compared to “Crybaby” (and for what it’s worth, I like it a lot more than “Chronostasis”).  

My opinion through the first half of the track is that it has a bunch of redeeming qualities.  The chorus didn’t wow me, but the chill-out reggae twist was really pleasant, and Sato’s voice has just been so consistently good that there’s no real need to say anything about that.  Once again Kinoko Teikoku show a remarkable ability to fill every ounce of space with sound, and the vocals are a major contributor there.  Just as on the previous single, A-chan really gets back to what she does best: creating depth with her guitar work.  Even if the track doesn’t quite get back to the early Kinoko Teikoku material that really showcased her ability and perhaps best reflected her own artistic influence, it sure sounds, as we draw nearer to the album release, that A-chan has more freedom than she did on the major debut.  

There’s a bit on the track about three minutes in that teases with a bout of rumbling guitars, before transitioning right into that catchy chorus that I didn’t really care about, but by this point in the song has embedded itself somewhere deep in my brain against my will.  Again at the four minute mark, things get a little heavier and the song has gone in a different direction…and we’re back to the chorus.  As far as I’m concerned, the track could have ended at this point.  When that last chorus kicks in, there’s the sense that it is going to crescendo into a big finale.  It does build up, but it never quite gets to the point that it feels like it should.  It does this for two minutes, actually.  I wouldn’t call this a deal-breaker, but the five-minute version of the song is preferred.

I don’t feel as strongly about “Natsuno Kage” as I did “Crybaby”, but after a handful of listens I remain optimistic heading into Ai no Yukue, based largely on the perception that Sato is sharing the reigns with A-chan a bit more.  The dream dub vibe worked pretty well, but when we finally get this new album, the hope is that there’ll be a bit more of an edge to it.  We’ll see.

There aren’t any links to the new song at the moment, but the title track from the upcoming album is the theme song for the upcoming film 湯を沸かすほどの熱い愛, and is featured in this trailer (starting at the one-minute mark):

Mississippi Khaki Hair – “1st Demo”

It doesn’t feel like very long ago at all that I was gushing over a promising teen indie shoegaze outfit from Osaka called Whisper Voice Riot.  2015 was a great year for the band, who established themselves as one of the promising young bands to keep an eye on – and not just in the indie scene.

It doesn’t feel like very long ago at all that I was gushing over a promising teen indie shoegaze outfit from Osaka called Whisper Voice Riot.  2015 was a great year for the band, who established themselves as one of the young bands to keep an eye on – and not just in the shoegaze scene.  They put out their debut EP, Before the Morning Cleaves Our Night, last fall, appeared at Total Feedback and Kyoto Shoegazer, and seemed to be picking up steam.  It was therefore a bit of a shock that this past spring the band announced that their appearance at the 2016 Kyoto Shoegazer fest would be their last.  The news was pretty sudden, and I was personally really disappointed to see such a promising young band call it.  

There was some consolation, however, upon hearing that three of Whisper Voice Riot’s members, including frontman Taito, would continue making music under a different name.  The direction of the new project, called Mississippi Khaki Hair, was a bit of a mystery, but one thing was made perfectly clear: this wasn’t going to be a shoegaze band.  

Mississippi Khaki Hair got right to gigging in early May and this past Friday released a 3-song demo EP.  They released two-thirds of the EP a week or so in advance on Soundcloud, and my first thought was that it wasn’t a massive departure from some of the dancier WVR stuff.  There is much more of a groove to the new project, though, but it didn’t seem different enough to necessarily warrant a completely new project.  “True Love” is a romantic, synth-laden blend of new wave and shoegaze, while “Phone Call” has a distinctly Strokes-y vibe to it, with overdriven vocals and prominent guitar lead paced by a consistent four on the floor beat.  “Silence Like A Shout” is a bit more along the lines of the latter – another lo-fi indie rock dance track.

