10cm – 4.0

I was jittery approaching the release of 4.0. Perhaps it is the 3-year gap between this record and the previous one (helpfully titled 3.0) that increases the anxiety, though there were a couple of placeholder songs [3.1 & 3.2 EPs] to tide us over. Is it writer’s block? Maybe even a drastic change in direction? Added to that was the departure of the not-so-well-known half of the group, guitarist Yoon Cheol Jong in July, ostensibly for ‘health reasons’ before his arrest for marijuana use was made public.

This is the most expensive solo concert in the world
I’m the singer and the audience is just you

Opening line from Phonecert (video linked above) – confidence, eh? But then.

Is everyone the same as me
But just holding it in?
Or am I the only bad person?
//
Help, somebody help
Somebody help
Somebody help me please tonight

goes the lyrics for lead single Help, a desperate plea for help, said to nobody in particular.

Sound-wise 4.0 toes the conventional 10cm line, which is to say, alternating between cheery and moody ballads. Not a bad thing, mind you, but I look back at 2.0 with its more experimental blues/bossa nova moments [한강의 작별 etc] and can’t help thinking I want to hear more of that. But hey – it ain’t broke, why fix shit? Koreans love this kinda stuff and that’s the audience that apparently matters most.

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H△G – Major debut coming

H△G (pronounced Hagu/Hug) is a mixed-media group established in 2012 that has been making inroads in the indie/doujin scene with a couple of split records with the likes of Mili and ORESAMA. Officially, the band consists of singer Chiho and songwriter Yuta, alongside a group of ‘creators’ [writers] under the title Wish CREW as well as back-up musicians etc. Some of the current/previous line-up includes:

Chiho – vocalist with musical experience. Her dad is a jazz pianist & her mom a classical pianist.

Yuta – guitarist who spent his childhood in England. Also plays violin & piano, he composes the bulk of H△G ‘s songs.

Mitomo Yukihito – bassist. Also plays bass for Mili, Sandy Beach Surf Coaster etc

Enomoto Kenji – drummer. Also drummer in Sandy Beach Surf Coaster

Shoko – DJ, chorus. Also acts pretty much like the band’s manager, arranging their schedules & managing their SNS account

Masataka – Occasionally drums.


The group is due to make its official major debut via Tokuma Japan Communications on 26 July with its first single Natsu no Arika (夏の在りか), which has a tie-up with Metele [Nagoya Broadcasting Network], serving as the theme song for the station’s high-school baseball tournament coverage. Looks and sounds like more of the same H△G that we know, so I’m pretty stoked for that.


Before it drops though, you can check out H△G ‘s excellent recent Vocaloid Cover Album titled Koe in collaboration with the illustrator loundraw. Trailer above.

Official site.
Twitter.

ORESAMA

I don’t think ORESAMA needs much introduction since they’re pretty well known already. The unit consists of vocalist/lyricist Pon and musician/composer/arranger Kojima Hideya, who met in their hometown of Suwa in Nagano when the latter saw Pon singing by chance & invited her to join his covers band. Apparently he picked Pon out easily because she had the loudest voice in what was supposed to be a chorus ensemble performance for their school’s cultural festival. “A big voice that wasn’t suitable for a choir” (Pon) and “I could only hear this one girl’s voice” (Kojima) is how they describe that fateful moment, hah!

After graduating, the two decided to pursue music seriously and moved to Tokyo and since 2015, have released 1 album as well as major singles through VAP in 2014 [for the anime Okami Shojo to Kuro Oji] and Lantis from 2017 onwards.

Music-wise the two have cited Fujifabric (Pon), Bump of Chicken and Nile Rodgers (Kojima) as influences on their sound, and both have pursued solo ventures apart from ORESAMA. Pon is the vocalist employed by composer Takahashi Ryo for ONE III NOTES, the group that performed the opening theme for the ACCA 13 anime, while Kojima has been writing songs for the talented young singer Daoko.

The deal with Lantis looks set to catapult ORESAMA further into the mainstream and at the very least, widens their audience range to include anime fans – already, they’ve had two theme song tie-ups, for Alice to Zoroku [Wonder Drive] and the new summer anime, a remake of the classic kids’ RPG parody title Mahoujin Guru Guru. Check out the fun PV for Trip Trip Trip below.

