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

Selections of 2016: English

It’s March. Christ. So, the English-language stuff. Albums & singles in one go.

The three things that have been godsends for me since last year:

1) Spotify
2) Shazam
3) H&M instore playlists

I would not know new music otherwise.

Albums

Shura – Nothing’s Real
This album feels like it’s been a long time coming – Shura real name Aleksandra Denton’s breakthrough song Touch was released almost 3 years ago now. A lot of the material here is already familiar to most but don’t let detract from the quality of the overall listen.

Tom Chaplin – The Wave
The Keane frontman brings a familiar stadium-ready, heart-swelling sound to his solo record, aping bandmate Tim Rice-Oxley’s writing style to perfection.

Hamilton Leithauser + Rostam – I Had a Dream That You Were Mine
A collaboration album between a member of The Walkmen and one formerly of Vampire Weekend (they’d previously worked together on Leithauser’s solo album) may not sound like a recipe for success or good music but it definitely works better than it reads – a mish-mash of sounds of the 60s – rock ‘n’roll, country, doo-wop, blues, folk.

Radiohead – A Moon Shaped Pool
True love waits. Their best album since Kid A.

Alexis Taylor – Piano
Big fan of Hot Chip, but Taylor’s music is as far removed from his parent band as you could get. It’s sparse – just him and a piano, and very personal too, as you would expect an album about death to be. Side note: Compatriot Joe Goddard’s own solo is due April 21!

Julia Jacklin – Don’t Let the Kids Win
Country music is coming from odd places these days; in Jacklin’s case, from the Blue Mountains Range in New South Wales, Australia. Don’t Let the Kids Win is a tender, mature debut album sung with a sense of wisdom that belies her tender quarter-century years of age.

Solange – A Seat at the Table
This skeptic in me (her sister’s album bored me) was bowled over by how it presented a type of music that I never knew I wanted to hear or like. It’s like how I felt discovering Pbr’n’b – it’s something new though not quite, but whatever, it’s utterly fantastic.

Slow Club – One Day All of This Won’t Matter Any More
The album’s biggest fault is its disjointedness, but individually, the songs are really quite marvelous.

Empire of the Sun – Two Vines
An album that fans appreciate more than critics ever will. But is it retro pop? Or future pop?

Tove Lo – Lady Wood
I suppose I am somewhat in denial about my inherent susceptibility to hip pop music. But like my love for MØ, I will give in to the beat when it calls me.

Songs

1. The xx – On Hold
I didn’t think they’d ever get this mainstream or pop chart-ready.

2. Neiked – Sexual
Not remotely sexual. But insanely catchy.

3. The Weeknd – Starboy (feat. Daft Punk)
More of moody Tesfaye than spunky Daft Punk in this one. Nothing wrong with that though.

4. Vancouver Sleep Clinic – Someone to Stay
Why does his music have to be so beautiful?

5. Capital Cities – Vowels
I have trouble getting lyrics to stick in my sieve-like mind. Lines as memorable as “So I’ll just speak in vowels from now on. A O E OOOH” really help.

6. Jon Bellion – All Time Low
When I first heard it I wondered why it wasn’t more of a hit. Naturally, it exploded on the charts later on…I should’ve put a bet on it.

7. Porter Robinson & Madeon – Shelter
So these 2 guys are now famous amongst weaboos because of this song’s accompanying video, animated by Japan’s A-1 Pictures. I’m still trying to wrap my head around the idea of otaku getting into garage or tropical house music in the future if they all have anime videos…

8. Mike Posner – I Took a Pill in Ibiza (SeeB Remix)
The remix elevated the song to heights not possible (without pills).

9. The Chainsmokers feat. Halsey – Closer
I was not immune to the pull of its beat.

10. Kungs vs. Cookin’ on 3 Burners – This Girl
I’m so partial to dance music despite having the dancing skills of a hippo…

11. Jessie Ware – Till the End
Lovely ballad that popped up on a soundtrack to a movie best not watched (Me After You).

12. Benjamin Wallfisch feat. DiSA – New World Coming
Masterful, epic cover of Cass Elliott song, used in the trailer for Tim Burton’s Miss Peregrine movie.

13. Florence + the Machine – Wish You Were Here
No I am not in love with the Miss Peregrine movie. But the music was just too good to resist.

14. Marian Hill – Down
That beat drop is the hottest shit ever.

15. MØ – Final Song
I’m still waiting for the day she runs out of hooks.

16. Craig David – One More Time
Bringin’ 2-step garage back in 2016, this is vintage Craig David all over your (doink). His rap here is amazing, see it done live to be even more amazed.

17. Charlie Puth feat. Selena Gomez – We Don’t Talk Anymore
Yeah I’m almost embarrassed to like a Charlie Puth song. How do you get this one out of your head though?

18. The Girl and the Dreamcatcher – Make You Stay
I think “I’d sing acapella in the rain / Let the whole world think I’ve gone insane” is a great pick-up line, if I was drunk.

19. Daya – Sit Still, Look Pretty
Barbie Girl for a new generation.

20. Beach Baby – Hot Weather
I admit it. I misheard the ‘don’t suck your thumb’ lyric as ‘don’t fuck your thong’.

21. Galantis – No Money
Why do I like this? I don’t know. Earworm, but I would’ve been annoyed silly by the autotune a few years ago.

22. Lost Kings feat. Emily Warren – Phone Down
Featuring the legendary lyric: “Why don’t you put that fucking phone down”. Also, legendary video.

23. Sia feat. Sean Paul – Cheap Thrills
Another one of those songs that just won’t exit your head no matter how you try to shut it down.

24. Flume feat. Tove Lo – Say It
Yeah I’m a sucker for all things Tove.

25. in love with a ghost – we’ve never met but, can we have a coffee or something
This is the kind of stuff I like from Japanese musicians, but I rarely take the time to seek it out when it’s from the West. Maybe, in 2017.

Is that it for 2016? Not quite – I might write a few words for Kpop. Hopefully this week…!

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