New Japanese Vibes (137) – katyusha ‘I Like Me’

Katyusha, also known as えつこ Etsuko from pop trio DADARAY embarks on her solo project with ‘I Like Me’, the headline track from her new album of the same title. She proved to be a key name in the development of the handful of bands 川谷絵音 Kawatani Enon gave birth to, and while her solo music strays away from the relentless rhythmic propulsion of indigo la end or ゲスの極み乙女 Gesu No Kiwami Otome, ‘I Like Me’ radiates a feel-good vibe with its vibrant vocal harmonies, bubbly rhythm section and katyusha’s belting and tender voice.

Other Info

  • Katyusha’s new album I Like Me was released on November 22nd.
  • Listen to DADARAY on my blog post here.
  • Find out more about indigo la end and Gesu No Kiwami Otome here.

© Isaku Takahashi


New Japanese Vibes (121) – indigo la End プレイバック ‘Playback’

A smoky yet vibrant musical universe oozes out when indigo la End bursts through the speakers. Their latest track プレイバック ‘Playback’ is not exception – led by 川谷絵音 Kawatani Enon’s sweet and mellow vocals, the track shines an opulent mix of precision-engineered drums, heavenly backing vocals and sparkling harmonies and catchy licks in the guitar. The band turns up the sonic euphoria in the final chorus before the final guitar chords glisten away into the horizon.

Other Info

  • Indigo la End’s new album Crying End Roll will be released on July 12th.
  • Find out more about Indigo la End in my blog post here.

© Isaku Takahashi

Picks of the Week #14

Radio-friendly yet experimental in equal measure, ゲスの極み乙女 Gesu no Kiwami Otome just keep delivering an impressive array of tunes that everlastingly grab hold of their listener’s minds. Led by 川谷絵音 Kawatani Enon, 勝手な青春劇 ‘Katte na Seishungeki’ (vaguely translates as ‘A youth drama of its own way’) is a lush potpourri of colourful piano and guitar runs, adrenaline-rushed rhythms, a fleeting meter change, and rich harmonies enriching Kawatani’s spontaneous vocals. Find out more about Gesu no Kiwami Otome here, and listen to more of their music here.

  • Predawn – ‘Universal Mind’

My personal soundtrack for the autumnal season now welcomes Niigata-born singer-songwriter Predawn (清水美和子 Shimizu Miwako) and her ethereal folk-rock track ‘Universal Mind’. Her floating vocals, acoustic guitar harmonies that picture a vivid campfire scene, poignant narrative and nostalgic electric guitar solos shimmer an ambience that would be perfect in a chapel’s surroundings. If she were to come to perform at the Union Chapel in North London, show me the ticket queue.

  • フレンズ Friends ‘DIVER’

Featuring in their mini album ショー・チューン Show Tune, DIVER’ by フレンズ Friends quite simply dives into a harlequin musical fiesta. Consisting of five ‘friends’, this track sounds like the perfect number to light up Tokyo’s night time vibes. With funk-pop colours, laser-beam synths, luminous vocals and foot-tapping beats radiated from every surface of the stereo field, there is simply no choice but to let your senses get in sync with the band’s energy.

© Isaku Takahashi

Indigo la End/ゲスの極み乙女 Gesu no Kiwami Otome

Japanese rock continues to reveal itself in many unique forms while maintaining an eye for mainstream attraction, none more so than Indigo la End and ゲスの極み乙女 Gesu No Kiwami Otome, both bands headed by the mastermind of 川谷絵音 Kawatani Enon.

さよならベル ‘Sayonara Bell’ (‘Goodbye Bell’) is a perfect choreograph of catchy J-rock. Reminiscing of his ex-girlfriend, Kawatani and his rhythm entourage dream up a pleasant mix of smooth harmonic progressions, a rousing falsetto chorus melody and dynamic rock guitars, drums and jazz-tinted bass lines, all of which are filtered through a subtle and hazy shoegaze breeze.

On the other hand, younger cousin group Gesu No Kiwami Otome boast a more unusual and progressive yet equally enticing musical charisma. The band consists of Kawatani and three other members from different musical units and roots whose main motivations were to just enjoy playing and experimenting with each other without any direct mainstream goal (the irony being that they are now a popular, unique and successful J-rock group). However, their ethos centered around experimenting has led to unrivaled tracks like 私以外私じゃないの ‘Watashi igai watashi ja nai no’ (‘It’s not me, except me’). The organised melange of styles (from contemporary jazz piano figurations, alt-rock/new wave ensemble forces, catchy funk and math-rock guitar licks) under an essential ‘J-pop’ energy makes this track totally distinctive.

One of Gesu No Kiwami Otome’s latest track 無垢な季節 ‘Muku na Kisetsu’ (‘Pure Season’) featuring in their upcoming album 両成敗 Ryouseibai embraces a Fox Capture Plan-like math-rock introductory piano solo which sets the driving momentum of the track, further supported by some relentless drum rhythms and bass grooves. Offsetting the high-tempo treadmill is the eloquent tone and lyricism of Kawatani’s vocal melody, which imbues a refreshing quality.

Regardless of any language barrier, both Indigo la End and Gesu No Kiwami Otome are sublime examples of J-rock that propels any listeners into blissful experiences.

Other Listening:

  • オトナチック Otonachikku
  • パラレルスペック Parallel Spec
  • 悲しくなる前に Kanashiku naru mae ni (‘Before I Get Sad’)
  • 夜汽車は走る Yogisha wa Hashiru (‘The Night Train Runs’)

© Isaku Takahashi


New Japanese Vibes (6) – ゲスの極み乙女 Gesu No Kiwami Otome オトナチック ‘Otonachikku’

Formed by 川谷絵音 Kawatani Enon, frontman of the band Indigo La End, Gesu No Kiwami Otome released their new track オトナチック ‘Otonachikku’ that further accentuates the band’s creative intentions: To write J-rock that appeals to the musical mainstream but equally bold and daring in palette choices.

It’s quite difficult to categorise their sound in a convenient sentence. Describing themselves as a ‘hip-hop/progressive’ group, there is more in this tune that belies their simple stylistic description. A progressive rock idiom plays a prominent role in the opening exchanges between the driving drum rhythms and muscly bass groove. To counter that, the delicate piano chords in the first verse, the rippling guitar strums and neon-coloured synths in the pre-chorus act as a stylistic counterpoint, instantly taking the song to another avenue until the chorus nudges the musical narrative back to its playful rock setting. Wild neoclassical/post-minimalist harmonic progressions from the piano glisten the second verse as Kawatani’s muffled voice and lilting backing vocals stir up a slightly eerie ambience. Highly syncopated rhythmic exchanges trigger the middle instrumental section where prog rock solos and warped electronic embellishments meet one way and right through the final chorus.

Other Info/Context

  • Gesu No Kiwami Otome translates as ‘Girl at the height of rudeness’.

© Isaku Takahashi