Luby Sparks – “(I’m) Lost in Sadness”

Tokyo’s Luby Sparks is back with its second release of the year, a four-track EP titled “(I’m) Lost in Sadness”.  The EP, which was produced by Yuck’s Max Bloom , is Luby Sparks’ first release since bringing in new vocalist Erika Murphy.  With the band’s sweet melancholy still present, the new music takes a turn toward a more shoegaze sound, something that was hinted at with the release of hazy lead single “Perfect” last week.  “Cherry Red Dress” is a stunning, moody dream pop tune and the title track is an epic seven minutes of layered guitars and well-harmonized twin vocals.  The EP wraps up with a heart-wrenching cover of haunting Mazzy Star number “Look On Down From The Bridge”.  While Luby Sparks’ self-titled debut full length effort from earlier this year is still sitting comfortably at the top of my 2018 release list, “(I’m) Lost in Sadness” hits home in a bit of a different way, showcasing the band’s ability to craft gloomy, nostalgic tunes using tremendous depth and texture.  And while the loss of original Luby Sparks singer Emily was sad news, Murphy has shown she’s a perfect match for what the band does.  These guys continue to show that they can write songs with the best of them with yet another top notch release to their name.

“(I’m) Lost in Sadness” is  available to stream on Apple Music and can be purchased on iTunes or via Amazon (JP).  Below is the video for “Perfect”.

Yukla Down – “In Demonstrationem”

Tokyo’s Yukla Down put out their first record material in the form of a three-track demo EP titled “In Demonstrationem”.  The five-piece, whose lineup includes a member apiece from Si,Irene and Civic, offers a throwback 90s UK shoegaze sound that isn’t all that common in the Japanese scene.  It’s pleasantly scuzzy introduction, particularly on the first track, “Torture Me (With Your Kiss)” which sounds both nominally and tonally like something off of Isn’t Anything, but with a turn of the century American emo tinge to it that’s pretty cool.  “If You Only Knew” is another textural ripper of a song with more of a groove carrying along the cascade of harsh guitar noise, while “Borealis” is a chilled-out instrumental featuring droning guitars and a simple bongo-tapped beat.

While I don’t bemoan the lack of aggression in Japanese music nearly as much as I used to, I really appreciate Yukla Down’s noisy contributions.  The quality of the demo, in terms of both sound and composition, is really solid.  The band will be appearing at the July 29th Total Feedback event at Koenji High.  For more information you can follow Yukla Down on Facebook and Twitter.

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  Here is a brief teaser that’s been posted on YouTube.

[Japan] kiiro records presents: FOREVER SHOEGAZE 2

With 2014 coming to a close, it’s about that time for music bloggers to start taking a look back at the year and putting together lists and reflective pieces and whatnot. Lookingat the list of shoegaze releases in Japan this year, there have been quite a few from well-established artists and newcomers alike. For those of us in Japan, these new releases have been pretty easily accessible, while for folks abroad they have in some cases been near impossible to obtain. The overall lack of digital releases is a point of frustration for a lot of people who want a gateway in to what has, in the last few years, been a growing Japanese shoegaze scene.

Japan’s kiiro records, a net label established at the beginning of the year, has done its best to provide for an eager overseas audience. With a slogan that roughly translates to “easy listening for everyone”, kiiro offers a diverse catalog featuring any number of genres from pop to alt rock to grunge. In June however, the label got the attention of shoegaze fans with the release of its FOREVER SHOEGAZE compilation album.  Shortly thereafter, a collaboration with The Japan Shoegazer Festival was announced for the summer event, where an exclusive comp CD-R was released – the first and only physical release from the label.

Kiiro records will be getting ready to release its next shoegaze comp, titled FOREVER SHOEGAZE 2, at midnight JST on December 25th (Merry Christmas!), which will be 7am PST for everyone stateside.  Similar to its predecessors, FOREVER SHOEGAZE 2 will feature mostly Japanese bands, with some foreign artists also appearing on the track list.  This time around there are some bands that are well worth keeping an eye on, such as Tokyo’s Float down the Liffey and Magic Love, and some great overseas talent in Australia’s kigo (who also appeared on the first comp), The Bilinda Butchers (USA), and one of my personal favorites, DIV I DED (Czech Republic).  The lineup for the band hasn’t been finalized, but as it stands, in addition to those just mentioned, the following bands will appear on the comp:  Dream Suicides and Ask For Joy (USA), UN PLANETA (Argentina), and POLA, Lunchu, Corsage, Ame no Naka no Uma, and nayutanayuta (all from Japan).

As with all of kiiro records’ releases FOREVER SHOEGAZE2 will be available for free download via the label’s Bandcamp page.  Keep an eye out for a mirror download link in case the album meets its 200 free download limit.  Muso Planet will be providing the recommendation write up for the record upon its release.  There’s just a little over a week left until the comp is released, so in the meantime you can check out the first FOREVER SHOEGAZE album and some of kiiro’s catalog.

Muso Asia Playlist 002

Here is the playlist for Muso Asia episode 2 which aired on 11/5/2014 on DKFM.1. PLASTICZOOMS – “Pale Spectre”
2. Astro Attack – “Twilight”
3. Pastel Blue – “Breeze Breath”
4. skip skip ben ben – “Parking”
5. Paint in Watercolour – “You Are Here”
6. Aysula – “Lay Down Your Feathers”
7. Thud – “Lime”
8. Oeil – “Myrtle”
9. Sharesprings – “Jasmine”
10. Manic Sheep – “You Lie, You Choke the Rules We Trust”
11. Say Sue Me – “One Week”
12. magic love – “Growing Organism”
13. Ether Feels – “Morning Star”
14. G-Ampere – “Teardrop”
15. 水中図鑑 (suichuu zukan) – “飛び込め” (“Tobikome”)

[Glasgow] New Music from The Cherry Wave!

The Cherry Wave have gotten around to giving us that music they’ve been promising.  The wait was somewhat long but in the end it’s been totally worth it.  The Glasgow foursome released the first track, “Whitey”, from its upcoming album, which should (fingers crossed) be out in the near future.  “Whitey” features two and a half minutes of the fuzzed-out droning guitars, howling leads, and powerful rhythm section that we’ve come to love through an EP and some change to date.  There’s a bit more of an edge to this track than the first EP, a direction perhaps signaled in last summer’s single “Under Dull Grey Skies”, which appeared on Lamppost Records’ Under the Wildflowers: volume 1 comp.  Anyway, it’s good to hear some music from the guys and it’s enough to whet your appetite while the finishing touches are put on a highly anticipated new record.  Have a listen, enjoy, and tell your friends.

Skip Skip Ben Ben Japan Tour, Split EP, and Japanese LP Release

Taiwan’s Ben Ben Lin, founding member of Skip Skip Ben Ben has been busy with a number of announcements recently, the first of which was that she will be touring Japan in November.  Her band came to Japan in the spring and this time around she will be performing solo in the tour that will consist of five shows in four cities.  Accompanying her on the tour, aptly called “Two People from Taiwan” will be fellow countryman Hom Shenhao.

The second bit of news came from Tokyo’s fast rising indie label Hands and Moment, who will be releasing Skip Skip Ben Ben’s album Sacrifice Mountain Hills on October 22nd.  The album, which features some brilliant artwork by Chou Yi, was previously released by Maybe Mars is absolutely worth checking out if you haven’t had a chance already.

The most recent news out of Ben Ben’s camp was the release of a limited edition split 7″ featuring SSBB and Hot&Cold.  The limited edition vinyl is available in black and white via Chicago-based Gary Records’ Bandcamp page.