[Japan] Ether Feels – “Twilight Dreams”

Osaka shoegazers Ether Feels have released their new 3-track EP “Twilight Dreams” this week.  The EP, which features re-recorded versions of some of their earlier material, includes the fan favorite “Raindrop Sparkle” sandwiched between two other songs which feature regularly at the trio’s gigs – “Morning Star” and “Paddy”.  The improved recording quality does well to really capture the band’s light, somewhat melancholy brand of shoegaze capped by the dreamy vocal lines of frontman and principal songwriter TOMO which really carry well on this new EP.  Having released a bunch of material previously, “Twilight Dreams” is the most mature of their works thus far and with a new lineup in place it will be cool to see a new full length in the future.

Here’s a preview of “Raindrop Sparkle” from the album which is available on Amazon (JP).

Top 20 Tracks of 2013

I’d been wrestling with the idea of putting together a “top albums of 2013” list for a while.  Then I realized that many of my favorite releases were EPs, so it became a struggle as to whether or not I should create two separate lists.  I’ve instead opted to go with a “Top 20 Tracks of 2013” list.  This list is in no particular order and I know there are a lot of good songs from a lot of killer albums from the previous year that haven’t been put on the list.  Naturally a lot of these songs or artists have appeared on a Muso Planet compilation (or will in the future).
★Baby Formula (China) – “Lonely Gourmet”.  Really dreamy and highly addictive track from the Beijing dreampoppers.  The vocals will melt your soul.

★Oeil (Japan) – “Owl Moon”.  Oeil released two new tracks this year and, while it was close, “Owl Moon” was just too good.  The song is available for download exclusively from Muso Planet volume 2.

★Elephant Stone (Canada) – “A Silent Moment”.  The track off their album that best showcases the band’s hindie-rock tag.  Really well composed song from an all-around great album.

★Venera 4 (France) – “Haunted Summer”.  An epic 9-minute conclusion to one of the best EPs of the year.  The acoustic version the band released just before the end of the year is solid, too.

★Beach Volleyball (England) – “Contack”.  The best track off of an album from a contender for “band of the year”.  I love the  depth in this song.

★The Chambermaids (U.S.) – “I Wonder Why”.  Probably my favorite album of 2013, and this track is as catchy as they come.

★The Cherry Wave (Scotland) – “Cave/Wave”.  These guys pride themselves on the amount of fuzz they generate and they should.  This track is loud and one of the reasons that they are high on my list of bands to see live.

★Kinoko Teikoku (Japan) – “Eureka”.  My Japanese band of the year and probably my favorite Japanese band over the last two-plus years.  You can seriously get lost in this song, which is the title track of their 2013 full-length.

★Puna (Peru) – “Au Dial”.  Instrumental electronic track from the highly-underrated Peru-based music project.  Beautifully layered song.

★Loomer (Brazil) – “Road to Japan”.  I love the vocals on this track.  My favorite from the debut album by the Brazilian shoegaze outfit.

★Cool Serbia (U.S.) – “Tear Me Up”.  I like the noisy 60s pop throwback sound.  “Tear Me Up” is one of the songs off of the EP that I can listen to over and over again.

★Disco las Palmeras (Spain) – “Alfa y Omega (la cruel)”.  Ultra was one of 2013’s best albums from start to finish.  Alfa y Omega is powerful and that chorus is addictive.

★PanSTARRS (Egypt) – “Fools”.  It’s danceable and nasty.  There’s something evil about this track from the always noisy Egyptian trio.

★Curelight Wounds (U.S.) – “Leveled Out”.  Curelight Wounds put out two DIY EPs in 2013, both of which were brilliant.  “Leveled Out” isn’t as refined production-wise as some of the tracks from the latter EP, which might be why it’s my favorite.  It’s upbeat and loud and the vocals are smashed deep in the mix.

★His Name is Codeine (Scotland) – “Replica Gun”.  Mellow track with a Velvet Underground feel.  Very simple and straightforward song that develops subtly over three minutes.

★Wavr (U.S.) – “Melt my Brain”.  The vocals on this song are magnificent.  The music is big and dreamy and, though it doesn’t change a whole lot, it never gets boring due to the big enveloping sound.

★Wolvon (Holland) – “Stagnant”.  A very busy, moody track from the Dutch post-punk band’s album folds.  One of the more complicated and interesting songs on the CD.

★Trementina (Chile) – “Hazy Youth”.  It was a big year for Trementina who released Brilliant Noise on Japan’s Vinyl Junkies.  “Hazy Youth” was the first track made available from the album.

★Zeit (Sweden) – “Sky”.  The poppiest track off of the Life is Just a Blur EP, the intro-hook is super catchy, as is the chorus.

★Le Thug (Scotland) – “Of Europe (Arc 1993)”.  The song is beautiful.  That’s really all that can be said.  I love the beat under the big swirling guitars and the vocals are…well…beautiful.

