New Japanese Vibes (112) – DADARAY 美しい仕打ち ‘Utsukushii Shiuchi’

Halcyon pop and funk vibes radiate throughout DADARAY’s track美しい仕打ち ‘Utsukushii Shiuchi’ (‘Beautiful Treatment’). Featuring bassist 休日課長 Kyujitsu Kachou (from ゲスの極み乙女 Gesu no Kiwami Otome), the trio strut their musical magic on the catwalk with swanky and soulful licks on the electric piano, groovy bass lines and rhythms, rich vocal textures and sumptuous harmonies. With a trip to Japan coming up in a few days time, I hope to add this to my growing playlist of musical goodness.

Other Info

  • DADARAY’s first mini album DADAISM will be released on April 5th.

New Japanese Vibes (103) – 米津玄師 Yonezu Kenshi ‘orion’

米津玄師 Yonezu Kenshi is one that keeps growing from strength to strength. The Tokushima-born singer-songwriter’s new track ‘orion’ glorifies in a charming and anthemic pop ambience that is richly unique and fit for the mainstream in equal measure. His radiant vocals resonate a youthful energy that soars above the song’s stratosphere, while luminous synth strings, sonorous harmonies, rapturous handclaps and pounding drums summon a life-affirming spirit and sense of inspiration that spills into my soul.

Other Info

  • Yonezu Kenshi’s new single orion will be released on February 15th.
  • ‘orion’ is the ending theme song for the anime 3月のライオン Sangatsu no Lion.
  • Find out more about Yonezu Kenshi in my blog post here.

© Isaku Takahashi

Picks of the Week #18

  • 山崎まさよし Yamazaki Masayoshi – ‘One More Time, One More Chance’

All of my picks this week are songs especially written for films directed by 新海誠 Shinkai Makoto, hailed as ‘the next Miyazaki Hayao’. After witnessing the latest creation by the established yet fresh director to touch audiences around the world last year, I decided to look back further into his works and the memorable music that came along the journey.

One More Time, One More Chance’ by singer-songwriter 山崎まさよし Yamazaki Masayoshi provided the closing theme for Makoto’s 2007 film 秒速5センチメートル Byousoku 5 Centimetres (‘5 centimetres per second’). The song glimmers a sentimental folk ambience with Yamazaki’s yearning vocals and a gentle cradle-rocking beat, and perfectly conveys the scenic and pensive final scene where Tono and Akari cross paths one more time under the falling cherry blossoms.

Rain’ was originally a song by singer-songwriter 大江千里 Oe Senri. However, it was秦基博 Hata Motohiro’s wistful rendition of the 80s song that fit Makoto’s musical visions for his 2013 drama film 言の葉の庭 Koto No Ha No Niwa (‘The Garden of Words’). A twinkling piano riff glimmers like the raindrops that ripple delicate waves in the pond, before Hata’s husky vocals and the rest of the gentle rock-ballad backdrop grows to full bloom.

Find out more about Hata Motohiro in my blog post here.

From the ending theme to the image song, 言の葉 ‘Koto No aha’ by Hata Motohiro dips into a humble rock-pop vibe akin to ‘Rain’, but also radiates an anthemic richness that likens the song to a number by the likes of The Script. Gently pulsing chords on the piano draw the harmonic bridge under Hata’s mellow voice, honey-toned guitars and riffs glisten with nostalgia and the drums stride with anthemic pride to drive the track (and film) towards an emotional conclusion.

  • RADWIMPS – なんでもないや ‘Nandemonaiya’

While 前前前世 ‘Zen Zen Zen Se’ may be the RADWINPS tune that people recognise as the stand out track of Makoto’s 2016 big-hit movie 君の名は Kimi No Na Wa, (‘Your Name’), my personal favourite from the film has to be the tranquil mellow-rock number なんでもないや ‘Nandemonaiya’ (‘It’s Nothing’). 野田洋次郎 Noda Youjirou’s vocals breathe a delicate yet soul-stirring air that resonates with the listener’s emotions, and the guitars glow an idyllic harmonic river that cocoons the ears

Listening back to this song brings back to my mind the fantasy, drama and emotions that immersed my senses like no other film did. I feel extremely privileged to have witnessed such a remarkable visual work.

Find out more about RADWIMPS in my blog post here.

© Isaku Takahashi

New Japanese Vibes (99) – SKY-HI アドベンチャー ‘Adventure’ 

SKY-HI cranks up the ‘cool’ カッコイイ ‘kakkoi’ meter up with his new tune アドベンチャー ‘Adventure’. From the opening punchy slap bass, Hidaka Mitsuhiro (real name of SKY-HI) and his musical entourage radiates a rainbow of vibrant brass colours and bubbly vocals. But it’s more than just a rich mix of nimble-footed rapping and funk vibes – SKY-HI also conveys a life-affirming message: “don’t turn your eyes away from negativity – take it, embrace it and move forward”. The sincerity that dances along with the track’s lively beat and melodies makes SKY-HI more than just a hip-hop/rap artist who simply aims for the top of the charts. He speaks closely to his fans and listeners with meaningful words and resonates a buzz that transcends a global audience.

Other Info

  • SKY-HI’s new album OLIVE will be released on January 18th.
  • Find out more about SKY-HI in my blog post here.

© Isaku Takahashi

New Japanese Vibes (96) – evening cinema 原色の街 ‘Genshoku no Machi’

Tokyo-based quartet evening cinema infuse new life to the J-pop soundscape and retro ‘city-pop’ trend with their new track原色の街 ‘Genshoku no Machi’ (‘Street of Colour’). Reminiscent of idol-pop emblem SMAP during their youth, 原田夏樹 Harada Natsuki expresses his love for the recently disbanded Johnny and Associates stars with his breezy and boyish vocals. Likewise, the band scatters a mellow yet funky feel-good vibe with a pleasant harmonic ambience and easy-going rhythmic energy that resonates with young listeners.

Other Info

  • Genshoku no Machi’ is out now on free download.

© Isaku Takahashi

J-Christmas Vibes [2] – Qaijff ‘snow traveler’

Dynamic yet jewel-like in equal measure, ‘snow traveler’ by piano-pop trio Qaijff is a fitting soundtrack for the snow and Christmas lights of an evocative winter. Led by classically-trained pianist 森彩乃 Mori Ayano, the song is filled with rainbow-coloured melodies and rhythms that one would expect from a youthful J-pop band, and decorated with a chorus of rich bells in keeping with the festive vibes. Their 1st EP snow traveler is out now.

© Isaku Takahashi

J-Christmas Vibes [1] – 赤色のグリッター Akairo no Glitter 神様の涙 ‘Kamisama no Namida’

Another year is gradually reaching the end – after what has been a “slightly” bonkers 2016, it’s time to wind down from the chaos with some musical winter crackers from Japan. This month, I dedicate this blog to songs that are winter/Christmas-related, or just simply released during the final month of a year.

Regarded as a “new force in the J-rock scene”, 赤色のグリッター Akairo no Glitter released their first album 存在証明 Sonzai Shoumei last year on December 2nd (which happens to be my birthday… just saying…), which includes the track神様の涙 ‘Kamisama no Namida’ (‘God’s Tears’). Their anthemic rock arsenal is at full charge in this song as 佐藤リョウスケ Satou Ryousuke’s vocals somersault in energy level, voltage-laden guitars electrify the stereo field and the clamorous drums drive the rhythmic locomotive at full speed.

© Isaku Takahashi