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 #23

After a week of non-stop sightseeing and tireless walking around the traditional streets and hustle and bustle of Japan, I was craving a day to just chill. While the hotel bed provides the cloud to let my body wind down, Special Favorite Music soothes my ears with their gorgeous mix of indie, soul and funk colours in ‘Ceremony’. From tropical flute riffs to silky violin phrases and flowery vocals, this delightful septet is one to add to your playlist for any time of year. Listen to more Special Favorite Music in my blog post here.

  • The quiet room – ‘Fressy’

High in youthful rock energy, ‘Fressy’ by the quiet room is a welcome tune that calls the summer sunshine to rise. The band’s infectious juvenile personality is set to max from the turbo-charged introduction right through to the euphoric party coda, and their all-round positive pop-rock outlook certainly makes them a popular act in today’s young audience. ‘Fressy’ is the opening track of their new mini album Little City Films.

  • Never young beach – 明るい未来 ‘Akarui Mirai’

From one summery tune to another, 明るい未来 ‘Akarui Mirai’ (‘Bright Future’) by Never young beach oozes with rich retro vibes. Featuring in their second album fam fam, the song opens with a groovy guitar riff and shimmering chords before 安部勇磨 Abe Yuma croons on the microphone with his smoky vocals above rock/pop rhythms and harmonies that may well ride along the motorway by the beach.

© 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

Picks of the Week #17

Kicking off 2017 with an anthemic number by J-rock group BUMP OF CHICKEN. GO’ from their 8th album Butterflies glides through the musical stratosphere with sparkling energy and purity in equal measure. The sumptuous mix of euphoric vocal melodies, jangling guitar riffs, radiant EDM synths and resonant stadium-rock vibe awakens a Coldplay-like character and shines their distinct alt-rock personality to full bloom, just as the Japanese audience like it. Find out more about BUMP OF CHICKEN in my blog post here.

  • 星野源 Hoshino Gen – 恋 ‘Koi’

Arguably one of the biggest hits by singer-songwriter星野源 Hoshino Gen, 恋 ‘Koi’ (‘Love’) excited the nation last year with its buoyant, retro-coloured J-pop vibes and infectious choreography. The song’s foot-tapping beats, sumptuous strings, caffeine-infused guitar riffs and Hoshino’s joyful vocals provided the perfect companion for the TV adaptation of the romance shojo manga series 逃げるは恥だが役に立つ Nigeru wa Haji da ga Yaku ni Tatsu.

The rhythmic propulsion of rock and minimalism collides with the melodic intricacy of jazz in Fox Capture Plan’s new track ‘Acceleration’. Relentless drum and bass lines and perpetual piano riffs drive through the musical motorway at unstoppable pace, but the trio also experiments with hypnotic sample and timbral effects to immerse the listener in both familiar and different sonic realms. This track features in their latest mini album color and monochrome 2, in collaboration with fellow jazz group bohemianvoodoo. Find out more about Fox Capture Plan in my blog post here. 

© 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

New Japanese Vibes (57) – ENTHRALLS きょうはうまく眠れない

As with any genre, it is really difficult for an artist or band to set themselves apart from other peers in the musical game. For four-piece rock band ENTHRALLS, they have managed to carve out their individual personality while sitting neatly between their influences.

The opening chorus exchanges sounds like a direct incarnation from a Sakanaction tune, but closely follows with five-and-a-half minutes of magical, anthemic pop-rock stirred up by a fuel-driven rhythm line, sumptuous strings, a dazzling array of synths, bright piano chords and 井上佳子 Inoue Keiko’s heavenly yet full-bodied vocals somersaulting with freedom.

Other Info/Context

  • ENTHRALLS’ mini album Nemurenai Yoru ni was released on limited sale at the Shinjuku Tower Records in October 10th 2015.
  • The album was released nationwide on April 16th.

© Isaku Takahashi

New Japanese Vibes (40) – Caro kissa ‘Imagination’

Osaka indie-pop duo Caro kissa showcase their appetite for skipping beats, memorable riffs and well-founded pop vocals in their latest track ‘Imagination’, featuring in their new Imagination EP.

One can enjoy from the camaraderie between vocalist Sunachu and composer/arranger Takahiro the moment the song launches in a rainbow-coloured, often kitsch-infused pop extravaganza. From the start gun to the finish line, neon synths, funky guitar comps and foot-tapping drum beats spice up the stereo field and harmonise with the charming vocal tone of Sunachu.

Other Info/Context

  • Imagination EP was released on February 19th.

© Isaku Takahashi