The demos are really rough, and Taito acknowledges this along with the fact that this is pretty much just a sample to show people what the new band is all about.  When I asked him why he scrapped Whisper Voice Riot to start a new project, his answer was simple:  “I couldn’t be satisfied with WVR.”  In addition to members being busy and it being difficult to consistently write music, there were creative issues as well and Taito stresses the goal of MKH is to make music that’s more original.  “Whisper Voice Riot’s music was derivative, and I didn’t want it to end there.  The two new songs we posted are really traditional, but, combining shoegaze, post punk, and pop music, we are getting ready to show people what we’re all about.”  

This is just the beginning of Mississippi Khaki Hair as a band, and, just like WVR, they’ve gotten off to a pretty fast start.  Physical copies of their demo EP are only available at gigs at the moment, but there are plans to release it digitally on Bandcamp and potentially sell physical copies online as well.  In the meantime, the whole thing is up on Soundcloud.  It’s still a demo, but you can get an idea of what the band is going for, and it’s a lot of fun.  My personal favorite track – it’s probably not a coincidence that it’s also the song that most resembles WVR’s music – is “True Love”.  You’ll be wanting to keep an eye and an ear open for these guys, so be sure to follow them on Twitter and Facebook.  

Kinoko Teikoku – “Crybaby”

When I started this blog in early 2012 I was completely in love with Kinoko Teikoku.  Just about everything I tweeted was gushing praise of their music, and when I finally moved to Japan that spring it felt like fate that they were playing in Nagoya a mere weeks after I would arrive.  Seeing them at Club Rock n Roll is still one of my favorite live experiences ever.  Their music was powerful and emotional, and really struck a chord with me.  

When I started this blog in early 2012 I was completely in love with Kinoko Teikoku.  Just about everything I tweeted was gushing praise of their music, and when I finally moved to Japan that spring it felt like fate that they were playing in Nagoya a mere weeks after I would arrive.  Seeing them at Club Rock n Roll is still one of my favorite live experiences ever.  Their music was powerful and emotional, and really struck a chord with me.  

Fast forward to the spring of 2015, when it was announced that Kinoko Teikoku, whose previous album was extremely hit or miss, I might add, would release their major label debut in the form of a single called “Sakura ga Saku mae ni”.  The track wasn’t very good, nor was the subsequent full-length debut “Neko to arerugi”.  Kinoko Teikoku had changed, and I was balancing the feeling of being happy that they found success with the disappointment that they seemed to have left behind a majority of the qualities that I, and a growing global fanbase, had come to love.  Sure Chiaki Sato’s voice was still gorgeous and the songwriting was fine.  What I missed the most was the power and edge that they had done so well that made way for unexciting pop tracks.  It didn’t feel right and I was just about done.

It might be the reason I completely missed the news that last week Kinoko Teikoku had released a limited digital single (I’m assuming it’ll only be up for a short period of time) called “Crybaby”.  As I do with everything they release, I bought it on iTunes, a sense of apprehension and a little bit of hope that something might be different.  I was pleasantly surprised.  It’s a pop track, there’s no doubting that.  The verses are cute and gentle, and the chorus plays like a melancholy J-pop ballad, but there’s a lot more substance surrounding it.  There’s a harshness to the guitar tone that’s returned from Kinoko Teikoku tracks past, and from right around the 3:10 point the song really starts to feel like a throwback to their earlier stuff.  There’s even a bit in the buildup to the track’s climax that sounds an awful lot like the intro to fan favorite “Yoru ga Aketara”.  In past interviews, A-Chan had been pretty outspoken about her love of 90s alt rock and shoegaze, and their first few releases had really reflected that.  In “Crybaby” it feels like there is a perfect balance between Sato’s desire to make pop songs and A-Chan’s affinity for big, edgy guitars.  

For the first time in a while I’m really pleased with a Kinoko Teikoku track.  If “Sakura ga Saku Mae ni” was the prelude to a bad album, I really hope that “Crybaby” is a sign that things are heading back in the right direction.  

The single is currently available on Japanese iTunes, though I’m not sure if there will be plans to release it on the US store.  It also appears to be available on Recochoku.jp.  Here is a brief teaser that’s been posted on YouTube.