Night Out in Nagoya: 4/20 – Crocodile Bambie CD Release Party @ Huck Finn

I recently moved to Nagoya (one reason for the lack of updates lately) and one of my goals once settled in was to take advantage of living in a city with a special music scene.  The first venue I had set my sights on was Huck Finn, a small basement live house a few blocks from Imaike Station, which hosts a who’s who of local artists.  Having gotten past the initial money-sink that is moving to a new city, I was ready to get a taste of the local music flavor.  After browsing a list of shows I noticed a band name that was hard to pass up.  Crocodile Bambie (a ‘cute name’ as stated by frontman Yoshihiro Yasui) just sounded awesome, and upon checking out a teaser for their upcoming EP, I decided to book the evening.  This was not an easy decision, as Kinoko Teikoku had a show at Club Rock n Roll the same evening, but I decided to dive into something new and different, and I wouldn’t regret my decision.
Crocodile Bambie, a band set to release their debut EP, may have, in name, been a relative unknown, but the band had already developed three decades worth of following.  Yasui, the singer and bass player of Bambie, was previously the bassist of long-time Nagoya thrash metal outfit Outrage.  It took a bit to get used to the change in atmosphere at the venue.  The snappily dressed and fashionably groomed twenty-somethings I’ve become accustomed to at events were replaced by long hair and leather jackets adorned with studs and Motorhead patches.  It was the sort of thing I had grown up with at concerts and I instantly felt right at home.

The show kicked off at about 6:30 with Osaka’s The Probes.  The best way I could describe this band was a fun and energetic reminder of why we all start bands at some point in our lives.  It was nothing complex, but simple, straightforward, aggressive rock music.  Lots of fun and a good start to the evening.

Next up was The Nibs.  Another band I knew nothing about coming in.  I didn’t love it at the start, with the opening song feeling like a medley full of tempo changes.  As the set went on, the songs turned into more down-tempo muddy tunes that had really nice grooves to them.  They finished strong and made me eager to hear some of their recorded songs.

Stone Edge was the third band of the evening and by the time their set came up Huck Finn was packed tight.  This show was a special event for them, being their first performance in 13 years.  I had heard them described as an all-girl rock band, which wasn’t entirely true as their guitarist was a guy, but the one thing I had heard that I can verify as true is that this band is excellent.  Their in-your-face and fun punk rock sound was a throwback to 90s Fat Wreck Chords-esque bands.  Despite it being extremely hot and crowded, the atmosphere was great throughout their set.

After Stone Edge wrapped up a decent amount of the audience seemed to have headed out. Up next was a band whose recordings I had become fond of whom I was eager to see live.  Eternal Elysium is another band receiving a good amount of local acclaim.  While their live performance was a lot of fun, it didn’t do their recordings justice in my opinion.  What I liked most is that the band had a great relationship with the audience.  It was a really intimate set and at one point the singer even addressed the (rather large) non-Japanese section of the audience in fluent English.  The crowd pleaded for an extended set, but Eternal Elysium reminded everyone at Huck Finn that this was Crocodile Bambie’s night.

Finally the moment we had all been waiting for.  After a fairly lengthy set-up, Crocodile Bambie took the stage.  They kicked off the show with “Freedom”, the track with which they promoted their debut EP.  While Yoshihiro Yasui had made his name with Outrage’s thrash style, his new band is more of a stoner rock outfit with grooving bass lines and droning heavily-delayed guitars.  The set was heavy, and despite a small tuning problem at the start, it was every bit as great as I had hoped for.  They weaved jam sessions and drum solos in and between songs, but not obnoxiously.  There was energy and aggression but it was controlled.  I am a big fan of Yasui’s new style and I hope that the 4 tracks on the EP will hold me over until the next batch of sounds is released.

Some blurry iPhone pictures to come!

New Release: Kinoko Teikoku’s 2nd EP “Yoru ga Aketara”

On January 21st, one of Japan’s most promising up-and-coming bands Kinoko Teikoku formally released their second EP “Yoru ga Aketara.”  Formed in 2007, Kinoko Teikoku got their start in Shibuya playing at local live houses and soon established themselves in Japan’s indie scene.
The band’s sound can best be described as beautifully intense.  Satou’s dreamy vocals carry the listener as the music, driven by a-chan’s guitars, flows from beautiful and melodic to thick and powerful.  Their songs are beautifully composed and sophisticated and above all else extremely catchy.  Kinoko Teikoku provides well-crafted and passionate music.  A definite must-listen and a prime example of a hidden gem in the Japanese music world.

Maintaining their status as a true local indie act, Kinoko Teikoku had previously only sold their music at live shows.  Until now.  The self-produced 5-track CD “Yoru ga Aketara” is now available online through diskunion (http://diskunion.net/portal/ct/detail/IND8920#.Txo16e-s43I.twitter) for a very reasonable ¥1,050 (about $13.53 USD and well worth it) which will get you 30 minutes of some excellent music.

For a taste of Kinoko Teikoku visit their myspace page and sample some tracks at http://myspace.com/kinokoteikoku

A live version of Taikutsu Shinogi can be seen here.  Enjoy this wonderful band!