Visit ORESAMA’s official site here. Twitter is here.
PS Utomaru is the person who illustrates their distinct jackets, PV art and website graphics

evening cinema – A True Romance

A band I discovered off Spotify. Yes, Spotify. Given how ‘receptive’ Japan has been to making its content available on Youtube, I more or less dismissed the chances of ever finding any decent new Japanese music through Spotify even if their ads for the service are quite something to behold.

Lo and behold, I found artists I already like ie Suchmos, Lucky Tapes, Kirinji & ACIDMAN on the service & am now slowly digging into recommendations & related artists. evening cinema was one of those recs and I’m liking what I hear so far – all summery, feel-good soul/rock anthems.

Nothing much is known about the band (they don’t even appear to have an official website). You can however, check out A True Romance on Spotify, or their Twitter for updates.

Mili – Hue

Mili is a classical Japanese music group founded in August 2012 and consists of:

Momocashew (vocalist, main lyricist, and sub composer)
Kasai Yamato (main composer, main arranger, sub lyricist, guitarist)
Mitomo Yukihito (bassist, sub arranger, sub composer)
Yoshida Shoto (drummer, sub arranger, sub composer)
Yamaguchi Ame stylist, art director, designer)
Fujimori Ao (illustrator, animator, videographer)

Known for their contributions to the Cytus and Deemo games, you may have also heard their song Nenten used as the Bloodivores Opening theme. Which they also sing a Mandarin version of (they also sing in English – Momocashew is Canadian).

Hue is their first mini-album, having released 2 full-length albums since 2014. My favourite song here is Excαlibur, which features the legendary lyric “My bones are titanium….I am your Excalibur” – a perfect theme song for you-know-who…don’t you think?

Check out the English version of the group’s website here.

Converting my CD collection to digital format #06

I guess I really did/do have weird tastes.

CD #0026: Mansun – Attack of the Grey Lantern [1997]
My biggest memory of this is how my mum thought the cover of the album looked evil and wanted to dump it (alongside my pirated copies of Silent Hill and Resident Evil games). As for the music itself…you could argue that it did sound a bit evil too, what with the weird fixation on vicars and somebody called Mavis running throughout. It’s hard to know what to make of the album now – there are some really great songs like their biggest hit Wide Open Space, Stripper Vicar and Dark Mavis…but otherwise it’s like a big gloopy, druggy mess that would probably sound like angels singing to those high on psychedelic substances. Somehow, Attack of the Grey Lantern made it to #1 in the albums chart back in the day – must’ve been a quiet week.

CD #0027: Eros Ramazotti – Stilelibero [2000]
I think my mom would want to claim this one, though I’m the one who plonked down cash for it. She was a big fan of his ‘sexy’ voice apparently. I guess the Italian language also made it sound alluring as well? Main single Fuoco nel Fuoco gained a bit of traction globally and it’s not aged too badly. Hell, I still remember the lyrics and can sing along to it…I don’t think I’ve even listened to it for more than a decade…! There’s also a multilingual duet with Cher which I hadn’t really recalled existing. It’s actually a nicely balanced album – nice mix of upbeat tunes and ballads, and it holds up well almost 2 decades later.

CD #0028: Jeff Buckley – Grace [1994]
This is one of those albums that a kid who grew up in the 90s just had to have in their collection, if only to seem cool. Obviously one that my brother picked up later on since we were like…10 and 13 when it was first released. Buckley’s version of Hallelujah was my first, and the only one I will acknowledge – sorry Leonard Cohen, it may be your song but your singing couldn’t touch my soul the way Jeff Buckley’s did.

CD #0029: SoulDecision – No One Does it Better [2000]
A head-scratching one for me. I must’ve been seduced by that one big hit of theirs, Faded – the original had the opening lyric ‘When I get you all alone I’m gonna take off all your clothes’ but alas, the cleaned-up version on this disc changes that to ‘I’m gonna move in nice and close’. The album did manage to shift a million copies worldwide, probably on the basis of those 2-3 excellent singles – the rest of the album alternates between leaden & cheesy. Lead singer Trevor Guthrie’s solo and featured on an Armin van Buuren track a couple of years ago but that’s pretty much I know of what any of the members are doing right now.