Juvenile Juvenile – “Perfect Lies”

In the Japanese indie scene, the mingling of indie pop and shoegaze is something that happens pretty frequently.  The former has been riding a steady wave of popularity for a while now, and the latter is oft-misunderstood but nevertheless enjoying an ever-growing resurgence of its own.  These two genres, vague as they may be, are a perfect marriage.  However, like a lot of bands who dabble in shoegaze, there are plenty who scoff at being called a shoegaze band.

In the Japanese indie scene, the mingling of indie pop and shoegaze is something that happens pretty frequently.  The former has been riding a steady wave of popularity for a while now, and the latter is oft-misunderstood but nevertheless enjoying an ever-growing resurgence of its own.  These two genres, vague as they may be, are a perfect marriage.  However, like a lot of bands who dabble in shoegaze, there are plenty who scoff at being called a shoegaze band.  In situations like these, we just slap on the “dream pop” tag and voila, tricky genre debate averted.  Osaka has consistently produced top notch indie pop bands in recent years, so its no surprise that it’s also the home of Japan’s finest dream pop band.  The foursome is as good as anyone at creating jangly pop tunes and drowning them in reverb and hazy background noise.  Their latest mastery of the style has come in the form of a new single titled “Perfect Lies”.  

“Perfect Lies” is one track off the upcoming double A-side 7-inch single – the opposite side is titled “Planet Heaven” – that was announced last week.  It will be the band’s first single release, and first new music since 2014s Our Great Escape album (which, for what it’s worth, topped my best releases of the year list).  The single, which will be released on August 10th in clear blue vinyl via Flake Records, was produced by The Bilinda Butchers’ Michal Palmer and will be accompanied by a bonus CD featuring remixes by Jesse Ruins and Teto 2.  

“Perfect Lies” is a pretty, thickly layered, melancholy track, consistent with the vibes of the ultra-dreamy “Just Like You Do” from Our Great Escape.  The most attractive element of Juvenile Juvenile’s sound is the depth that they create, not only with their big, lushly layered guitars, but with frontman Masami Tsuchiya’s breathy vocals.  What they lack in edge (only mentioned here because of my general affinity for the super loud) they more than make up for in their desire to fill every last square inch of space with sound.  On “Perfect Lies” they do just that, even keeping the leads that normally carry their tunes a bit more subtle.  Juvenile Juvenile is back at it, and I’ll be looking forward to hearing “Planet Heaven” in the near future.

There’s not a whole lot of info on where the single will be available, but be sure to follow the band on Facebook and Twitter for more info.  And if for some reason you haven’t heard their previously released music, you can find it on Juvenile Juvenile’s Bandcamp page.  

Sapporo Shoegazers Edy Two Arc

After a couple years of trying to hunt down their music, I was finally able to get my hands on a release from Sapporo’s Edy Two Arc.  The CD, titled Kurakute, Oto no nai Tokoro (暗くて、音のないところ), is actually an 8-track split, featuring two tracks apiece from four Sapporo bands.

 http://edy-sapporo.jimdo.com/
http://edy-sapporo.jimdo.com/

After a couple years of trying to hunt down their music, I was finally able to get my hands on a release from Sapporo’s Edy Two Arc.  The CD, titled Kurakute, Oto no nai Tokoro (暗くて、音のないところ), is actually an 8-track split, featuring two tracks apiece from four Sapporo bands.  Edy Two Arc, who prior to a sudden name change last month simply went by Edy, lend a dark, heavy shoegaze vibe to a comp that features everything from math-y funk to melancholic pop.  Though the band has been around for a few years, they’ve been largely inaccessible with a limited web presence and live-exclusive releases.  

Edy Two Arc have managed to remain something of a mystery, despite frequently appearing Total Feedback events and opening for Ringo Deathstarr in Hokkaido.  Their songwriting is by no means adventurous, but their sound is very comfortable and should hit the spot for fans of big, billowy shoegaze with a darker vibe.  About five months or so ago, the band posted the two tracks they submitted for the split on Soundcloud.  Check them out below.