CD #0030: Bic Runga – Beautiful Collision [2002]
This is an album that I don’t need to take another listen to and reminisce about as I’ve never actually taken it out of my playlist rotation over the years. I suppose it’s a testament to the strength of the material on Beautiful Collision that they remain as relevant to now as they were 15 years ago; the fragility and honesty of songs like When I See You Smile, She Left on a Monday and Listening to the Weather still strike that chord deep within me. And her voice – a jazz singer’s sultry tones wrapped around lush, warm melodies, is one you’ll never tire of hearing.

Sphere – ISM

As a formerly obsessed follower of this seiyuu idol group, I received the news of Sphere’s intended hiatus with a heavier heart than I expected I would have. I’d attribute this to the fact that they’ve just made the best album of their 8-year career to date and I was actually looking forward to see how the group would be developed in the face of their company’s increasing focus on their junior colleagues TrySail.

Notes, thoughts:
– TrySail is managed by the Sony group itself while Sphere has been with Lantis from the start, and that is where their musical directions obviously diverge
– Lantis is still giving them the best of their songwriters – the likes of rino, EFFY, Yuki Aira & the ultra-talented Takahashi Ryo all contribute
– I wonder if they’ll still be with Lantis when they return from their hiatus
– DREAMS, Count down! is a particular favourite – in fact, the Sphere song I’ve liked the most since Now Loading…SKY!!
– Also like CHANCE!, LOST SEASON & 夕立ちの欠片
– I do enjoy their respective solo careers in patches (Toyosaki can’t sing but her songs are great!). But not as much as I enjoy Sphere, where the whole is truly greater than the sum of all its parts.
– It only really hit me recently that Ayahime and Aki have hit their 30s orz. I suppose I never seriously considered that Sphere would last 10 years – there wasn’t exactly any seiyuu idol template back then.

See you in 2 years?

Converting my CD collection to digital format #05

While I remain motivated….

CD #0021: Leaves – Breathe [2002]
I bought this when I was doing my A-levels in the UK on the strength of one song – the single I Go Down. Leaves are an Icelandic band that sound like a Coldplay/Doves/Oasis copy band and nothing like Sigur Ros, if you want to use some other Icelandic group as a benchmark. Still, Breathe isn’t terrible (maybe a bit…unmemorable) and reflects my tastes of those years pretty accurately. It just doesn’t sound so good 15 years on…

CD #0022: The Strokes – Room on Fire [2003]
The Strokes’ 2001 debut Is This It? was heralded as one of the best albums of the year, and I never understood the love for it. Sounded like a bunch of noise, made better by the fact that there was an ass on the cover. Fast forward 2 years and I decided to drop some spare cash on the boys’ sophomore disc and found it amazing; really catchy and listenable without a single bad track. Critics didn’t like it much. What do I know eh?

CD #0023: Horishita Sayuri (堀下 さゆり) – Private~the Piano Album [2004]
I ordered this off Yesasia sometime around 2005-06 after hearing Horishita’s Kaze no Toorimichi album [released in 2005]. Private includes an alternate piano version of the Kaze no Toorimichi song, which had gained some popularity after being heard in NHK’s Minna no Uta. Horishita is a piano-playing-singer-songwriter who is in possession of a rather ‘unique’ (some would say nasal) voice and not-bad writing skills. Ballad albums tend to be on the dull side but not Horishita’s – these songs would be hits if they were sung by aiko!

CD #0024: Hirakawachi 1-chome (平川地一丁目) – Enpitsu de Tsukuru Uta [2004]
I wrote about this before, being one of my selections in the 100 Japanese albums that influenced my tastes. Going back to this for the first time in a while makes me feel a little rueful – the innocence, the nostalgia that was a common factor in much of classical Japanese folk/kayokyoku, is now gone in a Japanese music industry that doesn’t seem to know its identity or how to appeal to an audience that has been lost to empty-calorie bubblegum pop music.

CD #0025: Radiohead – OK Computer [1997]
The first ever CD I bought in high school, with my hard-saved pocket money – they cost RM40-42 back in those days so that was about a month’s worth of junk food money blown on a single disc. Small price to pay for an album that I would describe as being the one that changed my life – up ‘til that point it had always been about the jangly guitar bands but suddenly, my ears were opened up to the vast possibilities, the sonic inventiveness of electronic-based rock. The lyrics, the themes – isolation, cynicism and malaise too, really resonated with the sullen, angsty 13-year old me of 1997. It’s OK Computer’s 20th anniversary this year and it’s remarkable how undated it sounds – so, so ahead of the curve were they.

Fingers crossed the next bunch of posts won’t be in 2021.

Converting my CD collection to digital format #04

Yes, I’m actually reviving my quest some…4 years since the last post. Yay me. Click the digital tag for all previous entries….

CD #0016: Damien Rice – O [2003]
I remember being particularly obsessed with this record when it was first released. It might have had something to do with the fact that I was holed up in a boarding school with no internet and had only my books and CD collection for company so by default, anything that resembled music would have enthralled me, even Bob the Builder. In retrospect it isn’t too bad. A bit melodramatic…but probably doesn’t deserve to be maligned as much it tends to be. A wholly listenable album on a rainy evening…as long as you press ‘skip’ on The Blower’s Daughter.

CD #0017: David Gray – White Ladder [1999]
I sure loved all these insipid singer-songwriters back in the day, didn’t I? I was just 15 when this was put out; what did I know of heartbreak back then? I’m listening to Babylon now and wondering what I ever heard in it. I suppose this is just one of those records I picked up ‘cos everyone else was doing it.

CD #0018: Bryan Adams – Unplugged [1997]
Another one from my brother’s collection. We sort of shared similar music tastes when we were teenagers but he had a fondness for M.O.R soft-rockers like his favourite singer here, Mr Adams, that I couldn’t always jive with. To be fair, MTV Unplugged is arguably BA’s best ‘best of’ compilation because he leaves off his two most famous songs – the hackneyed ballads Please Forgive Me and Everything I Do (I Do it For You). Instead, there are lovely tunes like the lead single Back to You, good ‘ol faves Heaven and Summer of ’69 as well as better-curated ballads including the under-rated I’ll Always Be Right There and When You Love Someone. I even learnt to play a couple of these on my old Yamaha acoustic – fond memories.

CD #0019: Jars of Clay – Much Afraid [1997]
I owned quite a number of contemporary Christian music CDs during my teenage years as it was easier to convince my parents to buy them for me when you’re stood in a Christian resource shop. I remember being quite impressed when I first heard Much Afraid – it was markedly different stylistically from the light, breezy sound of their self-titled debut. 1997 was also the year of OK Computer so I was ready for something different from the norm, and the broodiness of tracks like Fade to Grey and the 7-minute long Frail fit right into my tastes at the time.

CD #0020: Simon & Garfunkel – Old Friends [1997]
This 3CD box-set was only something the family bought a decade-and-abit ago, long after we’d worn out our cassette tape version of 1972’s Simon and Garfunkel’s Greatest Hits. My uncle was a huge fan of the duo; he even played guitar and sang The 59th Street Bridge Song (Feelin’ Groovy) at his wedding in Canada back in 1991. Obviously Simon & Garfunkel songs are weaved into the very fabric of my being and I know most of them like the back of my hand, from Mrs Robinson with its surprising usage of the words ‘Jesus loves you’ to Cecilia’s infectious handclaps.

How long more will I be motivated to rip CDs?

2016: When I did not Korean

I think I can easily name all the Korean artists (excluding OSTs) whose albums I listened to last year:

1/Taeyeon (Queen!)
2/Big Bang (oh crap I actually like the album….)
3/TWICE (They’re all so cute!! Can’t decide who to stan yet!!)
4/Bolbbalgan4 (much love <3)
5/Jang Beom June (Who cares about Busker Busker0
6/Standing Egg (cheese never felt this good)
7/EXO (I wish I could say I hate them. Damn SM)
8/Red Velvet (Russian Roulette is sooo catchy)
9/Mamamoo (I can’t really remember their songs….they can sing but…)
10/Sistar (Unmemorable)
11/Taemin (I like them more solo than in SHINee…)
12/Tiffany (The main T in TTS ain’t her fosho)
13/Akdong Musician (Getting a bit boring….)

/Swell, eh? I did attempt to keep up with SM Station but I fell off the tracks less than halfway through.
/Soshi is supposed to be coming back soon for 10th anniversary but I may have fallen off the entire bandwagon, except for Yoona and Taeyeon
/I feel like TWICE and K.A.R.D may be my next big obsessions. Trying hard not to fall into those black holes….

Refer:
Selections of 2016: Intro
Selections of 2016: 20 Favourite Anime Theme Songs
Selections of 2016: Anisong Albums
Selections of 2016: Soundtracks
Selections of 2016: Japanese
Selections of 2016: English